Canning For The Year

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This has been a wonderful busy fall season. It is amazing what a difference one year has made. Those of you who know me, know that I spent last fall recovering from a bout of West Nile.  I was so grateful this year to be busy with canning, spending time with family and friends and just celebrating how good life is.

For me one of the great things of life, especially the fall, is the canning season. Years ago my grandma canned every bit of produce she could get her hands on. She instilled in me a love of seeing the produce come out of the garden, journey through the canning/preservation process and end up on the pantry shelves.

Sometimes Fall can feel like an ending to a season. I am not sure why, but canning does not feel like giving up on a past season. Canning feels like preparing for a fresh start. Lining shelves with the summer’s bounty is strangely fulfilling and highly addictive.

What starts out as just doing some batches of peaches, applesauce and pizza sauce turns into a hunt for a new recipe to try….a new way to try preserve the produce.  Canning is kind of like putting Summer in a jar and opening it to enjoy on those cold winter days.

For me…..canning is hope….hope that you are prepared….hope that you are ready for what comes…..and the hope that by the time your jars run out, you also run out of cold winter days.

Seeing the shelves lined with filled jars gives such a feeling of contentment. I may be weird in that thought but I am okay with that. I love going into my pantry and just standing there looking at those filled jars.

I tried a new recipe this year. We had such an abundance of watermelon that we could not keep up eating them. We gave melons away, I juiced a couple melons and they still kept producing. Even the chickens got to eat watermelon!

So this year I made watermelon jelly. It is so pretty in the jars and really tastes like watermelon in a jar!  I am so excited that in the middle of a cold dreary winter day I can open a jar and feel like summer is not so far away.

Watermelon Jelly
Yield: Makes five half pints

Ingredients: 
5 cups white sugar
5 tablespoons powdered pectin
6 cups pureed watermelon (remove any seeds prior to pureeing)
1/2 cup bottled lemon juice

Instructions:
Whisk together sugar and powdered pectin until they are fully integrated. Combine watermelon puree, sugar/pectin and lemon juice in a large, non-reactive pot.
Bring to a boil and let cook until the temperature of the nascent jelly reaches 220 degrees. This can take anywhere from 15-30 minutes, depending on the width of your pot, the heat of your stove and even the weather you’re having. Check set using saucer test before removing it from the heat, to ensure that it will set.
Remove from the heat and pour into prepared jars. Wipe rims, apply lids and screw on bands. Process in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes.
When time is up, remove from canner and let jars cool. When they’re cool enough to handle, remove rings and test seals. You can eat immediately or store unopened jars in a cool, dark place for up to a year.
Notes:
*This jelly can take up to one week to set. Please give it time.

I found this recipe on Pinterest and here is the link:
https://foodinjars.com/recipe/watermelon-jelly-recipe/
My notes: 
I used the low sugar pectin so it would set up better. Also, make sure to boil till you reach the correct temp as this also helps with setting this jelly.
Do NOT omit the lemon juice or use fresh lemon juice.
this is needed to properly acidify the watermelon for safe canning.
I wait 24 hours before removing the rings.

 

I love having full shelves, but I also love to gift some of the bounty to my children and others. It is fun “shopping” my shelves and filling boxes to send home with them.

I love the fact that, for me, those jars speak of faithfulness. The faithfulness of my Creator in providing for every need. They are more than just food….they are a visual reminder.  Those jars are a way to connect with those that I love and a connection to those who have gone before.

Food is our common ground,
a universal experience.

James Beard 
Read more: http://www.searchquotes.com/search/Food_Preservation/#ixzz63Pz248Hn

Homemade Biscuits

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A while back I had a craving for some biscuits and gravy. I had never really made biscuits from scratch but figured I wouldn’t be out of much if they did not turn out.

I googled homemade biscuits and found a recipe that had 5 stars and was titled as easy. For me this was a deal breaker….what was not to like about easy AND 5 stars? Here is the link to the site: Sugar Spun Run

I followed the directions exactly and was so impressed with how they turned out. Since they turned out so good, and were really delicious; I thought I should share the recipe, so you can all give them a whirl.

Homemade Biscuits

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, very cold
3/4 cup whole milk

Instructions:
For the best results, chill your butter in the freezer for 10-20 minutes before beginning this recipe. It’s ideal that the butter is very cold for light, flaky, buttery biscuits.
–Preheat oven to 425ºF and line a cookie sheet with nonstick parchment paper. Set aside.
–Combine flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt in a large bowl and mix well. Set aside.
–Remove your butter from the refrigerator and either cut it into your flour mixture using a              pastry cutter or use a box grater to shred the butter into small pieces and then add to the flour mixture and stir.
–Cut the butter or combine the grated butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
–Add milk, use a wooden spoon or spatula to stir until combined (don’t overwork the dough).
–Transfer your biscuit dough to a well-floured surface and use your hands to gently work the dough together. If the dough is too sticky, add flour until it is manageable.
–Once the dough is cohesive, fold in half over itself and use your hands to gently flatten layers together. Rotate the dough 90 degrees and fold ion half again, repeating this step 5-6 times but taking care to not overwork the dough.
–Use your hands (do not use a rolling pin) to flatten the dough to 1″ thick and lightly dust a 2 3/4″ round biscuit cutter with flour.
–Making close cuts, press the biscuit cutter straight down into the dough and drop the biscuit onto your prepared baking sheet.
–Repeat until you have gotten as many biscuits as possible and place less that 1/2″ apart on baking sheet.
–Once you have gotten as many biscuits as possible out of the dough, gently rework the dough to get out another biscuit or two until you have at least 6 biscuits.
–Bake at 425ºF for 12 minutes or until tops are beginning to just turn lightly golden brown.
–If desired, brush with melted butter immediately after removing from oven.
–Serve warm and enjoy.

NOTE:  This recipe can be doubled for more biscuits

I made a double batch of these as it looked like a lot of directions to be followed. I also ended up with more than 12 biscuits. The directions really were fantastic when I followed them exactly and the biscuits turned out light and tasty.

Many of them did not make it to the table for biscuits and gravy, as my husband and I sampled them before we got that far! I must admit I do enjoy baking and cooking and I enjoy it even more when things turn out and taste good!

If you give them a try let me know how yours turned out. I have a feeling these are my new favorite biscuits and I may have to make them the next time my family comes over.

 

“Baking is like washing
–the results are equally temporary.”

― Patricia Briggs,
Raven’s Shadow

“Cooking and baking is both physical and mental therapy.”
― Mary Berry

Rendering Lard

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Finished product~now to get solid

This past week my husband called me to a task I had been putting off for a bit…..rendering lard. It isn’t that I don’t like to render lard. I just really don’t like all the clean up needed after that very greasy job.

We had two bags of trimmings from a hog that was processed. My husband loves the cracklings for Balken Brie and I love to use the lard for pie crusts and frying things. Because of those two facts I asked the butcher to keep the fat for me.

The first part of the process involved grinding the fat so it would melt better. I always kind of wonder what would happen if we didn’t grind it? Would we just have fried blobs of fat? Or would it all melt? If anyone has the answer to that, please let me know!

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Finishing up the process

After that process, we moved things to the garage. We set up our two fry pans and the cloth lined colander and began. The process never really takes that long to accomplish. It takes about as long to clean up.

As I was packing up the nicely fried up cracklings into freezer bags, putting the cooled lard into containers and washing dishes I had some time to reflect on the entire process.

The fat gets incredibly hot as it melts and you have to be very careful not to burn yourself. I wondered if sometimes our lives are like that. In order for us to be made into a “useful product” must we be put over the fire?

Must we be refined, just as the fat is? The only way to refine the fat and make useable lard and edible cracklings; is to put it on high heat for the necessary time. Without doing that, it is just a blob of fat with bits of meat in it.

I really don’t like being uncomfortable, but I guess if it take high heat to turn my life into more than a blob of fat; I will have to go through that! I am trying to remember that particular truth….Refining is hard, but necessary to be useful.

If you find yourself being “refined” lately; take heart…..it gets better and soon you will find a life of joy again.

Discipline is the refining fire
by which talent becomes ability.
Roy L. Smith

Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/roy_l_smith_155560?src=t_refining

White Chip Chocolate Chip Cookies

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Kate’s Awesome Cookies

Years ago my niece shared some amazing cookies with our family. When asked; she willingly gave the recipe. They quickly became a family favorite and I decided I should probably make them again as it had been a long time since I had.

The beginning of this week saw us in the middle of a snowstorm and it seemed a perfect day to bake….so I did!  I usually don’t bake much anymore unless the kids are coming home or company is coming. I have found; when it is just my husband and me, we don’t need that much sweet stuff around.

I was feeling kind of “bakey” (I know it isn’t a word but it should be). I think that feeling was due to the cold weather and the snow. I pulled out the recipe from my niece and found I had all the ingredients on hand. That was a good thing as we were not going to be driving anywhere with the snow flying like it was.

I am going to share the recipe with all of you because it is just to good not too.

Kate’s Awesome Cookies

1 Cup butter flavored Crisco
3/4 Cup white sugar
3/4 Cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 Teaspoons vanilla
2 1/4 Cups flour
1 Teaspoon baking soda
1 Teaspoon salt
1 Bag white chocolate chips (2 cups)

Cream Crisco and sugars
Add the eggs, vanilla, soda, and salt.
Fold in white chocolate chips
Bake at 350º for 8-10 minutes.

Do Not Overbake!
Note: I usually take them out and let them sit just a bit
on the hot cookie sheet then transfer to a wire rack to cool.
These freeze beautifully (If you have any leftover to freeze!)

I had to kind of grin when I typed the line “Do Not Overbake”. I should probably heed that with more things in my life…only translate to Do Not Overthink…..Do Not Second Guess and so on and so on.

I have a great habit of second guessing myself on decisions made. My husband does not understand this….is this perhaps a woman thing or just a me thing? For some reason it can be hard to let past choices go. I am working on that and hopefully making progress!

I have a friend named Brenda H. who made a great observation. She asked a group of us women if we trusted in God or if we trusted God. What a difference one word makes in a sentence! Perhaps trusting Him would make a world of difference in the second guessing category?

May the weekend find you confident in your choices. May you realize that no matter what, God still loves you and there will always be people who will stand behind you…..and may we all learn to trust.

And the next time you find yourself second guessing yourself just say, “Do Not Overbake”! I am going to do the same.

Feed your faith and starve your doubts.
– Kenneth E. Hagin Sr

Faith talks in the language of God.
Doubt talks in the language of man.
– E.W. Kenyon

 

 

 

Cold Days and Warm Food

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This past weekend our weather has changed.  I am not totally sure it was for the better! There were winter storm advisories but that kind of bombed out for us and I was good with only getting a small amount of snow.

The weather guys were right on their prediction of  cold temperatures. Sunday saw us in the sub zero range with a wicked wind chill to go with it. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look to change any time soon. (This always makes my husband wonder why our ancestors settled here!)20190121_112554.jpg

Today just seemed to be the kind of day where a good pot of chili soup needed to be simmering on the stove. The only problem with that is my husband is not in favor of chili soup.

Chili soup was kind of out of the question for him for a meal; so I also went with one of his favorite cold weather foods…..Balken Brei. I made him a loaf pan of it last week when I heard the weather was going to nose-dive temperature wise.

I am NOT a fan of Balken Brei but I do like how it smells. For those of you who have no idea what this “delicacy” is I will try explain. When you render the lard from a pig you end up with these crunchy little bits called cracklings.

You take those cracklings and fry them out till they are a crisp golden brown and kind of dry.  At this stage you can go ahead and make Balken Brei or you can freeze your cracklings till ready to use.

For the brave among you I am going to give you the recipe so you can try this Dutch treat for yourself.

Balken Brei
1 Pound Cracklings
Water
Salt and Pepper to taste
White Flour
Allspice to taste

Put the cracklings in a sauce pan.
Cover, till just covered, with water.
Add about 1 tsp. sald and 1/2 tsp pepper.
Bring to a boil then let simmer till most of the water has been absorbed by the cracklings.
Remove from heat and add flour. You will keep adding flour
till the mixture is very stiff and hard to stir.
Add Allspice to taste…start with about 5 teaspoons.
You may have to use your hands to mix at this point.
Put mixture in loaf pan lined with wax paper and press in firmly.
Cover and put in fridge to cool.
Once it is cool and firm you can slice into thin slices.

To prepare:
Cut into thing slices and fry in pan in melted butter.
Fry till golden crisp.
Serve with syrup.
My husbands favorite is Dark Karo syrup.

Some people use buckwheat flour. Some people add other meat to this recipe. My husband prefers the basic one so that is what I go with. It think he likes it this way because that is what he grew up with.

I am pretty sure this is NOT a heart healthy recipe. For years my sons have called this “fried fat”. I am also not sure what cracklings really are! If they were fat they would have melted? If anyone knows please let me know.

Being of Dutch background, I often wonder if our Dutch ancestors were just so tight thrifty that they did not let anything go to waste…not even cracklings! I also wonder if there is any other use for them….other than feeding the girls…..

And now…..I really want to know….what is your favorite cold weather food? When those temps dip close to zero and the snow flies (assuming you live where this happens) What is your go to food for comfort? If you have a favorite recipe please feel free to leave it in the comments or link to it if you have already posted it on your blog.

Have a great week doing things for those you love…..and if you live where it is cold….stay warm and make a family favorite!

Cooking is like love
It should be entered into with abandon
or not at all
Harriet Van Horne

 

“Lo” is Good

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My husband always finds it funny that we spend hours baking and preparing treats for the holidays. We spend time eating all those sweet treats…usually to excess. Then suddenly it is January and we are all worried about the holiday pounds that have appeared out of nowhere….(well maybe out of our fridge and into our mouth).

Today I figured I would check out the scale so that I might either be impressed to keep it off or depressed to take some weight off. (Like that is going to happen these next few weeks!!)

When I stepped on the scale I was pleasantly surprised. The only thing it told me was “Lo”. I have decided this scale is a wonderful scale. I did go purchase new batteries for it, but part of me really wants to just leave the old ones in till after the holidays have come and gone.

You have no idea how good it is for your esteem to find your scale telling you your weight is “Lo”. At least I thought it was great.

This past weekend we attended grandparents’ day at my grandson’s school. As we were standing in line with my grandson I overheard the best conversation ever. Two fellow first graders were looking at a drawing one of them had done. The drawing resembled and apple with a head; and a couple sticks coming out of it. The conversation kind of went as follows:

1st boy: “What is that?”
2nd boy: “My grandma.”
1st boy: “hahahahaha…..your grandma?”
2nd boy: “Yea….she’s fat.”  (this was said very matter of factly)

I love that little boy. It did not seem to matter to him if his grandma resembled an apple. It was a great reminder that children see with eyes of love and that is a great lesson for us all.

That child looked deeper than his grandma’s shape. He looked at the love they shared for each other and the beauty of that love.

That being said……I really don’t want my grandson drawing me as an apple shape!  I think it is time to go put those batteries in that scale…..

I’m in shape….
round is a shape.
Unknown

My favorite exercise
is a cross between a lunge and a crunch….
I call it lunch.

Anonymous

 

 

Memories and Recipe Cards

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Have you ever spent time going through old recipe cards and books? Part of my day was spent doing just that. I have a book at my house that is filled with old recipe cards from my husband’s grandma.

The book will be sent to my sister-in-law as she is the only girl in the family and it just seems like it should be hers to have and cherish. I did decide that I would also like copies of those recipes to keep; so I spent some of this snowy day, making copies of them.

It was interesting to see what kind of recipes our grandmothers thought were good enough to keep and to make for their families. I found cards for cookies, cakes, desserts etc. I grinned when I noticed the overwhelming majority of the recipes were for sweet things. Obviously, sweets have been popular for a very long time.

The recipes were from women named Tillie, Marietta, Alice, Darlene, Gerdena, Zelma and more. Even the names seemed to fit those faded cards that were filled with wonderful cursive writing. Some of the recipes were not even written on cards. I loved the one that was on the back of a bank deposit form.

I can just imagine those women, sitting together discussing what they should make for the next gathering. One of them remembers a recipe but cannot find anything to write it down on. After rummaging through her purse….she pulls out a bank deposit form and proceeds to write it on the back. I am so glad grandma did not transfer it to a fancy card but left it as it was.

Those women were prolific when it came to keeping recipes to use for future meals and treats for their families. They seemed to take great joy in providing food for their families, neighbors and fellow church members. I know my grandma did and I know my husband’s grandmas did as well.

Those grandmas loved to share their good recipes. I remember the big smiles they gave, when I would ask for a recipe from them. There was a joy in that sharing, there was a joy in the passing on of knowledge accumulated through the years.

There is something so valuable about grandmas passing on their knowledge….not only for making food, but of life. There is much wisdom to be learned from the generations that have gone before.

There is a wealth of information on raising children, serving others, being a person of compassion and just generally living life; that can be gained from those who have lived many more years than we have.

It is my prayer that you are all blessed with someone who has that type of wisdom. It is a wonderful thing when someone like that has a place in your life.

I am reminded of those who have gone before, every time I look through the cookbooks that my grandma used to own. Her handwritten notes, next to certain recipes have never steered me wrong. I have a feeling the heirloom recipes I gained today will also find a place among those cherished cookbooks.

 

My grandma’s old cookbook is aged and forlorn.
The pages are grease stained, each faded and worn.
The spine is collapsed and the cover’s askew,
revealing, in no way, what this book could do.
A barrel of cookies, sweet, fresh lemonade,
roasts, casseroles, salads this ancient book made.
It brought love and caring to both young and old,
delivering happiness not bought or sold.
Its owner and user breathed life to this book,
by sharing herself with each recipe cooked.
True gifts from her heart were delivered with love,
presented on earth for her Father above.
Her gentle, sweet kindness was blended with care.
A silent reminder that she had been there
to welcome your newborn…
to ease every ill…
true unselfish gestures of love and goodwill.
So don’t be deceived by the physical book,
but rather… rejoice in the wonderful cook.
Just cherish and honor each frayed, weathered page,
for pure, loving kindness has brought forth its age.

by Jane-Ann Heitmeuller