Archive for the ‘food storage’ Category

Oh how I miss the lesson plans being done for me.  Planning out each subject, then fitting it into a schedule that works with teaching two grade levels, and with three subjects that the older two both are doing but can not do at the same time (2 of which need my assistance)….blech.

Okay, now that the mumbling is out of the way this post can continue and in a better manner.  I did finally figure out a schedule where the older two can switch out the subjects when the other is working on them, I can assist when needed, and also with a block of time where they are self-learning so that I can do phonics, handwriting, and math with the twins.  It only took me about a month to sort, sift, and organize it all amongst all the things we wanted to get done this summer. 

I decided to ease into school this year.  The older girls have already started their Teaching Textbooks math and they love it.  It has a good track record, was recommended to me by sources I trust, and is looking to be a good fit for our family.  Next up we will add in a handwriting refresher in cursive for them and beginning printing for the twins.   After that I will probably add in reading.  History will be next since it goes hand in hand with my plans for 5th grade reading.  The girls will all four be doing history together, though at a much deeper level for the older two.  The twins will be enjoying the “story” of it along with a look at the globe and a map.  The older two will be making a timeline along with lists of important people, inventions, etc. 

It is my hope to have us up to full-time by the end of next week so that we can get a couple of weeks full-time in before vacation.  Vacation this year is a light affair. No tromping through theme parks or driving all over creation.  We are going to hop on an airplane, sit by the pool, hit the golf course once or twice, and read.  I am bringing some school with us.   I will not be bringing much with us, enough to keep a bit of momentum, but nothing that will eat into our days. 

On a side note: isn’t my sweet husband lovely when he is on a diet, lol!  I am not having the issues he is having on this diet.   My energy is down, but that is something that I hear is common.  I am getting tired of eggs for breakfast, but not being picky about what I eat, I have had a few no-egg mornings.  I do have to say that come monday I am  not sure which fruit I am going to eat, but I know I am picking fruit over grains or sugar.  While on this diet I canned nearly 50lbs of the sweetest juiciest peaches.  Having the girls test the gel on my preserves was so hard and I slipped up once and stuck the frozen spoon in my mouth without thinking.   The girls are begging my to make a cobbler out of the peaches we canned with honey and spices, but I know my limits.  Jam I can resist, cobbler would be too much smelling so warm and spicy sweet while dishing out.


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I managed to get one of the girls helping me with the dehydrating.  Mushrooms shrink up quite a bit, but are so handy to have ready to throw into soups or stews.  We pretended we were doing a puzzle and she got quite a few packed onto one tray.  I am sure you can imagine the look on her face when we pulled them out and they took up less than half the space!

This week is going to be a busy one so the photos may be poor and timing odd.  I am working four shifts as well as having daily last-chance workouts before the finale for our team weight-loss challenge.   I am nervous about tomorrow’s weigh-in.  I don’t feel like I have lost this week.   At this point I hope I didn’t gain.  My birthday is on March 9th, not too far away, and I really want to get below 200.  Fingers crossed!

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I’m still at it and thought you all might want to know how it is going.  Keep in mind that I am doing how my grandmother has taught me, which likely isn’t  FDA approved.  I live life on the edge, though, with all my ferments and such(which also are not FDA approved.) 

This is my learning year.  I am trying to figure out how many pounds of tomatoes I need for how many quarts of juice, sauce, or whole tomatoes.  Will a bushel of beans feed us for a month?  How can I make jelly with honey instead of sugar?  What is best left for the freezer?  Most importantly, how to do this while still functioning in my home.  Sure tomatoes need juiced, but there is still laundry to be done and meals to cook.

Here is my tally thus far:

  • 12 quarts tomato juice
  • 9 quarts seasoned tomato juice
  • 4 quarts whole tomatoes
  • 12 quarts green beans
  • 12 pints pickled beets with onions
  • 4 half-pints pepper jelly
  • 6 pints zucchini relish

It will be interesting to see how long these last and what I use most of and what I still have a year from now.  My guess is none of this will be here come spring.  I go through a quart of tomato juice a week without even thinking about it.  Green beans are a favorite around here, so those will be lucky to last until Christmas.  If there were any one thing remaining, my bet would be on the zucchini relish.  The twins and I like it, Liz hasn’t tried it yet, but I know she will like it.  Being a condiment, though, I do not see us consuming large quantities of it.  A hot dog slathered in it sounds so good, but I can’t find any decent hot dogs around here.

I still want to try to make some more jelly or jam with honey.  I have Pomona’s Universal Pectin and had given it a try last year.  It did turn out pretty decent, this year I am hoping it will turn out even better as I have some experience under my belt.  I did use it for the pepper jelly and it turned out very nice.  My goal for that is 6 half-pints each of two different berries.  I am thinking strawberry jam and maybe grape jelly.  Sourcing grapes is easy around here, strawberries in the fall…not so easy. 

Applesauce will happen sometime soon.  We have a huge apple tree and my mother-in-law also has apple trees.  My husband’s aunt has pears and I am hoping to get some off of her to toss into my applesauce this year just for a different flavor.  I also would like to try canning some peaches.  I did one jar awhile back, but had my water boiling too hard when I put the jar in and crack.  Nothing like glass infused peaches to make the family sick.  Into the trash all that went, and boy were they nice peaches, too.  Lots of learning curves to follow here. 

I do still have 24 quart jars that I am itching to fill with something.   I have space to store in the basement and feel like I ought to just do it while the produce is so affordable.  Especially the green beans as I can get 10 lbs for $5 from the Amish.   Same price on Roma tomatoes and those just beg to be made into a decent sauce.

At the end of it all I will give a final tally mainly for myself to track how long goods last.  Then in the winter I can plan out our garden and get a better idea of what I need to plant so the only cost of canning next year is lids and elbow grease!

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Tomato Juice

I have never canned much.  A bit of tomato sauce last year, some bread and butter pickles a few years back.  The process is daunting to say the least, but a grocery budget for 6 is even more daunting.

I had decided this summer that in the fall I would try my hand at serious canning with the thought that next year the girls and I will grow certain produce with the specific purpose of canning.  I still will put some back in the freezer, but we need to purchase beef soon and the freezer will quickly fill. 

I’ve started with things that I do not like frozen.  Green beans and tomatoes.  We go through quite a bit of both and the freezer really alters the texture of both.  The photo above is my first attempt at tomato juice.  It turned out fairly well, though I have much to learn.  Apparently there is a finer screen for my strainer to get a smoother juice, need to look into that.  Also, my biggest kettle nearly full made just 5 quarts of juice.  I figure we go through a quart a week easy.  I would love to have a quart a week, plus a quart of whole or quartered tomatoes a week.  That would be over 100 jars of tomato product.  For some reason, I don’t see that happening this year.

Enlisted to help me in this venture are my grandmother, the queen of bread and butter pickles, the master of zucchini relish, and reigning champ of pickled beets.  Oh how I love pickled beets!  She has an entire walk in closet dedicated to canned goods that is kept dark and cool.  For many years they had a garden specifically to fill this closet and to share with others.  They would also stock a freezer.  I need to learn and am so grateful to have her in my life to help me out!

Also, they don’t even know it, but the local Amish have been a huge help.  Rumor has it, a guy came through last fall/early spring (depending on who you talk to) and asked the Amish to grow extra produce that he would in turn buy and sell at a market in a big city up north.  According to the story, the guy never showed up and the Amish have more than they are able to consume and can.   Not sure if it is true, but I have been getting huge candy onions for $.50 each, green beans at $.50 a lb, broccoli 2 huge heads for $1.25, and more beets than I could dream of.  If I ruin a batch or bust a jar (happened) I don’t feel so bad knowing I didn’t pay top dollar for it, though I always hate to see good food go to waste.  The goal next year will be to grow as much as I can, though, to cut the cost factor even more.  These girls are growing and can really put back the food!

Anyhow, all this to say here is my initial attempts after going out to grandmas to do a couple jars of tomatoes:

  • 4 quarts of green beans- we ate one jar already, there is no way I was going to put all that work into something if the family wasn’t going to eat them
  • 5 quarts of tomato juice- yum, stirred in some thyme from my garden and a couple onions, it’s tasty to drink and will make very good soup…wish I had more
  • 7 pints of pickled beets with onions- replaced half the sugar with honey
  • 4 half-pints of pepper jelly- used Pomona’s Universal Pectin and it turned out great

That is it, wish I could put a zero behing the number of beans and tomato juice 🙂

Yesterday, my dear mother-in-law took pity on me and showed up at my door with a water-bath canner.  She had seen the “set-up” I was using and probably thought I would poison her son and grand-daughters.  Just kidding,  my mother-in-law is an amazing woman that blesses us in big and small ways when we are least expecting it.  I sent her home with many spoken thank you’s, some pepper jelly, beets, and the promise of more to come!

Today, I am going out to my grandma’s to do more tomatoes.  She has a 5-gallon bucket of tomatoes that need to be processed and I have a bag full to add to it.  The twins are spending time at my mom’s (so add her to the list of people helping out in this venture) and the older girls are bringing their school with us (what we do not get done this morning.)  

I loved spending time at my Grandparent’s as a child.  Their garden was always so exciting to me as a kid (okay, even last year I enjoyed picking beans and snapping them.)  My grandparent’s always had a huge garden.  Shoot, their garden this year seems huge to me, but it is pretty small compared to year’s past.  Grandpa just can’t keep up with it like he used to and he isn’t very pleased about it.  I really hope we get most of the schooling done with morning so the girls can be out exploring like I would have done on a late summer day when I was a kid.  School started so early this year, but that is another post all of it’s own.

So, I will return home later with tomato all over me, I am sure, and tomorrow I do my green beans at home…by myself.  I guess with all these little girls running around I am never on my own.  Liz and Jane will help me with the cleaning and snapping of 12 lbs of beans. I wonder how many quarts I will end up with?  My guess is 6.  I will report back and let you know how it all goes.  The new canner holds 7 jars, perhaps I should stop at the Amish and buy a couple more pounds on my way home from Grandma’s.

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