Wow, what happened to the summer?!? Can you believe it’s the middle of August already? With the temps reaching record highs over most of the country I’m sure there have been thirsty gardens everywhere. Between my sad tomatoes and my lettuce bolting and dying, this year has certainly been a learning experience. However, there is one member of my garden family that has produced leaps and bounds over previous years.
Hot, sweet, bell, it didn’t matter they did wonderful! Leaving me scratching my head wondering what to do with these mounds of green and red gems. Different chilis, require different preserving methods. Some are best dried or smoked, some frozen or canned.
Lets start with old faithful Jose Jalapeno (not on a stick;). I found a fantastic salsa recipe that is easy enough for a beginner and will last all year long. It’s adapted from a recipe found in the Ball Blue Book of canning. (For those of you unfamiliar with home preserving it is important to familiarize yourself with a few techniques. Find the basics here.)
This recipe makes about 3 pint jars, however, my three jalapeño plants produced enough peppers to double the recipe, and make it twice!
Hot Jalapeno Salsa
3 cups tomatoes peeled, seeded, and chopped
3 cups jalapeño chopped (I removed the seeds and membrane from about half of the peppers and it is still quite spicy)
1 1/2 Tbs minced garlic
1 cup vinegar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp rosemary
2 Tbs fresh cilantro chopped
1/2 tsp cumin
WARNING! When preparing the peppers, WEAR GLOVES AND DO NOT TOUCH YOUR FACE!!!
Note- some of my jalapeños had turned red on the vine. I don’t know if that makes them hotter or takes away some of the heat, in my opinion they add nice color to the salsa so I left them in.
Combine ingredients in large pot. Bring to a boil and let simmer for 10 minutes till all flavors are melded together.
The basic water canning necessities are a large stock pot, wide mouth funnel, magnet (on a stick;) for removing lids from boiling water, and tongs for placing and removing jars from water bath.
Fill hot jars with finished salsa. Wipe rims clean with damp cloth and assemble 2 piece lids.
Place in a “Granny bath” with one inch of water covering jars. Bring to a boil and process for 15 minutes.
Carefully remove and leave undisturbed till cool. Check lids for seal and for the tops to be concave.
They can be stored in a cool dry place for up to a year and must be refrigerated after opening:)
It was just over 6 years ago that I met the wonderful children of the man who would be my husband. I vividly remember, it was a saturday, I was lazily enjoying my morning coffee when the phone rang. It was Steve, he said he “happened to be in the neighborhood” and wanted to bring the children by to meet me.
Instant. panic. ensued!
OMG should I change clothes? Let’s see….. I’m wearing Pokémon tee and jeans, I think that’s Ok. (kids still like Pokémon right?) Should I pick up the apartment? (come on, these are the kids, not the in-laws) What do I do? Put on cartoons? Bake cookies? (no, kids can sense “fake” a mile away)
So I just sat on the couch, tried to look as natural as possible, and waited.
I didn’t wait very long. *knock, knock, knock* (My god, was he in the parking lot when he called?) In strolled the love of my life and his three lovelies Jared 12, Emerald 8, and Isaiah 6. I’ve never been quite as nervous as I was that day, I wanted so much for them to like me, and for a while everything was going swimmingly. They brought cannolis, I gave them some juice, of which I only had pineapple (and that only thanks to my love of piña coladas).
Then things started to go stale. Emerald planted herself in Steve’s lap and stared at me through the suspicious eyes of a daddy’s girl. What do little girls like? Dolls? (got none) Make up and hair bows? (outta luck there too) Before long Jared and Isaiah had lost interest in whatever had occupied them up until now and I found myself with three sets of eyes turned expectantly towards me. Waiting. (why didn’t I learn to juggle, do magic, or make balloon animals when I had the chance)
So I did what every responsible adult does in such a situation, I broke out my skateboards.
Success! The rest of the morning was spent outside. Emerald even held on to me and let me pull her around on my Sector 9 longboard.
When they left I felt like a wieght had been lifted from my shoulders. I couldn’t believe how much the anticipation of this encounter had weighed on me. Now it was over, I had been myself, I had surrvived, and we had FUN!
Today, it’s still that good. That doesn’t mean it’s sunshine and daisies all the time; like all families we have our stormy days. Even so, I miss them when there gone, and when they’re here, I want every moment to be perfect. Even though I no longer have my skateboards *cries* we still find time to do things together, be it in the form of a card game, Rock Band, or Bocci Ball. Jared and Isaiah help their dad around the house, Emerald helps me in the kitchen. In fact, in our recent circumstances, they have been a God send. With my husbands new physical limitations I feel the financial and physical responsibilities of the home more keenly each day. Not only have the children helped out wherever they could, but they have done so with a (sometimes strained;) smile. I cannot express how blessed I feel to have them in my life.
I feel a combination of sadness and extreme pride when I think of the people they are becoming and what that means for us. As they get older and have lives of their own, we see them less and less. Still, I look forward to every weekend they are with us, and hope they will remember these times as fondly as I do.
Thanks for reading:)
I can’t help you, I say this as a warning. You know, like the ones that come on the back of cigarette boxes or bottles of poison. Its not that I don’t want to help, or that what you are asking me is beyond my scope of abilities. It’s that I really, honestly, can’t. Thing is, if you ask, I will agree to help, I will tell you I’m there for you, I will even believe that its true. But in the end I will just disappoint you. Leaving me to live with the knowledge of how I let you down. I may even be afraid to talk to you, imagining that the whole time you’re thinking about how I couldn’t follow through. You’ll sense my hesitation, you’ll think I’m being catty or that I never intended to help you in the first place. You’ll stop talking to me. A few moths later we’ll meet, it will be awkward, and you’ll be reminded of why you don’t talk to me anymore. I’ll still remember letting you down.
Truth is, I can’t even help myself. My brain is too cluttered and no matter how much spring cleaning I do it remains a jumbled mess. Many days I find myself sitting, staring at everything that I ought to be doing, overwhelmed into inactivity. It’s like the person I want to be is screaming at me, trying to claw her way out of my head, but the person I am keeps her paralyzed under lock and key. Consider this an advanced apology. Sad, but true.
Thanks to my father-in-law, who drove down from WV to help me get my plot ready, I was able to start my garden around April 25’th this year. Because it seems to have a high clay content I amended my soil with some local compost, I would have added peat and Vermiculite but at the time cost was an issue. So with fingers crossed I planted away.
This year, I made the plot a few feet wider and longer because last year sometime around mid July it went from tidy little garden to untamed jungle. My cucumbers kept trying to eat the tomatoes, I lost half a row of romaine to some savage zucchini that didn’t know when to stop growing, and don’t get me started on the wildlife!
This year was going to be different! I will not get carried away! I will stick to my garden plan! I will…….. I will…….. *sigh* I will recognize that I have absolutely no self-control. After all, the more space I have the more I can cram more into it right? Besides what’s so bad about having a bit of suburban jungle in the backyard anyways.
So this years lineup includes tomatoes, hot peppers, sweet bell peppers, banana peppers, cauliflower, radishes, yellow squash, zucchini, cucumbers, and lettuce. I do my herbs in pots so that they’re close to the house when I need to grab a handful. Of them I plant the usual suspects, basil, parsley, chives, dill, tarragon, and thyme (you can never have enough “thyme” in the garden. hehehe).
So far so good, I have only had two casualties. The romaine never sprouted and one of my tomato plants needs put out of its misery (I just don’t have the heart to do what must be done). Not to bad considering the dog dug up one of my squash plants, and I clotheslined another with the garden hose (the later is still under observation). I’ve sown some red leaf lettuce in place of the no-show romaine and have already had a small harvest of radishes. So we’ll keep our fingers crossed!
Thanks for reading:)