Thursday, July 16, 2009

Blanching and Hosting

Vegetables don't all grow at the same time, making harvesting a J.O.B. That means I can't go out, pick a few pounds of beans, and then come in and can them. Some recommend staggering the weeks you plant the beans (or other veggies) so that you have enough harvest to can right away. That seems like too much thought and work to do. Instead there is a technique called "blanching." This process stops the growth enzymes of the vegetable, and preserves the flavor and texture of the veggie. To blanch veggies, you drop them in to boiling water, let them boil for about 5 minutes, and then immediately remove them from the boiling water and put them into an ice bath. Once the veggies are completely cool, you can place them into a freezer-safe container.
Yesterday I blanched the okra I picked. With okra, you have to cut off the tops of the okra, without exposing the seed pod.
Then you drop them into the boiling water and boil for about 3 to 5 minutes. When the time is up, immediately ladle the veggies into a ice and water bath. Once the okra is completely cooled, strain the water off of it and place it into a freezer bag. I like to lay the okra flat, squish the majority of the air out with my hands, and then place a straw inside the bag at one end of the ziploc. Zip the bag shut until you reach the straw, take the area around the bag in between your fingertips and suck the rest of the air out of the bag with the straw! It is almost like having a vacum sealed freezer bag!!! Very cool.
I also made blackberry jam with this year's harvest. I should have waited until the berry harvest was over, but I just couldn't contain my excitement. That led to me having probably a cup less of squashed berries than I was supposed to. Which in turn led to too much sugar (although you can never have too much sugar!) and too much pectin. I put it into the jars anyways, and boiled them in a hot water bath for 10 minutes. The amount of berries I had only yielded 3 jars. One isn't even completely full, so I'll probably eat that one soon. I wanted to take pictures of my progress, but making jam was more difficult than I thought it would be! The jam concoction needed to boil, but I was terrified I would burn the berries, hence wasting all of that harvest. So I had to stay nearby the entire time. Then when I was filling up the jars, the sticky mess ended up all over my hands, arms, fingers, and face. I even burned my finger real bad on who knows what! It was a mess. But I think (and hope!) the outcome will be ever-so delicious!

At Least I'm Skinny came over to the house (finally!) for the first time. (It's all my fault because I've never invited her over- which I'll get to in a second.) And she tried my homemade applesauce. She agreed that it was slightly over-powering in the cloves-area. (If you can re-call, I dumped a TON of cloves into the sauce while I was trying to season it!) But she said she liked it and even took a jar home with her. It gave me a little more self-esteem about my applesauce project. Hopefully if I do it again, I won't make the same mistake!

About inviting people over: I'm terrified to do it. Mainly because we live so far away from everyone. I hate that people have to spend a bunch of time and gas driving to us. So when they get here I feel that the pressure is on to make sure they have a good time. I also like to offer to people that they are more-than-welcome to spend the night. That way the drive doesn't seem too bad, and we can fully indulge in some alcohol! Haha! But even if we didn't live far out here, I would still have a little bit of nervousness about inviting people over. I feel that people may find my house boring, and then they'd regret making the drive over, and even regret being friends with me! When RNH has guys up to the house, which he does quite often, they do something. They go hunting or fishing. When I have girlfriends up, what are we supposed to do? Scrapbook? Knit? Can or Blanch?
All of this is actually really silly. (Oh, and don't think that Skinny puts "pressure" on me to be a great host, and that is why I've never invited her. That's not the case!) I just have these silly fears. Actually us girls can just hang out, talk and chit-chat about the latest gossip, and what TV shows we're currently watching. There really is no need for "entertaining." You just hang out. Skinny and I actually walked around the yard and picked some blackberries. I wanted to show her how crazy the fish are in our pond, but the bugs were pretty bad so we went back inside. It was a ton of fun and I'm glad she came up! I'll have to ask her later if my house was "boring." Haha! I think the more RNH and I have people up to the house, the more I will get over my silly fear of having a boring house. I would actually LOVE LOVE LOVE to have a big cookout at our house and build a bonfire. I also bought horseshoes, specifically for having a cookout. But then the pressure will REALLY be on. Good food, a non-boring house, and fun. Will I be able to do it?!?!?


  1. Oh, I loved your house! I loved the blackberries the best in case you didn't notice. And I will take an adventure down to the swamp too.

    And I totally have more fun watching stuff like the Real World with other people because I like discussing while I watch. Otherwise I just say it out loud to myself and that is weird.

    I had fun at your house.

  2. RNH told me there is a TON of blackberries on a certain road, in a certain area of town... (I'll mention it to you at work!) but it is LOADED with blackberries... I'm thinking we need a secret field trip!!!