gardening

Pickled Eggs with Garden Beets a Colorful way to Serve farm Eggs.

As with almost all pickles, pickled eggs were a safe and easy way to store food without refrigeration. Using simple ingredients like water, sugar and cider vinegar people could save their extra eggs from the summer and eat them when the long winter depleted families stores of meat and poultry. I have read that it was the Amish that added their wonderful pickled beets to the eggs to add color and a spicy twist. The tradition is very popular in West Virginia  where the eggs are found everywhere from the grocery store to road side restaurants. We are so luck to have  many of the Amish traditions passed down from their communities in Ohio and Pennsylvania.

half of pickled egg

half of pickled egg

My family takes the beets from our garden and pickles them in a spicy brine of cider vinegar, sugar, cloves, allspice, nutmeg and cinnamon. We then add the pickled beets to boiled eggs. Adding in a fresh dose of water, sugar and cider vinegar  for a holiday treat. I make these lovely hot pink  eggs at Christmas and Easter every year. Starting about 5 days before the holiday so that the eggs are pink to the edge of the yolk. Letting the eggs soak any longer the brine will toughen the yolk and make it rubbery.

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

I take 10 boiled eggs to one quart of pickled beets, either home-made or store-bought, adding them to a gallon non reactive container with a lid. To this mixture I add 1 cup water, 1 cup cider vinegar and 3/4 cup sugar to a sauce pan on the stove and simmer until sugar dissolves. I pour that hot mixture over eggs and beets, mix well, seal with a lid and store 4 to 5 days to get the pink up to the edge of the egg white. The longer the eggs soak the stronger the taste.

Pickled eggs floating in beet brine. in a non reactive container

Pickled eggs floating in beet brine. in a non reactive container

We serve the eggs along with the pickled beets that are in the bottom of the container. The sweet beets are a treat that I can not pass up and the kids love to take a bite into an egg that is not totally pink all the way through and has a bright white stripe inside.

There are many other ways to make pickled eggs some are hot and spicy with hot peppers added, some call for onions and some that are just a cider brine with white eggs. But in our house nothing reminds me of spring as much at hot pink eggs at our Easter table.

Categories: apple cider vinger, beets, beets, canning, Easter, eggs, Preserving | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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

Pablano Chili Peppers Roasted Straight from the Garden

Our family loves chilies and peppers of all kinds. We always plant sweet and hot peppers but this is the first time I tried to grow chilies at home. The most prized are always the Pablano chili peppers. They are a mild heat chili and make  the base for many of the traditional Tex-Mex dishes and some to the true Mexican classics like Chili Rellenos. My family loves them and we roast hundreds every year in my little kitchen making the house smell spicy and sweet at the same time.

Pablano chili in the garden

Pablano chili in the garden

Roasting a pepper of any kind takes time and  I usually do the roasting in the morning while the house still cool. I actually roast my chilies in my ovens broiler. Some use the open flame of a gas stove top and others do it out side on the grill but in any case it is a job that you must keep an eye on. On one wants to burn the peppers they just want to char the skins and then remove them. I use an old metal roasting pan and set my broiler on low. On low it takes about 8 minutes to roast the peppers turning the peppers as the skin slowly turns black and brown and the skin withers.

 

Roasted Pablano chili peppers

Roasted Pablano chili peppers

 

There are endless ways to uses the peppers when they are free from the though skin. My husband I  love to make traditional Chili Rellneos but the process is a long one and some nights we just don’t have time to bread and fry and then bake them. So I have shortened the steps and in the process and lightened the fat content up. I just bake mine and I buy a pre-made sauce to bake them in. We also stuff the peppers with meats like ground venison, chicken or pork sausage mixed with bread crumbs and cheese. These peppers spicy but with the seeds and veins removed they are not a HOT burn. Well unless you happen to miss a seed … then things get a little hot.

After the Chilies finish roasting, to remove the skins some people place them into paper bag. I happen to have an old ice cream bucket with a nice tight lid that I toss the hot peppers into the let them steam and cool. I then peel the skins off, remove seeds and sometimes the stems.

Roasted chilies in bucket ready to peal

Roasted chilies in bucket ready to peel

pealing the skin on the chili pepper

pealing the skin on the chili pepper

 

In the meatless version I peel open the pepper remove the seeds and veins and stuff each one with an easy to melt Quesso  cheese. My husband also likes to use Monterrey Jack or Cheddar. I place the pepper seem side down in the base of a baking dish covered with a tomato sauce. Personally use an enchilada sauce made from roasted tomatoes.

Chilies stuffed with cheese

Chilies stuffed with quesso cheese

I then cover the peppers with more sauce and a layer of shredded cheese and back then 25 mints at 350. We usually serve this with re-fried beans, rice and cornbread. Making a wonderful meatless Monday dinner.

 

Stuffed Chilies ready to bake

Stuffed Chilies ready to bake

 

Recipe for cheese stuffed chilies for two servings

6 to 7 med Pablano peppers.

1 1/2 pounds Quesso cheese. We use a good melting kind.

1 jar roasted tomato enchilada sauce

1 cup shredded Monterrey Jack cheese or blend

Roast peppers then remove seeds, veins and stems.

Cut Quesso cheese is long chunks that will fill the peppers full.

Pour 1/2 can enchilada sauce in bottom of 13×9 pan add stuffed chilies to pan pour remaining sauce over the top of chilies and top with shredded cheese.

bake for 25 minutes at 350 degrees.

 

Categories: cooking, country cooking, gardening, pepper /chilies, Tomatoes | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

My 1ooth post mile stone!

It is hard to believe that I have actually posted a 100 times since starting this adventure. Blogging is one of the best things I have tried to do as an adult and I am really enjoying it. I have learned so much over the last couple of years and can only say thank you to everyone who has taken the time to reply with a comment or a “like” to my posts. I am thankful that all of you just take the time to stop in a read once in a while. It is amazing how many wonderful people I have met through this adventure. I am lucky to call people from all over the world my friends, from several  down under in Australians to a hard-working Canadian, a few transplanted Americans who are in Bosnia and Chile and people from all over the USA who share my interests. It is a wide wonderful world and I am soooo glad I write with all of you!.

Christopher and I out mushroom hunting in my cast... life really slowed down with it

Christopher and I out mushroom hunting in my cast… life really slowed down with it

This year has seen much less travel, hunting and fishing then I had hoped to write about here at Mountain Mama. Things here have changed as things always do. I have had a broken bone in my foot for 12 months and when every thing is done I will have been in a cast 14 months. Who in the world would have thought that a bone around the size of a dime would cause this much pain and hassle. Then we were informed that my mother in law has throat cancer and we have gone through treatment and she is now living with my family. The cancer alone has changed our whole family and all of our lives. It is a constant struggle to maintain her health at this point and I spend much of my day waiting on her needs and wants. It is worth every struggle to see her regain her health and independence over the next few months. I have gone from a career woman and mom, to a full-time care giver, house wife and homestead gardener over these last 100 posts.

I had high hopes when I started blogging that in some way I would find a way to make an income from my posts and be one of those bloggers who travels the world for free with their blog. I was thinking that blogging would some day be my work but instead it is my love. I would not want to get payed and sponsored into some kind of box. I love that this is a limitless space where I am free to share things with like-minded friends. I love to share my failures and gains with all of you. I love that like a stone thrown into a clam water the ripples that my words create flow away in never-ending rings…. that some where in cyberspace I have found all of you and you have sent your ring of words back to me.

Reflection of Stone Bridge on lake at Black Water Falls State Park. Wv

Reflection of Stone Bridge on lake at Black Water Falls State Park. WV

 

So as I look back over the last 100 times that I have sent messages out in to the Cyber Universe I can see so much improvement in my blog and my posts. It has been a great therapy for me and my creative soul and I just hope to keep sharing, learning.

Faerie mushtrooms

Faerie mushrooms

~THANK YOU FROM WILD WONDERFUL WEST VIRGINIA~

Categories: blogging, Cancer, Family, friends, Friendship, gardening, Healing, writing | Tags: , , , , , | 9 Comments

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

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

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

West Virginia regional food favorite “Oliverio Italian Style Peppers”.

I love eating fresh home cooked food and I love even more being able to cook with things that are products of West Virginia. I am sure that all of you have the same feeling about food items from your home towns or places that you have traveled to over the years. Some times you just can not find a good replacement for a locally grown and packaged regional food and that is how most north Central West Virginia feels about these peppers. The peppers are one of my families favorite cooking staples. They are a wonderful mixture of traditional green and red bell peppers cooked in a wonderful tomato and olive oil sauce. The peppers come in several verities from the Sweet Peppers to Red Hot.

Oliverio Peppers

Oliverio Peppers

Oliverio peppers are manufactured only few minutes from my town in Clarksburg, West Virginia. They can be bought at major chain grocery stores all around the mid-Atlantic area including Washington DC and areas like Cincinnati Ohio. They were the creation of Antoinette Oliverio in 1930 and the family did not release these fine peppers to the public until 1972. Then only on a small-scale to local shops. When the pepper took off the family expanded their business to include pizza and pasta sauces, and peppers in vinegar sauces. You can take a look at the their website here at Oliverio Italian Peppers

So with summer heat beating down on us( today is 92 and 80%) it is my favorite time of year to cook with the peppers. Almost any one you talk to in my home town has a favorite way to use the peppers. Today I am going to share just a couple of ideas with all of you and them let your taste buds do the rest.

First is my personal favorite and  my oldest sons also… Venison Steak with Oliverio Peppers.

I wish I had thought to photograph the last time I made this very easy and rather inexpensive way to  make deer steak that  falls off the fork tender.  Really I am not sure this even counts for cooking but it is so good.

Place 4  med thick deer steaks into a slow cooker with one jar of sweet or med hot Oliverio Peppers with 1/3 cup water. Cook sauce and steaks on med setting of slow cooker for 6 hours. Then steaks are moist tender from all the tomato sauce that is bubbling up around them. I serve the steak with a side of pasta or rice and end up eating it all mixed together on my plate. We make this often when I know I will be getting home late in the evening.

The other a Giovanni sandwich. A staple sandwich at almost any Mom and Pop restaurant in my area. This sandwich is really simple to make and we have made it may times at home. You need a loaf of  Texas toast, a hamburger or sausage patty, a slice of american cheese and a jar of Oliverio’s peppers. The resulting sandwich is  a little like a pizza burger but with a little more spicy bite if you use the hotter of the peppers.

 

The

Giovanni sandwich with out peppers, bread, hamburger patty, american cheese.

Giovanni sandwich with out peppers, bread, hamburger patty, american cheese.

Then what a great sandwich looks like with the red and green peppers.. A little on the hot side but so wonderful.

Giovanni Sandwich with med hot peppers

The uses are endless and I just wanted to share an idea with you. If you are not from my area but like the ideas above and you do home canning why not try to make a something like this from your home garden. If you are looking for a way to use up extra tomatoes or peppers this is one that is worth trying for.

Categories: cooking, gardening, Oliverio Peppers, regional food, steak with peppers, Uncategorized, Venison, venison, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments

My five year old learns about growing sweet potatoes and other garden plants

Tom tilling Christophers' Garden

Tom tilling Christopher’s  Garden

I have been a home gardener off and on for years. My gardens have ranged in size from a few feet to almost a quarter of an acre. This year we have a small plot that is more for my 5 years olds’ entertainment then to stock a pantry for the winter. It is a family garden that will help provide us with fresh organic food and really isn’t that whole the point. Family time with a 5-year-old does not need  fancy toys just plain out-door fun. The fun starts with digging in the dirt, looking for worms, counting plants, looking for blooms and watering with a tiny watering can. It is all part of the wonderful learning that happens in a garden. Lucky for me, I have good friends who like to share their love of gardening. This year they wanted to share their sweet potato slips with Christopher. I was not really planing to have a garden with sweet potatoes this year but boy am I glad that Tom took a look at these wonderful plants and said “Yea, we can make room.”

Sweet Potato slips ready to plant

Sweet Potato slips ready to plant

So without much of a plan this was what Christopher, Tom and I thought we wanted in a garden this year.We have planted 10 tomato plants, 13 pepper plants of 4 different verities, a bunch of beets, pickling cucumbers,  pumpkins, water melon, cantaloupe, parsnips, green beans and those surprise sweet potatoes. Every thing but the parsnips and green beans fit in our little space. We limited the number of seeds and plants so we could grow many things and not a lot of any one thing. Toms family is famous for growing a garden twice this size for just green beans and another three times this big for potatoes. We on the other hand want to not only freeze some of this fresh produce, but let Christopher learn about a lot of different plants so he will be able to grow some for himself in the future. The wonderful thing we will get to teach Christopher about sweet potatoes is that as long as you have one sweet potato you have the ability to raise at least 15 to 20 more plants the following spring. Like the eyes that grow on a russet or yukon gold potato you can reproduce many plants from one potato. My Friends Ken and Sylvia started a couple of sweet potatoes by saving nice healthy unblemished potatoes from the previous year. They then take the potatoes that they have stored in the cellar and run three nails about 1/2 way through the root to suspended in a jar of  rain water. As you can see the root is  half in the water and half out of the top of a canning jar. They let them sit in a sunny window for the next three months and this is what they get. This is a photo of what is left after they had removed about 15 shoots for Christopher and a few for another friend. The plant will continue to send out more shoots over the next month and they will plant them in their garden.

Photo of sprouted sweet potatoes in window

Photo of sprouted sweet potatoes in window

Sweet potatoes are wonderful for children to raise because they are super easy to grow, they are bug and disease resistant. They are a plant the roots and leave them alone kind of project. Then the fun really begins when he will be able to dig up his own sweet potato and eat it for dinner that evening. The wait is about 90 days or until the first frost. We planted our sweet potatoes in my opinion to close together. Ken recommends at least 12 inches apart and mine as you can see from the photo have been in the ground about 30 days and they are about 10 inches a part and I would have planted them more like 16 inches apart but they seem ok at this point. The vines will grow a couple of feet each way and get bushy as the summer passes. The time to harvest is when the leaves begin to yellow and or you have a good frost. Then dig away with a four tine garden fork and let the kids load up a wagon or several baskets.

young sweet potato plants

young sweet potato plants

Once you have the potatoes you have to make plans to store them. Most people store them in a root cellar or basement. I actually plan to can most of the extras we have but will store a few for fall use. Before storing the potatoes they need time to cure and get a leathery skin to protect them from the bumps and dings of storage, this takes about 10 to 14 days at about 75-80 degrees. I will place the unwashed roots in a cardboard box on our back porch for about a week and turn them so the air reaches all of the roots before wrapping them in news paper and putting them in our cool, dark basement for the winter. At the end of summer I am going to do a post about canning these wonderful nutritious vegetables  and how we make sweet potato casserole made from our own garden grown veggies . In the mean time Christopher and I will be tilling dirt around these guys as they grow. I am not sure if I should mulch them yet as we have had a very wet ( almost soggy) start to summer and I am afraid if I try to keep more moisture in the ground we will just kill the plants from too much water. Time will tell if we need more water or not.  Lets just see what Christopher learns when we get this little project finished up. sweet_potato

Categories: family fun, gardening, organic food, Sweet Potato | 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

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