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May 03, 2014

Saturday Gardening Thread: You're Canned! [Y-not and WeirdDave]

Good day, gardeners! This thread brought to you by creepy plants:


Chinese fleeceflower... or Harry Reid?

'Hope you are experiencing better weather at your neck of the woods this weekend. After a week of cold, damp weather, including a hard freeze that required me to cover my raised beds here at Casa Y-not, we are going to hit the 80s. Spring in Utah -- can't beat it.

Per reader requests, this week's topic is a bit off the straight and narrow path of "gardening" and will be about how to preserve the fruits (and veggies) of your labor.

Take it away, WeirdDave!

Here, look what I got in an email from a client who is a realtor. If you print it out, it's got a magnet on the back and a calendar from 1952 on the bottom.


OK, gardening thread's done, I need a beer

*Sigh* I suppose I better do more than that. Y-not is pretty busy these days, especially on weekends when she does the gardening thread, the travel thread, the knitting thread (my wife would jump on that one), the egg dying thread, the cats playing chess thread and the how to cook forty humans thread on the Zerfbloch blog. Since I'm here to help her out with this one, I should do my part.


Y-not and I work as a team

Anyhow, word is that some of you wanted to talk about caning and stocks this week, which is a weird subject for a gardening blog, but hey, who am I to argue? It was made very clear to me that my role in ife is to be the Dread Pirate Wesley (by my wife, on our wedding night. Is that bad? The bandanna was cool, and I got laid), so, “As you wish”.

Anyhow, caning is perhaps one of the oldest and simplest forms of corporal punishment know to man. In its simplest form, it merely requires a man, a prisoner and a stick. The man uses the stick to beat the prisoner as punishment for some offense, real or imagined, usually on the bum. Most of the time caning is non-lethal, and is seen as a deterrent to future crime as well as punishment for past ones, but sometimes death does occur, intentionally or not. Most western societies have abandoned the practice as cruel and unusual punishment, although it is still used in Singapore. In a completely unrelated coincidence, petty crime in Singapore is almost nonexistent. Sometimes strange rituals surround the caning, with participants wearing elaborate costumes and tightly whities, as this footage smuggled from an underground ritual demonstrates:

What primitive society could spawn such insanity?

Stocks, on the other hand, are a more enlightened method of punishment, although they too are frowned upon in western countries. “Stocks” refers to a device or platform, usually made out of wood, that immobilizes a prisoner in public. The purpose of stocks is a deterrent as well, but rather than rely on physical pain, stocks fiendishly depend on public ridicule and shame for to work. While in the stocks a prisoner would be subjected to jeers and thrown food from the crowd. Stocks used to be a very effective method of restraining the excesses of Democrat politicians, but by the early 20th century the great Democrat eugenics programs had succeed in breeding shame out of their politicians, and the effectiveness of stocks fell off dramatically (See Fig 1, Jones, Dow. “Illustration of declining shame levels in U.S. Leadership,” Industrials Journal 20, no. 7 (2008): 1929. )


Comparative effectiveness: stocks vs caning

(Note to Y-Not: Here's the draft of what I have so far. Honestly, I don't know why you wanted this topic. I know that I have a degree in history and am well prepared to deliver it but shouldn't we be discussing peas or something? If this meets with your approval, I'll finish the comparative effectiveness portion Friday night -WD)

EDIT: It had been brought to my attention in a blistering email not fit for publication in a family blog such as AoSHQ (Really Y-not? AND the horse I rode in on? Isn't bestiality going a little far? I messed up, but he's a good horse and I haven't even named him yet. This heat is hot and so I'm going riding in the desert for a bit. My feelings are hurt, maybe I'll write a song or something) that today’s subject was supposed to be canning and STOCK(singular). I've done both those things, sometimes even canning the stock after I make it, but not recently, so I have no pictures. Internet to the rescue! Want to can food? If your grandmother didn't teach you how (shame on you Nana. You get to sit by smelly old Uncle Tom next Thanksgiving), here's someone's else's grandmother demonstrating the procedure. This video comes from a tractor supply company:

Nothing says good down home cooking like tractor parts

Stock is even easier. Take soup bones, boil the everloving crap out of them until they are soft and mailable. Strain the solids out and put the liquid in the fridge over night. Next day, skim the congealed fat from the liquid and what's left is stock. I freeze it in ice cube trays and divide it into baggies with a couple stock cubes in each bag. Pop a cube into the bowl when making ramen soup for a much fuller taste. Add fresh veggies and thin sliced beef and it's a real meal. The way I make it I call it “Faux Pho.”


In 5 minutes you can make soup that tastes like ambrosia, and spend less than $1

That's it from me, over to you Y-not, got any, oh, I dunno, garden stuff?

And now from your co-hostess, Y-not:

So you want to talk about canning, huh? Well, that's awesome. I know there are quite a lot of experts about the subject (and related food preservation techniques) here at HQ.

Sadly, I am not one of them. This is only the second year I've attempted a "serious" vegetable garden. Last year's crop would have barely fed a family of anorexic mice, so very little by way of long-term storage or preservation was needed. I am hopeful that this year might be more productive, so I do plan on learning as much as I can about food preservation and canning. Let's dip our toes in the water this week and plan on some future threads later in the season.

This site, A Way to Garden has a nice overview of various means to store your harvest for winter. Last year the vast gardens at Casa Y-not yielded a lot of herbs and a batch of green tomatoes (Cherokee purples) at the end of the season.

In terms of the herbs, my basil was pureed with oil and frozen in an ice cube tray. The rest of the herbs were washed, patted dry, and frozen in small bunches using my vacu-sealer. I've used those herbs over the past several months and I can report that they are fine, but not for long. After a few hours of exposure to the air they turn dark and become unappealing. So I won't plan on repeating that method this year. I realize most people would probably just dry the herbs, but I guess I'm too lazy to see the benefit of herbs dried from my garden versus store-bought herbs. Maybe I'll try to make a wreath or bouquet out of them this year...

As for the green tomatoes, I hit the bargain bin at my local Williams-Sonoma (I rarely pay full price at a place like that) and picked up some pickling spices. This is my way of trying out new things in the kitchen -- I do it the easy way the first time, then invest the time and energy in doing it from scratch if I like the results. In any event, using W-S pickling spices, I made refrigerator pickles of my green tomatoes. They last about a month in the fridge and, if you get pretty jars from Hobby Lobby, they can make attractive gifts.


Based on my experience last Fall, I plan to make more refrigerator pickles this year. I'm wondering what you folks like to pickle (aside from yourselves, of course!) and what your favorite pickling spice combinations and methods are.

So that's the easy, fool-proof way to preserve veggies (and fruits), but it is not good for long-term storage. To do that, you need to either dry your produce (does anyone here do that?) or "can" it. That's where my experience really falls off a cliff. I have canned -- once.

A couple of years ago, my best pal here (who is a Latter-Day Saint, aka "Mormon," like most of the folks in my community), asked me if I'd like to join her and other ladies from "my" old ward to can peaches. I'd participated in quite a few service projects with these ladies, ranging from tying off quilts to sorting used clothing to making handbags out of strips of plastic, so I quickly agreed. I'd never canned before so I thought it would be interesting and a nice way to visit with the women from my old ward. Usually these service projects are held either in one of the ladies' homes or at the Stake center, so I was a little confused when my friend told me she'd pick me up and take me to the site.

Because this was a church-related activity, I dressed in what I call my Utah Valley attire -- a long linen skirt and a modest, long-sleeved top. My friend hesitated when she picked me up, asking if I wanted to change. Recall, I was picturing us going to someone's home and working with half a dozen other ladies canning some peaches, so I said, "No, this is fine" and we headed off.

Imagine my surprise when instead of driving to someone's home, we drive to the industrial part of town and pull up here:


Yep, that's the Deseret Industries cannery in Lindon. It's a factory owned by the LDS church.

Suffice it to say, this was not some homespun afternoon of canning. It was a lot more like this, complete with hair nets and conveyor belts:

Miraculously, despite all of the dripping, sticky peaches wooshing by on conveyor belts, I managed to avoid ruining my clothes. I did almost lose my lunch, however, as the movements of the conveyor belts (which run in both directions) gave me motion sickness, but fortunately I was able to adjust after half an hour or so.

But I haven't gone near a peach since.

(Incidentally, the Church has since converted the Lindon cannery from wet and dry packing to a solely dry-pack operation. As far as I know, my visit there was not the reason. But I can't be sure.)

Given that there's very little actual canning content in this post (I do apologize about that -- it was a hectic week), I thought our Blog of the Week should probably have something to do with food preservation. Living Homegrown is chock-a-block full of all things pertaining to growing (and raising) your own food... and preserving it. The author, Theresa Loe, is also on Twitter.

Happy gardening!

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posted by Open Blogger at 01:13 PM

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