Friendly Summer Weekend

Happy Monday! This is now the first full week of August, which means the end of summer is zooming closer. One way to prepare for summer’s end is by preserving some of the great stuff that summer has to offer. This past weekend, Chad & I visited our great friends Robert & Tania in Virginia. They have an amazing garden and on Sunday we canned a bundle of their tomatoes. I had never canned before, but it turned out to be pretty simple! Even though it is a fair bit of work to do tomatoes, the steps are simple and the only special ‘equipment’ you really need is canning jars. First, the jars are cleaned and simmered in a large pot of water to sterilize them.

We scored an “X” shape across the bottom of each tomato, which helps with peeling the skins off…

after they are blanched for 1 minute in lightly boiling water. We did this step in batches & after spooning them out of the pot…

they were dropped into a sink full of ice cold water to stop the heating process. From there, it is super easy to peel the skins straight off.

It seemed to depend on personal preferences or maybe what you plan on using the tomatoes for later, but you can also remove the seeds. We quartered each skinned tomato to press out the bulk of the seeds. This step was a little tedious, but it’s worth it for garden fresh produce all winter!

Once we had clean, sterilized jars and properly prepped tomatoes, we coarsely diced them up into each of the jars with an addition of 2 tablespoons of lemon juice and about 1 teaspoon of sugar added to each jar.

Each jar was topped up with boiling water (from an electric kettle) to come up to about 1/2 inch from the top. Then we just wiped them clean and added the special sealing lids (which had also been sterilized in boiling water).

Once ready, the jars get closed snuggly (but not crazy tight), completely submerged in the simmering water (Tania & Robert use a crab pot because it is nice and tall) and simmered for 45 minutes. Later, as they cool, the lids ‘pop’ inward, which tells you they have that tight vacuum seal so that they will store safely for the long haul. Ta da! We canned us some tomatoes! This made me miss having my own garden even more, but we could plan to grow more in future seasons now that we know the right way to preserve the bounty.

For the rest of the weekend, we got busy with a few other things, besides the usual visiting, eating, drinking and Olympics-watching. This household is always brimming with projects– both Tania and Robert are impressive DIYers– so one project Tania was ready to get accomplished was building a photo collage on their stairwell. This wall was totally blank when we started, but she had a variety of frames (mostly with generic photo inserts still from the box, but a few with old snapshots or art) that we used to slowly build a large, random-looking collage extending from top to bottom of the stairwell wall. I love how it turned out, looking like they have been adding frames to this photo wall for years! But we did it all in about an hour or two. She chose a variety of black frames, with and without mattes, with a few white frames mixed in which nicely accented the white trim and banister around this staircase. Next, she is going to get her various snapshots and special prints chosen to start filling out the frames. I can’t wait to see what it looks like once this wall is filled with special friends and family!

I’m sure a whole series of posts could be dedicated to other projects in this household, but one I just had to point out was their kitchen. You may have noticed their beautiful granite countertops in the tomato pictures above, but you didn’t get a glimpse of their beautiful cabinetry…

This next pic is a truer representation of the color of the wood & shows the combination of the slate-flecked granite with the natural grey shades in the wood.

These babies are complete with the automatic ‘no slam’ hinges and drawers stops so everything just closes smoothly and effortlessly. Very high end. The real kicker? Robert made this cabinetry… by hand… himself… we’re talking all the way from a tree he cut down with his own bare hands!! Well, there was probably some power tools involved, but WOW. I know they were a tremendous amount of work, but their quality and totally custom look make it all worthwhile. Beautiful!

So, anywho, by the time we were packing up to head back up to PA, we had completed a photo wall and tomato canning. I would say quite a productive weekend overall, productivity which was rewarded with a jar of their homeade honey (I told you they were serious DIYers, down to their own bee-keeping, people…)

… and a few ferns that grow wild all around the woods on their property! Remember when I talked about fixing up my garden bed last week here? Well, I was debating buying some ferns to mix in with our hostas and whatnot… and now here I have 3 forest-fresh ferns for F-R-E-E! I like that kind of price 🙂

Anyone else come into some free plants from friends? Anyone canned veggies before- maybe have some other tips or tricks for the process? Maybe feeling inspired to whip up some cabinetry with that old tree in the backyard?

5 thoughts on “Friendly Summer Weekend

  1. I absolutely love preserves. My sons baby sitter was a elementary teacher for 30 years and now all she does is baby sit about 5 kids and makes all sorts of different preserves from her garden. By the way, I live on the east coast in Virginia so cheers!

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