Yesterday I made 18lbs of pickles using 9lbs of cucumbers from the garden and wrote a post about it. Today I decided to move them to jars, and see if I could seal them with the vacuum sealer. First, I put them all into jars. I decided to do this in my workshop, because cleanup would be a lot easier than in the kitchen. Of course I used fresh utensils and clean jars when doing so.
It took ten quart sized jars, filled to the brim, to contain them. The ones I filled from near the bottom of the bags tended to have a lot more of the seeds and dill pieces in them, those are probably going to be the best ones. The one in the front center has tons of the flavorful seeds and such in it. I tried to mix them up well, but they still tended to settle near the bottom of the bag pretty quickly.
These jars have traditional two piece lids, where you have the actual lid and a band that screws on to hold it down. You typically boil the jars with the lids on and band loose for ten minutes or so to create a proper seal. You know the seal is good when the lid no longer moves and is sucked down onto the jar – allowing you to remove the band completely, and still have to pry the lid to get it off. Another way, though possibly not as good, is to put them in a chamber vacuum sealer and do the same process. Unfortunately, these jars are too tall to fit in mind and close the hood, so I decided to try laying them down. I added the lid and tightened the bands until the jars only had a slow drip when laid on their sides. Then, on a bed of paper towels, I vacuumed two jars at a time to remove the air and create a seal. Each jar seemed to create a good enough seal to prevent the lid from moving or being easily removed, even without the bands.
Now they’re in the fridge for storage, and should last a lot longer than they would have otherwise.
I haven’t posted updates on the garden in a while, so figured I’d upload a few photos.
The plants in the greenhouse have really started taking off with the new soil. Still, some are doing better than others, and I think that is mostly attributable to the lighting in the greenhouse. We need to trim the trees above it, but they have power lines running through them, so it’s something I probably need to call someone out for.
I’d like to transplant some of these out of the small green pots – probably won’t be using them at all next year. As you can see, some of the plants are growing about as big as they’ll get in these.
The Malabar spinach and grapes are going crazy. I’m weaving them into the rope trellis on the back wall. Several of the tomato plants are a few feet tall now, and all the plants under the bench on the right were lettuces that were doing amazing, but had an aphid problem I didn’t find until it was too late. It’s sort of a quarantine area, though all the aphids are dead now thanks to SaferSoap.
The lighting this morning wasn’t doing me any favors, but this is a photo of the greenhouse. I should have taken it in the afternoon when the sun is behind me, not the greenhouse.
The sunflowers are doing pretty well. They’re over the 6′ fence now. The trees are also looking healthy.
Walking over to the raised beds. On the corner of the porch you can see the rosemary, and the asparagus in the closest bed is so tall that it’s just falling over. Stretched out, the ferns are as tall as I am.
The seating area is still usable, but being taken over by various vining plants.
The carrots are spilling out of their bed – I’ve pulled a few and they’re coming along nicely. Another month and they’ll probably be ready to pick and we’ll clean out the bed and put something else in. The squash have made a big comeback, and melons are doing really well.
These vines are mostly cantaloupe. Also on the backside of the trellis, further down, are the sweet potatoes.
A closer view of the trellis. We have cantaloupe everywhere, and even some small watermelons.
This is the banana plant I was so worried about after the hail storm. Doesn’t seem to have slowed down its growth at all!
The other banana plant is bursting out of its pot, as well, but is growing a lot fuller, and less tall.
A couple weeks ago, I picked some cucumbers that ended up being around 4lbs after discarding the ends and slicing. I split them between two bags, and made approximately eight pounds of pickles. They were a hit, not only with us, but some friends who came over, and we’ve wiped out half so far. The other half is about to be divvied up and given away.
The problem is that our garden is producing far more cucumbers than we can manage. I’ve been giving several away to neighbors, but decided to keep this week’s harvest which came in around 9lbs. I think this may be one of the last harvests we’ll have around this size, because it looks like our cantaloupe have began choking the cucumber out, and since I prefer cantaloupe to cucumber, I’m not doing much to stop it.
Anyway, I started off with these raw cucumbers. I didn’t weigh them. A few have been in the fridge for the last four or five days, so they were getting to where they needed immediate attention.
I sliced the cucumbers with my handy mandolin from Amazon. This thing is great, and if you don’t have one, I recommend picking one up. I don’t usually use the finger guard, especially with cucumbers, but I suppose I should recommend that you do.
This is what the above produced after processing. This is something like an 18″ pizza pan, piled 6″ or so high.
I started filling 10″ x 13″ bags, 3lbs to a bag. This was a mistake, but more on that later.
I needed another pound or so of cucumbers to fill the last bag, so I ran back out to the garden and found these hiding under some leaves.
Here are the three bags, each filled with three pounds of raw, sliced cucumbers. There are two varieties (if the seed company is to be trusted) in there.
I realized at this point that I ran out of dill, so I ordered some from Amazon and had it delivered about an hour later. They source these things from Sprout’s market around here. I’ve used the pre-packaged dill that HEB sells in the past, so my recipe called for an entire bunch of dill per bag, but these were much, much larger. I decided to use two bunches instead of three for the 9lbs of raw cucumbers.
I then mixed the brine. The recipe I concocted for this batch is as follows:
- 7 cups Distilled white vinegar
- 9 cups Cups hot water
- 1 cups, 3 Tbsp Cane sugar
- 6 Tsp Kosher salt
- 6 Tsp Mustard seeds
- 6 Tsp Coriander seeds
- 6 Tsp Dill seeds
- 9 lbs Sliced cucumbers
- 3 Bunches Coarsely chopped dill
- 3 Tbsp Chopped garlic
I mixed it in a pitcher, then divided it among the three bags. This is also where it got kind of messy, because I clumsily knocked one of the bags over and about a cup of brine spilled out. Also, I found that I only had 5 cups of distilled white vinegar, so I substituted apple cider vinegar in for the other two. This is a cold brine recipe, you don’t do any boiling or anything, and I found they come out crispier vs the boiling method I used last year. And they get better as they age.
After filling, I found that the bags were too full to fit into the VacMaster without spilling. I ended up tiling it back on a cardboard box…
… and propping the bags up on cans, in order to keep the liquid from spilling out. Two pounds per bag is what we’ll be doing in the future. I could have redistributed them, but it would have probably been messier.
The finished bags came out at 6.1-6.2Lb each. Roughly 18Lbs total.
I put them in our garage refrigerator to set up. I’ll rotate them a few times to make sure that there is even coverage within the bags, but tomorrow they should be ready to test and distribute into jars. Each 2# (raw) bag from the last batch filled 2 quart mason jars.
Kelly has been wanting to buy new patio furniture for a while, but I haven’t prioritized it on the spending list. It’s expensive, and generally doesn’t last. I contemplated spending more for a set made with aluminum and Sunbrella, in the interest of longevity, but decided with proper care and maintenance (repainting at the first sign of rust) I could probably make an inexpensive set last quite a while. I did look online and almost bought an aluminum/Sunbrella set anyway, until I saw that the shipping time was close to a month. In the end, we picked up a 7pc dining set and 4pc sitting set from Home Depot, that they keep in stock at our local store.
On the way to the store, a lady rear-ended my truck at a stop light. She’ll need a new bumper, bumper supports, and maybe a few things behind it, but her car was still driveable. My truck didn’t have a scratch.
We haven’t posted about the garden in a while, but it’s coming along nicely. The outside beds have grown up quite a bit, and are looking good.
The trees have lots of leaves on them again, and we have finally gotten the pests under control with a combination of Hot Pepper Spray and Safer Soap.
I noticed that the plants in the greenhouse aren’t doing as well. The lettuces are pale, and have stopped growing. So I pulled the shade cloth off this morning. We have a couple massive trees that are cloaking the greenhouse now, and it doesn’t get as much sun as I thought it would in this location. We need to trim them back, but that’s complicated by overhead electrical lines. Here is the greenhouse without it.
Other things in the greenhouse, like the strawberries, bananas, and chives are thriving.
As are the grapes. They’re getting ready for transplant soon.
A closer view of the grapes – is this a really small bunch of grapes?
Some of the lettuces are doing well, and fortunately, everything is still alive. Hopefully the extra sunlight will help.
We’ve let the asparagus plants grow up now – most are 2-3′ tall, and the garlic they share space with has grown to around 6″ tall.
We found aphids on both of our apple trees, and have been working to get rid of them. We bought neem oil last year, so I mixed up a gallon of it according to the instructions (it’s a concentrate), and sprayed it on. We found more aphids after a couple days, so we decided to move on to other options. That being said, neem oil is still a great solution for many things from what I’ve seen. Ours may just be at the end of its shelf life, since we’ve had it about a year and I’ve read some places that is about what it lasts. We use Pro-TeKt to mix it with, though the bottle says you can use dish soap instead.
We usually mix it up and store it in a gallon jug, and use sprayers we bought of Amazon to apply it.
Hot Pepper Wax is a pretty popular natural remedy we hadn’t tried yet. They didn’t have any same or next day deliveries available for the concentrated formulas, so I bought the non-concentrate in a small spray container for immediate use.
We haven’t had enough time yet to see if it takes care of the aphid problem, but a pepper spray of some sort is going to be added to the list of things we keep on hand. I found many people prefer their own recipes, and read several, opting to make my own based on a few of the various recipes. I decided on:
- 1 lb Habanero Peppers
- 2 Garlic Pods
- 1 Tbsp Powdered Cayenne Pepper
- 3 Tbps Pro-TeKt
- 4-5 Gallons Water
I used a food processor to dice the habaneros and garlic cloves. Then I dumped them in a 5 gallon “Homer” bucket and added the cayenne pepper and Pro-TeKt and enough water to fill to about 6″ from the top. I didn’t bother processing the peppers and removing the stems, or removing the wrapping from the individual cloves of garlic. All of the excess should be pulled out when I strain the water through cheese cloth around this time tomorrow. That will give the oils about 24 hours to infuse into the water.
Handling that many habaneros and making sure everything was clean afterwards was somewhat tedious. I wore disposable gloves, and was attentive to what I was doing to avoid touching or getting it in my eyes or mucous membranes, but suggest goggles or a face mask if you aren’t so sure. Adding the water to the bucket, even going on one of the slowest settings for the water hose, caused some of the oils to reach up and suspend in the air around the bucket and cause me to cough. If you’re really sensitive to these things, one of those disposable masks might be a good idea to avoid respiratory distress. I used vinegar along with dish soap to clean everything up.
I ordered a new sprayer and some cheese cloth of Amazon to strain it (into another Homer bucket, which every gardener or hobbyist should have plenty of!) and distribute it with. I’m going to use a funnel to pour it into a spare 5 gallon water jug, like you would use on a water dispenser in an office, for long term storage instead of using a Homer Bucket. It should be less likely to spill that way.
If the commercial Hot Pepper Wax works well, we’ll probably go to using that once we’ve gone through the four or five gallons this makes. We spent $7 or so dollars on components to make this and assuming we dilute it to 5 gallons, that’s $1.40/gallon. The commercial/bulk gallon of Hot Pepper Wax concentrate runs around $48.97, but makes 32 gallons once you dilute it. That’s hardly any more expensive, at $1.53/gallon, and is a lot less work. I wanted to try making my own at least one time, though, to go through the process and see how it turns out. I do wonder if this may be more effective though, due to the addition of garlic.