My 4 year old with a camera

A couple years ago Santa got my daughter a Fisher Price tough camera. She has recently decided that she wants to be a photographer. So I am going to share my garden through my 4 year old’s eyes.

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This is Gretta

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Mortgage lifter tomato

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San Marzano Tomatoes

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Sun Gold Tomatoes

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Pumpkin

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Not so close up of the pumpkin

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Sweet pea tomatoes

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Sun Gold Tomatoes

I think she did pretty good for a 4 year old!

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Pear Butter

10 Sept 2013

A week ago I had bought a box of Bartlet pears to can for the year. I figured that I would have at least five or six days before they would ripen. I was dead wrong. It seriously took about five seconds for them to ripen and go beyond the point of being able to can them without them turning to mush in the jars. What to do with way over ripe pears? I flipped through my books and found a recipe for pear butter. I figured that my apple butter is a hit that I would try this recipe out.

To start off please check out my piece on getting started (water-bath canning)

Pear Butter

2 quarts pear pulp (20 medium, fully ripe pears)

4 cups sugar

1 teaspoon grated orange rind

1/3 cup orange juice

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

There is the recipe. Please read the rest of the post because it all changes. I start off by pealing, quartering and coring the pears. I put them into a big sauce pan, and cook until pears are soft adding only enough water to prevent sticking. I added no water because there was enough liquid from the pears.

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I usually add fruit fresh to keep the fruit from changing color. As the fruit cooks down I mash it with a potato masher. It will start to look like apple sauce.

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When fruit is soft and cooked down I run it through a food mill or food press.

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Food press

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With all butters you want to cook them down until there are thick. I found that my pears had way too much liquid to them and I really did not want to sit around stirring them until the liquid cooked off so I also put them in a strainer to drain off the liquid.

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After it was all said and done, I was left with about 4 cups of pear pulp. So my notified recipe is..

Pear Butter

1 quart of pear pulp ( about 20 medium pears)

2 cups of sugar

1 teaspoon grated orange rind (I omitted this)

1/3 cup orange juice ( I forgot to reduce the OJ, but it tastes really good, that’s what matters right?)

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg ( not a fan of nutmeg I substituted 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon)

Rinse out your pot, add in all the ingredients and cook on high heat until thick, stirring constantly. This takes about 15 minutes. Scoop hot butter into sterilized jars leaving 1/4 inch of head space. Wipe jar rims and adjust lids. Process for 5 minutes in a boiling water bath.

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It should be pretty thick. Now I am really not bitter about this, only because this stuff taste amazing… but I only got 6 1/2 half pints out of a 24 pound box of pears. For those of you who buy in bulk you know how little that really is. I believe my husband called it gold because that is totally ridiculous.  I only recommend this recipe if you can get pears for really cheep or free. I am not kidding, it is delicious… but expensive if you are canning to save your family money.

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Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving

I saw this bad boy at Costco today for $12.99. It is a great price! This book has some great recipes in it.

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Canning for the fair

2 Sept 2013

This year I decided to do some canning for the fair. I was ambitious and decided to enter the max that the Evergreen State Fair would let me enter. So over the course of two weeks I canned 24 things. Lucky for me, and my kids,  I was able to double dip on four things because I grew what I canned.  I dropped my canned goods off on August 19th at the fair. The process was fairly easy seeing as I entered everything online. On August 24th I went to the fair to see how I did. I was so nervous, which was silly because I really had no expectations seeing as it was my first time entering.

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I was only able to find 20 of my 24 that day. But I was pretty impressed that I saw 17 blues, 1 red and 2 thanks for entering (totally my fault, I forgot to attach the recipe on one and messed the label up on the other). I handed myself a pat on the back and awarded myself with a elephant ear.

Today was the day that I got to pick up my jars and get the final tally of ribbons. I received, 21 blue ribbons, 1 red ribbon and 2 participation awards I also got 5 special merit awards, and 2 best presentations. One of the best presentations was for blueberry pie filling, which was my first time making, let alone canning. From what I understand pie filling is really hard to get the correct head space on. I managed to get two jars of pie filling blue ribbons. Not bad for the first go around.   Needless to say, I think that is going to be a yearly goal for me entering the fair. It was a lot of fun and a great learning experience. Now I need to come up with other things to can for next year!

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Carrot Cake Jam

29 Aug 2013

This jam is a favorite among many people I know. I have a few friend that eat gluten free that have told me that this jam has filled their carrot cake craving void. They eat it with their crackers and cream cheese. This jam is always in my cupboard and has won me a few awards. carrot

if you are just starting out please reference my post in getting started (water-bath canning).

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups finely grated carrots

1 1/2 cups chopped cored peeled pears

1 3/4 cups canned pineapple including juice

3 TBSP lemon juice

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg ( I don’t like nutmeg, I always substitute more cinnamon)

1/2 tsp ground cloves

1 package regular pectin

6 1/2 cups sugar

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combine carrots, pears, pineapple with juice, lemon juice, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. bring to a boil over high heat, stir frequently.

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Reduce heat. Cover and boil gently for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and whisk in pectin until dissolved. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring frequently.

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Add sugar all at once and return to a rolling boil, stirring constantly. Boil hard stirring constantly for one minute.

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Remove from heat and skim foam. Ladle into jars leaving 1/4 headspace. process for 10 minutes.

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This also make a great gift at the holidays!

 

Courtesy of Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. 51nF3izhyuL._SY346_

Very awesome book!!

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Another book recommendation

 

26 Aug 2013

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This book is awesome if you are interested in mini farming. It has everything from getting your soil ready to raising chicken for meat. It talks about soil maintenance and how to build garden beds. It is a very helpful reference to have for your mini farm.

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Canning Peaches

26 Aug 2013

This time a year is get fruit in bulk cheep time of the year. That means roll in the 24 pound box of peaches. You can usually get #2 peaches (the ugly ones) for pretty cheep. I bought two boxes for $10.00 a piece. One box for eating, one box for jam. In this post I am going to be talking about the eating ones.  First you need to make sure that they are ripe. If they are not ripe the skins will not easily slip off.

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Make sure your peaches are nice and ripe, and clean them.  Get a big pot, I use and 11 quart stock pot, and bring water to a boil. Blanch you peaches for 30 to 60 seconds.

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Drop peaches in ice cold water,  and slip the skins off. If the peaches are ripe they should just come off. I always sprinkle fruit fresh from ball on them to keep their color from turning.  See getting started (water-bath canning) for getting your jars ready

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You now need to cut them in half and remove the pit. The peaches can be canned this way pit side down. Or you can cut them smaller. I cut them smaller because it is less work later on with the kids. You also have to decide how heavy you want your syrup. I always go with a very light syrup (1 cup sugar to 9 cups water).  There are many charts online telling you how to make the syrup. You can also do this with just water, or apple/ white grape juice. It depends on what you like and how much sugar you want.

There are also two methods of canning these. If you hot pack, and use a heavier syrup the fruit shouldn’t float. The hot pack method you get your fruit ready and cut them. Then in a large sauce pan you heat up the prepared fruit and syrup to a boil. Hot pack the fruit and juice into the jars leaving a 1/2 head space. Remove air bubbles, wipe jar rims and put the lids and rings on.

If you cold (raw) pack, the fruit, no matter how heavy the syrup, it will most likely float. Unless you are entering in the fair, trying to get an award, floating fruit is no different than non floating fruit. It all taste the same. With cold packing you cut the fruit and put it in the jars leaving 1/2 inch head space. Fill with hot syrup/water/ juice leaving the 1/2 headspace. Remove air bubbles, wipe jar and put on lids and rings.

The times for a boiling water bath are

HOT PACK

Pints          20 minutes

Quarts       25 minutes

COLD PACK

Pints            25 minutes

Quarts         30 minutes

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Pickling beets

20 Aug 2013

So beets is a food that I think you either like or don’t like. I have even been asked why I grow beets because they are “useless.” I happen to really like beets. I really love pickled beets. Homemade ones are a million times better than store bought. They are also fairly easy to make, and they are really easy to grow. If you are new to canning please check out Getting started (water-bath canning)

Ingredients
7 pounds of 2 to 2 1/2 inch diameter beets
4 cups vinegar (5%)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 cups sugar
2 cups water
2 cinnamon sticks
12 whole cloves

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I get all my beets together leaving about 1 inch of stem and leave the roots on during the precook time to avoid bleeding. Beets are very messy, and I always, always wear gloves and an apron when dealing with them.

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Put all your beets of similar size into boiling water. Cook until tender about 25 minutes.

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Drain beets and let cool. Once cooled the skins come right off. While the beets are cooling I get my canner ready and sterilize the jars. I also get the liquid part of recipe ready. combine the vinegar, salt , sugar, and water in a pot. Put cinnamon and cloves in a cheese cloth bag and add to vinegar mixture, and bring to a boil. Cut the beets into 1/4 inch pieces. (I decided to not add the picture of cutting up the beets due to the Twilight effect.)  Add beets to mixture and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove spice bag. Fill jars with beets leaving a 1/2 headspace.

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Add hot vinegar mixture, Allowing for the 1/2 headspace. Remove air bubbles, wipe jar rims, and install rings.

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Process time for pints and quarts is 30 minutes in a water-bath canner.

 

 

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Getting Started (water-bath canning)

I thought that I would write a little something for beginners. You do a process every time you can food. You always have to sterilize the jars and heat the lids. There are always things that you should have ready before you start. Here is a step-by-step process that I use and it seems to work out well for me.

  1. Sanitize your jars. For this you need and water-bath canner or a pressure canner. The amount of water you need depends on the jars you are using. The water should always be and inch to two inches above tops of jars.
  1. Place jars in canner, fill with water to at least, and inch above tops of jars.
  1. Bring water to a boil and boil for at least ten minutes. I usually take them out right before I start to cook the food I am going to can.

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  1. After I get the jars on the heat, I put whatever lids I am going to use in a small sauce pan and cover with water. I put the pan on a low heat just to get those seals warmed up.
  1. When you take the jars out, using your jar lifter, line them up next to where you are cooking for easy access.

Of course, if you are lucky enough to have a dishwasher that has a sani rinse you could always skip steps one, two, three, and five. Sani rinse your jars in the dishwasher and line them up for easy access.

Next up is getting ready to preserve. If you were one of the lucky ones you are going to have to get your canner ready.

  1. Fill canner with water to get it boiling. This could take some time so get the water boiling before you start getting your ingredients together.
  1. Get your food prepared for canning. For hot packed stuff get it cooking. For jams and jelly, prepare fruit.
  1.  I will then get any ingredients ready for use. For example, I will get all my sugar and pectin measured out for jams and jellies. All the pickling solution or syrup premade for pickles or fruit. It makes life so much less hectic in the long run.
  1. Get to cooking. Follow the recipe as instructed. One thing I have noticed, with some recipes, it will tell you to sanitize your jars and get the canner ready even when the ingredients have to sit over night. I have learned to read the recipe all the way through (I have a bad habit of starting things without reading all the way through.)
  1. When you are finished preparing, fill your jars and leave the proper amount of headspace. Clean the tops of the jars and put on the two-piece lid and ring set.
  1. Do not tighten the rings to tight. If you man handle it the will not seal properly. Just finger tight.
  1. Now you are ready to get your jars into the canner. Please use the jar lifter.
  1. Make sure the water is at least one inch over the tops of your jars.
  1. Once the lid is on the canner and the water is at a boil again, set your timer for the proper time.
  1. After the timer has gone off there may be a period, usually five minutes, that you have the canner off the heat, lid removed (always remove lids facing away from you) and let the jars sit in the water. I always put down a towel to put the jars on. After the rest time is up, remove the jars from the water and wait for the wonderful pop of the jars sealing.
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Canning books

13 Aug 2013

So I have been spending a lot of time the past two weeks canning food to enter in the Evergreen State Fair. In that time I have purchased three different book. I love them all. They all have a ton of information and great recipes. “So Easy To Preserve” is brought to you by the University of Georgia. It looks like the USDA works with the University of Georgia to test recipes for canning. This is a great book for just starting out.

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The second book is “Ball Complete Book of Home Preservation.” Not only does it have great recipes, but it also has great pictures. This book probably has the best variety of recipes out of all three.

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Last but not least “The Joy of Pickling”  by Linda Ziedrich. I did not realize how many different thing you could pickle. If you like pickled food this book is defiantly for you. My family loves pickles, so this book will get some good miles out of it.

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As soon as all my jars are all checked in at the fair I will be posting pictures and how to’s on some of the foods I entered.

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