Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Heirloom Tomatoes & Squeezo Machine

My Favorite tomatoes for slicing and eating plain are the heirloom varieties. They are flavorful and come in so many unusual colors. Aren't these green ones gorgeous? They are fully ripe and this beautiful bright green color. The best tasting though, this year, was the dark ones that had a purple/black skin with a reddish pink flesh called Pierce's Pride. It's pictured here on the plate with the green variety and a delicious yellow tomato.

We also like the big tomato varieties for sandwiches, such as Big Boy or Beefsteak.

And the best for cooking into a sauce are the Roma varieties. This year I found an Amish tomato that was like the Roma only much bigger. The reason the Roma tomato is good for making sauce is because it is a fleshier tomato with less juice and so it thickens beautifully. With the amount of tomatoes we grow though almost every variety ends up in my tomato sauce.

I use this squeezo strainer to remove skins and seeds from the pulp. Mine is very old (at least 50 years). One can buy them new for over $200 new, but I did see quite a few up for auction today on ebay starting for a lot less money. It's a very handy machine for making tomato sauces as well as apple sauce. There is a crank on one side. Out the other side of the squeezo comes the skins and seeds, which we toss into the compost. The large funnel at the top is where the blanched product goes in, and then there is a spout out the front where the pulp comes out. We attach it to our picnic table because it can be quite a juicy mess.

Nothing can be simpler than cooking down this sauce and processing it up for winter storage. Every modern canning book will have picture instuctions for how to can or process tomato sauce. These books can be purchased any place where canning jars and other canning products sold.

Here the the girls and Noah are helping to make applesauce last fall. We get our apples from one of the many orchards just south of the Missouri River. We usually combine a juicy sweet Gala or similar type apple with some tart Jonathon's for our applesauce, which I also process for winter use. Look here to see my canning recipes for the best salsa and old fashioned cucumber relish.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Latest Critter Catches ~ Bunny, Bull frog, Praying Mantis

My husband, Jim, caught all these critters over the last couple of weeks. He's so great about showing new things to the kids. Of course, Noah (being 3 years old), is enthralled with new things and especially new animals.
Keera is holding the wild bunny she named Fluffy. Fluffy scattered with her siblings as their nest was being mowed over. None were caught by the blades thankfully. She was big enough that we hope she was able to make or find a new nest.

This beautiful bright green praying mantis was surprisingly slow when we let him out of the mason jar. They are wonderful for eating undesirable pests in the garden, so all are welcome here. :)

Noah was very sad when his large bull frog hopped away with huge leaps. Isn't it gorgeous with it's beautiful spots underneath it's body and it's webbed hands and feet?! We suspect it was a female as we now have many little frogs all over the garden. Too bad the gardening season is pretty much over. Regardless, we always have frogs in our small ponds, evident by their loud croaking in the evenings. It's a welcome sound heralding the spring after a quiet long winter.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Stormy Larvakite Dragonfly Necklace with Aquamarine & Onyx

I was looking over my bead stash three days ago, searching for a good combination for some gorgeous citrine nuggets I have. Nothing seemed right or good enough for them though, and so I may make them up into something all on their own.

Then I came across these beautiful Larvakite smooth rounds. They are dark gray, black and white with some chatoyancy of blue and white flashes. My first thought was keep it simple, make it a knock out classic like a Jackie O. strand of big fat pearls. So I tried putting them with only onyx, then added some black horn rondelles. The plain black did not do them justice though.
Finally I put them with some aquamarine and that was the perfect union. I still kept the design simple, but simple doesn't mean that it comes out fast or easily! It usually takes a lot of trial and error even to get a simple piece right. The aquamarine chips give it an edgey chic look. I kept the small onyx rounds for a nice contrast, added in bali silver daisies and finished it with a sterling silver bali dragonfly toggle. The overall effect is very appealing. It is 17 inches in length.

With all the grays and blues coming out in fashion this season, it should work very easily into a basic wardrobe that needs some good jewelry. This item can be viewed in my etsy shop here: Stormy Larvakite Dragonfly Necklace