August at our house has always been a time of frenzied pickling, jelly making, drying, canning, freezing and fermenting. Braids of garlic and onions hang from every doorframe. Pillowcases full of dripping grapes are suspended from the dining room chandelier, soon to be made into jelly. There are jars of vegetables in various stages of fermentation. Now, thanks to Fifth Season’s new Ball jar fermenting lids we have lots of small jars of fermenting pepper experiments. One of these, we are hoping, will become the ultimate hot sauce. We have the dehydrator working 24/7, full of Prince Borghese tomatoes that, once dried, will find themselves stored in olive oil for winter soups and pastas. A wok sits on the stove waiting for the weekly red paprika harvest. They will be smoked in the wok on top of hickory wood chips. The smoke stinks up the house for a whole day, but it imparts the most heavenly taste to the peppers that are then dehydrated and ground into paprika powder.
There is a chamomile-flavored beer brewing in the corner of the dining room. Every south facing windowsill has tomatoes ripening in them, safe from the ground hogs and squirrels that eat them as soon as they turn red. Our huge Hangtime drying rack is hanging in a doorway, full of tulsi, lemon balm, raspberry leaves, tarragon, rosemary and sweet marjoram, soon to become herbal teas and Herbs de Provence. Loaves of zucchini bread are heading to the freezer, made from that one zucchini that got away, the one that was the size of a small child. There are jars of pickled okra, cornichon pickles, peach chutney, raspberry jelly, tomatoes, apple pie filling, jugs of raspberry-infused vodka and herb vinegars. All these things sit on the counter for far too long because I can’t stop admiring their beauty and feeling a wave of success at another year of gardening, another harvest. I believe this all is the stuff of meals cooked in heaven. My husband is a saint as he struggles to understand it, admire it, as he tries to make a simple cup of coffee in the midst of it all. His only remark is “our kitchen looks like an apothecary”.
All this fun doesn’t stop in August, as in years past. I came to realize that we now have 6 months of summer here in the central South, starting in April and ending in October. We can have second plantings of a lot of our crops, cucumber, squash, beans, potatoes and tomatoes. Started from seeds sown in July, planted out in August, we now have Smart Pots in the driveway with new tomato seedlings. July- planted potatoes are coming up in boxes we built for them, so we can add compost as they grow taller. Having bought 4 extra pounds of seed potatoes in March, they were stored in the fridge until planting in July. We will harvest them in November, parboil and freeze 40 pounds of Yukon golds for the winter. The second crop of cucumbers and squash, with some help from Agribon Insect Cover, seems to be enjoying no bug invasion. The tomatoes have no fungal issues, so far. During this second crop planting we have also been preparing the soil with fresh organic nutrients and leaving space for our fall seedlings, broccoli, kale, cauliflower and cabbage.
I must admit; the late tomatoes are a bit of a gamble. Some years we have had great success, pulling ripe red tomatoes off the vines up until the end of October. Other years the cold nights come early and that puts the brakes on all tomato saucing fun. What we are left with is a whole lot of big green tomatoes. Pulling them in and storing them in paper bags in a cool dark will ripen some of them. We make fried green tomatoes, one can only eat so many fried green tomatoes so… I do as my very southern mother, grandmother and probably her mother had done in the past, I make green tomato pickle. Green tomato pickle, with its sweety, soury, spicy goodness was always served at our house with beans, sausage and cornbread as a cold winter night supper. It takes 2 days to make so you may want to be prepared with some cheese cloth to keep the fruit flies off it. Use only very green tomatoes; once they start to color up they become too soft to pickle. Use a hot water bath to seal this lovely concoction into jars (see the hot water bath instructions from our “How to Preserve a Plethora of Shallots” blog from Sept. 26, 2017). Here is my grandmother’s recipe for Green Tomato Pickle. I think this recipe was meant to feed a small army. Feel free to adjust the quantities to your harvest.
Green Tomato Pickle
- 1 peck (2 gallons) green tomatoes
- 2 quarts vinegar
- 2 quarts onions
- 1⁄2 tablespoon cayenne pepper
- 1 tablespoon dry mustard
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 2 pounds brown sugar
- 1⁄2 pound white mustard
- 1⁄2 ounce ground mace
- 1 tablespoon celery seed
- 1 tablespoon ground cloves
- 1⁄2 cup olive oil
Slice tomatoes and onions very thin. Place on large platters and sprinkle with salt. Let stand overnight. Drain through colander. Add one-quart vinegar to vegetables and boil slowly until tender and clear. Drain.
Mix sugar, mustard seed, celery seed and cloves with other quart of vinegar and boil five minutes. Mix drained vegetables with cayenne pepper, mustard and turmeric and add to vinegar mixture. Mix well, add olive oil, and seal in jars. Yield: 8 quarts
All the canning, fermenting and beer-making supplies, seeds, insect cover, drying racks, cheese cloth, soil amendments and seasonal organic vegetable starts you have ever dreamed of needing can be found at Fifth Season Gardening. We have everything you need to let you enjoy gardening and the fruits of your harvest year-round.!