Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Parlor Floor

 After almost 2 years we finally have the parlor floor finished! We began a few weeks ago with rented sanders (2 different kinds), a belt sander, a random orbit sander, a heat gun and a wire brush on a drill all in the attempt to remove 1 layer of latex paint over ancient varnish over the original milk paint. We got 90%+ removed and called it good enough; an 150 year old floor will never look new and we are content with that. I didn't sweat removing all of the milk paint, I'm intrigued by the red floor edges and the green baseboards, it's an old house quirk that I love.

 And then the floor finish, I AGONIZED over it for weeks. I loathe polyurethane, I think it looks fake and we do try to avoid petroleum by-products whenever we can. I really want to keep the house as much as it was when it was built including what finishes they would have had access to so in the end we used raw linseed oil. I researched it and we bought this product, using it avoids the mold issues that linseed oil can have and it's completely organic, an important consideration because really, if you can't eat your floor finish then why use it?  ;)  We applied 2 coats, wiped the excess (there wasn't much) and then let it rest until the wax came. The wax arrived today, we applied it, buffed it and and voila'! My lovely floor. Every year we will need to reapply the wax, but that's an effort that I'm willing to make for such a beautiful end product.

 Should the floor become scratched we just reapply wax in that spot, no fear of lap marks as with polyurethane. If the scratch is deep enough we would apply linseed oil first then wax, so much easier than brush-on products.

Now we can begin to move furniture in that's been sitting on the porch while this project d-r-a-g-g-e-d on and figuring out how to arrange paintings that have been in storage since we bought the house. I'm excited!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Pickled Beets

I got a surprise 25# of organic beets last Thursday, they were dirt cheap so I couldn't say no. Only a few people here like pickled beets, so I'm canning them in half pints this year. I pulled this recipe from my old blog, back when we lived in Ohio, grew heirloom beets and Abby was only 4. How time flies.


A Busy Day in the Kitchen

We've had a busy week in the kitchen putting things into canning jars. Hot, tiring work to be sure, but I know the reward will be worth it. Katie canned a canner load of Rattlesnake pole beans this morning, our first of the year. I was working on Rebekah's birthday presents while she did that and then we canned blueberries and pickled heirloom beets this afternoon/evening. Our beet varieties are: Chioggia, Golden, Lutz Winter Keeper. I don't think I'm a huge pickled beet fan, but they will add variety to the dullness of Winter's protein-heavy repast. I think we're about finished with the blueberries, I ought to make more syrup since what I did make is making its way to New York before long and I have none left for us. We'll see, I know we'll be elbow deep in peaches tomorrow and/or Friday and I don't want to bite off too much. This is our Pickled Beet recipe, it's from 1911.
Pickled Heirloom Beets
1. Wash beets and trim off beet greens. Dispatch a child to feed the greens to the pigs; meanwhile leave roots and 1 inch of stems and cook until tender, about a half hour more or less.
Drain beets, cool and peel. Next, admire them on the plate.
2. Cut into slices or cubes, place in jars and pack them in but don'tcrush them. Then admire them some more and call all of the children in to remark on the pleasing aesthetics that beets entail.
3. In a separate kettle combine: 4 cups cider vinegar, 2 cups brown sugar, 2 cups water, 1.5 teaspoons canning salt, and in a spice bag put 2 cinnamon sticks, 12 whole cloves and 1 teaspoon whole allspice. Add spice bag to vinegar/sugar and boil for 5 minutes or the amount of time that it takes a 4 year old to tell you about the presents that she wants for her birthday which is still 4 months away. Remove spice bag and ladle syrup over beets in jars.

4. Put bands and lids in place and can in a boiling water bath canner for a half hour. Watch the storm roll in as you frantically grab the laundry from the clothesline with clothes pins flying every which way. Let it occur to you at 5:30 that you have nothing prepared for Supper and call for pizza.
Be thankful for everything that was accomplished in a day's time and doubly thankful that every day isn't like today. :-D

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Peach Jam Recipe

Peach Jam Recipe

14 peaches, skinned and crushed into a pot
2 Granny Smith apples, shredded including skin
The zest & juice from 2 lemons (use 1 if your lemons are enormous)
4 cups sugar

Cook until done, process for 10 minutes
Yield: 3 1/2 to 4 pints

I like this recipe better than the other homemade pectin recipes that I've tried. It has a decent yield without tons of apples. It can taste a bit lemony if you use 2 huge lemons, not gross, but definitely lemony.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Apricot-Vanilla Bean Jam

I just made the best jam that I've ever tasted and wanted to get the recipe written down before I forgot what I did. To make it you will need:

  • 6 cups of diced apricots including the skins
  • Combine with 1 shredded Granny Smith apple and the zest of 1 lemon and the juice of the lemon. 
  • Add 1 whole vanilla bean 
  • 3 cups sugar
Stir thoroughly and allow to rest until very juicy. For my warm kitchen this took 2 hours.

Remove vanilla bean, rinse, split lengthwise and scrape seeds into fruit. Throw the split bean back in along with 3 pits. 

Cook over medium heat until it tests done, this doesn't take long.

Put into jam into jars adding 1 pit to each jar.

Allow 1/2" headspace and process for 10 minutes.

Yield: 3 pints

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Economics of Canning

I was talking to a friend this week and telling her that this year I'm doing a jar by jar analysis of what my home canned food costs. So far I haven't canned anything that I could have bought cheaper, matching quality for quality (and that's an important distinction.) I wrote this article four years ago for Farming Magazine and put it on my old blog, here it is again still as relevant as it was then.


It Pays To Can!

This is my most recent Farming Magazine artice, it will be in the Fall issue, enjoy!

Home Canning Saves Money
I was sharing our food philosophy recently when a man piped up and dogmatically stated that home canning is a nice hobby but “you’re never going to save money doing it!” He went on to say that he bought his canned goods by the case load from Save-A-Lot and $.40 a can was cheaper than any home canned goods could ever be (needless to say, he isn’t a Farming magazine reader :-)). So, does home canning really save money? Let’s look at the facts. A typical 600 square foot garden will yield, on average, one pound of vegetables per square foot. Seeds, plants, fertilizer and tools cost approximately $60 amortized over 5 years, using these figures brings the cost of raising vegetables to 10¢ per pound. Obviously if you buy direct from growers or at pick-your-own farms the price is somewhat higher. Canning jars purchased new cost about $8 per dozen, amortized over 20 years brings their cost to 3¢ per jar per year, add the cost of lids (which shouldn’t be reused) and the cost for jar, band and lid is 20¢. Figuring 2 pounds of vegetable in each quart jar brings the grand total to 40¢ per jar, so indeed, canning does “pay”.
Home Canning Assures Quality
Home preservation of food also assures that my family is eating the quality of food that is important to me. Pork raised in China, fed on human waste, at bargain basement prices from my local mega-mart food chain might seem like a thrifty purchase until you factor in the real cost. Some people don’t mind, but I do. Likewise, we raise or buy locally our own vegetables; what goes into my canning jars is naturally grown, non GMO wholesomeness. It hasn’t gobbled up fossil fuels by flying 2000 miles across the country before hitting my plate, in all probability it was picked only hours before we ate it or put it into jars to enjoy this Winter.
What About The Value Of My Time?
Farm wives of a generation or 2 ago didn’t view home canning as a separate, optional activity apart from their regular duties. It was taken for granted that if you wanted to eat in the winter then you worked to preserve the harvest in the summer. The old farm families never accounted for their time or what it was worth. Only today, the modern woman, city dwellers or those new to the homesteading way of life do that. It’s part of the city mentality (and Marxist “labor theory of value”) that they cannot get past the fact that their time is worth money. Back to the 40¢ canned vegetables that my friend buys, why doesn’t he factor in the time he spends in the car and the store plus the gas money he spent to get there? The true cost of the 40¢ can is the number we should really be using for an honest comparison. From all angles home preservation is the healthiest, most economical, environmentally friendly way you can feed your family!
The 13 jars of strawberry jam that we canned yesterday. I do all of my jam in bail lid jars, I only wish I had more! I have never, ever had a seal failure with bail lids, but I've certainly had plenty with regular lids. The lids today are made so cheaply (like everything else) compared to lids 20 years ago and I think that's why they fail so often. I want to try these lids.
I am canning lemonade concentrate today, it's on sale locally and will be a nice treat this winter.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Food In Jars

This has been a full week already of canning, the busy time is definitely upon us. I was looking through the Complete Book of Home Preserving to find a pickle recipe and instead stumbled up a recipe for Thai Hot & Sweet Dipping Sauce.

I made the recipe according to the directions and the results were OK, but could be so much better with some tweaking. I added orange juice concentrate and some ginger & horseradish and now it is superb! The kitchen smelled like a Chinese restaurant.  :)
Here is my version which I guess we'll call Spicy Orange Sauce:
3/4 cup minced garlic
1T salt
6 cups cider vinegar
6 cups sugar
a heaping 1/4 cup of hot pepper flakes
2T shredded ginger
2T prepared horseradish
2 12 ounce cans of orange juice concentrate (don't reconstitute)

Cook all together until sugar is dissolved, leave 1/2" headspace, can for 15 minutes. I added a jar to some chicken and threw it in the crockpot and then thickened the sauce after it was fully cooked. Mmm!

Next we made 2 batches of canned coleslaw. I actually think this tastes more like eggroll filling, but whatever, the children love it!
Combine: 3 cups vinegar
4 cups sugar
1t celery seed
1t mustard seed
4t salt and heat until sugar is dissolved. Let cool

In a big mixing bowl shred 1 lg head of cabbage (I prefer 1 small green & 1 small red)
1 cup shredded celery (or you can dice it)
1/2 cup shredded/diced onion
2 cups shredded carrots
Mix together and fill jars, don't pack them but don't underfill either, leave an inch headspace. Top with vinegar mixture, leave 1/2" headspace, remove bubbles & can for 10 minutes.

Lastly, I made a batch of blueberry jam with homemade pectin. I'll quickly cover how to make your own pectin. Take 5 Granny Smith apples and 2 lemons (for blueberry jam substitute 1 lime), quarter them but don't peel, place in pot with as little water as you can use to keep them from scorching. Cook until soft and run through Victorio Strainer. Add puree to your fruit & sugar and cook until done. The benefit of jam prepared this way, other than that it doesn't use nasty commercial pectin, is that should the jars come unsealed the jam won't mold. Sugar acts as a preservative. I know some people that don't even waterbath their jars, but I do for 10 minutes. Don't forget to add some vinegar to your canner to keep the white sediment off the jars!

Monday, June 30, 2014

Chickpea Tabbouleh

Tonight for supper I made chickpea tabbouleh which we ate in wraps along with shredded chicken. It was *so* good that I decided to save the recipe here.
2 16 ounce cans of chickpeas, drained
2 large tomatoes, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
5 radishes, chopped or shredded
1 cup chopped fresh parsley
½ cup chopped green onions
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons lemon juice
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground pepper
Mash the chickpeas until 3/4 are broken up, add the rest of the vegetables and mix well. Add the salt & pepper, mix again. Drizzle the olive oil and lemon juice over and mix for the last time. 
The recipe made enough for us to have for supper with leftovers for lunch tomorrow. It has got to be one of the most economical wholesome meals I've ever tried. I spent less than $12 total!