Saturday, July 31, 2010

Laid low...

"Laid low" was a phrase that my Grandma used to use when she was sick. "Feeling poorly" was another. I must say that for the last couple of weeks I've been "laid low" and "feeling poorly".  I'm happy to say that I'm on the mend again.

One of my boys ended up in the ER last month and had a very sweet young lady working on him.  She shared with him that she had been fighting a nasty cold.  She was kind enough to share that with Elijah...the cold I mean.....who promptly shared it with me.  For Elijah it turned into a nasty sinus infection and for me a nasty case of bronchitis.

I see "hospital bugs" as "super bugs".  I figure if they can live in an environment that has a reputation for being so antiseptic they must have morphed into a super germ.  If I was truly ill, the hospital would be the last place I would want to stay.

All of that to let you know that I'm behind on everything.  If you have written to me and not heard back, I will be working on that over the next few days.  I'll thank you now for your grace.....that you, dear readers, are always so willing to extend when life gets in the way of me writing about our lives.

I've had several emails requesting a tutorial on how I helped this dear friend organize her recipe files.  I'll be posting that over a couple of days with plenty of suggestions and pictures.

Some months ago, I mentioned a huge project the boys were working on.  They finished last week and I'll be posting that also - again with plenty of pictures.

My boys have amazed me - they have continued with the garden and other projects while taking tender care of their mama.  They have cooked, cleaned and kept the laundry going when I couldn't. They have been a bit bossy with me about resting...they know that I tend to get back on my feet a bit to soon at times which can lead to a longer recovery so they have insisted that I rest this time.  They have been so stern...that at times I had to hide a giggle or two....ssshhhh....don't let on.


Sunday, July 25, 2010

Amazing Grace...

Stop.....still...and enjoy Him!


Saturday, July 24, 2010

My Favorite Canning Books

Here is a list of the books I use the most during canning season!  I hope you'll find some favorites here as well.

Keeping the HarvestKeeping the Harvest: Discover the Homegrown Goodness of Putting Up Your Own Fruits, Vegetables & Herbs (Down-to-Earth Book)

Pickles and RelishesPickles and Relishes: From Apples to Zucchinis, 150 recipes for preserving the harvest

Preserving Fruits & VegetablesPreserving Fruits & Vegetables (Well-Stocked Pantry)

The Big Book of Preserving the HarvestThe Big Book of Preserving the Harvest: 150 Recipes for Freezing, Canning, Drying and Pickling Fruits and Vegetables

So Easy to PreserveSo Easy to Preserve

Putting it Up with Honey

Home Preserving Made EasyHome Preserving Made Easy

Preserving Fruits & VegetablesPreserving Fruits & Vegetables (Well-Stocked Pantry)

Jams and Preserves

I also use old cookbooks that I have collected from estate sales and the used book sales from our local library. If you can find cookbooks from before 1950, you have found treasures indeed! My favorites are the cookbooks from the 1930s and 1940s.

I hope these books will inspire you to move beyond green beans and tomatoes this canning season!


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Canning beyond the Ball Blue Book!

If you are just beginning to preserve food through canning, I highly recommend the Ball Blue Book.

It provides some great recipes, several picture tutorials for basic things like green beans and tomatoes and very simple, easy to follow directions.

But there is so much more to canning!  I wanted to help you "think outside the book" for just a minute.  What do you do if you want to can one of your own recipes?  Salsa?  Spaghetti sauce?  You do not have to limit yourself to the recipes in the Ball Blue Book!

What I have been taught is to go through your recipe and find out what the canning time is for each ingredient and then use the longest time in your list. For instance...I like to can my hot wing sauce.  The basis of the sauce is vinegar and peppers - there are herbs and spices too but we don't need to worry about those.

I know that this is a vinegar based recipe so I will be water-bath canning instead of pressure canning. I look through the Ball Blue Book and find the canning time for peppers.  My recipe has butter in it but I choose to leave that out and add it when I am heating the wing sauce to use for dinner.  Recipes for peppers indicate 10 minutes at a rolling boil. So I heat my wing sauce, without the butter, till it is simmering, prepare my jars, rings and seals as usual, ladle the hot wing sauce into the jars and finish the same as I would for any recipe.   I process for 10 minutes at a rolling boil in a water-bath canner. I can then place the jars in my pantry with my other canned goods.

Each one of these jars will prepare two dinners for my family! This saves lots of space in my freezer and makes it a quick and easy meal - no thawing out, just heat and serve!

I also wanted to remind you that there are many other books on canning - with many recipes.  Don't feel that you are locked into the Ball Blue Book!  Stay tuned next time as I share some of my favorite books on preserving food!


Monday, July 19, 2010

And the two shall become one...

My son is bringing me a daughter this fall! What an exciting time this is for me as I watch my son begin a family of his own.

But, I'm not just getting a new daughter...we are adding five wonderful new people to our family this fall.  Last weekend we got to meet the people we will be family with until the Lord returns!

Amanda has a wonderful mama and dad, a beautiful sister and a younger and much taller brother! Our families spent time sharing photos of our children growing up, eating a fabulous meal cooked by our kids, telling tales about the happy couple and getting to know each other all weekend!  The time went by way to fast!

My mother and I held a Pampered Chef shower for Amanda Sunday afternoon and many of our friends came to fellowship and bless the happy couple. It was wonderful because her mama and sister were here to attend as well.  My dear friend, Pam, made one of the most awesome cakes I've ever seen or tasted - the woman needs to open a bakery.

The bride to be...and she is as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside!

My mother cooked her heart out - I hope that when I am 84 I can do as much as my mama - she runs circles around me now!

I've been praying for my sons' wives since my boys were babies.  It is exciting now to see my Father answer those prayers.  It is amazing to see how much they are suited to each well they fit each other's personalities....both Amanda's mother and I have no doubt that our Father has orchestrated this and that they were created for each other. How blessed we are!

Our families are looking forward to spending more time together both before and after the wedding as we get to know each other and truly become "family" together!

Oh....and I can't wait to see my baby in a kilt!!


Saturday, July 17, 2010

He who has ears, let him hear...

I ponder this thought often...if I had ears to hear...could I hear the rocks sing His praises?

What about the beasts of the fields?  Do butterfly wings whisper soprano? Do storm clouds ring bass notes?  What does a sunset sound like? A sunrise? What are the words that the birds sing outside my window each morning?  That the frogs chirp each evening?

Do fields of grain waving in the wind make melody? Do stars sound like tinkling bells? Does the pounding of the ocean keep the rhythm of this glorious song?

If I could stop....still......listen.....truly hear the sounds that my Father hears....wouldn't the air be filled with the sounds of worship?

Does all of creation truly sing His praises?

I believe it does...

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Moving a bull - a tutorial....of sorts...

We have a black angus bull, named Big Daddy by the boys because they knew he'd be big and hoped he would ....*ahem*.... be a daddy many times over.  He's done an admirable job - both with our cows and several other people's cows.

There is another very nice farm family up the road who've been looking for a bull to spend some time with their lady cows....23 of them!  We thought Big Daddy might enjoy a ride to their farm....all we had to do was to convince him.

Now this bull has been very gentle and easy to work with, easy to move from field to field, easy to put in the corral when people have wanted to fish in our pond.  So, of course, we thought this would be an easy job.

Did I mention we've been having a heatwave?  It's been 102° here and MUGGY! That should have been a bit of a warning.

First thing to do was to get Big Daddy into the corral.  Piece of cake!

That was supposed to be the hard part but it didn't take long.  Shortly after this, his "limo" arrived.

This quite startled our milk cow - shortly after I took this picture she tore off across the fields kicking her heels and tossing her head.  I don't think anyone has ever told her that she doesn't have horns to toss..sshhh...

Once the door of the trailer is lined up with the headgate, all we need is for Big Daddy to take a walk down the chute and into the trailer. Big Daddy is outnumbered and easily enters the chute...

 a little tap on the rear and he begins the walk to greener pastures...

He's almost there! can you see him between the boards? He gets to the headgate...he hasn't been through a headgate for over a year....

And he moves backwards as fast as he way is he going to voluntarily go into that limo no matter how many times we tell him about the adoring crowd of ladies waiting up the road. Did I mention that it is 102°...and MUGGY?

And the process begins again...I won't bore you with pictures of the next two tries...I think he was just toying with us...

This next time the boys are ready with a board to put behind him at the head gate so he can't back up....

I heard it crack as he backed through Jeremy jumped down and grabbed a huge cedar post....
and we tried again...I did mention that it is 102° and climbing and MUGGY didn't I?

He's at the head gate again...the cedar log has been placed and now he's being given a gentle prod with a cane pole to encourage him to enter the trailer....I decided at this point that the purchase of an electric cattle prod might be a good idea...for the future...just in case....

He tried to back up but the cedar post held...I knew it would, but I was a bit worried about the rest of the corral.

He's going through the head gate - quite a close fit...And he's in!!!!

And he's off to visit those greener pastures we had been telling him about...he wasn't happy about this at the time...but a few days later we drove by his new home and he appeared to be quite contented....

The most important things we learned that day....wait for cooler weather to load cows and always have a cedar post handy......oh, and put a cattle prod on your shopping list if you are going to be dealing with stubborn bulls!


Sunday, July 11, 2010

Blessed Be His Name

Believing that it is ALL good!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Dilly Beans - Pt. 2

We left off with our jars ready to ladle the hot liquid over them.

Ladle the hot vinegar mix over your beans leaving 1/4 inch headspace.  I prefer to use a stainless steel canning funnel.  I am working with all organic ingredients and I don't like the idea of hot, acidic vinegar going through a plastic funnel depositing chemicals into my lovely organic creation!  An extra bonus is that the stainless steel funnels should last forever!  I bought mine at the local farm store for about $5.

Once you have filled your jars you need to run a plastic spatula around the inside to remove any air bubbles.  I run it around and push it slightly towards the middle of the jar to drive any air bubble towards the top.  If you use a metal spatula, you might find it turns your lovely green beans yucky colors in the canner!  You can find one of these spatulas in the canning section of Walmart for just a dollar or so at the end of canning season.  You can also use the plastic handle of a regular spatula.

When you have all the bubbles out you need to wipe the rims of your jars down so that they will seal.  Sometimes during the ladling process, small pieces of food or spots of liquid will land on the rim of the jar.  I take a clean, hot, rag (cold might crack that hot jar!) and wipe all the way around the jar.

Next, take your seal lifter (bless the person who invented this treasure!) and pull a seal out of that simmering water!

Place it on a jar...

Then add the ring and "finger" tighten.  This is not the time to use all your strength - just tighten without straining!

Place your jars in the canner rack.

Next add a splash of white vinegar to the water in the canner.  This will prevent your jars from getting a "foggy" look from hard water.  Wish someone had told me that the first time I used a canner...I was sure I had done something terrible and ruined the food!

Lower your rack carefully into the hot water.  Use a wooden spoon or spatula to straighten any jars that might begin to tip. Make sure that the water covers the jars by one to two inches.

If I find that I don't have enough water, I add the hot water that the seals were simmering in.  Pour it in the middle of the canner, avoiding the jars that are there.

Once you've done this a few times, you will be able to judge how much water to start with.

Cover your pot and bring the water in the canner to a rolling boil.

Only begin timing after you have reached the rolling boil.  For pint jars of dilly beans, process for 10 minutes.

When your timer goes off, turn off the heat and lift the jars out of your canner with a jar lifter.  I always set mine on a folded rag towel so that a hot jar isn't touching a cool counter top - less breakage that way.

Wait for the favorite sounds of canning season... *ping*  as each jar seals.  This sometimes takes 20 minutes or more but it means you were successful in preserving food for your family!

Let the jars cool completely before this next step - I usually wait until the next day.  Remove the rings and wash them again in soapy water.

I also wash off the outside of my jars.

Sometimes, during the canning process, some of the contents of the jar can leak a little.  Sometimes, you might have a jar shatter in the canner and the rest of the jars will be covered in yuck.  Clean them well, dry them off and you can either replace the rings on the jars for storage or leave them off.  I used to replace them all...I felt "safer" that my jars would be less likely to loose their lids.  However, it is more expensive to keep the rings on all of your jars.  Now, I wash the rings and save them for another canning load and store my jars without them.

Date your jars. I always put the year on every lid. If there is a possibility of confusion, I also put contents on the jar.  For instance - sweet pickles or dill pickles?

So...what are your favorite canning recipes?  I'll share some more of mine as the season progresses.

I'm very thankful to my Father for the ability to grow good food and for the wonderful methods we have now for preserving the harvest.  If we are willing to put in the hard work, we have the ability, with His help, to feed our families nutritious food all winter long.  What a blessing that is to my family.  He is always faithful to provide and my heart overflows with gratitude for His provisions!


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