Cooks Exchange

Summer is the season for picking your own veggies

Six Gulf Coast women from Mississippi, including me, from Long Beach to D’Iberville, piled into an SUV and a van and headed where the picking is easy and the vegetables were waiting.

Rows, rows and more rows of butter beans, pole beans, onions, tomatoes, eggplant, squash and more were ready for the picking. This is gardening the easy way. Vehicles can be driven down the rows and folks simply step out and pick the veggies, get back in the vehicle and go to the new row or so.

A 5-gallon bucket filled to overflowing of vegetables costs $10, but none of us stopped with one bucket. With my daughter, granddaughter and me picking, we came home with more that I was really prepared to handle.

All six of us loaded the van and SUV with buckets, plus watermelons, cantaloupes and 25-cent ears of corn. We had such fun talking about our experience on the way home that we missed a turn and ended up in Wilmer, Ala. All we could do was laugh, especially when the GPS took us down a road where a bridge was out.

It was an adventure from start to finish, but the real work began when we got home and had to decide what to do with all our produce.

That’s when the “Ball Blue Book” became my best friend. I knew I didn’t want to can the vegetables. I tossed my canning supplies years ago after some not-so-successful attempts.

The freezing section was for me. Since then, I have made squash pickles that my daughter deemed edible. She’s not a squash fan. Also I made homemade tomatoes and chiles, parboiled eggplant to freeze, and froze hot peppers, bell peppers, squash and butter beans.

Now I need a freezer to hold everything.

We have dined on butter beans, green tomatoes and eggplant along with fresh tomato pasta sauce and grilled and microwaved corn on the cob.

I still have okra and tomatoes that need to be done along with what my grandmother called “creamed potatoes.” She would take new potatoes, peel and boil then and then thicken with a little flour, milk, salt and pepper. It is still my favorite way to cook new potatoes. Not the least fattening, but the best.

Make no mistake, we didn’t dig for the potatoes; we bought them already in buckets. The farmers did the work for us.

Anyone who hasn’t been to one of these u-pick farms is missing a treat. We took my 4-year-old granddaughter and she loved picking the vegetables. She was most careful to ask if she should pick this one or that one. It was a great educational field trip for her.

She even shelled beans when we got home. Our three generations sat around the family room shelling beans. To me it was a throwback to the days when my grandmother and I did the same thing together. Thankfully, those memories are the ones that count the most.

Readers, if, like the six of us, you grow fresh vegetables or have been picking or buying at the farmers markets, I thought maybe a few recipes on preserving might come in handy.

I have a few from “Ball Blue Book,” but also a recipe for garlic sweet pickles from First United Methodist Church Cookbook of Deweyville, Texas. It is a good one, too.

A melon baller works wonderfully to remove seeds from peppers and squash.

When making the salsa, be sure to wear rubber gloves when handling the hot peppers. I didn’t once when I was making poppers, and my hands burned for what seemed like hours.

How to freeze egglant

Plain: Wash, peel and slice 1/2-inch thick. Prepare just enough eggplant for 1 blanching at a time. Blanch 4 minutes in 1 gallon boiling water containing 4 1/2 teaspoons citric acid or 1/2 cup lemon juice. Cool. Drain. Pack eggplant into can or freezer jars or plastic freezer boxes. Seal, label and freeze.

For frying: Prepare same as plain eggplant. Separate drained slices with freezer wrap. Pack in can or freezer jars or plastic freezer boxes.

Freezing summer squash

Raw: Choose young squash with tender skin. Wash; slice; blanch 3 minutes. Cool, drain. Pack squash in can or freezer jars or plastic freezer boxes. Seal, label and freeze.

Green tomatoes and peppers

Green tomatoes can be simply washed and sliced and put into freezer containers with freezer paper between the slices. No parboiling.

Peppers (all types): Wash, seed and slice. Pack in freezer containers.

Almond bread recipe

Dave Charles wants to make his own almond bread since he cannot find loaves in any specialty store or bakery.

“Has anyone had success making almond bread?” he asked.

Readers, if you make almond bread with ground almonds or almond flour, please share your tips and recipes. I know Charles will appreciate it.

Need a recipe?

If you have lost a favorite recipe or you simply want a specific recipe, shoot me an e-mail or send me a note. Readers and I will try to find it for you.

Andrea Yeager can be reached at ayeager51@cableone.net or Cook’s Exchange, P.O. Box 4567, Biloxi MS 39535-4567.

Squash Pickles

From “Ball Blue Book”

2 pounds summer squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 4 medium)

1-1/2 cups sliced onions (about 1-1/2 medium)

1-1/4 cups sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon dry mustard

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1/2 teaspoon ginger

2 cups water

1 cup vinegar

Combine squash and onions, set aside. Combine remaining ingredients in a large saucepot. Bring mixture to a boil. Add squash and onions; boil 10 minutes. Pack hot vegetables and liquid into hot jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Adjust two-piece caps. Process 10 minutes in a boiling water canner. Yield: about 4 half-pints.

Note: After boiling the quash and onions in the liquid, I let the mixture cool down and put the pickles in a refrigerator container with a tight lid. We have refrigerator squash pickles.

Fiesta Salsa

From “Ball Blue Book”

7 cups chopped, seeded, peeled, cored tomatoes

2 cups chopped, seeded, peeled cucumbers

2 cups chopped and seeded banana peppers

1 cup sliced green onions

1/2 cup chopped, peeled, roasted Anaheim peppers

1/2 cup chopped, seeded jalapeno peppers

1/4 cup minced cilantro

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon minced fresh marjoram

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup cider vinegar

2 tablespoons lime juice

Combine all ingredients in a large saucepot. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes. Ladle hot salsa into hot jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Adjust two-piece caps. Process 15 minutes in a boiling water canner. Yield: About 4 pints.

Note: Again, I put the salsa in an airtight container in the refrigerator. We do like our salsa.

Garlic Sweet Pickles

From First United Methodist Church of Deweyville cookbook

4 quarts sliced cucumbers

1/3 cup salt

6 medium onions, sliced

2 bell peppers, sliced

3 cloves garlic, sliced

5 cups sugar

3 cups vinegar

1 1/2 teaspoons turmeric

1 1/2 teaspoons celery seed

2 teaspoons mustard seed

Cover cucumbers, onions and peppers with salt and ice water, adding ice cubes to keep water real cold. Let stand 3 hours.

Mix vinegar, spices and sugar. Drain cucumbers well, add vinegar mixture and cook slowly until they start to boil. Seal at once in clean jars.

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