canning, Food, Seasonal Food

Canning Homegrown Black Vernissage Tomatoes (Small Batch Without a Kitchen Scale)

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Lately I have been super enjoying canning. And while I’ve canned before, there is something about canning what you’ve grown yourself.

I’m bursting with pride (probably unflatteringly so) over my little 13×13 foot garden. It’s tiny, but it’s mine and I tend it with care.

I’m growing a variety of things but currently the tomatoes are the ones that are producing like crazy. Which is a relief because when I transplanted them this spring they were quite scraggly.

They are now a tomato jungle.

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See? Jungle.

Today I had over 30 tomatoes ripe and sitting on my counter. Hmm. Lately I have been canning the black ones. Those are plants # 1, 3, 5 and 6 in the above photo, starting from the left. Plant #2 is a Sungold (yellow cherry tomato) and plant #4 is a Goldie (huge yellow tomatoes I wrote about in my BLT post).

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Black V. tomatoes ripening on the vine.
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Size compared to a cherry tomato.
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Size compared to a medium sized tomato I got from a produce stand.
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The black tomatoes are fairly juicy and do not hold their shape well during cooking.
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33 tomatoes, washed and sorted.

I knew I was canning them and I had a recipe in mind. I’ve been using this book called Foolproof Preserving: A Guide to Small Batch Jams, Jellies, Pickles, Condiments & More (by the editors from America’s Test Kitchen) from the library and I love it so much I want to buy it. But it’s nearly $20 😦 Maybe I can find a deal somewhere…

Anyways.

The recipe I wanted was for crushed tomatoes. But it called for 14 lbs of tomatoes to make 4 quarts canned and I knew I didn’t have that much. But with a bit of brain power I figured that if I cut down the ingredients to 1/4 of the recipe, it would be about right.

I had canned these tomatoes whole and I knew it would take about 14 to make 1 pint. Thus about 30 tomatoes to make 2 pints, or 1 quart. My other canning book said that it takes 2 1/2-3 1/2 lbs of tomatoes for 1 quart canned. So I figured I had about 3 lbs.

The only other ingredients were bottled lemon juice and salt. Easy.

And no, canning isn’t easy at first. I’m no veteran but I’ve been learning a lot from anyone willing to chat about canning. This is my first year canning tomatoes. Before I stuck to just fruit. (*Haha looking back on this post I realise that tomatoes are also fruit! 🙂 Applesauce, peaches, peach butter, blueberry butter. That’s about it 🙂

So I followed the directions to prepare for cooking the tomatoes.

Filling up pots with water, washing jars, prepping tomatoes, blanching and chopping them.

Now they were ready to cook and here is what the completed “sauce/crushed tomatoes” looked like⤵⤵⤵

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Ready to can! The burner under the water bath canner had been turned off already. So now…canning prep!

Prepped hot jars, sterilized lids, lemon juice and salt in jar, filled jars, left headspace, wiped rims and lids and made sure lids were properly loosened.

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Jar 1
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and jar 2.

Then the jars were carefully lowered and I placed the lid on and waited for the water to boil.

While I waited, I made lunch. Last nights leftover burrito filling…rice, black beans and seasoned ground beef mixed with the remaining 2/3 cup of crushed tomatoes. Yum.

The water boiled after a bit and judging by the directions I went with a 45-minute processing time. It was the correct time for my elevation for quart jars so I just went with it.

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Finished product!

I love listening for the jars to pop. I didn’t hear these ones pop but I will test them later. Both are indented and not raised, so that’s a good sign 🙂

Whew. All that work for 2 pint jars. But it’s still quite a bit of tomatoes. And I love preserving the fruits of my labor. I hope they taste good when I use them in a recipe later!

Do you can? I’d love to hear what you are preserving this year 🙂 Do you can by yourself or do you have help?

~Rachel

Beverages, Food

Cuppa Chocolate Mint & Nettle Tea

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I started to blog about french toast today. And while french toast is all very well and good, I wasn’t into it. At the moment I was sipping a cup of chocolate mint and nettle tea. Bing bing! Yes. Yes I will blog about that.

I love tea. Even in the summer. I usually drink it warm or iced in the warmer months though.

A favorite lately is combining a 50/50 ratio of dried chocolate mint and nettle.

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Nettle (L) and mint leaves.

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My nettle I purchased in a 1 lb package through iherb. There was a ton. Like 3+ quart jars. I bought it 2 years ago and there’s still lots.

Nettle is awesome because of the nutrients it has. Lots of calcium, magnesium and iron.

It’s really good for joint health, fatigue, seasonal allergies and menstrual cramps among other things (the list is long).

The leaves are safe to use once dried. It will not sting your insides 🙂

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Stinging nettle. Source: pixabay

Mint is also good for many things, although most people are familiar with its ability to soothe the stomach and nix bad breath. I’ve been reading Rosalee de la Forêt’s book Alchemy of Herbs: Transform Everyday Ingredients into Foods and Remedies That Heal and learned that peppermint not only soothes and refreshes but it gives you energy too. So its no suprise that it makes a nice pairing with nettle.

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Chocolate mint in my garden. If it wasn’t in a bucket it would be all over the place!
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Tea steeping in a quart jar, my favorite mug and my chocolate mint stash.
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Yummy cuppa tea.

Is saying “cuppa tea” just a British thing? I really like the phrase 🙂

How about you? What is your favorite tea (or beverage in general)? I would love to know! I’m always looking for new teas and beverages to try.

~Rachel

Books

Book Review: The Homemade Housewife

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Introduction

This e-book was written and published this May by Mrs. Kate Singh. Because I loved it and found it to be a valuable resource I wanted to post a review on my blog. I will share a summary, things I loved, a small critique, and little tidbits from my favorite chapters.

Summary

This book is a marvelous collection of thrifty tips and wholesome advice. The chapters cover topics like decorating, cleaning, self-care for the mama, urban farming, parenting resources, homeschooling and ideas for free fun.

About the Author

Kate Singh writes both motivational and fictional books to inspire and entertain. She currently resides in California with her family.

Visit the author’s blog here.

~*~      ~*~      ~*~       ~*~

Review

What I Loved…

The reasons I really enjoyed this e-book are similar to the reasons I loved 2 other books of Kate’s. (I read The Lazy and Cheap Housewife and The Funky and Frugal Housewife previously.) From the first, I saw that this book was relatable. Kate is honest about the fact that she is no Martha Stewart and doesn’t want to be. I breathed a sigh of relief. Me too.

I loved her encouraging tone that was coupled with her unique and fun style. I love things that have a different slant and this book definitely falls into that category.

But what I loved most? Her books are built around this tiny seed of an idea. This belief that I could live a full and happy life while practicing frugality. This intrigued me.

Not So Much…

I can only think of two areas for constructive criticism. They are minor things but I feel that 1) a bit less repetition and 2) a bit more organization would improve readability. The repetition increased the length of the book, which was 3,368 pages on my kindle. I loved the huge collection of all things thrifty but there was quite a bit to go through. The chapters and headings were good but sometimes there were parts that were hard to follow because of a change of topic.

My Favorite Chapters

My favorites were chapters 6 (care for the mama) and 8 (about gardening). But I also enjoyed parts of chapters 3 (food), 5 (cleaning), 9 (kids) and 10 (free fun). This book is a compilation of tips from all of Kate’s previous books so some things I had read already. But regardless of this and the fact that I’ve been practicing frugal living for 5+ years I still found quite a few new things to put into practice.

Chapter 6 is mostly about self care, which I found to be so relevant and helpful. Kate titled this chapter “Beauty for the Lady of the House and Ways to Avoid Burn Out”. There are many helpful ideas about exercise, primping, investment in hobbies, me-time breaks and ways to make homemaking easier.

I loved reading about boredom busters and ways to reduce burnout. There were ideas for staying emotionally and physically healthy and many ways to improve one’s image with little cash.

The part about self-love and pride went straight to my heart as I remembered that yes, I can still dress up and look nice even though I don’t go much of anywhere. This quote also spoke to me:

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All things gardening was covered in chapter 8. I found this particularly helpful as I had just planted my garden when I read this book in early June. I loved the tips about where to find free gardening supplies, re-growing plants and how to make compost without fancy equipment. I love gardening and saving money in this area makes me so happy. I’m learning how to get the most of my plants by dividing and regrowing them. It’s a lot of fun 🙂

And here are a few things I loved about chapters 3, 5, 9 and 10.

Chapter 3 is all about food and the kitchen. I made a mental note of the snacking tips, ways to make meals healthier and reminders of cheap and healthy ingredients. I was suprised to learn I could save money on cat food without compromising too much on quality.

Chapter 5 pertains to cleaning. It’s a challenge for me to make cleaning fun but Kate inspired me anew. I was (and am still) going through a decluttering process here at home. Kate had a lot to say about this and helped me to see it as an easier job instead of a never endingly difficult one.

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Chapter 9 reminded me of what kids really need for health and happiness. There is a lot in this chapter. Minimalist baby care and food, homeschooling help, fun kids activities, preschool ideas, help establishing a first aide kit, preventative care and ways to make birthday parties cheap and fun are all included here. Sometimes I forget how little kids really need. How much they love simple things. And how I’m killing it as a mother even though most of the time I don’t see it. 

Lastly, chapter 10 was full of great suggestions for places to go and have fun without spending much $. There were so many activities…some that we do now (like the library) and others that I hadn’t thought about in awhile (such as a picnic at the park). Some of these ideas are for the family and others are more geared towards just the mama.

Conclusion

This book is full of so much goodness. It was motivating and encouraging to read. An excellent resource for any homemaker practicing or seeking out ideas for frugal living 🙂

Check out The Homemade Housewife along with Kate’s other helpful books here. All of her books are $0.99, which I love!

~Rachel

Gardening, The Great Outdoors

Where Dirt Meets Light and Love

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I’m in a writing funk lately. My week is about to become tipsy-topsy-turvy. (More on that later.) The inspiration is lacking. So I do what all good writers do, I go out and get busy. Get inspired. Lift my spirits with something that I love.

I love to garden. I always have and I think I always will. Ever since I was a child, I’ve always had a curious interest in plants. What makes them tick, makes them grow. Gardening is my therapy. It soothes my soul and propels me forward when times get tough.

Here is today’s work:

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Cute little nook in progress!

 

The larger one at the end has sweet potatoes and marigolds. Good companion plants. I bought all 12 plants for under $5 😀 My heart is doing a tiny frugal dance.

The bed on the right has my Lenten rose and impatient seeds. Both are excellent for shade.

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Fun fact: about a week ago my daughter chewed through the box of impatient seeds and spilled some all over herself. She might have eaten some. I don’t know. It was awhile before I noticed. Haha.

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And here’s a bit from the big garden, which was planted nearly 2 weeks ago:

 

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Silver thyme.

 

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Baby Calendula Resina (from seed).

 

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Munstead Lavender I started from seed. 2 months old, same age as my Black Vernissage tomato plants!

 

By the way, only 2 out of 6+ lavender plants survived. The Black V. tomatoes (4) are still a bit scraggly as well.

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Blossoms on my Sun Gold tomato plant.

 

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Baby borage (from seed). If you look close you can see the leaves are covered in prickly hairs already.

 

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Baby Vierling Dill (took for-ev-er to sprout). Update: not sure if this is dill. Maybe my dill didn’t sprout 😦

 

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The basils. Purple Ruffles and Genovese.

 

On occasion I overhear someone say that gardening is difficult or they have a black thumb or whatnot. And I am not the best gardener out there, but I’ve always thought that plants are just like people. All they need is a little bit of light and love.

Do you have a garden? If so what are you growing this year?

~Rachel

I had this verse running through my head as I wrote:

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