August 8, 2022

This was a lot of work - pizza sauce

Earlier in the season I secretly despaired about the Roma tomatoes. The first tomatoes on each plant developed blossom end rot. The cure is to add calcium to the soil, but honestly, I'd not had great success with that. This year, I ignored the recommended amounts and added a generous handful of garden lime pellets to each bucket and watered it in. This time, it worked. I've had a good harvest of Roma tomatoes. 

The plan was to can them as diced, or crushed, tomatoes to add to recipes. I did that. The plants are still producing and I decided to make a batch of pizza sauce according to the recipe in the Ball Book.  

The recipe calls for thirteen cups of tomato puree and states it will yield about seven pints. A pint is too much for a single pizza for two people and a dog, so I canned the sauce in half-pints. 

The project went well, but it was very labor intensive. I had to core and slice the tomatoes, then cook them down to a liquid state. Then I ran everything through a food mill to remove the skins and seeds. After that, the result needed to simmer until it thickened and that took hours. 

The actual processing required two canner runs. Water bath canning was called for, so no stacking in the canner. Each batch had to process for thirty-five minutes. I'm delighted with the end result. Every jar sealed so there was no pizza tonight, I'm sorry to say. 

It's a good feeling to have home-grown truly organic food on the pantry shelf. The tomato plants are still bearing so I need to go through the Ball Book and decide on what to make next. If I can't decide, I'll simply process plain sauce. It won't go to waste, that's for sure. 

I'm feeling really good about my little garden this year. Yes, it's a bit of work, but it's work that will benefit us for months to come. To our way of thinking, that's a good thing.

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor (The Hideaway)

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, home processed food, gardening, rural lifestyle, country living, tomatoes, pizza sauce, simple country pleasures, blossom end rot

August 7, 2022

Strawberry jam

Show me a good sale on frozen foods and it's a pretty good bet I'm going to grab a few bags. A couple of weeks ago, the local grocery had a buy two get one free offer on sliced strawberries - and they were at a sale price to boot! So I got some and tossed them into my already crowded freezer with the intention of making jam as soon as I had time. 

It's time to make time for some of those projects. I've been freezing Roma tomatoes, too, and space in the freezer is now at a premium. This morning I decided to make the strawberry jam. 

I remember as a small child "helping" my maternal great-grandmother make jams and jellies. I'd sit in her kitchen and watch as she turned hot mashed fruit into jelly. When it was time to harvest elderberries, I held the basket for her as she snipped off clusters of ripe berries. Grandma used a jelly bag made from feed sacks to strain the juice from the pulp, and then I got to "help" give the pulp to the chickens. I have so many rose-colored memories of Grandma, and now being older, I realize how hard her life really was compared to our lives today. So much less complicated, too. 

While Grandma had to pick her own strawberries, the process, for me, is easier. I open the bags and empty the contents into a saucepan. My preferred method to make jams and jellies is to follow the Sure Jell pectin recipes. Sure Jell has never let me down and it came through again this morning. Five cups of mashed strawberries, one envelope of Sure Jell, and seven cups of white sugar. Yes, seven cups. It seems like a lot but jams and jellies are consumed in small amounts so I don't angst over it. 

I ended up with nine half-pints of jam, which will probably last two years. We might border the Southland, but we don't serve biscuits at every meal. We go weeks at a stretch without using jam or jelly, but when it's time for some, homemade is the very best! 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor (The Hideaway)

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, a writer's life, strawberry jam, Sure Jell pectin, home food preservation, home canning, simple country pleasures, rural lifestyle, country living, live simply, family heritage, pantry building

August 5, 2022

Tree trimming - maple tree down

It's rare we need to harvest an entire healthy tree, but over the course of the last few years, it became obvious we had a maple that had to go. It developed a bit of a lean that posed a danger to the house should the tree fall on its own. Because of the size and location of the tree, we called a professional for help.  

We had to wait a while before the trimmer got to us since he's not exactly local. He waited until he had a couple of jobs in our area - price of gasoline and all that - and we were okay with this happening as best fit his schedule. 

It was fascinating to watch him work. It takes a lot of guts, and strength, to shimmy up a tree and start cutting off branches. He cut off the heavy branches that pulled the tree into a lean and set a pull rope, the other end of which was secured to a different tree with a "come along" to ratchet pressure in the direction he wanted the tree to fall. Then he came back to the ground and cut the tree. It fell exactly where we wanted it to fall. 

We discovered our tree held a wonderful secret - ambrosia wood. Ambrosia maple is highly sought after by woodworkers for the unique patterns created by a beetle-borne fungus. We worked a deal with the tree trimmer for him to take sections of the trunk to his sawmill. I'm pleased some of the wood will be used for more than firewood. 

And as for firewood, there was plenty left for us and for my cousin, who helped greatly with the cleanup. 

The tree trimmer will be back this fall to harvest the huge poplar outside the sunroom windows. It too has gotten too tall to be so close to the house. I'll hate to see that tree go. It's been a companion of sorts, giving me the first harbingers of changing seasons. Even as I look out the window, right on time, a few yellow poplar leaves have come to earth. 

We do what we must. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor (The Hideaway)

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, tree trimming, ambrosia maple, country living, rural lifestyle, a writer's life, harvest, firewood