|Fresh Garden Veg-All!|
As our summer days begin that ever so slow slide into that cooler interim we call "fall," it's time to take stock of what's left in the summer garden, and what's done. Although some heirloom tomato patches are still churning out fruit, our heirloom plantings pretty much petered out a solid month ago. While we still enjoy the occasional tomato or two, the bushel harvests are a distant memory.
I'm sad to see those days end. I'm never ready for the end of summer gardening season. Although there are things to plant in fall and spring, nothing offers the diversity of produce that springs from a summer garden. What is a gardener to do then, when the sudden urge for an ear of heirloom corn or a single pole bean comes on strong in the dead of winter.
|Carrots from the Bird Back 40|
My friends, we are prepared!
One of our favorite evening meals, especially during those weeknights after a long day at work, is a simple soup that contains ground turkey, a bit of broth, can of tomatoes and a can of Veg-All. The wife that is Venus stumbled upon this recipe some years ago, and it's been a staple in the Bird Houze ever since. Add in some freshly baked crescent rolls and you've got yourself one quick and easy supper.
This meal is that much better when you can add a can of tomatoes or tomato sauce that came straight from the Bird Back 40 the previous summer. As I took stock of what was left in the summer garden some weeks ago, it suddenly struck me, why purchase the canned vegetable stock known as "Veg-All?" Why not make your own Veg-All at home?
|Leaning Towers of Pole Beans|
We already know that anything fresh from the backyard is far superior than anything that can be purchased in the local supermarket. So why stop at canning projects that involve tomatoes and cucumbers? Why not put that overproductive carrot patch that would make Bugs Bunny jealous to good use? Our pole bean planting efforts now strongly resemble the Leaning Tower of Pisa. And although this year's corn crop was nothing to write home about, there was still enough there to add to the mix.
Three garden vegetables = Homemade Veg-All.
|Fresh Heirloom Garden Corn|
One important thing to consider before we move even further into this project is this: This project involves the use of pressure canning equipment. Water bath canners simply do not provide the pressure needed to safely can non-acidic vegetables like this, unless additional acid in the form of vinegar or lemon juice is added. At that point, you wind up with pickled vegetables rather than the canned variety. Even with our pressure canning equipment, Venus and I added a tablespoon of lemon juice to each pint jar before canning, just to play it safe.
|Chopped and Ready for Processing|
I must say, this has been an excellent year for carrots of all shapes and sizes in the Bird Back 40. The same holds true with the pole bean crop that we planted in July after removing a less than stellar garlic crop. The planter beds that dot the Bird Back 40 don't stay empty for very long. Once one crop is removed, the tired soil is amended and new seeds are added for the next crop.
But, I digress.
|Parboil and Can|
This is a much simpler project than canning tomato sauce, whole tomatoes and salsa. Those canning efforts involve a number of different steps before the actual product is added to jars and placed inside canning equipment for processing. For a simple vegetable mix like this? It's pick, clean, chop, mix together, parboil and can. The only difference is processing time -- about 45 minutes at 15 lbs. pressure. Just the simple act of processing can take several hours, especially if you have more jars of product than canning space in the pressure canning equipment.
But the payoff is a sweet treat during those cold winter months. If popping open a jar of home-canned tomatoes or tomato-sauce brings that sweet smell of summer into the kitchen, I can only begin to imagine the smells and taste that our vegetable canning efforts will bring.
SIMPLE WINTER SOUP
1 lb. ground turkey
1 tablespoon oil
4-5 cloves peeled garlic
1 14.5 ounce can beef broth (water and beef bullion works just as well)
1 14 ounce can whole or chopped tomatoes
1 can Veg-All
Fresh or dry herbs
|Fresh Garden Veg-All|
Use food processor to ground garlic into bits and cut onion into appropriate bite-sized pieces. If you don't have a food processor, use a blender, or put a butcher knife to good use and start chopping. Add onion, garlic and ground turkey to soup pot containing oil, and proceed to cook on medium high heat until meat is cooked and no longer pink.
Add beef broth, tomatoes, Veg-All and herbs of your choice (Venus uses a mix of basil, oregano, cilantro, marjoram, whatever she has handy) and bring to a boil. Simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat, or just turn the stove off and allow soup to cool slightly before serving. Pop some crescent rolls or any other role into the oven for ten minutes and serve with soup.