Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Note to self....

2 ice cream pails of blueberries are about 10 lbs.

This will make 3 batches of jam equaling 10 pints.

Will also leave enough berries for munching.

Buy more for freezing, actually send dh and older children to pick!


We were on the hunt for fruit today, a quick consultation with dh and we were off to his friend's. Seems she has blueberries and a sweet deal going on. Pick 2 buckets for her and then you can pick one free for yourself. With the help of our three youngest I got to bring home 2 buckets - 10 lbs. total of lovely blueberries. What fun! And a good time chatting with our friend.

She also has pears, which we will go back for another day, and she gave us some abused peaches for jamming - free.

Tomorrow we will be on the hunt for fruit for out of town friends who will be visiting. The look we had of what is available today will give us a head start for tomorrow.

Sunday, September 14, 2008


I missed getting transparent apples from my uncle's tree when they were ready as we were in the midst of the whole dd/exchange/VIP thing so I went in search of apples at our favourite fruit stand instead. Their cold storage kept these soft summer apples in pretty good shape considering how long they have been off the trees. The trick is to do them the day you get them home as they bruise easily and deteriorate quickly.

The children and I set up a production line along our long counter:

First step, cutting out the bites from codling moths:

Next is the amazing apple peeling, slicing, coring thingy machine:

The next child cut these into bits and put them into a bowl:

Mom's job, taking these apple bits and adding them to the pot and keeping it stirred:

We kept at it until the pot was filled, adding as needed. Once the applesauce is cooked down sugar is added (4 cups for 12-13 quarts of sauce) and cinnamon too ( 4 Tbsp. for the same):

The sauce is pushed through a sieve to remove any stray bits of peel, core and seeds before being canned for 20 minutes:

The results are a warm brown tasty treat. One box gave us 12 quarts and there are about 30 lbs. in the standard apple box. (Two boxes netted us a total of 23 quarts.)

And I never want to see applesauce again. It took forever to cook down and I've washed the floor in the kitchen 3 times today... it is still sticky. I'm pooped.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Bucket Pickles

When growing and canning your own cucumbers it's always a challenge to figure out what to do with the ones that got missed the last pick, the large ones, the ones that just will never be dills. Luckily for me Margaret came to the rescue with this recipe for bucket pickles. They are lovely, ready very quickly, and don't require canning.

Start with a nice clean ice-cream pail (with lid) fill with slices of the larger cucumbers. Alternate layers of cucumbers with sliced onions and red pepper slices. (1 onion and 2-3 peppers per bucket). Though they are even prettier with the red peppers I leave them out due to allergies.

The next step is making the brine. In a pot mix:

4 cups white sugar
2 cups white vinegar
2 Tbsp. pickling salt
1 tsp. celery seed
1 tsp. mustard seed
1 tsp. turmeric

Heat to a soft boil over medium heat stirring often and pour over the cucumbers in the bucket. (Yes it is that bright and that smelly, the vinegar is strong.)

The brine won't cover the cucumbers, they will release their own juices to add to the brine that will accomplish this. You can see here about how 'deep' the brine is to start.

You need to keep the pickles in the fridge and stir them once a day for three days then they are ready to eat. Actually once they change colour they are ready to eat, just #1 don't tell my children this and #2 still keep stirring for all three days.

They store in the fridge for up to 6 months. I write the date on the bucket's lid and toss them after they come due, if there are any left that is. Very Yummy! Thanks yet again to Margaret for a great recipe that has served us well for years.

ETA: For our Dill Pickles in a Bucket recipe go here. The first bucket is only a week old, they aren't ready yet, but they are almost all gone. I'm thinking the children like 'em :o)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

More pickles, salsa, and beans....

I had a busy week-end. It was time to admit the beans needed canning, the children didn't sell all the tomatoes at the Farmer's Market, and yesh, there were MORE cucumbers needing pickling.

When the dust settled we had another 16 quarts of beans, 24 quarts of salsa, and 5 - 2 quart jars of pickles to add to the stash. This is just 4 jars shy of my goal for pickles, I think I'll call it quits on those.

For salsa, I was aiming at 24 quarts, so we're done!

Beans ... well I was aiming at 3 shelves of 24 jars each, 72 jars in total, but with planting the beans late I think we'll bottom out at 2 shelves if we are lucky. (Last year we did 48 jars and we JUST made it through the year with rationing.)

The pole beans aren't even blooming yet and I am expecting frost any day. This was expected and the reason I planted so many bush beans.

Still I consider it a good year as we grew most of our own beans for fresh eating and canning. Grandma did send us the occasional ice-cream bucketful when she had too many but overall most of what we used we grew ourselves. That just plain feels good!

The little jars in the front are of dried mint. We have one, just one, mint plant and it supplies us and many of our friends with enough leaves for tea year-round. I'll post about it separately as it is a truly sustainable and easy project that works great!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Essential Canning Equipment

The first thing you get when you start canning are fruit flies, millions of them! It is important to keep everything scrupulously clean and covered to reduce them and an effective trap is essential.

I've had great success with this:

Simply a cup or a glass jar with yeast (about 1 tsp.) and vinegar (about 1/4 cup). Stretch plastic cling wrap tightly over it and puncture with a sharp pencil to make a few (5ish) small holes. Sometimes I add a rubber band to help keep the plastic wrap in place.

The fruit flies are attracted to the yeast and vinegar and go in through the little holes, somehow they can't figure out how to get back out and eventually fall into the vinegar.

The jam peaches we brought home today were covered with fruit flies, we shook the box gently till all had taken flight, covered it with a towel to keep them out and set them up their very own trap. I must have 4 or 5 of these set up around the house, wherever I saw them congregating.

What a month!

Sorry I've been absent. We shipped a daughter off to France for the year, took in an exchange student, and had VIP company as well. That plus canning. Still canning (and canning and canning...) but the dust has settled from switching children around and the VIP visit went very well.

I did take pictures of the interesting things we've been up to garden wise. I'll update ASAP. And have to shamefacedly admit .... I've been using the drier this week, trying to keep up laundry-wise while canning and homeschooling. It didn't help that it was raining every day since our student arrived til the first day of school.

I'm thinking about taking this week off of school and just concentrating on canning. I still haven't done cherries! Maybe I can find some at a fruit stand?? And crabapples, and peaches, and .... I need to make a list of folks who will barter for produce/fruit. It really doesn't pay to buy fruit for canning, it's just better quality and a wonderful feeling to have a year's supply in storage.