DIY and latest topics
DIY and latest topics
Back in the day, when I saw Ball canning jars in the store, I just passed on by because I didn’t grow enough to can anything. My Aunt Marilyn used to can tomato juice that was to die for and I always wanted to try it but never grew enough tomatoes. This year, I have nine plants of various varieties and am definitely going to get into canning this year. Auntie has promised to give me her recipe.
I recently read an article in a health magazine about BPA (Bisphenol A, a toxic chemical) in plastics. Even though I always buy plastics that say they are BPA free, plastic is a pain to keep clean and the dishwasher makes them all cloudy. This article talked about using Ball canning jars for food storage and freezing. So, I tried it and it worked really well. Easy clean up too, just pop in the dishwasher for sparkling clean jars.
I’ve discovered other uses for canning jars too. Ball jars work great for storage in the bathroom, kitchen, craft room, laundry room and garage.
The original Mason jars were invented by John L. Mason in 1858. He subsequently sold his ideas to others. Charles William Ball and his brothers began making glass jars in 1886 and acquired smaller companies and mass-produced Ball jars and distributed them across the country. They sold the Ball jar part of their business to Alltrista Corporation (now Jarden Corp) and Jarden now makes most of the home canning jars made today including the Ball Jars and several other brands.
Ball jars come in many different sizes (from 4 oz to 1 gallon; regular and wide mouth), colors (clear and about 15 different colors), and textures (smooth, some with embedded symbols or textures in the glass, and some still have Mason embedded in the glass along with the Ball name).
Ball jars are great for canning and storage. And, they make special jars for freezing. I am throwing out all my plastic storage containers and stocking up on ball jars. Not only are they convenient to stack and store, they are a breeze to clean, and I can freeze things in them.
This year, if my tomato plants are prolific, I’m going to make and store catsup, marinara sauce, barbeque sauce, diced and whole tomatoes for soups and anything else I can think of.
Go get your supply now, you’ll love using them for canning, and storage all over the house.
There’s a recent trend in cutting vegetables to look like noodles, called Zoodles. They are most often used for making zucchini spirals for those who prefer their spaghetti noodles to be of the non-carb variety.
There are hand-held tools that you insert the zucchini into and twist and the spirals come out the end or the side, but probably the most efficient and time-saving is the spiralizer. This machine is not expensive, cranks by hand, and it sits on the counter with gripper feet. You can even buy an electric version if you have trouble turning the handle.
You place your vegetable lengthwise between the crank and the holder and turn the crank. This peels off continuous lengths of spaghetti sized strings that curl. If you want circles, you can cut out the core of the vegetable before putting on the spiralizer, then you get circles. This makes quick and easy work of chopping raw vegetables.
Spiralizing is not limited to zucchini. Almost any raw vegetable can be cut this way and the model you select may have numerous blades for various widths spirals. Try any vegetable with a firm enough skin like beets, carrots, summer squash, cucumbers, bell peppers, butternut squash or potatoes.
Zoodles can be used in salads, with pasta or alfredo sauce and meat of your choice, in slaws, soups, and in the case of potatoes, can be roasted to form curly fries.
Toss starchy (potatoes, rutabaga, parsnip, peeled butternut squash) spirals with olive oil and season with salt, pepper and your favorite spices. Roast in 450-degree oven, stirring occasionally, until crisp done and lightly browned.
If you love Alfredo sauce, but can’t eat wheat noodles, try making your Alfredo with zucchini, summer squash, or potatoes.
If you haven’t planted strawberries yet, you may still have time, especially if you plant Everbearing Strawberries which bear fruit all summer.
The key to success with any plant is the soil. Prepare your strawberry bed by mixing in a good amount of compost and turn it into the existing soil with a shovel to create a light, airy soil and raise the bed up just slightly from the surrounding soil.
If soil is too alkaline, add a little aluminum sulfate to bring the pH down. These plants will spread and put down roots wherever the vines touch the soil, so give them plenty of room to roam.
June bearing strawberries should be planted about 3 weeks before last frost, which means they should start bearing fruit in early June. However, if you can only find June bearing strawberry plants now, and you are willing to risk waiting for fruit, you can plant them now and see what happens.
Or you can plan ahead and plant June bearing strawberries in the fall for a 2018 crop.
Place plants at least 12 inches apart and 24 inches between rows. Mulch around plants with compost, straw, or chopped leaves.
In the fall, trim plants back to about 2-3 inches above ground and mulch 3-4 inches deep to protect them from winter snows and cold temperatures.
You may need to protect your crop from birds and small critters. One way is to use row covers, lightweight fabric that lets light and air through, or build a chicken wire or small gauge fence around and on top of the bed. You can also buy bird netting that works well.
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