A week ago we were driving back from Colorado and stopped in Palisades for some peaches. For those not familiar with the Palisades area, it is located in the Colorado River valley of western Colorado. Based on the observation that nearly every acre had something planted on it, they must have ideal conditions for growing peaches, cherries, grapes and all sorts of other produce. After stopping to buy the 1/2 bushel of peaches, we were back on our way south.
One of the nice things about stopping in at a farm is talking to the farmer. I have found a good farmer is proud of what (s)he grows and is more than happy to talk to you about what they have, assuming they have time. The farmer we bought the peaches from also grows various wine grape varietals for local wineries. Some of the local wineries are starting to produce award-winning wine. The bad news for us is that we cannot readily plan on buying wine grapes from them because the grapes are already sold and under the control of certain wineries.
One of our favorite canned products we produce is the peach and hot pepper chutney. It is just so versatile. One of my favorite ways to use it is as a glaze on cedar plank salmon. The combination of the smoke and the sweet and hot glaze is fantastic. Because we had a box of peaches, Saturday was dedicated to making chutney. We ended up making 19 1/2 pints. The only differences from years past is the selection of peppers. Our hot pepper crop is still ripening so we picked some hot peppers, garden salsa and Cayenne, up at the farmers’ market to supplement our serrano peppers. We also made one double batch with one of our ghost peppers. We are all anxious to taste that one to see how hot it is. Because we did not think I could mince the pepper fine enough, I cut slits in the pepper and put it in while cooking the chutney then removed it before it was canned. We also canned the chutney using pint jars instead of 1/2 pint jars. That made life easier and in the future we will even be able to do triple batches at a time versus double.
The cucumbers are also coming along nicely. When I planted them I only anticipated having enough for dinner a few times a week. So far we have been able to make a few batches of our half-sour pickles. Because these cucumbers have so much more flavor than other types, these are some of the best half-sour pickles we have made.
The trip to Colorado kept us away from the garden for about 10 days. the monster cucumber above is actually a cornichon that is only supposed to get about 3 inches long. It was so big it stole the water and nutrients from adjacent cucumbers and they shriveled up and died on us.
It was also time to thin the beets. We harvested about 5.5 pounds. This was enough for a new to us canned recipe and our usual fresh pack recipe. We have not tried the new recipe yet but likely will in the near future to know if we should use some of the remaining beets for this. The concept of shelf-stable is nice, but they still have to have a good flavor or I will look for another recipe. The major change we did was to roast the beets. While I know I like the taste of roasted beets more than boiled, it did make for harder peeling. We also packed the beets into 1 quart jar and 2 pint jars. We then processed them all for 40 minutes to account for altitude.
The tomatillos are also starting to come in and we were able to make our first batch of salsa verde. I had enough serrano peppers for the recipe so it was also entirely from the garden. I have had no end of trouble growing some of the herbs this year, so the cilantro is way behind where I had hoped it would be at this time. Oh well, I would rather have lots of chilies and tomatillos than just the herbs.
It is nice to start replenishing the pantry with home-grown and home canned goodness.