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Preserving the Harvest
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Preserving the Harvest

The subtle changing of the seasons brings on a mad dash of figuring out how to stay on top of the marvelous bounty that our little garden provides… We pack a punch in a small space, for sure!

Peace Offering Our yard and our climate seem particularly suited for tomatoes and peppers, and we have had continued success with these plants over the years.  Squash seems to do well for awhile before being attacked by the beetles, and we also have had a decent crop of okra, cucumbers, eggplants, and lots of herbs.  Fortunately, we escaped the tomato blight that caused so much damage… funny thing is that it affected some of our neighbors down the street, but our tomatoes are healthy and abundant (so far).  We plant a number of varieties of tomatoes with pretty much one thing in mind:  making Kris’s amazing salsa recipe.  This year, we had two varieties of heirloom tomatoes, as well as several crops of romas to rely on for the first batch of the salsa.

We spent last weekend in the kitchen, canning three batches of veggies:  the aforementioned salsa, spicy dill pickles (and regular ones too), and some pickled peppers (Habaneros and jalapenos).  As you can see, we like the spicy foods and use these canned goods throughout the winter for all sorts of our favorite recipes like jambalaya, curries, various soups, black bean burgers, etc.  No wasting the veggies here!

Three Christmases ago, I saw an ad in some magazine at the doctor’s office about “Great Gifts for the Man in Your Life” (Real Simple or Martha Stewart Living, I think…)  The #1 gift intrigued me, and I thought that it would be something interesting and unique for the man in my life who likes to spend (nearly) the same amount of time in the kitchen that I do… so, I bought Kris the Cameron Cookware Stainless Steel Stovetop Smoker.  Little did I know, at the time, that this would be one of the best purchases for our culinary exploits!  I also picked up the indoor smoker cookbook, Smokin’, which has a total of TWO vegetable recipes, but it does have a lot of good ideas… The smoker is traditionally thought of for meats, but we have enjoyed so many smoked vegetables over the years. Who said vegans can’t be smokin’ too? :)

All that to say, that the smoker is an integral part of the salsa preparation.

Smoking the Tomatoes and Jalapenos

All varieties of tomatoes and jalapenos from the garden – loaded into the smoker with hickory wood chips.  It takes about twenty or thirty minutes to get the right flavor.  This step is SO worth it.

For years, we used store-bought chipotles, but once we got the smoker, we made our own!

… Cilantro + Onions + Garlic + mix of spices and vinegar …

I would share a recipe if I had one, but this is all living in Kris’s head.  He has perfected this over the years. We do a whole little taste test each year and discuss whether it needs more or less of certain ingredients.  Perhaps I can get him to write it out one day soon.  This year’s batch seems to be one of the best so far – the tomatoes were not too watery and they had a delicious flavor.

Long winter with summery fresh food!

Canning Day

Canning Day

5 pints of salsa
4 pints pickled peppers
3 qt dill pickles

It was quite a productive and rewarding day.  …and there are already more tomatoes ripening on the vine.  A second batch (maybe even a third) is quite possible.

With fall right around the corner, I am already thinking about more harvesting and more preserves… apple butter?  some more peach jam?  … gosh, I love this season…

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27 Responses

  1. Chandler

    Amazing! You two are definitely kindred spirits! The stovetop smoker looks incredible, and I can just *see* the flavor coming out of those beautiful tomatoes.

    It’s canning weekend for us, too—have a lovely, sustainable holiday!

  2. Aileen

    Any tips on making jams? I’m hoping to make some raspberry jam in the next couple weeks…. and now that you’ve mentioned apple butter…. hmmm….

    Any tips appreciated!

  3. Renee

    That smoker looks amazing!! Definitely needs to go on my list.
    We made salsa today too. :)

  4. Elena

    Wow, the results from your autumn harvest adventures looks so delicious. Definitely inspiring, even with no recipe for Kris’s salsa. But of course, I’m curious both about the smoker and what else that perfects his sauce. Pickled stuffs are also somethings I’ve dreamt of doing for a while. Someday in life (if/)when we move somewhere warmer – where vegetables grow better and have more taste – I will definitely excercise this traditional “crafting”. I plan to search for secret mysterious well hidden recipes from Indian cuisine. Since I unfortunately lack good Indian friends, who perhaps would be willing to share the pickling traditions from their families, I’m thankful for search enginges like google cause I’m confident you can find anything there ;)

    Looking forward to seeing perhaps more of your harvesting and preserves adventures! Enjoy!

  5. Phoe

    That salsa sounds amazing!

  6. Kim

    I love the jewel-like look of home-canned produce. My mom is embroiled in tomato canning right now. A cousin asked me why my mom didn’t come visit them, and I said “She can’t leave the house now, her tomatoes will get away from her. She’ll see you in October!”

  7. Leann

    Oooh, I hadn’t thought about apple butter…I’ve been focused on applesauce!

    We caught the dreaded blight, but not till late in the season, so we’ve harvested lots of tomatoes so far, and have more ready to be picked that are okay. It’s so sad to watch all your hard work turn black and mushy! We also got eaten alive by squash borers, which was sad. It’s all worth it in the end, though!

  8. Sockbug

    Totally love the smoker! I think it needs to be a Christmas gift to Mr. Sockbug this year. Will Kris share his list of spices for his salsa even if there are no exact measurements? We adore smoky salsa!

  9. Kellie

    Mmmmmm! That salsa looks amazing! And those pickles! We were lucky this year too with our tomatoes and not catching the blight. I chalk it up to not buying our starts from a “big box” store. A word to the wise though, be extra careful with canning tomatoes this year. Blight changes the acidity of the fruit, which can be a recipe for botulism.

    Here’s a blog entry with some good links about the blight: http://www.diaryofalocavore.com/2009/09/local-food-report-cross-your-hearts.html

    Okay, I’ll get off my soapbox now. :)

  10. Lisa

    oh Lordy, that looks like some good eating!

  11. Linda

    That all looks great. i have never made jams or preserves.

  12. Steph

    My mouth is still watering after reading your post, everything looks and sounds so delicious! Unfortunately my tomatoes got hit by the blight as well and our foggy and cool San Francisco summer did the rest. They look very sad but produce a few tomatoes every few days. I miss great gardening climate.

  13. Casey

    Ah, it makes me so happy to see someone else who cans! :) I’ve been doing it all summer, while the berries & cherries have been in season, but fall makes me really want to get to it. I can’t wait for the local apples to really be in full swing; I made THE BEST apple butter, if I do say so myself.

    That salsa sounds HEAVENLY! Kris, we want a recipe!

  14. GeekKnitter

    Seems like this is a weekend for canning. Roasted tomato sauce for me, and probably chutney next week.

  15. Barb

    Wow what beautiful stuff! The smoked pepper sound divine!

  16. Jo

    The tomato blight has been sporadic around here in DE as well. Our 3 little plants are doing well (although something keeps eating chunks of my big tomatoes before I have a chance to pick them!!!), but my ILs, who live very close, had all their tomatoes (6 plants’ worth) die on the vines.

  17. Allegra

    As always, your photos are wonderful. Your canning looks amazing, I want to eat it all up! Your posts about your gardening, canning, and your general food posts are always an inspiration to me. Thanks!


  18. sarah

    I’d love to hear more about pickling peppers- I have a ton of lovely Indian and Thai peppers coming in and I really do need to preserve them for later.

  19. Harpa J

    This looks so great and the smoker sounds fascinating. I have never heard of such a thing before – I don’t think we have them here up in the north…

  20. Skylar

    Lovely! When can I come over for a sampling? J/K

    Lolly, please tell me what sort of glass jars are those and where did you find them?

    Thank you!

  21. Leslie

    Wow, that is quite a harvest! I planted three cherry tomatoes plants, which have yielded quite nicely, and one Cherokee Purple (slicing tomato) which hasn’t done as well. I haven’t had enough to preserve in any way but we do enjoy our daily intake of the fresh tomatoes!

  22. Josiane

    Smoking the veggies you use in your salsa? Interesting! It must give a fabulous flavor!

  23. Amber

    Oh YUM. I need that smoker. I am determined to get into canning and preserving. I think I’ll start this fall, I definitely need to make apple butter. Any good books to recommend on the subject?

  24. Alison

    that stovetop smoker looks very intriguing! I’ve never seen such a thing…
    our tomatoes didn’t get any blight either, unfortunately, only a few of our plants were thoroughly weeded and cared for and the rest were, um, sort of choked out by the dreaded weeds so prevalent here on the prairie… we have some to eat fresh and enjoy, but not enough to can any big batches of gardeny goodness. We’re already planning for next year (including planning on working a bit harder in the garden!)

    your salsa looks so yummy!

  25. Jenna

    How fun! I’ve thought about making some jam and things this year, but chickened out a bit. I guess the actual canning process is a little scary to me. I’m sure that I’ll at least freeze some berries so that I can also carry a little bit of summer into the winter.

    In any case, I think it’s great that you guys have this tradition. It’s a great transitional season activity – still enjoying the literal fruits of summer while thinking ahead to warm meals in the cold months. I have a bunch of pears from a neighborhood tree at home, I’m thinking of making pear butter. Yum.


  26. Rachel

    Such a great post about gardening and preservation Lolly! My garden has been phenomenal this year and I’m scrambling to get it all preserved and put up before a frost hits! So much work but such a sense of satisfaction!

    I was curious about your pickled peppers. I always have a ton of jalapenos which I typically just halve/seed and freeze them for winter. But I would like to can them in the same manner as you buy in the store for use on sandwiches and pizza. However, I’m unsure if pickling them is the process that I’m looking for…but that seems to be the only recipes I can come up with. I was wondering if you could tell me what sort of flavor/texture you get from pickling peppers so maybe I can figure out if that is the route I need to go? Thanks much in advance!

  27. Sarah

    So inspirational! My container garden hasn’t yeilding much this year, but I seem to do OK with green beans. Maybe next year that’s all I’ll plant, so I have enough to actually experiment with. Pickled green beans are already forming in my mind…

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