Pickle Canning Day

Nik has been in charge of the garden this year.  The whole kit and caboodle.  All the tilling, planting, weeding, and harvesting.  I think I helped him weed once.  His main focus was on beans and peas and saving seeds.  So I didn’t expect much if anything to have for canning and putting up.

One morning Nik brought me in a small basket of cucumbers.  Too many to eat, too few to can.  I figured we could make quick refrigerator pickles.  Two, maybe three jars tops.  I took my time cleaning up the kitchen and piddling around for a while.  I suggested that he go out and make sure there were no more cucumbers because I only wanted to do this once.  So out he went with a basket.  Next thing I know he’s coming to the door with a full basket and tells me to empty it because he’s going to need it again.  And again, and again.  His grin got bigger and bigger with each basket he brought up.  I swear he was basking in my misery!  I didn’t plan on spending the day doing a full blown canning session!  His giddiness was disturbing.

We ended up with a giant pile of cucumbers for pickling.

Pile of pickles

So much for 2 or 3 jars and quick refrigerator pickles.  But I wasn’t about to waste them.  I gathered my handy dandy Ball Blue Book Preserving Guide and my trusty Bread and Butter Pickle recipe and got busy.

I gathered supplies for dill pickle spears first.

Pickling Supplies

I didn’t have any pickling spice so I mixed up some of my own.  You can get the recipe here.

Homemade Pickling Spice

I had quite a bit left over so I put it in a jelly-sized canning jar for later use.  Or maybe I’ll use it on the woodstove this winter, it’s woodsy and aromatic.  Sure hope it tastes as good as it smells.  I’ll have to let you know on that one.  I’d sure be really disappointed to find out I spent all this time on dill pickles to have them turn out grubby.  Not going to think about it.  I love pickles, they couldn’t be that bad!

Once the pickling spice was made I sliced the washed cucumbers up into spears.  I used all the larger-sized cukes for this.

Dill Pickle Spears

I combined 4 cups of sugar, 4 Tbsp salt, and 12 cups of vinegar in a large pot.  I tied my spices in cheesecloth and added it to the mixture.  I brought it to a boil and then let it simmer for 15 minutes.

Place the spears in a quart-sized canning jar, fill with hot vinegar mixture, add a fresh (or dried) dill head, and leave 1/4” headspace.  Remove air bubbles, wipe around the rim, add lids, and Walaa!!!  You are now ready to process for 15 minutes in a boiling-water canner.

Dill Pickle Spears in canning jar

I made 14 quarts of dill pickle spears.  With that done, I was ready to move onto the Bread & Butter slicesHalf way there.

I cut my smaller cucumbers into thick slices.  Then I added some thinly sliced onions,1/3 cup of pickling salt, and a few sliced garlic cloves to a large glass bowl.  Mix it all together and let it chill in the refrigerator for a couple of hours.

Bread & Butter Pickle Slices

Drain well.  In a large Dutch oven, combine 4 cups of sugar, 4 cups of apple cider vinegar, 2 Tbsp of mustard seed, 1 1/2 tsp turmeric, and 1 1/2 tsp celery seed.  Add your onions and cucumber slices and bring to a boil.  Pack into quart-size canning jars, leaving 1/2” headspace, remove air bubbles, wipe your rim, add lids, and process for 10 minutes in a boiling-water canner.

WHEW!!!!!

By dinnertime I had 30 quarts of homemade pickles.

Finished Jars of Homemade Pickles

Not too bad for one days work.  I figure we have enough pickles to last us a good year, maybe more.  If things get really bad, we always have something to eat.  What’s for breakfast?  Pickles with a rice cake.  What’s for lunch?  Duck and pickles.  Dinner?  Duck and pickles with beans.  Snack?  Leftovers.  Yep, we’re good to go.  Oh – to mix it up I still have some beets from last year!  Woohoo!!!

I almost forgot – thank you Nik for our bounty of pickles!  Couldn’t (and wouldn’t with the price of cucumbers) have made them without you!

Advertisements

Annual Pumpkin Canning Fiasco

We finished canning our pumpkin harvest just in time for “everything has to be pumpkin flavored” season.  Actually, we eat pumpkin all year long.  Why should I only enjoy it during the fall and winter months?  I make sure to have plenty stocked up so that we can nosh on pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin bars… you get the idea!.. all year long!

Last year we bought all of our pie pumpkins from a local market.  This year we grew all but 10 of the pie pumpkins.  We canned 42 pumpkins and only spent $15.00.  Woohoo!  We’ll be eating extra pumpkin coffee cake, pumpkin doughnuts, pumpkin lattes.. I can go on but I’ll spare you this time!  By growing our own, we know that we’re using heirloom seeds and growing these babies without any pesticides, insecticides, or any other “cides” that aren’t good for us.

Washed Sugar Pie Pumpkins

The first thing you do is wash your pumpkins really well.  You don’t want any dirt or grubbies getting into your hot liquid or pumpkin.

Clean out seeds from pie pumpkin

Cut your pumpkins in half with a sharp knife (cleaver, axe, whatever works – just be careful!) and clean out the seeds.  Save the seeds in a bowl to roast for later.

Cut Sugar Pie Pumpkin PiecesChop the pumpkin into manageable pieces. 

Boil Sugar Pie Pumpkin PiecesBoil the cut pieces in water for about 20 minutes until pumpkin is tender but not mushy.  It will be easier to peel the pumpkin rind.

Pumpkin LiquidRemove the pumpkin pieces and allow to cool a bit.  Save the water that you boiled your pumpkin in, you will use this as your “juice” for the canning.  I figure that it’s better than plain water, any of your vitamins and minerals that get cooked out from the pumpkin will be in this water.

Cooked Pumpkin PiecesWhen pieces are cool to the touch, remove the rind, and cut into cubes.  There’s all kinds of warnings about how you should never can pureed pumpkin, it should always be canned in cubes.  You can read what the National Center for Home Food Preservation has to say about it here.  They are funded by the USDA.  I feel much safer now.  (Can you feel the sarcasm?)  Wonder how anybody survived years ago?  I follow their advice for the most part.  Sometimes my pumpkin is a little “mushy” and the cubes fall apart and I really like to stuff that pumpkin in those jars.  Sort of like puree but I’ve never had a problem with any of my pumpkin.  Except for that one time that…. Just kidding!  The pumpkin turns out all good even if it is a little pureed.  Libby’s purees their pumpkin and expects everybody to eat it.  Maybe they don’t like the competition.  Just saying.

Pumpkin in Canning Jars

Fill hot, clean jars with your pumpkin cubes.

Hot liquid in Pumpkin JarsTake your hot pumpkin liquid and fill the jar almost to the top.

Air Bubbles in pumpkin canning jars

Slide a knife or plastic spatula along the sides of the jar to remove any air bubbles that may be hiding out in there.  Bubbles not good.

Headspace for pumpkin canningCheck to make sure that you leave 1 inch of headspace in your jars.  You need to leave this room due to expansion of the pumpkin while it is being pressure cooked.  Trust me, I’ve made this mistake before.  All your pumpkin juice from inside the jar makes its way out into the pressure cooker and you’ll get a little bit of dry pumpkin.  Leave the headspace.

Clean Jar rim before pressure cooking Wipe off the rim of the jar to remove any sticky liquid or pumpkin chunks that could interfere with getting a good seal on the lid.

Tighten lid on canning jarTighten the lid onto the canning jar (careful – it will be hot!)

Jars in Pressure CookerPlace a maximum of 7 quarts into your pressure cooker.  You have to use a pressure cooker, not a hot water bath canner.  The pumpkin doesn’t have enough acid in it to kill any little critters that might be in there.  Follow your directions for your pressure cooker.  Make sure that you check the vents to make sure they are clear (tee hee!  Chicken humor – check your vent!  I know, my joke was wearing thin on Lexie too.  She had to hear it every time I started a new batch.  Can’t take me anywhere.)

Process quarts for 90 minutes at 10 pounds of pressure and pints for 55 minutes at 10 pounds of pressure.  You can fit 10 pints into the canner.  This is the long part.  Waiting for the canner to achieve correct pressure and then waiting and hoping nothing goes wrong.  I’ve heard pressure cookers can be quite dangerous.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds Since you have to stay close to your pressure cooker to keep an eye on it, might as well roast all those pumpkin seeds!  I just mix a little sunflower oil and sea salt and pop them into the oven at 250 degrees for about half an hour.  I think we got 2 gallon size bags of pumpkin seeds this year.  Pretty sure they won’t last too long.

Canned Pumpkin Quarts Now you have pumpkin to use for all those yummy treats all year long.  When you open a jar, drain out the water and mush the pumpkin up with a spoon.  Pumpkin puree!  We did pretty good this year.  There are 50 quarts and 27 pints in the pantry.  And it only cost us $15.00!  Hmm.  That would be about 19 cents a jar.  Plus I had a bowl of pumpkin that I just didn’t feel like canning anymore so we ate pumpkin muffins, pumpkin bread, … yeah, yeah, you get the idea!

Pheasant with Homemade Crockpot Applesauce

I love this time of the year.  All the preparations for winter, a myriad of colors, a crispness in the air… and canning.

Fresh garden beets for canning

Beets from our garden

We harvested the remaining beets, tomatillos, and carrots from the garden.  The carrots were juiced for us and the leftovers were fed to Buster Bunny.  Tomatillos were made into salsa verde, which we all agreed wasn’t as good as our friend Dave made it.  I’ll work on it for next year, and maybe steal his recipe.

The beets were washed, boiled, peeled, and cubed in preparation for canning.  They would have to wait until canning day.

We took a day and went to visit my parents.  While we were in the area, we stopped at our favorite apple orchard and loaded up on apples.  We bought 4 overfilled brown paper bags of #2 apples.  These are apples that have fallen off the tree or that have a bruise or other minor flaw.  Perfect for homemade applesauce.  We bought a mixture of Gala, Macintosh, and Jonathon.  And a big bag of Honey Crisp just for munching on.

Peeled apples for applesauce

Large bin full of peeled apples

Super Easy Sugar-Free Crockpot Applesauce

  • peeled, cored, and chopped apples (enough to almost fill your crockpot)
  • lots of cinnamon
  • dash of nutmeg
  • water
Homemade crockpot applesauce

Crockpots full of homemade applesauce

Put everything in your crockpot, add a little water, and let cook on low for about 6 hours.  Or turn it to high for 4 hours.  You can add more water depending on how thick you like your applesauce.  You can also add a few more apples halfway through so that you get some apple chunks (if you like it chunky) in your applesauce.

Applesauce should be canned using the boiling water method.  Leave 1/2 inch of headspace in your jars and process quarts or pints for 20 minutes.

I spent the next day canning beets in the pressure cooker and applesauce in the boiling water canner.  We made 8 batches of applesauce over a 3 day period.  My kitchen smelled like apple pie.  It was also quite messy!

Canned Beets and Homemade Applesauce

Canned Beets and Homemade Applesauce

I now have 35 quarts of beets and 27 quarts of applesauce.  That doesn’t include the beets and applesauce that we’ve already eaten.  It’s looking to be a good year for canning!  I love the feeling I get from having a well-stocked pantry.

We had a surprise in the poultry pasture.  Nik was collecting eggs and came running back to the house.  I was sure something had happened to one of our ducks.  Instead, we saw this guy standing there…

Pheasant

Pheasant

Not what I expected with the ducks, geese, and chickens!  Nik and I herded him into a corner and he flew out.  I think he probably stopped by for a snack and wasn’t sure which way to go to get out.  Luckily for him, it wasn’t pheasant season!

To top off our day, we were treated with a beautiful sunset.  It makes me think of that old sailor saying:

Red at night, sailor’s delight

Red in morn, sailor’s take warn.

Colorful Sunset

Colorful Sunset

Beeten by Ducks

It seems that every post lately has been about baby ducks.  Well…. here’s another one.  We found Molly sitting in the barn with a clutch of 19 little ones.  I’m not even keeping count anymore.Muscovy duck with babies

There’s one more (ugh.) momma sitting on her eggs and that is it.  No more Muscovy babies.  None.  Nada.  Zilch.  We’ve been snagging any eggs we find before they can decide to sit again.  We’ve got babies coming out of our ears.  Some are dinky and some are almost fully feathered.  Enough baby excitement for one year!  I’ve learned that Muscovy ducks are prolific layers and hatchers.  They make excellent mothers.  They are comical to watch, quiet, and come in all kinds of beautiful colors and patterns. Muscovy ducks And they’re friendly.  Molly and Jade (with all of her offspring) come up to us every morning and chirp once for a handful of corn.  We will be sticking with Muscovy ducks for a while.  They forage well and don’t like playing in mud puddles.  Pekins on the other hand, love water and mud.  The messier the better for them.  Not great at foraging.  Not broody.  Quite mouthy at times.  Only come in white (or brown if they’ve found dirt and water).  They are cute and have expressive eyes.  And if they know you have dog food they are your best friend!  Unfortunately the Pekins aren’t going to be sticking around for long.  For us it is more cost effective to raise Muscovy ducks than it is to have Pekin ducks.  Sorry guys!  One thing about Pekins though, they love storms!  These guys hang through the yuckiest weather.  Except for heat.  It gets warm and they start panting.  Muscovy ducks tolerate heat well and are pretty tolerant of the cold too.  Enough said.

Pekin ducks in garden

We finally caught a break from all of the rain that we’ve been getting around here.  It rained for days on end.  Then came the heat.  I don’t do heat.  Nope.  I wither.  I started my search for the perfect place to live again.  No temps over 80.  No temps under 35.  Not too much rain, clouds, or wind.  I like to enjoy all 4 seasons a little each year.  Anybody know of a place like that?  Anyway… with all of the rain it got a little mushy around the pond.  Big tractor, mushy grass, muddy banks and you get…

Wheelhorse tractor in pond

Yep.  The tractor took a dunk.  Luckily no one was hurt.  I know, you’re probably thinking that this was my doing.  Usually you’d be correct in that assumption.  But HAH!  Not this time!!!  This was my honey’s boo-boo.  (Okay, right now I’m giggling to myself because I just made what’s known around here as a “Mommy joke”.  Honey Boo Boo.  Get it?  Not that I’ve ever watched the show.  Mommy jokes are my weird sense of humor which sometimes I’m the only that gets it at all.)  Poor guy had just spent days servicing the motor, changing the oil, washing and waxing the tractor, and changing the air filter.  Then this happens.  Mind you, this wasn’t such a big deal because Todd did it.  Nope.  It happened, done and over.  HHhhhmmmm… wonder what would have been said if it was actually me that did this?  Just saying.  Like that time I hit the fence and broke the fence panel down?  Okay, I feel vindicated now!

Our garden has loved the rain.  I can’t believe how big all the weeds have grown!  I mean, plants have grown.  This is one battle that we may not win.  There’s always next year.  We got a large harvest of beets last week.  So I started canning.  Not a bright idea in 100+ heat and humidity with no air conditioning.  But that’s me.  Have beets, must preserve and persevere!

fresh garden beets

We gathered all the beets.

garden beets prepped for canning

Cut the tops off (used some for juicing – YUM!) and scrubbed all the dirt off.

garden beets prepped for canning

Boiled the beets for 10 to 15 minutes until the skin came easily off.  Saved the beet water to use for hot packing the jars.  Quartered the beets, put them into quart jars, added the hot water leaving 1” of headspace in the jar, cleaned off the rim, put on lids and…

pressure cooker

Processed the jars in a pressure cooker for 35 minutes at 10 pounds of pressure.

canned garden beets

We now have 21 quarts of beets saved up for winter.  There’s still a whole row of beets left in the garden for eating fresh.  But that’s for another day.  Right now, I’m beet.  (tee hee!  Mommy humor!)

Deer in a Can

I can’t believe that we are into December already.  I swear that we just finished up the turkey a few days ago!  I really love Thanksgiving – 3 days of leftovers and no cooking!!  I hope everybody had a wonderful turkey day.  We had lots of good food and a little bit of down time.  The next day was spent putting up our tree and hanging the stockings with care.  We don’t do Black Friday.  Why would anyone want to start such a wonderful season with all that pushing, hurrying, and downright crankiness?!

033

034

 

 

 

 

 

Tis’ the season for new adventures…..

I decided to go deer hunting for the first time with my husband.  Not exactly a glamorous date.  Do you have any idea how hard it is to sit still and not talk for that long?!  Not to mention, who really likes to get dressed up like a big orange marshmallow!?!  It wasn’t all bad, because I found myself out there again the next day!001

We didn’t get anything that time, but he did get his first deer this year.  Yay!  Not that I’m happy about ending a deer’s life.  But I am grateful for the wonderful meat that is now filling our freezer and I understand that this is how things work.   I would like to say that I’d have been able to pull the trigger if I had a clean shot.  Who knows though.  I still get sad at the thought of butchering the ducks!

009    The whole process of skinning, gutting, butchering, and processing the meat took us 4 days.  I shouldn’t complain too much.  Todd did all the really yucky work.  I got to turn the meat into hamburger011 and vacuum pack everything.  And we found out that chickens and guineas really, really like raw deer meat.  We got fed and so did the animals.  The whole experience made us feel very self-sufficient.  It’s definitely a good feeling!

 

Speaking of self-sufficiency… I finally finished canning all of our pumpkins.  And sweet potatoes.  28 pie pumpkins and 25 pounds of sweet taters.  Kind of killed my pumpkin cravings for now.  I spent 99 cents on each of the pumpkins and was able to get 2 quarts of pumpkin from each one.  I figure a 15 oz can of pumpkin costs almost $2 at the store.  That would be 4 cans of pumpkin for $1.  No BPA in the can linings and I’m guaranteed it’s all pure pumpkin.  It tastes so much better than a store bought can.  Plus we had a ton of pumpkin seeds that we roasted for snacking on and the animals were more than happy to take care of the guts and rinds.  The sweet potatoes were on sale for 17 cents per pound.  I think I got 12 quarts out of them.  It might be easier to pick up a can at the store, but I enjoy being able to can and store food.  Hopefully it will be food that we have grown ourselves next time!

003

We were able to spend some time outside soaking up the sun the past few days.  The chickens came out in the yard to play and forage.  It’s all good!!  I love the farming life!!  The simple little things like watching a chicken scratch in the dirt and come running to you like you are the greatest thing in the world.  I heart chickens!

029

      028

OH, in case you were wondering about the post title.. Lexie asked me what the post was about and I told her deer and canning.  Deer in a can.  She started laughing and begged me to make it my title.  So who am I to say no?  Maybe somebody else will get a little chuckle out of it too!  I didn’t actually put any deer in a can.  I tried, but it just wouldn’t fit!