This is one of those just out and out odd summers where you can't go outside much, so you just sigh in resignation and prepare for the inevitability of winter. And so, other than borrowing in the in-laws camper and going to different outings (which were fun :) I've ended up doing a lot of canning this summer. Which is good because I'm FINALLY getting my freezer down here that I'm hoping in the next couple of days (when stuff defrosts) to do a freezer cooking day for August. I won't be able to fit QUITE a month's worth of meals in the freezer, but I'll feel pretty good putting ANY meals into the freezer at this point to avoid eating out and to avoid spending additional money. I'm still going to be doing more canning to get my pantry "up and ready" for the winter as much as I can, although I'm hoping to expand what I am able to can come fall when things like squash come into season.
OH! I was able to try the pancake syrup I canned a couple of weeks ago, as did my sister-in-law (I gave her a jar to try) and the votes were unanimous! Talk about YUMMY! I actually like it BETTER than the maple flavored syrup you can get at the store. So, I will definitely be making more of that to can to have for this winter to eat over oatmeal or on pancakes for breakfast :).
I got four more additional pints of Swiss Chard out of my garden and canned two of them with garlic in them. I'm so glad I'll have this come winter because the iron content in this stuff is phenomenal. If I can get my kids to eat it, since my husband is very picky in his veggies (and thus so are my kids)...I'll be super happy :).
I got more cheap peaches at the store and canned 3 more pints of them and also one lowly pint of peach pickles. I got that recipe out of one of my cookbooks, "Paula Dean and Friends", but found the recipe online too HERE. Peach pickles are a pretty standard thing to find in Appalacia and I figured I'd try making my own. My advice? If you make them, keep the peaches whole like the recipe calls for. The peaches get really mushy in the brine and just plain don't look as pretty (they'll taste fine I'm sure though). I figure I'll crack these babies out come Thanksgiving :).
Next up is my two pints of applesauce I made. It tastes yummy, but I'll tell you what. If you don't own a food mill (like me) don't try to smash this stuff through a wire mesh strainer (which I did). It takes FOREVER and makes your arms hurt. Next time I'm using a stick blender and just blending the CRAP out of the apples. It might come out a bit more pulpy but I can deal with that. I just followed the instructions that came with my canner for making the applesauce and used unsweetened apple juice instead of water to cook the apples in. Worked fabulously :).
I also took some of my strawberries from the freezer that I foodsavered earlier in the year and made strawberry jam for the hubby (followed the directions on the pectin package, except I used a little less strawberries then the recipe called for and used the low sugar pectin). This stuff tastes AWESOME! I'm so happy to have so much cool jellies and jams in my pantry for this winter. It makes me feel all domestic-y. And yes, that's now a word ;P
And next up is what I did with the four cabbages I had left over in the garden. My husband actually decided we should turn them into home made sauerkraut (he loves German things *laugh*). I DO like home made sauerkraut, though (my grandmother used to make it every year with cabbages from her garden...it's milder than the store bought kraut, but yummy in its own right). I went online and googled the heck out of recipes and almost every one I could find called for a 200 year old crock, weights, tons of skimming and lots of baby sitting. Since I didn't have TIME for that (not to mention an obvious lack of anything resembling a crock), I finally found a recipe that called for a boiling hot brine to be applied to the cabbage HERE and the best part is that the canning jars do all the work for you. Works for me. I followed the directions and diced the cabbage and packed it tight and I STILL got 6 quarts out of my cabbages. I ommitted the sugar just because I like a more sour taste to my kraut, stuck it in a cool dark place (namely bottom shelf of a bookcase in my master bathroom since that's the "cold spot" in our house and I threw a towel over it to keep it dark). So, here's hoping this stuff turns out okay, or I wasted four very lovely cabbages. I'll know in approximately 3 weeks how it all turned out.
All I have left in the garden at this point is green onions, which I'm just going to cut up and freeze to use in dishes like Chicken Lo Mein later on, so at least the garden is taken care of for the year :).
And there you have it folks. My adventures in the culinary arena as of late. I'm off to cook dinner! Have a great evening!