Update by Annette Corrado, Brevard Center
The Garden Club met on June 3rd learning how to preserve garden vegetables through proper canning techniques. During our semester break in May, we had a large number of tomatoes, peppers and onions that had ripened and could no longer be used fresh.
Since we didn’t want them to go to waste, the peppers and onions were finely chopped and frozen immediately and the tomatoes were frozen whole. We decided to use them to make mild and hot salsa for our Friday night Grill & Chill after the break.
At our meeting, students learned about the importance of pressurized cooking at 240 degrees and the different styles of pressure cookers and their proper use. We looked at a variety of canning jars and lids and the proper way of boiling, filling and sealing the jars was demonstrated. Since we were making salsa, the tomatoes we used had to be peeled and the seeds removed. This tedious task was easier to accomplish by using our frozen whole tomatoes. The tomatoes were run under hot water briefly to thaw and this made the skins slide off easily. Cutting the tomatoes vertically also made it easier to scoop out the seeds in the center.
We used a very basic recipe to make our salsa with the 4–5 pounds of tomatoes that we had frozen. We added 1 tbs. of white vinegar, 1 tbs. of lemon juice, freshly chopped basil from the garden and our onions and peppers. For the hot salsa, jalapeno or chili peppers were used along with cilantro and/or rosemary. The combined ingredients were cooked in a pressure cooker and brought to a temperature of 240 degrees.
The washed jars were all boiled for 20 minutes and the jar lids were boiled for 10 minutes and left in the boiling water until they were about to be filled. The jar tongs and other instruments were boiled as well and kept in the boiling water when not in use. Jars were filled to the top and sealed promptly. The filled, sealed jars were stood upright in the water bath and then were brought to a boil again. The final result, mild and hot salsa, a big hit with both students and staff.
Our vegetable garden continues to thrive this season despite a long drought followed by heavy evening thunder showers in the last few weeks. We had hoped to use chicken manure to fertilize the garden soil but, since it wasn’t available, we are substituting cow manure and we are hoping for good results. We’ve successfully cross-pollinated our plants with paint brushes and we recently noticed a few bees in the garden. Our scarecrows remain on guard still dressed in silver Christmas garland to protect the plants from the squirrel family living next door.
Club members continue to learn more about basic care of the garden and are tending the garden without staff supervision in their free time when necessary. We have more basil, peppers, onions and tomatoes ready right now and we look forward to having eggplant, carrots, green beans and possibly watermelon later in the season. We are planning to experiment with other canning recipes such as green tomato pickles and relish in the future.