Sunday, June 21, 2009

Question Answered, The Invalid and Taste Test

This is a post I have been working on this whole week. Finally finished!
Poney and Petey asked:

"Hey Kristi...would you mind sharing your tomato preservation choice? Do you follow the Ball Blue Book? Hot water bath? Pressure cooker? Do you add lemon juice and/or salt?What varieties of tomato products will you can? Juice? sauce? salsa? diced? stewed with green peppers?Basically, share whatever is in your head about tomato preserving, if you have the time and are willing!!"

Hi Poney, Yes, I do use the Ball Blue Book. I also use Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. The extent of my tomato preservation in the past was whole tomatoes using the water bath method. I added citric acid to make sure they were acidic enough. Preserving tomatoes using the water bath method isn't recommended any longer because of the low acid levels in modern hybrids.

But, truthfully I'm not that experienced. Mostly because I've never grew any significant amount of tomatoes. Hopefully this year will change all that. Already I have quite a harvest and I am going to start trying some things soon. I'd really like to try salsa and sauce, and if I have enough maybe green tomato pickles and paste. I do intend on perusing my books and marking all the interesting recipes for tomatoes I find. When I do I'll share. So far we have been stuffing our guts with as many fresh tomatoes as possible! If anyone would like to share a tomato recipe please comment.

This is the Invalid.

Trust your mother's instinct. When I found out the camp I paid for and my two youngest girls wanted to go to was six hours away in north Mississippi, I had misgivings, but let them go anyway. I received the dreaded 3:30 am in the morning call last Saturday. Me in my optimism immediately thought, "Oh wow, they're calling me to let me know they're leaving early." Dumb.

"Um, Kristi? Um, don't be afraid....but we're bringing Talia to the hospital....Um, we're not sure what's wrong but she's having severe pain in her throat and stomach and we think she's, maybe strep throat, but the nurse thinks it may be something else and say's we should bring her to the clinic....possibly appendicitis..."

Thankfully two of her Aunts an Uncle and a lot of friends were with her. There was no way I went back to sleep that night. I would have been on the road immediately but.....of course I happened to have a wedding that night as well (I'm an event florist) and on top of everything it was my birthday. Thankfully my assistant and good friend Betsy came through in a pinch. I hurriedly rushed to finish the flowers for the wedding all the while waiting for the prognosis call. It was.....appendicitis. I'm not complaining. It could have been something much much worse. I'm actually thankful.

Betsy arrived and finished up the final details and delivered the wedding for me. She did a wonderful job! She even decorated her first wedding cake with flowers.

They brought Talia by ambulance from the little clinic where she was to the Children's Hospital in Jackson, Mississippi. On the way to Jackson I gave the Doctor via phone permission to perform surgery. When we arrived the nurse showed us up to the family waiting room where Talia's entourage from camp awaited. It was quite a group. Family, friends and ministers. It really matters in a time like that to know that so many people love you and care about what happens to you.

Finally a nurse peeked in and informed us Talia was in recovery and could have one visitor. Byron and I rushed to the door. You know who got to go. Me. Sorry Byron. I leaned over to a snoring Talia. She opened her eyes slightly and I said, "Talia, It's me Mommy. Can you see me? Can you see me Baby? Talia, Can you see me?" Talia gave a painful grimace and said, "For the third time Mommy. I can see you!" I knew Talia would be just fine.

She's up and about now, but enjoyed her metal bowl and wooden spoon as long as she could. I gave them to her to bang when she needed me. She made good use of it.

Taste Test

The Dr. Carolyn yellow heirloom tomato fared much better in my garden with the bugs. Maybe the light yellow almost white color fooled the stinkbugs into thinking they weren't ripe and they moved on to my brightly colored red tomatoes. It tastes very mild and the flesh is firm. Good, but not my favorite. Unfortunately, since it did so well.
This is my long awaited Purple Cherokee tomato. It is a dark smokey red color. Very sweet, juicy and yummy. Really worth the wait. The worms like them as well! Not so much stink bug damage.

The Italian Marzano paste tomato. You can see the stink bug damage on the side. I had a huge problem with end rot with these. I need to find out why these tomatoes had that problem and none of the other tomatoes did. I would think the others would have the same problem if it were a soil issue. Any ideas? It is has a nice flavor, but is definitely more acidic than the slicing tomatoes. Would these be good for drying? Hmmmm

This is the inside of the Cherokee purple tomato. See how fleshy and juicy it is? This is my favorite tasting tomato so far.

The bottom is the inside of the Dr. Carolyn. It is about the size of a small bouncy ball. It's really a pretty tomato and looks great mixed with red tomatoes in a salad or on a plate.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


A testament to persistence. After many years of trying, finally, I grew an actual crop of cucumbers! There are even extras.....enough to eat fresh, make sauces, make pickles, give away and feed to the chickens.
For these pickles I used one of the packets I received in the mail from Tipper at Blind Pig and the Acorn.
These pickles were very easy to make. Heat water, vinegar, and the seasoning packet, pour over the cut and prepared cucumbers, allow to return to room temp. Pack pickles in jar and then top with vinegar, water and seasonings. I didn't can these pickles. They'll be stored in the refrigerator. After a few days of setting, We'll give them a try.
Since I was a little girl picking cucumbers in my Grandmother's garden I have been eating pickles this way....Peel and slice cucumbers. Place cucumbers in a jar and add 1/3 water and 2/3 vinegar add some salt and pepper. Store in the refrigerator and eat with sandwiches, salads, dinner or as a cool snack. Byron and the girls gobble these up.
The peppery pickles in the two jars are made with cucumbers and peppers from the garden. I did can these. They were really good before I canned them. After canning them they became on the mushy side. Hmmmm.....I'll have to try something different next time. You can see the beautiful crop of heirloom tomatoes I am picking. The butternut squash are even getting ripe. I'm already starting to plant second crops in the raised bed garden. One blessing of New Orleans is the long long growing season.
Cherokee tomatoes ripening on the windowsill. I have to harvest most of the tomatoes just as the start to turn and allow them to finish ripening inside. If they are left to ripen outside the stinkbugs suck them dry. Ughhh Stinkbugs....the bane of the summer.

Monday, June 8, 2009

My First Crop of Heirloom Tomatoes

Finally....I'm picking heirloom tomatoes!
The first two varieties to ripen were Egg Yolk and Red Strawberry.
So a taste test as promised from an amateur! First thing I noticed was that the Red Strawberry tomato was extremely meaty and there were no slimy seeds or juice sliding out. Just very juicy meat. It was sweet but a little acidic....over all....very yummy! A true fresh from the garden taste.
The Egg Yolk is just as it's name promises...yellow and the size of an egg yolk. So, I just popped one in my mouth and chomped down......very very yummy. It was still warm from the garden and fresh and sweet tasting. I didn't notice any acidic flavor.
Both were dynamite. Everything I hoped they would be. I did notice that the Red Strawberry was very soft to the touch, and I couldn't imagine it lasting any amount of time in transit. So this is certainly a tomato you would have to grow at home if you wanted to try it.
I have some very large Cherokee purple tomatoes I'm expecting to ripen soon.
Here is five minute bread rising. I make this bread almost everyday. Store bought bread is a thing of the past in my family. If you'd like to try this really easy bread click here.
Bruschetta is a simple snack you can make from your garden tomatoes.
Simple Bruschetta
Slices of homemade bread
Slices of tomato
Parmesan cheese
Olive oil
Pour a little olive oil in a plate. Dip one side of each slice of bread in the olive oil. Place olive oil side up on a cookie sheet. Top each slice of olive oil bread with a slice of tomato. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. Then broil until Parmesan is completely melted.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Peach Jam and Corn

My Mother-In-Law's peach tree finally produced a good amount of sweet juicy peaches. It is a white fleshed peach. The flesh is very sweet and juicy, but the skin was very bitter. Maybe that is just an attribute of that particular variety. One thing is certain.....

It made the yummiest peach jam ever! Just ask my nephew Brennen who informed me he "needed" some more! I'm working on it Brennen!

Here is another yummy bowl of peaches just picked. Maybe I'll have enough left over after the munching to make another jar or so of jam.

This year I planted the corn in February in a four foot by four foot square raised bed. That is the earliest I have ever planted it. Admittedly there were a couple of iffy times that frost threatened. Even so, this is the first time I have ever harvested any significant amount of corn. I'll continue to plant it early. I believe it does better here before the hottest weather hits. There were no significant pest problems. The ears developed before the caterpillars appeared. Only two ears had one caterpillar each in them and only at the tip. Maybe the ear developing early foiled the caterpillars?

The corn is perfectly sweet. We seem to have harvested it at just the right time. When a kernel is cut with a finger nail white juice sprays out.