Thursday, October 23, 2014

HomemadeTomato-Vegetable Juice

Who loves V8? I do! For those unsure what I'm even talking about, the V8 I'm talking about has nothing to do with cars, and everything to do with tomato-vegetable juice. After a hefty harvest of tomatoes, I was determined to make some of my own V8 juice, and now I'm going to show you how I did it.

The recipe I used came out of the Ball Blue Book Of Preserving under the title "Tomato Garden Juice Blend."  The recipe makes 7 quarts, but mine made 9 quarts and some.  I'm assuming that's because my weighing of the tomatoes was not extremely accurate.  The recipe juices the tomatoes in a food processor or food mill, but I don't have either of those, so I used my good ol' Blendtec blender.  It pulverizes so well that when I poured the mixture through a strainer there was not a piece of peel or seed to be found.  That means I had no need to strain the liquid, kinda nice to be able to skip a step.

Homemade Tomato Garden Juice Blend
from: Ball Blue Book of preserving
  • 22 lbs. tomatoes
  • 3/4 c. diced carrots
  • 3/4 c. chopped celery
  • 3/4 c. chopped green pepper
  • 1/2 c. chopped onion (I used red)
  • 1/4 c. chopped parsley
  • 1 Tbs. salt (optional)
  • Bottled lemon juice
Wash Tomatoes; drain.  Remove core and blossom ends.  Cut into quarters.  Combine tomatoes and vegetables in a large saucepot (or several large pots like I did); simmer 20 minutes, stirring to prevent sticking.  Juice tomatoes in a food processor or food mill, then strain juice to remove peels and seeds.  Stir in salt, if desired.  Heat juice 5 minutes at 190 degrees Fahrenheit.  Do not boil.  Add 1 Tbs. bottled lemon juice to each pint jar, 2 tablespoons bottled lemon juice to each quart jar.  Ladle hot juice into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace.  Adjust two piece caps.  Process pints 35 minutes, quarts 40 minutes, in a boiling water canner.

And for those who like a love pretty pictures put to music, enjoy the slideshow below. ;)
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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

"Creepy Carrots" Book Review

Welcome to the first edition of The Wild West Gardeners Growing Smarts Series.  The Wild West Gardeners love to grow.  We grow a garden, as you well know, but we also grow smarts.  If you don't see us digging in the garden, you'll probably find us digging into good books.  We read as individuals and as a family every day.  My hubby and I have read to our children since birth.  When she was 4 years old, my firstborn daughter told me that she wanted to learn how to read.  For Christmas, I got her the book Teach Your Child To Read In 100 Easy Lessons, just so I would have somewhere to start.  She took the initiative to learn to read.  When she wanted to, she would bring me that book and I would teach her a lesson.  This happened maybe 3-4 times per week.  We finished the book in 6 months time, and she has been reading ever since.  Her sister followed in her footsteps, and we read every day as individuals and as a family.

One of our readers mentioned that our past post about creepy carrots reminded her of the children's book by the same title.  I immediately wanted to get my hands on that book.  You can imagine how thrilled I was to find it today on the shelves of our tiny town library.  We brought it home, got comfy and cracked it open.

The Wild West Gardeners Growing Smarts Series Book Review

Title: Creepy Carrots
Author: Aaron Reynolds
Illustrator: Peter Brown

9-year-old Tame Dame #2 says,
"Creepy Carrots is about this bunny that loves eating carrots and he says that he can never have too many carrots.  Anytime he goes somewhere, he takes carrots with him.  But one day, the carrots decided to stop him by scaring him at night and following him around.  Each time he thought he saw a creepy carrot following him, he yelled for his mom and dad.  They came and looked around, but never saw any carrots.  So, the bunny thought of a plan to stop the carrots by putting up a wall around the carrot patch and making a moat with alligators in it.  The carrots cheered because they would never get crunched up again."
Rating: 10 out of 10 carrots because it's a cute little book and I like it.

7-year-old Tame Dame #3 says,
"I like how he builds this wall and he's like, "They will never get past this wall!" And then the carrots are like, "Yes!  Our plan worked!"
Rating: 10 out 10 carrots because it's a very good and funny book.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

How To Ripen Green Tomatoes Into The Winter Tutorial

When you have a surplus of green tomatoes at the end of the harvest season, you don't have to watch them rot away on the vine. Years ago, my mother-in-law taught me how to pick them green and wrap them in newspaper to ripen over the next few months.  It's a simple way to enjoy garden goodness into the winter. 
Sort them and get rid of any with open skins.  Any that are turning reddish-orange can be ripened on your counter in about a week. Set those aside in their own shallow bowl. 
Set the ripest reddest ones on top, so that you use those first.
Now it's time to wrap the green ones. All you need is newspaper and some small shallow boxes. 

Start with the greenest tomatoes, and wrap those first using a single sheet of newspaper torn to about the size that can cover the tomato.   10-inch squares were plenty big for the tomatoes we grew. 
If you save the tomatoes that are already starting to turn yellow or orange and wrap those last, they will be on the top, and you will be able to find the ripened tomatoes more easily.
Line up the wrapped tomatoes in the shallow box.  Don't stack them more than two deep in the box.
Now they are ready for storage. Put them on a dark shelf in your cool basement, or in your pantry. They will begin to ripen, and when you're in need of a tomato, just unwrap. If the tomato is still green, wrap it back up, and set it aside. The tomatoes will ripen at different intervals, so you may need to check a few of them before you find one that is ready to use. I like to unwrap a few, and any that are turning orange-ish I set out on my counter to ripen, or I rewrap it and stick in a separate spot from the green ones. 

It is important to keep the tomatoes wrapped individually, just in case some of them go bad before you get to them, they won't spoil the whole batch. If you pick up a wrapped tomato and the newspaper is wet you can just toss it.

I've had garden tomatoes well into the holiday season, thanks to this method.  It is normal if you notice that the skins are a little thicker when the tomato finally ripens. They are still a lovely addition to a salad or taco, and it brings me a little piece of garden joy during our sub-zero winter weather.  

Sharing: Tuesday Garden PartyGarden TuesdayThe Homestead Barn Hop2014 Harvest Hop

Warnings From Our Youngest Gardener

A few days ago, our youngest gardener, 7-year-old Tame Dame #3, passionately posted on her private blog about our garden.  When I read her post, I thought I would share it here with our readers.  With her permission, I am reposting below.  Enjoy!

the garden batle!

this year we planted a garden and we fought for it! and it was hard WORK! and it finally it is don! and  and i will show you are harvest
and we are going to harvest more! TOMATOS! and it will be  HARD WORK! and our pumpkins got frost bite and we are trying to thaw them out  what bad luck! pleas cross your fingers that our pumpkins will thaw out and if you ever leav your pumpkins out side DONT DO IT! they will get frozen! so read this blog 1000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000 times so you will remember that and one mor thing dont leave anithing out side so DONT becous its bad! and remember that and this whole POST! ok thear you have it 

UPDATE: And just so you know, our pumpkins survived the touch of frost and are now happy under the cover of our front porch.  

P.S.  Did you know the pumpkins all have names?  We have: Edward, Plump, June, Pleatus, Zing, Feather, and a couple other names she and I can't recall.

Are you going to name your pumpkins?

Sharing: Tuesday Garden PartyGarden TuesdayThe Homestead Barn Hop2014 Harvest Hop

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Creepy Carrots

Good evening.  Tis the season for ghosts, goblins, and frightening tales.

It is also time we begin a new tradition. 

Wild West Gardeners Welcome You to the First-Ever


Meet your contestants, fresh from the dirt of our wild west garden...
Nosey Neighbors 1
Nosey Neighbors 2

Twisty the Terrible
The Squidzillas
Constricted Constantine 
The Cruel Kickers

Comment and let us know your favorite.  Happy Halloween!

P.S. If you have a creepy carrot, we'd love to see it!

Sharing: Tuesday Garden PartyGarden TuesdayThe Homestead Barn Hop2014 Harvest Hop

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Harvest Weekend Highlights

 This weekend was beautiful and the harvest was plentiful.  
 These are the ordinary miracles we take for granted every day.  
"The sky knows when it's time to snow,
No need to teach a seed to grow,
It's just another ordinary miracle today."
We are so very blessed!
 We had a volunteer cantalope plant that actually gave us some really cute and super delicious fruit!

Remember the persnickety parsnips I planted?  Hmmm... Yes, they're definitely persnickety.

Chard, zucchini, and tomatoes from our garden found their way into this yummy quiche.  I even made the pie crust this time, and it turned out awesome!

Italian and Roma tomatoes were ready for the picking, finally.  I actually harvested several tomatoes 2 weeks ago and made 2 batches of salsa (16 pints altogether).  These tomatoes were going into something different.

 I had my usual helping of garden tomato sandwiches, and diced up several to top salads and these nachos.
 Then, I set to canning a batch of homemade tomato-vegetable juice.  This was a big batch and actually made 7 quarts and 5 pints.
 It took me 5 1/2 hours from start to finish.  Probably 1/2 an hour of that could be taken off, since that's how long it took me to clean up the mess I made when the blender lid popped off.  Arrg!  However, I must say my labors were not in vain.  The results were perfect.  I'm planning a post devoted solely to this... stay tuned.  :)
 It's always so satisfying to hear the "ting" as the lids seal!

If you want to watch the slideshow of the above photos, below is the link.  Happy harvesting!

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Sharing: Tuesday Garden Party, Garden Tuesday, The Homestead Barn Hop, 2014 Harvest Hop