Wednesday, December 30, 2009

To squeeze or not to squeeze...that is the question!


Yes, I know it's been awhile since I've blogged...but we are still alive down here in the frozen tundra of Oklahoma. And we've been canning, too! While we were snowed/iced in, I decided to haul out some of the apple peels and cores from the freezer and make jelly.

As soon as I started boiling these peels, I noticed the beautiful color of the juice. My mind turned pretty quickly to the county fair! Now, after boiling these peels, you let them sit overnight then strain the juice from the peels. To strain, I put all the pulp in a double layer of flour sack towel and hang it above a pot to let the juice drip out at an excruciatingly slow pace. Now, any jelly maker will tell you that you are NOT...I repeat, you are NOT to squeeze the pulp as it will cloud your jelly. This has always been tough for me because it seems wasteful (and you KNOW I hate wasting anything). I decided to do a little experiment and make one batch of jelly from unsqueezed pulp and another from the juice obtained from squeezing the pulp to get the remaining juice. Here, let me show you the results:





The jelly on the left is from squeezed pulp and the jelly on the right is from nonsqueezed pulp. Quite a difference, huh? Does this mean I will not ever again squeeze the pulp? NO WAY! I got a whole batch of jelly just from squeezing...that's five cups of juice that would have been thrown out. I think this double batch method works pretty well...one batch of nice, clear jelly and one batch of what we've decided to call "peasant jelly!" LOL! We don't really care about clarity when we're loading our PB&Js, doncha know?



Anywho...You'll be seeing this jelly again...she's going to the county fair for sure...and I think she'll bring home a blue ribbon!! BTW...that bubble you see just to the left of the words "Perfect Mason" is a bubble in the glass...not in the jelly. Aren't old jars fun?

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Lovely Lavender...

I love our lavender plant and hope to plant more this coming spring as we always find so many uses for it. This year, we carefully harvested and dried lavender planning to use it for Christmas gifts. Here's our jar:



The girls and I combined salt with a drizzle of oil (soybean and olive oil), added a few drops of lavender essential oil and blue food coloring then mixed in some of our dried lavender and a few dried rose petals.



Isn't it lovely all combined?



We'll be giving these out to friends and family members this Christmas...I think they turned out beautifully!

Friday, December 18, 2009

SwagBucks = SwagBOOKS!!!

I recently ordered three FREE books using my SwagBucks! I'm looking forward to reading and perusing them over the holidays! Here's the list:

A Very Small Farm by William Paul Winchester
This is the journal of a man who becomes a substistence farmer on 20 acres in Oklahoma...really looking forward to this read! It chronicles his adventures in gardening, beekeeping, and cow milking as well as orchard building...and all in our very own climate!

The Backyard Homestead Edited by Charleen Madigan
The subtitle is "Produce all the food you need on just a quarter acre"...need I say more?

Just in Case: How to be Self-Sufficient when the Unexpected Happens by Kathy Harrison
I don't want to be an alarmist, but I do want to be prepared...and watching the evening news lately has really opened my eyes to all that we take for granted. Looking forward to rethinking preparedness and assessing our own home with this book.

If you haven't joined SwagBucks yet, here's your chance! Click on the banner and get started! I'm amazed at how quickly we earn free stuff!

Search & Win

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Ahhhhh...the life of a dog....

Zoe is our female Miniature Australian Shepherd. Since we lost our 15 year old Miniature Pincher in October, Zoe has the run of the house...needless to say she's enjoying herself.





"WILL YOU PLEASE GET OUT OF MY ROOM!! A GIRL NEEDS HER BEAUTY SLEEP, YA KNOW!!"


Ummmm...sorry Zoe. I'll leave you to your nap now.

(Also, please notice the unmade bed...just keepin' it real, folks...)

Monday, December 14, 2009

Applesauce Bread (Okay...Cake....Whatever!)



Since my pantry overfloweth with applesauce, I decided to try baking with it! Now, I'm a big fan of subbing applesauce for the oil in baking, but I wanted to go beyond that. I used a basic recipe and did a bit of tweaking and came up with this yummmmmmmy applesauce bread (errrr...cake?):

Applesauce Bundt Cake

1 cup all purpose flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon allspice
2 sticks butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 cup granulated sugar, packed
1 egg
2 cups chunky applesauce
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray bundt pan with Pam (or whatever greasing method floats your baking boat)

Combine dry ingredients. Combine butter and both sugars in a separate bowl. Beat in egg then stir in applesauce. Stir in flour mixture until it is fully incorporated. Fold in pecans.

Pour into bundt pan and bake 60 to 70 minutes. You could drizzle this with a glaze, but it was yummy as is...better the second day, even!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

OPEN UP!

Here's a pantry pic! Everyone post your own pantry pics and comment with a link so we can check it out!



You can see that the jars are stacked three high in the back! We also have bags of Halloween marshmallows for our hot cocoa...had to stock up because they were 20 cents a bag after Halloween and we don't really care if they are shaped like pumpkins and bats so long as there are marshmallows!

This is my "overflow" pantry...we also have food stocked in the kitchen cabinets, but all the home canned foods are here so I can open it up and gaze at them several times a day (yes, I'm a dork and PROUD of it!). I'm especially excited because this year I canned more "food" and less jelly. Don't get me wrong, we love the home canned jelly and we haven't bought store jelly in over a year now, but it was my goal to can more nutritious foods this year and I made that goal. Next year, I'm tackling veggies! My Mother-In-Law gifted me with her dial gauge pressure canner, and the local extension agent tested it for me this year, so we're good to go next summer!

We also have two freezers with tons of home grown veggies and sale stock ups...like 20 pounds of chicken leg quarters that were on sale for $4.99 for a 10 pound bag! Couldn't pass that one up! One of these days, I'll take some pictures of the freezers (after I clean them out, of course)!

Alright now, let's see your pantries! LOL! C'mon everyone, don't be shy!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Pantry Building...

So far, I've got 19 pint jars and 5 quart jars of applesauce. I made cranberry applesauce (just throw in a good handful of frozen cranberries while cooking the apples), spiced applesauce (with pumpkin pie spice added...don't ask me why I don't add apple pie spice...pumpkin is just better....trust me on this one), and plain applesauce. For the last two big batches I've made, I've left the skins on and blended them right up with the apples...it adds both flavor and nutrition to the sauce, and makes cooking it immensely easier without all that apple peeling.

Here's a close up shot that shows the little pieces of peel and the lovely colors. Food in jars is just so beautiful, isn't it...or maybe that's just me...


Here's a group shot...smile everyone!


And...I need to confess to you all that I am slightly addicted to roasted pumpkin seeds. It's really becoming a problem as pumpkins are not as readily available around these parts after Halloween. I was extremely excited to find out that roasted acorn squash seeds are just as good (okay...maybe even slightly better) after becoming desperate...er...I mean....researching alternatives to pumpkin seeds! So, here's my coveted jar of pumpkin & acorn squash seeds, roasted, with a touch of salt and pepper for flavor!


I've got one more 8 lb. bag of apples to can...what's YOUR favorite way to preserve apples? Apple butter? Apple pie filling? Hmmmmmmmmmmm.....I'm off to dig out that yummy apple butter recipe...it's around here somewhere!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Apple Craziness!

Apples at 42 cents/lb? Oh, yeah!! So far, I've canned 24 pounds of apples, which translates into 17 pint jars of applesauce which figures out to around 58 cents per jar! The only canning supplies needed were new seals as I already had to jars and rings...canning rocks! I've got 24 more pounds to can tomorrow and plans to do one more round later in the week before the sale is over. I <3 my local grocery store...they even play Christian music so I can sing along while shopping!

P.S. I'll share pics of all this appley goodness later! Stay tuned!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Around our house...

Winter = knitting...this is the softest baby blanket ever for a special brand new baby boy. No, it's not made of organic or natural anything, but this yarn was too soft to pass up. It's delicious!


Six pounds of pumpkin puree headed to the freezer. P.S. I love my new kitchen scale...thank you IKEA!


Good dog, Zoe! She's got a head scarf on and is being put to bed!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Shed...

Here are pics of the loafing shed! I'm so glad we could salvage the tin from granny and grandpa's homestead for this project! It makes it so special to remember time spent at their farm as I'm working on our farm. And the fact that my dad planned it out and helped build it just adds to its value. It's a beginning! And it's progress! And for these things I am immensely grateful!




Now, off to drool over seed catalogs and continue to work on the final touches on my written exams!!
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