I wish I could tell you that my garden is flourishing. The jalapenos are the only thing that seems to be happy, the bell peppers are stunted, and the tomatoes, just as they do every year, have suffered blight, rust, and caterpillars. If I were to add up the cost of the bedding plants, fertilizer, and chemicals I have had to purchase, I would have been much better off just buying all of my produce at a certified market.
I know you have heard this rant before, but only at a certified market, like the Saturday morning Fresh Market in Ocean Springs, can you be assured that what you are buying was grown by the person selling it to you. Enough said.
I go through this every year and always think that next year, things will be different. But this time, next year will actually be different. I think I will stay away from tomatoes altogether and concentrate on peppers, maybe corn, peas, or beans.
Last week, I did have a meager crop of tomatoes, but not enough to do much with, so I paid a visit to the market and came away with $20 worth of tomatoes. Combined with mine, I had a fair mess (if you don’t know, in the south, a “mess” means a bunch) Last year, I tried freezing produce but had dismal results. This year, I am determined to take on canning—something I have never done before.
I have already canned a dozen jars of tomato sauce and my family’s chow-chow recipe, plus a few jars of blueberry jam. I think it’s a pretty good start. But what else can I can? I think the next project will be pickled jalapenos. In my youth, I thought jalapenos were the hottest thing imaginable but not anymore. In fact, I crave pickled jalapenos and put them on everything. I have also found a recipe for canned corn, which I think I will try.
Of course, the real test is going to be when I use what I have canned. Will it be better than what I can buy at the store? I would hope so, but fresh is always going to be best. The real point of all of this is the satisfaction I feel when I am canning away in my kitchen. It is a feeling of accomplishment, which sure feels good in these strange times.
Basic canning is pretty simple, as long as what you are canning is acidic, sweet, or salty. Sterilizing the empty jars for 10 minutes in boiling water, and again once they are full will do the trick. Anything else will require using a pressure cooker, so tomatoes or jellies and jams are easy and safe.
Please don’t take a chance with botulism. Play it safe. See you next week.