Monday, July 21, 2008

A Good Thing Going

Jamey and I have a good thing going (more than one, actually, thank you very much). We seem to have a system down when it comes to our food. Jamey plans the garden each winter by asking what we need more or less of. Together we decide what new things to try or what things are not worth trying again. He places the order and draws up a diagram to show where everything will go. He starts some plants indoors and come spring, he (and Sam) plant the seeds and plants. He waters the garden (from one of our two cisterns that collect roof water) and mulches it with straw. He and I both weed and pick bad bugs off the plants. Sam earns 3 cents a bad bug if he chooses to help.

When it comes to harvesting, I pull things from the garden as I need them for supper- an onion, some carrots, some chard. Jamey harvests by the bushel full. It is not uncommon for me to come down in the morning to find a bushel basket (or two) on the kitchen counter full of produce that needs dealing with (especially this time of year). Today it was zucchini, cucumbers and tomatoes. I commence to deal with each item in turn, either freezing, canning or braiding what he sends my way. I try to look ahead to make life easier for myself later. See, I make the meals. So, if I freeze zucchini chunks 2-3 cups per bag- they will be the perfect size for making Peanut Butter Vegetable Soup this winter (which the kids love). I freeze chopped swiss chard in gallon bags- all ready for our Feta Chard quiche that we eat weekly when it's cold out. The list goes on....

He brings in the goods and I pack them away. In our pantry lined with shelves the height of quart jars. In our upright freezer and in our chest freezer. And, of course, into our bellies via our plates.

Sweet and Sour Cucumber Salad (with onions). This is how I dealt with the cucumbers he brought me last night. We will eat this as a side dish come winter.

Cucumber Salad (for eating, fresh)

slicing cucumbers, sliced (peeling is optional)
sliced onions (optional)
white vinegar
salt and pepper

Slice the cucumbers and onions (however many you have) into a large bowl. In a separate bowl, add equal parts sugar and vinegar (the zippier you like it, the less sugar you should use). Mix well until the sugar is dissolved. Pour over the cucumbers. If the dressing does not cover the cucumbers, mix up some more dressing until it does. Add 1 tsp. of salt and 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper for each 2 c. sugar and 2 c. vinegar dressing mixture you made. Stir well and refrigerate for several hours before eating. Adjust sweetness/tartness (by adding more or less sugar) to your liking the next time.
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  1. Could I please have your sweet and sour cucumber salad recipe? And exactly how do you go about freezing the chard???

    Mama JJ

  2. Mama JJ,

    Slice the cucumbers pickle-width, add sliced onions. Cover the vegetables with the dressing: equal parts white vinegar and sugar. Salt and pepper to taste. This is actually the first time I am canning this- usually I just make it fresh to eat with dinner. I processed it for 20 minutes. If eating fresh, refrigerate for a few hours before eating (longer if using strong, fresh onions).

    To freeze chard, I wash it and let it dry a little, roll up a bunch of leaves together and slice it into 1 inch 'strips', stems included. Pack it into gallon freezer bags and freeze. I put it directly into soups or saute it (without thawing first) to use in quiches, etc.


  3. Hi!
    A Kindred Spirit!!!!! My pantry is blushing, but aspiring to your achievements. I was wondering if chard needs to be cooked before freezing? I thought greens needed to be blanched or the enzymes would cause them to deteriorate. I would love to know how yours turn out! Sincerely, Earth Mama

  4. Earth Mama,
    Welcome! Regarding chard, I just chop it up (washing only if I see dirt or bugs since we don't spray) and put it in freezer bags. To use, I don't wait for it to thaw, I just throw it in the pan or soup and it seems to wilt the same way as it would fresh, except with a little more liquid. I've been doing it this way for years and for quiches and soups, it works great! Thanks for visiting!!

  5. we're about to be taken over with did well did the cucumber salad canned compare with it fresh? trying to decide what to do with all those cukes.

  6. Christy, The flavor is the same fresh/canned, but the cucumbers do become less crisp- resembling more the consistency of pickles. I wish our cucumbers had survived this year- have fun with all of yours!:-)

  7. Just reading this post. I am interested in trying this, but would like to can some. Did you water bath? If so, how long? Thanks!

    Marilyn @

  8. Marilyn,
    To can this cucumber salad, I packed the cucumbers and onions into hot, sterilized jars and then poured boiling dressing (sugar and vinegar, salt and pepper mixture) over the cucumbers, filling the jars but allowing adequate headspace. I then sealed the jars in a hot water bath for 20 minutes.

    To give you an idea of how much of what you need, I have notes that say 8 quarts of cucumbers require 8 cups sugar mixed with 8 cups vinegar. I hope this is helpful! Let me know if you have any more questions:-).

  9. Hello! I guess I'm finding this a bit late but thank you! How long do you think these would stay fresh in the refrigerator?

    1. Hi, Miss Vannessa. I'd say close to a week. The vinegar helps preserve them and it actually tastes better (I think) the longer it sits. It may keep for longer than that, but we've always eaten it all before then:-).


Just a friendly reminder, if you know me personally please try to refrain from using my name. There are those who may try to locate me, break into my pantry and steal my pickled beets. Thanks:-).

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