canning

Easy Homemade Strawberry Jam

Making homemade jellies and jams is one of my favorite thing to do when fresh fruit comes into season. Strawberries wild and cultivated are in season here and I just could not resist a large sale that featured strawberries at a local market. Strawberry Jam is one of the easiest jams to make and is almost fool-proof.

Homemade strawberry jam

Homemade strawberry jam

I would love to have a strawberry bed in the near future but for now I have bought mine. So in about 1 hour 30 minutes, I made enough jam to feed my family for the rest of the year. The total cost for making Strawberry Jam was about 8$ compared to 17$ dollars if you pay 3 dollars a jar for store-bought Jam.I am hoping that next time I can drop the cost to 3$ dollars when I can raise my own berries.

Ingredients :

Following the Ball Blue Book canning guide you will need 2 quarts or 8 cups crushed clean fresh strawberries. I bought 5 pounds of strawberries and used about 3 pounds to get 8 cups of crushed strawberries. 7 cups of sugar, 1/4 cup lemon juice and 6 Tablespoons Ball Classic Pectin. This is one whole jar of powdered pectin. 1 to 2 tablespoons butter if needed to reduce foaming.

Supplies:

You will need 8 half pint jars ( we call them jelly jars) with lids and rings I always get two extra ready also. A boiling water canner with enough boiling water to cover the tops of you jars with 1 to 2 inches of water.You will need a potato masher to make the crushed fruit, a jar lifter, funnel and a ladle. One large dutch oven or stock pot for cooking the jam in. I like to wear rubber gloves to protect my hands from the boiling hot jam but you can skip it if you are careful.

After washing jars lids and rings, sterilize the jars either in the microwave or in the boiling water of the canner. I boil my lids and rings separately in a small sauce pan that I keep very hot until ready to us. Remove from sterile jars from canner or microwave and place on a towel to cool and dry.

ready to crush 2 cups of strawberries at a time in dutch oven

ready to crush 2 cups of strawberries at a time in dutch oven

In large stock pot add the 2 quarts of smashed berries, lemon juice and classic pectin mix together well. Bring to a boil, stirring to keep from scorching. Add sugar to pot and stir until sugar dissolved. Return to a rolling boil, one that will not stop when stirred.  Boil one minute stirring constantly. Remove from heat add one teaspoon of butter if jam is foamy on top. Mix in well and skim top of Jam to remove foamy skin. Ladle hot jam into clean jars leaving about 1/4 of inch of headspace.Be careful to not to burn yourself on hot syrup. Clean top rim of jar to remove any leftover fruit or juice adding lid and adjust ring. Process 10 minutes in boiling water canner. Remove from hot water and let completely cool check rings and tighten if needed and store for up to one year.

8 cups mashed strawberries, lemon juice, pectin ready to boil

8 cups mashed strawberries, lemon juice, pectin and sugar ready to return to a boil

jars loaded into canner to process 10 minutes.. no pressure needed

Jars loaded into canner to process 10 minutes. No pressure needed.

In the end I finished the morning with 9 half pint jars of jam and still had a few strawberries left over for strawberry rhubarb jam also. I grow rhubarb so I made a small batch of Jam with the leftover berries and three stalks of rhubarb.They all tasted great and will keep us thinking of summer all winter long.

Ball Classic Pectin

Ball Classic Pectin

 

Categories: canning, country cooking, strawberries | Tags: , , , , , | 7 Comments

Poblano Peppers and Home Canned Chili Verde.

Last year after our move, I was finally able to get a small garden in the back yard. The year was rainy and not everything that I planted grew well but the peppers seemed to like the wet, hot weather. I had wanted to add chili peppers to our garden for a couple of years but worried that the amount of rain in West Virginia gets would hinder their growth.Usually people think of the high arid deserts when you hear about chilies and hot peppers. Well let me say that my Ancho/Poblano chilies did very well last summer and by the end of Sept. I was over run with chilies. Here is a photo of the largest pepper plant I have ever raised it stood 4 1/2 feet tall and at one time had 22 chilies growing on it branches at one time. Eventually, Tom and I had to stake the pepper due to the fact that they were so heavy with fruit we were afraid that the stocks would break. In this photo you can see our plant touches the top of a 4 foot fence and we had not staked this plant yet.

Pablano/Ancho pepper plants in the Buckhannon, WV garden 2015

Poblano/Ancho pepper plants in the Buckhannon, WV garden 2015.

So what do you do with all these Chilies…. you make Chili Verde Sauce. Chili Verde is a stew like dish that comes from Northern Mexico. Green Chili is traditionally made with pork, hot to mild Chili peppers and Tomatillos . It can be eaten as dip, stew, or condiment like its brother Salsa. Our family loves it over burritos and over eggs in a dish called Huevos Rancheros. I also make a slow cooker pork roast with a Chili Verde dressing.

This winter when I broke open a jar of the Chili Verde, I remembered that wanted to share how to pressure can Chili Verde with all of you, using home-grown peppers from your garden. The process requires a pressure canner due to the use of pork in the ingredients.

Poblano peppers are a medium heat  chili pepper and these are still at the green stage.When fully ripened and red it is an Ancho pepper and is often dried and used as a crushed hot pepper. I used 12 to 15 peppers for this recipe.

2 1/2 pounds Pork butt or shoulder cut into small cubes

1 large onion

13 small Pablano peppers or 6 large peppers, roasted, seeded, skinned and chopped = 2 cups

2 Jalapeno peppers chopped whole for heat, remove seeds for mild

1 1/2 teaspoons chopped garlic =to about 3 cloves of garlic

1 pound Tomatillos, roasted,skinned and chopped or 16 oz jar Tomatillo salsa

1/4 cup wine vinegar

3 cups chicken stock

1 can diced tomatoes

2 Tablespoons salt

1 Tablespoon black pepper

2 teaspoons cumin, oregano, dry cilantro… if using fresh Tomatillos double these.

makes about 8 pints, cook time 75 minutes for pints and 90 for quarts,prep time 15 mintues.

Sink full of pablano chili peppers read to roast.

Sink full of poblano chili peppers read to roast.

The first step in cooking with any chili pepper is to roast them. I roasted trays of peppers in the oven this summer. The main requirement is to char the skin of the pepper on all sides and then place them in a container to sweat, making the skin easy to remove. Some people use paper bags some use a bowel with plastic wrap, I use a bowel with a tight lid and cook my peppers at a temperature around 400 degrees. Watching carefully to make sure I am not setting the broiled peppers on fire. It takes about 10 minutes to roast 12 to 15 peppers on a cookie sheet at one time.

Peppers chard and bowl with a lid to sweat after being removed from my oven.

Peppers charred and bowl with a lid to sweat after being removed from my oven.

I then remove the stems, most of the seeds and skins from the peppers. Letting them cool as I prepare the canning portion of this project.

1. I prepare 8 pint jars, lids, and rings for this batch of Verde sauce. Washing and sanitizing the jars and keeping the rings and lids in hot water until ready to used.

2 1/2 pound pork shoulder or roast.

2 1/2 pound pork shoulder or roast.

2. I dice the pork meat into bite size pieces making sure they will pass through the neck of a canning jar. I add  the meat to a 8 quart stock pot with 1 tablespoon vegetable oil and cook over med heat. The meat does not have to be done all the way through, the rest of the cooking will  finish while in the canner, but this does remove excess fat from the pork. Add salt and pepper and stir before setting aside. Drain away all fat but one tablespoon.

3. To the Tablespoon fat add chopped chilies, Jalapeno peppers, onions, and garlic. Saute this mixture for about 5 minutes until the onion is translucent. Add tomatoes, chicken stock, tomatillos, vinegar and spices.  Simmer on med heat for 15 to 20 minutes.

chili verde simmering on stove

Chili Verde simmering on stove.

What I used instead of fresh Tomatillos

What I used instead of fresh Tomatillos.

Where I live in rural West Virginia it is hard to find fresh tomatillos and if you do find them they look like this. I did not want to drive 30 minutes to see if I could find them so I used this canned salsa to add the mild richness that they provide in a dish.

Cut tomatillos

Cut tomatillos

They would need  roasted and chopped before being added to the stock pot.

4. After simmering for 15 to 20 minutes it is time to blend the sauce. I do not own a hand held blender so poured  mine into a blender a little at a time. I think this batch filled my blender three times. Blend for several minutes until smooth.

Blender full of green Chili

Blender full of green Chili

return to the stock pot and heat to boiling. The sauce must be hot when added to the jars so that the jars do not break when added to a pressure canner full of hot water.

5. Place browned pork into clean pint jars, filling at least half way to the top. We like more sauce so I use only fill mine 1/2.

6. Next ladle hot sauce over meat using a canning funnel and leaving a one inch head space. Use a rubber spatula to remove any air bubbles between meat. Wipe rim of jar and top with warm lid and rings. Process at 10 pounds pressure for 75 minutes for pints and 90 minutes for quarts.

cleaning rim of jars before canning

Cleaning rim of jars before Canning.

Home made Chili Verde 2015

Home made Chili Verde 2015

This recipe can be made without the added pork if you do not want to add meat to the sauce. I never found any information on how long to process a meat free version so I would continue to process it for the recommended time.

So this weekend my husband and I were able to eat a wonderful breakfast with this sauce. I made two large plates of Huevos Rancheros with Chili Verde. I made them with a warm tortilla on the bottom, topped with refried beans, two fried eggs, chili verde, and shredded cheese. A spicy way to start the day and a great way for my family to eat up all of those hot peppers!

Huevos Rancheros for breakfast on a cold morning.

Huevos Rancheros for breakfast on a cold morning.

Categories: canning, gardening, pepper /chilies, peppers, Pork, seeds | Tags: , , , , , , | 5 Comments

I am Thankful for Pumpkin Pie!

I know, I am late…. Thanksgiving day is usually a very quite and reflective time for me. The boys hunt and I cook and everyone gets together for dinner around 5:30 and we spend the rest of the evening watching the little ones play and  talk shop. So I usually have the day to myself, and Tom the turkey, but some how this year it just did not happen. One reason was the new bread maker that I received as a birthday present earlier this month.  I will be posting what I made yesterday once I have mastered ” dinner rolls”  they tasted great but looked a little funny.

So, like most people I just ran out of time to share that I am thankful for Pumpkin Pie. 

Yes, I know it sounds a little childish but pumpkin pie is really what I was thankful for this year and I will tell you why.

It all started with a my husband Tom… He really is my hero in life and on my Barnwood Builder episode. He helped me till a small garden at the other house that we were living in last summer. In that garden Tom and Christopher help me plant 3 pumpkin seeds. From those seeds grew 13 pumpkins, I think, if I can remember correctly.

Wagon full of sliver moon pumpkins 2014

Wagon full of sliver moon pumpkins 2014

Christopher and Cody picking pumpkins and Paige on the way with the wagon

Christopher and Cody picking pumpkins and Paige on the way with the wagon

Then after a long summer I was so thankful that Cody my older son and my granddaughter Paige and daughter-in-law Jamie were able to come help us harvest everything in the garden including the pumpkins. It took hours to bring in everything that grow well that year. We had sweet potatoes to dig, pumpkins to pull and tomatoes and peppers every where. The baskets were full,the wagon was full and I had a lot of work getting these pumpkins ready to eat.

Home grown white pumpkin carved for Halloween 2014

Home grown white pumpkin carved for Halloween 2014

I aged the pumpkins in the cool of our porch until Halloween came. I had my foot surgery just days before Halloween and I was off my feet when the holiday rolled in.  Again Tom help me out with the most important Halloween tradition of  carving at least one of our pumpkins.  Christopher and Tom spent one evening craving a couple of pumpkins and decorating the porch with them. I was so Thankful to see them and see the smiling face on my little Christopher’s face when he lighted them up.

bowel of pumpkin pie filling made in 2014

bowel of pumpkin pie filling made in 2014

From the rest of the pumpkins I made pie filling. So in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving I cooked and canned most of those pumpkins. The house smelled wonderful for days as I roasted on the first day and pureed the next. Finally I cooked and added spices to the mixture and put it in the jars with love. Thankful that Christopher had a school to go to and Tom had a job to work at, as the huge mess in my kitchen grew. 2 days and 6 hours later the jars sealed and I have jars of home-made pumpkin pie filling.

New House in Buckhannon, WV

New House in Buckhannon, WV

Then after moving our family over the long cold winter,we  stared working on the house.  I am so thankful for our new home. This was my first Thanksgiving in my new to me kitchen and the first time I drug out the good dishes and glasses in years. It was a wonderful reason to take out a jar of that pumpkin pie filling and make a pie to celebrate.

home made pies pumpkin and mock mincemeat

home-made pies pumpkin and mock mincemeat

Finally, I am thankful for every person who sat at my table, for every opportunity I have to spend time with them. I am thankful for those who are missing this year and the ones that are in heaven. I am thankful for the money to buy the meal we ate and most of all I am thankful for pumpkins and pies.

4 generations of the Powers family together for Tom birthday 2014

4 generations of the Powers family together for Tom birthday 2014.

Categories: Buckhannon West Virginia, canning, Christopher, Cody, Country life, foot surgery, gardening, Paige, pumkin puree', pumpkin, pumpkins, Thanksgiving | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Grandpa’s Home Canned Venison Chili Sauce, made from the garden.

When trying to live closer to the land many families turn to hunting, fishing and home gardens. In our families case we do all three, letting nothing that comes our way go to wast. Canning venison chili Sauce is a great way to use up extra produce in the garden and take a little of last years deer burger and make it into an on the go meal for those cold winter months still to come. This Labor Day weekend my family made about 13 quarts of this chili starter in about 6 hours. Each quart of sauce when added to one large can of kidney beans will make 5 to 6 servings of home-made goodness.

We started with only one problem, my tomato plants blighted this year. I have only one remaining tomato plant and we had to buy the two quarts of juice this recipe calls for. In better years I have made tomato juice and added some Tabasco sauce for the bite we love in our chili. So instead this year we bought two bottles of V-8 ( one hot and one regular) to fill the needed juice in this recipe.

I used the current Ball “Blue Book, Guide to Preserving” as our guide for processing times and head space for  making our meat sauce base. Any ground meat including venison should be processed for 1 hour and 15 minutes with chili needing a 1 inch head space. We then used grandpa’s recipe for the broth portion of the chili and added the recommended 5 pounds of ground venison. This resulted in 6 quarts of what my family knows as  Grandpa’s venison chili and it is a family favorite.

My kitchen smelled soooo good for most of the day because of the  fresh ingredients from my garden like hot peppers and garlic.

Cody,Jamie and I cooking and canning

Cody,Jamie and I cooking and canning

So for Grandpa’s Venison Chili

1 large yellow onion

2 teaspoons chopped or pressed garlic

1 cup sweet pepper diced

1/2 cup hot peppers ( we used banana peppers).Up this amount to 1 cup if you use plain tomato juice

3  cups tomato paste or 4 small cans.

2 quarts of tomato juice, or in this case 2 quarts v-8 juice one hot and one plain

1/2 cup sugar

1 tablespoon salt

1/4 cup chili powder

1 tablespoon Italian seasoning

black pepper to taste

5 pounds ground venison

2 table spoons vegetable oil

this makes 6 to 6 1/2 quarts of canned chili.

Some of the many peppers I have growing in the garden

Some of the many peppers I have growing in the garden

In a large 8 quart stock pot add oil, onions and garlic. Saute’ until onions are beginning to soften and add ground venison. Brown all 5 pounds over mid heat with onion and garlic. Once the meat is cook add juice and all remaining ingredients. Simmer for about ten minutes string often to prevent sticking and making sure all the ingredients mix thoroughly.  Bring chili to a boil and ladle into clean, sterile, quart mason jars leaving 1 inch of head space. After cleaning any spills off top lip of jar, top with clean sterile lids and rings that are just tightened. Place in pressure canner with simmering water ( amounts vary)  and add lid and begin to process after ten minutes of steam has escaped the canner. Process jars for 1 hour 15 minutes at ten pounds pressure. Remove hot jars from canner and set in a clean dry place to cool and you should hear the ping of the lids as they seal. Eat any chili in unsealed jars with in a few days and store inside the refrigerator. The remaining jars that have sealed should be used within a year of processing and stored in a place that stays above freezing.

Home canned Venison chili with canner

Home Canned Venison Chili with Canner

Now all I need is a crisp cool day to enjoy this home-made chili. Happy Canning!

 

Categories: canning, country cooking, deer hunting, gardening, Hunting, Tomatoes, Venison, venison | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Blog anniversary… Who knew this would lead to T.V.

I have written my way through 2 years so far. For a person with a frustrating learning disability like Dyslexia this is HUGE! I have taken on my weakness and confronted it, pushed through it and in some way over come it. Well maybe just worked around it, but because all of you are here it means that some thing in the last two years is working.

anniversary 2x

anniversary 2x

I took on writing a blog for a couple of reasons. The first was I  needed a creative outlet that I could do while at home with a 5-year-old and with a mother in law who was very ill. I also needed all of you, I needed to think about things other than the pile of toys on the floor and the trips to the cancer Dr’s office. My home was not a place to make crafts or paint large paintings at the time. So I wrote about who I love,what I love to do and some how you all found some thing here that spoke to you. Maybe it was the stories about cooking wild game and maybe it was that we love to garden and do canning, maybe the battle I fought to make sure my mother in law stayed well through her cancer treatments made you stay. Who really knows why you all have been here for this bumpy ride, but it is wonderful and has been one of the best hobbies that I have ever attempted.

I have recently been contacted by the DIY Network about my blog, yea shocked me too! They have a show called  “Barnwood Builders”  filmed in West Virginia and they are filming a barn in my local area. They found my little ( less than a thousand followers) blog and want Mountain Mama and the family in an episode of their show. So I am in total shock and over joyed that some where out in cyber space I have left an impression about who and what I am. At the current time it looks like we will be working together on the home we just purchased with some reclaimed barn wood. They also wanted to see my husband working with some of the horses he is responsible for as a farrier. They loved that we lived in a style that is already present in the show. We share a love for West Virginia history, working with our hands, seeing the beauty of our state and trying to live more simply.

I will write more later about the filming and when the episode should air… sometime next year for season two. But for now I have a few more topics to write about before the crew arrive here March 11th and we get to get dusty and dirty making my 60′ ranch feel more like the home of a county family. So hang in their if you love old barns, wood working, home improvement and decor because this spring should make for some great stories.

 

 

Mary Conrad Cabin Jackson's Mill, Jane Lew West Virginia 2013

Mary Conrad Cabin Jackson’s Mill, Jane Lew West Virginia 2013

Categories: blacksmith work, blogging, cancer treatment, canning, country cooking, dyslexia, Farrier work., furniture, hobbies, Home Decor, home improvement, home remodeling, recycling, West Virginia, writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Pickled Eggs with Garden Beets a Colorful way to Serve farm Eggs.

As with almost all pickles, pickled eggs were a safe and easy way to store food without refrigeration. Using simple ingredients like water, sugar and cider vinegar people could save their extra eggs from the summer and eat them when the long winter depleted families stores of meat and poultry. I have read that it was the Amish that added their wonderful pickled beets to the eggs to add color and a spicy twist. The tradition is very popular in West Virginia  where the eggs are found everywhere from the grocery store to road side restaurants. We are so luck to have  many of the Amish traditions passed down from their communities in Ohio and Pennsylvania.

half of pickled egg

half of pickled egg

My family takes the beets from our garden and pickles them in a spicy brine of cider vinegar, sugar, cloves, allspice, nutmeg and cinnamon. We then add the pickled beets to boiled eggs. Adding in a fresh dose of water, sugar and cider vinegar  for a holiday treat. I make these lovely hot pink  eggs at Christmas and Easter every year. Starting about 5 days before the holiday so that the eggs are pink to the edge of the yolk. Letting the eggs soak any longer the brine will toughen the yolk and make it rubbery.

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

I take 10 boiled eggs to one quart of pickled beets, either home-made or store-bought, adding them to a gallon non reactive container with a lid. To this mixture I add 1 cup water, 1 cup cider vinegar and 3/4 cup sugar to a sauce pan on the stove and simmer until sugar dissolves. I pour that hot mixture over eggs and beets, mix well, seal with a lid and store 4 to 5 days to get the pink up to the edge of the egg white. The longer the eggs soak the stronger the taste.

Pickled eggs floating in beet brine. in a non reactive container

Pickled eggs floating in beet brine. in a non reactive container

We serve the eggs along with the pickled beets that are in the bottom of the container. The sweet beets are a treat that I can not pass up and the kids love to take a bite into an egg that is not totally pink all the way through and has a bright white stripe inside.

There are many other ways to make pickled eggs some are hot and spicy with hot peppers added, some call for onions and some that are just a cider brine with white eggs. But in our house nothing reminds me of spring as much at hot pink eggs at our Easter table.

Categories: apple cider vinger, beets, beets, canning, Easter, eggs, Preserving | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

5 Reasons to Plant Silver Moon White Pumpkins in the Garden Next Year.

carved white pumpkins for Halloween

carved white pumpkins for Halloween

This year is the first time I have had any success growing pumpkins and just for the fun of it we chose to plant white ones just to add some fun to our Halloween display. It was a bumper crop and here are my five top reasons I will plant these pumpkins again next year. They met and surpassed all of my exceptions for home-grown pumpkins.

First they were very prolific. I planted only one hill of the Silver Moon Hybrid pumpkins, with only three seeds. I purchased the seeds from a Henry Field’s catalog 4 years ago. Sadly these seeds had been in storage for all those years. From those(to old to use) seeds I ended up with two healthy plants and ended up with 12 pumpkins.We were shocked and over joyed that most of the pumpkins were actually carving size ( 5 to 10 pounds) and I ended up with only two that were so small I could not even make them into pie filling.

white pumpkin on vine in garden

white pumpkin on vine in garden

The second and main reason I planted the pumpkins was how beautiful they are when carved. They range in color from snow-white to a pale green with white stripes. So for carving we chose to use the brightest white ones. As you can see from the above photo the pumpkins are white on the outside but have bright orange pulp with a wonderful green rind and when lit they are just so wonderful to look at indoors and out.

inside view of a Silver Moon Hybrid pumpkin

inside view of a Silver Moon Hybrid pumpkin

The next best reason to plant these pumpkins is, no matter their size, have very thick pulp. Making these very easy to turn into puree’ and pie filling. I only got to process 4 pumpkins before my foot that is still recovering from surgery said that I was standing to long. So With just 4 pumpkins I was able to get 10 quarts of pie filling that I will be using next week for Thanksgiving dinner.

10 jars of home made pumpkin pie filling

10 jars of home-made pumpkin pie filling

The fourth reason I like these pumpkins over the average orange ones is for storage value. They are a short squat pumpkin much more akin to a squash shape. So when storming them I could actually stack the pumpkins on top of each other on a shelf. That is never going to happen with a large round orange pumpkin.They also have less of an air space inside making them less prone to rot.

wagon full of white sliver moon pumpkins

wagon full of white sliver moon pumpkins

 

Then finally they have seeds, not for planting (being hybrids) but for eating. These pumpkins have a wonderful snow-white seed that are large for a 5 -6 pound pumpkin. They are thickly packed into the small cavity in the thick pulp. I was so surprised that we roasted several batches with salt and cinnamon sugar for a nice snack.

seeds hiding in the thick pulp of a small white pumkin

seeds hiding in the thick pulp of a small white pumpkin

It has been so much fun trying out new seeds in the garden and letting my sons enjoy every part of the activity. I can’t wait to serve a home-grown chemical free pumpkin pie to my family and friends this year at Thanks Giving. This is one seed that I will plant again and again, just to see the joy on Christopher’s face when Tom helps him carve his very own pumpkin.

Tom and Christopher with a home grown Jack-o-Lantern

Tom and Christopher with a home-grown Jack-o-Lantern

Categories: canning, food storage, Jack-O-Lanters, organic food, Pie, pumkin puree', pumpkin, Thanksgiving, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Sweet Potato Garden FAIL that Tastes so Good!

So it did finally frost about a week ago and we did finally get a chance before my two-week recovery to get out and dig my beautiful, bountiful, overflowing sweet potatoes. This was the first time either my husband or I  attempted to grow them in our family garden. The slips were a gift from a friend and we started off with about 10 plants and hoped to get 2 to 3 roots per plant. Well as things always go in a garden this one was about the funniest fails I have ever had.

Sweet Potato slips ready to plant

Sweet Potato slips ready to plant

The plants started off well and we did nothing to stop their spread or growth. Eventually they over ran the row they were growing in and just took over. My pumpkin hills became a sea of sweet potato vines and we lost pumpkins and cucumbers to the tangle of root shoots. Cody my oldest son played hide and seek with pumpkins and cucumbers in between their glossy leaves.

Cody picking Pumpkins in the sweet potato patch

Cody picking Pumpkins in the sweet potato patch

So the excitement was so high when my husband said it was time to trim the plants down and dig, dig, dig. It took us a couple of hours to dig the patch of 10 plants. Slowly and careful to not damage to roots we found that almost the enter garden damaged by VOLES. Check out this link for images and information on the difference between Moles and Voles.

I wanted to laugh and cry all at once, the largest and most beautiful potatoes were the most damaged.The beautiful pink skin left with huge holes and pits. We carried two five gallon buckets up on the porch and I  just walked away…… for several days! It was so discouraging I almost tossed all of them out.

Mole damaged sweet potatoes 2014

Mole damaged sweet potatoes 2014

As I walked past the buckets twice a day for a week my heart just did not have strength to dump the darn things out. “What should I do with them” was my thought every time I looked down at the muddy pink flesh. Finally on a spur of the moment idea I just started cleaning, sorting and tossing out my harvest. Finally it came to me… “What would your grandma do? She would use them any way.” The roots were mostly corked over where the damage had happened, so no rot was found. I was left with 8 to 10 pounds of sweet potatoes that needed saved in some way. So I cleaned, paired and salvaged what I could from the buckets.

trimmed,washed and sorted sweet potatoes ready to parboil

trimmed,washed and sorted sweet potatoes ready to parboil

I boiled the potatoes for twenty minutes, drained them and cooled them for several hours. Still sad, I removed the skins by hand under warm running water. Finally, they started to look like the yams that we normally see brightly colored, clean and blemish free. I cut them into large chunks and measured their amount. Discovering that I really did not have enough to make a full canner full of candied sweet potatoes I froze the remaining pieces.

4 Cups frozen Sweet potato chunks

4 Cups frozen Sweet potato chunks

Then as I reached the end of my pile of chucks I finally realized that I had plenty of time to make a Sweet Potato Pie ( canning sweet potatoes is at least a 90 minute process that I did not want to do). So just on chance I took the remaining pile of potatoes and cooked them for another 20 minutes until fork tender and braved the internet for a pie recipe. So to make this story shorter I made 2 wonderful sweet potato pies that I shared with my friends and family.

Maple Pecan Sweet Potato Pie.

Maple Pecan Sweet Potato Pie.

At the end of the day I felt satisfied, I had learned a lot about Voles/Moles, Sweet Potatoes and Pie. This gardening FAIL ended up tasting great!  Lucky for me every one seemed to like a pie made from what retail stores call trash. I think my Grandmother who raised 6 living kids and farmed for a living would have been proud that I didn’t give up on those chewed up roots.

Categories: cakes and family deserts, canning, gardening, mole/ vole damage, Pie, Preserving, regional food, Sweet Potato | Tags: , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Time Saving Home Canned Chili Sauce with Beef or Venison

I am sure all of us have had times when you get home from a long day and really don’t want to cook. I have many days that I just don’t plan ahead enough and it is 5 and I still have no idea what we are going to eat and everyone is hungry. This is my back up plan, it is a home-made tomato sauce that we use as a chili base and saves me from making the chili base from scratch every time. No looking to see if I have all the ingredients. No reason to worry over long cooking times.So when cool weather sets in and chili sounds like the perfect meal to put together in a slow cooker or a quick last-minute dinner this is the way our family makes chili. I also love that it uses a large amount of our garden tomatoes every year.

6 quarts of finished chili sauce

6 quarts of finished chili sauce

The idea to can a chili base came from my father in law and his disliked of making a pasta sauce that needed hours to cook down. This idea is so much faster and easier than making large amounts of pasta sauce. It also tastes great and a 1/2 bushel of tomatoes ( about 25 pounds or about 80 to 90 plum tomatoes ) makes about 6 quarts from one patch of sauce. I usually make 18 quarts every year. The other thing that is wonderful about this is it is a non-pressure recipe, it is made in a boiling water bath canner. As long as you stay with the ratio of 25 pounds tomatoes to one cup of onion and 2 1/2 cups peppers you will not  lower the acid levels of the tomatoes. In our sauce we use a mixture of hot and sweet peppers and you can adjust the heat to your families liking. In our case we use 2 cups sweet peppers to 1/2 cup hot peppers or around 4 banana or other large hot peppers. This mixture adds flavor but not much heat.If you like it hot reduce the sweet peppers to 1 cup and raise the hot peppers to 1 1/2 cups and feel the burn, do what ever sounds good to you.

The hardest part of canning any kind of tomato is the necessary step of blanching the tomatoes. This is the process of removing the skins so that you do not have chucks of skin floating around in the sauce. I have tried to grind the tomatoes and leave the skins on and it is just better to remove them if you do not like the taste or though texture of skins floating on the top of you chili.

To blanch Tomatoes I use a 8 quart stock pot of simmering hot water and a sink full of cold water. The colder the better, adding ice if you have a good ice maker is great. Into about 5 quarts of simmering water I place about 20 plum or any tomatoes and simmer for about 3 minuets then plunge them into the ice-cold water with a strainer.

simmering tomatoes for blanching

simmering tomatoes for blanching

The trick is to make sure before you remove the tomatoes from the water that you see the skin of one or all the tomatoes either tear away or start to wrinkle before the plunge. If you get that step right the skins almost fall off in the ice water and pealing is a snap. I core the tomatoes before blanching it makes the skins slide off faster as the water is able to get under the skin of the tomato. I have friends that do it after blanching because they do not want any extra water entering the tomato before cooking…( this is a very important to pasta sauce makers not so much for me). After pealing the tomatoes I have another stock pot ready to place the tomatoes into and blanch more as I place peeled tomatoes into a larger pot.

This photo shows what you start cooking with.

 

25 pounds of pealed tomatoes

25 pounds of peeled tomatoes

You will next cook the tomatoes and juice down and run through a food mill before adding any spices or other vegetables.

Here is the recipe for  cooking the chili sauce in our families traditional way.

Chili Sauce

1/2 bushel fresh tomatoes

2 cups sweet peppers

1/2 cup hot peppers ( we use yellow Banana peppers)

1 cup onion

2 teaspoons chopped garlic or about 5 cloves mashed

1/2 cup sugar

4 Table spoons chili powder

salt and pepper to taste

2 small cans tomato paste

2 table spoons mustard seed

1 bay leaf crumbled

5 whole clove heads all bundled together in a cheese cloth sack or in a tea strainer

this mixture usually makes 6 quarts of fresh sauce

Cook freshly peeled tomatoes for about 15 minutes to break them down into a watery broth. When most of the meat of the tomato has cooked down but you still have a few stringy portions and lots of seeds floating on top run hot tomatoes through a food mill, ricer or sieve to remove seeds and any tough tissues. Place back over med heat and add peppers, onions, garlic chili powder, salt and pepper. Add the spice bag or tea ball and simmer 15 more minutes. At the end of the cooking time remove tea ball and  add two cans tomato paste and stir until well blended. Ladle into hot sterilized jars leaving a 1/2 inch head space, wiping lip and covering with sterilized lids and rings. Process in a boiling water bath 20 minutes..

 

fresh tomatoes being pressed through a foodmill

fresh tomatoes being pressed through a Foodmill

Chop hot peppers with some kind of gloves they will burn skin and eyes is not careful

Chop hot peppers with some kind of gloves they will burn skin and eyes if not careful

hot peppers, sweet peppers, onions

hot peppers, sweet peppers, onions

 

 

final stage of chili sauce simmering away

final stage of chili sauce simmering away

When ready to make chili all that you need is one pound of ground meat. We use venison or beef or both mixed together browned and two cans or about 4 cups beans. We like to mix up our beans so I have used light kidney, dark kidney, pinto, cranberry beans, use what you have on hand. Brown the meat drain off any excess fat, pour in one quart jar of chili sauce and add 4 cups of your favorite beans and simmer a few minutes and you have dinner in about 10 minutes. The best part of all is this if all goes well in our garden the only thing that we did not grow ourselves is the tomato paste. Farm fresh goodness all winter long and a quick family meal that should make about 4 servings.

Categories: canning, Chili, country cooking, Tomatoes, venison | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Beets,Tomatoes, Pumpkins, and Pie…oh my!

The garden is full these days and I have been working on getting every thing into jar and freezer bags as quickly as I can. The beets made several good meals and about 8 pints of pickled beets for winter. The tomatoes are made into pasta sauce and chili sauce  7 quarts of each so far. Then another 7 quarts of chili sauce will be on the stove in a couple of days as the bulk of my tomatoes are ready for canning. But the real fun of this years garden is the pumpkins.

Christopher and Paife with a load of Pumpkins ready for display on our porch

Christopher and Paige with a load of Pumpkins ready for display on our porch

 

I am guessing that most homesteaders and gardeners have tried to raise a pumpkin or two over the years. I have also, but I  have never, ever, had pumpkins like this before. I planted 3 seeds… only one hill…. and so far we have 12 pumpkins and 7 were so large already that I was actually afraid the neighbors and their children may enjoy them with out my permission too! So we went pumpkin picking this holiday weekend.  I actually still have three vines blooming so we may have another load like this one in another month.

I am just over whelmed with the possibility of all the things that I can make for my oldest son and I out of these wonderful squashes.

Cody hands Christopher a pumpkin as Paige brings the wagon around  to fill it

Cody hands Christopher a pumpkin as Paige brings the wagon around to fill it

Cody and I love pumpkin and I have begun to master from scratch pumpkin pies. I am guessing we will  have enough pie filing canned for both families by the holiday season.  I was thankful that I did buy pie pumpkin seeds and thought that the white ones with the orange meat looked like fun to carve. I am sure that as the time gets closer we will have a many different looking pumpkins on the porch,but none will be as loved as the white ones we grew together!

a nice load of white pumpkins

a nice load of white pumpkins

In closing this is the recipe that I use when making a fresh pumpkin to make pies. At some point I will post a step by step instruction on how to make fresh pumpkins into a pie but for now this will get you thinking about the wonderful smells and tastes of autumn.

Fresh Pumpkin pie… a large 20 pound pumpkin can make about 4 to 5 pies (2 cups filling per pie).

Set oven to 450 degrees and roast a washed seeded quartered pumpkin on a cookie sheet for 30 to 40 minutes until the meat of the pumpkin softens and the quarters start to squish and wrinkle.

COOL for several minutes ( 30 to an hour) remove cooked meat and place about 2 cups into a food processor or blender blend until with a three tablespoons water and blended into a nice puree.

Either make a pie crust of use a store-bought crust big enough for a deep dish pie

in a large bowel mix 2 cups puree and add

2 eggs

1 cups light brown sugar

1 tablespoon flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

3/4 can ( 8 oz) evaporated milk

bake at 450 deg for 10 minutes the reduce the heat to 350 deg for 40 to 50 minutes.

test for with knife to make sure pie filling is cooked all the way through.

This is what my daughter in law says is the best pumpkin pie she has ever had… fresh from the garden!

Categories: canning, country cooking, gardening, Halloween, Pie, pumpkin, pumpkins | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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