Sunday, November 11, 2007

First Honey Harvest

With the help of a friend we went into the hive today to check on its health and prep it for winter. I thought we better get this done while we still had a few warm days. We moved a honey frame down next to the brood and took out some of the outer frames to allow for better ventilation. I had ten frames in the boxes, but there are some who have only nine or eight to allow for more space between the frames and/or better ventilation. In our case I brought it down to eight frames with blocker boards (blank boards that fill the space of a frame) on the ends. This should improve ventilation - very important in the wet season. We also cleaned out all traces of the little start of a wax moth infestation I noticed recently. What this all really means is that some of those frames we took out had honey in them. Bless you bees for all your work pollinating our world and for your incredible gifts you give us with so little complaint. It was an electric urban homestead moment in the garden surrounded by ducks and plants and friends and wet earth taking a bite of sun-warmed honey-filled comb. As I write, warmed honey is pouring through a strainer into our first jar of homegrown honey-goodness.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Tomatoes- frozen, dried and canned

The tomato plants have finished producing since the weather has cooled. There are bags and bags of blanched, cored tomatoes in the freezer and jars of "sun-dried" (actually of oven-dried) tomatoes in olive oil in the refrigerator.

As tomatoes ripened over the past few months I harvested them in big batches. I put them in boiling water for two minutes to blanch them, slipped the skins off and put them in zipper bags in the freezer. I poured off most of the juice so the bags have mainly tomato pulp in them. Warm tomato juice. Mmmm....

For the oven-drying I just halved the smaller tomatoes- Black Plum and Principe Borgese worked the best. I tried Yellow Pear, and other cherry tomatoes too. I put them on cookie sheets in the coolest oven I have (200 degrees). I turned the cookie sheets every hour so they dried (cooked really) evenly. The smaller the tomato the less time this takes. If the tomato was fat like a Romano I dried slices of it. The whole process takes three to four hours. On a cold day it's a nice way to keep the kitchen warm. Some tomatoes went in jars covered with olive oil and some in the freezer to see which stores better. It was difficult not to just stand over the warm dried tomatoes and eat them all right then and there. They are really tasty! I have a friend who does this same drying/cooking procedure and adds olive oil, garlic and herbs to the tomatoes before they go in the oven. Many great recipes and methods for this can be found on the Web. Next year, I hope to have a solar oven for this purpose. Real sun-dried tomatoes!

Now it's time to defrost all of the those frozen tomatoes and can them properly. What if the power goes out? There'd be a real mess.... Better to can them and put them on the shelf to enjoy throughout the coming year.