Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Canning 101: Labeling

Wow, I just realized that today was the last day of August! Where did this month go?
I wanted to get in one last post on canning; labeling.
It's important to label all of your jars with it's contents and a date after you've completed canning them. This helps with 2 things.
The first, knowing what's actually in your jars. I know, it seems obvious to just look at a jar and know it's contents but trust me, if you can a lot, 10 months from now you may not be able to really tell if that jar is peach pie filling or just canned peaches!? I'm only talking from personal experience here though. ;)
Or second, a jar of jam gets pushed to the back and somehow left. Hmm, this looks like blackberry jam. But I can blackberry jam every year, when is this jar from??
Labeling. Just do it.
photo credit: sweet preservation
You can just take a pen an write on the lid of your jar with all the info or you can get creative and buy or print up some fancy schmancy labels that will wow everyone who sees your jars. I'm going to opt for the pretty labels.
Here are a couple links for pre-made labels that you can print up yourself on your home computer.
So, get down to your office supply store, pick up some blank labels and decorate those jars up real pretty like.
Edit: Dont'cha love it when people comment, you click their name to see if they have a blog and then you find really neat stuff when you read their blogs?
Yep. Just happened to me. Check our Kristina's great post about canning with kids! I loved it!

the best green beans

This is a re-post back from September of last year but I felt compelled to share it again because we are once again bursting with green beans and I've been making this about every other night with dinner. Each time I make it I am thankful for this food that the Lord has blessed our garden with. I know that it will only last for a short period of time (until the rains come) so I try and squeeze it into any meal I can, soaking up the freshness of the season!

We have a lot of green beans in the garden. I mean A LOT. And I do can them but we try, of course, to eat as many fresh ones as possible since they don't get any healthier than that. My husband has now set a limit on how often we can have them (2 x per week) since if I had my way, we'd eat them every night! Gavin actually gave me this recipe (if you even want to call it that) and it is sooooooo good. I thought I'd share.
Here's what you'll need;
Some fresh green beans, cut to a desired length- how many depends on how much you'll eat
Lots of garlic, chopped- when I make ours I use about 5 good sized cloves but more is always better!
Olive oil- maybe 1/8 of a cup or so
Sea Salt (optional)
A skillet or a wok

Heat the oil in the skillet but remember that you can't get it too hot- olive oil doesn't tolerate high temps very well.
Once the oil is hot, throw in the garlic and cut green beans and start stirring. This is similar to stir frying so you don't want the green beans to sit for a long time in one place, otherwise they tend to get kinda soggy. Stir fry for 5-10 minutes depending on how cooked you want your beans.

When they're done, they'll look like this:

Sprinkle with salt, if desired, and serve warm....... and be ready to get a second helping and a third and a fourth because they are so yummy!

Monday, August 30, 2010

here comes the rain

It's raining here today. Well, maybe more like sprinkling but it's wet enough that the ground is visibly wet. The benefit: I don't have to water the garden. The drawback: It's been so damp in the mornings anyway, I'm struggling with mold on the green beans. This weekend, while it was sunny, I was able to capture a few good pictures.

Our freak carrots this year...

New wax beans starting to push through

One of my most favorite parts of the garden...Sunflowers! Just getting ready to bloom.

Plum tomatoes starting to ripen

Mason eating dirt while waiting for me to finish taking pictures. Good thing it's organic dirt.

Gavin working on clearing the back part of the property. There is much more to clear but he got a start on it yesterday. He spent about a half hour with the Bobcat pulling out trees and leveling the brush. We were talking afterwards about how much time that would have taken without heavy equipment. I do not envy the folks that had to clear their land by hand so long ago. We're not sure what we're going to do with this space that we'll have cleared but our first thought is to get our miniature Jersey. While we would love to move to more property ASAP the reality is that we still have a ways to go before we are financially ready to do so. But, we really want our own source of milk too. It's going to take a while to clear, especially with our rainy season right around the corner, but we'll work on it slowly.

And lastly, chickens. I think I'm addicted to chickens. Does anyone else feel like that? I love having them. I could get more and more and more and more but I told Gavin that I'd limit our flock to 10 while we live here.

Friday, August 27, 2010

What's it take?

In your opinion, should it be hard to snap a (good) family photo?

I guess not.

Canning 101: Jam, the old fashioned way!

I have to admit, I didn't even know you could make jam without pectin. I had found Pomona Pectin a few years ago and was overjoyed that I could use it for jam and not have to add more sugar than actual fruit. Something is just sooooooooo wrong with that.
Then I got my new canning book and it had recipes for, as I call it, old fashioned jam! I guess the thought never occurred to me, "What did people do before pectin?" Well, here's your answer....
Apricot Jam
8c peeled, chopped apricots
4Tb lemon juice
6c sugar
Berry Jam
9 c crushed berries (blackberries, blueberries, raspberries etc.)
6 c sugar
Strawberry Jam
8 c crushed strawberries
6c sugar
In large stainless steel saucepan, combine fruit and sugar (& lemon juice if you're doing apricot.) Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly to dissolve sugar. Boil, stirring frequently until mixture thickens. Remove from heat and test gel.
Ladle into hot jars leaving 1/4" head space. Place lids and bands and process in hot water bath canner for 10 minutes.
Making jam like this does take a little longer, to make sure enough liquid is evaporated to create a thick enough jam. But if you're out of pectin, you've got fruit that needs attention and a trip to town isn't in sight, then this is a great way to make jam!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Canning 101: Green Beans

Well, I'm still here canning up more spaghetti sauce today but in a few weeks (once our beans really start coming on) I'll be canning green beans. I love fresh green beans but canned ones come in second. I really, really dislike frozen ones. I don't know what it is about them but they gross me out. So, when we've eaten all the ones we are able to, the rest get canned. All winter long I am so thankful for a cupboard full of canned green beans!
Canning green beans has to be one of the easiest things to can.

Start with your harvested green beans...

Wash them

Snap them into pieces (whichever size you'd like)

Raw pack them into a jar

Add 1tsp of salt (or more to taste) into jar

Fill with jar with water leaving 1" head space

Place lids and bands

Process in a pressure canner for 20 minutes for pint and 25 minutes for quart jars.
Simple, simple, simple! Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Canning 101: Tomato Sauce and Peach BBQ Sauce

Wow, 40lbs of tomatoes doesn't sound like much but believe me, it is! Especially when you have to get it all done in a day. I'm in the process of canning tomato sauce today using a recipe that Barbara Kingsolver shared on her website. It looked much more simple, and productive, than any in my canning book so I decided to give it a try.My mom SO graciously purchased a new 16qt stock pot for me to make it all in. Thanks Mom! It smells really good! It takes a while to reduce (we're talking hours here people) so I don't have it canned up yet.

I also canned up some "Zesty Peach BBQ Sauce." This is a little twist on conventional sauce because instead of using tomatoes, it uses peaches (which I also have about 40 lbs of!)

Here's the recipe:
Zesty Peach BBQ Sauce

6 cups finely chopped pitted and peeled peaches
1 cup finely chopped seeded red bell pepper
1 cup finely chopped onion
3 tbsp finely chopped garlic
1 1/4 cup honey
3/4 cup cider vinegar
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp hot pepper flakes
2 tsp dry mustard
2 tsp salt

In a large saucepan combine every everything and bring to a boil. Reduce and stir frequently until it is the thickness of commercial BBQ sauce. About 25 minutes.
In boiling bath canner process for 15 minutes for 1/2 pint jars or 20 for pint jars.
(I took about half of my sauce and put it through the blender to create a smoother, less chunky sauce- but that is up to you on how you'd like the consistency.)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Canning 101: Ginger Pear Marmalade

This recipe caught my eye right away in my new canning book. Ginger? Yum. Pears? Yum. Mixed together in a marmalade? I'll take some of that please!

I canned it this morning and this is how it turned out.

It tastes delish! Although mine may have come out a little darker than normal since I almost burnt the pears....oops.

Here's the recipe if you'd like to try it yourself;

3 limes (you can substitute 2 lemons or 1 large orange) I had lemons on hand so that's what I used.
8 c thinly sliced cored peeled firm ripe pears
4 c sugar
3 Tb chopped crystallized ginger
1 1/4c water

Using a sharp knife, remove peel from limes and cut into very thin strips. Set aside. Cut limes in half crosswise and squeeze juice into large stainless steel pan. Add pears. Toss gently until pears are coated with lime juice. Add sugar and ginger. Stir well until combined. Cover and let stand at room temperature for 1 hour.
In small stainless steel pan, combine peel and water. Bring to a boil over medium heat and boil, stirring frequently, until peel is tender and most of the liquid has evaporated, about 15 minutes. Drain liquid into pear mixture; set peel aside.
Bring pear mixture to a full roaring boil over high heat, stirring frequently. Boil hard, continuously stirring (unless you want to risk scorching like me!) for 15 minutes. Add peel and boil until mixture reaches a gel stage, about 5 minutes.
Ladle hot marmalade into hot jars, leaving 1/4" head space. Wipe rim. Place lids and bands on jars. Process for 10 minutes in a hot water bath canner. Wait 5 minutes then remove jars to cool.

I can't wait to try this on a piece of toast. Another thought- a cute label attached to one of these jars would make a great gift to ring in the fall season!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Canning 101: Tomato Puree

What is a gal to do with all the tomatoes in her garden? If you're like me, you just eat them because you hardly get enough to eat fresh thanks to your short, cool growing season. But if you're like most of the other people in the USA, you can them!
Come on, most people can't eat 300lbs of tomatoes fresh anyway. I get mine from a farmer that drives over from the heat area (just about 30 minutes away) and attends our farmers market.

Tomato puree is quick (I mean quick!) and easy and can be used for so many things.
Take your fresh, washed tomatoes, put them in your blender and blend to a nice smooth puree. Yep, we're throwing the tomatoes in whole here- less the stem of course. No blanching, no peeling, nuthin'.
Once you've pureed your tomatoes you're going to want to pour them all into your stock pot and heat to a simmer. Here's the point where you decide how thick or thin you want your puree. Bringing it to a simmer for a few minutes will keep it thin, heating it for a longer period (depending on how juicy your tomatoes were) will reduce it to a thicker puree.
Pour your puree into warm jars, place your lid and band and water bath for 45 minutes. It's that simple!
You can use your puree as a base for tomato soup, spaghetti sauce, pizza sauce, or anything else. We eat a lot of "red soup," as my kids call it, in the winter so this is a quick yummy way to make it for them.
If you're looking for a few more things to do with tomatoes, here are a couple recipes:

BBQ Sauce
8c pureed seeded peeled plum tomatoes
1c pureed seeded green bell peppers
1 c pureed onions
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 Tb mustard seeds, crushed
1/2 Tb celery salt
1 dried chili pepper, seeded and crushed
3/4 c molasses
3/4 c malt vinegar
1/3 c Worcestershire sauce
2 Tb chili powder
2 tsp pepper
To a large stock pot, add half of the tomato puree. Bring to a roaring boil. While maintaining the boil, add remaining puree. Cook over high heat, stirring frequently, until reduced by half, about 1 hr. Add green pepper, onions, garlic, mustard and celery seeds and chili peppers. Return to a boil and cook apx 10 minutes.
Add remaining ingredients and heat back to medium boil. Stir frequently and cook until desired consistency. For general BBQ sauce consistency, about 45 minutes.
Ladle into hot pint jars leaving 1/2" head space. Place lid and band on jar. Process in hot water bath canner for 20 minutes.

Honeyed Yellow Tomato Butter
5lbs yellow tomatoes, cored and quartered
1 1" piece peeled ginger root
1 Tb whole allspice
2 cinnamon sticks, broken into pieces
2 c sugar
1 c honey
In stock pot crush tomatoes with potato masher. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat and boil gently until tomatoes are soft, 20-30 minutes.
Press tomatoes though a food mill or sieve. Discard skin and seeds. Measure 8c of tomato pulp.
Meanwhile, tie ginger root, allspice and cinnamon sticks into cheesecloth, creating a spice bag.
In another pot combine tomato puree, sugar, honey and spice bag. Stir until sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil over medium high heat, stirring frequently. Cook until mixture thickens and mounds on a spoon. Discard spice bag.
Ladle butter into 1/2 pint jars, leaving 1/4" head space. Place lid and band on jars. Process in a hot water bath canner for 10 minutes.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Canning Book Giveaway Winner!

We're finally waking up to a sunny morning here in this county! Thank you Lord! I think the Lord made it sunny today just to celebrate His glorious day! (We haven't seen the sun this early in about 2 months.) Anywho, let's get on with the drawing. Random.org was nice to me this morning and didn't make it difficult to count- thanks. Here we go.....

Random Integer Generator
Here are your random integers, generated with replacement:

Timestamp: 2010-08-22 6:53:59

That means that : Tumbleweeds and Twisters is our winner! Congratulations, I hope you love this book!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


You can make plans in life. And then plans change. I had planned on blogging all this week on canning but other things have come up:
1. We got our two pigs.
2. Wyatt's appointment at the Orthopedic surgeon (that's 1.5hrs away) got changed to Tuesday (yesterday) and the surgeon is pretty certain that he's going to need surgery to repair his meniscus.
3. We have family in town until tomorrow morning and then more coming on Sunday.
4. Mason was sick for 3 days with a fever.
And the list goes on.....
The family though that is coming this Sunday are my parents! They'll be here for a week and guess what my plans are? Canning all week long! I am really excited about it. So I'll be blogging about it next week sharing all the different things I can each day. For now though I'll share a couple great pictures I've taken recently.

Layton wanted to share his drawing. He said it's a boy and his shark. :)

Mason is up and running. Well, not really running but crawling and scaling everything else! And today he is finally feeling better!

Drying parsley.....with hangers, in the laundry room. With lack of room in our home, one has to get creative!

Here are the piggies, Pork Chop and Bacon. We didn't really name them that; actually they don't have names. It's probably best not to name animals you're going to eat.

Saturday, August 14, 2010


I read a blog a couple days ago (and due to my extreme short term memory! have forgotten where I actually read it) that talked about coveting. I think when most Christians hear that term they think, "you shall not covet your neighbor's wife." Or they simply mistake coveting with lusting for something big. We forget that something as simple as "I wish my house were cleaner on a regular basis!" is coveting!!
I've tried to keep that in the forefront of my mind this week and remember....

While it takes a while to water the garden, I need to be thankful that I don't have to water my garden like this:

Or that while we have 6 people living in a very small house, we don't have to live in something like this:

Praise God that He is so gracious and giving! Praise God for the abundant blessings that He has bestowed upon our family! May I be mindful today and in the future that He provides all that I need and that I need not covet anything. May I be content in the things He has provided because really, I have it oh so good.

"You're blessed when you're content with just who you are—no more, no less. That's the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can't be bought."
Matthew 5:4-6 The Message

Friday, August 13, 2010

Fair 2010

Our family loves the fair! The rides, the exhibits, the rodeo, the animals, the games and yes, even the food. Fair time is the one time a year where we let our standards on eating slip slightly.... o.k., ridiculously. Here are some shots from our fair time fun!
First, here is Layton's calendar. For about 3 weeks before he kept asking, "When is the fair coming???" We resolved that 5x/day question with a "countdown calendar." Each day he got to put a sticker on the calendar. He could then count the days remaining until fair. When it was full of stickers- we were off!

This is Wyatt's Lego entry in the fair.

Here is Layton's.

Both the boys won first place in their division but Layton was the only one who would pose for me in front of his!

Mmmmmmmm, cotton candy.

My good friend's two daughters both showed their pigs in the fair this year.

Wyatt and Layton on the big slide.

Layton driving his truck.

Timber lasted for all of 15 seconds once this ride started. The kind gentleman that was supervising stopped the ride so she could get off. She looks thrilled, doesn't she?

Mason was an angel the whole time, hanging out in the Ergo on my back.

I entered a couple of baked goods this year and took home 2 second place ribbons and 1 third. I keep all of my fair ribbons in a drawer. It's fun to go back and look at all of them, what they were for and when they were from.

Do you and your family enjoy the fair? Did you enter anything in your local or state fair this year? I'd love to hear about it!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Canning 101: Hot Packing and Headspace

I want to quickly cover 2 issues that come up with canning. The first is hot packing.


Many vegetables are able to be raw packed (since they are usually processed in a pressure canner) but most fruits require a hot pack. Why is this?
"Many fresh foods contain from 10-30 percent air. How long canned foods retain high quality depends on how much air is removed from food before the jars are sealed."
When you fail to hot pack your fruits you can end up with quite a bit of space in the bottom of your sealed jar as your fruit floats up at the top. Sometimes even as much as half the jar ends up being space instead of fruit!
To hot pack fruit, simmer it in boiling water for 2-5 minutes. With fruits such as peaches you can use that same water to create the syrup you add to the jars before processing. Pack your peaches well. You don't have the squish them all down into a peachy pulp but make sure you're utilizing as much jar space as possible. An added bonus, hot packed foods also retain better color and flavor over time.


Secondly, head space. "Head space" refers to the space above the food in a jar and below the lid. A general rule for head space is:
1/4" for jams and jellies
1/2" for fruits and tomatoes, processed in a HWB
1" for low acid foods, processed in a pressure canner
Head space is essential in jars to allow for the expansion of foods during processing and for forming the vacuum in cooled jars.
Foods canned in a pressure canner need more head space because as the temperature gets higher the air expands more.

I hope that some of this is helpful to those just starting to can or those that always wondered why their peaches always floated to the top. ;)

Don't forget to enter my canning book giveaway here!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Canning 101: Low and High Acid Foods

Different foods require different methods of canning. Some can up with just a boiling water canner, others require the high heat of a pressure canner. Low acid foods have a pH value higher than 4.6. Unless you are adding lemon juice or citric acid to increase the acidity level then they must be processed with a pressure canner. Low acid foods include red meats, seafood, chicken, milk, and all fresh vegetables except for most tomatoes.
Acid foods have a pH of 4.6 or lower. They include fruits, pickles, jams, marmalades and fruit butters. They can be processed in a hot water bath canner.

Here's a brief list to give you an idea of what's appropriate for either method:

Hot Water Bath Canning

Pressure Canning
Green Bean

To ensure a good quality canned product you'll want to pick produce at the peak of it's quality and can them within 6-12 hours of picking. Peaches, apricots, plums, pears, and nectarines can be ripened for a day or two between harvest and canning. Foods from your own garden or local farmer's market (that are usually picked the day before or morning of) will provide the best quality for canning.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Canning 101: A Canning Book Giveaway**CLOSED**

I am excited about this book! To be honest, the first copy I got was to give away......but once I looked through it and saw all the fantastic recipes, I kept it for myself and ordered another to give away! Really, it's that good! I think you'll enjoy it too. This month I'll be giving away one copy of the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.
To enter:
1. Simply leave a comment telling me what your favorite food to can is (or one that you'd like to experiment with.)
2. For 1 additional entry, blog about the giveaway and leave an additional comment letting me know that you did.
3. For 1 additional entry, facebook or tweet about it and leave an additional comment letting me know that you did.

Contest is open to everyone until 7pm on August 21st. Winner will be drawn by Random.org on the 22nd.
Also, if you get a chance, head on over to my new poll regarding Farmer's markets (in the left hand column) and vote!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Canning 101: HWB vs. Pressure

Both Hot Water Bath (HWB) and Pressure canning allow you to can a variety of foods. If you have only tried HWB canning before let me first encourage you to try pressure canning. I know that it does seem more intimidating but once you begin, it opens up a whole new world to canning with an endless list of possibilities. Being able to can produce and meats allows for more self sufficiency. And I'm all about more self sufficiency!A HWB or Boiling water canner is simply a large, deep pot equipped with a lid and a rack. You can buy a pot that is specifically for canning or even use a pot you have on hand at home. If you're using a pot from home just make sure that is it large enough to completely immerse your jars into water, ideally being at least 3 inches deeper than the height of the jars. When you can, the water will boil and could easily spill over if your pot is not deep enough. 3 inches allows for the 1 inch of water that you will need to cover your jars plus room for the boiling water. Having a rack in your pot is important to keep the jar away from direct heat and allow the water to completely surround the jar for even heating. HWB canners are used for processing acidic foods.

When processing low acidic foods you're going to want to use a pressure canner. The high temperature of a pressure canner destroys bacteria spores that can grow in low acid foods. Pressure canners also need a rack at the bottom, just like HWB canners. You can use both types of canners on your home stove top. Pressure canners can also be used outside on a propane cooker. I usually can all of my food inside with the exception of tuna. Fish stinks and the process of canning tuna will stink up your home, so I opt for canning outside in that case.
At our next look at Canning 101, I'll share a list of foods to can in your HWB and pressure canners.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Canning 101: Jars, Lids and Bands

Depending on how much canning you're planning on doing this year, you may need quite a few jars. I was always surprised (when I first started canning) at how many jars I actually used!I've heard folks say that they reuse jars, like the old glass mayonnaise ones but I personally have never done that. I like to stick with what works and I know that jars that are especially made for canning always work.

There are several brands of canning jars to choose from and they can be found in a number of places. For new ones, check out your local hardware store, grocery store, Wal-Mart or any other home supply type store. You can get used ones too (usually at an awesome price) from places like garage sales, thrift stores, or even your neighbors garage! One of our neighbors gave me over 3 dozen pint jars a few years ago that she wasn't using anymore.
If you're buying new jars then you probably don't need to worry about their condition but if you're buying, or inheriting, used ones then you'll want to make sure you look over every jar well. Look for nicks in the rim, small cracks in the glass or any other sign of weakness. It's so disappointing to get your fruits or vegetables packed, into the canner and then lose a jar or two due to breakage or failure to seal. It's also a good idea to look over the jars you have had in storage from last season.

Lids and bands can be purchased separately if needed. Lids are a one time use product but bands can be reused year after year. I have a cabinet in my kitchen that holds a bunch of bands that I reuse. That way, each canning season my only expense is new lids.
The Tattler company makes reusable canning lids that are constructed from BPA free plastic. Amy over at Homestead Revival is hosting a giveaway for some right now. I have never tried these but I have heard good things about them.
Now is the time to get your supplies for canning season! It's best to get your items early on so that when you are ready to can, you're not left searching the stores for items. They fly off the shelves in the peak of the season!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

DIY: Fruit Fly Trap

They're baaaaaaaaccccckkk! Fruit flies in the kitchen- or anywhere you keep fruit. Getting rid of them all together is near impossible unless you refrigerate all your fruit or don't eat fruit at all.
Here's a handy trap that works well at catching the little bugs.

You'll need:
1 mason jar. I use a 1/2 gallon one but a quart size would work too.
Plastic wrap
1 rubber band

Tear a piece of plastic large enough to cover the mouth of your jar. Place old fruit inside (a banana peel, cantaloupe seeds, apple cote, etc.) Place plastic over mouth of jar and pull tight. Place rubber band around seal of jar to hold plastic on. Cut small holes ( I just use a knife) into tight plastic.
Fruit flies will be able to get in but not out!Viola! Your own fruit fly trap! I keep ours on the kitchen counter and have to replace the fruit about one a week.
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