Monthly Archives: August 2014

Americans are wasteful even at the Farmers Market

Today was another eye-opening experience at the farmers market. I am lucky to live in a community where we have at least 4 farmers markets within about a 12 mile area. I live in a small town of a zip code population of about 4,000 people and the neighboring town may have a zip code population that is double that. So together we may have about 12,000 with 4 farmers markets. We live in an agriculturally diverse area and many families also grow large gardens to can or freeze their own healthy foods. So farm fresh food is not hard to find here but today I learned that we as Americans are still looking at food in a non-realistic, non-healthy way.

Cody, Christopher and Paige Powers picking tomatoes and peppers in the garden

Cody, Christopher and Paige Powers picking tomatoes and peppers in the garden

I am getting ready to put up about 7 quarts of home-made spaghetti sauce and spent the morning talking to an older woman who worked the farm market stand. We of course talked about what I was making and what was real fresh and what they were short on. So after several minutes she headed out to the cooler to box up my order, as I bagged up the rest of my items. When she returned and I payed for 23 pounds of tomatoes and 5 pounds of peppers. She asked me if I might be  interested in the of tomatoes sitting on the counter. The box was about 5 pounds of over ripe, soft or damaged tomatoes. She said “no one wants these, they are not perfect. If you take them they are free.” Well of course I wanted them, why wouldn’t I, an over ripe tomato is the best tomato of all. I went on to explain that they looked pretty good to me and that I would just juice them when I got home. She felt better and I was over joyed to have another 5 pounds of tomatoes to take home.

Harvest Basket in the garden 2014

Harvest Basket in the garden 2014

Then on my way home it hit me. Why in the world would she say that unless she had thrown out many items from their stand. Tossed away food that was totally edible but not PERFECT. Why in this day and age would some one throw away food that could feed a needy family or a homeless person? Why are Americans so trained to think that a blemish is not normal or common? I felt offended at the thought that we are so wasteful. That we are not able to think about real food in an honest way. Fresh from the garden food is not perfect if you are realistic. It is only a farmer who sprays his crops with pesticides that never gets bug damage. It is only the tomato that is half-ripe and processed with chlorine that looks red but is hard and perfect looking at the Big  Box Store. It is only on a store shelf where food color is added  to tomato juice to make it red. Why are we eating like this?

As I drove, I got madder and madder. I thought about the millions of children who only see their food on the shelf at Fred Myers, King Supers or the Piggly Wiggly.  They will never see  green beans and peas growing on a vine or carrots are dug up from underground. Some will never know that their french fries are under that bushy plant and are dug up before being fried to a crispy treat. We are raising food ignorant children. We are raising people who have no real idea what fresh from the garden food looks like or tastes like. What a shame that our country has the most money and is the most disconnected from our food.

So when I got home I washed the box full of  blemished tomatoes. I cut away a few spots and pulled out a stem or two and did this.

free tomatoes ready to be made into juice

free tomatoes ready for juicing

I juiced the tomatoes and made about 1 gallon of fresh juice that my family can make into chili, a soup stock, a V-8 drink  or a marinade for a tough deer stake. I am sure I will freeze some as soon as I get a couple of freezer containers. I will use most of it fresh with in a couple of days. I am thinking that a deer roast with peppers, onions, tomatoes in the slow cooker sounds good. I am proud that I have used what others would have thrown out. I have saved my family money with free food and I have saved my child from eating processed food once again.

1 gallon fresh tomato juice  for free.

1 gallon fresh tomato juice for free.

When will American’s learn to look at food and its usefulness in less wasteful way? Was my grandmother crazy when she said,” Waste Not, Want Not.” I hope that slowly I am teaching my children that food does not need to look perfect to taste wonderful. That we can still use a deformed carrot in stew and make jam out of over ripe fruit. That we are able to live closer to the land because we understand that nothing in this life is perfect, but what God provides for us is perfectly made for our use. Amen!

Categories: Chili, cooking, country cooking, family health, gardening, health, Homestead, organic foods, regional food, soup, steak with peppers, Tomatoes, Uncategorized, venison | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Bread and Butter Pickles a Family Tradition

I have vivid memories of eating my aunts Marjorie’s bread and butter pickles as a kid  at her home in Loveland, Co. I remember sitting at her round oak kitchen table(that years before belonged to my grand mother)in the tiny two bedroom gray tar paper house. Aunt Marjorie and Uncle Jack loved to garden and preserve fresh organic food. They were children of the depression and lived a frugal life style but eat better than most kings.She was a master at canning and making preserves and learned a lot from her. If she were still alive today she would be 96 years old and still asking me if I wanted to go out to the garden to pick things for a dinner salad. Fast forward 12  years and I met and married my husband who had eaten many batches of home-made Bread and Butter Pickles too. His Mom and Dad loved to make them out of the garden on the farm. Where neighbors would ask for a jar every time they had a family function or made potato salad . Yet, for some reason I never thought of making a batch of my own sweet/sour/crunchy/onion filled jar of delight. Maybe I thought the process was to long and to complicated for an afternoon project. What I discovered was that this is easy to do in a day and I made about 8 pints my first try. They are as good as every memory I have of the pickles and I cant wait to share them with my kids.

close up of sliced cucumbers

close up of sliced cucumbers

So after looking through recipes that my elderly aunt sent to me. I found her hand written recipe for the wonderful pickles and one that I had copied out of  my mother-in-laws cook book 7 or 8 years ago. ( Again why did I wait so long??)I began with a small batch so that I could taste test them as I went through the process. I wanted a crispy tangy pickle and was not sure I would get it.Really for a beginner pickles are a perfect started point and cucumbers in the summer are always easy to grow or find.

To begin the process of making Bread and Butter Pickles you will need about 20 to 30 med sized pickling cucumbers with the blossom end removed. Removing the blossom end removes an enzyme that make the pickles go soft when heated. You also need around 3 to 4 yellow onions. The yellow stay crisper in the jar so we use them.

about 30 cucumbers and a hand full of hot peppers just in from the garden

about 30 cucumbers and a hand full of hot peppers just in from the garden

After I wash and slice the pickles and onions they soak together in a salt water brine for 5 to 6 hours. This improves the crunch factor and adds the needed salt to preserve the pickles over time. I made 1/4 inch pickle slices  with my mandoline slicer and added them to the brine in the early morning and headed off to a Dr appointment. After lunch I drained off the brine to remove the extra salt and rinsed them with cold water a couple of times and set them aside until the pickle syrup is finished.

cucumber slices soaking in brine

cucumber slices soaking in brine

spices added to apple cider vinegar then boiled

spices added to apple cider vinegar then boiled

After the spices sugar and vinegar boil for just a couple of minutes strain the spices through a cloth or sieve. Add the brined onions and cucumber slices to the stock pot and heat until very hot but not boiling.

heating cucumber slices. onion rings and spiced syrup together in a 5 quart non reactive stockpot

heating cucumber slices. onion rings and spiced syrup together in a 5 quart non reactive stockpot

When pickles are hot, pack into warm sterilized jars and top with enough of pickle syrup to cover all ingredients in the jar. Then clean the lip of each jar and cover with a clean lid and seal. Process all the jars in a boiling water bath for  ten minutes and cool on a flat surface. I got 8 and 1/2 quarts of pickles out of this batch of cucumbers. They should store well for over a year but may lose color the older they get.

packing hot pickles into jars

packing hot pickles into jars

Home made Bread and Butter Pickles.

Home made Bread and Butter Pickles

 

 

Bread and Butter Crispy Kerr pickles

 

20 to 25 med size sliced cucumbers

2 to 3 yellow med onions

3/4 cup salt

3 quarts water to cover sliced veg

Add salt into 4 quarts of warm water and add cucumbers and onions, let set 5 to 6 hours. Drain and rinse with cool water  a couple of times to remove extra salt.

Add to a large non-reactive stock pot:

5 cups apple cider vinegar

5 cups sugar

2 Tablespoon mixed pickle spices

1 teaspoon turmeric

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves.

Bring mixture to a boil, boil 2 minutes and strain spices from syrup.

Add all the slices of onion and cucumber and heat until steaming but not boiling.

Pack into warm sterilized jars and top with sterilized rings and seals.  Process in a boiling water bath canner for 10 minutes.

remove and cool. Makes about 8 quarts .

Enjoy!

After the jars had cooled my son arrived for dinner that evening. I told him what I had made and I asked if he wanted to taste a few of the pickles and give me his opinion. He opened a jar took a fork and pulled out a large amount of dripping pickles and took a crunching bite. He then disappeared into the living room with the entire jar. A few minute later he reappeared in my kitchen with a fork and an empty pint jar. Astonished, I ask where were the rest of the pickles. He replied, rubbing his tummy,” I eat them”. So I know if nothing else Cody and I will eat them and they will never go to waste.

 

 

Categories: bread and butter pickles, canning, country cooking, cucumbers, pickles, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 6 Comments

Surprise! That is not a cantaloupe.

Have any of you with gardens planted what you thought was one seed and ended up with some thing different. This happens at my house every few years when I by plants already started . I have even bought two trees that had incorrect labels. Both times I was trying to buy  Bartlett Pear trees and ended up with ornamental Pears that had no fruit.  So why should it surprise me that I ordered cantaloupe seeds from a reputable see catalog and got a surprise.

Honey Dew Melon ??

Honey Dew Melon ??

My husband was the one to notice that the skin of  our cantaloupe was not the heavily netted skin that you would expect. That was when we though we had something different and that was about two weeks ago. Now as you can see we have a wonderful green Honey Dew to enjoy with dinner tonight.

Surprise Honey Dew salad

Surprise Honey Dew salad

I have often wondered how people who collect, store and sell seeds keep all of them organised. So this kind of mix up does not happen. I have even experienced wild cross-pollination of pepper plants. Turning my sweet bells into a hot bell mix. Not that we were complaining because we always raise both and eat lots of peppers but this melon mix up was an out right mistake of identity.

So as summer comes to a close and my garden is still full to the rim with fruits and vegetables of all shapes and sizes I just wonder if my water melons will be yellow instead of red and if my sweet potatoes with be blue instead of orange… It might just happen because my pumpkins are white and my Cantaloupe is now a Honey Dew.

Categories: gardening, Homestead, Honey Dew Melon, organic food | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Need for Quite

I am guessing that anyone who has had young children or has been around them knows that they are noisy. They own the world that they live in and take command of that space anytime they feel the urge. Laughter and screams fill my home along with the train whistle sounds that my 5-year-old son makes.  We also live on the corner of a main two lane road and a country side road where our house is really to close to the road so it is a noisy location.We own three TV’s and it seems that someone is always watching one of the them, they provide a constant stream of back ground noise. So in all of this chaos I have discovered my desperate need for quite.

quietly floating on a boat at the base of this bridge

quietly floating on a boat at the base of this bridge

While taking care of my mother in law, who is still recovering from a major surgery and throat cancer I have discovered our need for quite is more than most. She needs peace and quite to fight off secondary infections, to combat the cancer and to process the emotions that go along with healing. No wonder why hospitals try very hard to keep things quite.

quietly looking at the ground

quietly looking at the ground

I have always been able to escape into the quite and now I need it more than ever. I would say that in general I am an extrovert and love people and social activities, talking on the phone,my book club, family dinners, parties are always activities that I love. But I have discovered that with my reduced time in the garden, on the porch reading, and time to just rest,I have lost myself and my happiness.

So over the last week I have made an effort to reduce the noise and stress I  am feeling. My home should feel like a place of rest and recovery. I have even read a few articles about the importance of quite in hospitals and in our homes.  This article talks more about the problem of “Noise, Health and Wellness” and suggests we all need more quite time. This article is just one observation  that links noise to longer recovery times in hospitals.

quietly walking through a Poplar grove.

quietly walking through a Poplar grove.

So how do you remind children that a house is a quite place? How do I reduce the amount of traffic going by my house all day? How do I find more quite time? How do I turn the day-to-day noise into a peaceful, restful place? I know there are limits to what I can do but I can remember that when no one is watching TV to turn it OFF. I can remember to take the kids outside to play. I can ask that Grandma only have a few guests a day instead of a large group where no one can hear her( she is still having some speaking issues do to the cancer and has a very quite voice). I can take her for time on the porch in the sun shine to watch the birds and feel the breeze. I can go to bed earlier making a nice quite routine happen every night so that we all fall peacefully asleep with out a rush or fight from the children.  I can take time everyday to read and pray.

quietly feeding the geese on the pond

quietly feeding the geese on the pond

It is wonderful with age that you start to understand the real importance and restorative power of Peace and Quite. My mother always tried to teach me about rest and quite. That everyone in the world would be so much better off if they could only find a few minutes everyday where they had peace and quite. I hear her voice now and understand that healing the body and the mind sometimes just needs some quite time.

quietly reading a book

quietly reading a book

 

Maybe with a little effort on my part over the next few weeks I will feel like I am getting enough quite time and will be able to take on the challenges of this life a little better and will find some more peace at the same time….. wish me luck!

Categories: About me, Cancer, cancer treatment, family health, grandma, wellness | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Bunnies at the 4-H Jamboree 2014

Our first time out to the 4-H show with Christopher’s bunnies was full of highs and lows, riding the wave of the learning something new. He learned allot from other competitors who shared grooming tips and from the judges who explained technical terms to him. We had a great week of seeing friends and watching many of our friends win prizes and get more confident with their animals and projects. This is one of our families favorite weeks of every year and helping Christopher learn about showing animals was a blast.

Grand prize winning Sable buck open class 2014 4-H jamboree

Grand Prize winning Sable buck open class 2014 4-H Jamboree.

Our family originally bought our rabbits as dual purpose animals. First and foremost they are pets for my son. The other purpose for having these little guys around is to have off spring, which we will use for food, sale and to show.  This has been a year-long project as we started off writing about the rabbits as babies and we now have two mature bucks that are ready to breed in the spring if we can find a nice female to start our herd off with. So over the past year Christopher has shown both rabbits a couple of times. He  finished the year with his 4-H clubs end of the year  show ” The Jamboree”. This is where all the kids who are part of the county 4- H bring all their animals and projects for judging and prepared to go on to the State wide fair competition. At this years local show around 45 rabbits got displayed.  Christopher being the youngest competitor at age 5. Because of his young age he was in the “Open Class” this class is open to any one who wants to show an animal. The class  includes children, teens and adults it is open to any competitor. Some years we have had several disabled adults show in this class and lots of under age children compete for prizes and ribbons. It is a great place to train a young person about how  judging works, how to care for you animal and how to win and lose with Grace. The week starts with setting up animal pens and cages and getting the animal inspected for sickness and sex. Then listing the breed, age and class the child plans to show in. After check in the animals stay in cages on the show grounds and will be in the barn for the next week.  Above is a photo of Diesel in his cage at the fair grounds.The fallowing evening we got to help Christopher show his Rabbits. With help he got his rabbits groomed and clean for the show. We then helped him carry  the two 10 pound rabbits into the show ring with Christopher leading the way.

Christopher leading the group to the judges table

Christopher leading the group to the judges table

The judge inspects the animal and gives the competitor information about the animal and scores its condition, coat, conformation.

judge talking with Christopher about his rabbits

judge talking with Christopher about his rabbits

In this case Christopher was the only competitor so the judging went fairly fast with him winning 1st and 2nd in breed and Grand Champion and Reserve for the class of Open Rabbits.  It was a joy to see him get a chance to show off his rabbits and get his picture taken with the ” Queen of the Fair” and receive a large collection of prizes for his first attempt at showing off his rabbits

Christopher getting his picture taken with the fair Queen and the judge

Christopher getting his picture taken with the Fair Queen and the Judge

 

Christopher with ribbons and prizes from the 2014 4-H jamboree

Christopher with ribbons and prizes from the 2014 4-H jamboree

The one thing I have learned about Christopher these last few days is when he is unsure of himself  he tells me that he can’t do something.The night of the show he told everyone that he could not walk his bunnies alone across the area. Even though he had done so several other times over the course of the summer at different events. So this time he needed a little help holding the bunnies because they had gotten so large and heavy he was afraid he would drop one of them or they would struggle and scratch him. It was an easy fix for me and a friend to help carry the heavy guys to the judging table and back to their cages. I just hope that the support this time will make it easier for him in the future. It is all about learning and growing with 4-H and I was lucky to learn something too. Hopefully some time in September he will receive his trophy photo plaque and we will have a wonderful time at his awards banquet. At that time I will get a photo of him winning his first show and it will remind me of how small he was when we started teaching him lessons about sportsman ship, compassion, responsibility, team work, and love for animals. I am a happy and proud 4-H supporter. I know that  4-H  has changed the lives of both my boys for the better and I will be part of my 4-H family for a very long time.

Categories: 4-H, bredding rabbits, education, family fun, rabbits | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Pickle Relish the way to rid your kitchen of extra cucumbers

This summer has been bountiful. The cucumbers, the honey-dew melon, the pumpkins, sweet potatoes  and tomatoes are doing wonderfully due to our unusually warm and wet summer weather. So I am a little over whelmed with the amount of cucumbers that I am getting from the garden this last two weeks. I guess anyone who foolishly plants 9 pickling cucumber plants should plan to make pickles off and on all summer. Making pickles, brined and unbrined was one of my goals for the year.  I am lucky to have help and advice from Grandma Powers as she stays with us for a couple of months while recovering from some of her cancer treatments. So today we talked about the best relishes that she had made over the years and I attempted to reproduce this one today and I think the results will prove that just about any one can make sweet pickle relish.

draining pickle relish in strainer

draining pickle relish in strainer

You have two choices to make before really getting to this stage of the relishing making process. Do you want a fine relish like the commercial store-bought kind or do you like your relish on the chunky side. We like to taste our relish in potato salads and on our hot dogs and I love to have chunky relish on my burgers. The other question is how much relish can you and your family really eat over the course of a couple of months. Home made relish does not have the preservatives that you find in the store. To avoid any chance that the relish would mold,  I canned my mixture in 1/2 pint jars. This makes just enough for party food like one or two large batches of potato salad or 6 or 7 hot dogs.

So with 10 1/2 pint jars and about 10 cucumbers 5 inches long, I was ready to think about making the sweet hot dog style relish. In my mother in-laws” Ball Blue Book” ( 29th edition  published in 1974) I found this recipe on page 66.

          Cucumber Relish

3 quarts chopped cucumbers

1 large red pepper chopped

1 large green pepper chopped

1 med onion chopped….. I actually used 1 and 1/2 med onion

1 quart vinegar ….. I used 3 cups apple cider vinegar and 1 cup white vinegar

1 Tablespoon turmeric

1/2 cup table salt

1 Tablespoon pickle spice

2 teaspoon whole cloves

2 teaspoon whole allspice

2 cinnamon sticks or 1 and 1/2 teaspoons powered cinnamon

1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar.

Combine chopped cucumbers, peppers and onions in large bowl. I chopped my cucumbers by hand with the help of a mandolin slicer but many people chop up the vegetables in the food processor for a finer texture. Sprinkle turmeric over chopped vegetables. Dissolve salt in two quarts hot water and pour over mixed veg; let stand 3 or 4 hours. Drain relish and cover with 2 quarts of cold water let stand while preparing jars. Drain a second time when ready to add pickle syrup to veg. Place spices in a cheese cloth bag or a knee-high ladies hose, simmer in a pot of the vinegar and sugar mixture.

pickle syrup with spices

pickle syrup with spices

relish with pickle syrup before boiling

relish with pickle syrup before boiling

 

After the syrup is boiling hot strain or take out spice bag and pour over veg mixture. Pack boiling hot relish into hot ball jars, leaving 1/8 head space. Add lids and seals to cleaned tops of jars and process 10 minutes in boiling water bath. Makes about 5 quarts of relish. Let mixture rest 24 hours before eating so flavors have time to settle.

finishe jars of pickle relish

finished jars of pickle relish

I could not help tasting the bit that would not fit in the jars after packing. The result is sweet and tangy with a wonderful crunch and a zip of spice. I can’t wait to taste this in my next batch of Potato salad. I think it has a wonderful burst of flavor. Hope that this gives you ideas for how to use up some of those extra cucumbers from the summer garden. Next time I will be making my mother-in-laws bread and butter pickles and Onion slices. They are my favorite pickle of all time and I love eating them with a fork right out to the jar so keep reading for that one in two weeks or so. Happy eating JoLynn!

Categories: canning, cooking, cucumbers, fermentation, organic foods, pickle relish, pickles | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments

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