Freezing Jalapenos

We had more jalapenos hanging from our poor little plant than we knew what to do with.  And waay out back we have more extra hot peppers than we can truly handle (although the second round of them haven’t ripened yet).  So after some Googling and researching, I learned today that freezing hot peppers does not reduce their heat, and is actually a really great way to store our excess peppers.

The process was the same for both the extra hot and the regular peppers–after getting washed and patted dry, I sliced them open and cleaned out the seeds using my favorite pepper tool:  the grapefruit spoon.  For the extra hot peppers I was careful to remove all of the pith and all of the seeds.  With the jalapenos I wasn’t as picky.

aAfter that, I sliced and diced until all we had left was a finely diced pepper pile.  I used a mug to hold the plastic freezer baggie open while I loaded it up, which proved to be incredibly helpful.

All in all, the processing and packing took maybe a half hour.  There are still more peppers on both plants that aren’t quite ready yet, so I’m hoping that if they do make it to maturity we’ll be able to repeat the process and just add on to these already frozen baggies.  I’m excited to have “fresh” hot peppers to spice up our mid winter chilies and soups!





Tomato-Basil Jam

My hands currently look like serial killer hands–my nails and cuticles are stained a nasty shade of deep purple/red and no matter how much I scrub or wash my hands, it’s sticking.  I know it makes me look gross, but I’m kind of digging it.  Why, you might ask?

Because these are preservers hands, and they make me feel like I’m really accomplishing something for my family.   I’m watching my store of jams, jellies, fruits and veggies just get more robust downstairs, and I’m thrilled because I already know that come the middle of winter when all I can think about is when the first seed catalog of the season will get here, I can crack open a can of cherries, or fresh peaches, or thaw out some beans and I can be automatically transporting to the middle of summer.  It’s not out of necessity that we can, but how can you not get a little excited about providing something local, healthy, and cheap for your family?

Last night I finished up the last bit of the cherries and made cherry jam, and then with the benevolent gift of tomatoes from the across the street neighbors I tried my hand at some tomato-basil jam that I’ve been eyeing up since we picked up the canning magazine during our vacation.

And let me tell you, folks, this stuff is DANGEROUS.  There was just a smidge left in the pan after I filled the jars, and JGL and I were pushing and shoving each other out of the way to try to sop up the last, sweet bite with our bread.  The jam is very sweet, really showcasing the fruity aspect of the tomatoes, but the basil really helps to remind you that this is a sweet and savory treat.  I’m really envisioning us either pouring this over a block of cream cheese and enjoying with crackers, or using as a base for a mid-winter crostini.  I’m also envisioning another batch being put in smaller jars for holiday gifts (sorry for the spoiler, y’all!)  When I do this recipe again, I’m going to extend the cooking time on the last boil to help reduce the mixture down and reduce the moisture content–this first batch was a bit loose, and I think a firmer set will really help the texture.

I really hope you’ll try your hand at this gorgeous and different jam–it’s so easy, and so incredibly delicious!

Tomato-Basil Jam
Adapted from BH&G Canning Magazine, page 27
2 1/2 pounds ripe tomatoes, peeled
1/4 cup lemon juice (I substituted a 1/4 cup Veritas Chardonay for the juice)
3 TBS Snipped fresh basil
3 cups sugar
1 package powdered fruit pectin for lower sugar recipes
  • Seed, core and finely chop tomatoes (I just crushed them with my hands).
  • Take half of the tomatoes (about 3 1/2 cups) and bring to boil in a heavy pot.
  • Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes
  • Add remainder of tomatoes, wine and basil to the pot, stir together mixture.
  • In a small bowl combine 1/4 cup sugar and the packet of pectin.
  • Stir into mixture, and bring to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly
  • Add remaining sugar and return to a rolling boil
  • Boil hard for 1 minute, reduce heat and allow mixture to reduce to desired consistency
  • Remove from heat, and ladle into hot jars with a 1/4 headspace.
  • Process jars in boiling water for 5 minutes.
  • Makes about 5 half-pints (mine last night made about 6)

Canned Cherries

Two things you need to know before reading this post.

  1. I have a small obsession with plastic straws.  I really love them, and I may or may not take one or five more than I need every time I’m out at an establishment that offers grab-your-own-straws so that we can have a stash at the house.
  2. Several years ago a very sweet woman at the strawberry farm showed us how to hull strawberries with a straw (You just simply stick the straw up the bottom of the strawberry so that the strawberry cap just pops off).  While it’s still not my favorite way to hull berries, it’s wonderful for kids or folks who aren’t super comfortable hulling strawberries.
I found cherries for $1.99 a pound this weekend.  Yup, you got it–a ridiculously cheap price for sweet, delicious cherries.  So I may or may not have bought five 4 pound bags of cherries.  It’s going to take me a while to figure out exactly how to preserve all of them, but I dove in tonight by just canning the fruit with a simple syrup.

I do not, however, have a cherry pitter.  And I was stressing out that I did not have said cherry pitter.  But then my dear, sweet JGL reminded me of that woman in the strawberry patch and how she used the straw to hull the strawberries.  After a few tries and a few snips, I was able to easily pit the cherries.  Simple, easy, and something we certainly have on hand in our house, and something that is a multi-tasker.

I’m thinking some cherry jam and cherry pie filling might be good solutions to our abundance of cherries, but any brilliant suggestions are more than welcomed!

Simple Canned Cherries
Taken from the Ball Book of Preserving
Combine 1 1/4 cup sugar and 5 1/2 cups of water in a saucepan.  Heat till boiling.
Pit cherries and fill hot jars until full.  Pour hot syrup over cherries, and jiggle to make sure the air pockets are out of the jars.  Place lids and rims on cans, and process in a hot water bath for 25 minutes.  

Strawberry Jam

Last year we couldn’t pick enough berries to eat and preserve–by the time we hit the field the berries had just simply gone by.  This year, however, was a much better year strawberry wise, and with our second flat in the fridge, I’m just elated that we’ll be able to put some up this year!


So writing about gardening and all that comes with it can be difficult in the deep winter months, even here in Virginia.  For me gardening comes with purpose, and purpose come to us in the form of canning, cooking, and preserving.  Things I love to do, but preserving what you grow is such an art form, and it’s one I could certainly use some more study in.  So for this post, I wanted to provide you all with some other blogs that are inspiring me right now….

Tigress in a Pickle (I so want to be a master chatelaine!)

Laundry etc

Well Preserved

Here’s to looking toward the 2011 Growing/Preserving season!

Shuck this!

I like to think that I’m well-educated and mindful enough to know how long something takes to make and how much it will make.  So when I took that picture of the beautiful basket of peas last night, I thought to myself, “we’ll shuck these bad boys while JGL watches Lost, it’ll take no time at all, and then we’ll have peas for tomorrow and peas to freeze!”

Exactly halfway through the epic and long series ender of Lost later, I was just finishing the shucking, and hadn’t even made my way to freezing; there was also exactly one pound of peas sitting in front of me.  One freaking pound.

Let me preface this story with the fact that I don’t remember fresh peas being served at meals when I was growing up in MA.  We would pick big paper grocery bags full of them, and promptly sit some where and eat the whole bag.  Unless I’m remembering completely wrong here (and I’m sure my mother will correct me if I’m wrong (;), peas were more like natures candy grab bag, and less of something to save for later. 

So last night once everything was in the freezer for the first round of freezing was completed (today I’ll be bagging the pound up, marking, and putting it away for later), I plopped down on the couch, literally with green thumbs in tow, and sighed.  JGL (at the commercial break) leaned over and say, “I’m sorry–I know that was a lot of work for not a lot of peas.”

And let me tell you, it was–we planted them back in March, made trellises once, and now twice, diligently put up a fence to keep critters out, and spent an hour of so last night lifting the vines on to the new trellises, picking all the way.  It’s taken three months and several long hours to get a pound of peas.  Peas that if we go up to our neighborhood big box grocery store will be 98 cents a pound, frozen (I know this because if the nature’s candy binge picture I painted for you above didn’t spell it out, I EAT PEAS WITH EVERYTHING).

I looked at him, smiled and sighed again and said, “I’m not.”

I like to think I’m well-educated and mindful enough to know long something takes to make.  I obviously have a lot more learning to do.