Jun 13, 2018

Why You Shouldn't Be a Servant to Your Kids

How to Help Your Kids Have a Servant's Heart
At some point, I think most modern adults look at the younger generation and are amazed by their general self-centeredness and expectations of entitlement. (Of course not all young people are this way, but these traits are certainly pervasive in our society.) Recently, I saw a video that encapsulated this problem. I don't normally watch this type of television - but I bumped into it on social media, and was prompted to watch it due to the remarks it was receiving. Oh. My.

Then the issue of being entitled and unwilling to serve others hit close to home.

The Problem with Chores

When we lived in the suburbs, I was careful to teach my kids how to do basic chores like laundry and dishes, and made sure they lent a helping hand most days. But when we moved to our rural homestead, this became more difficult. For example, we have to carry laundry to another building, which is physically more challenging. Plus, it's harder for me to supervise to make sure, say, the lint trap is properly cleaned so it doesn't start a fire. Our dishwasher is also weirdly placed, and because we have hard water, more than just ordinary dish detergent must be added. Probably the biggest problem, though, has been my health. I've been so exhausted - first with undiagnosed diabetes and then with acute anemia - that I simply didn't have it in me. It was all I could do to do chores myself; I didn't have the energy to patiently teach.

Fast forward to the weeks where I was prepping for my recent surgery. I did everything I could to make life easier for my husband and kids. Sure, I could have turned to my husband and said: "Dinner? Laundry? Dishes? All that other stuff I do? It's up to you to figure it all out." Indeed, many women in my online hysterectomy support group do just that. But that's the way of the world, isn't it? I wanted to do things God's way. So, striving toward a servant's heart, I made freezer meals that could quickly and easily be warmed in the microwave (which my kids know how to use) and took a lot of time and effort to make other chores as easy as possible.

One of those preps was making sure my oldest was comfortable running the washer and dryer (including adequately cleaning the lint trap and properly putting it back in place), that my youngest knew how to empty the dishwasher correctly, and that my oldest was reasonably proficient in putting dirty dishes in the machine. (We used a lot of paper plates, too, but the utensils, cups, and bowls added up quickly!)

The next thing I knew, though, my oldest was telling me my youngest preferred to put dirty dishes in the machine, rather than take clean ones out. She also said she preferred to put clean dishes away. Hmm...Because I have a higher than average counter and sink, I didn't think this would work well - but I told her we'd try things their way.

When I told my son what his sister said, however, he denied it.

See what was going on? Neither of my kids wanted to do any chores. Worse, they didn't have a servant's heart.

Servant? Or Master?

Neither kid wanted to do dishes. I admit, this wounded me. Not only as an individual (I confess my first thought was: "I slave for you, kids, and yet you aren't willing to do dishes when I'm physically unable to???"), but also as a parent; I realized then what unwilling servants my children were. We had a serious heart-issue going on.

It might seem counter-intuitive, but what I've observed, both in my own little family and in other families, is that the more parents serve their children, the less their children are willing to serve. Many a mommy (myself included) has hoped that serving their children well will set a great example and inspire their kids to serve others. But instead, it seems to just make kids entitled.

How to Help Your Kids Have a Servant's Heart

If you find yourself with kids who don't have servants hearts, what do you do? Here's what I did:

* Do Bible studies on how God wants us to be servants. Got Questions, Bible.org, and Open Bible offer some good resources to start with. We were in the middle of reading the gospels, so it came naturally to talk about Jesus' servanthood and how he wants us to follow his example.

* Insist your children serve others. Age-appropriate chores at home is a decent place to begin. Today, I don't let anything - even school work - to get in the way of chores (because my children's spiritual health is way more important than their grades).

* Make certain your kids see you serve others - your husband, the needy, etc. Focus less on serving your kids, and make sure anything they can do, they do do...at least most of the time. They need those life skills, anyway!

Did it Work?

I'm happy to say my kids stepped up to the plate when I came home from surgery. (It helped that a grandma was there to insist upon it. Thank you, Grandma!) And acting as a servant helped them to see a few things that are vital to their future spiritual health:

* They are capable.

* They can be more independent.

* It's good to help others. God wants us to do it!

* Mom works really hard for our benefit.

My children are still doing a lot of things around the house: Caring for critters, laundry, dishes, cleaning the floors, helping to clean the bathroom...and they will continue to do so. For their own well being.

What are you doing today to ensure your kids have a God-desired servant's heart?

Jun 5, 2018

How Can I Tell If My Hen is Laying?

How Can I Tell if My Hen is Laying
Q: I'm not getting very many eggs from my hens. I have 8 that are about 3 years old and 9 that are about a year old, and I only get 9 eggs a day. I know the older hens are past their prime, but how can I tell which ones (if any) are still laying?

A: You're right that you should be getting more eggs. I expect one egg per hen per day (on average) and don't put up with much less. Slackers have gotta go! Fortunately, there are several ways to determine which of your hens are good layers and which are not.

1. Check the Vent. The first thing I do is take a good look at each hen's vent (the hole where her eggs come out). Good layers usually have large, oval, moist openings. Poor layers have smaller, rounder, drier vents. I believe this is the best way to tell a good layer from a bad one (aside from separating each hen and watching her daily).

2. Check Color. For chickens that have yellow-pigmented beaks, legs, and skin, the vent of a good layer will typically look pale. If the hen is not laying, the vent should be yellow. (This is because there's a limited supply of yellow pigment in a hen's body, and if she's laying, she needs that pigment for her egg's yolks.) Good laying hens of all breeds also have bright combs and wattles. A hen who is not laying will have a paler "complexion" on those body parts.

3. Check the Abdomen. Lay each hen on her back (as if you're cradling a baby in your arm), and gently feel her abdomen. If it's pliable and soft, she's probably laying eggs. If it's not very flexible, she's probably not laying eggs. This test isn't foolproof because if the hen has an egg forming, her abdomen will feel harder.
Comb and wattle color matter. (Courtesy of Anup Shah)
4. Check the Bones. While you're at it, take a feel at her pelvic bones. If they are far apart (say, 3 or 4 of your fingers fit between them), she's probably laying. If there's a more narrow space between them, she's probably not laying often. You can also look at the space between the hen's vent and keel (the pointy bone at the base of her breast). If you can fit about 4 fingers between the vent and keel, she's probably a layer. Less distance means the bird probably doesn't lay well. (These measurements only work for full sized breeds.)

5. Check for Appetite and Activity. Although activity levels vary from breed to breed, generally speaking, hens who are laying are usually more active than those who are not. They have an active appetite, too, and tend toward eagerness when you supply food. Hens who aren't laying, aren't nearly as eager and won't eat as much as laying hens.

* Cover image courtesy of  Tamsin Cooper

May 26, 2018

Can You Grow Fruit Trees From Seed?

Grafting vs. Seeds
Years ago, I saw a tv program that tried - and succeeded - making so-called "preppers" look as crazy as possible. I found myself freuently shaking my head at the families featured on the show - mostly when their mistakes could easily be avoided by educating themselves with a few books.  One thing I particularly remember was a family who saved seeds from their grocery store fruits and veggies, keeping them to plant a garden in case hard times fell upon them.

There was a lot wrong with their plan, including the fact that they were saving seeds not suited to their climate and that they had no gardening experience, but somehow thought they'd be successful gardeners if need arose. But today, I want to talk about why their seeds were, at a very basic level, not a good choice.

The Seed of Our Plum Tree

We have one plum tree on our homestead that we all adore. Unfortunately, while we have many plum trees, only one of them is this variety - deep red, with blood red flesh that's a wonderful mix of sweet and tart. We've been unsuccessful at researching what variety it might be, and cannot find anything that even looks similar at our local stores, where we believe all the newer fruit trees on our homestead were purchased by the previous owners. So the other day, my husband said he was going to save some of those plum's seed pits and plant them.

Unfortunately, that won't really work.

Our coveted red plums.
Yes, we can plant the plum's seed pits and trees will grow from them. But the resulting plant won't produce fruit that's exactly like the plums we adore. This is because fruit seeds aren't "true to seed."

Seeds vs. Grafting

At first blush, this may seem ridiculous, but it's all about genetics. Fruit seeds are produced via sexual reproduction - that is to say, they have a male parent and a female parent. Because they have genes from two different parents, the seeds won't produce a plant (or fruit) that's exactly like either parent. (Just like my kids don't look or act exactly like me; they are a mixture of my genes and their father's genes.)

So if you want an Elberta peach tree, how do nurseries ensure you get what we've come to know as an Elberta - a vigorous, sweet peach with classic, fuzzy skin? By grafting.

Grafting is an asexual form of reproduction; it does not require two parents, but instead uses genes from only one parent, creating a genetic clone.

In the grafting process, one tree branch (perhaps from that Elberta peach) is inserted into the trunk of another tree (which can be totally unrelated...say, an apple). The Elberta begins using the apple's sap, growing into its trunk until there's just a bump where the two meet.

All root stock for known fruit tree varieties is traced back to the original tree, which was created
Peach pit. Courtesy of
naturally, through seed. For example, if you have a Granny Smith apple tree, it has rootstock that's traced back to the original Granny Smith tree, which originated in Australia in 1868, from a pile of crabapples someone tossed into a pile. (Maria Ann Smith liked the fruit from the resulting tree and reproduced it via grafting.)

There is an exception to the grafting vs. seed rule: Most citrus trees are "true to seed" because their seeds contain more than one plant embryo. One of those embryos requires sexual reproduction, but the rest are clones. Citrus that doesn't grow "true to seed" are: Meyer lemon, Clementine mandarin, Pummelo, Marumi Kumquat, Nagami Kumquat, Trifoliate orange (a.k.a. Poncirus trifoliata, Citrus trifoliata, Japanese bitter-orange, or Chinese bitter orange), and Temple Tangor.

What About Vegetables?

Genetics are similar when it comes to seeds from grocery store (or hybrid) vegetables. You can save the seeds, and often they are fertile, but they will not produce food like what you originally purchased. (Please don't confuse hybrid plants and seeds with GMO seeds. Click here for further explanation.)

Hybrid veggies are made by crossing the pollen of two different varieties, either naturally (via wind, birds, etc.) or human interferance. The resulting "babies" have traits from both parent plants, and therefore produce food that has a different combination of genes from their genetic pool.

Granny Smith apples.
Does It Really Matter?

There are plenty of people who will tell you none of this matters and you should go ahead and plant fruit trees from seed and use the seed saved from hybrid plants in your garden. They may be right. It's all a matter of perspective.

If you don't mind waiting years for fruit trees to produce fruit - only to perhaps discover you don't like the taste of that fruit - then go for it! Have fun experimenting with planted fruit pits.

And if you don't mind not knowing exactly what you'll get when you plant seeds saved from hybrids - whether they will taste good (or be totally inedible), be productive, or be disease or pest resistent - then go ahead and use those, too.

But if you want a more reliable crop, you'll want to either buy or make grafted fruit trees. And  vegetable seeds? You'll either save open-pollinated varieties, or buy hybrid seeds, or a combo of both. There is nothing wrong with either way of gardening - so long as you understand the pros and cons of each.

May 15, 2018

Helping Dawdlers

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

Tomorrow I'm having surgery; since I'm busy prepping for that, I'm updating an older post, rather than attempting to write a whole new one. The good news for you is that instead of reading about my beginner's experience with dawdlers, I can now offer you 12 years of experience!

That's because my daughter is a Dawdler Supreme. I have never seen a child dilly-dally as much as she does. Throughout her life, I've tried a lot of things to help cure her of dawdling - primarily because (I admit it!) it drives me absolutely crazy! Some things have helped more than others, and even though she still dawdles, as she ages, we see improvement. So my first word of advice is:

* Remind yourself (repeatedly!) that teaching your child to get a move-on is probably going to take years.

Additional helps:

* Keep in mind the big picture. During those times when all you want to do is yell at your dilly dallier, pray instead - while remembering the ultimate goal is not to upset your child or make him feel bad, but to help him learn the joys of being punctual and getting work done.

* It doesn't help to give a lecture on dawdling when you're in the midst of trying to hurry your child. Instead, find a relaxing few minutes later in the day to discuss why it's important not to dilly dally. Talk about the negatives of dawdling, sure, but end with the positive effects of getting things done in a timely fashion.

* Ask yourself whether you're expecting too much. Is the thing you want your child to do age-appropriate?

* Break down the steps for your child. For example, if you ask a 4 year old to get dressed, she might get overwhelmed and not know where to start. But if you stand nearby and talk her through the steps - one at a time - I'll bet she can handle it. Yes, there are definitely times you'll need her to get dressed without your help, but before you can do that, you must carefully teach her how to do it.

* Help your child become a problem solver. When you're not in the midst of trying to rush, sit down with your child and discuss one area where he or she repeatedly has trouble with dawdling. Ask your child to come up with come up with solutions that either you or your child can implement.

* Sometimes dawdlers just need more time. For example, if your child takes forever to get into bed, maybe you need to start the bedtime routine earlier in the evening.

* Make it a race. Some kids respond well to competition, so you can say something like, "Whoever gets dressed first gets to [insert special reward here]!"

* Give your child a checklist. If your child is too young to read, simple pictures showing tasks like brushing teeth or getting dressed may help.

* Help your child recognize cause and effect. Sometimes saying something like "I see you've changed your clothes before 7:30. That's great! Now there's time for us to sit down and read a book together." Other times, you might have to gently say, "It's already 8:00. I'm sorry; there's no time for a book this evening."

* Teach kids clock awareness. Help your child become aware of the ticking minutes by saying things like, "It's 12:30. That's lunch time." And "It's 1 o'clock. Lunch is over." Another great project is to give your child a stop watch and a list of activities (like "toast a piece of bread," "prepare a bowl of cereal," and "feed the cat") and help him or her time each one. Most dawdlers have a bad sense of how fast time passes, and activities like this can make them more aware of time moving.

* Help your child notice time passing - without nagging. Say something like "You have 5 minutes to get your shoes on." At 4 minutes, say, "You only have 1 minute left, hon. If your shoes aren't on in 1 minute, we're going outside without you." It's important not to yell. Or repeat.

* Use a timer or - better yet - the Time Timer. The Time Timer (pictured right) has a red section that allows children to easily visualize how much time they have left. My daughter responded exceedingly well this little clock and we had good results with it. I even used it for her homework; for example, I gave her a set of math problems, set the Time Timer to a reasonable time limit, and told her to "try to beat the clock."

* Use a timer to help feel time pass. Get your child started with whatever job he needs to get done, then set the timer for, say, 10 minutes. Tell him this is only to help him feel time passing. When the 10 minutes have passed, have him evaluate what he's accomplished, if anything. Then set the timer for another 10 minutes...and so on. When I used this method, I no longer heard things like, "It can't possibly be time to leave yet! Only a minute has passed!" I don't believe that when my daughter said such things they were an exaggeration. I think that's how the passage of time really felt to her. We often say that our dear daughter just has a different internal clock. By using this method of noting how time passes, we are helping her to adjust her internal clock to become more in line with the rest of the world.

This original version of this post appeared in June 2011.

May 11, 2018

Weekend Links

Spring on the homestead.
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! 

"In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety."

Psalm 4:8

* I'm getting a hysterectomy for Mother's Day. Thankfully, I can chuckle about this! I'm not looking forward to the surgery, or to the recovery time, but I am looking forward to (Lord, willing) feeling better once I'm recovered. By the way, an awful lot of people think a hysterectomy is "no big deal." Mmmm...not really. It's a major surgery, with the removal of major organs, and recovery time varies considerably depending upon how the surgery was done (there are three basic methods, depending upon the health issues being addressed). So I'm prepping as best I can for the six week-ish recovery my doctor says I'll need, knowing t will likely take even longer to feel myself again.
The first line-dried laundry of the year!
But what an awful time of year to do such prepping! I was hoping to empty our freezer, now that my canning kitchen is complete. After all, it won't be too long and we'll have fruit in our orchard  needing preserving. I've made a good go at this task, canning up salsa (from last year's frozen tomatoes; click here for my salsa recipe, and here for info on freezing whole tomatoes) and some stock (click here for directions). I've also freeze-dried ham (bought on sale this Easter), split pea soup, and a variety of frozen veggies. But finish the job of emptying the freezer? It's just not gonna happen before my surgery.
First time using my canning kitchen.
And then there's the garden. Not only has acute anemia (which negatively affects every organ in the body) slowed me down this spring, but so has our weather. Like a lot of areas of the U.S., we've had a cooler than usual spring. This means my seedlings are smaller than I might otherwise expect at this time of year. Which means they are by no means ready to go into the garden. Which, incidentally, I still don't have. (I was thinking of doing a straw bale garden this year, as a quick and cheap alternative to trucking soil into my rocky garden spot, but it hasn't happened yet.) I did get some nursery-purchased tomato plants into the soil of the greenhouse, but everything else isn't ready to repot or move. So...who knows what will happen to this year's garden!

One area where I've been a bit more successful is making freezer meals for my family, so I don't feel the need to cook for a couple of weeks after my surgery. I don't normally do a lot of freezer meals, so it's been interesting to try to think of simple meals my family likes and that are so easy to reheat my kids can do it.
You might be a redneck if...your new raised bed is an old bathtub you found in the bushes.
I will be blogging during my recovery, although I'm not sure how often. (I wanted to write up a bunch of posts and schedule them to post periodically, but it just hasn't happened.)

* Amazon is barring a Christian organization from using its Smile program, yet allows other questionable groups to use it. My livelihood comes primarily from Amazon, so I am particularly disturbed about this. PLEASE take a moment to write to Amazon, complaining, and please consider ending your Prime subscription if Amazon doesn't amend this situation.
Using frozen tomatoes for salsa.

* Recall on ground beef.

* Recall on fresh oysters. 

* Recall on detox tea.

* An interesting article on how changing your diet can be a spiritual move. I think there's a lot of truth to this.

* Growing figs. By me, for Self-Reliance magazine.

* A clever way to freeze eggs.

* Tips for purchasing the best parental control router. 

* "Is curing patients a sustainable business model?" I have learned the hard way that pharmaceuticals and even health organizations you might trust believe the answer is NO.

Oldies But Goodies:

* How to Kill E.coli on Vegetables and Fruits 

* Eating Dandelion Flowers

* Use up your garlic scapes with these great recipes!

* Got rhubarb? Here's what to do with it.

May 8, 2018

Freeze Dried vs. Dehydrated Food (What's the Difference Between Freeze Drying & Dehydrating?)

Freeze Dried Food vs. Dehydrated Food - what's the difference?This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information. Thank you for supporting this site!

At first blush, freeze-dried food and dehydrated food - or using a freeze dryer vs. using a dehydrator to preserve food -  may seem the same. So why would I buy a home freeze dryer when I already have not just one, but two dehydrators on our homestead?

Both methods of food preservation remove moisture from food, which then may be re-hydrated with ordinary water. I've even heard some people say that one method is just as good as the other. But there are several important differences between freeze driers and dehydrators.

How a Food Dehydrator Works

Dehydrating is an ancient practice. During biblical times, people made their food last longer by drying it in the sun. The Romans dried vegetables and fruit in “still houses,” which sped the process through fire. Today, most dehydrated food is made in an electric dehydrator, but the process is essentially the same: hot, dry air hits the food, removing much of its natural liquid, but not fully cooking it.
A home food dehydrator.
* Home dehydration removes about 80% (some sources say only 70%) of the liquid in food.

* Because of the affect of heat, around 60% of the food's nutritional value remains after dehydration. (Learn more about the nutritional value of dehydrated food here.)

How my plums went into the dehydrator...
...and how they came out of the dehydrator.
* Dehydrated food is shriveled and chewy. Once rehydrated (a process that's optional), the food is still quite different from fresh.

* With a few minor exceptions, only fruits and vegetables can be safely dehydrated. Low-fat meats may also be dehydrated, but without added preservatives, must be kept frozen.

* Home dehydrated food lasts a couple of years, under the right cool and dry conditions. Commercially dehydrated food often has preservatives, which can make it last up to 8 years. (In addition, commercial dehydrators remove more moisture from food, making it last longer in storage.)

* Home food dehydrators come at many price points, but the least expensive (yet still quality enough to do the job - click here for tips on choosing a good dehydrator) costs about $75.

How a Freeze Dryer Works

Freeze drying is a relatively modern technique, first reliably used during World War II to preserve medicine and blood plasma. Food is placed in a vacuum chamber, where the temperature is lowered to below freezing. Once the food reaches -40 degrees F., the machine raises the temperature until the ice (formerly liquid in the food) goes from a solid state to a gaseous state. (This is called "sublimation.") Finally, the machine removes the vaporized ice from the vacuum chamber. This process keeps the structure of the food intact. Despite what some internet sources claim, you cannot freeze dry food without a freeze drying machine.
A home freeze dryer.
* Home and commercial freeze drying removes 98 - 99% of the food's moisture.

* Freeze dried food retains about 97% of its nutritional value.

* Properly freeze dried food is not shriveled; it closely resembles fresh food.

* Freeze dried food is crisp. Once rehydrated (a process that's optional, unless we're talking about raw meat), it's very similar to fresh food. (In most cases, you're unlikely to know the food was ever freeze-dried.)
Strawberries fresh out of my home freeze dryer.
* Vegetables, fruit, meat, and some dairy can be freeze-dried. Only very fatty foods (like butter) do not freeze-dry well. Some surprising foods that can be freeze-dried include milk, cheese, and ice cream.

* Freeze dried food lasts 20 - 30 years.

* Only one manufacturer sells freeze dryers made for home use; a small unit costs just under $2,000.

Apr 30, 2018

Harvesting & Drying Elderflowers for Medicine

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

I was so excited when I learned elderberry grew on our homestead. As you might already know, elderberry is a scientifically studied treatment for the common cold and flu, and is also used by herbalists to treat sinus infections, respiratory problems, and inflammation. Now imagine how sad I was when elderberry season finally appeared...and the berries were all red. Because like most people, I'd read over and over again that red elderberries are poisonous and therefore not good for medicine the way black and blue elderberries are.

Fast forward to the day I read the book Herbal Antivirals by Stephen Harrod Buhner. It's an impressively well-documented tome written by a respected herbalist, and among the things I learned from it was that all the fuss about red elderberries (as well as "poisonous" elderberry leaves, stems, and bark) is new-fangled. According to Buhner, native peoples - and notably, the Chinese - used red elderberries and all parts of the plant as medicine...without making themselves sick. The trick, Buhner explains, is in the preparation of the herb. (He also points out that red, blue, and black elderberries are not poisonous - that is, able to kill. They can, however, be toxic, causing nausea and vomiting if eaten in quantity and without the proper preparation.)

As of today, I haven't tried using red berries, but I do use the flowers from our red elderberry plants. Elderflowers are oerhaps best known as an ingredient in European food and drink. What most people don't know, however, is that they are medicinal, just like the plant's berries.

Watch my video on how to harvest, dry, and use elderflowers for medicine, and see my written how-tos, below.

To Harvest Elderflowers

1. Use only fully opened, fresh (not browning) flowers.

2. Cut off the flowers just above a two-leaf split. This encourages the plant to grow and thrive.

3. When you've gathered all the flowers you want (being sure to leave plenty behind so the plant can produce berries for animals and procreation), trim off the stems at the bottom of the flowers.

To Dry Elderflowers

1. Place the prepared elderflowers on the tray of an electric dehydrator (here's the latest version of the one I use) and dry at 95 degrees F. until flowers and slender stems are completely crisp. If preferred, keep the stems on the flowers and tie bunches together with string. Hang in a cool, dark location (like a closet) until fully dry.

2. Store dried elderflowers in an airtight jar in a cool, dark location.

To Use Dried Elderflowers as Medicine

The easiest way to use elderflowers as medicine is to make tea.

1. Fill a tea ball (like one of these) with elderflowers, crushing them as they go into the ball.

2. Place the tea ball in a cup and pour boiling water over it.

3. Cover the cup with a saucer, to prevent steam from escaping. This helps maintain the medicinal properties of the tea.

4. When the tea is cool enough to drink and no longer steaming, remove the saucer and drink. You may have the tea 2 or 3 times a day.

WARNINGS: According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service's NIH website, "The leaves, stems, raw and unripe berries, and other plant parts of the elder tree contain a toxic substance and, if not properly prepared, may cause nausea, vomiting, and severe diarrhea. Because the substance may also be present in the flower, consuming large amounts of the flower might be harmful; however, no illnesses caused by elderflower have been reported." According to Herbal Antivirals, elderflowers are the part of the plant least likely to cause diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. He stresses, "the various parts of the plant are emetic (and purgative if you take enough) if used fresh."

That said, any plant or medicine has the potential to give somebody an adverse reaction, so practice common sense by trying a small amount the first few times you use elderflowers. To avoid vomiting and nausea, never consume fresh elderflower stems.

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, nor should anything on this website (www.ProverbsThirtyOneWoman.blogspot.com) be considered medical advice. The FDA requires me to say that products mentioned, linked to, or displayed on this website are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The information on this website is designed for general informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for qualified medical advice or care. There are no assurances of the information being fit or suited to your medical needs, and to the maximum extent allowed by law, I disclaim any and all warranties and liabilities related to your use of any of the information obtained from the website. Your use of this website does not constitute a doctor-patient relationship. No information on this website should be considered complete, nor should it be used as a substitute for a visit to, consultation with, or the advice of a physician or other qualified health care provider.

Apr 26, 2018

Low Sugar Blackberry Jam (No Added Pectin, with a Seedless Option)

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

Lately, I've been trying to empty the freezer by freeze drying meats, stock, and veggies. (It's SO easy! I love this method of preservation!) But I had quite a few bags of blackberries in the freezer - wild blackberries we picked by the bucketfuls last summer. I'd set them aside for pies, crisps, and jam-making, simply by throwing them in a Ziplock bag and dumping them in the freezer. I didn't really want to freeze dry clumps of berries, so I decided I'd better use my canning kitchen as a canning kitchen (for the first time!) and whip up some jam.

But do you know how much stinkin' sugar is called for in traditional blackberry jam? Holy smokes! More sugar than berries! That just won't do, around here. I could have ordered some Pomona's Pectin (which allows you to customize the amount of sugar you use, unlike typical store bought pectin), but I wanted to can right away. I also could have used one of a myriad of "no sugar" blackberry jam recipes found online...but they aren't truly sugar free. They use juice or honey...which is still sugar. I also could have cooked the jam on the stove top and made freezer jam, using only enough sugar so my kids liked the jam. But I was trying to empty the freezer.

So I decided to make blackberry jam the old fashioned way. You see, blackberries contain natural, so adding pectin is unnecessary. However, in order to get no-added-pectin blackberry jam to gel, you gotta cook it down more than you would if you used store-bought pectin. This means your berries won't make as much jam...but I'd rather have fewer jars of jam that are low in sugar than more jars of jam and that have crazy amounts of sugar.

No Added Pectin, Low Sugar Blackberry Jam

Another bonus to making jam the old fashioned way is that you can double, triple, or otherwise expand the recipe without fear of the jam not setting!

2 cups crushed blackberries (wild or domestic)
Granulated cane sugar
2 teaspoons bottled lemon juice

1. Pour the blackberries in a heavy-bottomed pan. (Lightweight pans will scortch your jam.) Add sugar, to taste. (I used 1 scant cup of sugar. I recommend starting with less sugar than you think you need; then taste and add more sugar if needed.)

2. Place the pot over medium high heat and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved.

3. Stir in the lemon juice. (Because the lemon juice adds acidity, it makes mold and bacteria less likely to grow in the jam. Use bottled juice, which has a standard acidity, instead of fresh juice, which could be less acidic.)

4. Boil and stir and boil and stir and boil and stir until the jam is thickened. The best way to know when the jam is done is to use a good  thermometor.* When the jam reaches 220 degrees F. (at sea level; click here for temps at higher elevations), it's done. If you don't have a thermometor, all is not lost! Use the "sheet test" or the "freezer test," as described at The National Center for Home Food Preservation website.

5. Ladle jam into hot 4 or 8 oz. jelly jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace, and process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes. (If you live at a high altitude, read this important information about adjusting canning times.)  

FREEZER JAM OPTION: Don't want to break out the canner? Simply allow the jars to completely cool on your countertop, then pop them into the freezer.

TO MAKE THE JAM SEEDLESS: Before step 1, place a mesh strainer (like this) over a large bowl. Spoon the mashed blackberries into the strainer and press them through the mesh with the back of a wooden spoon. The seeds will remain in the strainer, while the berry pulp will plop into the bowl. Proceed with making the jam, beginning with step 1.

* Be sure your thermometor is accurate! My first batch would not come up to temp. Finally, I realized the jam was thicker than it should be...and that my thermometor simply wasn't accurate. Grrr! TO CHECK THE ACCURACY OF YOUR THERMOMETER: Bring some water to a rolling boil and take it's temperature (without allowing the thermometer to touch the bottom or sides of the pan). Wear an oven mitt so you don't burn yourself. Water boils at 212 degrees F. (sea level).

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