I'm sitting here with a cup of Chai Tea and it looks like we had another dusting of snow last night. We have had several snow storms followed by rain followed by sleet and then snow again.  It has made for a icy driveway but after a couple of warm days things are improving.  Let's just say that the grippers (for those not in snow/ice country they are spikes that you put on your shoes) are staying on for awhile.  The last thing I want to do is end up falling on my way to the barn.

There have been several little projects that have been completed over the last couple of months.

Fall Applesauce

My sweet husband and I have a tradition of going to the apple orchard late in the fall.  We wait until there has been at least one frost because the apples seem to be better then.  We have several apple trees planted here on the homestead but they are not producing fruit yet so we give a local grower our business.  We eat many of the apples fresh and I make a pie or two and of course apple crisp but canning applesauce to have the rest of the year is the biggest thing.  There is nothing like some of our home raised pork with applesauce for dinner on a cold winter evening.

Turkey Broth in the canner

After Thanksgiving my husband strips the bird and we put the bones in a huge pot on the wood stove to simmer for several hours.  I get the pot up to temperature on the gas stove then transfer it to a trivet on the wood stove where it will sit and get happy.  I then can the rich broth to use all winter as a base for soups and stews.  If you don't can please make broth anyway and freeze it.  Homemade is so much better than what you can buy in the store.  I can mine with no salt so I can season each soup or stew that I make with it to my liking.  I make broth every time I make chicken too.  This yields just enough broth of one batch of soup.  Usually I end up making my Tortilla Soup with that since it also uses the left over chicken in it.  I'll give you that recipe in another post.

Triple Berry Jelly

I had been collecting juice from a triple berry mix (raspberries, strawberries, blueberries) for several months and freezing it.  Now it was time to make jelly with it.  Earlier I had made a delicious apple pie jam that I found a recipe for.  It is low in sugar so the flavor of the apples really comes out.  I also made a jam with my ground cherries.  I just used the recipe in the box of pectin for berry jam.

After I finished the Triple Berry Jam I canned it is 4 oz. jelly jars and created a cute label for the top.  These became Christmas gifts added to bags with home made fudge and cereal mix.  It is so fun to make and give gifts from your kitchen.

My husband and I have been talking about a big project for next summer.  We do not have a basement therefore not a root cellar or any real cold storage space.  I use our spare room for our pantry and in the winter with the door closed it is really cool but that is not the case in the summer.  Summer and fall are our times when the cold storage is really needed especially when we butcher and process our poultry.  For years we have put them in big bins with ice but when you are processing close to 50 birds that is a lot of ice.  So we are looking into building a cold room.

The Ripley's, the young couple that we get our CSA from at Ripley Farm, have one for their produce so we started to do some research.  Come to find out the company that makes the device that turns a regular window air conditioner into one that will keep a room at around 40 degrees, CoolBot, has plans for building the rooms right on their website.  This might be a multi year project since we will have concrete poured for the foundation and then build the room.  We are planning on attaching it to the back of the garage so we can enter it from inside the garage.  No outside entrance means we don't have to keep the snow shoveled from in front of the door.

Not only are we planning to use it for the keeping our meat cool during processing but we want to make it into a year round cold storage where the canned goods and root cellar items could be stored.  The room will be super insulated and will be located where there will not be too much direct sun hitting it so our hope is that except for when we have meat cooling we will have to turn on the air conditioner very little.  There may also need to be a small heating element during the winter so that stored food does not freeze during the winter.  I'll try to keep you updated at things progress.

It has been nice getting updated.  I know the posts have not been very regular lately.  Between my and my husband's crazy schedule it has been a challenge.  I hope to be better in this new year of 2017.

Visit with you soon.



Theme for my kitchen remodel???



Fall is coming quickly and the garden is producing well.  So, what to do with the surplus.  Sharing with family and friends is great but if you are fortunate you should have enough to put some by for winter.  I use several methods to preserve my garden produce.  Which method depends on what the fruit or vegetable is.  I regularly use canning and dehydration for food preservation.  I can green beans, tomatoes and jam.  I like to dehydrate fruit, some vegetables and potatoes.  Having these fruits and vegetables on hand either canned or dried makes meal preparation fun and easy.  There are many days that as I'm leaving for work I ask my husband to get something out of the freezer for dinner, meaning the meat part of the meal.  I don't know until I arrive home from work what I will be working with for dinner.  I know for some of you this will not work for you but I like the challenge of figuring out what to make to compliment whatever meat is waiting for me for dinner.   Being able to pull canned green beans, applesauce or pears out of the pantry to go with the meat that we are having for dinner is a great feeling.  No trip to the supermarket needed.

Now, maybe you don't can or dehydrate but you can build up your pantry so that you can be creative on a moments notice.  You can start small and build your pantry slowly.  The most important thing to remember is to store what you eat and eat what you store.  There is no point to putting cans, bags or boxes of food that your family will not eat.  It is a waste of space and money.

So, let's get started.  Keep a list of what you and your family eat for a week or so.  Now, what ingredients from those meals would keep in your pantry?  Make a list of the staples from each meal that you made.  These are the items that you should begin to fill your pantry with.  These are also probably already on your shopping list.  So when you head to the grocery store instead of just getting one jar of pasta sauce, green beans, soup or whatever, buy two.  One will be for your weekly meal and the other will go in your pantry. Each time you use one of the items in your pantry put it on your shopping list and purchase two.  After several weeks your pantry will start looking good.

Over the next few weeks I will talk more about food storage and being prepared if you cannot get to the supermarket.  So please check in often.  Sign up and receive notice of the next post.

Fresh beans from the garden
Fresh beans from the garden

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Tattler Reusable Canning Lids

Last week when it was raining and a little cool I decided to can some dried black beans.  I had ordered a dozen Tattler reusable rings and lids to see how they performed. Dried beans have to be pressure canned after they are soaked and simmered just as you would prepare dried beans for any use.  The lids come in two pieces, the plastic lid and a red rubber ring.  They are used a little differently than traditional canning lids but if you follow the directions you should have success.  The largest difference aside from the two pieces is how tight you put the metal bands onto the jars before they go into the canner.  They are only tightened finger tight.  The lids must be allowed to vent well while in the canner in order for the lids to seal correctly.   As soon as you take them out of the canner the bands must be tightened down tightly.

What I found on mine is that the bands were fairly loose when I went to tighten after taking the jars out of the canner, with the exception of two of the jars.  These jars bands were already tight so I must have tightened them too much before putting them in the canner.  These two lids failed to seal.

I am planning on getting more of these lids.  It will be nice not to have to always buy new lids every canning season.  The Tattlers are a bit more expensive that traditional one time use lids but I believe that I will be able to save a lot of money in the long run.

There are several places that you can purchase these lids.  I bought my first dozen from Amazon but I have found a better and less expensive place to get them it is Directive 21.  They have free shipping within the US.  I like the fact that I can buy a case of several dozen at a significant discount over just purchasing one dozen.  I would suggest that you purchase one dozen to give them a try as I did before you stock up on several dozen.  I am impressed enough that I am going to gradually build up my stock so eventually I will not have to buy disposable lids except for the things that I can to give away to friend and family.

I hope you enjoyed this personal review of this product.  From time to time I may do this for other items that I either use regularly or a new item.  Please let me know what you think in the comment section.