I know I talk about this all the time but here I go again. Some times I don’t feel like making a huge mess or spending lots of time cooking. There are other fun things to do but everyone has to eat right? And everyone like good home cooked meals over some boxed stuff, right?
Last night was one of those I don’t feel like cooking nights. So our fast food was a hot bowl of pea soup, corn bread and for dessert we had peaches. I had exactly 2 pans, 4 spoons, 4 glasses, 4 bowls, 1 knife and a wooden spoon to clean up. I warmed up a jar of pea soup I had frozen last fall, a quick corn bread recipe that took all of 5 minutes to measure out, and I stirred together right in my cast iron frying pan then baked and popped the lid off a jar of peaches I put up. The corn bread recipe could have been even faster if I had the recipe minus the liquids and eggs premeasured in a container with the recipe written on the side.
The secret to these meals is that it all started months ago when I purchased a nice smoked pork shoulder. We had a wonderful family meal with close friends the night I cooked it. I saved the left over meat in small packages and froze for things like quick omelets, mac and cheese and even toasted ham and cheese sandwiches.
Meal two came with the ham bone a few night later, I made into a nice large batch of pea soup. This was a don’t even think about it meal. I put the ham bone in the crock pot and covered it with water, set it on low and forgot about it until the next day. After it was cool I removed the bone and other undesirable pieces, leaving the loose ham bits in the water. To this I dumped in about 4# of dried peas and a few well diced carrots. I turned the crock pot back on low and forgot about it again until later in the day when it was dinner time. Turned out perfect. A quick batch of corn bread and a fresh salad from the garden and dinner was served.
To freeze the leftover soup for another quick meal, I used regular quart canning jars and lids to freeze meal size portions in. These were not new lids, this is okay because I didn’t pressure can the soup I froze it. Make sure to leave plenty of head room as this stuff does expand when it freezes. No pressure canning needed, I simply put the band and lid on and put it in the freezer. I sometimes use other sized jars and their lids in place of the canning jars, it depends on the size I want to freeze.
After dinner last night I stopped into one of my favorite Blogs, to say hello to Rhonda Jean over at Down To Earth and was quite pleased to see she too is talking about pork shoulders and how handy and economical they are. You can read about it from her, here. Her photo of her dinner makes me hungry all over again for another cooked roast.
So now on to the corn bread, like I said I was in no mood to spend lots of time cooking so I mixed my corn bread right in the cast iron frying pan and tossed it in the oven to bake. My recipe calls for corn meal, I decided to use up some I ground last fall while preparing for our 7 months of eating from our pantry. The recipe also called for a small amount of white flour, I used ground oats and a bit of bran flour. There is also a small amount of “liquid fat” my recipe calls for so I used flax oil with a splash of sunflower oil. It turned out yummy. * here is another little Karyn is not into cooking tonight tip…the recipe needed a cup of milk. Since I am doing my baking with powdered milk to cut back on the fresh milk ($$ & running to the farm down the road) I didn’t bother mixing the milk first I tossed about 3 TBS of the milk powder right in the flour mix and added a cup of water with the oil and egg.
20 minutes and very little dishes later we were stuffed full of our convenience food…farm style. Now to decide what is for dinner tonight. I think it will be a “farm house buffet” (leftovers for those of you who are wondering). We have some Shepard’s pie, pea soup, potato salad and fresh spinach that need to be used up. Almost forgot the brownies and chocolate chip cookies…
So whats for dinner at your house tonight?
This is the first of September and the Jewel Weed is in full bloom. I just love this plant. I love the beautiful flowers, I love the healing value of this plant and I love playing with the seed pods. When you touch fully ripe ones they burst open and send the seeds flying. Great fun.
Summer often brings poison ivy rashes while haying and it will soon be fall here and that means it’s time to cut back the brush, rake up leaves and another round of poison ivy. Sad but true, no matter how hard we try someone always catches it.
Fresh Jewel Weed leaves and stems picked fresh from the plant are the best choice when using this to cure poison ivy. But when it’s not in season what do you do? Well around here I make a salve, and freeze the stems and leaves in ice cube trays.
Freezing fresh leaves and stems is easy. Simply pick the leaves, flowers and stems, cut them into small pieces and place into a container with a pouring spout on it, a glass measuring cup works great for this. Place the cut plant in the measuring cup and add enough distilled water (tap water will work too.) to just cover the plant material. Let this sit overnight on the counter, the next day pour it, plant material and all into ice cube trays and freeze. When frozen place the cubes into a storage container in the freezer until you need it. When you do need it, simply rub the frozen cube on the rash and it should help a great deal.
Salve has been popular around here too. My sister has used I bet 6 containers of it herself this summer. She always catches it from the hay, or from the dogs who run through the stuff then love up to her…. Not much she can do about it, around here house she has removed all the plants but the fields and woods around her house are full of it. She doesn’t want to keep the dogs tied so it’s a given she will catch it before the season is out.
She also uses this salve before going out into the yard to work as a barrier on her skin, works well for her and she swears by it. When she is done into the shower to use the Jewel Weed soap.
So here are some general guideline on how to make your own.
Pick fresh flowering Jewel Weed early in the morning after it has had time to dry. Hang the plant roots and all in a cool dry dark spot until it is completely dry and the leaves crumble easily. Don’t worry about pulling up the plant, it is an annual and will not come back next year from the same plant if you didn’t pull it up. Don’t pick all you find leave some to spread seeds so you will have more next year.
When dry crumble the entire plant minus the dirt from the roots into a clean jar. Cover with olive oil, put on the cover and let sit in the sun for a few weeks.
When ready, strain the oil and put the plant material into the compost pile. Warm the infused oil until hot, melt beeswax and blend the two together. Then pour into clean containers and label. I like to make this salve on the thin side (less beeswax) so it spreads on the rash easily without lots of rubbing!
This will help dry the rash and soothe the itching from it. Applied several times a day should do the trick.
If you aren’t up to making your own or don’t have access to this wonderful plant I offer the salve at our Country Store in 1 ounce tins. Soon I will also be listing some Jewel Weed soap.
I also have there tins of Yarrow salve. This salve is good for everyday itchy bites and minor cuts like paper cuts as it will take the pain away quickly.
Don’t use Yarrow Salve on deep or dirty wounds as Yarrow will heal it to quickly and may trap in the dirt and any bacteria. We have also been using this salve on bruises with good success. Awhile back Sage, our horse stepped on my foot, leaving a big swollen bruise and small cuts. I applied the Yarrow salve several times a day and before going to bed. It took the swelling down quickly and helped with the bruising. Good stuff to have in you first-aid kit.
The other day I talked about some of the things I am changing to get ready for the slow season around here, this means winter. I don’t like trips into town and put it off until I have to go when winter sets in it’s even worse. One single flake of snow and I’m not going anywhere.
Often I wish I had something that doesn’t have all that long of a shelf life and hard to stock up on. Sour cream and buttermilk are two that come to mind often around here for making meals for my family.
Dick is a sweetie and will go for me but I ofen discover I need these things in the middle of a recipe and he either isn’t home or I don’t want to wait for him to get back. His trips to the country store could be hours long if he runs into someone he knows and around here who doesn’t he know?
After a bit of research in the old cookbooks I have come up with these two recipes. The first one is how to keep buttermilk as a starter to start more buttermilk or things like the sour cream.
There are two types of buttermilk one is the result of making fresh butter, that isn’t the kind I am talking about. I am talking about cultured buttermilk. In my research I discovered you can make a substitute that will work in some recipes. That is using whole milk and mixing in a bit of lemon juice or white vinegar. While that will work in a pinch I want cultured buttermilk.
First you will need a pint size jar that is clean and sterilized. I don’t worry to much about this, just that the jar has been washed in HOT soapy water and rinsed well. To this add a cup of fresh raw milk. Put the cover on and set on the counter until it has clabbered. Clabbering is when the milk has had a chance to thicken, not sour to become curdled but thick is the best way I can describe it. This should take several days.
Once that has happened place ¼ cup of the clabbered milk into another clean sterile pint jar. Add to this 1 cup of whole milk, it doesn’t have to be raw milk this time. Put the cover on and shake well. Allow it to sit at room temperature until it has clabbered. This will take another couple of days.
Repeat this process, ¼ cup of clabbered milk and 1 cup fresh milk several more times until the milk will clabber in 24 hours. Give it a taste it should taste tart and not bitter.
To make a quart of buttermilk, take a clean quart jar and add 6 ounces of your buttermilk starter and fill the rest of the jar with fresh milk. Put the cover on and shake well, allow this to clabber then put in the fridge for use. This should take 24 hours.
Don’t toss out all that clabbered milk while making your starter. It can be used as liquid in baking or fed to the animals.
Making Sour Cream
You will need a clean sterile quart jar with lid.
To this jar add 2 Tablespoons of your fresh buttermilk (or fresh cultured buttermilk from the store) if it is less that one day old. If not use a bit more buttermilk and add 1 cup of cream or half and half . Put the cover on and shake well.
Let this sit in a warm place on the counter for 24 hours until it clabbers. Date the jar and put in the fridge.
It’s that easy. Store bought milk is fine. I have also discovered that 2% milk will work but doesn’t have as good a flavor and is very thin. The more fat in the milk the thicker the sour cream is. I would like to try powdered milk and will sooner or later.
Now is all this work worth it you may ask? Well that is a question only you can answer, it’s not that much work in fact it’s down right easy. How can you mess up pouring milk in a jar and letting it sit on the counter? It is to me when I want buttermilk and sour cream but don’t want to go to the store, I have it right here.
Is it cost effective? Again that depends, around here it sure is, here are a few numbers for you:
½ gallon of half & half cream …..$2.99 store brand
1 pint sour cream…..$2.29 store brand
1 quart buttermilk, cultured…..$3.99
So here are a couple of recipes to use that wonderful buttermilk and sour cream should you decide to give it a try. Since I make my own convenience mixes this one is a favorite around here.
Buttermilk pancakes mix
- 14 cups flour ( I use a combination of whole wheat, white and flax meal)
- 6 Tbl. baking powder
- 1 Tbl. plus 2 tsp. baking soda
- 1 Tbl. plus 1 tsp. salt
- 1 cup sugar
Sift together 3 times and store in air tight container.
To make the pancakes:
- 1 ½ cups pancake mix
- 1 ¼ cup buttermilk
- 1 extra large egg (or 2 med)
- 2 Tbl. vegetable oil ( I use sunflower, flax or olive)
- 3 Tbl. water
- 2 Tbl. melted butter
Add the dry mix to a large bowl. In another bowl mix together the remaining ingredients, then add to the mix until just blended. Don’t over mix. I let this sit a couple of minutes before cooking on the electric grill that has been greased.
Preheat oven to 375° f (190° c)
spray muffin tins with cooking spray or use muffin papers
- 5 cups flour (I use a combination of wheat, wheat germ, white and flax seed)
- 1 ¼ cups sugar
- 4 tsp. baking powder
- ½ tsp. baking soda
- ½ tsp. salt
- zest of 1 orange
- 2 large eggs lightly beaten
- 1 ¼ cups buttermilk
- 1 1/3 cups oil
- 2 tsp. vanilla
- 4 cups fresh or frozen berries (if frozen don’t defrost first)
Whisk together eggs, buttermilk, oil and vanilla. In another bowl mix together remaining ingredients except berries. Fold the wet ingredients into the dry. Gently fold in the berries. Don’t over stir or muffins will be tough.
Spoon into muffin tins and I let them sit a couple of minutes then bake for 20 minutes until golden brown and a pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack.
This is one of those recipes you can’t help but play around with. I have used blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries and bananas. But fresh cranberries and a bit of oatmeal for some of the flour seems to be a favorite around here, the crisp tartness of the cranberries and the crunch of the oatmeal is a big hit. When I made them with bananas I used 3 mashed added a bit of cinnamon and walnuts and left out the oil. And as you can see I didn’t use muffin tins either…Go figure, Karyn didn’t follow directions :0
Home canning or preserving can be a very rewarding task. Once you know the basics it’s pretty easy and very safe if you follow the recommendations and don’t take short cuts.
It may seem like lots of work to start with but come winter, and around here they come soon and last forever, opening a jar of home canned goods is a nice reminder of the summer past and a comfort to know the food you prepared is wholesome and nutritious for your family.
Canning jars are made by several manufactures here in the US. The most popular are the Ball, American Harvest and Kerr brands. They can be found at any local hardware store, farm store or even the grocery or department stores.
They come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Pints and Quarts are the most popular, but don’t rule out other sizes as they make nice gifts. There is also the option of regular mouth or wide mouth styles. Regular mouth are smaller in diameter at the top while the wide mouth are wider. To me I prefer the wide mouth, they are easier to pack food into.
Years back all sorts of glass jars were saved to use for canning, but sadly today the USDA doesn’t recommend it. Don’t toss theses jars out they can be used for other things as well.
Before using your jars each time you will need to first inspect them for cracks, deep scratches and nicks. Any that you find can’t be used safely for canning but will have other uses for storing things like leftovers or dry goods, so don’t toss them out unless badly damaged. Chipped jars will not seal and cracked or deeply scratched jars may burst in the canner making a mess you won’t want to clean up.
Lids and Bands
Today’s jars here in the US are all a 2 piece system- a flat metal part known as a lid and a screw top band to secure the lid down. You can reuse the bands if they are not bent or rusty. Don’t reuse the lids for canning , the USDA tell us they will not seal properly and your food will spoil and make you sick.
You can however reuse the lids if you are just going to store dry goods or leftovers in the jars. I put an X on them with a marker so I know they have been canned with, if they don’t already have writing on the top. I like to write on the lids the contents of the jar after they have cooled from the canner. That’s me though, others use a label on the side of the jar, I don’t because I hate labels, they are a pain to me to get back off the jar when washing them.
If I intend to give the jar as a gift I make a little tag, punch a hole in the corner and use a string to tie it to the jar just under where the band screws down. Or I make a round label to fit the lid and cover up all the writing. Either way works nicely.
Bands and lids come in 2 sizes just like the jars, regular and wide mouth. When you purchase new lids be sure you have enough plus a few extra of the size you need. More than once I have opened a new package of lids and found one or two that are damaged. Either they are missing part of the metal when they were stamped out or the rubber on the inside is badly nicked or missing. CHECK THE LIDS before putting them on your jars.
Sterilize your jars and lids
You will want to wash your jars, lids and bands in hot soapy water then rinse them well.
Next set them in a deep pot and fill it with water the jars too, to cover them by at least 1″ above the top of them. Set the pot to boil and continue to boil for about 10 minutes. This is know as sterilizing your jars. You can also do this in the dishwasher if you have one. Wash only the jars when sterilizing them and not with other dirty dishes. Leave them where they are until you are ready to fill them with what every you are going to can in them.
The lids should be placed in a small pan of boiling water and left there until you are ready to use it. They make a nifty tool with a magnet on the end to fish them out of the hot water one at a time. A good investment, but me I just quickly grab one and get burnt every time.
If your jars are going to be processed for 10 minutes or more there is no need to sterilize your jars, but they do need to be clean.
There are many brands of canners on the market. Both the water bath canners and pressure canners. But if you are starting out I would suggest using a water bath canner until you get comfortable with how the whole process works then move on the investment of a pressure canner.
Water Bath Canners
A water bath canner is basically a large enamel coated pot, very deep to hold the jars while processing them. There are racks made to lift the jars in and out of the boiling water. But any large pot will work as long as you can cover the jars with at least 2″ of water above the top of the jars and the water won’t boil out all over your stove. It will also need a cover.
If you don’t have a rack, that’s okay too, you can use a round cooling rack or even a folded towel on the bottom. This will keep the jars from banging on the bottom of the pot and cracking them.
A 23 quart water bath canner can hold 7 jars at a time. You will be limited to what you can process in a water bath canner. Jams, jellies, tomatoes, pickles, some fruits and relish. Basically high acid food. You can not can veggies, meats, stews, broth or simular items in the water bath canner, you must use a pressure canner.
Now, while it is true that all foods can be processed in a pressure canner, and this will save considerable time because they come to a boil quicker, can hold more jars and processing times can also be quicker.
Some might not want to or have the means to purchase such an expensive piece of equipment as a pressure canner. Not that there is any thing to be afraid of or worry about with a pressure canner as long as you follow the instructions. They are very easy and versatile. A good investment for the homestead. You can also cook entire meals in them.
If you do decide to purchase a pressure canner don’t skimp on the size or quality. Buy the best and largest you can afford. The All American Pressure Canner is about the best I have found and have been recommended to me by many seasoned home canners and homesteaders alike. They will last a life time if taken care of.
Your cooking pot
This should be another large deep pot with a fitting cover. Again enamel coated or stainless steel. Aluminum will react with many foods. You also want this pot plenty deep enough so the contents won’t boil over onto your stove top. I use a double bottom stainless steel stock pot.
Lots of clean dry kitchen towels to wipe up spills and used damp to wipe the rim and sides of jars before adding the lids and bands. Also for setting your processed jars on when they come out of the canner to cool.
A wide mouth funnel is a good thing to have. It helps get the food into the jars without making such a mess. I have seen these in both plastic and metal. Mine is plastic and after just a few short years of use it it’s starting to crack. So I would suggest to start our right with a nice metal one.
A ladle, large slotted stainless steel spoon, and large wooden spoon. For stirring and filling your jars.
A jar lifter, this is a sepecial tool with rubber on the ends to lift the jars in and out of the canner.
A kitchen knife. For removing air bubbles from the jars before putting on the lids and bands. Simply slide it into the jar to where the air bubbles are. They also make a special spatular for this task, but I never have tried one.
Good sized pieces of cheese cloth for straining jellies.
There are probably other gadgets out there for canning, but these are the basics to start with and all that I use here.
Where to store the jars
A cool, dry and dark place is ideal. I remove the bands and store the jars in the pantry & stack them 2 high. One disadvantage to the way I label my jars is there is no writing on the side of the jar to tell me what is in it, but a quick look at the top and I know. If I am going to store them 2 high I use a piece of cardboard on top of the first layer of jars. This keeps them from banging together and provides a stable base for the top layer to sit on.
Storing them in the jar box is another good way, and you will know where to put all the empty jars.
Where to find the recipes
Well, I would recommend you make the investment and purchase the Ball Blue Book or the Ball Blue Book Guide to Home Canning and Freezing.There are many great books available but this is the one I have. Or go to one of the trusted canning site and print out the recipe and put them in a 3 ring binder.
There are also many sites on the Internet:
USDA Canning Publications be sure to check out the publications link for more info.
Pick Your Own website– has tons of info and recipes there.
Ball Website– great info and recipes
A word of caution, before deciding on a recipe you find on the Internet, check one of the trusted guides, many recipes I have seen are not suitable for canning for one reason or another. Use good judgement and only UADA recipes until you have a good knowledge about canning and processing times. Generally speaking most foods can be canned safely if you use the processing time for the ingredient that will require the longest processing time. This will broaden you recipes and give you courage to use your own. But first start with trusted recipes, there are plenty of them.