Sweet Potato Garden FAIL that Tastes so Good!

So it did finally frost about a week ago and we did finally get a chance before my two-week recovery to get out and dig my beautiful, bountiful, overflowing sweet potatoes. This was the first time either my husband or I  attempted to grow them in our family garden. The slips were a gift from a friend and we started off with about 10 plants and hoped to get 2 to 3 roots per plant. Well as things always go in a garden this one was about the funniest fails I have ever had.

Sweet Potato slips ready to plant

Sweet Potato slips ready to plant

The plants started off well and we did nothing to stop their spread or growth. Eventually they over ran the row they were growing in and just took over. My pumpkin hills became a sea of sweet potato vines and we lost pumpkins and cucumbers to the tangle of root shoots. Cody my oldest son played hide and seek with pumpkins and cucumbers in between their glossy leaves.

Cody picking Pumpkins in the sweet potato patch

Cody picking Pumpkins in the sweet potato patch

So the excitement was so high when my husband said it was time to trim the plants down and dig, dig, dig. It took us a couple of hours to dig the patch of 10 plants. Slowly and careful to not damage to roots we found that almost the enter garden damaged by VOLES. Check out this link for images and information on the difference between Moles and Voles.

I wanted to laugh and cry all at once, the largest and most beautiful potatoes were the most damaged.The beautiful pink skin left with huge holes and pits. We carried two five gallon buckets up on the porch and I  just walked away…… for several days! It was so discouraging I almost tossed all of them out.

Mole damaged sweet potatoes 2014

Mole damaged sweet potatoes 2014

As I walked past the buckets twice a day for a week my heart just did not have strength to dump the darn things out. “What should I do with them” was my thought every time I looked down at the muddy pink flesh. Finally on a spur of the moment idea I just started cleaning, sorting and tossing out my harvest. Finally it came to me… “What would your grandma do? She would use them any way.” The roots were mostly corked over where the damage had happened, so no rot was found. I was left with 8 to 10 pounds of sweet potatoes that needed saved in some way. So I cleaned, paired and salvaged what I could from the buckets.

trimmed,washed and sorted sweet potatoes ready to parboil

trimmed,washed and sorted sweet potatoes ready to parboil

I boiled the potatoes for twenty minutes, drained them and cooled them for several hours. Still sad, I removed the skins by hand under warm running water. Finally, they started to look like the yams that we normally see brightly colored, clean and blemish free. I cut them into large chunks and measured their amount. Discovering that I really did not have enough to make a full canner full of candied sweet potatoes I froze the remaining pieces.

4 Cups frozen Sweet potato chunks

4 Cups frozen Sweet potato chunks

Then as I reached the end of my pile of chucks I finally realized that I had plenty of time to make a Sweet Potato Pie ( canning sweet potatoes is at least a 90 minute process that I did not want to do). So just on chance I took the remaining pile of potatoes and cooked them for another 20 minutes until fork tender and braved the internet for a pie recipe. So to make this story shorter I made 2 wonderful sweet potato pies that I shared with my friends and family.

Maple Pecan Sweet Potato Pie.

Maple Pecan Sweet Potato Pie.

At the end of the day I felt satisfied, I had learned a lot about Voles/Moles, Sweet Potatoes and Pie. This gardening FAIL ended up tasting great!  Lucky for me every one seemed to like a pie made from what retail stores call trash. I think my Grandmother who raised 6 living kids and farmed for a living would have been proud that I didn’t give up on those chewed up roots.

Categories: cakes and family deserts, canning, gardening, mole/ vole damage, Pie, Preserving, regional food, Sweet Potato | Tags: , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Time Saving Home Canned Chili Sauce with Beef or Venison

I am sure all of us have had times when you get home from a long day and really don’t want to cook. I have many days that I just don’t plan ahead enough and it is 5 and I still have no idea what we are going to eat and everyone is hungry. This is my back up plan, it is a home-made tomato sauce that we use as a chili base and saves me from making the chili base from scratch every time. No looking to see if I have all the ingredients. No reason to worry over long cooking times.So when cool weather sets in and chili sounds like the perfect meal to put together in a slow cooker or a quick last-minute dinner this is the way our family makes chili. I also love that it uses a large amount of our garden tomatoes every year.

6 quarts of finished chili sauce

6 quarts of finished chili sauce

The idea to can a chili base came from my father in law and his disliked of making a pasta sauce that needed hours to cook down. This idea is so much faster and easier than making large amounts of pasta sauce. It also tastes great and a 1/2 bushel of tomatoes ( about 25 pounds or about 80 to 90 plum tomatoes ) makes about 6 quarts from one patch of sauce. I usually make 18 quarts every year. The other thing that is wonderful about this is it is a non-pressure recipe, it is made in a boiling water bath canner. As long as you stay with the ratio of 25 pounds tomatoes to one cup of onion and 2 1/2 cups peppers you will not  lower the acid levels of the tomatoes. In our sauce we use a mixture of hot and sweet peppers and you can adjust the heat to your families liking. In our case we use 2 cups sweet peppers to 1/2 cup hot peppers or around 4 banana or other large hot peppers. This mixture adds flavor but not much heat.If you like it hot reduce the sweet peppers to 1 cup and raise the hot peppers to 1 1/2 cups and feel the burn, do what ever sounds good to you.

The hardest part of canning any kind of tomato is the necessary step of blanching the tomatoes. This is the process of removing the skins so that you do not have chucks of skin floating around in the sauce. I have tried to grind the tomatoes and leave the skins on and it is just better to remove them if you do not like the taste or though texture of skins floating on the top of you chili.

To blanch Tomatoes I use a 8 quart stock pot of simmering hot water and a sink full of cold water. The colder the better, adding ice if you have a good ice maker is great. Into about 5 quarts of simmering water I place about 20 plum or any tomatoes and simmer for about 3 minuets then plunge them into the ice-cold water with a strainer.

simmering tomatoes for blanching

simmering tomatoes for blanching

The trick is to make sure before you remove the tomatoes from the water that you see the skin of one or all the tomatoes either tear away or start to wrinkle before the plunge. If you get that step right the skins almost fall off in the ice water and pealing is a snap. I core the tomatoes before blanching it makes the skins slide off faster as the water is able to get under the skin of the tomato. I have friends that do it after blanching because they do not want any extra water entering the tomato before cooking…( this is a very important to pasta sauce makers not so much for me). After pealing the tomatoes I have another stock pot ready to place the tomatoes into and blanch more as I place peeled tomatoes into a larger pot.

This photo shows what you start cooking with.


25 pounds of pealed tomatoes

25 pounds of peeled tomatoes

You will next cook the tomatoes and juice down and run through a food mill before adding any spices or other vegetables.

Here is the recipe for  cooking the chili sauce in our families traditional way.

Chili Sauce

1/2 bushel fresh tomatoes

2 cups sweet peppers

1/2 cup hot peppers ( we use yellow Banana peppers)

1 cup onion

2 teaspoons chopped garlic or about 5 cloves mashed

1/2 cup sugar

4 Table spoons chili powder

salt and pepper to taste

2 small cans tomato paste

2 table spoons mustard seed

1 bay leaf crumbled

5 whole clove heads all bundled together in a cheese cloth sack or in a tea strainer

this mixture usually makes 6 quarts of fresh sauce

Cook freshly peeled tomatoes for about 15 minutes to break them down into a watery broth. When most of the meat of the tomato has cooked down but you still have a few stringy portions and lots of seeds floating on top run hot tomatoes through a food mill, ricer or sieve to remove seeds and any tough tissues. Place back over med heat and add peppers, onions, garlic chili powder, salt and pepper. Add the spice bag or tea ball and simmer 15 more minutes. At the end of the cooking time remove tea ball and  add two cans tomato paste and stir until well blended. Ladle into hot sterilized jars leaving a 1/2 inch head space, wiping lip and covering with sterilized lids and rings. Process in a boiling water bath 20 minutes..


fresh tomatoes being pressed through a foodmill

fresh tomatoes being pressed through a Foodmill

Chop hot peppers with some kind of gloves they will burn skin and eyes is not careful

Chop hot peppers with some kind of gloves they will burn skin and eyes if not careful

hot peppers, sweet peppers, onions

hot peppers, sweet peppers, onions



final stage of chili sauce simmering away

final stage of chili sauce simmering away

When ready to make chili all that you need is one pound of ground meat. We use venison or beef or both mixed together browned and two cans or about 4 cups beans. We like to mix up our beans so I have used light kidney, dark kidney, pinto, cranberry beans, use what you have on hand. Brown the meat drain off any excess fat, pour in one quart jar of chili sauce and add 4 cups of your favorite beans and simmer a few minutes and you have dinner in about 10 minutes. The best part of all is this if all goes well in our garden the only thing that we did not grow ourselves is the tomato paste. Farm fresh goodness all winter long and a quick family meal that should make about 4 servings.

Categories: canning, Chili, country cooking, Tomatoes, venison | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Beets,Tomatoes, Pumpkins, and Pie…oh my!

The garden is full these days and I have been working on getting every thing into jar and freezer bags as quickly as I can. The beets made several good meals and about 8 pints of pickled beets for winter. The tomatoes are made into pasta sauce and chili sauce  7 quarts of each so far. Then another 7 quarts of chili sauce will be on the stove in a couple of days as the bulk of my tomatoes are ready for canning. But the real fun of this years garden is the pumpkins.

Christopher and Paife with a load of Pumpkins ready for display on our porch

Christopher and Paige with a load of Pumpkins ready for display on our porch


I am guessing that most homesteaders and gardeners have tried to raise a pumpkin or two over the years. I have also, but I  have never, ever, had pumpkins like this before. I planted 3 seeds… only one hill…. and so far we have 12 pumpkins and 7 were so large already that I was actually afraid the neighbors and their children may enjoy them with out my permission too! So we went pumpkin picking this holiday weekend.  I actually still have three vines blooming so we may have another load like this one in another month.

I am just over whelmed with the possibility of all the things that I can make for my oldest son and I out of these wonderful squashes.

Cody hands Christopher a pumpkin as Paige brings the wagon around  to fill it

Cody hands Christopher a pumpkin as Paige brings the wagon around to fill it

Cody and I love pumpkin and I have begun to master from scratch pumpkin pies. I am guessing we will  have enough pie filing canned for both families by the holiday season.  I was thankful that I did buy pie pumpkin seeds and thought that the white ones with the orange meat looked like fun to carve. I am sure that as the time gets closer we will have a many different looking pumpkins on the porch,but none will be as loved as the white ones we grew together!

a nice load of white pumpkins

a nice load of white pumpkins

In closing this is the recipe that I use when making a fresh pumpkin to make pies. At some point I will post a step by step instruction on how to make fresh pumpkins into a pie but for now this will get you thinking about the wonderful smells and tastes of autumn.

Fresh Pumpkin pie… a large 20 pound pumpkin can make about 4 to 5 pies (2 cups filling per pie).

Set oven to 450 degrees and roast a washed seeded quartered pumpkin on a cookie sheet for 30 to 40 minutes until the meat of the pumpkin softens and the quarters start to squish and wrinkle.

COOL for several minutes ( 30 to an hour) remove cooked meat and place about 2 cups into a food processor or blender blend until with a three tablespoons water and blended into a nice puree.

Either make a pie crust of use a store-bought crust big enough for a deep dish pie

in a large bowel mix 2 cups puree and add

2 eggs

1 cups light brown sugar

1 tablespoon flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

3/4 can ( 8 oz) evaporated milk

bake at 450 deg for 10 minutes the reduce the heat to 350 deg for 40 to 50 minutes.

test for with knife to make sure pie filling is cooked all the way through.

This is what my daughter in law says is the best pumpkin pie she has ever had… fresh from the garden!

Categories: canning, country cooking, gardening, Halloween, Pie, pumpkin, pumpkins | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 5 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 .


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

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

Sauerkraut, Home Made the Traditional Way

Our family loves Sauerkraut and they have made it home-made for generations. I was fortunate to receive a used kraut cutter from my father in law over ten years ago. This ones made by Masketeers in Belington,West Virginia with Appalachian Hard wood.The antique crock is a more resent purchase but is around 50 years old  so the following post will be a traditional view of the Sauerkraut making process, they way that my in laws family has made it here in Appalachia over a hundred years. There are other vessels that people make their fermented vegetables in but for me I find the use of a lager crock useful because you are able to adjust the amount of ingredients to fit your family size. This batch is relatively small  using only four heads of cabbage. Making about 4 to 5 quarts of  kraut to cold store, with larger batches we can process them in my canner. I also use the traditional 8″ inch dinner plate and a clean rock to hold everything under the brine.

crock and sauerkraut cutter made in West Virginia

crock and sauerkraut cutter made in West Virginia

There are lots of wonderful information about the health benefits of sauerkraut and other fermented foods on the internet. This is just one of many sites that explains what  sauerkraut  can do to help improve your health. WellnessMama does a great job of explaining the basic health benefits of adding fermented foods back into our diets. One of my favorite pieces of information about sauerkraut is that is was the first line of defense against Scurvy  and the effects of limited intake of vitamin C. Who would have guessed that is very simple process would save lives of sailors around the world. That just one serving of sauerkraut may have three times the levels of vitamin c than raw cabbage.

So to begin with the basic ingredients for sauerkraut are cabbage, salt and time, nothing radical or hard to find, but the alterations on the basic recipe are endless. This time I used  my 5 gallon crock so that I could make enough kraut for a couple of dinners and share some with my son and a friend.  So while cabbage was on sale I picked up 4 heads of cabbage weighing about 6 pounds. I also bought  canning salt. This salt is for making pickles, sauerkraut, and other items that require salt that is Iodine FREE, it is also low in metal minerals so  there is less discoloration of the cabbage.We will talk more about this in a minute. Table salt is not recommended and Sea Salt my cause discoloration but will not effect the fermentation of the food. Try what you have and see if you are happy with the results.

Morton canning and pickling salt

Morton canning and pickling salt


cabbage sitting on top of kraut cutter and crock

cabbage sitting on top of kraut cutter and crock

The first step is know about the weight of the cabbage you plan to use so that you can start out with a low amount of salt. Many people complain that home-made sauerkraut is to salty.Fallowing this basic step will prevent a person from over salting. I use 1 table-spoon salt per pound of cabbage. In this case I have a little over six pounds of cabbage so I used 6 and 1/2 table spoons salt. Also important is what kind of salt you are using as sea salt is the mildest of store-bought salts and then canning salt and then table salt. This affects the outcome of the kraut, we want to ferment the cabbage not kill the flavor with salt.

The next  part is to shred the cabbage. Use any method that is easy for you, but I suggest that if you are making more than two heads of cabbage into kraut you will want a mandolin slicer  or a sauerkraut cutter both are widely available over the internet. Then shred the heads of cabbage in to you crock or bowel, making sure to not shred the core into your container.

Tom and Christopher Powers shredding cabbage in to 5 gallon crock

Tom and Christopher Powers shredding cabbage in to 5 gallon crock

shredded cabbage in 5 gallon crock

shredded cabbage in 5 gallon crock

After  each head of cabbage I add one table-spoon salt and add any remaining salt at the end. So in this process I added  4 tables spoons while shredding and a couple at the end. The next step is the work of the job,  is to wash you hands and mix the cabbage and salt throughout. Then begin to squeeze and crush the two together this helps speed up the break down of the cabbage and begins the weeping process. Mash, squeeze, muddle, or smash the cabbage about 20 minutes until enough juice forms to cover the cabbage when pressed into your container. I just used my hands and a potato masher. If enough juice is not formed to cover the cabbage add a small amount of water and salt. 1/2 cup water to 1/4 teaspoon salt.

weeping cabbage after mashing in salt for 20 minutes

weeping cabbage after mashing in salt for 20 minutes

The cabbage brine is a little foamy from all the action but there is enough brine to cover this mixture with a dinner plate and rock at this point. I happen to have a large heavy dinner plate that covers almost the entire surface of the brine and cabbage. So I add this and squish the cabbage down again making sure the brine rises to cover most of the plate.

dinner plate over cabbage covered in brine

dinner plate over cabbage covered in brine

In this photo you can see just the very edges of the cabbage are peeking out from under the plate. As long as this small section of cabbage is under the brine we have an air tight seal with enough room for the Co2 to escape around the plate and fermentation to begin. For extra protection that the brine level was high enough for at least 7 days, I used a second plate to displace more of the brine back over the edges of the crock and then topped it with a clean rock in a freezer bag.

two dinner plates , clean rock in baggy over fermenting cabbage

two dinner plates , clean rock in baggy over fermenting cabbage

This was now ready to cover with a cloth, piece of wood, any thing that will keep bugs out and set for the next week to ten days. At about 5 days I look to make sure there is still enough liquid  over the edges of the plate to make sure I am keeping that air tight seal. What I found was a very nice bubbly foam that the bacteria had cause by releasing Co2, the brine was still deep enough for a good seal and I recovered the crock for two more days. Then at 7 days I looked again and noticed the there was still plenty of foam being formed but that brine level was getting a little low so I added about 1/2 cup water to the top of the crock. I replaced the cover and waited 2 more days.

color change at day 5 fresh foam

color change at day 5 fresh foam

On day nine, I saw a no foam and started to see a little milky film forming on the top blue plate and a  few areas around the bottom plate that looked dark and oxidized. When using salt with a high metal mineral content the tops of the cabbage turn to a lead-colored gray. This is nothing that will hurt you but it is not a pleasant sight. Gray is not a great color for sauerkraut. Also watch for a mold, at times it will form on the bottom of the rock, bag, or plate as these areas are also exposed to the air. I usually can stop it before the problem really starts but today I did find a spot forming on the edge of the plastic bag. All these signs indicate that it is time to move the crock to a cooler place or time to move the sauerkraut  into jars for storage. I chose to put my mine in jars and place in the back of our refrigerator.

day nine no foam slimy scum forming on top plate

day nine no foam, slimy scum forming on top plate


Fresh sauerkraut in jars in cold storage up to six months

Fresh sauerkraut in jars in cold storage up to six months


With 4 heads of shredded cabbage I ended up with 4 quarts of sauerkraut with enough brine left in each jar to cover the fermented cabbage. This process of storage will keep things ageing nicely up to 6 months. I did not pressure can or boiling water bath these jars although you could process them and keep them in your pantry for up to one year without any problems. I use the cold storage for small batches that we will use up in a couple of months but when the garden is full of cabbages and I have 6 or 7 heads fermenting I will can all but one jar and eat it fresh.



5 gallon crock with cabbage slicer

5 gallon crock with cabbage slicer

Their at hundreds of ways to include other vegetables into your kraut and some of the most often used are garlic and onions. I have also heard of carrots, beets, and celery going into batches for added color and texture. I think you will find that even if you only wanted to use a large glass jar for the fermentation vessel you can make a very inexpensive batch of healthy food for pennies on the dollar. In this case the cabbage was at 38 cents a pound and I added 6 tablespoons of salt maybe .25 cents = 2.50  for side dishes for at least 4 meals for a family of 4. That comes to about 20 cents per serving or less. Not a bad way to increase you probiotics and vitamin C in take.

So for dinner tonight, I will add this home made sauerkraut  to a low-fat cut of pork roast and bake long and slow in a slow cooker until it falls apart and serve  with a side of German potato pancakes and enjoy.

Categories: canning, country cooking, fermentation, gardening, health, Preserving, sauerkraut | Tags: , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Organic Store Bought Juice makes Great Cherry Jelly

small jars of organic cherry jelly

small jars of organic cherry jelly cooling

The easiest way to make a jar of home-made jelly or jam is hiding on a store shelf and we just never think of using it.  For small batches of jellies and Jam there is no reason you can not use a store-bought juice.The only requirement   is that the juice must have NO sugar added. 

Our small town Kroger is closing, so I did what everyone does when a store closes. I hit the sale shelves for bargains. Well the one I found most interesting was that 100% organic, no sugar added juices were clearanced down to $1.00 for 32 oz.  So I bought a couple along with 10 pounds of organic sugar and a 50% off sale of pectin. I knew that a winter jelly mix up was in order on one of these cold snowy days

organic black cherry juice

organic black cherry juice

As with any jelly making that I do, I look up what I want to make in a Ball canning book and read up on what the recommendations are for this type of juice. Black Cherry is very sweet when compared to a choke cherry or sour cherry. The more sour the fruit the more acidic it is, so my juice will be low in acid. I chose to use two table spoons of lemon juice to correct this problem and  followed the advice of my cook book and used two full packets of Sure-Gell  liquid pectin.  So with just 3 cups of a nice flavored juice and 6 1/2 cups of sugar, a little lemon juice and some pectin I was able to put together about 7 half pints of organic jelly in about thirty mins for about 1 dollar a jar. Not a bad way to spend a morning if you ask me and my family.

As always I wash and sterilize my jars, lids, and rings in a boiling water bath. I always add at least on extra jar to what the directions say, I have many times had about a full extra jar of jelly after filling.

boiling water bath full of jars lids and rings

boiling water bath full of jars lids and rings

Then add the juice, sugar and lemon to a 7 quart stock pot and raise the temperature slowly to a rolling boil

boiling cherry juice, sugar and lemon juice

boiling cherry juice, sugar and lemon juice

Let this mixture boil one minute then add two packets of liquid Pectin. Slowly return mixture to full boil that will not beat down with stirring and cook one full minute. Remove from heat and remove any foam with spoon.

cleaning jelly jars

cleaning jelly jars

Ladle very hot syrup into prepared jars that are cooling on towels. I some times use rubber gloves for this as getting burned by hot sugar syrup is a terrible. I also use a canning funnel keep the jars as clean as possible. If all goes well a nice thin veil of jelly will form across the top of each jar as soon as it cools a bit. I then take a spoon and slide this film and all the bubbles off the top each jar, dispose of this thick foamy jell into a bowl or saucer. Wipe down every jar making sure the top lip is very clean to make a good seal on the lids. Seal jars  with clean rings and lids allow to cool and wait for the typical popping sound of a seal jar.

Black Cherry Juice jelly

3 cups black cherry juice (mine was organic)

6 1/2 cups of sugar ( mine was fair trade organic)

two table spoons  lemon juice

One full box, two pouches liquid Pectin

7 half pint jars lids and rings

With the remaining bottle of juice I plan to make an organic Black Cherry Jam adding in a blender full of thawed no sugar added black cherries to this basic recipe. I will still need the lemon and the two pouches of pectin but this will use up the other juice and add a little texture to the spread.  The family loves the idea and has already started eating the jelly.

toast with organic black cherry jelly

toast with organic black cherry jelly

Categories: canning, Jelly, organic Black Cherry, organic foods, Preserving | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Canning wild game, a non electric storage opption

 As  some of you already know my family lives as much as possible on the land that surrounds us and the bounty that God provides. This includes fall hunting for wild game and fishing as much as possible for our food. My problem has always been what to do with all the meat that the boys bring into me. Well of course we freeze a large portion of our meat and fish but three years ago we went with out electric for about 10 days and lost most of our families food. This brought up the conversation about going back to canning at least a portion of our meats so we would not  lose all of our food again.

 My husbands family has cold packed canned deer and pork for over 40 years mostly because the quality of meat when it comes out of the jars is OUT STANDING. The high pressure and moister combine and make the most tender juicey meat. The only way to explain it is to think pulled pork that all you have to do is open the jar and pour out. We can deer meat for BBQ sandwiches and I make a wonderful deer tips with gravy out of. The meat is safely stored for two years and is easy to transport to hunting camps and on summer camping trips. The meat is already cooked, warm the contents and eat.

To start with I suggest that anyone wanting to learn more about the safety and processes of home canning get a good canning book like this one.

Ball blue book of canning copy right 1970

Ball blue book of canning copy right 1970

Processing of meats MUST MUST MUST be done under presser so this process is not for those who use the boiling water bath method. Meat is very easy to process but the time involved is a little lengthy. The average time is 1:30 of cooking time so I plan about 4 to 5 hours from boneing out the deer to the end of the canning process. One nice size white tail deer will make about 7 quarts of cold packed stew meat. In this case I made 6 Jars and had about 11/2 lbs left over I wanted to use in another way.

First, as always wash and sterilise your jars rings and lids, and look for chips or cracks in the jars.This defect will prevent the jars from sealing properly and spoil the meat or make a huge mess in the canner. I use quart jars and this will make about 4 portions of meat per jar. You can use pints and adjust the cooking time accordingly ( pints process for 1 hour 15 mintues).

I start my canning preparations with washing everything down with a little bleach water that includes my cutting boards and knives and even the table where I am cutting the meat. We cover everything with butcher paper and get the meat ready to debone.

white tail deer meat ready to be deboned

white tail deer meat ready to be deboned

 We do not can the tenderloin pictured above left. They are tender enough on their own but the remaining steaks and roasts get processed.  The only requirement is that the pieces of meat are about bite size and fit in the mouth of your jars easily. We try to remove any excess fat or connective tissues. Cold packing jars saves time but the meat can be cooked and packed hot with a broth in jars also.

bite size pieces of deer steak

bite size pieces of deer steak

 These pieces get packed into warm sanitized jars and with a wooded spoon. I push firmly to pack meat into the jars this removes excess air gaps and fills the jars full. You need a one inch head space in the jar to prevent the natural juices from leaking out of the jars as it boils in the canner.

deer meat ready to be packed in jars

deer meat ready  for jars

The fuller the jars the better it is, the nature broth will not cover loosely packed meat and this can lead to discolored meat after storage.

using a funnel keeps jars cleaner when packing

using a funnel keeps jars cleaner when packing

At this point you have the option of adding salt to your meat, we add 1 teaspoon per quart of meat. It is not a necessary item but does make the broth and meat more flavorful so we choice to use it.

adding salt to canning jars of meat

adding salt to canning jars of meat

 The next step is to clean the lip of the jar and make sure no salt or meat residue remains on jar to prevent the lids from sealing. Then add the lids and seal to jars and place them in the canning with enough water to cover the jars by at least one inch of water.

canning jars in pressure canner with water

canning jars in pressure canner with water

  Then cover the canner and start a high fire. Venison is canned at 10 lbs of pressure for 1 hour and 30 minutes making it take around 2 hours total. The first 30 minutes is for the heat to raise into the canner to reach 10 lbs pressure. I usually let my canner cool over night so the cooling process doesn’t interfere with use of my stove. In the morning the jars and water are still hot to the touch but ready to remove from the canner.

  At this point the jars are cooling and I check to make sure all the seals are tight and each jar is clean. I usually risen them before adding the name of the contents and date.  I usually process at least two deer every year this way and this gives us security that even if the power goes out we will have fresh safe meat to eat.

canned deer meat and my hard working canner

canned deer meat and my hard-working canner

 Don’t be surprise that after you jars have cooled even further that a small amount of fat appears in the jars. It is not seen when the jars are warm and slowly forms on the top of the broth. It is totally safe and not going to spoil. The fatter the meat the more fat will form in the top of the jar. In this case venison is very lean and usually less than a teaspoon of fat collects in the jar after canning.

This process is the same useing beef or pork. The only changes that are made are for cooked meats and stews or soups. That is when you really love having your “Ball Canning Guide” so that every thing is safe and healthy.


Categories: canning, country cooking, deer, deer hunting, Hunting, Venison | Tags: , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Canning home made apple sauce

   A couple of friend commented to me that they wished they knew how to make home-made apple sauce. I am currently in the process of making my second batch( 6 quarts)as we speak.I thought this post might be useful to learn a bit more about the process before fall weather finishes ripening all the apples.

finished apple sauce 2013

finished apple sauce 2013

     I love to home preserve  apple sauce.It is a simple easy way to use up extra apples and make something naturally good for you. I am actually over run with apples this year, friends are begging me to pick their apples as the trees are in danger of damage from the heavy load. I use the apples from several trees in our friends and families yards so they are free and of unknown verity. The best apple for sauce if you are buying or growing a tree for that purpose is the Golden Delicious. I Think that I am actually using a Macintosh apples this year and they seem to cook down fine also.

  Of course the first step is to collect or buy apples. I pick mine and use about  8 pounds of apples for one full batch (6 quart jars) of sauce. In this case I had a 5 gallon bucket full of apples so I used about 3/4 of a bucket to get what I needed.

60 pounds of free apples

60 pounds of free apples

 I had some wonderful helpers this year and we had a ball picking the apples.

the boys apple picking Christopher and Caden

the boys apple picking Christopher and Caden

   Once you have the fruit,you will need canning jars pints or quarts and rings and lids. These items are available at almost at any grocery store or Wal-mart. It is your choice if you want wide mouth jars or regular. In most cases it is normal to use the smaller mouth jars and lids and rings. Wide mouth jars are great for pickles or food that you would process whole like tomatoes or large slices like pears.  In the above photo of the finished apple sauce I have used both Pint and Quart jars and processed them together with out any problems. Wash jars in hot soapy water,checking jars to make sure they are free from any chips or cracks. Either of the stated problems may cause the jar to break or not seal correctly and waste your time and ingredients.

   The next few items a person needs are staples in most kitchens, with exception of a jar lifter and food mill and/or ricer and an apple peeling tool. To make 6  quarts of sauce you need to use an 8 quart stock pot stainless steel is ok but most home canning families prefer enamel. It is less reactive with high acid foods like tomatoes and keeps food the proper color. A food funnel, wood spoons, a ladle and a couple of rags and towels. The jar lifter is cheap and makes moving hot jars from a very hot canner to cooling area easier. The food mill I use is a life saver with making any smooth sauce. I use mine for tomato juice, apple sauce, apple butter and tomato sauce. I think the average cost for one today is around 40 dollars.

foodmill over stock pot

foodmill over stock pot

apple peeler, corer and slicer

apple peeling tool, this one also slices and cores the apple

    I did purchase the apple peeling tool a couple of years ago after trying to peel and core about 30 lbs of apples with out it. It is worth investing in one if you hope to make more than 6 quarts of apple sauce. The tool peels, cuts and cores the apples all at the same time so it is a real-time saver and does have replaceable parts in case the blades get dull or broken.

    The basic receipt that I fallow is this:

6 quarts of peeled sliced cored apples.

2 and 1/2 quarts water

4 cups sugar

1 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves.

 makes about 6 quarts apple sauce

Always sterilise your jars, lids and rings in a boiling water bath for 6 to 10 minutes before starting applesauce.

  The frist step is wash, peel, core and slice the apples. I stack the apples to the top of my stock  pot even if some of the apples have some peel still remaining. The food mill will remove any missed skins and seeds later. Add the water and put one stove over Med heat. The hallow apples will cook down into my pot about 4 inches and with the water reach about the 6 to 7 quart area when done.

The Trick to apple sauce is to never ever cook anything on high heat.

apples reduced to ruff sauce

apples reduced to rough sauce

apples on stove with water

apples on stove with water

                                                        Once the water begins to simmer allow the apples to cook at least 20 minuets to reduce the apples into sauce.  Sir frequently to help the apples break down and keep them from scorching. As you can see in the above photo they have reduced and some skins are floating in the sauce. The next step removes any remaining skins or lumps from the apples sauce.

  Place a kettle or stock pot in sink and top it with a foodmill. Pour hot lumpy sauce into mill and turn handle several times and then reverse the motion until the sauce is through the mill and the dry-looking peels are all that remain. Scrape out old peals and add more lumpy apples and repeat until all the sauce is passed through mill.

getting ready to put hot apple sauce in foodmill

getting ready to put hot apple sauce in foodmill

    Return sauce to stove and add sugar, cinnamon, cloves and heat over med low heat until sugar melts and a slow bubbles form. Taste your apple sauce and add more sugar or spices as needed, raise temp to med high and cook until a slow boil occurs. DO NOT STOP STIRRING  SAUCE!!! it may scorch at this point. In my case I look for large hard bubbles that splash sauce around the pot. You can use a candy thermometer to make sure the sauce reaches 212 degrees.

bloiling lids and rings

boiling lids and rings

  I always sterilise my rings and lids separately from the jars. I like to leave the lids on the stove in the hot water while I make the sauce and put the jars on the counter or table  ready to fill before I make the sauce. When the sauce has cooked and is boiling hot you are ready to fill the jars and put on the rings and seals.

sauces ready for jars

sauce ready for jars

 As you can see I place the jars on several towels and drain lids and rings just before use. Next ladle sauce into jars using a jar funnel to keep as much sauce off the lip of jar as possible and to prevent burning your hands. The apple sauce is very hot and is sticky and will blister skin in seconds. I wear rubber gloves to fill jars to prevent burns as much as possible. When all jars are full I clean the rim of each jar with a dry rag and place a lid on top and place a ring on tight enough to keep lid in place but too tight.

cleaning jar lip

cleaning jar lip

  Then place jars in a boiling water bath for twenty minutes add time if you live above 1000 feet in altitude. If I am processing pints, my stock pot works well, so I wash it and return 6 pints back into the pot cover with hot water and boil the jars 20 more minutes. If I am making quarts I boil water in my pressure canner and use it to process my jars. Next, Remove jars with a jar lifter and place some where it is safe for hot jars to cool away from drafts. I put them back on the towels I used to full them on and wait to hear the sound of the lids popping closed. Some jars may actually seal and pop before they reach the table, others seal as they cool.  After about an hour I check to see if all the jars have sealed by touching the top of the lid and pushing down. If the lid pops when I touch it, the jar did not seal and must either be recooked or eaten fresh to prevent food poisoning or mold or both.

   If you are lucky like I was every jar sealed and is cooling. I usually wipe the jars down one more time and on the lid with a Sharpe marker put the name and date on each jar. This way the oldest gets eaten first and food rotation is easy.

You now have 6 quarts of home-made apple sauce with no artificial flavors, colors, and no preservatives,congratulations.

finished apple sauce 2013

finished apple sauce 2013

Categories: apple sauce, canning, cooking, organic food, Preserving | Tags: , | 16 Comments

Blog at


The pleasures of a bunch of old typewriters

Mitch Teemley

The Power of Story

Barbour County Development Authority

Providing economic vitality for Barbour County, West Virginia

Life on the Massanutten

Musings from the Massanutten Mountain

The Helsingian Pathfinder

the inward path is the way ahead

Daydreaming Millennial

Come for the thoughts, stay with the journey.

Monkeying Around

Monks, monkeys and monkeying around. An adventurous life.

Shreya Vikram

Blurring the lines between poetry and prose

Dreaming Reality

If Existence is a dream, let us dream perfection....

For anyone who has ever thought of attempting the #vanlife, A Life of VANity is an unfiltered, realistic look at the unglamorous day-to-day happenings of life in a Chevy G20 Conversion van. Unlike other #vanlife blogs, A Life of VANity is here to show you that it isn’t all roadtrips and ocean-side views, and that there’s nothing wrong with living in a backyard or two.

Beyond the Campfire

Stories of exploration

Mark All My Words

Exploring Nature + Health

Thrifty Campers

Nature Knows No Such Barriers



%d bloggers like this: