Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A Busy Day in the Kitchen

We've had a busy week in the kitchen putting things into canning jars. Hot, tiring work to be sure, but I know the reward will be worth it. Katie canned a canner load of Rattlesnake pole beans this morning, our first of the year. I was working on Rebekah's birthday presents while she did that and then we canned blueberries and pickled heirloom beets this afternoon/evening. Our beet varieties are: Chioggia, Golden, Lutz Winter Keeper. I don't think I'm a huge pickled beet fan, but they will add variety to the dullness of Winter's protein-heavy repast. I think we're about finished with the blueberries, I ought to make more syrup since what I did make is making its way to New York before long and I have none left for us. We'll see, I know we'll be elbow deep in peaches tomorrow and/or Friday and I don't want to bite off too much. This is our Pickled Beet recipe, it's from 1911.
Pickled Heirloom Beets
1. Wash beets and trim off beet greens. Dispatch a child to feed the greens to the pigs; meanwhile leave roots and 1 inch of stems and cook until tender, about a half hour more or less.
Drain beets, cool and peel. Next, admire them on the plate.
2. Cut into slices or cubes, place in jars and pack them in but don't crush them. Then admire them some more and call all of the children in to remark on the pleasing aesthetics that beets entail.
3. In a separate kettle combine: 4 cups cider vinegar, 2 cups brown sugar, 2 cups water, 1.5 teaspoons canning salt, and in a spice bag put 2 cinnamon sticks, 12 whole cloves and 1 teaspoon whole allspice. Add spice bag to vinegar/sugar and boil for 5 minutes or the amount of time that it takes a 4 year old to tell you about the presents that she wants for her birthday which is still 4 months away. Remove spice bag and ladle syrup over beets in jars.

4. Put bands and lids in place and can in a boiling water bath canner for a half hour. Watch the storm roll in as you frantically grab the laundry from the clothesline with clothes pins flying every which way. Let it occur to you at 5:30 that you have nothing prepared for Supper and call for pizza.

Be thankful for everything that was accomplished in a day's time and doubly thankful that every day isn't like today. :-D

Monday, July 26, 2010

Using bail canning jars safely in the 21st century

The home canning authorities no longer recommend using bail lid canning jars, their official ruling states that only modern bands and lids are safe. However, I'm sure that I can't be the only person on the planet who wants to use these for something more than a button jar, so here is a step by step tutorial to ensure your safety.

1. Bail jars need 3 pieces to function: the jar, the rubber gasket and the glass lid. The jar and lid must be without chips and the gasket should be free from weak spots or cracking. I buy boxes of gaskets from Kidron Town and Country store but Lehman's also sells them.

2. After jar is filled, using recommended head space, wipe any food residue from the jar and stretch the gasket over the mouth of the jar. There will be a "shelf" that the gasket rests on. Make sure that the gasket is flat and not twisted.

3. Place glass lid over gasket and put bail closure in place.
4. Process for recommended time and allow to rest on the counter for 24 hours and then check seal. To check seal you remove the bail closure and pick the jar up by the lid. The picture shows me checking the seal on a jar of blackberries. Hold the jar only an inch or two above the counter to avoid a broken jar in case it didn't seal.

I only use my bail jars for foods that are canned with the boiling water bath method, I don't use them in my pressure canner. Certain foods need to be pressure canned to kill any botulism spores, but foods canned with a water bath canner aren't prone to botulism. Food spoilage will generally unseal the lid from previously sealed jars, look funky and/or smell bad, any of these will be obvious in a regular canning jar and will be equally obvious in a bail jar. Observing proper safety measures can make using these vintage jars a rewarding experience and less like a death defying act by a crazy women who enjoys flirting with death. :-D

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


Our gardens are producing bountifully, I've never seen such abundance before. The beans are doing fantastic, the pumpkins, squashes, and cucumbers look great, the tobacco is huge, and the beets promise to be a bumper crop. We are exceedingly blessed this year. And all of it is due to the extraordinarily hard working sons that I have. :-D

We braided the garlic today, first we sorted out the 60 biggest bulbs to plant next year and then we braided the rest. They are hung on the porch and smell wonderfully, if you like garlic that is. Earlier this week we made blueberry syrup. Blueberry syrup, for those of you who are so unfortunate as to have never had this delicacy pass over your palate, is a sweetened, thickened blueberry juice that is the perfect topping for Belgian waffles. You mush up any berry and boil for 15 minutes, strain and add an equal amount of sugar, return to a boil for 1 minute and can it. It is all of Summer's sunny goodness packed into a canning jar. MMMmmmm!

I received my knitted sontag this week. It was hand crafted by the very talented Sarah H and is beautifully knitted. All of the girls are getting something similar to stave off the cold this Winter.
I am very pleased with it, it is quality workmanship through and through!

I have been busily knitting and sewing up some needed clothing. Rebekah's birthday is in exactly 2 weeks and everybody gets a new dress or two for their special day. :-D More peaches are coming today so I better get going as there are jars to wash.......

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

My week

It's been a busy week here, after a little break in canning we're back at it full swing. We canned 14 quarts of sweet cherries, 7 pints of blackberries and 12 quarts of peaches with lots more to do this week. Have I mentioned yet this week how much I love bail lid jars? Well, I really do, I have never, ever had a seal failure with them. Ever. I certainly can't say that about regular bands and lids. Sigh. To can fruit I prepare the fruit as usual: wash, peel, slice or whatever and then I add sugar. I added 1 cup of sugar to 10 cups of sweet cherries, 1 cup sugar to 8 cups peaches, pretty much however sugary you like it. Let sugar coated fruit sit, covered, at room temperature for several hours or overnight and it will get juicy. Place fruit into jars, top off with juice and voila', canned fruit with no added water. When using the canned fruit you can freeze the juice into ice cubes and use them with iced tea for mulberry flavored tea or raspberry or peach. Mmmm. The fruit tastes so much better than fruit canned with water, try my method and I think you'll like it.
An outside shot of the cans to try to demonstrate the richness of the fruit.

Also this week we harvested the garlic. There are a few hundred bulbs, after they dry out a bit I'll braid them. Hopefully Katie will photograph the process and I can blog about it. We really like garlic, it's so good for you.

And today, oh the thrill of it I can hardly write. Today, I got to rewash all of the clothes that I washed yesterday. They got rained on and didn't dry quickly enough so now they stink. In case you might think I'm a big whining baby and should just blog about pertinent topics, I'd like you to know that for the past 3 months I haven't had a washing machine, all of our laundry is done on a washboard and with a scrub brush. Let me expound upon the good points of doing laundry this way.
  1. We now do laundry together as a family, usually anyway. The littlest girls can rinse, everybody can hang clothes on the line, we are working together.
  2. We are way more careful not to needlessly dirty up garments.
  3. The clothes get so much cleaner when scrubbed with a brush than any automatic washer I've ever used.
  4. My biceps really got toned up, lol. There is nothing in this world for getting in shape like good, old fashioned manual labor.

Seriously, I try not to bemoan things like this and look on the bright side. I have so much to be thankful for that what's a little trial here and there? Happy Fourth day to you.

Friday, July 9, 2010

A new gown for a little boy

I finished Asa's first gown in a looooong time this past week. It's made in the "infant bodice" style that was very popular in the 1860's. I had to refit him due to his growth since the last batch of gowns that I sewed for him 3 or so months ago.

Though you can't really see it in these pictures, the bodice is directionally pleated on the red stripes. The neckline has a bias casing with a draw string closure for maximum adjustability and the waistband has a hook and eye, there are no other closures on the gown.
The bodice has one stripe of trim to hold the pleats in place, the waistband consists of 2 stripes and the skirt trim is 3 stripes. It is actually mid to lower calf length, not the floor length that it appears here.

It doesn't seem to slow him down any, I thought maybe since he's unused to skirts that it might. In other Asa news he finally has a top tooth, woo hoo! He has had all four bottom ones for months, he looked like a little lamb. But now, at last, he can bite me more efficiently. :)