September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.

An abundance

By Natalie Schmitt- | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

The abundance of garden produce is a blessing in plain sight. The crunch of fresh green beans, the color of ruby red beets, the aroma of chopped dill, oregano and thyme. This is the moment in time I envisioned while I was snuggled under blankets on a deep winter's night. The fresh tastes of summer. I know most will say it isn't summer until the first ripe tomato, but we can agree this is at least a prelude to what is to come in the next few weeks. As the garden starts to produce, now what do we do? This is the question I had when I first started my own family garden.
I come for a long line of gardeners. My grandfather scaled back his garden ventures to just three gardens when he was 90. He did retire the garden hoe a few years later. Now, my mom and her sister take up where their father left off in feeding their own families and anyone else. As my crew starts to leave home and my garden size has not decreased, I am also gardening for retired neighbors, busy friends and anyone else who stops by the farm.
As I was weeding over the weekend, I discovered it is time to start harvesting. The first round of peas, beans and beets are ready to eat and can. I've even been finger pulling new red potatoes out from under the plants. One of our favorite first meals from the garden is creamed peas and new potatoes.
Of course, there will always be more than enough veggies to eat. So what to do? I asked this question to the county home economics extension agent when I was first married. She gave me the best advice that I pass on to many new young wives who want to garden. Buy the Ball Blue Book. It is kind of like the Kelly Blue Book for canning. I've almost worn mine out. I use it every canning season to remind me of the correct and safe way to put up my abundant garden. You can find the book at farm stores next to the canning lids. And if you have a tough question about how your grandmother's pressure canner works, call your local extension office and talk with an agent. They are a great resource.
Here are a few of our favorite, out of the ordinary recipes we make when the garden is coming in faster than we can eat. Our family (OK, maybe just me) has discovered new ways to use an old vegetable. You will be surprised at what you can use beets for besides sautéing or pickling. I use beets in cakes, jelly and wine. This cake will be found at our church cake walk. I will also have a couple of extra jars of pickled beans at Grandma's attic booth. This is the quickest way to put up a lot of beans in a hurry with very little fuss. Enjoy!

Chocolate Beet Cake
4 oz. German or semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups packed dark brown sugar
3 eggs
2 cups cooked, pureed beets
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
Powdered sugar
Melt chocolate and 1/4 cup butter in microwave for about 30 to 40 seconds. Stir till smooth. Cool slightly. Meanwhile, cream remaining butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs.
In small bowl, combine chocolate mixture, beets and vanilla. Beat into creamed mixture. Don't worry if it doesn't look smooth and creamy. Combine dry ingredients. Gradually add to creamed mixture.
Pour into greased and floured fluted bundt pan.
Bake 375 degrees 45 to 55 minutes.
Cool in pan 10 minutes before removing to wire rack. When completely cooled, dust with powdered sugar.
Makes 16 to 20 servings. Very moist. No one will ever guess there are beets in this cake.

Beet Jelly
3 cups beet juice
1 pkg. raspberry, grape or blackberry Jell-O (blackberry is our family favorite)
1 pkg. Sure-Jell
4 cups sugar
Peel 5 or 6 large beets. Slice thinly. Cover with 13 cups water and cook until tender. Drain juice. Puree cooked beets. Put 2 cups in freezer bar and ready to make chocolate cake all year long.
Pour juice in large pot. Mix Jell-O and Sure-Jell together then stir into juice. Bring to boil. Add sugar and boil for 2 minutes. Pour mixture in hot jars and seal.

Pickled Green Beans (Evie Kirchner)
2 1/2 cups water
2 1/2 cups vinegar
1/4 cup canning salt
Garlic or onion chunks
Green beans, tipped
Stuff jar with fresh tipped green beans, dill and onions or garlic.
Boil brine solution and pour over beans in jars. Remove air bubbles and seal. Process in hot water bath for 10 minutes.

Creamed Cucumber Salad (Karen Ann Bland of Kansas)
1 cup mayonnaise or salad dressing
1/4 cup sugar
4 tsp. vinegar
1/2 tsp. dill weed
1/2 tsp. salt
4 med. cucumbers, peeled and thinly sliced
3 green onions, chopped
In a large bowl, combine mayonnaise, sugar, vinegar, dill and salt. Mix well. Add cucumbers and onions; toss. Don't worry if it seems thick. The cucumbers will juice down and make a great dressing. Cover and chill for at least 1 hour. When the cucumbers are gone, I use the leftover sauce as a cucumber dressing on salads. I also use more dill weed.

Aunt Frances' Lemonade
5 lemons
5 limes
5 oranges
3 quarts water
1 1/2 to 2 cups sugar
Squeeze the juice from four lemons, limes and oranges; pour into gallon container. Thinly slice remaining fruit and set aside for garnish. Add water and sugar to juice; mix well. Store in refrigerator. Serve on ice with fruit slices. I put some of the fruit slices in the gallon container, too.
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