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Jessica’s Garden: Playing Catch-Up

This year, we spent the holiday weekend relaxing as a family; working on this and that without too rigid of an agenda. My husband and father spent some time hanging dry wall in a new room we are renovating while Grayson and I spent time harvesting the garden. We’ve been hauling in substantially more tomatoes over the past week than in weeks prior. So many, that we are unable to keep up with them as daily consumption.

preparing tomatoes for canned pureé

I’ve been making lots of sauces for suppers with peppers, tomatoes and fresh garden herbs while freezing the leftovers in portions for winter consumption.  However, that still wasn’t cutting it. So Grayson and I finally had an excuse to assemble my new food strainer that my aunt purchased for me to make tomato season a breeze. We set the strainer up and got to work, processing nearly ten quarts of tomato purée set for the canning cupboard.  The strainer certainly eased the preparation process.  Last season, my husband and I spent many midnight canning sessions working after Grayson’s bedtime blanching, peeling, de-seeding, chopping and canning pound after pound of our harvest. The strainer peels, cores and purées the tomatoes- no blanching or chopping or burnt fingertips required. And it turned out to be a great interactive activity for me and our son. Then another batch ripened.  So the strainer was set up again, this time the tomatoes destined for canned pasta sauce.

making peach butter

Grayson and I also went peach picking the weekend prior to the holiday and picked about 25 pounds of peaches. Looking for a simple way to can them and get a start on our homemade holiday gifts, we chose to make two batches of peach butter in the crockpot. I have only ever made one “butter” before and it was years ago when I made apple butter as our wedding favors. Afterwards I swore I’d never do it again. It took twelves hours of actively standing over a steaming and bubbling pot of boiling and spitting fruit and sugar. But I recently discovered that butters can be done overnight on a low setting in a crockpot. Now I’m converted. While the recipe said 6-12 hours and each batch took much closer to 24, it was non- labor intensive. The texture was smooth and velvety and the flavor was incredible.

a day’s harvest

At the moment, my countertops are finally under control. I’ve emptied the counters filled with tomatoes and peaches, except for the few pounds of stragglers waiting to ripen. That is, until our next trip to the back garden.


Posted By: Jessica J. Crawford Behnkes Garden Blogger

Stephanie Fleming was raised at Behnke’s Nurseries in Beltsville. Her Mom, Sonja, was one of Albert & Rose Behnke’s four children. She was weeding from the moment she could walk and hiding as soon as she was old enough to run, so many weeds, so little time. Although she quickly learned how to pull out a perennial and get taken off of weed pulling duty.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. I would love to have your recipe for peach butter. I made peach butter years ago and didn’t care for the flavor that much. Also, what brand of food strainer do you have.

  2. Hi Dereda

    The peach butter was such a simple recipe. The instructions and recipe I used are quite detailed, however if you are familiar with canning, there’s a lot you can skim over. And if you aren’t, then this website could be a great resource. I used the recipe from
    http://www.pickyourown.org for ‘Peach Butter.’

    Also, the strainer that I have is manufactured by the brand Victorio and can be found if you search the Internet for Victorio Food Stainer. It’s fantastic, but does require being clamped to a countertop with square edges. In other words, no beveled or rounded edges. But as my aunt suggested, a picnic table works well and can be also used to keep the mess outside.

    I hope this is helpful, and thank you for reading.

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