It seems I've been a bit lax in posting again. Everything seems to be a bit late in the garden this year and I have been staying pretty busy with things around here. Funny but it seems like by this time last year (I'd have to look back and see) what little hadn't already burned up had been canned, dehydrated or frozen. I'm not fussing though. I'm happy to even get a spring garden in this year!
Some of the peppers are still not producing while others are going gangbusters. There are several different kinds of peppers out there, most of them hot. Thanks to that deal I got at the Feed Store it looks like we are going to be eating peppers in all sorts of ways! Most of the plants from the Feed Store were pretty stressed when I brought them home. They were all root-bound and tall and leggy. Most of them are looking pretty good now and I'm hoping they'll start producing soon. The jalapeno's, cayenne and bell peppers are doing ok, but the star of the garden right now are the cayenne plants. They are covered with both blooms and peppers and are probably three and a half foot tall. Anyone care to share what they know about putting up/ using cayenne peppers? I mean other than drying them for the seasoning? I'd love it if you'd leave me a comment with suggestions.
I've picked another couple of buckets of black-eyed peas this week. Shelling takes so much time but I've found a little secret that has really helped. Rather than shelling them the day I pick them I'll wait till the next evening to shell them. It seems that once they dry just a little they are much easier (read faster) to process. Yeah, yeah... don't ask how I figured that one out. But since we are on the subject of peas I have another question for you guys.Let me explain first. Last year when I was canning the peas and other "shell beans" I would fill the jar with the beans and then add my water and process. Once they came out of the canner, no matter what I tried, they would always end up with twice as much "head space" than I started with. The very top layer of beans were dry and kind of yucky looking. They tasted fine when I opened them, they were just ugly. So.... this year I asked a friend what she would do to have them come out right. She suggested I soak the beans/peas overnight before I canned them. They turned out better but I still have more head space than I want. Anyone have any suggestions?
The tomato's are coming in like gangbusters now with no sign of giving up anytime soon. With the lower temps we had a couple of weeks ago I've even got some new fruit set. I've been keeping my fingers crossed that all the stuff for making salsa would come in about the same time. I kind of ran into a minor snag though because of the peppers. The jalapeno's are just now starting to get going (and they aren't hot at all) and the tomato's are piling up so after kicking around the problem for a little bit I decided to go on and make a batch of salsa with the few jalapeno's that are ready and using some of those prolific cayenne peppers in their place. I'm happy to say it worked out fine. You just have to roll with what you are given and trust that it will all be ok. Kinda like life, yeah?
I put up a canner load of my version of Rotel tomato's yesterday. I need to do another one soon. Basically it's just chopped tomato's, onions and (this time) cayenne peppers. We really like to cook with "rotel" type tomato's so the plan is to put up enough for the coming year. Oh, I almost forgot... while I'm on the tomato topic.... all the skins from all the tomato's have been put in the dehydrator. This worked out so well last year that I just had to do it again. What do I do with the tomato skins? Once they are dry I put them in jars and vacuum seal them. When I need tomato paste or tomato sauce I just grind up some of the skins, add water till I have the consistency I need and don't have to buy either tomato sauce or paste anymore!
I've got a ton of cucumbers to do something with in the next couple of days. I'm not sure exactly what I'm going to do with them yet though. We aren't big pickle eaters here. Shoot, I've still got a few quarts of dill and bread and butter pickles from year before last in the pantry. I have to do something with them in the next day or so (the sooner the better) and I'm still trying to figure out how to put them up. A friend of mine was telling me about some relish that she did that I might have to try. I really liked the idea. Chop cucumbers, onions and hot peppers up and process them like pickles. She did her's with a bread and butter mix. Mars doesn't care for bread and butter pickles so I'm thinking about "tweaking" this one and making sort of a hot dill relish.
So there ya have it. What I've been up to this past week. Get up, drink coffee, feed critters and head out to the garden to pick whatevers ready. Fire up the canner and dehydrator and go from there. Then there's the weeding and prepping for the fall garden. I've planted more beans as it seems the green beans aren't going to produce like I had hoped. We'll try squash again even though I don't have much hope for it.( $#(!# squash bugs) and who knows... maybe... just maybe we'll be able to win this time.