Sunday, September 21, 2014

I Love Fall! Apples Galore!

Hello Fellow Homesteaders!

As promised, I am sharing my apple preserving adventures with you from my first free apple picking! Wow, can't beat that deal! I've read that some late freezes up north have really devastated the apple crop, so my heart goes out to those of you who didn't get a harvest this year.

I'm not sure what kind of apples I picked as the owner didn't know either. Though, at that price, I didn't really care! I picked two milk crates' worth. Not a lot to many of you, but I wanted to start out small in case I couldn't keep up with all of it. Especially being 5 months pregnant, I don't want to commit to a major project right now because even daily tasks are sometimes too much. My first pregnancy I could have run a marathon, canned an entire orchard of apples, processed an entire field of pumpkins and still had dinner ready in time! Baby number 3...not so much. I am just hoping I survive! Lol!

I started every batch out by soaking it in vinegar water. This batch looks pretty good.

Many of the apples had a lot of bad spots in them though. These are perfect for applesauce! I keep the peeling on my apples for applesauce. It's easier, keeps more of those yummy vitamins and fiber, and adds a beautiful color to the final product. I cooked 2 batches on the stove in a bit of lemon water and canned them in a water bath. I don't add sugar either. These apples were so sweet, I wouldn't have needed it anyway. I don't have a pressure cooker yet, so I am limited on what I am able to can, but apples are good for the water bath method!

Next I tried my hand at Apple Pie Filling. I didn't use the Clear Jel because I didn't have any and found differing views on whether it's safe or not to use any other type of thickener in canning, so I just left it out. I can thicken this when the time comes to use it. Since I didn't put in thickener, I was able to make a double batch of this recipe all at once. (All the gelling/pectin type products I have used so far warn against making double batches due to the chance of the final product not gelling up correctly.)

I found a recipe on simply Canning Apples, so I gave that a try. I should note that I don't have an apple peeler either, so the paring knife and I had a lot of bonding time in this process. After the kids went to bed, I set up shop in front of a movie with a pan of lemon water, a bowl for the good scraps, a bowl for the yucky scraps and peeled away until my hand fell off! It took me two sittings to get all the apples done for the apple pie filling and the canned apples.

I used the light syrup method in the above recipe. Since then I discovered you can use plain water for apples also, but no one in this house is going to complain about a little extra sweetness! I haven't decided how I want to use these apples yet. As time goes on, I'm sure recipes will present themselves.

While I was working on all the above projects, I had some Apple Butter cooking in the crock pot. As you can see, I keep the peeling on for apple butter too. For this and the applesauce, I use an immersion blender to grind up the peels. Granted, I will still find a good size piece of peeling sometimes while consuming these yummy foodstuffs, but I don't mind. Oh, and can you guess what else I don't have? That's right, I don't have a food mill either! Hey, I'll be the first to admit, my cabinets may be full, but my kitchen is totally under stocked!

My first batch of apple butter barely yielded 4 pints even with a full crock pot! So my second batch, I piled it high then added even more apples before I went to bed. Alas, for some reason I didn't get a picture of the final product! Rest assured, it is deep brown and tasty. Mmmmm!

So, after all my hard work, I still have this to deal with. Yowzers! Just had to show this because I like to be real! As you can see by the dates, I left this overnight. Yes. I. did. That's the power of being the head of the kitchen! HA HA HA HA!!

Now I have have 2 1/2 gallon bags of yummy scraps in the freezer to make Apple Scrap Jelly. (I threw even more in the compost pile from rotted and/or nasty scraps.) I tried this recipe last year and couldn't get my jelly to set up. Since then I have read that as apples ripen, the pectin in them decreases. Also, the scraps had turned brown by the time I used them, so I wonder if that affected the amount of pectin in them as well. This year I haven't decided if I want to try this same recipe or use the one out of my box of pectin. Either way, this is a project I saved for another day. I also just read the other day that sometimes it can take several days if not a week or two for jelly to gel up. So perhaps if I had left last year's product alone, it may have set up on it's own. I remember my biggest problem is that I couldn't get the liquid up to temperature. I used a pot four times bigger than I needed, but it still boiled over terribly before it hit the temp I needed. Have you tried this method? Let me know in the comments how it went for you. As a noob to all this, I'll take all the tips I can get!

I also took a few apples, cored them, sliced them thin with my mandolin and put them in the dehydrator for apple chips. I forgot to save some apples for more batches, so I ended up with just one small bag's worth, but it will work for a couple of snack times for the kids and I. Plus I hope to get my hands on more apples now that I have ventured into the world of apple preservation and feel more comfortable with it.

Well, I hope you are having as much fun preserving your harvest as I am. It's such hard work, but the rewards are exponential. Plus it makes me feel like a pioneer to learn how to do these things. I love digging into my roots and learning the ways of old. I am sure many of our ancestors didn't have the nice equipment we have today. I try to think of that when my hand feels like it's going to fall off after peeling my 100th apple! I wonder how many apples my great-great-grandmother peeled by hand in a season...

I welcome any recipes or tips on apple preparation and preservation in the comments. I'd love to hear about your experiences as well!

Happy Preserving!

Jen Hen

Saturday, September 13, 2014

I Love Fall! Pumpkin Everything!

Hello Fellow Homesteaders!

I love pumpkins! I love how big and impressive their vines are.

I love how bright and beautiful their flowers are.

Though, I am not sure I will have a pumpkin crop this year as it is mid-September and this is the biggest little guy I have so far.

I did get some pretty white acorn squash and a teeny green one from my garden, so perhaps that will do.

No matter where it comes from, I love pumpkin! One year I acquired a huge box of pumpkins and had enough for the whole year! One day I hope to grow enough of my own pumpkins to last a year. Pumpkin puree keeps well in the freezer. I have also dehydrated pumpkin puree, then ground it into a powder to be reconstituted with hot water later on. Canning pumpkin puree is not recommended, but you could can pumpkin chunks with a pressure cooker if you wanted to go that route.

Did I say I love pumpkins! They are pretty, nutritious, fun to grow, and can be used in almost endless ways for cooking! (Perhaps pumpkins are why orange is my favorite color!) So, here are some yummy pumpkin recipes I have gathered and want to share with you. I have made some of these and the rest are on my to-do list! I have yet to taste a pumpkin dish I didn't like!

I almost always use fresh pumpkin over store-bought canned. Use whatever method you like, this is just a personal preference of mine because I love pumpkins! But, don't feel bad if you don't have access to fresh pumpkins and/or just don't want to mess with preparing them. I enjoy all this because, as you know, I have a bit of craziness about me. If you want to try your hand at using fresh pumpkins, here's where you begin!

Pumpkin Pie Puree

Cooking a Whole Pumpkin

How to Roast Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin Pie Spice

Of course we all think of pie when the subject of pumpkins comes up. Here is a yummy variety!

Pumpkin Pie in the Slow Cooker with Crust

Party Pumpkin Pie

Microwave Impossible Pumpkin Pie

Lactose Free Dairy Free Pumpkin Pie

Healthy Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkin Pie Casserole

Homemade Pumpkin Pie

Individual Pumpkin Pies

Pumpkin Bread makes a wonderful gift!

Pumpkin Bread

Pumpkin Seed Flat Bread

Pumpkin Praline Bread

Slow Cooker Pumpkin Bread in Jars

Cranberry Pumpkin Bread

Yogurt and Pumpkin Bread

Pumpkin Walnut Bread

Start the Day with Pumpkins! Waffles, muffins, and pancakes...Oh My!

Pumpkin French Toast

Pumpkin Waffles

Healthy Pumpkin Pancakes

Amish Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls with Caramel Frosting

Pumpkin Blueberry Pancakes

Pumpkin Spice Muffins

Pumpkin Waffles

Pumpkin Muffins with Oatmeal Streusel Topping

Pumpkin Spice Pancakes

Delicious Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins

Making a Meal out of Pumpkin. A walk on the wild side...

Pumpkin Pasta

Pumpkin Apple Harvest Rice

Pumpkin Mac and Cheese

Low Fat Lemony Lentils with Pumpkin

Creamy Pumpkin Polenta

Abobora Refogada Brazilian Stewed Pumpkin

Afghan Fried Pumpkin

Pumpkin Risotto

Best Pumpkin Casserole

Pumpkin Soup?! Yes Please!

Roasted Pumpkin Soup

Fall Harvest 3 Sisters Soup

Zesty Cream of Pumpkin Soup

Armenian Pumpkin Stew

Pumpkin Soup (Dairy Free Option)

Beyond the Pie: Yummy Pumpkin Desserts and Sweets!

Pumpkin Crunch

Baked Pumpkin Bread(less) Pudding

Candy Corn Smoothie

Pumpkin Cheesecake Bites

Bisquick Pumpkin Cake

Almond Pumpkin Charlotte

Amazing Pumpkin Spice Cookies

Easy, Healthy Pumpkin Cookies

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Crock Pot Pumpkin Spice Latte

Pumpkin Gingersnap Ice Cream

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bars

I don't know about you, but I'm ready to get started on my fall cooking! The weather is cooling off, soon the leaves will start to turn vibrant colors, and we'll feel winter's nip on our nose in no time. Fall seems to disappear before I've had time to really enjoy it, so I'm keeping an eye on it this year.

Here are some of last year's pumpkins. The nasty looking one got attacked from underneath by rolly-pollies and I didn't catch it until it had already mended itself and grew some more.

After cutting off the bottom part, the rest looked normal, so we cooked it and ate it and I lived to post this today. Ha ha ha!

I hope you have an excellent time cooking and baking with pumpkin! And please share your favorite pumpkin recipes in the comments and/or share a link!

Happy Pumpkining!

Jen Hen

***Don't forget, only 2 more days to get your copy of the Ultimate Healthy Living Bundle 2014! Have questions? Click HERE.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Healthier Living

Hello Fellow Homesteaders!

Well, it has certainly been a tough summer with me being down and out for much of it. I am glad fall is arriving since the cooler weather seems to be helping me feel a bit better. Baby girl is healthy and growing well, so if I need to be tired so she can be healthy, then so be it! But I should add, I could be healthier. If you have followed me for long, you know I have a terrible love of sugar! I cook fairly healthy meals, have cut out a lot of processed food, and enjoy the harvest of my garden, but then I add way too much sugary stuff on top of that! I know this isn't the only thing I can change to help my health and I have a lot to learn.

This is why my first opportunity for revenue I have chosen to be an affiliate for the Ultimate Healthy Living Bundle 2014. This is a wonderful reference at a great price with many authors that I'm sure you will be familiar with.

This sale ends on September 15th and there is a limit on the number of copies sold, so be sure to check it out!

I love fall and will hopefully be posting how my garden is doing. (Which would have happened today, but it's 54 degrees and raining.) I am enjoying this cooler weather and have been feeling a bit better on the cooler days. I'm ready for pumpkin-everything, colorful falling leaves, and that nip in the air! How about you?

Happy Homesteading!

Jen Hen