Category Archives: FOOD

Making Sauerkraut

The last two years we’ve had an abundance of cabbage which I have canned and frozen.  We shared with our daughters and other family and some of our neighbors.  I was starting to run short on sauerkraut so I contacted my neighbor, Linda Smith, about the moon signs to work the cabbage and we got to it.

We brought in four large heads (very large) and Eddie started cutting thin strips from the washed and drained heads.  First he quarters the heads and then uses one of our LEM butcher knives to slice off thin strips into a large pan.  I mention LEM knives because we think they’re awesome (http://www.lemproducts.com/category ) because they keep a sharp edge longer than most we have and they have all sizes you could possibly need.

This shows how thin we slice the cabbage for making slaw.

Next we bring out my big crock and mallet that Eddie made for me years ago.

This is the mallet Eddie made for me to crush the cabbage when we make kraut. I usually put a layer of sliced cabbage about four inches thick in the crock and pound it down with the mallet to about two inches, sprinkle with table salt and pile on another layer. We keep doing this until the crock is about half full.  The mallet is about 36 – 40 inches long which is the perfect length to sit at the kitchen table in a chair and pound the cabbage.

As you mash the cabbage, liquid will start oozing out of the cabbage and this will make the brine needed to sour the cabbage.  You WILL NOT add any water to this mixture, only cabbage and table salt.  You MUST salt each layer as you go through the process.

This crock is about 18 inches tall and about 15 inches across, very large and very heavy!  You can see looking into the crock that I had quite a bit more to fill and mash to get it half full.

The crock is half full, the juices are covering the cabbage and now it’s time to cover the concoction. Eddie has made me a wooden cover 1 inch thick that sits on top of the cabbage.  We need to keep it down on the cabbage tight so that the juices will ferment but nothing, such as dust, bugs, or any other matter can get into the kraut. To do this we fill a heavy-duty trash bag with several gallons of water and tie it up and sit it gently on top of the wooden topper. We move the crock to a dark, cool room (usually my laundry room) and let it work for about two weeks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My first peek at the concoction is about 5-7 days from the covering.  We check to make sure it’s bubbling/fermenting and we do our first taste test.  The cabbage will taste slightly salty and may be just a bit  tart.  If we get that taste we know everything is good but if we don’t we may be in trouble!  We check again in two days, sour is good, smelly is bad!!!!  If it’s bad, we throw it out to the chickens.  If it’s sour, we’re whistling Dixie!!  Don’t be surprised if you get a little darkened leaves on top or even a brown bubbling “stuff”, it’s part of the fermentation.  We let it ferment, checking daily now and when it get’s to the sour point of making your face crinkle you’re ready to stop the process and pack it in jars.  I used to use quart jars but the last three years we’ve used pints.  Finish it off by packing the kraut in the jars, cleans off the tops of the jars, put on new lids and rings and pressure can the jars for 15 minutes at 10 pounds of pressure, remove from the canner and wait for the jars to seal.  Man, I can taste that kraut & smoked sausage, pinto beans, fried potatoes and cornbread now!!!

Foodsaver

Back in September I posted about all of the wonderful vegetables and fruit that we now have stored for winter.  It’s hunting season and all of that wonderful meat our hunters will bring in will stay fresh for a long time if you use the equipment I use!

Broccoli and summer squash

Green pepper strips

 

 

 

 

 

Today I wanted to show and tell you about the best piece of equipment we’ve ever purchased and used to preserve our food.

Best kitchen tool in the house-Foodsaver Vacumn Sealer.

We have had three of these in the past 7-10 years and they range in cost from about $50 to $130.  We have had the more expensive ones but they didn’t do the job or last as long as the cheaper one.  We have meat and vegies in the freezer that range from one month old to four years old and every package we open is as fresh as they day we vacuumed, sealed and placed in the freezer.  Before we started using this sealer my vegies and fruits came out of the freezer mushy and old tasting but now it’s like eating fresh from the garden and vines!!

You can get the rolls of Food Saver bags from Walmart for $13.98 (two roll box) or you can get the bulk rolls from Cabelas for $29.99.

Each box contains a 50′-long, 4-mil-thick freezer bag that easily rolls out. This freezer-defying vacuum bag can be custom cut to any desired size with the integrated cutter on the box. We use the 11″ width.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can’t go wrong with this food preservation system!  It’s quick and easy to use!

Garden Season Ends With Success

I’ve not had a lot of time to write posts this summer because I’ve been doing this:

Fresh tomatoes

Apples from July through October unless the weather changes drastically!

In years past I’ve not had much luck with green peppers but this year I’ve frozen 30 packs of peppers in small dices, strips and large chunks. They are like onions in our kitchen, we use them in everything!

Yellow onions grew and grew. We got a sack full of them and have them hanging in the smoke house until the weather starts to freeze. At that point I bring them in my laundry room (cool spot) to use all winter.

One crop failed miserably this summer and we’ve never had this happen before. We got one egg basket of white potatoes. Thankfully I canned all of those from last year so we won’t have to buy many!

We had some type of bug that bores through the roots of cucumbers and squash. Our cucumbers were used mainly for fresh eating and in salads this summer. I had plenty of pickles left over last summer and with the help of two very special friends we got18 pints of pickle relish and then they were gone.

Fresh peaches and first crop from our young trees. I canned 21 quarts!

The squash faired better than our cucumbers and I froze 12 packs of sliced put in the freezer. We ate fresh squash all summer.

Fresh raspberries gave us 12 quart bags full and the blackberry crop was non-existent due to the weather again.

Dicing green and banana peppers

Canned cabbage

Squirrel season came in two weeks ago and I’ve froze over 12 bags so far. We love squirrel and rabbit meat!

I froze over 40 bags of fresh corn and everyone that we’ve shared it with says it’s the sweetest corn they’ve ever eaten.

Green pepper strips

I’ve tried just about every apple in our orchards in the last two months to find the best for apple pies and fried pies but all of them are great for fresh applesauce every meal!!

While I was canning tomatoes I was also canning cabbage and freezing it. I canned 14 quarts and froze 24 quarts. We’ll use both in vegetable soup and cabbage is a great favorite side dish at our house with pinto beans, fried potatoes and cornbread!!

Our tomatoe crop wasn’t the best because of the rains coming in when they were ripening. They split, cracked and had hard black spots on the outside. I did manage to can 18 quarts of tomato juice. This winter when it’s cold outside I’ll make pizza sauce and spaghetti sauce from what we preserved this summer.

We raised some of the sweetest cantaloupes I’ve ever tasted this year and their my favorite of all the melons.

This wooden crate is full of all types of apples we have on the farm. They’re all somewhat tart and we will buy sweet apples from a nearby orchard to make our cider in the coming weeks.
We didn’t grow a lot of watermelons this year but got good return on the seed we planted.

The crate is filled to the brim with cider apples from our orchards. We think it holds about 15 bushel of apples.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of course we also had green beans this year but I didn’t can very many because we had a lot left over so about four canners (28 quarts) was enough to fill up the shelves.

You will never starve as long as there’s green beans on hand!!!

Left-hand side of the cellar shelves are overflowing!

Right-hand side of the cellar is catching the overflow! I normally store all of the empty jars on that side.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then to sum it all up we have these:

Canned white and yellow peaches

Frozen broccoli

Frozen corn off the cob

Yellow summer squash

New white potatoes-This was the most we got from the first plants!!

Onions drying for winter use.

Wonderful pickle relish that we use in pinto beans, on hotdogs, and in tuna or chicken salad. Hubby loves it on peanut butter sandwiches!!!

Our favorite pizza sauce of which I only made a few half pints and one pint. I’ll make more throughout the winter.

Two crates of sweet potatoes. One of the potatoes was the size of a football. We’ll have several meals from that monster!

Gorgeous canned peaches, I can’t wait to open the first jar!

 

Recipe Pages Updated

Fall is in the air and cooler weather keeps me in the kitchen making comfort food.

Fall is in the air and cooler weather keeps me in the kitchen making comfort food.

I’ve added a few more goodies to my Recipe Page if anyone is interested. Hope you will enjoy them as much as we do! They include Pumpkin Pie Squares, Steamed Asparagus, Grilled Chicken Salad, and Pumpkin Cookies.

Did I Say Canning Season Was Over. . . NOT!

Nope, canning season is not over and believe it or not I’m glad. I’ve been canning half-gallons of apple juice all morning!

Twenty half-gallons of fresh apple juice canned and sealed.

Twenty half-gallons of fresh apple juice canned and sealed.  There’s only 15 jars showing here because the last batch is just about ready to come off the stove.

Our orchards did not bare much for us this year due to the frigid spring and heavy frost when the trees were budding and flowering. I love a glass of juice when I first get up in the mornings and apple juice is one of my favorites right up there with grape juice.  We decided we would have to purchase some apples to make me some juice.

Eddie and I ventured over to Botetourt County last week and picked up six 70-lb. sacks of their cider apples.  The day we arrived to pick them up they were sorting Red Delicious and they were beautiful  Out of 420 pounds of apples we may have found a dozen with rotten spots.

Six bags of red delicious apples

Six bags of red delicious apples

Beautiful Red Delicous apples for eating, juicing, cooking and baking.

Beautiful Red Delicious apples for eating, juicing, cooking and baking.

On Tuesday, our daughter was off from work and came up to press apples with us.  We cleaned up the cider press, washed the apples, and started pressing all of the wonderful juice out of the apples.

Cider press is cleaned and ready to make some juice.

Cider press is cleaned and ready to make some juice.

Pouring in the first bucket full

Pouring in the first bucket full

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

American Cider Mill

American Cider Mill

Sassy watches close by and freezing since she got a haircut and cold air gets in her old bones pretty quick but she won't miss a family outing.

Sassy watches close by and freezing since she got a haircut and cold air gets in her old bones pretty quick but she won’t miss a family outing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We finished the seventy pounds with two 12 gallon milk cans full of juice and a bowl full of apples left over to eat and make some apple bars.

We use all of our milkcans here on the farm for cider in the fall, watering our plants as we put them in the garden and for maple syrup in the spring

We use all of our milkcans here on the farm for cider in the fall, watering our plants as we put them in the garden and for maple syrup in the spring.

Heather presses.

Heather presses.

Mom presses.

Mom presses.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Family fun

Family fun

We stored the cans in our garage until this morning so it would stay ice-cold and so the settlements squished into the juice would settle to the bottom of the can.

I washed up all of the half gallons jars and sterilized them for the juice.  Eddie went to the garage and  poured the juice gently into large stainless steel pots and brought them to the kitchen.  I heated the juice just to boiling and poured it into the hot jars. placed the lids on and tighten them for canning.  The jars were too tall to fit any of my canners so we used our turkey cooker for the job and it held five half-gallon jars.

Turkey deep fryer hasn't been used a lot but it sure came in handy for this job. I rarely use half-gallon jars for any canning.

Turkey deep fryer hasn’t been used a lot but it sure came in handy for this job. I rarely use half-gallon jars for any canning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After placing the filled jars in the “canner”, I filled it with hot water almost covering the jars, turned the heat up to high and waited for it to start boiling.  Once the boiling started, I timed the process for 25 minutes and when completed I turned off the stove and let the boiling stop.  I then picked up the jars and placed them on a heavy towel on my kitchen table (away from drafts) so they could seal. We have twenty half-gallons which should last through most of the winter.

The difference in the quart and half-gallon jar is shown here.

Half-gallon jar compared to a quart jar.

Half-gallon jar compared to a quart jar.

 

I love these tongs because they're so strong and easy to handle when removing full, hot jars.

I love these tongs because they’re so strong and easy to handle when removing full, hot jars.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We saved the sacks the apples were in to use next year when picking our own apples if Mother Nature cooperates, bagging onions, drying walnuts or anything else we may need them for.

These green mesh sacks held 65 - 70 pounds of apples and we save them for other uses. Recycle is a big word at our place!

These green mesh sacks held 65 – 70 pounds of apples and we save them for other uses. Recycle is a big word at our place!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The apple peelings filled up one big galvanized bath tub and four five gallon buckets.  We feed them to each of the three herds of cattle and our bulls.  The extra milkcan of juice will harden to cider which we also love.  If there’s any that gets too hard, I’ll let it turn to vinegar and store it in jugs in the cellar.

Leftovers after the juice is pressed out. They're unbelievably dry at this point. I'm sure the squirrels will be raiding the barn until it's all gone. I'll also put some out for the wild rabbits that hang around the house.

Leftovers after the juice is pressed out. They’re unbelievably dry at this point. I’m sure the squirrels will be raiding the barn until it’s all gone. I’ll also put some out for the wild rabbits that hang around the house.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I just put some apple bars in the oven and I’ll share the recipe if it turns out well since it’s a new one for me!

There’s rarely anything that goes to waste on our farm.  This does NOT end the canning season either!!!!  I killed a really nice 7-point buck yesterday and the hams will be cubed and canned early in the next week.

Our chestnut season is over though and we sold 35+ pounds of those this week and saved about 10 pounds for ourselves to snack on.

The chestnuts were few this year but the ones we picked up were huge and so sweet.

The chestnuts were few this year but the ones we picked up were huge and so sweet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Until next time. . . .

Canning day again!

Eddie and I spent an hour in the apple orchard yesterday after lunch picking apples from one tree.  They’re huge, sweet/tart, white fruit and beautiful.

We don't know what kind it is but they have a wonderful taste that is not too sweet but not too tart and they're crisp. Hey're bigger than my hand this year and we picked about two bushel.

We don’t know what kind it is but they have a wonderful taste that is not too sweet but not too tart and they’re crisp. They’re  bigger than my hand this year and we picked about two bushel.

Apple picking 09162015 (4)

The tree is fairly young and still loaded with apples. Unfortunately one main branch broke off due to the weight.

The tree is fairly young and still loaded with apples. Unfortunately one main branch broke off due to the weight.

Apple picking 09162015 (6)

We picked apples and chestnuts yesterday and the deer are really coming after the chestnuts.

We picked apples and chestnuts yesterday and the deer are really coming after the chestnuts.

Eddie and I peeled two buckets full this morning and I got 28 quarts of apples canned today.

One sack full and two five gallon buckets full.

One sack full and two five gallon buckets full.

Canning apples (1)

Peeled, washed and ready to pack in the jars.

Peeled, washed and ready to pack in the jars.

We'll bake them, use them for fried pies, make apple pies, and eat them straight out of the jar.

We’ll bake them, use them for fried pies, make apple pies, and eat them straight out of the jar.

I peel the apples and slice them. Then I wash them in ice water twice, pack in jars and them pour a light sugar water syrup up to the neck of the jar. I process them in a hot water bath for 20 minutes.

I peel the apples and slice them. Then I wash them in ice water twice, pack in jars and them pour a light sugar water syrup up to the neck of the jar. I process them in a hot water bath for 20 minutes.

All 28 quarts sealed. When they cool overnight, I'll take them to the cellar in the morning. Now I just have to figure out what to do with the rest of the bushel I have left.

All 28 quarts sealed. When they cool overnight, I’ll take them to the cellar in the morning. Now I just have to figure out what to do with the rest of the bushel I have left.

Aren't the chestnuts beautiful too!

Aren’t the chestnuts beautiful too!

Old taters in a jar

We have about two bushel of our 2014 potatoes left over and they’re so good!  BUT, the cellar is warming up a little bit and the potatoes are sprouting and the smaller ones are getting a little soft.  We don’t want to lose any of them so decided we would can them.

Hubby brought them up to the front porch yesterday afternoon and I started peeling them.  I’ll sit on the front porch and do just about anything in the summer time. It’s just so peaceful!

This batch was a milk crate full.

Sprouting potatoes

Sprouting potatoes

The chickens won't eat potato peelings but sometimes the cows will.

The chickens won’t eat potato peelings but sometimes the cows will.

They're not real soft yet and peeled real quick.  I got enough for two canners.

They’re not real soft yet and peeled real quick. I got enough for two canners.

After peeling all of them and scrubbing them, I diced them into about 1 inch chunks and packed them in quart jars.

I smell potato soup this winter!

I smell potato soup this winter!

This is the first canner full and they came off the stove at 10:30 and I went to bed along with Eddie and Sassy! :)

This is the first canner full and they came off the stove at 10:30 and I went to bed along with Eddie and Sassy!  🙂

This morning we took them out of the canner before I left for work and Eddie was going to put the second canner on to process after I left.  We got 14 quarts out of a 1/2 bushel milk crate.  The coming winter will be bountiful with potato soup, shepherd’s pie, fried potatoes, buttered potatoes, and much more.  There’s not much that goes to waste on our farm.  If we can’t give it away, we can or freeze it while we wait for the next garden to come in!!

14 quarts all sealed and ready for the cellar

14 quarts all sealed and ready for the cellar

Aren't they beautiful??

Aren’t they beautiful??

Absence makes the heart grow . . .

fonder and I hope a fresh catch up on my blog.  This summer has flown by and this gal has been topsy-turvy all summer. I hope to remedy that soon and settle into a calmer routine.

To start with the blog has been quiet due to family and work.  In earlier posts I noted that little brother was having some health issues and thank the good Lord above and lots of prayers from family and friends those issues aren’t as bad as expected.  A biopsy was completed on his prostrate after antibiotics were used and the issues remained.  The doctor expected cancer but the results were benign, praise Jesus!!!  The doctors are now treating him for high blood pressure but have released him to compete in Special Olympics and he’s very excited about that.  He will be competing in bowling, swimming and possibly softball and basketball.  Dean is also very happy because he is working three days a week at the James River Enterprise recycling center and loves taking that paycheck to the bank twice a month.  I was told last week that he has the best production of any of his colleagues there that have been working for 13 years.  He still attends “Life Skills” school twice a week.  This summer has been really full for him socially too.  He’s taken trips to Mill Mountain Zoo, The Science Museum in Roanoke, flea markets and festivals, Mill Mountain Playhouse and this weekend is supposed to have gone to the West Virginia State Fair.  He seems quite happy and rarely calls me now but I still call him every week and visit him every other weekend when he’s home.

The other thing that has kept me away from my blog during the week is a change in employment.  On July 25th, I started a new job at Virginia Tech in the Aerospace and Engineering Department and it’s so very exciting.  This job just fell in my lap with a call from my daughters mother-in-law and within two weeks I had the job.  More pay, different working hours and change in scenery have been a great thing for me!!  I miss the colleagues at the Coal & Energy Center but still run into them on campus and talk with them through email.  They were a wonderful group of people!!!

Of course, the garden and homework will always keep me busy and here’s some highlights of what’s going on at home:

Making pickles and I love the smells pickling spice send in the air.

Making pickles and I love the smells pickling spice send in the air.

Abundance of squash and what in the world do I do with it all???    Give it to anyone that will take it, of course!!

Abundance of squash and what in the world do I do with it all??? Give it to anyone that will take it, of course!!

Beautiful applesauce, cooked off, and in the freezer!

Beautiful applesauce, cooked off, and in the freezer!

Canning, canning and more canning!

Canning, canning and more canning!

Kitchen table is staying covered with produce from the garden.

Kitchen table is staying covered with produce from the garden.

Sterlizing jars of all sizes and filling up the cellar.

sterilizing jars of all sizes and filling up the cellar.

Gorgeous English cucumbers for canning pickles, eating raw, for salads and of course, for friends and family!!

Gorgeous English cucumbers for canning pickles, eating raw, for salads and of course, for friends and family!!

Green peppers and the plants are full of them.

Green peppers and the plants are full of them.

Banana peppers by the baskets full!

Banana peppers by the baskets full!

Gorgeous Kennebec potatoes bigger than my hand.

Gorgeous Kennebec potatoes bigger than my hand.

These came from two hills and I cooked some with fresh green beans and we baked some for supper last night.  SOOOO good!

These came from two hills and I cooked some with fresh green beans and we baked some for supper last night. SOOOO good!

Mr. Stripey and German Pink tomatoes are being picked daily to keep the chickens from getting them.

Mr. Stripey and German Pink tomatoes are being picked daily to keep the chickens from getting them.

Golden nectar from the honeybees again.  We got 13 quarts with comb and 1 quart of strained.  We lost a lot of bees last winter but the ones that made are working so hard!  We may get one more super before we end the season!

Golden nectar from the honeybees again. We got 13 quarts with comb and 1 quart of strained. We lost a lot of bees last winter but the ones that made are working so hard! We may get one more super before we end the season!

More baby chicks!  Last two hatches produced four each.

More baby chicks! Last two hatches produced four each.

And of course, a little bit of crafting.  More details on this in a new post.

And of course, a little bit of crafting. More details on this in a new post.

Spring delicacy

We had a slow start with our asparagus beds this year but now it’s coming in with leaps and bounds!  I started a new bed last spring from seed and it’s starting to grow but will be at least two more years before we get any food from it.  Most of our beds are wild and started by the birds.  We’re sharing it with friends and family and eating it about every meal.  I’m sure we’ll tire of it soon.

As long as we pick, it keeps coming in.

As long as we pick, it keeps coming in.

Bags and bags of fresh asparagus

Bags and bags of fresh asparagus

I don’t freeze or can asparagus because I’ve not found a way to preserve that it doesn’t come out spongy or slimy.  Can’t stand that!!  We just enjoy it as long as it produces and as long as we’re not tired of eating so much of it.  I’m going to experiment with making an asparagus creamed soup and will let you know how that goes.  That may be one way of preserving it for winter consumption.

Merkels or morels

Spring is definitely merkel hunting time.

Spring is definitely merkel hunting time.

What in the world?????

Morels are a type of mushrooms which can be found growing all over the world in a wide variety of habitats every spring. They are among the most prized of the edible mushrooms because they have a rich and complex flavor that goes well with almost any food. They also have a very distinctive appearance which makes them readily identifiable, assuming they can be found at all, since they’re notorious for being very elusive.

Like all mushrooms, the morel is only the fruiting body of a larger organism. Most mushrooms form a massive web of fibers underground called the mycelium. This web of fibers can be quite large, and when it decides to reproduce it sends up mushrooms, which release spores from the parent fungus. Mushrooms are quite appealing to humans because they are often fleshy and flavorful. Scientists have not determined why mushrooms fruit when they do, but mushrooms are usually linked with rain and heavy moisture. In the case of morels, spectacular growth patterns are also linked with forest fires.

We love to search for these delicasies every spring and this spring is no different.  When Mother Nature cooperates we feel like we located the “mother load”!!

During spring gobbler season every year, hubby and his friends make a day of searching for these tasty morsels in their secret honey hole.  As in years past, they did very well and these shots will prove harvest:

92 morels cleaned, halved and ready for the skillet!

92 morels cleaned, halved and ready for the skillet!

Some are golden, some are brown and some are white.

Some are golden, some are brown and some are white.

It's a beauty!

It’s a beauty!

Draining all of the water off so they'll last longer!

Draining all of the water off so they’ll last longer!

 

There is absolutely nothing better than country fried merkels, baked beans and macaroni salad for supper!!  Wish you were here to enjoy them with us 😉

 

Working the bees

We lost five hives of bees last winter and were very skeptical about having any honey this year.  Hubby has checked the hives frequently and has taken one honey super off and two frames from one other super.  The frames left are full but not capped yet.  Normally we have several swarms each spring but this year we’ve only had one.  The bees that swarmed took over a hive that the bees died in last year.  Hubby has doubled the hive body in hopes of making them stronger and able to store more honey for their winter survival.

He’ll take the supers off in another month so that the bees will prepare their hives for winter.  The honey he has taken off is still in the supers at the moment because he has so much other stuff to do and he’s waiting on the frames left to get capped.  We don’t have a lot of bloom for them to work now except for white and red clover which makes gorgeous, sweet honey.  They are also working on the Queen Anne’s lace, yarrow and wild daisies in the fields.  The bee’s were very happy with the sourwood and chestnut bloom a month ago also.

The jars are ready for the honey and hubby has been cleaning up some more frames to place in the supers when he takes out the capped honey.  The bee’s will work to fill it and he’ll leave it for them to feed off of until he takes the supers off for the winter.

Bee super frames

Bee super frames

Gently placing new comb in the frames.

Gently placing new comb in the frames.

Making sure the comb is just so in the frame and will be easy to remove later.  Sometimes the comb will buckle or twist and the bees will make a mess filling the comb.

Making sure the comb is just so in the frame and will be easy to remove later. Sometimes the comb will buckle or twist and the bees will make a mess filling the comb.

Tapping in the small strip that holds the comb straight.

Tapping in the small strip that holds the comb straight.

Last years honey!

Last years honey!

He will sell most of the honey but I’ve asked for three quarts to stay in my kitchen.  I use it to bake my bread and sweeten any dishes that call for sugar.  I love honey on a hot biscuit or in a hot cup of tea!

New Year of Maple Syrup

 

Sugar maple tree with a beautiful blue sky background.

Sugar maple tree with a beautiful blue sky background.

 

We could not have picked a better time to start tapping the maple trees.  Saturday morning after feeding the cattle and cleaning up from breakfast we got started.  It was clear, sunny and still a chill in the air.  First we gathered the bucket and cleaned them and then we cleaned the 210 gallon water tank.

All the gallon buckets have been washed and ready to hook up to the taps.

All the gallon buckets have been washed and ready to hook up to the taps.

Nice and clean gallon buckets.

Nice and clean gallon buckets.

 

Shiny and clean tank.

Shiny and clean tank.

It holds 210 gallons and it was specifically purchased just for sugar maple processing!!

It holds 210 gallons and it was specifically purchased just for sugar maple processing!!

A regular garden/water hose will attach to the fauce when we're ready to fill the pans.

A regular garden/water hose will attach to the fauce when we’re ready to fill the pans.

 

From here we gathered the portable drill, wood bits, hammer and taps and headed for the maple trees in the yard.  From there we tapped the trees behind the garage and then went to the mansion and tapped the tree that we know has been in the family since the 1800’s.  She is still producing and we tapped with six buckets on her and from there went to our daughter’s house on the farm and tapped two trees at her house.  In total we nine trees in all and as tonight at 7:00 p.m. the tank is full.  We’ll hold it in the tank in the garage until Friday morning.  It will stay ice cold in the garage.

 

26 taps sterizied and ready to put in the trees.  Eddie likes using the plumbing tees best because they stay in the tap hole better.

26 taps sterizied and ready to put in the trees. Eddie likes using the plumbing tees best because they stay in the tap hole better.

Metal taps were used in the tree at the mansion and at our daughter's house.

Metal taps were used in the tree at the mansion and at our daughter’s house.

Drillling the first hole about a 1/2 inch in diameter and about  1 inch deep.

Drillling the first hole about a 1/2 inch in diameter and about 1 inch deep.

These trees are not being damaged.  The one inch hole heals within a few weeks and as I said before the tree at the mansion is in a photo we have of the family back in the mid-1800’s and it’s still living.

Tapping the tee in the tree good and tight so it won't leak around the hole.

Tapping the tee in the tree good and tight so it won’t leak around the hole.

Up close view of the hole drilled into the tree.

Up close view of the hole drilled into the tree.

Tap, tap, tap!

Tap, tap, tap!

Three buckets on this tree in the yard and the taps are dripping away.

Three buckets on this tree in the yard and the taps are dripping away.  This tree is at our daughter’s house.

 

Around 1:30 Saturday our son joined us and he was kept busy emptying the buckets into the tank and was glad to have the ATV for collecting.  He won’t be still long enough for Mom to take his picture.  But sometimes we have to do what we can and here’s a picture helping at the sugar house in years past.

Our son, Shawn, manning the pans in the past.

Our son, Shawn, manning the pans in the past.

From the tree to the straining bucket.

From the tree to the straining bucket.

By Saturday night we had 100 gallons in the tank and the high temperature at the farm on Saturday was 49*.  Sunday morning we got up to 27* temps, the buckets were running over with ice and the sap had even pushed out of the top of the tee.

Beautiful Sunday morning.

Beautiful Sunday morning.

Icy buckets and frozen hands.

Icy buckets and frozen hands.

Bucket of ice from the cans which we thawed and poured into the tank.

Bucket of ice from the cans which we thawed and poured into the tank.

Ice frozen all down the tree.

Ice frozen all down the tree.

Ice coming out all over the tee.

Ice coming out all over the tee.

Sap running over onto the ground!  The honeybees enjoyed it once it warmed up.

Sap running over onto the ground! The honeybees enjoyed it once it warmed up.

On Sunday we got another 75 gallons and the sap has slowed a little.  The temperatures got up to 52* and at 9:30 p.m. it was still 49*.  For the sap to run really good the temps MUST get below freezing at night.

Today hubby filled up the tank and the trees have slowed down immensely but the tank is full of 210 gallons of pure sugar maple sap.  The cooking will begin on Friday and finish up on Saturday around noon if all goes well.

Here’s a few of today’s photos:

Last bucket to empty for the day (Monday).

Last bucket to empty for the day (Monday).

 

Hard to see the water line on the tank.

Hard to see the water line on the tank.

Stainless steel bucket with lip and strainer.  Every bucket on the tree is emptied into this bucket and then strained into the tank.

Stainless steel bucket with lip and strainer. Every bucket on the tree is emptied into this bucket and then strained into the tank.

Straining into the big tank.

Straining into the big tank.

Better view of the full tank!

Better view of the full tank!

Hopefully more pictures of the process when completed on Saturday!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stores for the winter still in progress

It seems we never finish storing and preparing for winter.  This weekend hubby bought 75# of pork which consisted of three hams and 20# of  jowls.  One of the hams is currently in the smokehouse taking salt, seasoning and brown sugar.  We should be able to enjoy it sometime in March or April.  The rest was made into sausage.

You may ask why we didn’t raise our own hogs and the main reason is the price of corn.  When we figured out the time it takes to raise a couple hogs, feed them sacks and sacks of corn and grains, and then the waste that goes with the processing, we determined it’s much cheaper and efficient to buy from pork sellers.  The cost of the hams was $1.35 per pound and the jowls were $1.00 per pound.  It took us about 12 hours of processing which including some freezing and some canning.

Here’s the process we used to can the sausage:

Fresh ham for sausage

Fresh ham for sausage

First he removes the skin from the ham.

First he removes the skin from the ham.

The skinned hide will be hung outside for the birds.  This is the true version of suet.

The skinned hide will be hung outside for the birds. This is the true version of suet.  The birds love it and it puts some meat on their bones to withstand the winter.

 

Hubby slices the meat off of the ham in slender strips to send through the grinder.

Hubby slices the meat off of the ham in slender strips to send through the grinder.

 

Grinding equipment is sterilized prior to grinding.

Grinding equipment is sterilized prior to grinding.

 

Wide mouth quart jars are also sterilized and dried prior to making the sausage into patties.

Wide mouth quart jars are also sterilized and dried prior to making the sausage into patties.

 

The strips of pork are now ready for the seasoning.

The strips of pork are now ready for the seasoning.

 

Old Plantation seasoning is what we use and one pack will season 25 pounds of ground meat.  It is thoroughly mixed through all the meat.

Old Plantation seasoning is what we use and one pack will season 25 pounds of ground meat. It is thoroughly mixed through all the meat.

 

The grinding begins.  We run it through using a course blade the first time and then using a finer blade the second time.

The grinding begins. We run it through using a course blade the first time and then using a finer blade the second time.

 

Isn't it beautiful!!  It's now ready to be made into patties and packed into the wide mouth jars.

Isn’t it beautiful!! It’s now ready to be made into patties and packed into the wide mouth jars.

 

Seven wide mouth quart jars ready for lids and placing in the pressure canner.

Seven wide mouth quart jars ready for lids and placing in the pressure canner.

 

Pressure canner filled with water, jars of meat and sealed ready for heating. I cook it for 90 minutes at 10 pounds of pressure.

Pressure canner filled with water, jars of meat and sealed ready for heating. I cook it for 90 minutes at 10 pounds of pressure.

 

After the canner cools down the jars are placed on the table out of way of ALL drafts and covered with a heavy towel until they cool completely before taking them to the cellar.

After the canner cools down the jars are placed on the table out of way of ALL drafts and covered with a heavy towel until they cool completely before taking them to the cellar.

 

While they cooked we tried some for supper and it was wonderful.  Pancakes and sausage are on the menu for breakfast.

Fresh cooked sausage patties ready for a big fat biscuit.

Fresh cooked sausage patties ready for a big fat biscuit.

We canned 28 quarts of sausage and froze the remainder in bags much like you see in the grocers.  We’ll use this first instead of the canned because we found that frozen sausage keeps really well in vacumned sealed bags but they are expensive.  Since we only had about 15 pounds left over we decided to use the bags pictured in the following photo.  These bags just don’t keep the meat from freezer burn as well.  We have a tape machine that seals the bags but they’re not airtight.

Grinding the sausage straight into the bags, twist them up and slide through the tape machine to seal.

Grinding the sausage straight into the bags, twist them up and slide through the tape machine to seal.

All done!!

One more recipe before I crash but more to come later!

Magic Cookie Bars

1/2 c. butter, soft

1 1/2 c. graham cracker crumbs

1 can sweetened condensed milk

1 c. chocolate chips

1 c. butterscotch chips

1 c. peanut butter chips

1 1/3 c. flaked cocoanut

1 c. chopped pecans (or your choice, cashew or peanuts are good too)

In a 13 x 9 x 2 baking dish, melt margarine in oven.  Sprinkle crumbs over margarine and press into pan.  Pour milk over crust.  Top evenly with remaining ingredients in layers.  Press down and let set for a few hours before cutting into small squares (too rich for large squares)!  Give me a glass of cold milk and I can hardly stop myself from eating the whole pan!!

Magic Cookie bars uncut

Magic Cookie bars uncut

Magic Cookie Bars cut and ready to eat.

Magic Cookie Bars cut and ready to eat.

 

Baking mode

I still am not able to get out and help with the firewood yet or hunt because of my pinched nerve but I was able to bake yesterday!  This probably isn’t good because I’m eating as much as I’m baking and not getting the exercise I need.  Here’s a few of the items that kept me busy.

 

Rollo, pecan, pretzel - so easy!

Rollo, pecan, pretzel – so easy!

This recipe is pretzels, rollo candies, and pecans.   On a cookie sheet covered with aluminum foil, cover with pretzels in one layer.  Unwrap the Rollo candies (chocolate and caramel centers) and place one on top of each pretzel.  Place in 350* oven for about three minutes ( candies will get glossy).  DON’T leave in until they melt–mess!!  Take out of oven and press pecan half in center of chocolate and press down.  Cover all with with a pecan half!  Let cool!  I’m not very patient so I place them in the freezer for about five or 10 minutes to let the chocolate set.  YUMMY!!  Salty/sweet, my favorite!

pound cake ready for the oven

pound cake ready for the oven

 

My favorite pound cake recipe.

My favorite pound cake recipe.

Then while this was baking I mixed up a batch of peanut butter cookies and they are so good.  I love them with a tall glass of milk!!

Mixing up the best peanut butter cookies.

Mixing up the best peanut butter cookies.

 

Ready for the oven!

Ready for the oven!

 

They're so good!

They’re so good!

Classic peanut butter cookie recipe

Classic peanut butter cookie recipe

I think if you click on the pictures, they’ll enlarge full page so you can read the ingredients.

Cooler weather always brings out the baker in me.

I’ll post more of my Thanksgiving dinner recipes before Thanksgiving!  Enjoy!

Aroma of fall in my kitchen

Fall and cooler weather heighten the senses at my house.  Cooking seems to peak when the seasons change at my house.  The smell of bread rising and then baking was quite profound in my house on Saturday and Sunday.  Fresh loaf bread and rolls make everyone hungry.

Fresh white bread

Fresh white bread

 

We have to have something sweet for dessert or late night TV.  How about these?

Custard Pies

Custard Pies

I made these custard pies for hubby last weekend.  They were so good–I couldn’t let him eat all of them!

 

Lemon Pound Cake

Lemon Pound Cake

Everybody's favorite, Preacher Cookies

Everybody’s favorite, Preacher Cookies

 

Recipes will follow in the near future.

The year is almost three quarters gone and what did I do?

                                                                                                                                                                    January -Ice and snow

February-Making maple syrup

January-February – grafting fruit trees

February – March – Seedlings started

March – Baby calves arrive

March-April – Spring turkey hunting for two of my favorite people.

April – fire wood for winter 2012

April – New equipment for working the cattle

April – More new fencing

May – Gardening begins

May – Honeybees cleaning house and we prepare for fresh honey

May – Bee swarming begins

May – Fruit trees bloom and we worry about late frosts.

June 2012 – 1st ever “duratio” in our neck of the woods. Lots of cleanup and keeping hubby busy!

June – Duratio takes down lots of our fruit and nut crop and wreaks havoc on our fencing.

June – Hay time

June – Hay lot is full!

July – Spring cleaning almost done!

July – Harvesting & canning for winter in full swing!

July – A little crafting along the way makes life fun!

July – First barn quilt in Craig County on the barn!! More fun!

August-September – Mammoth pumpkin from the garden. He almost didn’t fit the wheel barrow!

July – August – Fresh vegies from the garden.

September – Potatoes harvested and in the cellar.

September – Plowing to sow the winter crops (turnips & parsnips).

September – Spaghetti sauce and barbecue sauce from the last of the tomatoes.

And, here it is the end of September.  Deer season and turkey season is soon to be here.  Baby calves are coming and yearlings are headed to the market.  Two nights of cold temps and frost in the mornings means firing up the wood stoves.  The cycle starts again.

Potatoes

Well, it truly is the end of summer!  How do I know?  Hubby dug the potatoes this morning.  All we have left are a few tomatoes still ripening and one pepper plant hanging on.  Our potato crop wasn’t near as productive as last years 14 bushel as we only got about 7-8 bushel this year.  It should still be plenty to get through the winter and we have 24 quarts that we canned from last years crop (hate to see anything go to waste).  Sassy helped as usual but she was also trying to catch the little rodents that have been eating the tomatoes and beans and had started on the potatoes.  She is some kind of dog!!  Hubby dug the potatoes alone while was cooking down tomatoes and preparing to can some barbecue sauce which I’ll post later.  For now here’s a few picks of the morning work.

Digging potatoes September 15 2012

Plow used to dig the potatoes

Eddie plowing potatoes, Sassy plowing for varmints

7-8 bushel 09/15/2012

Potatoes are out of the ground before the rain moves in!

They’re safely tucked away in the cellar to provide us some nourishing food for the winter!  The cellar shelves are full and one of the freezers is full.  Now we wait for deer season and fill up the other freezer.  We are so blessed!

What to do with all those tomatoes

Plum tomatoes

We seem to have an abundance of plum tomatoes this year and I’m trying to find new canning/freezing recipes for them.  On Friday I picked about 20# of the little critters and cleaned them up.

I pulled out an old recipe I had used when the kids were little and made 10 pints of spaghetti sauce.  The recipe ingredients were tomatoes (of course) which had been cooked and run through a sieve.  When I cooked them I didn’t use any extra water because I wanted the tomato juice and pulp only.  To the pulp I added sugar, salt, oregano, basil, garlic, onions, green peppers, and red wine vinegar.  I can’t tell you the exact amounts because I played with the ingredients until hubby liked the taste and consistency.  I started with 1 cup sugar, 1/4 cup salt, oregano, and basil (remember this is 20 pounds of tomatoes).

Cooking it down!

I used four medium onions, four green peppers, four cloves of garlic (minced) and 1/2 cup of red wine vinegar.  This smelled heavenly while cooking down but the taste was a little sour and bland so I added more of the first four ingredients until we thought it was perfect.  I cooked it down some more until it was pourable but a thicker consistency than tomato juice.  I poured it in the jars, put the lids on to seal and processed them in my pressure canner for twenty minutes.  They’re beautiful, don’t you think!!

Spaghetti sauce

10 pints of beautiful spaghetti sauce

Next batch will be canned as barbecue sauce.

1st Apples of the season

Fall is definitely here.  We have picked our first apples of the season and not because they were necessarily ready but because the sand hornets (huge ugly yellow bee) had started eating them.  We don’t have a lot of apples this year and may not even have enough to do our annual cider press but there were about 30 good apples left on the tree so we decided to get them.

Huge apples in August

We peeled and sliced them pretty quickly and they’re a very dry apple which I thought would make good apple pies and fried pies.

Peeling the apples

Sliced apples

I cooked them up and they’re beautiful.  I didn’t have to press them through a sieve.  I put them in airtight freezer containers and froze them for winter goodies.  I kept out three cups for breakfast and my applesauce cake which I plan to make now.    I’ll share the recipe soon!

Let’s eat. . .

 

Mac & Cheese

 

These are some of our favorite fall/winter side dishes.  I hope you enjoy them as much as we do.

EASY MAC & CHEESE 

Small box of elbow macaroni (about two cups)

1/4 cup butter

1/4 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 dash black pepper

1 – 1 ½ cups milk

2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded ( 8oz)

Cook macaroni according to package directions.  Add butter over medium heat; stir in flour, salt and pepper; slowly add milk. Cook and stir until bubbly and most of milk is cooked off.  Stir in cheese until melted. Serve.

Easy Macaroni Salad

2 cups cooked macaroni, drained and cooled

Dressing

1 cup mayonnaise

1 tablespoons vinegar

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 large tomato, diced

1 large cucumber, peeled & diced (cut out seeds before dicing)

1/2 cup diced green peppers

1/2 cup diced red peppers

1 cup diced onions

Combine dressing ingredients.  Stir into macaroni until well covered. Cover and chill.

Fried Potatoes

8 medium to large potatoes, peeled & sliced thin

2 large onions, peeled and sliced thin

1 stick of margarine

2 tablespoons of  cooking oil

Salt and pepper, to taste

In large iron skillet, on medium heat, melt margarine with oil and let sizzle just a little.  Add onions and then potatoes.  Cover.  Turn with spatula occasionally until potatoes are tender and golden.  Serve and eat!!  So good!!

Baked Apples

8 – 10 large cooking apples, peeled, sliced

1/2 – 1 cup of brown sugar

1 stick of margarine, sliced thinly

Place apples in baking dish. Sprinkle with brown sugar and margarine slices.  Place in microwave and bake until juices are bubbly.  Cool and serve.  Great for a snack with a scoop of vanilla ice cream!!

New recipe – Snacking food

Tennessee Trash/Puppy Chow – ummmmmmmmmm!

 

TENNESSEE TRASH

1/2 pkg pretzel sticks

1 jar(s) salted peanuts

1/2 pkg white almond bark

4 c corn chex cereal

4 c rice chex cereal

In large microwavable mixing bowl, melt almond bark. Heat for 60 seconds. Remove from microwave, stir. If needed, continue melting in 30 – 60 second intervals until completely melted. Stir until smooth.   In another large bowl, combine both cereals, pretzels and peanuts. Add candy and toss gently to evenly coat.  Pour coated mixture out on wax-papered cookie sheet. Place in freezer for 20 – 30 minutes to set.  Remove from freezer and gently break apart.  Store in air-tight container or tin. Enjoy!  WARNING:  HIGHLY ADDICTIVE!!

Seasonal recipes – Pumpkin

 I love to cook and wanted to share a couple fall recipes we like.  Hope you enjoy as much as we do.

Pumpkin Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting

 Bars

4 eggs

1 2/3 cups sugar

1 cup canola oil

1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

Frosting

1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened

3-4 cups confectioners’ sugar

1-2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9×13 baking dish.

Mix the eggs, sugar, oil and pumpkin with a mixer until light and fluffy.

Pour flour, powder, cinnamon, salt and baking soda into another bowl and mix.

Pour flour mixture into pumpkin mixture and mix until incorporated and smooth.

Pour the batter into the baking dish and level out the batter.

Bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool before removing from the dish or frosting.

Frost the bars when they have cooled — To make the frosting: Combine cream cheese and butter in a bowl and mix until smooth. Add the sugar slowly until you reach the desired consistency. Stir in the vanilla.

Summer Squash Casserole

2 lbs. (about 6 C.) yellow squash or zucchini

1 C. chopped onion

1 can cream of chicken soup

1 C. sour cream

½ C. butter or margarine

1 package herb seasoned stuffing (or 4 C. dry stuffing)

In a saucepan cook sliced squash and onions in boiling salted water for 4-5 minutes. Drain. Combine soup and sour cream. Stir in carrots. Fold in drained squash and onions. Combine stuffing mix and butter or margarine. Spread half of this mixture in a 12 x 7 ½ x 2 baking dish. Layer with vegetable mixture and top with remaining stuffing mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until well heated.

More to come.  Enjoy!

End of Summer clues

You know that summer is coming to an end when the kids start back to school but the real clues are when the garden is being cleaned off for the fall crops, the woodshed is full and the cellar shelves are stocked. I was riding home yesterday and saw a hint of gold and orange in the tops of maple trees on our road. Last night we saw a herd of deer near the house and three of the larger bucks had lost the velvet from their horns. The apples are starting to drop and the wildlife is scarfing it up almost before it hits the ground. The hummingbird population has dropped from 30 to 10 or 12. The chickens molt has come to an end and the new feathers are shining. The cats and dogs on the farm have almost quit shedding. The katydids are screaming way before dark and the evening porch sitting is so much cooler. Best of all, the screech owls are calling!! Fall is near!!