Showing posts sorted by date for query dehydrating. Sort by relevance Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by date for query dehydrating. Sort by relevance Show all posts

Oct 11, 2017

How to Make Apple Cider With an Electric Juicer

How to Make Apple Cider with an Electric Juicer
This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information. Thank you for supporting this site! 


Many people saw my photos on Facebook and Instagram and wanted to know more about how I make apple cider (and apple juice) using an electric juicer. It really couldn't be easier! And I highly recommend the method. (But first: Let's clarify the apple juice vs. apple cider. Cider is just like apple juice, except it isn't strained - so bits of pulp remain in the liquid. Traditionally, apple cider is also left unpasteurized.)

Unfortunately, cider presses generally cost hundreds, and building one may take time, ingenuity, and money you don't have. It's possible to make apple juice by cooking the apples on the stove, as described by Ball, but it's pretty time consuming and heats up the house. But if you have an electric juicer? Quick and easy!

Now, juicers aren't always much cheaper than cider presses. I inherited mine from my brother, and it's a really nice piece of equipment. (It would cost about $350 to try to replace it.) But less expensive juicers work just fine, too - and there are plenty of them on the market. I'm sure you could even use a KitchenAid Mixer attachment. Also, juicers are a lot easier to find (used or new) than cider presses. And you're more likely to be able to borrow one.

How to Make Apple Cider with an Electric Juicer

1. Read the juicer manual thoroughly, since they don't all work the same. Mine has a handy dandy container for the apple pulp to go into, plus a pitcher for the juice. (Which is still packed somewhere, so this year, I used my batter bowl.) You basically plug the machine in, insert an apple or two, and turn it on.

My juicer set up.
2. In most cases, you do not need to prep the apples. I find making cider or juice is an excellent use for very small apples that are time consuming to cut up for other methods of preservation. Plus, small apples don't need chopping up in order to go into the juicer. My juicer manual recommends removing the apple's stems, which I do - but I don't fret if a little bit of the stem adheres to the apple. Also, you should never use bruised apples or apples that are beginning to go bad. Doing so will increase the risk of dangerous bacteria in the finished product. If you run across apples that are bruised, just cut the bruises away before juicing the rest of the fruit.

3. Insert one or two apples (depending upon your juicer), and use the presser to slowly press the apple through the juicer. Slower is better because the machine will get more juice from the fruit than if you push the apples through quickly. Repeat until you have as much juice as you desire.

Extracting apple juice.
4. If you're pressing a lot of apples, you may need to empty the pulp holder more than once. You might also want to clean the screen now and then, to make the machine more efficient.






5. When you're done, you will probably see a lot of gunk in the juice. My creates a stiff foam that sits on top of the liquid. I spoon off this foam and dump it into my compost bins. (It does not blend into the juice, even after stirring or shaking.)

When done juicing, there is a lot of stiff foam on top.
6. Cider, by definition, has bits of apple pulp in it. But my machine leaves a lot of pulp in, and my kids (who are the primary drinkers of the liquid) don't love it. So I strain my apple cider through a fine mesh sieve. The end product still has pulp in it - just not so much.

My juicer leaves a lot of pulp in the jars.

How to Make Apple Juice with an Electric Juicer

1. Follow steps 1 - 5.

2. Line a fine sieve with coffee filters or a double layer of cheesecloth. Strain the juice through it.

Straining the pulp away to make apple juice.
2 or 3 coffee filters (or a double layer of cheesecloth), combined with a fine sieve, do the trick.

How to Can Apple Cider or Apple Juice
I follow Ball's directions.

1. Pour the cider or juice into a large pot placed over high heat. Bring the liquid to 190 degrees F., or just a bit hotter. Do not allow the liquid to come to a boil. Keep the liquid at 190 degrees F. or hotter for 5 complete minutes, adjusting the stove temp as necessary. This kills off any bacteria in the liquid.

Pasteurize the juice or cider at 190 degrees F. for 5 minutes.
2. Ladle cider or juice into hot canning jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes. Any size canning jar may be used.

Jarring the cider.
The finished product!
Related Posts:

How to Preserve Apples: Canning, Freezing, Dehydrating, Root Cellaring
 What to do with Crab Apples

Low Sugar, No Pectin Apple Peel and Core Jelly

Picking Unripe Apples for Making Apple Pectin

Apple Skillet Cake Recipe

Apple Spice Bread Recipe 

Apple Butter Oatmeal Crumb Bars Recipe

Canning Apple Pie Jam

Freezing Apple Pie Filling

The Best Tasting, Easiest Applesauce Ever

Making Dried Apple Rings in the Warmer Drawer


Sep 26, 2017

Waste Not, Want Not...Making the Most of Orchard Fruit

Waste Not, Want Not Making the Most of Fruit in the Orchard
The black and white photo caught my eye because it featured two women standing next to a tall pyramid of canned food. Though I spotted the photo on the Internet*, it originally appeared in an early 1900s newspaper, and the caption said the mother and daughter team had canned hundreds of jars of fruit that year. The mother bragged, "We didn't waste a thing."

That photo was pretty awe-inspiring, and made me think about how previous generations prided themselves on their lack of waste, whereas all too often the current generation doesn't even realize how much it is wasting. Especially when it comes to food.

As a general rule, homesteaders are thrifty and resourceful, but amid the hot, seemingly-never-ending work of the harvest season, how often do we let food go to waste? On our homestead, my goal is to avoid food waste as much as possible, and to preserve as much of the harvest as I can for human consumption.

When we moved to our current homestead, there was already a small orchard in place. I quickly learned that while this was a true blessing, it could also be overwhelming. Today, I have a solid system in place to help me preserve the orchard's harvest each year.

Unripe Fruit 

The first batch of fruit homesteaders usually deal with is unripe. Maybe they've taken the time to thin their fruit trees (which typically results in larger single fruits); maybe the trees have naturally thinned themselves by dropping unripe fruit on the ground; or perhaps a storm has knocked young fruit off the trees.

If you're like me, you grew up being told unripe fruit was unfit to eat. My mother promised me tummy aches and digestive complaints if I broke this rule...but as it turns out, a lot of cultures eat unripe fruit. We can, too.

Preserved immature figs.
Unripe Figs: In the Greek and Turkish cultures, unripe figs are commonly eaten in a sugar syrup.

1. Cut off the stems of the figs and make a slit at the bottom of each fruit.

2. Place the fruit in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil. Cover and gently boil for 15 minutes. Remove the figs with a slotted spoon.

3. Wash the pot. Place the figs back in the pot and cover with water. Boil and strain them again. If the figs are soft but still keeping their shape, they are ready. If they aren't yet soft, boil and strain one more time.

4. Place the figs back in the pot and add water and granulated sugar to make a syrup. Traditionally, equal parts water and sugar are used, but you can make a lighter syrup, if you wish. Also add about 2 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice for every 1 1/2 lbs. of uncooked figs. If desired, add some strips of lemon peel, and about 6 whole cloves. Cover and bring to a boil, cooking until the liquid turns into a thin syrup. During this process, if some of the figs start to lose shape, remove them with a slotted spoon and set aside.

5. Cool the syrup and the figs. 6. Thoroughly wash some glass jars and fill them with the prepared figs, leaving about 1 inch headspace. Cover with the syrup. Place lids on the jars, refrigerate, and begin eating after a week's time.
Immature apple pectin.

Unripe Apples: Use immature apples to make your own pectin for jam-making or health. Click here for complete instructions. 

Immature Plums, Peaches, or Nectarines: Unripe plums are regularly eaten throughout Asia and the Middle East. How do they make them edible? By pickling them. In the Mediterranean, baby peaches, no bigger than olives, are also pickled and eaten. But peaches and nectarines don't need to be so small to make great pickles.

Basic Fruit Pickle Brine: Into a medium saucepan, pour 1/2 cup white vinegar, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, 2 teaspoons of kosher or canning salt, and 1 cup of water. Place over high heat and stir until the sugar and salt are completely dissolved and the liquid is clear. Cool completely, stirring once in a while. Place fruit in freshly washed glass jars, cover with brine, and refrigerate. Allow the pickles to sit a week or two before eating.






Other Unripe Fruits: Poaching makes unripe fruit more tender and enhances any sweetness while helping to remove bitterness. Poaching is best used on fruit that is fairly close to ripeness.

1. Cut the fruit in half and, if possible, remove the core or stone.

2. In a saucepan, add enough liquid to cover the fruit. You may use water, beer, wine, or a sugar syrup. If desired, add spices like cloves, cinnamon sticks, or ginger. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, bring the liquid to a simmer, and add the prepared fruit. Simmer until fruit is soft.

3. For particularly green fruit, allow the food to sit in the poaching liquid in the refrigerate overnight. In addition, fruit that is nearly ripe is salvageable by using it in baked goods. For example, chop not-quite-ripe peaches and add them to your favorite muffin or quick bread recipe.

Windfall applesauce.
Windfall Fruit 

When our fruit is ripe (or nearly so), but the wind or over-ripeness has made it fall to the ground, I don't leave it for the birds. (Letting fruit rot around trees encourages pests.) Every day, I look for windfall fruit; that way, very little of it ends up so mushy its only use is the compost pile. Don't be concerned if windfall fruit is bruised or has holes from birds or other critters.

To use windfall fruit, I cut away any bad parts and use the rest for pie, cobbler or crisp, jam, jelly, or (if you have apples or pears) applesauce or pearsauce. Sometimes I also put better quality windfall fruit into a bowl designated for food that should be eaten that same day.


Handling a Bumper Crop

If you have large amounts of ripe fruit, it pays to start preserving it right away. Set aside some for fresh eating, but then get right to work dehydrating, canning, or freezing the rest. Putting some fruit in freezer bags to turn into canned food later is a life saver. For this reason, I try to ensure the freezer has plenty of empty space before the orchard season begins. Most fruits freeze just fine whole; place them on a rimmed baking tray and pop them in the freezer. When they are hard, put them in freezer bags. But when I'm really pressed for time and I know I'm going to make jam with the fruit, I often just throw the fruit in a freezer bag and call it good.

Not sure how to preserve your fruit? The National Center for Home Food Preservation is a gold mine of information on how to can and freeze just about anything. And to learn how to dehydrate your fruit (or other foods), click here.

And, of course, it's always nice to share with friends and family. My husband's co-workers love the bags of apples my hubby brings them! You might even look into sharing your fruit with a local charity that feeds the hungry. Sadly, not all of them allow home grown food, and you'll want to be sure the organization has a good reputation for not letting produce spoil, too.

Waste Not, Want Not
Making fruit scrap syrup.


It used to be that when I cored or peeled any fruit, I just dumped those trimmings in the compost bin. There's nothing terrible about that. And there's nothing awful about feeding those trimmings to livestock, either. (Be careful feeding too much fruit peelings to chickens, however; it will make their eggs taste "off.") But I really try to use those peelings for human food, when I'm able.

One way to do that is to make fruit peel syrup. It's an easy process and makes a thin syrup perfect for pancakes, or even to use with savory dishes. (For example, peach syrup is a nice marinade for pork.) Here is complete information on how to do it.

You can also turn fruit skins, cores, and pits into jelly. Easiest of all is apple peel and core jelly, which requires no pectin and can be made low or no-sugar. See the recipe here. The process is very similar with other fruits, except you'll typically need to use pectin for them. For example, when I recently made pear jelly, I boiled the trimmings just like I do for apples, strained to make juice, but then followed the directions on a box of commercial pectin to make the jelly itself.

Peach Peeling and Pit Jelly

This recipe works for any fruit.

1. Place peach peels and pits in a large pot. Just barely cover with water. Simmer for 30 minutes. Allow the mixture to sit overnight.

2. Strain the mixture; compost the peels or feed them to your animals.

3. In a clean, large pot, mix together the resulting liquid and 1 box of powdered pectin. Bring to a full boil. Add 3 cups of granulated sugar. Stir and return to a full boil until the jelly reaches 221 degrees F.

4. Ladle into hot jelly jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes.

Apple vinegar in the works.
Fruit Scrap Vinegar

I also sometimes make vinegar from fruit scraps. It's very easy and results in some really tasty vinegar. Homemade vinegar should not be used for preserving, because there's no accurate way for you to ensure it has the correct acidity to safely preserve food. But you can use it in salad dressing, as a marinade, or in cooking.

1. Warm 1 quart of filtered, non-chlorinated water. Stir in 1/4 cup of granulated sugar or honey, stirring until completely dissolved.

2. Wash some glass jars and fill them about half full with coarsely chopped fruit scraps (peels, cores, bits of fruit - but not rotten or bruised parts). Pour the sugar water over them, leaving about 1/4 inch headspace. Cover with cheesecloth held in place with a rubber band and allow to sit at room temperature. Stir once a day with a freshly washed spoon.

3. After about a week, the liquid will appear dark. Strain, composting the fruit scraps or feeding them to animals. Pour the liquid into freshly washed jars, cover with cheesecloth, and allow to ferment 2 or 3 more weeks, or until you like the flavor. (When tasting the vinegar, use a freshly washed spoon and don't double dip.)

4. To store, place a plastic lid on the jar and keep in a cool, dark location, like the refrigerator. Is it

Is it Safe to Use Fruit Pits and Seeds?

Most people believe apple seeds and fruit pits contain cyanide (or, depending upon who you're talking to, arsenic). But according to Rodale's Organic Life, the Guardian newspaper, and other sources, there's nothing to worry about when using pits or cores to create food for your loved ones. The truth is, apples, apricots, plums, pears, peaches, and cherries do contain amygdalin, which breaks down into hydrogen cyanide when chewed. (There's no natural arsenic in any fruit.) However, according to Nordic Food Lab and other expert sources, cyanide isn't heat-stable. So when you cook pits and cores to make syrup or jelly, their toxicity disappears. In other words, there's no need to worry about making anyone sick. Furthermore, according to experts, even enthusiastic fruit eaters would have a hard time ingesting enough seeds/pits that their body could not naturally detoxify the fruit's toxicity.


* I have literally spent hours trying to find this photo again so I could share it with you. No luck!

Aug 21, 2017

How to Dehydrate Just About Any Food - Easily!

dehydrating food, food preservation
This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information. Thank you for supporting this site!

Recently, I've received a few questions about dehydrating food: "How do you dehydrate such-and-such?" and "What dehydrating books do you recommend?" I was all set to send these reply with the easy way to dehydrate just about anything when I realized...I've never written such a post! How can that be?

I've been dehydrating since my children were toddlers and I experimented with using my oven's warming drawer to dehydrate apple slices. It's an invaluable way to preserve food, whether I'm squirreling away orchard fruit for the winter or I'm trying not to waste store bought food that will soon spoil. In fact, dehydrating is just about the easiest method of preservation, with very little hands-on time required and little monetary investment necessary.

And here's the deal: Dehydrating is so simple, there's really no need for a book on how to do it. Once you know the basic rules about dehydrating, there's not even any need to hop online to check how to dehydrate a specific food.

So let this post be your dehydrating "bible," if you will. Dehydrating with an electric dehydrator is really simple. And dehydrating other ways isn't hard, either.

What Foods Can Be Safely Dehydrated?

Fruits, vegetables, herbs, jerky, and seeds can all be safely dehydrated. Some people dehydrate meals (like soups) or non-jerky meats, but this is considered risky. In fact, when it comes to home dehydrating, it's easier to discuss what you shouldn't dry:

Fatty meats and dairy - All these tend to go rancid quickly because of their high fat content. A neat trick some people like to use is to dehydrate small drops of yogurt to use as snacks. This is fine - but those yogurt drops need refrigerating afterward. And yes, you can dehydrate lean meats without making them into jerky, but they aren't considered safe to store at room temperature.

Eggs - Considered by most experts unsafe to dehydrate due to salmonella (which is not killed during the dehydration process). I have dehydrated backyard fresh eggs before, but I can't recommend them from either a safety or a quality standpoint.

Nuts - You can dry these, but because they are fatty, their shelf life still isn't long. It's best to preserve nuts by freezing them.

Fish - You can dehydrate fish but it will only last 1-2 months.
Dehydrating plums.


How Long Does Dehydrated Food Last?

It depends upon the food, how dry you get it, and how well you store it, but generally speaking, home dehydrated foods last about a year.





What Kind of Dehydrator Should I Use?

Everyone raves about Excalibur dehydrators, but man are they expensive. And honestly, I don't think they are any better than my Nesco American Harvest Dehydrator, which is much more affordable (about $65). I purchased additional trays to make it more productive, and it's been going strong for years. (Actually, I love it so much, last year I bought an additional Nesco dehydrator!)

What every worthwhile home food dehydrator needs is:

* An adjustable thermostat, from 85 to 160 degrees F.
* Double wall construction.
* An enclosed heating element and a fan/blower. The heating element should not be at the base of the unit, because foods could drip onto it.
*  UL seal of approval.
* The ability to add trays.
Dehydrating yarrow.

You may also use a solar dehydrator, but these really only work in arid locations, or where you'll have low humidity and high temperatures for several days running. (If you want to try it without any upfront investment, try it the old school way: Lay a clean white sheet in a sunny area and lay the prepared food on top. Turn the food several times to speed the drying process.)

Other options include using a standard oven or using the warming drawer in an oven. Neither are ideal because very low temperatures cannot be achieved, which results in quality loss. Of the two, warming drawers are preferable.

For more on choosing a dehydrator, click here.

What Temperature to Use When Dehydrating

Herbs - 95 degrees F.
Seeds and Nuts - 105 degrees F.
Fruits - 135 degrees F.
Fruit leather - 140 degrees F.
Vegetables - 135 degrees F.
Jerky - 160 degrees F.


Dehydrating rose hips.
How to Dehydrate Just About Any Food

Herbs - For small-leaved herbs, place stems with leaves still on them onto dehydrator trays. For herbs with large leaves, remove the leaves from the stems and place in a single layer on dehydrator trays. Dry until crisp. Leaves dried on the stem are easily removed by running your fingers down the length of the stem, with a bowl beneath to catch the leaves as they fall.

Fruits - Most fruits should be sliced before dehydrating. The thinner the slice, the less time the food will take to dry. If desired, you may prevent discoloring by dipping the fruit in lemon water as you cut it up. (Use about 1 tablespoon of lemon juice to 1 cup of water.) Place juicy fruits, like plums, peaches, and apricots, skin side down on the dehydrator trays. (This will keep them from sticking to the trays - which can make them very difficult to remove.)

Dehydrate until you can tear a piece of fruit and no fluid seeps out. Fruit should still be pliable after being dehydrated. To prevent over-drying, test a thinner or smaller piece of fruit before you think it's dry. Allow it to cool and test for doneness.

A few fruits require an extra step; for example, berries with tough skins (like blueberries and cranberries), as well as grapes, need their skins broken before being dehydrated. An easy way to accomplish this is to freeze them in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Once hard, transfer the fruit to the trays of a food dehydrator. Another method is to plunge the berries into boiling water for about 15-30 seconds, until their skins crack, then plunge into cold water to stop the cooking process. You may also prick berry skins with a needle or similar implement.

Fruits with a rind, like watermelon or cantaloupe, should have their rinds removed before dehydrating.

Fruit Leathers - Fruit leathers are homemade fruit rolls. Puree fruit and, to prevent discoloration, stir in 1 teaspoons of lemon juice for each cup of puree. Pour into a fruit leather dehydrator tray and dehydrate. Leather is done when you can touch the center and see no indentation is left behind. Remove the leather while still warm, roll into a scroll, allow to cool, and wrap in plastic wrap. Freeze, if not using immediately.
Dehydrating zucchini.

Vegetables - Cut, if desired, and dehydrate until you can tear a piece and no liquid seeps out. Veggies should be brittle when dehydrated.

Most vegetables require blanching (drop into boiling water for 2 - 3 minutes, then dunk into ice water to stop the cooking process) to help preserve color, flavor, and nutrients. Many times, I leave off the blanching and just pop the veggie into the dehydrator; it's a matter of personal preference. The following veggies should never be blanched before drying: cucumber, eggplant, garlic, horseradish, mushrooms, onions, peppers, and winter and summer squash (including zucchini).

Jerky - Cut all fat off the meat and season as desired. Lay in a single layer on the dehydrator tray and dry until the meat cracks when you bend it. Homemade jerky should be stored in the refrigerator or freezer.

For information on using a jerky gun, click here. For info on making smoked jerky, click here.

IMPORTANT: Food should not touch on the dehydrator trays, or the pieces may stick together. Always check the food every few hours during the dehydration process. This ensures you don't over-dry anything. (Yes, you can over dry dehydrated food, making it tasteless and too tough.) Remove finished pieces as they are done, consolidating pieces that still need drying time. In addition, be sure to rotate dehydrator trays periodically.






How to Condition Dehydrated Food

Experts suggest "conditioning" your home dehydrated food before storing it long term. I honestly never do this and have never had a problem - but it does allow you to spot food that still has moisture in it.

Dehydrating pineapple.
To condition dehydrated food:

1. Allow the food to cool completely.

2. Place the dried food in a plastic or glass container with a loose-fitting cover.

3. Shake or stir the food every day for one or two weeks, looking for any signs of moisture.

4. If you find moisture, put the food back in the dehydrator, dry and allow to cool.

5. Once you're sure the food is dry, store in a glass jar with an air tight lid, a Ziplock bag with the air pushed out of it, or in a vacuum sealed bag. Store the container in a cool, dark environment. Be sure to label the food, including the date of preservation.
Dehydrating strawberries.


Aug 19, 2017

Weekend Links

Berries!
In which I share my favorite posts from this blog's Facebook page.

This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information. Thank you for supporting this site! 

"...make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody."

1 Thes. 4: 11-12

_______________________________

* Life is good on the homestead. I'm picking copious amounts of wild berries. (The photo to the right explains why I rarely have my kids help. Guess which bucket is mine and which bucket is one of the kids'.) We got a few coveted yellow plums, and there are still some red plums, prunes, and apples on the trees, despite hurricane force winds last spring. I'm growing broccoli and cauliflower, which I've never successfully grow before. Our little broody hen is sitting on ten hopefully fertilized eggs. The dog is finally coming out of his puppy phase. Hubby set up two additional rabbit cages, so my daughter can soon get a mate for her buck. And, in answer to many prayers, my hubby finally got a job close to home! No more four hours of commuting each day.  No more concern about what fatigue and driving were doing to his health. What an AMAZING gift time is. We're thrilled for both him and us. He's taking a steep pay cut, but we are trusting God on this. And I'll be working even harder to try to bring in some income for our family. So...if you want to help support this blog (my labor of love) and my family, would you take a moment and consider purchasing one of my books? Most are very affordable. You can see them all here.
From a photo shoot I recently did for Self-Reliance magazine.
* I've blogged quite a bit about dehydrating food as an alternative to canning or freezing it. But another great reason to have a dehydrator is that it helps prevent food waste. Case in point: I bought some strawberries to make my daughter strawberry ice cream for her birthday, and had quite a few berries left over. But because we have an abundance of fruit on the homestead just now, they weren't getting eaten. So a few days ago, I popped them into the dehydrator. (Here's the one I use.) Quick and easy, and it will make a really yummy treat that will last on the shelf for at least a year!

Dehydrating strawberries.
* I have an article in the new issue of Backwoods Home magazine. Check it out; it's a fantastic resource for homesteaders.

Learn to make your own pectin in Backwoods Home magazine.
* Graco car seat recall. 

* Blue Wilderness dog food recall.

* Comfy Cow ice cream recall due to E.Coli.

* AMPT Coffee recall.

* Papaya recall due to salmonella. 

* Ground beef recall due to contamination with Styrofoam.

* I have new videos on YouTube. Be sure to check them out - and subscribe and like! Thank you.

* There's been a ton of news about the safety of viewing the solar eclipse. I thought I'd done the right thing by purchasing eclipse-safe glasses for everyone in the family. Then NASA came out and said they only recommended a handful of brands, saying other brands may not be tested safe. I know some people pooh-pooh the idea that viewing the eclipse without special glasses is unsafe. I do not, because I've researched the history of solar viewing and can see that thousands of people have damaged their eyesight looking at the sun. Anyway, I was relieved to find this comprehensive list of manufacturers who've had their eclipse glasses tested for safety. Our glasses are on the list! Are yours?

* How Smartphones are Destroying a Generation - an interesting read.

Eagerly awaiting the red plums!

* What you probably don't know about child grooming and abduction. A must read for every parent.

* The weird thing about Ball's new canning lids. A lot of experienced canners are reporting false seals with them too.

* Here's a helpful aid for teaching children to pray: Prayer prompt printables.

* 10 Ways to Preserve Cucumbers.

* Why aren't we telling diabetics the truth about diet?

Oldies But Goodies:

* 10 Ways to Save on Back to School Supplies

* How to Forage for and Eat Lobster Mushrooms

* Why Homeschool Preschool? 

* DIY Spice Blends - Healthier, Cheaper, and Easy! 

* How We Homeschool on a Shoestring Budget.
Our broody hen sitting on 10 lovely eggs.


Aug 15, 2017

Blackberry Recipes (Recipes for Canning, Freezing, Drying, Fermenting, and Eating Right Now!)

Recipes for Canning, Freezing, Dehydrating, Fermenting, and Eating Right Now. Including Low Carb, Keto Recipes
We are having a bumper crop of blackberries this year! I've never seen either the thornless, domestic blackberries or the wild, invasive blackberries produce with such abundance. And while I already have enough berries in the freezer for one year, you can bet I'm taking advantage of this crazy good crop to preserve berries for years when the crop is meager. So...what can we do with all these blackberries? Oh, have I got ideas for you!

Freezing Blackberries

Freezing is the easiest preservation method to preserve blackberries for future use. The "right" way to do it is to lay the berries in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet, pop them in the freezer, and when they are good and hard, pour them into freezer safe containers. The way I actually do it, however, is to pour berries into freezer safe containers of the size that contain the amount of berries I want for particular jobs, like making a cobbler or pie. Yes, the berries stick together. But no, it doesn't matter because of the way I am using them.

Canning Blackberries

* Whole Blackberries in Syrup
* Blackberry Lemonade Concentrate
* Backberry Jelly (without added pectin)
* Blackberry Jam (with added pectin)
* Blackberry Jalapeno Pepper Jelly
* Blackberry Jam (with Pomona's Pectin)
* Razzleberry (blackberry and raspberry) Jam
* Lower Sugar Blackberry Jam 
* Blackberry Apple Jam
* Blackberry Rhubarb Lime Jam
* Bumbleberry (blackberry, strawberry, and blueberry) Jam
* Blackberry Pie or Cobbler Filling  (another version here)
* Blackberry Syrup
* Blackberry Applesauce






Fermenting Blackberries

* Blackberry Fermented Soda
* Fermented Whole Blackberries
* Blackberry wine 


Baking with Blackberries

* Blackberry Crumble Muffins
* Blackberry Apple pie
* Iron Skillet Blackberry Pie
* Blackberry Custard Pie 
* Blackberry Trifle
* Blackberry Turnovers
* Blackberry Cobbler
* Blackberry Cheesecake Squares
* Blackberry Oatmeal Cookies 
* Blackberry Cream Cheese Frosting 
* Blackberry Crumb Bars 
* Blackberry Bread 
* Blackberry Pound Cake 
* Blackberry Coffee Cake
* Blackberry Banana Bread
* Blackberry Cheesecake Brownies
* Blackberry Crisp
* Blackberry Oat Bars

Other Blackberry Recipes


* Blackberry Iced Tea
* Blackberry Cream Cheese Spread 
* Blackberry, Basil, and Ricotta Pizza 
* Blackberry Ice Cream (no churn) 
* Blackberry Sorbet
* Blackberry Frozen Yogurt
* Cream Cheese Blackberry Crepes 
* Blackberry Tarragon Salad Dressing 
* Balsamic Blackberry Vinaigrette
* Thai Blackberry Basil Chicken
* Blackberry Glazed Salmon
* Blackberry and Rosemary Pork Tenderloin
* Blackberry BBQ Sauce (another version here)






Low Carb/Keto/Diabetic Blackberry Recipes

* Low Carb Blackberry Cobbler
* Low Carb Blackberry Gelato 
* Low Carb Blackberry Ice Cream (no churn)
* Low Carb Blueberry Cream Cheese Crumble (substitute blackberries) 
* Low Carb Blackberry Coffee Cake 
* Keto Mixed Berry Cake Bars 
* Keto Blackberry Fat Bombs 
* No Sugar Added Blackberry Jam 
* Low Carb Berry Sauce 
* Low Carb/Keto Blackberry Cheesecakes 
* Low Carb Blackberry Custard Pie 

What About Dehydrating Blackberries?

I don't recommend it, because I believe it makes the seeds more pronounced. But if you'd like to try it, here are some directions.

You can also make blackberry leather (fruit roll ups).


A Word About Washing and Bugs

If the Internet is believable, a lot of people wash their berries before preserving or eating them. The trouble with this, though, is the flavor of the berries is greatly diminished after washing. If you're worried about surface bugs, just leave the berries in a container outside for an hour or so. Spiders and such will flee during that time. Hand pick any leaves or other debris off the berries. I don't get very picky about this. A few tiny pieces of leaves aren't going to hurt anyone!


Jun 12, 2017

Gearing Up for the Canning & Preserving Season

Gearing Up for the Canning and Preserving Season
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 I think I'm almost set for the bustle of canning and preserving season. I can't wait to preserve the food growing on our homestead; the still-green blueberries taunt me, and the tiny baby apples are calling my name! And this year, I purchased a few inexpensive tools to help make preserving easier.
Use it for plums, not apples!

Apple Corer...For Plum Pits

A time saving addition to my canning and preserving tools is this apple corer. I won't be using it for apples; I tried that with a similar model last year, and it broke. Instead, I'll use this tool to quickly pit plums and prunes. Last year, my dad-in-law introduced me to this idea and loaned me a corer from his kitchen. It made pitting those plums so much faster! This winter, I carefully researched the sturdiest model I could find, and came up with this. (By the way, for actually coring and cutting apples, as well as peeling them if desired, I use something similar to this.)

A good cherry pitter is a must.
Sturdy Cherry Pitter

Another good addition to my arsenal is this cherry pitter. I have a plastic one in my utensil drawer, but this stainless steel version will hold up much better to the large amounts of cherries I hope to have on our trees this year.

A decent mandoline makes things much easier.
Mandoline Slicer

Last year, I also purchased a new mandoline. I had a plastic one for years and rarely used it; eventually, I gave it away. But now that I'm a dehydrating fiend, this baby comes in very handy. I like this model because it's affordable, but not flimsy, like so many mode sold today. But I'm prone to cutting myself if I'm using any sharp tool, so an important accessory are these cut resistant gloves.

One Time Use Canning Supplies

Naturally, I'm also gathering one time use canning supplies. I like to do this now, before I'm in the middle of canning, for a couple of reasons. One, canning lids and similar items often go on sale in the spring. Two, having everything I need on hand reduces stress and the need to go into town at the last minute because I have pounds of produce that need immediate canning. I've bought some lids, and also a few seasoning packets. I don't typically use those - homemade seasonings are better. But I do like to have a few on hand for making pickles.




The Heavy Hitters
I've loved my Nesco dehydrator for years.

And of course, I couldn't do any preserving without my heavy hitters on hand - my Nesco American Harvest dehydrators (I now have two, with added trays) and my Presto pressure canner, which I also use as a water bath canner. I still need to pick up an extra sealing ring for the canner; having a new one on hand is a must, because if I'm in the middle of canning and the ring stops working, the last thing I want to do is abandon everything and run to the store. Incidentally, years ago, I bought a rocker gauge for this canner so I wouldn't have to go to the Extension office every year and have the pressure regulator checked. (More on that here.)

My Presto pressure canner is high capacity.
And...The Preserving Kitchen

My other - rather large, ahem! - preserving investment comes in the form of beginning work on my preserving kitchen. Why would I want a separate kitchen just for preserving? Well, for one thing, my kitchen stove runs on a propane tank. I can't imagine how many times I'd have to refill that tank if I canned on it. For another, it's hard to boil water on my stove; I don't know if I could get a canner up to temperature. And finally, in the summer, canning inside makes the house so hot. Since our house has a lot of thermal windows in the combined kitchen and living area, and since the house is well insulated, this is a much bigger problem here than it was when we lived in a leaky 1950s house in the suburbs.

I could definitely just create an outdoor canning set up with propane burners, but...we have the original homestead building sitting near the house and it's already wired and plumbed. Right now, we use it for the washer and dryer - and we use the old tub inside it for washing the dog. But there's also an old farm sink with a drainboard in there...so all we really need is an electric stovetop. We plan to buy one used.
The original, old building on our homestead...and my future canning kitchen.



You can't see it here, but the old metal roof currently leaks like crazy.



A lovely vintage farm sink. It just needs a little cleaning!

And then there's just the tiny task of filling in all the holes and cracks in the un-insulated, wood plank walls. And putting a new roof on. And adjusting the foundation. But, the contractor who's putting on a new metal roof is supposed to come today, so maybe I'll be using the canning kitchen sometime this year. How exciting would that be?!


Jun 8, 2017

How to Make Celery Salt (Plus: How to Dehydrate Celery)

This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information. Thank you for supporting this site!

We have but one celery plant in our garden, yet it's enough to supply all our celery needs. That's because celery is a "cut and come again" plant, meaning you can cut off the stalks and new ones will grow in their place. Given that our plant is prolific, and given that it's getting huge now that it's spring, I recently cut all the larger stems off and decided to preserve them as celery salt (SO delish on meat and eggs!). I also made some plain dried celery.

Dehydrating the celery was easy: I cut up the stalks, laid them on dehydrator trays (covered with fruit roll sheets that prevent small pieces from falling through the trays' holes), set the dehydrator to 135 degrees F., and waited for the pieces to dry. It only took about 5 hours. These chopped, dried, stalk pieces are perfect for adding to soups and stews, come cool weather.

But I also had a ton of celery leaves I wanted to do something with. When I cook with fresh celery, I normally chop up the leaves and add them to whatever I'm cooking. They add celery flavor, but not crunch. So I dehydrated the leaves, too - and could have left them as is, to also add to soups and stews. But instead, I made really yummy celery salt.





How to Make Celery Salt

You can make celery salt with dried celery leaves, dried celery stalks, or even with celery seeds (but not seeds designed for planting in the ground; they may be treated with chemicals). For salt, I  recommend sea salt, since table salt or iodized salt will impart a less pure flavor. You may use either coarse or fine salt.

1. Powder dried leaves, stalks, or seeds. I used a food processor, but you could use a blender. If you're using leaves, a mortar and pestle, or even your fingers, will also do the trick.

2. Combine the salt and celery powder. The ratio you use is a matter of personal preference. I used half and half (equal parts), but some people prefer a 1:2 ratio, using more of whichever flavor, salt or celery, they want to emphasize.

3. Pour the celery salt into an air tight container, like a glass jar with a lid.

Watch this video to see just how easy it is!