It’s that time of year when everything planted in the spring seems to be ripe now! Folks used to say- ‘everything’s comin’ in at the same time!’ When it comes to Puttin’ Up the Garden’ if you get a minute to sit down, you’re shellin’ beans or shuckin’ corn or lookin’ through bushels of fruits and vegetables to cull out the ones with bruises or bad spots! Those bits and pieces are used to make up meals during ‘Puttin’ Up the Garden’ time… And every single able body is put to work!
Why, my mother used to go to a beauty parlor where while the ladies’ waiting to get permanent waves or get a cut and curl… were snapping green beans or shelling lima beans! And… the men weren’t off the hook either! Years ago, my husband’s barber must have had a bossy wife because the men were also pressed into shelling peas service! They wanted everything ‘right ready to put up’ ! When someone bought a deep freeze, it was an occasion and if you had more than one? Well… it would be full too! Canning and freezing were necessary chores! More than one lady would have a horror story about a pressure cooker explosion or a canning disaster… yet they pressed on. One of my favorite things about ‘everything’s comin’ in at the same time!’ is how creative folks got with the bits and pieces of vegetables-
- Mixed fruits were either canned together, or my favorite frozen!
- Thick soup mixes were made from extra corn, beans, onions, okra and tomatoes; onions and bell peppers were diced, bagged and frozen;
- Let’s not forget all kinds of vegetables were either processed into Pickles or Refrigerator Pickles- cucumbers, green tomatoes and even Peaches!
- Some things were dried too! I have a friend who told of a bumper crop of peaches… the kids would either have to stand over the peaches laid out on big tables and fan the flies or they’d spread a sheet in the back of her daddy’s big station wagon! Don’t you know that car smelled like heaven?
- Pecans are often shelled, then frozen (I keep them in my freezer all the time! They stay fresh much longer!) When pecan are needed- I toast them with butter and salt to bring out the flavor. Delicious!
- Peanuts are either boiled.. yes! or dried in an even layer then ‘parched’ which is another way of saying…roasted in the shell.
Anyway, the point is, nothing was wasted- if something stood still long enough it was gonna be used up in one way or another! Generally, because the season is warm and we don’t get heavy frosts, folks plant leafy greens and root vegetables to be harvested in the fall. I know I’ve got some spring lettuce seeds that I’ll be sowing as soon as the mornings are cool.
Now, keep in mind- with all of summer’s flurry of activity – meals still had to be put on the table! As hot as it always is… cool salads and sandwiches are often made up for the midday or evening meal. Potato Salad stuffed scattered with cherry tomatoes along with saltine crackers is still one of my favorites; cool and easy pimento cheese, egg salad, chicken salad or our famous tomato sandwiches were easy to prepare and eaten quickly. Even soups or salads topped with Crumbled Bacon is quick and easy with no long cooking time to heat up the kitchen or take up valuable stovetop space!
Combinations of extra vegetables were cooked, roasted or used for toppings. Grilled meats nestled with roasted and fresh vegetables are a new take, still with the thought of making use of every bit of garden goodness!
To this day I love my grandmother’s quick and easy combination of Zucchini, tomatoes and onions. She was ahead of her time using zucchini- her favorite vegetable stand was run by an Italian family- I recall the very day he convinced her to try zucchini! Here’s how she made Mimi’s Zucchini and Tomatoes
- One or two small zucchini, a tomato or two and thick slices of onions layered in a skillet or a glass bakcing dish with no water–
- Just covered loosely with a lid or foil.
- Steamed with salt and pepper, then topped with shredded Cheddar Cheese while it’s hot-
- You will not believe how this simple dish is so loaded with flavor!
- This is a family favorite and one of the best examples of using small amounts of garden vegetables while the big lots are processed for the winter months.
I do love to make a batch of pico de gallo, yet my favorite mix might be an Italian style mixture made of basil, tomatoes, green onion and bell pepper with red pepper flakes for a bit of heat-mixed lightly with red wine vinegar and olive oil.. Top a warm batch of spaghetti and meat sauce with this mixture seems to cools it down for fresh flavor and summertime eating!
And while I’m at it- we generally have a bumper crop of hot and mild peppers. I make up pepper sauce with the slender hot types yet also love to dry them for my own red pepper flakes!
And! If you love Stuffed Bell Peppers try this-
- Don’t blanch the peppers-
- Rinse and pat dry. Seed, core and slice them in half lengthwise…
- Fill with a fresh ground meat mixture, similar to meatloaf – or any mixture you enjoy- an all vegetable mixture with rice would be wonderful too!
- Place the uncooked stuffed peppers in a single layer on a sheet pan and freeze them! Place the frozen Stuffed Bell Peppers in a freezer safe bag and store for a few weeks.
- No need to thaw, place them in a baking dish- at 350 degrees…
- When the juices are flowing and the filling seems almost done- a squiggle of tomato sauce or ketchup on the top finishes them off.
- From freezer to oven, in less than 45 minutes you have a wonderful meal!
- Hint: I often shred cabbage into the bottom of the pan and nestle the stuffed peppers in so they stay upright while cooking …the resulting cabbage is amazing!
And last but certainly not least is Shoe Peg Corn Salad… Simply made with several ears of corn cut from the cob, chopped or cherry tomatoes, purple onion, bell pepper and cucumber all small diced is a no cook salad that’s sure to please anyone!
Dressing Mix is easy-
- Six or eight ounces of sour cream
- Several tablespoons of mayonnaise with the zest and juice of a lemon
- Cracked black pepper and salt to taste.
You can make up the dressing made right in the bowl- it’s a cool and easy side dish or even on it’s own with saltine crackers… it’s amazing! And the best part is- you don’t even have to turn on the oven to make it!
Here’s hoping while you’re putting up the goodness of your vegetable gardens, you’ll enjoy cool, fresh meals along the way! I know we are!
Love y’all, Camellia
*All photographs are obviously mine!