broccoliThis summer has been hot and dry, dry, dry. Not your usual “ideal” broccoli growing year. But my broccoli plants must not have read the books. Not only do I have broccoli ready for the table, but I have the biggest plants I’ve ever had. They are absolutely HUGE. Each head is the size of a large dinner plate. And, best yet, they are “little green worm” free. The white cabbage moths are just now starting to appear in the garden. Too late; we’re already eating broccoli.

But what does one do with wheelbarrow loads of broccoli? No, we don’t have a freezer. We’re off grid, remember? Yes, I know there are propane and 12-volt freezers available, but I just haven’t been able to afford one yet. Unfortunately, broccoli is one thing that really doesn’t can well. Frankly, it stinks.

Luckily, though, it does dry very well. And this dried broccoli makes a terrific addition to soups, casseroles, and other mixed dishes. So I’m busy with our first big harvest. After soaking the heads in a tub of salted ice water to drive off any possible insects (or little green worms!), I cut the floweret into large pieces and blanch them for 3 minutes. Again the broccoli goes into fresh ice water, both to cool it AND to pick over it well. (Remember those little green worms…..)  Luckily, I haven’t had any yet.

Then the pieces are cut into smaller pieces, none thicker than half an inch, and they are laid in a single layer on my dehydrating trays. A whole dehydrator full of broccoli will dry in a single day. Luckily, I have two. I found one at a thrift store for $3!

I start my trays in the evening when we run the generator so I can work on the computer and wash clothes. By bedtime, it is getting fairly dry and continues to dry until the next evening when I finish it off.

I’ve also done a lot in the oven, with only the pilot light on, laying the broccoli on cookie sheets. Done like this, I have to stir it around a couple of times to ensure complete drying.

When it’s done, it should be absolutely crisp and look like tiny dark green little trees. It’s amazing how fast a wheelbarrow full of broccoli will dry down and fit into a few quart canning jars! And the best part of it is that now the naked plants are beginning to grow several side shoots on each one. In a week or two, I’ll be cutting more broccoli, right up until hard freezes. My kind of plant!

I’ve printed readers’ questions with my answers below. We’re a bit behind posting questions and answers, as Dave, who posts my blog for me, went camping, so I didn’t get any questions for a few days. (Dave is handling my blog until Annie completes her move to North Carolina and gets her internet up again. Then Annie will take over and even Dave admits things will run a bit smoother.) So be patient.

Canning okra

Once when I was quite small I saw okra canned. It looked just  like someone had washed the okra, cut it up and coated it with cornmeal and then just put it in a quart jar without any liquid and had canned it. I’ve searched high and low and cannot find anyone who has ever canned okra in this fashion and am fast running out of freezer space. Do you know of anyone who might have a canning recipe for canning okra in this fashion?

Marcia Bearden

I have heard of people doing this with both okra and green tomatoes for frying. But it’s not an approved method as there isn’t liquid to bring the temperature of the packed food up to processing temperatures for long enough for safe canning, either with pressure canning (okra) or water bath processing (green tomatoes). To can okra for frying, canning it whole works best, then slice it when you’re ready to bread and fry it. Slicing it works well for uses in gumbo and soup. Both methods require the addition of boiling liquid, however. — Jackie

Sun-dried tomato jam

I would appreciate any help you can give me as to canning the receipts for “Sun-Dried Tomato Jam” in the November issue of “Cooking Light Magazine”. It does not give instruction on how or if this receipt can be canned? Thank you for your help.

Carmella D Nickl
Olive Branch, Mississippi

Sorry Carmella, but I’ve never canned sun-dried tomato jam. If you’ll e-mail the recipe, maybe I can figure it out for you. Sounds good, though! — Jackie


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