Category Archives: Garden

Processing carrots and celery

The carrots that aren’t eaten fresh, we blanch, chop, & freeze. Once they have drained well, we throw them in a big gallon bag. They don’t freeze into a solid clump, so we just scoop out whatever we need for our recipes for the year. I think last season we had 8 full gallon sized bags of carrots. 🙂



Celery has really been a fun plant for us. Once the plants are established, we just cut off a few stalks as we need them during the summer. Plants just keep growing up more stalks! At the end of the season, we cut off what’s left. We just wash, chop, and freeze it. I suppose we could blanch it, but we never have. Just like the carrots, it goes into one gallon freezer bags. I think we had about 8 bags last season. 🙂






our salsa recipe


This amount fills our 12 cup food processor.

10 squeezed, meaty-type tomatoes (like Romas) that are about the size of baseballs **note below
2-4 hot peppers
2 cups sweet onions, chunked (I just kinda guess by the size of the onion)
1 cup tightly packed cilantro
1 t sea salt
3 T raw apple cider vinegar
1/2 t coarse black pepper

Layer above ingredients in the order listed into food processor. Pulse until desired texture is reached. Dump into large bowl and repeat. (We like BIG BATCHES of salsa, lol!) 🙂

We are alway taste testing while we go, so I should probably state that the above recipe is just a “base”. I’m sure we throw in a-little-more-of-this, and a-little-more-of-that, so it’s never exactly the same. 🙂

**Here’s how I prepare my tomatoes: I remove the skins & core, but leave them whole. I put one in my hands, hold it over the sink core-cut-side down, and gently squeeze the tomato so most of the seeds & water are pressed out. After 3 batches of squeezing, it is not uncommon for hands to cramp up, lol… 🙂

Processing tomatoes


Despite the drought last year, we were blessed with a bountiful harvest – including tomatoes. 🙂

Here’s a snapshot of what we do with our maters. It is a true family effort – or I don’t know how I could do all.

When we first started doing this, I was COMPLETELY AMAZED at how many tomatoes it takes to create the same amount of tomato based products we used to buy from the store. We realized that we COULD NOT grow enough to provide the same “loot” in our pantry for one year. Because of that realization, we’ve scaled back on how much of it we eat, and we do our best to find healthier tomato sauces that we buy limited quantities of for our homemade pizzas. Thus reducing the amount of money we need to spend off-farm. This way, our energy goes toward the less time-consuming efforts like water bath canning whole tomatoes, juice, and our version of v(egetable)-8. We do make several canners full of tomato sauce, but can them in pints & they are treated like “gold”, lol. (I think last season furnished 10 pints for our pantry…) Normally, we focus on canning the whole tomatoes + juice for both ourselves and Mike’s parents, and his mom cooks down & cans the tomato sauce for all of us. (Group efforts are soooo nice!) LOTS of hours of stirring while it cooks down to the desired thickness, makes me feel a little protective of tomato sauce…and being SUPER conscious of not wasting it. These are good lessons that we are thankful to have learned. 🙂

The biggest bulk of our maters are canned as whole tomatoes. (We are big soup/stew eaters, and we like a marinara sauce once in awhile, too. Whole tomatoes are perfect for those recipes.) Once the maters have been washed, we drop them in boiling water until the skin breaks – usually not more than one minute. Then we plunge them into ice water for quick cooling. The boys like this job & usually bicker over whose turn it is.


My “station” is usually as the “skinner/chunker”. None of my boys like the messiness of this part, so by default, the job is mine. I don’t mind, though…my hands might be yucky, but I can still bark orders pretty good, lol… 🙂



Mike is usually the “floater” and “jar-stufferer”. 🙂






Last season we canned 48 quarts of whole tomatoes for our pantry and about half that for mom & dad next door. 🙂



When we are making juice/sauce & our v(egetable)-8, we don’t remove the skins. Just chunk the veggies so they fit into the juice attachment for our mixer, and it separates the seeds/skins for us. This is another task the boys don’t mind doing. 🙂

Last season we canned 8 quarts of our v(egetable)-8 juice and 22 quarts of tomato juice for ourselves + some for next door.


We also make several large batches of salsa & freeze it in 1 cup portions. Most of it gets devoured eaten fresh, but I think we managed to freeze 15 cups or so. 🙂


our chili recipe

2 quarts tomato juice

2 quarts whole tomatoes (crushed up)

1 quart tomato sauce

4 pounds cooked ground beef

2 cups chopped green peppers

4 cups of mixed dried beans – softened* (see below)

4 t minced garlic or 8 cloves, minced

4 t sea salt

2 c chopped sweet onion

2 c chopped celery

2 T chili powder

1/4 cup evaporated cane juice (56g)

Add to pot. Heat & simmer over low heat for several hours, stirring occasionally. 🙂

Yield is about 20 servings.

*One of these days, I’ll get a post up about our dried beans.  Here’s how we “soften” them.  Take 4 cups (1 pound) of dried beans and pour them in a tall pan with water covering them by at least 2 inches.  Bring them to a rolling boil for one minute (IF YOU ARE USING STORE BOUGHT BEANS, DOUBLE THE COOKING TIME.).  Remove from heat & add lid. Let sit 1 hour. Drain/rinse. Add back to pot with water covering them by several inches.  Bring to a boil. Add lid, and simmer 20-30 minutes. (SAME AS EARLIER, IF STORE BOUGHT, DOUBLE COOK TIME.)

our barley-stuffed peppers recipe

Since we freeze these as individual halves, we make a big batch of the filling and use however many green peppers we have to fill.  Leftover filling is great as a side or burrito filling, too!



1 pound “sausage”

2 cups chopped sweet onion

1 t garlic granules

1 pint tomato sauce

4 cups barley, cooked (5 c water + 1 cup barley + 1 t sea salt = bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cook covered about 45 minutes)

1/2 t dried thyme

1 t sea salt

1/4 t coarse pepper

Mix up above, spoon into blanched green pepper halves (place pepper pieces in boiling water for 3 minutes, drain in cold water). Place in ungreased baking dish. Cover & bake at 350° for 25-30 minutes or until peppers are to desired tenderness. Makes a bunch. 🙂

Stuffed pepper soup recipe



3 pounds ground beef

2 quarts beef broth

2 quarts water

2 quarts tomato juice

2 quarts whole tomatoes (which I usually crush up with my potato masher)

1-1/2 cups barley

4 cups chopped green peppers

1/2 cup evaporated cane juice (112g)

1/2 T molasses or sorghum

4 t sea salt

2 t coarse pepper

In 8 quart stock pot, brown beef. Drain. Add back to pot with remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat. Cover and simmer until barley is cooked. Tastes best after day 1. 🙂

Yields about 20 servings.

Processing peppers


Figured I’d finally get some harvesting posts up since I couldn’t find the time to do it “live”.  As we get loads of green peppers, what I don’t eat raw (my favorite), we chop and freeze.  When we have large batches at once, after washing & removing the stem/seeds, we send chunks through the chopper blade of our food processor.  We freeze them in 2 cup and 4 cup freezer bags.

We have a stuffed pepper soup recipe that calls for 4 cups of chopped peppers, and we use 2 cups in our chili recipe – hence storing those sizes.  I think last year we froze enough that we could make 8 batches of our soup and another 8 batches of our chili.  We also like to make a bunch of barley-stuffed peppers which we freeze individually so we can just take out what we want.  I place them side-by-side in a covered container until fully frozen, and then stack them in gallon sized freezer bags.



That’s pretty much how we calculate what we need for a year… When it’s time to cook, I like to grab what I need in the size that I need – kinda like our very own grocery store, lol! It really works great for the type of lifestyle we live. Ideally, someday we’d like to use less plastic, but we are not there yet.  For now, being able to create a filling meal in a shorter amount of time is a higher priority. 🙂


Many of our hot peppers, we just wash & freeze whole.  We like to throw a couple whole peppers into pots of “whatever”, just for flavor. We’ve learned to taste test while recipes simmer – because it doesn’t take too long for the “heat” to take over, lol…


Every year, my 3 boys try to make their own hot sauce.  Found a recipe for a lacto-fermented hot sauce online, so they tried it last season.  They sorted their peppers by “hotness” and made 3 different batches.  They are still undecided if they really like it or not…(which in my opinion, means they must not like it, lol)



We froze the hot sauce in half pint jars, but didn’t have enough lids for them.  Used foil & set them into sandwhich ziplock baggies in an effort to NOT stink up our freezer, but that didn’t work.  Next season, we will have metal lids, lol. 🙂


Apple trees – major trim Jan 2013

Last week, Mike began our first attempt to take care of the 25+ year old apple trees in our back yard.

Funny how our opinion of this tiny orchard has changed over the years!

Mike’s parents have been taking care of them before now – and honestly, I really didn’t like them – I saw them as old, ugly trees…

BUT NOW, lol – we have a new appreciation for the trees because of what their fruit can provide for our family, namely applesauce and the thought of our very own raw apple cider vinegar… (Until then, we hope to try some of Alander’s Acres’ ACV!) 🙂

So, herein begins our journey with these trees. If they survive this major trim, we’ll be on to the next step. No doubt, future posts will follow… 🙂





Bulls on “post-harvest-duty”

Once we got everything harvested out of the garden (yes, some day I’ll get around to posting more harvest data – I’m a little behind, lol…), it was time to let this spring’s bulls in to work it up & fertilize it for next year. It’s fun to watch how excited they get to find stumps of broccoli & cabbage, stray beets, sweetcorn stalks, and the true treasure: all the leaves we piled where the potatoes had been! 🙂

Here’s Augie in the corn stalks…


Quebec headed to the purple cabbage stumps…


And Crazy Roms rolling in the leaves, lol…



Garden pests…

Apparently during a drought, tomato worms also eat green peppers, hot peppers, and potato plants – grrrrrr!! Here’s a pic of a baby one Mike just found – he’s already had his last meal, lol! 🙂

And the second pic is what happens when a groundhog is dumb enough to enter a garden where 3 boys know how to take care of business!! 🙂