Sunday, December 30, 2012

Thinking ahead: Canning Part 1- Equipment

Okay, if you have followed me for very long, you know I love to can. I find it so rewarding to put away delicious treats we have grown for the winter. Our garden for this year is winterized, but it won't be too many months and our garden will be up and going ahead with some yummy Spring vegetables and then fruits.

Something great you can be doing now ( as I type there is snow on the ground from the snow storm that left us without power for 4 days last week) is start thinking about canning this Spring and Summer. Part One of this will be about the Equipment you may need, and then I'll have a Part Two about planning your produce.

If you haven't canned before start musing if you want to. If you do ( and boy is it fun) start looking for your equipment. Depending on what kinds of produce you want to can determines what you may need. Just started out I would recommend just a good old Granny-ware water bath canner like the one below.

You can buy them from stores like Lehmans, Amazon, Ball Home Canning or even mass merchants like Walmart. You may be able to find one at little thrift stores or flea market sales though, so be on the lookout.

I also like to have the jar lifter, lid lifter and the funnel. Those can be bought at the stores listed above, or again you can regularly find them at thrift stores.

If I use the pressure canner ( for things like greenbeans or veggie soup) I normally enlist my momma as she is much more versed in pressure canning. I honestly find green beans fine as frozen or even pickled like as in Dilly Beans.

You will of course need jars also. I find these at Thrift stores, or places like Home Depot , Kroger or Target. You could look around on Craigslist also as I have found some advertised there for very cheap. This is something that can be reused each year as long as there are no cracks or chips in it. I know some people reuse the seals, I do not. I find that I get a better seal out of them if I buy them new. It's worth it to me to buy new seals each year if I know that my bounty will be protected even better. The rings or lids I resuse year to year.

When thinking about jars you need to think about what all you are hoping to can, I use pint and quart jars for things like pickles, salsas, soups, and jellies. I tend to use smaller pints and half pints for things I might give as gifts or things we don't use quickly like pepper relish, jellies or jams. Also having a variety of sizes on hand gives you the option to not waste any of your produce. Sometimes I get down to the last of my batch and have just enough for a half pint.

Pressure canners ( as mentioned before) are better for foods that are low in acid and many people use them for things like red meat, seafood, poultry and MOST fresh vegetables with the exception of tomatoes. ( Again this is why you find that I freeze alot of stuff or pickle it).
You can find a lot of great information about pressure canning at Canning Pantry.
These can be a great asset if you plan to can a lot instead of freeze, or if you just prefer the taste of canned vegetables over frozen. These are a bit more complicated, but you shouldn't be discouraged, you can follow directions and learn how to do it fairly easily.

The last way to can is Steam Canning which I have to admit I don't have much experience with. It is certainly something I would like to learn more about though. The information I found though from the USDA doesn't recommend using it because " steam isn’t as effective at transmitting heat through to the center of the jars as boiling water is. It’s this heat penetration that ensures both the safety of your product (it kills off any possible contaminants) and the efficacy of your seal." I know some of my readers have used it before and been successful, but like I said I haven't used it and am not sure if I will be trying it anytime soon as long as I'm successful with the other two methods, along with freezing, drying and dehydration.

Well this was much longer than intended. Stay tuned for Part Two which talks about Canning and produce.

Happy Homesteading.......

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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Book Review- We Had Everything But Money

I purchased this book " We Had Everything But Money" at a flea market recently for $2! I have been kind of seeing it here and there and always forgot to look for it at the library, so I was happy to find it.

Priceless Memories of the Great Depression.
They are indeed priceless. There are numerous stories of inspiration, dedication, community and love in this book. It is a collection of different stories, rememberences, recipes etc. of the Depression Era. The stories are a light read, and you can read several stories at a time.

The Pictures.
Oh my there are amazing pictures in this book. I shared some with the girls, pictures of feed sack dresses, little ones peddling apples, just amazing pictures of our nation's history. I would say this would make a great coffee table type book ( if you are into that sort of thing).

Bottom line.
I liked it. It is well worth $2 :). It wold be worth more than that though. I could see it being used as part of homeschool unit about the Great Depression. It could really be inspirational to be happy with what you've got, and it teaches about the human spirit.

Until next time...
Happy Homesteading...

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Monday, December 10, 2012

Trip to the Flea Market this weekend

Even though it is approaching Mid December, it was still beautiful weather this weekend, ( and my daughter's birthday) and she wanted nothing more than to go the the "Flea Market". This is an outdoor event a few towns over that has a huge livestock auction, vendors selling homeade food ( AKA the BEST homeade tamales you will ever eat), play things for the kids and of course tons and tons of vendors, everything from the junkiest of junk to very nice, hand made quality goods. There are also a ton of animals for sell, which the kids love to look at and pet.

It is a great time I must admit.

The first good deal I got was a book I have been wanting for a while that just popped out at me, from a pile of all kinds of books.
It was a whopping $3, but I asked him if he would take $2 and he said yes. I will review this book later I'm sure but I have already read a lot of it, and it's super fun.

I found a vendor that had random boxes of things like toothpaste, floss and deodorant, and then there was a box of flower seeds. You know the little packets with things like Marigolds, Dahlias and such? I asked how much and was returned with a " $1 a handful" and he gave me a plastic sack. I got a handful of seeds ( which don't expire until 2013). When we got home the girls and I counted them and ended up with 40 packs of various flower seeds, 4 packs of pumpkin seeds and 3 packs of Kentucky Wonder Pole beans . If you recall my middle child is my flower child and so enjoys her flowers. This will be fun for her to plant this spring.

The last thing I got was a beautiful set of 6 salad plates. They are so pretty. Each one has a different chicken scene on it. I saw them and remarked how lovely they were so my mother bought them for me for Christmas.  $5 for 6 HIGH QUALITY, BEAUTIFUL salad plates. She has them in her posession and will wrap them for me for Christmas. I'll try to remember to post a picture of them when I get them.

It was a great day. We were outside, we were with family, we had good food, good fellowship and my kids learned that you don't have to go into a mass box store to get good deals.

Until Next time...
Happy Homesteading!

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Thursday, December 6, 2012

Listia- An Online auction site using points only

Nothing too Homestead-ey about this post, except that it is frugal and fun, and hey what is a homestead if it can't be frugal and fun??

I'm not sure where I ran across it, but Listia is this fun little auction site that deals only in points, no money at all. You get a pretty decent batch of points when you sign up, here. With those points you bid on items that range from gift cards, to clothing, to books. DVDS, toys and so much more. Really anything. When you sell something on Listia, those points that are "paid" to you can then be used to purchase something from someone else. I've bought and sold on there about 10-15 times and have had great fun and found some good deals. So just wanted to share with my readers, I knew you would appreciate it!.

Hopefully you can find something to help you around the Homestead on there!

Until Next Time, Happy Homesteading.....

Monday, December 3, 2012

Deer Meat....

A few weeks ago my husband killed a deer. No matter how you look at it, it is still taking a life and we don't take it lightly. We teach our kids that it isn't a sport or a game, it is necessary for conservation efforts of the deer population, but it also provides our family with meat. I do'nt need meat to live, I have gone years without eating any meat at all, but my husband appreciates meat, and I don't mind so we do eat meat that we harvest and process ourselves. This includes deer of course.

We are blessed that my father in law shares our passion for good food and he has a "shop" that is fully equipped with a kitche, stove, wash area, walk in cooler and meat processing equipment. We stored the deer in his cooler until we could process it and this weekend we ground it.

We got:
- 6 lbs of chili meat ( which is just a little larger ground peices)
-6 lbs of ground burger meat ( which I use in spaghetti, meatloaf, really anyway you would use beef)
-30 lbs of summer sausage ( which is so delicious, as I use fresh peppers from the garden, and local hand crafted cheese)

My brother in law was also there and he gave us 5 additional pounds of ground burger, as there " is just one of him, but 5 of us". We are so blessed.

The summer sausage is a treat and most of the time we just do ground meat, but the summer sausage is great around the holidays to snack on, take to parties and use as gifts.

We expect to get at least one more deer this year which will fill or freezer up and will be good eating for the rest of the year.

Until Next time
Happy Homesteading

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One Small Thing- Honey

Let's talk about Honey! One thing that you can do this week during your Homesteading Quest is to think about honey. I have been purchasing local honey from an older gentlemen about 20 minutes from me, for as long as I can remember. My folks use to buy from him, and now I do to. I remember when I was small he would save the honeycomb for us and it was such a treat to chew on that sweet yumminess...

there have been lots of studies done that show eating "local" honey can help with allergies, as you are actually ingesting a very small amount of the local allergens through that honey, as that is what the bee is using to pollinate. I've never had allergies, but that makes sense to me.

Of course is would be wonderful if you harvested your own honey. I have longed for that, but it hasn't made it to the top of my must do list just yet, so for now I'm satisfied buying it from my elderly friend.

Honey is great to use as a sweetener for things like hot teas, yogurt, and baked goods. I will also say that a yummy dollop of honey on freshly baked biscuits on a cold morning really gets the day off to a good start. My girls also like honey bread, which is just a thick slice of homeade bread with melted butter and honey on it. Hey, not the healthiest in the world, but better than a twinkie and at least I know where it came from.

Honey is also great for many illnesses. My family uses it as we start to feel the approach of a cold, sinus infection or sore throat. My kids often ask for a teaspoon of honey for their "sore thoat" , which I know is just a plot for me to dispense the liquid gold, but I normally oblige....

So my challendge this week is to
-research local sources of honey for you
- experiment with ways to use honey in your families favorite meals, snacks and drinks

Let me know what you all are thinking!

Happy Homesteading.....

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