Posts Tagged ‘Canning’

It seems jamming plums is a popular thing to do with us Dabblers. I was lucky enough to stumble upon a heavily laden plum tree at the edge of a neighbor’s yard. Since they weren’t picking the plums, i picked a pretty peck for myself! Over 15 pounds! I dried the first batch, but as we’re out of jam i felt the need to get the canning supplies out and make some jam!

I am not a fastidious person. This laziness makes canning difficult for me. Once i get going, i’m fine – but i’m frequently daunted by all the cleaning and preparing that is necessary for safe canned goods and often end up just freezing my work instead of processing it – which is really lame when you have a small freezer but plenty of cupboard space. I wasn’t a chicken this time, and put up 10 half pints of plum/blackberry (last year’s frozen berries) jam and half a dozen jars of spicy plum sauce which i think will accompany the rabbits i have in the freezer quite nicely.

I got the plum sauce recipe right out of the Ball Blue Book and scrimcoached the jam recipe. As i cooked down the fruit i perchanced to notice that the coupon found in my pectin box was dated 2008…. finding that odd i looked more closely at the expiration date on the pectin itself: April 2010! Woopsy! I only bought this pectin last year, though i did buy it from the bare and no de-funct grocery store here in Philomath……   Note my lack of fastidiousness. Luckily, the jam tastes and jelled just fine- so i think i’m in the clear. I used about 2 cups sugar to 5 pounds chopped plums and berries with a splash of lemon juice and a package of pectin. I can’t wait for toast this Winter spread on homemade bread and raw butter. No baking this time of year, it’s too darned hot!

What’s been filling your canning jars so far this Summer?

Read Full Post »

With all my traveling, sewing, soap making and present wrapping, i missed out on participating in much handmade holiday conversation here at Not Dabbling, so my post this week will be a run down of all the projects i worked on this year.

Check out An Austin Homestead in the next week or two to see all my projects revealed. You can also find all my original handmade holiday posts in the archives on the left sidebar.

I got started with my holiday gifts early this year, beginning in September with some canned blackberry jam made from berries i picked just down the road, blended with dried cayennes saved from my Austin garden.

While i harvested gobs of berries and sold veggies to folks at the local farmer’s market, i was inspired to make my own produce bags for use at market and at home. I played around with my crochet hooks and came up with a sweet and easy pattern. I made at least 6 of these to give to several family members as Christmas gifts. *And i’ll be posting a tutorial on how to make your own market bag soon- so stay in touch and crochet with me!

My spinning wheel was a big contributor to my gifts this year. Not only did i give some beautiful skeins of “meriboo” (merino/bamboo) yarn to my mother in law, i also spun the yarn for several knitting projects for other loved ones. One mother has a new scarf, one father has a new hat, and each sister has a headband or hat. I am especially proud of two hats i knitted for my two best friends. One is in Texas, the other in New York and thus one has ‘not so warm’ hat, and the other an extra warm hat made of handspun quivit fiber (musk ox). I don’t yet know how to follow a knitting pattern, so all my projects come out rather “uniquely” which makes them even more special: they’re the only ones like them!

Giving my handmade gifts filled me with so much pride this year. I think my recipients loved their gifts, and i could tell they were all touched by my truly ‘hands on’ experience with each of their presents. Whether spun then knit, or picked then canned: all my gifts started with me from scratch to become treasured and useful possessions that will hopefully remind my recipients of me whenever they taste, wear or use them. To sit down to spin yarn for a project for someone you love to enjoy for years to come: THAT is what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown. For me, at least.

In these dark days after Christmas (and other gift giving holidays) and before the new year, what thoughts and gifts are you pondering – both given and received? What present (given or received) stands out in your memory as the most treasured this year?

Read Full Post »

possum grapes

And just like that Elderberry season is gone! It’s time to move onward in our winemaking extravaganza, for it’s now the season for Possum Grapes. These tiny, buckshot-sized, purple grapes are mostly seed. They grow wild and can engulf entire trees in a season. Most people will cut them back before they have the chance to produce fruit, but if you’re like me you can’t resist any chance to harvest something wild (or free!).  Many people confuse Muscadines (larger and bronze when ripe) with Possum grapes (small and purple when ripe), but one you identify one, the difference will be obvious.

possum grapes

If you’ve read any of my other winemaking posts, feel free to scroll down to the actual recipe. If you’re new to winemaking be sure to read over some of these helpful hints and explanations before moving forward.

Country Wine: Equipment and Ingredients

It is possible to make wine with minimum equipment and purchases. The bare necessities (in my humble experience) that you’ll want include:

  • Food-grade bucket, preferably 5-gallon. Check with a local bakery or deli.
  • A large strainer or sieve plus some cheesecloth.
  • About 4-5 feet of food-grade tubing. Look in the plumbing section of a hardware store.
  • Gallon-sized glass carboys or 5-gallon collapsible water cubes. Carboys can be saved from juice purchases. The water cubes are fantastic for making odd-sized batches of wine and can be found at camping supply stores.
  • Balloons and cotton balls, or  airlocks.
  • Yeast. You can use regular baking yeast, but if you want a better flavor you can opt for different “wine” strains of yeast found at winemaking/brewing stores. I’ve used Montrachet as it’s recommended to balance the flavors of berry wines.
  • Bottles and Corks. I save all my bottles from other purchases like wine, vinegar, juice, and so on. I purchased “mushroom” corks since they don’t require a tool to insert them into the bottles.


  • Campden tablets to sterilize equipment, remove stray yeast and bacteria (highly recommended unless you have problems with sulfites).
  • Tannin, citric acid, or Earle Grey tea for flavor balance in sweeter wines.
  • Extra sugar or wine conditioner to sweeten and brighten finished wine.
  • Pectic acid for removing extra pectin and “clarify” wine.
  • Yeast nutrient to feed yeast. Recipes without nutrient require extra sugar.

You can purchase all of these items from a wine and beer making supplier or spend a little more energy and locate many things locally. I purchased my airlock, water cube, yeast, campden tablets, and corks from E.C. Kraus. for less than $50. The rest I found locally or did without.

Possum Grape (Wild Grape) Wine

I altered this recipe based on my purposes, though it’s roughly based on one I found at Wildfoods.info. I highly recommend that you read that entire article before proceeding here. I honestly could not give anywhere near the amount of fabulous information that is offered.

  • 1 gallon wild grapes with vine will make about 1 bottle of wine. Multiply recipe as needed.
  • 1 gallon Possum Grapes
  • 1/3 lb granulated sugar
  • 1 campden tablet (1 tablet is good for up to 1 gallon of liquid. One tablet should be enough for up to 3 gallons of grapes)
  • 1 tsp yeast
  1. Wash grapes. Wrap fruit in cheesecloth or muslin and squeeze as much juice as possible. Alternately you could crush them in a china cap with a dowel, but avoid crushing the seeds. Strain fruit overnight. Add one campden tablet before completing this portion.
  2. The next day, add sugar and yeast and mix well. Cap holding container (glass bottle, carboy, watercube) with airlock. *We are very prone to mold and mildews thanks to our humidity. If you have a drier season and desire a more natural wine, you can omit the campden tablet and yeast altogether. Prior to airlocking your wine, allow it to capture a wild yeast. You’ll know you’ve captured one when you see your wine bubbling and have no signs of bacteria. When it begins to bubble you can close your container with your airlock.
  3. When the wine stops bubbling you can siphon off the liquid from any sediment with your tubing. Siphon the wine into your sterile bottles and cork. Allow to rest about 6 months before consuming.

Possum grapes

Possum Grape (Wild Grape) Jelly

  • 1 gallon fruit, stemmed
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 5-1/2 cup sugar
  • Pectin if desired
  1. Wash grapes. Pour 1 quart boiling water over fruit. Wrap fruit in cheesecloth or muslin and squeeze as much juice as possible. Alternately you could crush them in a china cap with a dowel, but avoid crushing the seeds. Strain fruit overnight.
  2. Take four cups of grape juice and mix with remaining ingredients. Bring quickly to soft-ball stage and skim any foam before pouring into sterilized canning jars.
  3. Let boil in hot water bath for 15 minutes.
  4. Check seals on lids before putting jars in storage. 

Possum grapes

Ta daa! You have scrumdillyumptious homemade grape jelly and wine for the price of sugar and some easy pickin’.

Read Full Post »

This time of year it’s all about eating fresh in season food and trying to figure out the best way to preserve some of it for winter. I’m trying to work on growing more fresh food during the winter months, but until I get everything figured out I’m still canning/freezing/drying fruit and veggies. My sister has two HUGE cherry trees on a plot of land she rents for a garden. There were way more cherries than they needed, so she asked if we wanted some. Never being one to turn up free food, we went out last week and picked and picked, and then picked some more. It’s hard to let anything go to waste.

With mountains of cherries, I had to figure out what exactly I wanted to do with them. Since I haven’t been preserving for a long time, I like to try different methods to see which one we like best. I also didn’t have a ton of time to work on them since we had other things going on. I decided to dehydrate as many as I could and make maraschino cherries out of a few as well (we picked ones with stems just for this purpose).

I ended up running out of time pitting for drying and freezing, so I brined 4 and half gallons for canning whole. A few of them will be preserved with brandy to give away to friends, most of them will be canned whole with the stems for making chocolate covered cherries at Christmas time. I’m excited to try the canned ones to see how we like them.

I really want to have Mr Chiots build me a solar dehydrator. That way I can preserve food without using much energy at all. Dehydrating is also very nice because it doesn’t require any refrigeration for long-term storage. I also love it because it doesn’t require, jars, lids, boiling, cooking, so it saves time. Dehydrating will be my method of preservation I chose above all this year.

Do you try preserving with different methods to find which one works best for you?

I can also be found at Chiot’s Run where I blog daily about gardening, cooking, local eating, beekeeping, and all kinds of stuff. You can also find me at Simple, Green, Frugal, Co-op, and you can follow me on Twitter.

Read Full Post »

When it comes to making jams and jellies I make a LOT!  We have a big family, I bake all of our own bread and that is a combination for eating a lot of jam…

Each year I do wild blackberry, white grape, apricot, and when I can get organic nectarines or plums I make no-pectin jam with them!


6 Cups chopped nectarines or Plums(I have found that this works best with fruit chopped by hand…in a food processor makes for a softer set)

3 Cups sugar

4 TBSP Lemon Juice

Combine ingredients and bring to a slow boil for 30 minutes stirring very frequently (I just stand and stir while reading a book)

Remove from heat…at this point you can add any spices you want, cinnamon, ginger, etc.  I like ours plain.

Ladle into sterilized Jelly Jars.

Put on hot lids and rings

Tighten (but no overly tight)

Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes

This is super easy, very delicious, and a great way to preserve your soft fruit bounty for the winter.

Read Full Post »

Spring cleaning not only applies to the house, but also to the pantry! This is the time of year when I start to make a concerted effort to eat up goods the goods I preserved last summer. Soon enough I’ll be pulling out the canning pots and filing jars with this summer’s bounty and packing the freezer with fresh berries. This means I must start preparing now. The last thing I want is to end up with jar and jars of stuff from years past and have to throw some of it away. I’m not one to waste food, especially food that I spent time and energy growing and preserving.

This is the perfect time of year to start using up pantry goods. With the coming of warmer weather comes the feeling of optimism. I no longer feel the need to conserve my food resources to make sure they last through the long winter. Those feelings give way to the hope of summer bounty and I finally feel safe eating up the last few jars of tomatoes. I know that in a few months, my tiny tomato seedlings will be producing pounds of fresh summer fruit that will be eaten fresh and canned for next winter.

I find myself often in the pantry looking over jars of goods deciding what I want to make for dinner. If I spot a few jars of tomatoes, pepper relish, fire roasted red & jalapeno pepper, and a few jars of chutney, I’ll make a big pot of chili. From the freezer I’ll add some ground venison, beef stock and some frozen beet greens or spinach. If I’m lucky I’ll have a bottle of beer as well to add for good measure. A few heirloom beans will also get added to the pot if there are any left in the pantry. If we have some frozen milk left from our winter stores, I’ll make some fresh mozzarella, and who doesn’t love a sprinkling of fresh spring chives on top of any dish this time of year?

If I find myself with a lot of extra tomatoes, I’ll make up a big batch of marinara. This will top fresh homemade pasta, or even a pan of lasagna if I have the time and energy to make cheese and noodles.

Not only do all these dishes help clean out the pantry of last year’s bounty and make way for the new, they help save me time during this busy season in the garden. A big batch of of chili can be eaten on for many days as can a big pan of lasagna (and they get better with age). If I make an extra big batch I’ll freeze it in meal sized portions for quick meals during the busy days of spring and early summer. My goal is to have most of the jars in the pantry empty by tomato canning season and to have most of the berries eaten from the freezer before the strawberries come on.

Do you make a concerted effort to eat up items in your pantry to make way for the new season’s bounty?

I can also be found at Chiot’s Run where I blog daily about gardening, cooking, local eating, beekeeping, and all kinds of stuff.

Read Full Post »

I made and canned applesauce this fall but my stored apples are starting to get a little soft so I am making fresh batches of sauce experimenting with a few new recipes….


I have been making applesauce for way longer than I’m ever going to admit here!  In all those years I have tried many different variations and ingredients.  Let’s see, there has been cinnamon and cloves added.  Vanilla has often joined the party.  Lemon for kick, brown sugar, white sugar, and honey have all lent their sweetness.  I even made applesauce once when I first got married that had the surprise ingredient of red hot candies , made the whole batch pink and spicy!  Other fruits have co-mingled, apricots were tangy, peaches sweet, cranberries were lovely.  Still I’m always searching for something better…yes I am a fickle sauce maker.  Here is the latest recipe in a long line of recipes in search of the perfect applesauce,

You’ll need:  Apples , a lemon or two, cinnamon sticks,  whole cloves, brown sugar, white sugar, salt, water

I used:     15# of apples

2 lemons

4 cinnamon sticks

5 whole cloves

1 cup packed brown sugar

1 cup white sugar

1 tsp salt

3 cups water


Peel, core and cut apples into large chunks…any kind you apples you like

Put them in a big pot, add enough water to keep the suckers from sticking…this will vary depending on how juicy your apples are

Add a few pieces of lemon peel…I used 10 pieces that I removed from the lemons  in long strips with a veggie peeler

Squeeze the lemon over the pot adding the lemon juice…try not to add the seeds!

Put in a cinnamon sticks  (powdered cinnamon in a can works too but I couldn’t tell you how much since I always use cinnamon sticks…you’ll have to guess!)

Add Salt


Stir once in a while so the sauce doesn’t burn on the bottom…burnt bottoms are no fun!

Cook until soft.  Remove lemon peels and cinnamon sticks and cloves.

Eat warm or cold,  can it,  freeze it,  take off your shoes and dance in it…whatever turns your crank!

Taste Test: This is one kick arse applesauce!   The first thing I thought of when I tasted this is “this is one intensely cheery applesauce”  the lemons give it such a bright kicking taste that it is truly sprightly!  I know part of the reason for the intensity is the apples I used.  They were straight from the orchard and there were 5 different kinds and none of them especially sweet and certainly not bland…no Red Delicious are allowed in my orchard, lol!  I like apples with a snappy taste.


It is intense to the point I’m not quite sure I would sit down to eat a big bowl of it unless it was tempered with say yogurt or better yet vanilla ice cream.  Next time I might put in fewer lemon peel strips and see if it mellows  at all.  I will definitely make it again.  I will can it in pints as opposed to quarts like most of my applesauce since a little of this goes a long delicious way!


Breakfast this morning, fresh applesauce, organic vanilla yogurt and a slice of homemade pumpkin bread…yummy!

If you have any wonderful applesauce recipes let me know because I have lots of apple left!

Read Full Post »

After receiving many questions about knowing when the saurkraut is finished fermenting I decided to do a post about it. I finished off my kraut this morning and took a few photos to share. After 2-4 weeks, depending on the temp, you should notice that your kraut is no longer bubbling, or is bubbling much less than it was. I usually notice that the brine starts going down instead of spilling over after 3-4 weeks. The warmer it is, the quicker your sauerkraut will finish fermenting (at 70-80 it will take 2-3 weeks at 60 it will take 4-6 weeks). Mine was finished a week or two ago, and I started mine on October 28, it took about 4 weeks to finish fermenting. You will also notice that your sauerkraut become kind of clear, or loses it’s whiteness.

Another way to decide if your sauerkraut is finished is by smell. If you don’t have a good sense of what sauerkraut smells like, but some and smell it. Warm it a bit on the stove and the smell will become more pronounced. It smells pleasantly sour almost vinegary. You don’t want it to smell “off” or moldy.

Don’t be alarmed if some mold or scum forms on top of your kraut while it’s fermenting. Just skim it off and add some more brine. If your brine level gets low and some of the top layer of cabbage gets moldy, simply skim off that cabbage and add more brine (1T. of salt for 1 quart of water for extra brine).

When your sauerkraut is finished, simply take out the jar/bag that you’re using to weigh it down, top off with brine, throw a lid on it and put it in the fridge or in your cool root cellar. Use 1T. of salt for 1 quart of water for extra brine.

You can can it if you’re worried about the coolness of your root cellar or don’t have room in the fridge (to can process in a waterbath canner for 15 minutes). If you can it you kill all the good bacteria though, so it won’t be a good source of probiotics. I like my sauerkraut cooked, so I occasionally can it. Sometimes, however I just lid the jar and put it in the basement.

Do you have any great tips to know when you’re fermented products are finished?

Read Full Post »

Update to original post – I went back to my method of partially cooking my chunky applesauce on the stove top, and then canning it.  Perfection!

To each 5 quart saucepan of cut up apples, I added 1 cup water, 1 cup sugar, and cinnamon, nutmeg & vanillla to taste.  I cooked the apples on medium heat just until the mixture started to bubble.  I removed the pans from the heat and stirred the pot!!  Just to incorporate the uncooked apples with the cooked pieces.  I covered the pans while I finished preparing my jars and lids.

I processed these in my pressure canner for 10 minutes at 5 pounds pressure.  I process almost everything in my pressure cooker, I use less water, and it takes less time. 

The dark jar is some of the apple butter that was made from the peels and cores.




100_1684If someone asked me what apple would be best for a homesteader just starting out, I would have to say, Yellow Transparent.  I know it won’t win any prizes for keeping until May, or holding up firmly in pie.  But, it is disease resistant, sets fruit at a young age, bears every year, is the first apple to ripen, and is very tart which makes it a good cooking and eating apple.  All those attributes make it a very good selection for someone interested in self-reliance.

However, it is often discarded as a mushy, old time apple.  Sure, if you wait until it is dead ripe to pick it – but I would think any fruit or vegetable past its prime would be tasteless too.  The key is harvesting when the apples are still light green, just beginning to get a yellow tinge.


I harvested all the apples on the Yellow Transparent in our yard/orchard this week.  Depending on your location, Yellow Transparent may ripen in July for you, for us it is early August.  This apple is very fragrant and brings the deer in – and they relish apples after carrots and beans, so I make sure I remove the temptation.

I usually start out with grand ideas when I start to preserve something – most of the time it works out, and sometimes not.  This time is in between, and here is how the experiment went.

And before you start shaking your head or getting worried about people who mix canning and experimentation.  Just know this, jams and jellies are a gateway drug – once you get hooked there is no turning back 😉


First I was going to make my moms chunky applesauce, because I really can’t stand the pablum-like, food mill style applesauce.  I do make some with the food mill if we have small apples that are a pain to peel, but most of that ends up in applesauce cake or something of that nature.

A dream meal for me is mashed potatoes, gravy, pork roast and chunky applesauce!  So with pork roast on my mind I began peeling these nice large apples.


Next they went into their salt water bath to prevent them from darkening while I worked my way through the first box.

Mild salt solution:  1½ teaspoon salt per quart of cold water.


Then I cored and quartered the apples, putting them back in the salt water bath as I worked.  At this point my mind began wandering, and I kept thinking about a canned apple pie filling recipe I had somewhere… .  In the recipe, the apples are sliced and mixed with a huge amount of sugar and left overnight to release their juice.  I had tried this before, and we could not stomach the sweetness, even though the recipe calls for the addition of lemon juice.  To me it seemed a waste to take a tart apple and add too much sugar, and then add lemon juice to try to recreate what was there in the first place.  So the ‘ol brain started creaking, and lurched into gear – maybe I could use less sugar, but still let the apples sit overnight and then can the results.  I still wanted chunky applesauce, but I was trying to get out of cooking it and then canning it.  I just wanted to can it in the jars, since these are not the firmest of apples I was hoping this would work.

Let me say here, experimenting with canning fruits is safe.  Fruits are high acid, and will just spoil or ferment, and it will be apparent, so there isn’t the danger factor of vegetables, tomatoes, and meat products.  Do not experiment with recipes for those types of foodstuffs.  Please.


My next step was to cut the apples in chunks, and add my other ingredients.

In a large mixing bowl of diced apples:  (I used a 3½ quart)

2 cups sugar
1 Tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
2 T vanilla
Stir all ingredients together, cover and let sit overnight to allow the apples to release their juice.


Here is where things started to go awry.  The next morning, (ominous music in background) pack sterilized jars with apples.  Heat the apple juice and pour over fruit.

When I can I always have a smaller jar on hand, because I never just end up with an exact amount.  So for this batch, I had 5 quarts of diced apples and 1 pint.  Because I was going to can these in my pressure canner, I left about a 2″ headspace to allow for expansion.  I called a canning partner in crime, and we discussed the pros and cons of my messing with the recipe and when I got off the phone and looked at those jars, I decided to unpack the pint and put a just a little more in each quart.  Mistake – I knew it might be, but sometimes, well all the time, I have to learn the hard way.  Once that canner is closed, there is no turning back, the next time I would see my “apple whatever” would be when the pressure was down, and I could experience the moment of truth.


A watch gauge never drops fast enough.


Mea Culpa!  See the applesauce blurping down the side of the jar?  That means I did overfill the jars, and when the cool contents expanded during the canning/cooking process, the pressure forced the contents out of the jar.

Why am I telling you all this?  Because I want you to know that it is OK to experiment a little after you have a few seasons of canning under your belt.  And that even veteran canners make mistakes, and are still alive to laugh about it.

Next box, I am going back to my moms method and I will cook it first and then can it, and when I do that I will let you know how it turns out.  Meanwhile, I will mark these 5 jars with a notation to use first, since I will need to watch their seals because of the liquid being forced from the jars.

Since I am supposed to post at another blog today, I have wrote about what I did to glean almost every last drop of usefulness from these homegrown apples there.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: