When And How to Harvest Potatoes


Well, hello there.  I’m so glad you joined me today.  I could use a hand.  Grab a garden apron, a 5 gallon bucket and a garden fork.  We are gonna dig some taters.

Those lovely little white flowers on the potato plants signal that it is time to dig for “new” potatoes.  Little sweet baby potatoes that are such so much better than anything you will find in the grocery store.

“New” potatoes are a luxury.  If you are gardening for survival, I recommend leaving them in the ground to grow to their full size.  Full size potatoes can be dug anytime after the entire plant dies and looks terribly sad and brown.   Letting them grow means higher yield overall.

However, I can never resist at least digging a dinner’s worth of “new” ones.

So whether you are digging them young or waiting for maturity, here’s how you do it.

Using a garden fork, gently poke a large circle around the potato plant.  With each poke give a little upward lift to the soil.  After the soil is loosened, put the garden fork in a deeply as you can and turn over the entire plant.

If you have a little helper at your side, have him root through the soil for any potatoes left below.  If not, you’ll have to poke about yourself.  It’s funny.  No matter how well I harvest, I always find a renegade potato the following spring as I rotate crops.

There is no rush to harvest them.  Take your time.  Dig some for dinner.  Dig now, dig later.  They are not fussy.  Just be sure to get them all before the ground freezes so hard that you can’t get them out or else you’ll be enjoying a tougher tater after spring thaw.

If you are container gardening, simply shove over your container and lets them spill out.

Another time we will discuss storage issues like canning and root cellaring.

Happy digging!

Blubarb Jam –Easy Beginner Rhubarb Blueberry Jam


I used to wonder who these people were that managed to have rhubarb at the same time as blueberries. Well, it turns out that if you don’t consume the whole rhubarb patch as Rhubarb Crunch, there will be enough for Blubarb Jam.

Okay, so it took a couple of years of plant dividing to get enough rhubarb, but –oh– I think it was well worth it.

Blubarb Jam

Ingredients:

3 cups rhubarb, finely chopped

3 cups blueberries

6 cups sugar

1/4 cup lemon juice

Procedure:

1. Chop you rhubarb very finely with a super sharp knife to eliminate that horrid, stringy rhubarb texture.

This is a good idea to keep the non rhubarb fans quiet. Generally, if guests aren’t yanking the equivalent of bitter celery strings out of their jam, they will find it delicious. It’s all about the texture with rhubarb.

2. Mash the bluberries, then measure out your 3 cups.

This is an excellent activity for a little kid. Tarp the floor. Smock the kid. Hand him a potato masher, a pie plate of blueberries and set him loose. There is no wrong way to mash them. If some of the blueberries stay whole, that’s okay too, because it adds texture to the finished product.

3. Dump all the ingredients, except the sugar in a large pot.

Make sure to use a non-reactive ( non-aluminum) pot about three times the volume of the jam. Big Pot.

4. Start by adding 4 cups of sugar.

As you heat the mixture over medium heat, stirring all the while….

When the sugar is dissolved, use a clean teaspoon to test the sweetness. I keep a huge stack of clean teaspoons by the pot, taste and pitch in the sink for cleaning so that I don’t contaminate my jam.

Be careful. The mixture can be extremely hot!

Now, is it too tart?

Add more sugar a little at a time, stirring, dissolving and clean spoon tasting as you go.

Keep track of how much sugar you add, because this is the recipe for your family and you will want to be able to reproduce the jam again without all the silly tastings.

Your next batch you will just dump the whole amount of adjusted sugar in right at the start.

5. Bring to a boil.

Be careful it doesn’t boil over. Again, big pot!

6. Reduce the heat to keep the mixture at a gentle boil.

Occasionally, pull your mixing spoon through just to be certain you ar not burning the bottom.

7. Test for sheeting.

As the mixture thickens, lift some out of the pot and let it drizzle back in. You are watching for those drips to thicken and pull toward one another.

8. Remove from heat and skim the foam.

9. Pour into sterilized canning jars and process for 20 minutes.

For more info. on the final steps or beginning canning check out these articles:

How To Make Jam — A Beginner Tutorial

How To Make Jam — The Canning Supplies

How To Make Jam — The Easy Canning Process

Strawberry-Rhubarb Jam — without added pectin

How to Raw Pack Fruit With Simple Syrup

or poke around in the cooking basics category to your right

or try the search bar.

Happy Jamming.

More blueberry recipes are on their way. Feel free to e-mail me your favorite blueberry recipe, so we can share it here.

Please let us know how your blubarb jam comes out. Questions, concerns or horrible, but delicious mishaps are always welcome.


Rain, Rain Go Away


(Neighbor Nancy splats her soggy self into her chair for a sound pout.)

In the last month we have received 4,867,947 inches of rain. And not a nice, steady rain. Oh no! Cloud bursts full of lightning and hail and winds that blow the chickens across the yard.

Okay, so the chicken part is a little bit funny.

But I have had it! I am sick of being damp or sliding precariously in the mud down the slope of the garden or huddling just inside the door with my oscillating hoe, waiting for the lightning to stop.

While the oats have been pushed over by huge volumes of water, the weeds stand straight and tall, mocking me from their inappropriate homes. I saw a flattened row of corn next a happy, sturdy Japanese knot weed. Bastard.

Sorry, that just slipped out.

My strawberries aren’t a harvest they are puffy, sloppy, tasteless mush as are those of the good local U-pick.

A lovely sap producing maple was blown over — on top of — the back nursery of baby fruit trees. The popcorn rotted in the ground.

Somewhere there has to be a light — a positive side.

Well, the broccoli is thriving as are all the woody berry plants like blueberries, raspberries and currants.

I haven’t turned on the hose in over a month.

With all the accompanying fog, it is as lovely as living in Brigadoon. I can only see my parents’ barn every now and then.

With the sun at my back and a cloud burst coming in, the rainbows are fantasticly intense.

Thanks to a diversity of plantings, something will always live, thrive, grow.

And while I build my ark, in case we float away, I know that some crop or another will produce enough to help us through the harsh winter that waits at the end of this wet, hot, rather moldy summer.

How is the weather in your neck of the woods?

Oo! Break in the rain — I gotta spread some fertilizer and hoe more weeds. See you later.

(Neighbor Nancy flies out the door, letting the screen slam shut behind her. Immediately we see her slide on her bottom in a big puddle. Let’s turn our attention elsewhere as she curses and fumbles to get up. Not very dainty and ladylike, is she?!)

How To Make Strawberry Lemonade — Summer Entertaining


Thanks for dropping by. Grab an old apron from the linen closet and join me in the kitchen. Today we will be making and canning a big batch of my favorite summer party beverage.

This nifty Great Depression recipe came from that mysterious old recipe box I found at a church bazarre.

This sweet lemonade is great for summer entertaining because it mixes so delightfully with lemon-lime soda, iced tea — or any other thing you can dream up to make a party punch.

Strawberry Lemonade Concentrate

( or Strawberry Lemonade for the sugar tooth )

Ingredients:

4 quarts of strawberries

4 cups (1 quart) of lemon juice (fresh or from a jar like “ReaLemon”)

3 quarts water

5 cups granulated sugar ( or try some brown sugar for an interesting twist )

Procedure:

1. Hull and pureé the strawberries.

2. Mix all the ingredients together in a stock pot.

3. Heat to 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

Do not boil. Stir until all the sugar is dissolved to remove the gritty texture. This is a quick, short step, if I remember correctly. Although I could be wrong and I won’t know for sure until the strawberries are ripe…

Anyway,

4. Remove from heat. Stir and Skim off any foam.

5. Laddle into 5-7 quart jars or 10 -14 pint jars

Oh, you get the picture.

6. Place in boiling water bath for 20 minutes.

Be sure there is at least an inch of water above the canning jars.

Altitude adjustment: Add 1 minute more in the water bath for each 1000 feet you are above sea level.

7. After you remove the jars to cool, listen for that wonderful popping sound of your jars sealing.

Now, you have a lovely strawberry lemonade concentrate for any time of year.

Serve chilled. Due to the richness of this recipe, I suggest you cut the lemonade with water or perhaps a lemon-lime soda

For example:

1 quart of Strawberry Lemonade concentrate + 1 quart of water

or

1 quart of Strawberry Lemonade concentrate + 1 quart of lemon-lime soda

or

1 quart of concentrate + you favorite sun tea.

Other beginner canning tutorials:

How To Make Jam — A Beginner Tutorial

How To Make Jam — The Canning Supplies

How To Make Jam — The Easy Canning Process

Strawberry-Rhubarb Jam — without added pectin

How to Raw Pack Fruit With Simple Syrup

What is your favorite summer-time beverage recipe?

Strawberry-Rhubarb Jam — without added pectin


Good morning. I’m glad you could join me. Grab an old apron from the linen closet and join me to make delicious Strawberry Rhubarb Jam.

If you are new to jam making, you might want to skim the Jam tutorials first. The links are at the bottom.

Strawberry Rhubarb Jam

Ingredients:

3 cups Strawberries, hulled and mashed

3 cups rhubarb, finely diced

5 cups of sugar

Procedure:

1. Mash berries and dices rhubarb.

Mash the strawberries to extract all their lovely flavor. Using a very sharp knife, cut up the rhubarb into tiny pieces.

2. Mix strawberries and rhubarb with the sugar in a large pot.

It may seem silly , but a large pasta pot is best to avoid a big boiled over mess.

3. Cook to a rolling boil, stirring frequently.

4. At rolling boil, reduce temperature to keep the mixture boiling– just not too furiously.

Cook forever, maybe 30 or 40 minutes, while you only scrape the sides and checking that the bottom is not sticking.

5. Check for sheeting

When the jam pulls together in a thick gloppy drip, remove from heat.

6. Skim any foam.

7. Put in sterilized canning jars.

8. Process for 20 minutes.

Don’t forget to add 1 additional minute of water bath time for every 1000 ft. you are above sea level.

Other tutorials in the easy canning series:

How To Make Jam — A Beginner Tutorial

How To Make Jam — The Canning Supplies

How To Make Jam — The Easy Canning Process

How to Raw Pack Fruit With Simple Syrup

Strawberry Lemonade

Blubarb Jam — Blueberry Rhubarb Jam without added pectin

If you are a jam maker stopping in for a visit, how does your recipe differ? We are always open to hints, and recommendations.

How To Raw ( Uncooked) Pack Fruit In Simple Syrup — Another Tutorial


If you want to preserve fruits, without sacrificing the fresh fruit flavor. Raw packing with simple sugar syrup is the way to go.

The most common or the favorites to pack this way seem to be plums, pears, and peaches. Later in the season I will discuss these, but this evening we will discuss the littler fruit coming into season.

Following all the rules about sterilizing and processing (click here for that,) you seal in that fresh flavor with out loosing the fruits’ lovely texture.

Here’s what to do.

1. Fill the canning jar just up to the neck with the rinsed and drained fruit.

2. Fill the canning jar just up to the neck with a simple syrup (recipe follows)

3. Cover.

4. Process.

Blueberries, Cranberries, Currants, Gooseberries, Elderberries (presumably mulberries, Jen) — in pints 15 minutes; in quarts 20 minutes

Altitude adjustments — don’t forget to add 1 minutes to the processing time for every 1000 ft above sea level that you are.

What about the syrup?

Well, there are 3 basic kinds, light, medium and heavy syrup.

The syrup recipe you use depends on the sweetness of the fruit. Jen and her super sweet mulberries will probably want a light syrup, while cranberries might call for a richer, more sugary syrup.

Note: feel free to substitute honey for half the sugar in any of the following, if your a honey fan, that is.

Yield: 5 cups (each quart of fruit may take somewhere in the neighborhood of 1 to 2 cups of syrup.

Light Syrup (Simple Syrup)

2 cups sugar ( or 1 cup sugar + 1 cup honey, for example )

4 cups water

Medium Syrup

2 & 3/4 cup sugar ( gee, I wish I knew how to do the little fraction do-hickey on this computer)

3 & 1/2 cups water

Heavy Syrup

3 & 1/2 cups sugar

3 cups water

Procedure:

1. Mix the sugar and water in a pan and let it soak for about 10 minutes without heat.

2. Over low heat, stir the mixture until the sugar dissolves.

3. Increase the heat to bring the mixture to a boil. Just briefly to get rid of the gritty texture.

4. Lower the heat and keep warm until you are ready to use it.

Other in the beginning canning series:

How To Make Jam — A Beginner Tutorial

How To Make Jam — The Canning Supplies

How To Make Jam — The Easy Canning Process

Strawberry-Rhubarb Jam — without added pectin

Strawberry Lemonade

Neighborhood Question: Jam troubleshooting


Well, it seems that Jen has harvested her mulberries, but has stumbled into a new problem. Let’s see if we can help her out.

Well, Nan, I made some Mulberry Jam(Jelly?) today… I had 2 cups of Mulberries (without them having been crushed yet) and I only used 1/2 cup of sugar & almost a whole tablespoon of lemon juice (I ran out). Anyway, there was no foaming at all. Is that because I cut the sugar so much? Also, there was no sheeting, actually it wasn’t very liquid at all whenever I was done, just lumpy sugary spoonfuls of crushed berries. Maybe I didn’t crush them enough, but actually I took your advice & mashed them all up first, but then later I used my immersion blender because Mulberries have stems still attached that are fine to eat, but I thought it would be more appetizing to chop them into bits. ANYWAY… it tastes great, but there was no frothing/foaming or sheeting & it is not liquidy at ALL. I don’t know what I would change next time for it to be more like a jam… but it does really taste great. So, what do you think?

Admittedly, I no nothing about mulberries and can’t seem to find them in any of my jammin’ books. So we are working on theory alone. At least until some knowledgable reader writes in.

What makes jam firm up?

1. the natural pectin in the fruit

2. the acidity of the fruit ( which in Jen’s case was suplimented by lemon juice

3. sugar

In my handy little chart that mentions the pectin levels of nifty stuff like figs, guava and quince, there is no mention of mulberries. None. We are S.O.L. and on our own.

Note: 6-19-09 I just deleted a chunk of this because I read Jen’s problem completely backwards.  I will try to rewrite as soon as I can.

Readers, any thoughts or experiences with mulberry jam?

I vote you mix the whole mess with iced tea, lemonade or iced vodka — for when you have completely given up trying.

Others in the beginner canning series:

How To Make Jam — A Beginner Tutorial

How To Make Jam — The Canning Supplies

How To Make Jam — The Easy Canning Process

Strawberry-Rhubarb Jam — without added pectin

How to Raw Pack Fruit With Simple Syrup

Strawberry Lemonade

How To Make Jam — The Easy Canning Process


I’m ever so happy to see you today. Grab a cup of coffee and join me in the kitchen for our beginner canning tutorial.

Okay, so you’ve tried your little test batch, adjusted the sugar and are ready to can like crazy. Just wait ’til you open one of your long term storage jars on some blustrous winter morning. All the tastes of Summer. Yum!

Here were the first steps, in case you missed them:

How To Make Jam — A Beginner Tutorial

How To Make Jam — The Canning Supplies

Here we go:

1. Wash everything.

Every pot, spoon, tong, tool, jar, dome lid and band. Plus, every surface you might possibly use.

2. Place mostly dried jars, on their sides, in a slow oven ( 200 degrees Fahrenheit ) for one hour to sterilize a load of jar at once.

3. Meanwhile place all the tools, dome lids and bands in a pot of water no cooler than 180 degrees Farenheit for no less than 15 minutes.

3a. Set stock pot of water for water bath on high so it comes to a boil just before, your jars go into it. Yeah, this can take a while.

4. Make the jam of your choice.

5. After you skim any foam from the surface, pour the wicked hot jam into jars, using a canning funnel to keep things clean. This is called hot packing.

6. Using the magnetic lid lifter, place a dome lid on each hot jar.

7. Using the magnetic lid lifter to remove the bands from the scalding water, place them over each band.

8. Dip your hands in a giant bowl of ice water for a moment and screw on each band. Use a jar wrench to tighten, if you have one.

Note: If you have delicate hands, you may need to thrust your hands back into the icewater between each jar you tighten.

9. Place the jars into the boiling water bath.

Note: there should either be a canning rack or a bunch of band lids on the bottom of the water bath to prevent the jars from directly touching the bottom of the pot. Also, there should be at least 1 inch of water above the tops of the jars.

10. Process for 15 minutes.

Yup, that just means leave the jars in the boiling water bath for 15 minutes.

Altitude adjustment: For every 1000 ft. you are above sea level, add 1 minute.

So for example: I live at 1050 ft. so I process my jam for 16 minutes. High Mountain Muse probably processes hers for a year and a half way up there on her mountain top.

11. Using the jar lifters, take the jars out of the water and set them to cool on whatever clean flat surface is left.

12. As the jars cool listen for that delightful popping sound of each jar sealing. You can tell it is sealed when you run your finger over the dome lid and it has sucked down. Man, that is a satisfying sound!

There is nothing more satisfying than seeing a rainbow of sparkly jams all set to nourish your family until next canning season.

Now, who’s baking the biscuits?

How To Make Jam — The Canning Supplies


Well, hello there. I’m so glad you could join me today. Grab a cup of coffee and join me in the kitchen as we discuss the canning supplies nescessary for processing your fresh, delicious jams

Because fruits are high in acid they can safely canned for long term storage using the water bath method.

Here’s what you’ll need:

canning jars (reusable )

dome lids (the flat part of the lid — not reuseable)

bands (the screw on part of the lid — is reusable)

a deep sauce or stock pot ( non aluminum/ non reactive ) depending on the batch size — by the time I am using a recipe with 4 cups of crushed fruit or more, I use the stock pot.

Another large stock pot ( for the boiling water bath) — you want a pot big enough to hold all the jars of a single batch without the jars being jammed in. Plus, enough room to cover the jar with about an inch or two of boiling water.

With the stock pot water bath method, you will need something to keep the jars from touching the bottom of the pot. I have found that lining the bottom of the pot with band lids, laying/lying (?) flat works beautifully for this

If you actually have a canner, make sure to use the rack provided.

A canning set — inexpensive and you’ll have it for life — includes funnel, jar wrench, lid lifter, tongs and jar lifter.

Yes, you can do the whole process with just tongs, but, oh my ,how those other things help. I don’t think I could do anywhere near my current volume without the jar lifter, funnel or jar wrench. With just tongs you are far more likely to drop your beautifully canned goodies or worse burn the tar out of yourself.

Get everything well cleaned in hot sudsy water and then we will discuss the process itself. It’s very easy. Organization and cleanliness are the key.

So get scrubbing and meet me back here in a bit and we’ll can.

Any canners out there, did I forget anything. Please feel free to add you hints and tips.

Here are the other articles in this series, in case you missed them:

How To Make Jam — A Beginner Tutorial

How To Make Jam — The Easy Canning Process

Blubarb Jam — Blueberry Rhubarb Jam without added pecti

Strawberry-Rhubarb Jam — without added pectin

How to Raw Pack Fruit With Simple Syrup

A Ton of Garden, A Tiny Space: 100 pounds of potatoes in 4 Square Feet


After you grab a glass of Strawberry Lemonade from the refrigerator, get your tools.

My mom shipped my this nifty link for really high yield potatoes in a tiny footprint.

Go ahead give it a try.

100 pounds of potatoes in 4 square feet

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