Saturday, July 30, 2011

Congrats to my oldest!

My oldest is in the Air Force and just recently got promoted. So I made this timeline in pictures to congratulate my oldest daughter on her huge successes and for many more to come! (yes, I bawled all the way thro watching it)

Music by Crazy Frog performing Axel F. (C) 2005 Mach 1 Records GmbH under exclusive license to Universal Records, a Division of UMG Recordings, Inc

Friday, July 22, 2011

Dill Pickles and an experiment

The thing about canning, just like anything else is, there are soooo many different ways of doing it and different recipes for getting it done. And everyone is right and everyone else is wrong.

I like to think of it like a whole new world of possibility. But, it's a little scary when you're talking about trying something new on something like canning.

So much time and effort has gotten you the product to be able to can in the first place, and you would be devastated if things didn't go right during canning, and you had to throw the whole batch out!!! So you want to make darned sure, what you're doing is at least safe, but better yet, will produce the best tasting ...... whatever you just canned.

Which brings up my latest concern: ALUM

I'm trying new ways to keep my pickles and peppers crisp after they are canned. I've heard lots of different ways to accomplish this....pickling lime, alum, grape leaf(this is a new one on me!!)

Today, i'm trying..........Alum

Google says this is the definition for it:

noun /ˈaləm/ 
alums, plural 

  1. A colorless astringent compound that is a hydrated double sulfate of aluminum and potassium, used in solution medicinally and in dyeing and tanning
    • Any of a number of analogous crystalline double sulfates of a monovalent metal (or group) and a trivalent metal
    If you look across the internet there are hordes of folks that say "Stay away from it!", and hordes of folks that say "My family has been using it for 75+ years and we ain't dead yet!"

    decisions, decisions......

    The NFSA says this:
    Alum may be safely used to firm fermented pickles. However, it is unnecessary . Alum does not improve the firmness of quick-process pickles. The calcium in lime definitely improves pickle firmness. Food-grade lime may be used as a lime-water solution for soaking fresh cucumbers 12 to 24 hours before pickling them. Excess lime absorbed by the cucumbers must be removed to make safe pickles. 
    But lime has its hazards too. Excess lime neutralizes or removes acidity and so must be washed out to make safe pickles, and the cucumbers must be rinsed and re-soaked in fresh water.

    and I found this too... 
    Alum is used as an ingredient in baking powder and is used as a crisping agent in the production of pickles and maraschino cherries. It is used only in a soak solution and is washed off thoroughly before completing the recipe. It is also used to harden gelatin. Alum's medical uses are as an astringent, a styptic and an emetic. Some people say that placing a small piece of alum on a cold sore causes healing to take place much faster,( but I wouldn't do that myself).
    So what did I do? I'll give you 3 guesses..... and the first 2 don't count.

    Well! I was tired of my pickles and peppers being soggy and I tend to sway towards the "old timers" tried and true methods. (within reason) Besides, would "McCormick", a world renowned spice distributor, sell it in their spice section, if it was bad??

    Thats what i'm going with anyway.

    Anyway...I say all that to say this: I got my first batch of dill pickles for the year done last night.

    Its a simple recipe I've been using for years, except one addition this year.

    You take your cukes and wash them, slice them long ways, for pickles to grab and munch, or across, for pickles you put on your burgers and such.

    Grab you a pot and put a 2-1 mixture of water and white vinegar in and get that to boiling.

    Get your water for your waterbath to boiling too.

    Then you put some fresh dill heads on the bottom of the prepared jar, then put about half the cucumbers in and put some more dill heads in, then finish filling the jar and put some more dill on top, followed by 1tsp of mustard seed, and 1/8tsp of alum.

    Pour your hot water/white vinegar mixture in the jars and make sure there's no air stuck somewhere in the bottom or somewhere, wipe the top of the jar, put lids and rings on and put them in the waterbath canner. After the water gets to a rolling boil again, set your timer for 20 mins.

    And when thats done, you should have something that looks like this.....

    See that jar over on the left that looks like its just chunks? Well it is just chunks. When i'm fitting the cucumbers in the other jars, sometimes they are to long for the jar, and I have to cut a little bit of the ends off. I don't want to waste the cuttings so I just make a jar of "chunks". Just as good and, they are bite sized!!

    Put these away so you can resist the urge to crack one open...they won't actually be pickles for about 6 weeks. Its hard to resist I know, but if you bite into one before its ready, it wont taste like a pickle.

    So just wait, it will be worth it, trust me!!

    Hopefully, my using alum, will make them crispy! Ill report back in six weeks.

    UPDATE: Im not gonna use alum made the pickles tasteless. Back to the ol drawing board I guess. 

    Thursday, July 21, 2011

    18 Quarts and Counting...

    ....of green beans.

    The second harvest brought a bushel basket and a half of "Early Contenders" bush type beans yesterday. We took them to our processing facility (read: shady area of the yard) and went to work snapping them.

     I called in the child labor again. 

    You snap the ends off of the bean and snap the remaining bean in one inch sections. Again, you dont have to drag out your tape measure for this...just ballpark it.

    At the end of what seemed like forever....we came up with 3/4 of a bushel of prepared green beans.

    You take the beans in the house and give them a nice bath and get them all good and clean. Grab you a big pot and get some water on to boil, you will need this just directly. Put the clean beans in prepared jars, add 1/2tsp of canning salt to each jar, I also add a generous 1/2tsp of savory (Get you some here: to each jar. Gives it extra yummyness.

    By now, the water ought to be at a rolling boil. Grab you a ladle and fill each jar up to the headspace and then grab you a butterknife and start poking around in the jar. Your mission: Get those little air bubbles out of there! 
    Now for me, I find that the hot water makes the beans relax and therefore reveals a bit more room in the jar, so I put more beans in. 

    Look at everything and make sure that you have water where it belongs and everything looks kosher. 

    Now you can wipe the top of the jar clean, put the lids and rings on and put them in the pressure canner at 10lbs for 25 min for quarts, and 20 mins for pints.  

    Check out the dramatic change in color from pre-processing to post-processing!  

    They are still very good just cooked now. 

    My pressure cooker can only hold 7 quart jars, so getting all these canned took me 3 processing times. Factor in the silly notion that my family thought they had to eat supper, and the pressure cooker takes a half hour to heat up before I could start timing, and another half hour to cool down before I could take the lid off, and I didn't make it to bed till 3am. 

    Yes, thats an all day job. But lookie what you come up with! 

    18 Quart jars of yummy green beans. And you wont even remember all your hard labor back in the summer, when you crack one of these babies open in the dead of winter!!

    Now we wait till the next pickin is ready. There are lots of buds on the plants, so it will be a while. The good thing is, it's the last pickin!!

    Then we will have the final quart count of green beans from this years harvest.

    Monday, July 18, 2011

    What to do with Green Beans

    I just harvested my first pickins off my bean plants and didnt have enough to fool with canning them so I had this last night and wanted to share the deliciousness .....

    Everything you see on that plate at the end of this post, came from my land and hard work. Theres something to be said for that I think.

    Im writing up all my recipes in this type of format as Im cooking them. Yanno, the ones that aren't written anywhere? And also my faves and tried and trues...Im going to print them all off, combine all of them and make cookbooks for all my kids. If anyone has any amazing ideas on how to accomplish a cookbook when I finish writing the recipes...I would love to hear from you!!

    Im calling it "Moms home cookin" .... I think theres a billion cookbooks with that name tho...must think of something that fits me better. hhmmmmm

    Green Beans With New Potatoes
    By Melissa Hahn on July 18, 2011

    Prep Time: 15 mins
    Total Time: 1 3/4 hrs
    Servings: 8-10

    There are many ways to make this dish, many use the same stuff, its in the details I always say. This is my rendition.(if yall make this, please let me know what yall did! I will have to try your renditions!!)
    "This makes such good beans that you'll be wiggling like a speckled pup."

    3 lbs fresh green beans
    1 lb salt pork, sliced
    1/4 cup bacon grease
    3 cups beef broth, (3cups of water, 4 beef bullion cubes. Bring to a boil)
    2 teaspoons salt
    1/2 teaspoon pepper
    2 tablespoon Cavender’s Greek Seasoning (you will want a BIG can of this stuff!! I would be lost without my Cavender's!!!)
    12 small red potatoes
    2 onions, cut into slivers

    1. Remove the ends from the beans. Snap the beans in 2 pieces, place into a colander, wash, and set aside to drain.

    2. Meanwhile, in a large cast iron Dutch oven, lightly brown the onions and salt pork in the bacon grease over medium heat, turning often, for approximately 10 minutes. Toss the green beans into the pot, stirring them with a wooden spoon to coat well with the pork fat. Add the broth, and Cavender’s seasoning. Cook over medium-low heat, covered tightly, for approximately 30 minutes, or until the beans are half done.

    3. While the beans are cooking, peel a center strip from each new potato with a potato peeler. At the end of 30 minutes, add the potatoes to the beans. Cook, covered tightly, until the potatoes are tender, approximately 25 to 30 minutes, periodically checking the pot to make sure a small amount of liquid remains. When the potatoes are tender, tilt the lid slightly, off to the side of the pot, and continue to cook until the green beans are wilted, approximately 15 minutes.

    Serve with cornbread and salad if desired.

    Yes, this was as delicious as it looks!! 

    Wednesday, July 13, 2011


    Got my beets out yesterday. This will be the third year I've canned beets.

    Back on May 10, 2011, I planted approximately 35 feet of Detroit Dark Red, Morse's Strain beet seeds.

    Here they are before harvest....they look kinda sad don't they?? Well, you endure 110 degree weather and see if you look all perky!
    Really tho, this is the plants way of dealing with the heat. No, I'm not mean and cruel and I haven't denied them water. They looked pretty and ready for the day in the cool early mornings. Much like most of us...funny how plants are a lot like humans....

    So, yesterday morning, I hog tied my son, and we went out and harvested all the beets.

    By the way, you want to harvest them when they are around big apple sized...+/- just a hair. You dont find this information very easily, even on the net, so I thought I'd pass that along. Your welcome.

    And then you settle in for a long
    We took them up to the house and poured them out on the lawn and "stemmed" them because I needed to can the greens right away, the actual beet can wait a few hours.

    Canning the greens is exactly like canning spinach or any other green. So after all the prep, and 70 mins in the pressure cooker(90 for quarts) we came out the other end with these....

    This is 7 pint jars of beet greens. The amazing thing to me is, when they went in, their spines and veins were red. Now, they are not. They look just like spinach. So If you plan on canning some of this, mark your lids so you don't bite into something and get a shock! (you should mark your lids anyway..but thats another blog post.)

    So now with the greens all done, we went back out to the yard where the beets were, and started cutting the stems off the beets. You should cut them to about 1ish inch above the beet and do not cut the bottoms. This will keep the beet from bleeding too much.
    Sort them according to the size...this will come in handy later. You don't have to get the tape measure out for this...just ballpark it.
    Then you will need to bring them in and put them in a big darned pot of boiling water and let them boil for a while, about 15ish mins or more, depending on the sizes you sorted earlier. The bigger ones take longer.  Don't worry about washing them clean before you put them in the pot, just get the big mud clods off. The point of this is to make your life easier when you go to peel them.
    After you boil the beets, have a sink full of COLD water and throw them in. The point of the cold water is so you don't scream bloody murder when you grab them and get 3rd degree burns.
    After they've cooled a bit, grab one and give the skin a gentle squeezing wipe, and magically, they peel themselves. Once you wipe one, you will see what the inner skin looks like and can then tell what you are "peeling" by wiping the beet.

    If the outer skin doesn't come off with a gentle squeezing didn't boil them long enough. Throw them back in the pot.

    After you get them all peeled and rinsed, slice them, dice them, or leave them whole(the small ones). Then put them in prepared jars(in this case, pints) and put salt in(1/4tsp pints, 1/2tsp quarts) fill the jars up with water,  wipe clean the top of your jars, put lids and rings on, process in the pressure cooker for 30min for pints, and 35 mins for quarts.

    After you get the beets done you should have something like this from a bushel and a half of beets.....

    7 pint jars of beet greens, and 17 pint jars of beets....mmmmmm good. 

    Saturday, July 9, 2011

    My Spinach SUCCESS!!!


    Well, I guess it only took me 3 tries....I guess its true what they say about the whole "3rd times a charm" thing.

    ANYWAY....check this out!

    I just realized looking at this pic, that I'm using one of my vintage jars. That one over on the far left.
     Shows  you how observant I am...geezzzz

    This was the last of 3 pickings off of a 50' row of Bloomsdale, Long Standing spinach seeds. Don't they look AWESOME!?! This time, I mashed everything to the side and then filled it up with water. I know it dont make a lick of sense, but it worked!! lol 

    Now I have learned how to can spinach! GO ME!! Now, I can concentrate on eating it. Or fighting my son for it...actually, I think there's enough in a quart jar to go around...really. And there's a whole lot more to can, so I think were good. 

    On another note: 

    I went away for a few days this past week and of course took my knitting with me, and got the washcloths done Ive been telling you about. 

    They can be snatched up in my etsy store. Or if ya want, I can make you some of your very own. Just tell me what color and how many and I'll hook you up! These things are great for shower gifts! Put some homemade soaps or something or other with it and your set!! The giftee will love it! 

    I also brought my niece over to the dark side and started her out on some knitting stuff....If she keeps her interest, she will be a natural. (like her aunt!! lol) Unfortunately, I live so far away, I can't be there for her when she has any questions. But I have confidence in her....hopefully I can help over the phone and with vids and the book she has.
    I hope to see some scarves out of her very