There's Rain In The Air

Gardeners pray for onset of the summer monsoon

Bring on the rain!

Bring on the rain! Photo by Andy Towle. |

Advertisement

photo

Payson Community Garden participants have access to a good irrigation system, but there’s nothing like a quenching from the heavens to perk up parched plants.

All those heat-stressed plants in our yards and gardens finally were able to breathe a sigh of blessed relief the Fourth of July.

Well, actually, it was more like the early hours of the Fifth of July — at least at my house.

I woke up to the ping-ping sound and that oh-so-heavenly smell of rain in the air and said a little prayer.

The monsoon had teased us in the days leading up to the Fourth — though some Rim sites had more than a tease. Folks from Pine and Mesa del Caballo said they had some good rain and Star Valley Tuesday night (July 2) had high winds whipping through, but only enough rain to dampen the pavement.

Coming in to work a little before 7 Friday morning I found the ground was damp enough to make it necessary to wipe my shoes before getting into the car.

I’m writing this late Friday morning and the sky is still overcast and the air sticky with humidity.

Whether this saving moist weather hangs around all the way through to when this comes out Wednesday is anyone’s guess … And we all know those high-priced, poofed up and shellacked weather people are just guessing, regardless of the impressive sounding degrees they may have attached to their names.

I didn’t check my rose bush or the sad looking lilac bushes in the front yard before I left, but I bet all those drooping leaves have a little more life in them.

And what about the community garden?

The people renting plots have access to a good irrigation system, so don’t have the worry about making sure their produce is well watered, but I bet the rain still made a marked improvement to the crops — all that good stuff in the air when it rains has to make a difference to the plants. After all, it makes a difference for people.

At any rate, the participants in the Payson Community Garden have been harvesting produce for about a month now and making contributions to the area food banks from their harvests.

With the arrival of the monsoon, quantities will be picking up — not just from the Community Garden harvests, but from backyard gardens as well.

What to do with those harvests? Well, if nothing else — you can pickle just about anything.

New pickle flavors

Spicy, sweet or zesty, it’s never been easier to enjoy the crisp, tangy taste of homemade pickles. And with recipes like these, you can preserve perfect pickles for any palate.

Here are a few tips from the pickling pros at Mrs. Wages to help you give your cukes a kick of great homemade flavor:

• Choose pickling cucumbers, not slicing cucumbers. Pickling cucumbers are short and blocky — about 4 inches long. They should be firm and green in color with no blemishes.

• For pickles, you must cut off 1/16 inch from the blossom end to help prevent soft, mushy pickles. The blossom end contains an enzyme that will cause softening.

• Keep the cukes cool in the refrigerator until you have enough to make a batch, but do not hold them too long or you will end up with shriveled pickles.

• Use real canning jars. Don’t use jars that once contained peanut butter, pickles, mayo, etc. Clear canning jars are what you need. Use flat lids (called either lid or flat) and a ring to seal the jar. Also check for nicks and cracks — these may cause seal failure.

Find more tips, canning recipes and the Mrs. Wages Canning Guide at www.mrswages.com.

Spicy Pickles

Yield: 7 quarts

9 to 11 lbs. pickling cucumbers (about 50, 3 to 4 inches in length)

3-1/3 cups Mrs. Wages, or similar White Distilled Vinegar (5 percent acidity)

7-1/3 cups water

1 pouch Mrs. Wages Spicy Pickles Mix (Medium or Hot) (A homemade pickling spice from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving follows, and in a later issue we will have a story and recipes from one of the editors of the latest edition of that home canning bible).

Prepare and process home canning jars and lids according to manufacturer’s instructions for sterilized jars.

Wash cucumbers and remove blossom ends; drain. Leave whole, cut into spears or slice.

Combine vinegar and water into a large non-reactive pot. Do not use aluminum. Bring mixture just to a boil over medium heat. Remove from heat, add pickle mix and stir until dissolved.

Pack cucumbers into sterilized jars, leaving 1/2 (half) inch of headspace. Evenly divide hot pickling liquid among the packed jars, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace. Remove air bubbles and cap each jar as it is filled. If more liquid is needed for proper headspace, add a mix of 1 part vinegar and 2 parts water (this mixture should be boiling hot).

Process pints 9 minutes, quarts 14 minutes, in a boiling water bath canner. Test jars for airtight seals according to manufacturer’s directions. If jars do not completely seal, refrigerate and consume within one week.

Product is ready to eat after 24 hours. Before serving, chill to enhance flavor and crispness.

Zesty Bread and Butter Pickles

Yield: 7 quarts

9 to 11 lbs. pickling cucumbers (about 50 - 3 to 4 inches)

1 pouch Mrs. Wages Zesty Bread & Butter Pickles Mix

8-3/4 cups Mrs. Wages White Distilled Vinegar (5 percent acidity)

7 cups sugar

Prepare and process home canning jars and lids according to manufacturer’s instructions for sterilized jars.

Wash cucumbers and remove blossoms; drain. Cut into thin slices. Whole cucumbers are not recommended.

Combine mix, vinegar and sugar into a large non-reactive pot. Do not use aluminum. Bring mixture just to boil over medium heat, stirring constantly until mixture dissolves.

Pack cucumbers into sterilized jars, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace. Evenly divide hot pickling liquid among the packed jars, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace. Remove air bubbles and cap each jar as it is filled. If more liquid is needed for proper headspace, add hot vinegar.

Process pints 9 minutes, quarts 14 minutes, in a boiling water bath canner. Test jars for airtight seals according to manufacturer’s directions. If jars do not completely seal, refrigerate and consume within one week.

Product is ready to eat after 24 hours. Before serving, chill to enhance flavor and crispiness.

Sweet Pickle Relish

Yield: 5 pints

6 to 8 lbs. pickling cucumbers (about 25 - 3 to 4 inches)

1/2 cup Mrs. Wages Canning and Pickling Salt

1 pouch Mrs. Wages Sweet Pickle Relish Seasoning

2-1/2 cups Mrs. Wages White Distilled Vinegar (5 percent acidity)

2 cups sugar

Prepare and process home canning jars and lids according to manufacturer’s instructions for sterilized jars.

Wash cucumbers and remove blossoms; drain. Cut into 1-inch pieces and place in a food processor. Process into small pieces (1/8 inch or smaller is best) and place into a bowl. Stir in salt and mix well. Cover and let sit for 2 hours. Drain out excess juice by placing in a fine strainer.

Combine pickle relish seasoning, vinegar and sugar into a large non-reactive pot. Do not use aluminum. Bring mixture just to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Add prepared cucumbers and simmer 10 minutes, uncovered, stirring occasionally.

Evenly divide hot relish into sterilized jars, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace. Remove air bubbles, wipe rim and cap each jar as it is filled.

Process pints 19 minutes in boiling water bath canner. Test jars for airtight seals according to manufacturer’s directions. If jars do not completely seal, refrigerate and consume within one week.

Product is ready to eat after 24 hours. Before serving, chill to enhance flavor.

Source: Mrs. Wages

Ball’s Homemade Pickling Spice

Makes about 1/2 cup

1, 4-inch cinnamon stick, broken into pieces

5 bay leaves, crushed

2 tablespoons mustard seeds

1 tablespoon whole allspice

1 tablespoon coriander seeds

1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns

1 tablespoon ground ginger

1 tablespoon dill seeds

1 to 2 teaspoons hot pepper flakes

1 teaspoon whole cloves

In a small glass or stainless steel bowl, combine ingredients, stir well. Store in 4- to 8-ounce jar or other airtight container for up to a year.

Comments

Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Requires free registration

Posting comments requires a free account and verification.