Sunday, October 2, 2011
We had an incredible harvest from our grapes this year- 4 large boxes. The Thompson green seedless grape (that still produces a seed in our region) did amazing! Huge grapes in very large clusters. The concord grapes still produced well but the grapes were a smaller size and the clusters were smaller as well.
We didn't heavily prune this season so the large leaves hid a lot of the grapes and we didn't have any problems with birds this year, we didn't even net the grapes.
Notes for years going forward:
1. To check for ripeness, taste the grapes to see if they are sweet, pop out the seed to see if the seed has changed from a light green to a dark brown. Once dark brown they are ready.
2. Harvest in 2-3 different sessions. Picking everything in one day was way too much.
We processed 2/3 of our grapes into 70 quarts of grape juice and gave away the remaining 1/3.
If you have a glass top stove and can't use a large water bath canner on your stove, you can always work in small batches canning 5 pint jars or 4-5 quart jars in a large stock pot. The jars need to be lifted off the bottom of the pot. You can purchase a small canner tray from Amazon or tie a few canning lids together and place them at the bottom of the pot to keep the jars lifted off the bottom.
This is also a great method if you don't own a large water bath canner. I have used this method for processing small batches of tomato sauce and it works great.
To work around not being able to use my large water bath canner on my glass top stove, I set up my camp chef outside on our deck and process the jars outside. This frees up space on my stove for blanching, boiling water and simmering lids. It also keeps the majority of the heat outside.
Wash, remove stems, and trim off bruised or discolored portions. To prevent juice from separating, quickly cut about 1 pound of fruit into quarters and put directly into saucepan. Heat immediately to boiling while crushing with a potato masher.
Continue to slowly add and crush freshly cut tomato quarters to the boiling mixture. Make sure the mixture boils constantly and vigorously while you add the remaining tomatoes. Simmer 5 minutes after you add all pieces. If you are not concerned about juice separation, simply slice or quarter tomatoes into a large saucepan. Crush, heat, and simmer for 5 minutes before juicing.
Press heated crushed tomatoes through a sieve or food mill to remove skins and seeds. Simmer tomato juice in large-diameter saucepan until sauce reaches desired consistency. Boil until volume is reduced by about one-third for thin sauce, or by one-half for thick sauce.
Add bottled lemon juice and salt to hot jars. Fill jars with hot tomato sauce, leaving ¼-inch head space.
Adjust lids and process the correct time for your altitude (I process my pint jars for 45 minutes and quart jars for 50 minutes).
Add to pint size hot canning jars:
1 TBSP lemon juice (to achieve proper acidity levels for safe canning)
½ tsp. salt (optional)
Add to quart size hot canning jars:
2 TBSP lemon juice (to achieve proper acidity levels for safe canning)
1 tsp. salt (optional)
I like to can my tomato sauce plain without additional seasonings so I can add the seasonings depending on what I'm using it for. Guidelines are from the National Center for Home Preservation .
We had a fabulous peach harvest this year even though we had a hard freeze the night our peach tree was blooming. We covered several of the branches with large sheets and it looks like those are the only branches that produced fruit. Because the harvest was small, the peaches were extra large. This was a good reminder for us to always thoroughly thin our peach tree each year.
I also need to remember in years going forward to wait until the peaches are a golden orange all around with no trace of green and plan to pick in 3 batches. Once the peaches start to ripen they look ready outside in the sunlight but it really takes an additional week of patience until they are ready to pick.
This was a late year for us. In 2011 our first peach was ripe September 12th with 1-3 peaches ready to eat each day until September 21st when we bottled 60% of the tree. We picked and bottled the remaining 40% on September 23rd. We bottled 35 quarts this year.
1. Wash jars and lids, then leave in dishwasher to keep warm
2. Wash peaches in a clean sink with cold water
3. Boil water for syrup
4. Blanch peaches in boiling water for 30-60 seconds, then submerge blanched peaches
in ice cold water
5. Peel skin, remove pit and slice in half (or in thirds for extra large peaches).
Store sliced peaches in a bowl of cold water while preparing enough slices for a
6. Heat water to 180 F, simmer lids in water
7. Add 2/3 cup sugar to each quart jar, then add 1 cup of boiling water. Stir until
dissolved, then pack peaches to ½ inch below rim.
8. If needed add more water to cover all peaches
9. Wipe down jar top and place lid and screw on ring finger tight
10. Place jars in rack above boiling water to acclimate
11. After a minute or two gently lower jars into hot water. Add more water to
ensure jars are covered by 1” of water.
12. Bring to a boil and start timer
13. After processing for the correct time for your altitude (I process mine for 25
minutes), remove from water and allow to cool at room temperature and free from
14. The following day, remove rings, check seals and wash jars.
15. Home process foods last for up to 3 years.
On the stove you will want a large stock pot to blanch the peaches, a medium size pot to boil water to pour into the jars and a small pot to simmer the lids. I put my large water bath canning on our propane camp chef outside on the back patio. It frees up room on our stove and keeps all the heat outside.
A bushel weighs 48 pounds and yields 16-24 quarts (2.5 pounds per quart)
Guidelines are from the National Center for Home Preservation
This year we staked all of our tomatoes with the Florida Weave technique and it's been my favorite way to stake the tomatoes so far as it uses less T stakes and it keeps the walkways clear between the rows of tomatoes.
We used (1) T stake for every two tomato plants, then weaved twine between the plants and stakes. We did a total of three rows of twine (adding a row as the plants grew). Here is a website that gives more detailed instructions.
Thursday, July 7, 2011
We were finally able to dedicate some time to our strawberry beds to keep them producing large berries.
Even after ignoring the beds for the past three years they have stilled been amazing producers. This season (2011) averaged 4-5 cups a day at the beginning of the harvest and ended in 10 cups a day during the last week of the harvest with some days as large as 20-30 cups a day. Even with the large crops and large berries, some of the plants are producing small berries this season so it time for renovating the bed.
Here is what we did this year and hope to continue doing each season.
1. Immediately after harvest (within one week of picking the last berry and no later than July 15), trim leaves within 3” of the crown. Remove cut leaves and debris from bed. This can be done by mowing the strawberry patch with a mower set to it's highest setting.
2. Remove old/mature plants, leaving the new daughter plants. Space plants 8” apart in 3 foot wide rows. As the daughter plants fill in through the summer the rows will end up being 2 feet apart. We could have thinned ours even more but after pulling out a few hundred plants we decided we were done for now.
3. Fertilize with a 10-10-10 mixture.
Iowa State’s extension service is a great resource for more details on renovating strawberry beds to keep them producing large healthy crops.