Gardening and Canning

I know, I’ve been absentee here!  The garden has done great this year, I really love the new raised beds that I put in and the canning has been keeping me going!  But definitely worth all of the work…

Here are a few pictures that I took in July..


and here are some of the results:

Pumpkins and Spaghetti Squash

These pole beans had to be planted twice, so I am still harvesting and canning beans.

I used newspaper and straw around the pole beans (they weren’t in the raised beds this year) and it was wonderful!  The pumpkins and squash that escaped the beds lay on it, and everything is so clean!  And I can walk in the garden after watering without getting covered in mud!

Still working on the sauerkraut!

I’ll share some of my relish, salsa and other canning recipes in the next couple of posts.

Thanks for stopping by!


Sauteed Beet Greens

I finally had a chance to get into the vegetable garden and do a bit of work.  It’s just been setting there, doing it’s own thing, while we have been slowly completing the garden gate.

I was in thinning out the few plants that I ended up planting too much, mostly the beets.  As the small pile of seedlings started to add up, I decided this would make a great side dish for our dinner. I haven’t grown beets in many, many years, so it really didn’t occur to me to saute the greens I was pulling.

I ended up with a sink full.  First I cut off all of the roots.  I then washed the greens and put them through  my salad spinner.

I chopped about 1/2 c. of sweet vidalia onion and a couple of cloves of garlic.  You can adjust these amounts to suit you and your family and the amount of greens you are cooking.  I cooked up about 1/2 of what you see here.

Add about 1 tbsp of oil to your pan.  I use cast iron frying pans for all of my frying and to saute.  I used grapeseed oil, but any vegetable or olive oil will work well.

I then added my chopped onion and minced garlic and sauteed them until they were just starting to brown.

I added handfuls of my greens until I had as much as I thought I needed.  Remember that the greens will cook down to less than half of what you add.

I stir them around and mix in the onion and garlic,

 cooking them until they are completely wilted. At this point you can also add other spices such as dried red pepper if you choose.

You can see that the red from the stems turned the onions and garlic a nice red color.

The flavor was very mild, and a nice change from the spinach that I frequently saute.  I hope you enjoy!






Almond Extract

Ever since I wrote the post on the vanilla extract, I had been thinking about making almond extract as well.  I thought that I would  share my process for making the extract with you, since almond extract is wonderful to have for baking!

This is what you need:

raw almonds (whole almonds will work, or you can also use slivered)
a glass jar with a lid
something to use to break up the almonds

I am making a pint of extract.  If you want to make more, please adjust your ingredient amounts accordingly.

I took a small handful of almonds to chop.  I wanted to end up with approximately 2 – 2 1/2 tablespoons of chopped nuts.  You want to chop the nuts to break the outer protective layer and expose the nut meat.

This is what mine looked like after chopping.  Then I just put them into a clean pint size canning jar.

I filled the jar up to the lower rim with vodka, placed a lid on it and shook it up.

I keep my jar in the pantry, near the vanilla that is processing.  I shake it up daily.  The color looks about the same as when I started, because almonds are so light.  I do open up the jar about once a week and smell it, and the almond scent is getting stronger.  I plan on letting this process for a few months so that it has that wonderful almond aroma!

Before using your almond extract, be sure to strain it throught several layers of cheesecloth to remove the nuts. If you’d like, you can leave some of the larger chunks of almond in the jar, just to keep the flavor strong.

I hope you enjoy this!




Thrift Store Finds

It’s no secret to anyone that knows me, I love to go to thrift stores and garage sales and look for that ‘special treasure’!  I am always on the hunt for canning and storage jars for the pantry, and looking for special containers that work well for food gifts and special vinegars and extracts that I enjoy making.

I have a couple of recent finds that I’m excited about that I would like to share with you today:

I’ve been looking for a scale to use in soapmaking. I absolutely love this one!  It has character. I know it’s not perfect, it has a crack in the finish on the face, but I love it!  The red and white is perfect. And it works.

And then this…..

Yes, a cast iron hand crank grinder!  Some will think this is silly, especially in these days of everything electric and/or electronic.  I do have an electric grinder.  I bartered with someone over 30 years ago for it, so it’s not exactly the latest and greatest.  And it hasn’t been it’s old self lately.  I have only been using it to make my salsa, although I am thinking about grinding my own burger.

Anyhow, since it wasn’t working so well I started looking around for a new grinder.  After researching, and reading reviews on several, I decided that I’d get a hand grinder, after all I use a hand crank can opener too (lol!).  Then I ran into this grinder at the Goodwill, it’s in great shape too…

And I can still get replacement blades online for it, I can’t wait to try it out!

Remember, it’s the little things.  Thanks for stopping by!

There is Beauty in Everything

Today was a bit of a drizzly, gray, damp day.  One that is well known in Washington.  I decided that I would go out and look around.  Sometimes you just feel better getting out instead of  staying indoors on these days.  So I took my camera with me, just in case, and started to walk around, slowly, as if I might miss something.

If you stop and listen, you can hear nature calling you.  And I wanted to share….

Homemade Vanilla Extract

I bake quite a bit, and vanilla is something that I use a lot of.  Pure vanilla extract in the store is so expensive, and you never really know what you are going to get.  So  I decided that I would make my own. This is also something that would make a wonderful Christmas gift, so make plenty so that you can give some away!

This is what you need:

whole vanilla beans
vodka or rum
glass bottles or containers

 I purchased my vanilla beans on e-bay, but you can also get them on amazon.  I found they cost a lot less here than purchasing them in the grocery store.  You only need to get B grade beans to make vanilla extract.  Purchasing gourmet or fancy grade A will not make a better vanilla.  This link for Wikipedia will tell you more than you ever wanted to know about vanilla.  But scroll down, and it explains the different grades and types of vanilla so you can make your choice of beans.

I used 5 vanilla beans to 750 ml of vodka.   You can vary these amounts depending upon your taste and how much you want to make.

Slit your vanilla bean down the center of one side, and scrape out the pulp:

Slit your vanilla bean

Slit your vanilla bean

Scrape the pulp out with your knife

Scrape the pulp out with your knife

Place the pulp into your bottle. Next add the bean and the vodka. Close up the top with a cork or a lid.

Pulp, vanilla and vodka in the bottle

Pulp, vanilla and vodka in the bottle

Now place your bottle in a cool dark place.  This will take about 2 months to be a nice strong vanilla.  Take your bottle and shake it up about once a day to distribute the vanilla, which will settle on the bottom of the bottle.  You can start using it any time that you think it is strong enough.  I have read several different article on it, and it seems to be a matter of preference.  I figure that the longer it sets, the better.

Vanilla at 2 weeks.

Vanilla at 2 weeks.

This is what mine looks like at 2 weeks.

Before using the vanilla, strain it through several layers of cheesecloth to remove the bits from the pulp. This will never go bad or spoil.

You can take the pods from the beans and place them back in your bottle and keep them there if you prefer, or put them in a pint jar with some sugar, and make some vanilla sugar for baking as well!

So gather up all of those bottles you have been saving from your wine, or picking up at garages sales and thrift stores and start making your own vanilla!

Make your own lemon extract as well!  Click here for the link.

We’re Coming Along……

Drilling the Holes

Drilling the Holes

In my last post I was telling you that we are revamping our garden area.  We rented an auger to dig some post holes, and the posts are in!  Cement and all!

Post Hole Auger

Post Hole Auger

Here’s a picture of that beauty!  Looks like it would be a breeze to do doesn’t it?  Well……the ground was a little wet as you went down, and we went down about 2 1/2 feet.  So sometimes we hit water.  And then about half of the time we had to get on each side of the handle and rock the auger back and forth to get it back out.  LOL!  I’m sure we were a sight!

Digging Post Holes

Digging Post Holes


Poles Ready for Cement

Posts Ready for Cement

We set each post into the holes so that they were ready for cement.  You can see that I had the old wire rolled up in the old garden area.  And one of the beds was setting in there.  I pulled the rest of the metal posts out.  We changed our plans as we went along, (always  seems to go that way) and decided to put in more wood posts, and took out all of the metal ones.  We are changing from using our 4 foot fence to 6 foot. The deer are a real problem here, they bed in the woods right behind the house so we decided since the post are tall enough, we will put in the taller fencing wire.

Cemented in Poles

Cemented in Poles

So on Sunday, we went back to Home Depot and picked up 7 more posts, and 7 more bags of pre-mix concrete.   We did 15 holes for the posts and one for a pear tree I had to plant.

Ready for Fencing

Ready for Fencing

So here is the garden today.  We had a heavy frost last night.  I have been tilling the old garden spot up and removing the grass and leveling it for the beds.  I have one placed where it is going to be.  I’m getting ready to fill it up for planting.  I hope to get some tomato plants at farmer’s market this weekend to put in there.  I need to bring the other 3 beds down and place them, and dig out any grass in that area.  My garden is going to total 36′ wide and 48′ long.  We have a couple of blueberry bushes and a 20′ row of Cascade berries my son gave to me when he was clearing out his garden area.  So we have a good start.

How are your gardens coming along?  Have you been able to plant yet?  Please share, I would love to hear about your garden!

Enjoy your week!