Chocolate Box Cottage Diary, Volume 2
Week 37: September 17, 2022
They are four to six weeks behind, but we finally have tomatoes for canning. We have watched and waited, praying that we would have a harvest to preserve. It is small, but we are thankful. There are more yet to ripen, if the weather cooperates.
As we harvest tomatoes, I evaluate both plants and fruit for seedsaving. We grow mostly open pollinated heirloom vegetables instead of hybrids, which makes it possible to save our own seeds for replanting next year. Or imperative, if viewed through the lens of genetic posterity; some of the veggies, fruit, flowers, and herbs we grow and eat are no longer commerciallly available as seeds.
The Japanese Plum tomatoes featured here are becoming quite rare and have disappeared from seed catalogs. I would be saddened to see this sweet, meaty canning tomato disappear!
Evaluating Japanese Plum tomatoes for seed saving. The colander holds the true-to-type fruit with characteristics I am selecting for: size, shape, color, no green shoulders or cracking.
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Seeds to be fermented, washed, air-dried, and saved for replanting.
Washed, peeled, blanched, and cubed tomatoes simmer briefly before being packed in jars with lemon juice, salt, and one of 3 herb seasoning blends. Juices from the pot are added to bring the contents up to proper headspace measurement, rims are cleaned, and lids applied – with bands fingertip tight. At last, the jars are placed in the steam canner.
Click the highlighted link to learn which tomato varieties are best for canning, plus tips for canning what you’ve got, even regular salad and beefsteak tomatoes.
Small apple harvest
We also had a small apple harvest this week. Beautiful, crisp, delicious, unsprayed apples. Unusual hard late freezes killed fruit production on most of our dozen or more apple trees and all of our plums, peaches, apricots, pears, and cherries. Only the very late flowering trees escaped the frost. Two more apple trees will supplement the buckets pictured, hopefully providing enough for us and some to trade with a friend.
Note the damage to the trunk of the apple tree. This apple tree is a fighter. At some point it suffered an insect infestation that was taken care of by woodpeckers and it survived.
Homemade botanical vinegars
After 4 weeks of fermenting and daily stirring, vinegars are strained through a cloth-lined colander into a clean bowl.
This jar will be aged until it reaches a pH of 2.5-3 and the flavor matures. (Though I will likely utilize this one as an ingredient in my homemade cleaning products, such as All Purpose Cleaning Spray or as an all natural fabric softener.)
Update on Lavender
About 4 weeks into convalescence, Lavender is able to put a little weight on the broken leg, briefly. She enjoys her private quarters with her own dish of food and water and no competition. And on hot days a chunk of watermelon!
Soup season begins
Knoephla, German egg dumpling noodles, dried and frozen last autumn during an egg glut, were made into the first pot of soup of the season.
Sam required biscuits, so I baked salted herb scones. He did not object. I used my regular Cream Biscuits / Cream Scones recipe, adding a generous 1/4 cup freshly chopped herbs and salted the tops before they went in the oven!
The elegant, textural beauty of Queen Anne’s lace umbels, dried.
The winter’s wood is in and woodshed is full. The final bit came from the three beetle killed pines in our pasture and Sam worked on cutting and moving the wood as time allowed. It is done and we are relieved and thankful.
Though the weather is still pleasant, autumn is making herself known with shortening days and a few drifting leaves. There is a tang in the air which speaks of change. Truthfully, I live for summer. I am not a big fan of autumn, and have to work hard to accept it. I’m working on it.
You will be surprised how easy it is to make a large, delicious, homemade pizza with dough you have prepared ahead and frozen! You will have your pizza in and out of the oven and on the table quickly – and everyone is going to love you for it!
Miriam and I took a spontaneous walk to nearby waterfalls in the company of this little canine angel, Charla.
Basil cuttings rooting in water to provide fresh basil leaves for winter meals.
Soapmaking, here I come!
Thanks for visiting Chocolate Box Cottage!
See you next week,
Michele and Samuel