How Come There Isn’t Enough?

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I need more time.  24 hours in a day isn’t enough….

24 hours in one day
- 8 hours for sleeping
- 1 hour for eating
- 8 hours for working
- 3 hours for “domestic chores”
- 1 hour for errands/etc.
= 3 hours a day for knitting/fiber related hobbies….

Seriously

How am I supposed to get these projects done?

DSC01793This is what I have on the go at the moment (not counting the project that is currently on Bob the loom, whom is missing from this photo…sorry Bob). I have a sweater just started (the lovely gold/brown yarn), a hat completed, but matching mitts need to be knitted too, BUT first I need to finish spinning the yarn to knit the mitts. I also have a pattern created by moi for fingerless mitts (the purple coloured item) that not only needs to be finished, but needs to be written up so I know how to make them again and a *short* afghan to be made for hubby who is always complaining I never make him anything.

Oh, and throw gardening/yardwork into the mix cause it is summertime and canning season and…. well you get the idea.

I know…poor me.

Something needs to go from this list, either work, or sleep….and I am fairly certain I will make the wrong decision.

Deborah

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Having a Stocked Pantry is….

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like having your very own grocery store in your home.  Minus the outrageous prices and hard to pronounce ingredients that belong in scientific experiments.

I am winding down on canning season, my big ‘ol canning pot will soon be put away for another year.  It is time to enjoy a well stocked pantry and take pride in knowing the food we will be eating is actually that – food.  Not genetically modified, disease resistant and/or hormone filled products that the government deems safe.  What is safe about ingredients that have more than 12 letters in its name?

Me, I prefer produce grown locally which is then turned into ‘real food’.  No chemicals, no preservatives, just good, old-fashioned, hand made pantry staples.

Here is a peek at my pantry, located in the crawlspace (sorry for the dingy lighting, no amount of editing made it look any better) and just about filled to the brim.  The only thing left to do is to make more spiced blueberry jam (later in winter, the precious berries are all frozen at the moment) and tomatillo salsa, the tomatillo plant aka Green Monster, still has a thousand fruits left to ripen on it.

pantry goodsI have 54 jars of my spicy pasta sauce, 50 was my goal as we used all of last years up by June.  All my jams are done; chipotle peach, peach jalapeño jelly, mint jelly, strawberry lemon marmalade, spiced blueberry jam and tomato basil jam, along with dill pickles, green tomato relish, pickled serrano peppers, tomatillo salsa, pickled beets and canned tomatoes.  I still have regular salsa left from last year as well as a few jars of peach salsa, but I need to make some more mango nectarine salsa as that stuff is awesome on chicken and pork or try it with home-made cinnamon tortilla chips.

I hope I have inspired some of you to venture into canning/processing your own grown (or locally obtained) produce.  Trust me, it is better for you and your family plus it ensures you are supporting your local farm community vs items shipped from over 3,000 miles away.

Now that Fall is all but officially here, it is time to wrap up in something warm and comfy and maybe head to a nearby apple orchard…after all….it is apple season!

imagesCAY8RVLMApple Pie anyone?

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Random Weekend Stuff

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Busy.  Busy.  Busy.

That just about sums up our weekend.  Saturday’s weather was gorgeous, so hubby took advantage of the sun and warm temps to continue on with fixing the dock that was damaged during last April’s freak ice show put on by Mother Nature.

Dock PieceFirst was making a 33′ long side section that will sit on top of the frame timber on the left side of the dock.  Fashioned from a double set of 2′ x 10′s screwed together, the beast weighed a TON.  It sure looked purdy sitting up on the blocks….but then we had to haul it to the water and get it into position to be bolted down.  Which wasn’t easy, and left me with a bruised right forearm for my efforts.

DockThere, part one done, many more parts still to go…

Juvenile LoonWhile hubby was standing in the water attaching the piece to the dock, a juvenile loon was showing off his fishing skills under the watchful eye of his nearby mama.  Who called out to her charge once she realized he was getting a little too close to us for her comfort level.

I had seen fuzzy babies riding on their parents back, but had not had the opportunity to see one almost full grown and learning to fish on his own.  Truly a beautiful moment watching these gorgeous creatures of the North country.

While hubby was puttering with the dock, I was puttering with the gardens.  I de-tomatoed the last of the tomato plants, relegating the stems and stalks to the compost heap and filled up the small, beachside flower garden with planter soil from the cherry tomato planter.  No sense wasting good potting soil, and it will help the small space hold moisture next summer.

Beach FlowersI wish I could remember this flowers name…but I didn’t keep the seed packet.  It is a perennial, so it will come back next year.

Bumble MarigoldThen this guy was found wandering the marigolds, trying to gather as much pollen as possible before the flowers disappear for winter.

On Sunday, the weather turned drastically and we ended up with rain for the afternoon/evening.  I finished up the last of the tomatoes turning them into my spicy pasta sauce and aside from a couple batches of tomatillo salsa, the canning season is fast coming to an end.  The gardens at home will be dismantled in the coming weeks which will make for some additional free time…for knitting….and fall closet organization….yipee!

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The Most Wonderful Day Of The Year!

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Bwahahahahaha…the kidlets head back to school today.  Thank goodness the running amok all day long, screeching like banshees is done with for another summer.

I don’t like children very much.  I tolerate them at best.  They are loud.  They can be smelly.  They can definitely be dirty…and they ask WAY too many questions.

Why?

Why?

WHY?

I don’t know why!   Go ask your father!

So in honour of today’s special day (Back to School Day), I am spending the day in my jammies, knitting, reading, skinning and chopping tomatoes for sauce along with making one last batch of peach jalapeño jelly, all while reveling in the peace and quiet of the Great White North.

I am sad to see Summer fast coming to an end, but as the Staples commercial goes…

“It’s the most Wonderful Time Of The Year”

music-notes

Ahhhh…the soothing sounds of silence….

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Preserving and Canning Food Guidelines

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In light of recent news of a jam being responsible for the food poisoning episode last week at Toronto’s annual CNE (Canadian National Exhibition), it shows that even a commercial maker of jam’s and jellies can slip up when making their product.

Home cooks must follow a very strict and rigid set of rules when canning/preserving food for their families to avoid serious illness contracted from bacteria as a result of improper food handling.

I preserve a lot of food for my family, most of it being different types of jams, jellies and tomato products.  I have always taken every precaution in order to ensure food safety for my family.  There are guidelines to follow for canning and preserving food and I would like to remind everyone that preserves their own food, that these quidelines were created for our own safety and well being.

Pickle2

Rules of Canning and Preserving

1.  Always start with the freshest ingredients, if it is produce, ensure it is washed and inspected for bad spots or mould.  Toss any and all damaged product.

2.  Ensure your work space, utensils and yourself (hands especially) are spic n’ span clean prior to beginning.

3.  Sterilize all canning jars, lids and screw bands as per manufacturers instructions.  This cannot be stressed enough.

4.  Follow recipes to the letter, do not be tempted to omit an item (especially an acid called for in a recipe) because you either forgot to buy it or ran out.  Canning recipes are tested until perfect with ingredients being listed that way for a reason.  Ensure the product is cooked to the exact specifications called for.

5. Fill jars with prepared product to the required headspace, wipe rims with a clean cloth before placing on the lids.  Screw bands down until fingertip tight.

6. Process jars in a water canning bath for the exact time called for in the recipe, same with pressure cookers, do not be tempted to shorten the time because you are running out of time.

7.  Ensure all jars are properly sealed before storing.  Any jars that have not sealed, either re-process or store in the fridge and use within a week.

There are several Home Canning books available from the maker’s of the glass canning jars (Ball and Bernardin), so do yourself a favour and head to your local bookstore to obtain one, better safe than sorry is my motto!

We live in a highly civilized country with the technology and know-how to ensure we do not eat contaminated food.  The 150 or so people that fell ill at the CNE deserved to be served food that was safe and it is disappointing to see things like this still happen in our country.

Following these tried and true rules will ensure your family is safe from food borne illnesses and not become another statistic.

Ok, the lecture is over.  You may continue on with your day.

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Tom-ay-toe or To-mah-toe?

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I have oodles and oodles of the luscious red garden fruit and have been in tomato heaven for the past couple weeks.  Highlights have been making Tomato~Basil Jam, Green Tomato Relish, eating them every morning with my toasted cheese and tomato sammie, as well as thinly slicing them for pizza nights.  I have also spent part of this past weekend making homemade pasta sauce.  Which turned out 1000% better than last year’s batch, mainly because last year I had those stupid tomatoes that wouldn’t turn colour until December, no seriously, I had tomatoes sitting on the counter at the end of December waiting to turn red…dumb tomatoes.

So this year I planted Roma Toms and Beefsteak Toms.  Roma’s for canning and beefsteaks for eating.  I did end up buying a half bushel of Roma’s at the market to supplement what I had ripe from my own gardens.   Last year I made 40 (500 ml) jars of pasta sauce (we go through a lot of it) and we almost made it to the end of June before I had to resort to store bought (gasp!) so I need to make sure we have enough to last us until next summer.  15 jars done, many more to go though as I am aiming for around 50 jars.

I changed the recipe slightly this year, and boy, what a wicked batch it turned out to be.  If you like spicy and garlicky (and the rest of your family does too), then I think you may just like this one.

If you aren’t into canning, you can always scale down the recipe and make a half batch and freeze into dinner sized servings, remember to omit the lemon juice though as it is only needed for canning purposes.

Spicy Homestead Pasta Sauce

Spicy Pasta Sauce

Ingredients

50 Roma Tomatoes, peeled, cored and roughly chopped♦
6 Whole Garlic Bulbs, roasted♥
1 Yellow and 1 Red Bell Pepper, seeded, roasted, peeled and roughly chopped♠
3 Tbsp packed Brown Sugar
2 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
1 Tbsp Kosher Salt (or to taste)
1/2 tsp Ground Black Pepper
2 tsp Red Pepper Flakes (or to taste if you have wimpy tastebuds)
2 Cups lightly packed fresh Basil leaves, snipped
1 Cup lightly packed assorted fresh herbs (Oregano, Parsley), chopped
6 Tbsp Lemon Juice *

Directions

♥ To roast garlic bulbs, cut off the top of the bulbs so that each clove is exposed, place in a baking dish and drizzle with Olive Oil.  Roast for approximately 45 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool enough to handle.  Squeeze out garlic cloves into a small dish; set aside.

garlic

♠ To roast peppers, cut peppers in half and remove seeds/membranes.  Place on a foil lined sheet pan, cut side down, brush with Olive Oil and roast with the garlic bulbs for the same amount of time; remove from oven and immediately enclose the peppers with the foil on the sheet pan, let sit until cool enough to handle.  Remove skins and roughly chop peppers; set aside.

♦ To peel tomatoes, make an ‘x’ with a knife at the blossom end of each tomato.  Place tomatoes in a pot of boiling water for about a minute or until skins start to split.  Immediately plunge into a bowl of ice water.  Slip skins off, remove the core and roughly chop tomatoes into a large colander set into a large bowl.

Chopped tomatoes

Cover with plastic wrap and allow tomatoes to drain for at least 4 hours and up to 8 hours.   Draining shortens the cooking time as most of the liquid is removed prior to cooking.  You should have approximately 15 cups of chopped, drained tomatoes.

Prepare canning jars and lids and have at the ready.

In a very large stock pot, combine tomatoes, peppers and garlic cloves; using an immersion blender, blend all ingredients until a smooth consistency is achieved (if you like a chunkier sauce, then process to desired consistency).  If you do not have an immersion blender, use a regular blender or a food processor but you will have to blend smaller batches as it will not all fit at once in the chosen appliance.

Stir in brown sugar, vinegar, pepper, kosher salt and red pepper flakes (if using); bring to a boil over high heat, reduce to medium heat and let cook (uncovered) stirring often, for at least an hour or until desired consistency is reached.  Remove from heat and add the chopped herbs, stirring to combine.

* Place one tablespoon of lemon juice into each hot, sterilized canning jar, immediately fill jars with the sauce leaving a half-inch headspace.  Wipe rims, adjust lids and place screwbands on until fingertip tight.

Process in a hot water canning bath (ensure jars are covered by at least an inch of water) for 35 minutes.  **Start timing when water returns to a boil**.

Remove jars once time is complete and let cool undisturbed for 24 hours on a wire rack.  Ensure lids are sealed (they will be concave), if not, refrigerate unsealed jars and use within a week.

Makes 6 x 500 ml (pint) jars.

Enjoy!

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Mint Jelly

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We are continuing the Jelly theme this week.  Mainly because I have an overabundance of mint (who woulda thunk such a thing could ever happen!), anyone who has ever grown mint can attest to the virility of the fragrant herb.

I used to have mint planted IN the garden.  Then it tried to take over the world.  I dug it up in the Fall a few years ago, then spent a couple Spring’s digging/chopping out runners that were popping up all over.  After 3 years, it has been eradicated from the garden.  Until last year when I started one from a cutting and kept it confined to a pot.

Much easier to manage that way.  Saves you from running out every other day to rescue your other garden plants from being strangled by wayward mint.

This is a very basic mint jelly recipe, all you need is mint, lemon juice, sugar and pectin…oh, and a few drops of green food colouring to liven up the colour.  Mint has a tendency to steep into a pale yellow shade that when placed in cute little canning jars, resemble medical specimen bottle contents…..not at all the desired effect.

You can use mint jelly in a variety of ways, most notably being used as a condiment for lamb and pork.  But it can also liven up marinades for most any red meat.  How about a slightly melted spoonful over vanilla ice cream? or letting it dissolve in a steaming bowl of fresh peas or new potatoes?  But I think probably the best match in the world with mint would be chocolate…so why not dabbing a tich on a square of 80% dark chocolate?  Mental note – I must go buy some dark chocolate tomorrow…..

Enjoy!

Mint Jelly

Mint Jelly

Ingredients

1 1/2 Cups Packed Fresh Mint Leaves
2 1/4 Cups Water
2 Tbsp Lemon Juice
3 1/2 Cups Granulated Sugar
1 Pouch Liquid Fruit Pectin (Certo)
Green Food Colouring

Directions

Wash mint leaves in cold water and pat dry on paper towels.  Measure out 1 1/2 cups of tightly packed leaves; place in a medium saucepan and add the water.  Bring to a boil, remove from heat and let steep for 15 to 20 minutes.

Strain in a jelly bag or several layers of 100% cotton cheesecloth.  You should have 1 3/4 cups of mint liquid.

Prepare canning jars and lids and keep at the ready.

In a large saucepan, combine the mint liquid, sugar and lemon juice.  Bring to a rolling boil.  Add pectin all at once, stirring constantly, bring back to a full rolling boil and boil hard for one minute.  Remove from heat and skim off any foam with a metal spoon.  Add food colouring to desired shade, stirring constantly to settle any remaining foam.

Ladle into hot, sterilized jars, wipe rims, center lids and screw bands down until fingertip tight.

Process in a hot water canning bath for 10 minutes.  Start timing when water returns to a full boil.  After 10 minutes, remove lid of canner, shut off heat and let sit inside the canner for another 5 minutes.

Remove to cool undisturbed for 24 hours.

Makes 4 half-pint jars (I used 4 ounce jars and filled 8 of them).

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Peach Jalapeño Jelly

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Peaches are probably my second favourite fruit….right after Strawberries.  Good thing one is out of season before the next comes in, otherwise I wouldn’t know which delicious, delectable delight to grab first.

I have already put away loads of Strawberry Freezer Jam, Strawberry Lemon Marmalade and bags of whole frozen berries…but now it is time for…

Peach Bonanza Season!

Chipotle Peach Jam was made first, with Peach Jalapeño Jelly hot on its heels.  Less labour intensive than the Chipotle Peach Jam, as you just seed and roughly chop the peaches and chop the peppers leaving most of the seeds in for the heat.

I first made a batch of this jam three years ago but it kind of got lost amongst the many different jams I have been making lately.  It was time to make another batch and I realized I had not put it up on this site….so let me rectify that for you pronto.

Peach Jalapeno Jelly

Peach Jalapeño Jelly

Ingredients

2 lbs Fresh, ripe Peaches (peeled, pitted and roughly chopped)
1 Cup Cider Vinegar
5 Fresh Jalapeño Peppers (if your peppers are really large, use just 3-4) coarsely chopped (deseed some or all if you have wimpy tastebuds)
5 Cups Sugar
1/2 of a 6 oz package (one pouch) of Certo Liquid Pectin

Directions

Prepare canning jars and lids.

In a large non-stick or stainless steel pot, lightly mash peaches with a potato masher; add jalapeños and cider vinegar.  Bring to a boil over high heat; reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 20-30 minutes or until peaches and peppers are very soft.

Remove from heat and ladle into a jelly bag or several layers of 100% cotton cheesecloth.  Drain for at least 2 hours.  Do NOT squeeze the bag in an attempt to get out more juice, this will only make your jelly cloudy.  You should have 2 cups of strained juice when finished (if not, top up with unsweetened apple juice to make 2 cups).

In the same large pot, add the 2 cups peach/pepper juice and the 5 cups of sugar.  Bring to a full rolling boil over high heat, stirring constantly.  Quickly stir in pectin.  Return to a full rolling boil and boil hard for one minute, stirring constantly.

Remove from heat, skim off foam with a metal spoon and continue stirring for an additional 5 minutes to dissipate any straggling foam.

Ladle into hot, sterilized canning jars, wipe rims, seal screw bands to fingertip tight.  Process in a hot water canner for 5 minutes (start timing when water returns to a full rolling boil).

Remove from canner without tilting jars.  Let sit at room temperature for 24 hours undisturbed.  Leave another 12 to 24 hours to let jelly set up.

Makes 5 half-pint jars.

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Tomatillo Monster

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I have a gardening success.
A HUGE gardening success.

I have effectively mastered the art of growing Tomatillos.

Last year I tried to grown them and I failed miserably.  Out of the three plants that were lovingly placed in the ground, 2 died and the third one grew and grew and grew and put forth masses of flowers and continued flowering like it was the last flowering plant on Earth.

But not one Tomatillo developed.
I was devastated.
OK, not really, but it was rather upsetting.

Reason being, Tomatillo plants need another Tomatillo plant beside them in order for the flowers to be pollinated.  No other Tomatillo plant….no pollination….no Tomatillos.    Simple as that.  Mother Nature sure loves to toss curveballs to gardeners.  I don’t try to understand her mysterious ways, I just accept them.   So this year, I tried again, and successfully planted 3 together in one spot.   I babied these things so much hubby was jealous.

This is what they look like now.

Tomatillo Plant

The combined plants are over 4 feet tall, with a spread of at least 4 feet across the top.  I have tried to reign them in with stakes and twine, plus giving them regular haircuts, but they are totally out of control.    Tomatillos will give mint a run for the money in the fastest growing/spreading category.  Taking the gold medal and making the mint sulk in the corner of the garden with second place.

Every main branch continually divides itself and shoots off more branches, like a Kardashian family tree, until there are so many branches full of flowers and fruit, you can’t possibly think it will sprout any more.  But it does.  Like the Energizer Bunny…it keeps on going.

Tomatillos

There are hundreds of these little green *paper* lanterns hanging everywhere.  If you gently squeeze the husks, you can feel the tomatillo growing inside.  Kinda cool, but they are smothering my pepper and tomato plants in the process.  Next year, they will have a huge area all to themselves to manufacture their tart little green gems en masse.

I arrived home from the Northern Homestead yesterday to find a dozen tomatillos ready for the picking…yippee!!

tomatillos

I have a feeling I will soon be up to my ears in tons of tomatillos.  Good thing I have some recipes to toss them in.  Like fresh or cooked salsas as well as my favourite Mexican dishes like my skinny girl Chilaquiles, Chicken Enchiladas and Black Bean & Wild Rice Enchiladas.

I have created a Monster…and I love it.

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What I Did On My Summer Vacation

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I am back from Vacation.  Did you miss me?  I hope so.

I love vacations.  They allow you to spoil yourself with too much food, too many spirits, too many late nights and too many days sleeping in.  All that spoiling leads to weight gain and a vacation hangover of monumental proportions.

Time to get back in control before I become the eighth Dwarf named Glutton.

I did accomplish quite a bit of stuff around the Homestead though.  The gardens kept me busy picking and weeding, along with herbs being trimmed, washed and hung to dry.  With the bounty that is now starting to come off the plants, it was time to get some canning and preserving done.

Herbs

First up was Chipotle Peach Jam.  I made two batches of the smokey-sweet concoction as one was for me and the other for my daughter, who was supposed to help, but ended up having to head back home before the peaches I bought from the market were ripe enough.

Next was Green Tomato Relish, oh man, this stuff is delicious on a hamburger or grilled sausage.  It is also a perfect recipe for when you are at the end of the growing season and have a picked the last of the green tomatoes before relegating the plants to the compost heap.  Be forewarned though, making this relish is an open invitation to every fruit fly within a 50 mile radius.  I have kept a shot glass of balsamic vinegar with a few drops of dishsoap on the window ledge for a couple weeks now, the last time I dumped it there were at least 50 of the little buggers in there. If you haven’t heard of this unique flytrap, give it a whirl, it works wonders.

Peaches made another headline in my Jalapeño Peach Jelly, of which the recipe will be posted later this week, so you will just have to wait for it.  This rose tinted jewel has a unique flavor that livens up the standard PB and Jelly sammie but it also shows its sophisticated side by starring on top of a brie-topped cracker.

I also have Tomato Basil Jam to be done this week but I am waiting for a few more toms to ripen for the batch.  This stuff is awesome as well.  I love having a variety of jams to choose from for my morning toast, not to mention it makes for great hostess gifts in a pinch.

In between all the canning chores, we definitely made sure we had *fun*.  Kayaking in and around the islands of the South Bay, tending to my ever growing duck farm (never mind the feather pillow, I believe I have enough for a Queen size duvet), campfires at night with star-filled skies to stare up into and bike rides to try and burn off excess calories consumed.  Knitting was also a high priority as we had a few days of cooler temps where it felt like Fall was around the corner, so the sweater I had started in July has made it closer to completion and the afghan was hauled out to work on as well (and keep me warm in the process).

Homestead afghan

All in all a great vacation, with plenty of ideas for upcoming new posts rattling around in my brain to be put to cyber paper.  I need to start writing notes when an idea hits, as I am at the age where if you don’t write it down…poof… it’s gone from the memory banks.

What was I talking about? Oh yes, vacation.  Is it time to go on one yet? I think I need a vacation from my vacation…..

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