Friday, October 28, 2011

Almost Done

I believe I am nearly at the end of my food preservation marathon using the goodies from the Farmer's Market.  I still had apples left to dehydrate and I finished those today.  This is just part of the 60 lbs. of apples.  I used about 10 pounds earlier - froze 4 quarts, made me a bowl of fried apples and a pan of apple crisp.  Tasted so good.  Sorry, but I didn't save any for you.  It was just too delicious.  Didn't even last long enough for a picture.

I had already dried a couple of dehydrator loads of apples when this picture was taken.

All total, I got 15 quarts of dried apple slices.

I tried vac sealing them in bags, but they tended to break into small pieces, so I put them in quart jars as I wanted slices to use in pies, apple crisp and other apple desserts.  A few weeks ago I canned a bunch of applesauce and 7 quarts of apple pie filling.  I will probably do that again next year, but I really like the dried apples.  They are so versatile and take up much less space than the canned.

When Duane and Becky brought me this last load of fruit and veggies they also brought me a surprise.  The Saturday that I had gone with them to the Farmer's Market I saw something that I really, really love.  Something that I hadn't had for a very long time.  Something that I used to buy from a farmer I knew when we lived up north.  But I had already come close to wrecking my budget so decided I had better not spend the money, although it was way less expensive than in the stores.  This was my surprise.

Yep.  A half-gallon jar of real, honest-to-goodness, pure honey.  The last time I bought a tiny little bottle of honey at the grocery, I was dismayed to find that it didn't taste at all like the honey I remembered.  After reading the label, I knew why.  It was thinned out with corn syrup.  Yuck!  Not this stuff.  It is liquid gold.  That night I just had to make biscuits so I could have them with honey.  Last night I made cornbread for the same reason.  It is wonderful!  Thank you for such a nice surprise.

So now all I have left to finish up is the rest of the 50 lb. box of potatoes.  Ten pounds went into the dehydrator this afternoon and there are about another 20 pounds waiting to be dried.  Then I think I am done for a while.  It seems like a lot of work, but it is well worth it, especially come winter time when I don't like going outdoors all that much, especially to grocery shop.

While I was in the middle of all of this cooking and peeling and blanching and canning, I couldn't help but remember how much of this kind of thing I had done when I wasn't much older than Boston and Maddie.  By that time, Mother was losing the use of her hands.  The arthritis in her joints was just too painful for her to do the work involved.  So as the oldest child, I was the only one old enough to help her preserve food for the winter.  Back then it wasn't just a trendy thing to do as it seems to be now.  It was a way of life.  It was the way we made sure that the family would be fed until the garden produce was ready the next season.  I remember that I wasn't very happy about spending so much time in the kitchen doing pretty much what I have been doing here lately.  I wanted to be outside playing.  Or in my room reading a book.  Or any of a dozen other things.  Anything but peeling apples and canning green beans.  But I find now that I am grateful to my Mother for having taught me not only how to make things like jam and relish and canned vegetables, but for also teaching me the importance of doing it.  I remember once complaining about all of the work involved and asking her why we had to do so much in the late summer and fall of the year.  She told me that I should look around me.  There were ants hauling off food into their ant hills for the winter.  There were squirrels stashing away acorns for the winter.  The farmers had put hay in their barns to feed their livestock for the winter.  She said that if we wanted to eat through the winter, a little hard work now was the way to do it.  She was right.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Potatoes, Peas, Carrots & Onions

I had asked Duane to bring me more potatoes from the Farmer's Market.  I had bought 50 lbs. two weeks before, dehydrated some and canned the rest.  I really like the canned cubed potatoes for convenience, and as a bag of potatoes from the store will go bad before I use them all, it makes sense to have them in jars in the pantry where they will last a long time.

This box of potatoes I wanted to can a little differently.  I am particularly fond of both beef and chicken stew over homemade biscuits.  So I wanted to can the vegetables together in the same jar for this use.  It is kind of my version of convenience food.  Open a jar of canned vegetables, another of canned beef or chicken cubes, toss in a little tomato and some homemade gravy mix and by the time the biscuits come out of the oven, the stew is ready.

Before Duane and Becky left my place on Saturday, Duane asked me if I wanted him to go to the grocery and pick up the carrots, peas and onions that I planned to can along with the potatoes.  I figured that he and Becky had already done way more than enough for me, bringing me all the goodies from the Farmer's Market, so I said that I would take care of that Monday.  His reply was, "Mom, would you rather spend Monday on the bus going to the store and hauling your groceries up the stairs by yourself, or would you rather have us do it so you can work on these vegetables!"  And because I am not a completely stupid woman, I handed him my grocery list.

I peeled and cubed some of the potatoes, peeled and sliced carrots and heated two large bags of frozen peas.  Then I layered the veggies in quart jars and processed them in my pressure canner.  I got 28 quarts of stew mix veggies, with a little bit of carrots and potatoes left over, which I bagged up and popped into the freezer.

I had planned to add chunks of onion in each jar as well, but on thinking it over, decided that the onion would probably turn to mush in the pressure canner.  So I peeled the 10 lbs. of onions, sliced them thin, crying like a baby the whole time, and filled my dehydrators with the sliced onions.  This is what 10 lbs. of onions looks like in my big 9-quart stainless steel bowl.

That amount of onions filled all seventeen dehydrator trays.

I put them on the table in my bedroom and shut the door.  I like the smell of onions, but I am not too sure that my neighbors do, although I have done this many times without anybody complaining about the smell.  But an open window near the dehydrators and the closed door help to contain the onion odor.  I let the dehydrators run all afternoon and overnight, as I like the taste when the onions caramelize a bit while drying.

This is what 10 lbs. of dehydrated onions looks like, in my 2-quart bowl.

If I want raw onion in a dish, this is not going to work, but for any kind of cooking, I just toss in a handful and they rehydrate really well.

I still have probably two-thirds of the 50 lb. box of potatoes left and I will dehydrate them later.  Right now there are 5 big bags of apples, right around 60 lbs. of them, waiting for me.

I really do love the Farmer's Market!  Duane says that he won't take me there next year unless he has a pickup and a hand truck.  I wonder why he said that.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Cranberry Sauce

Yesterday Duane and Becky went back to the Farmer's Market in St. Paul.  They brought me goodies.  Lots of them.

One of the goodies was a box of cranberries.  I had seen the cranberries when I went with them two weeks ago, but didn't buy any then as I had already filled the trunk and back seat of Duane's car with produce.  When I first saw the box they brought me, it ran through my mind that it was awfully small.  But when I measured out the berries from the box, I found that it held the equivalent of 15 bags of cranberries from the grocery.  At less than half the price of store berries.  And they were beautiful berries.  There wasn't a bad one in the whole lot.

So yesterday afternoon I made cranberry sauce.  Forty-two half pint jars of cranberry sauce.

Duane and Becky were still at my place when the first batch came off the stove, ready to go into the jars, and after a taste test, they pronounced it wonderful.

I think I will just sit here and admire these lovely jars for a while before moving on to the next project that involves 50 lbs. of potatoes, some carrots, peas and onions.

Gotta love the Farmer's Market.  And those who are willing to shop and haul and carry for me.  Thank you.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Farmer's Market - It's a Good Thing

I had never been to a big Farmer's Market.  There is a small one locally, but the last time I went past where it is set up, there were probably no more than six or seven booths.  This past Saturday I got to go to a BIG Farmer's Market.  It was so much fun!

Duane and Becky picked me up early on Saturday morning and we went to downtown St. Paul.  The market takes up one city block.  There are more varieties of fruits and vegetables than I knew existed.  And flowers.  And honey.  And handmade soap.  And so much more that I can't remember it all.

We walked through and looked everything over and then went back and made our purchases.  I was afraid that I would do some serious damage to my budget if I wasn't careful, but the prices were good and I was more than pleased with what I bought.  I am not good at negotiating prices with vendors, but Becky is, so I left that part to her, and she did well for me.

We found a bushel of tomatoes at a good price, so into the trunk of the car they went.  Then there was 50 lbs of potatoes for much less than I have seen them at the grocery store, and way more fresh, just perfect for dehydrating, so those, too got hauled to the car.  There were bags of mixed apples that were really reasonable, so I took home three big bags for pie filling and dehydrating.  I needed green peppers for a relish I want to make, and I got a big bag full for only $6.  The last thing we found was cabbage.  Now, we aren't talking about your puny little grocery store heads of cabbage.  We're talking big, honkin' heads of cabbage, at only $2 each.  I bought six heads.  Becky and I had all we could do to each carry a bag of three heads.  There is some seriously good cabbage slaw that I like to can and some Chow Chow relish, and the rest will be dehydrated.  It is so good in soups. homemade chow mien and the like.  I chopped up one head today to get it ready for the dehydrator, and it filled two and a half gallon zip bags!

I'm thinking that Duane will probably think twice before asking me if I want to go to the Farmer's Market again.  He was my pack mule.  As I bought vegetables, he hauled them to the car and then came back for more.  Bless him and Becky for hauling most of it up the stairs to my apartment for me.  By the time they were done, it looked like a garden had exploded in my kitchen.  I didn't take any pictures of my loot, but will when I am done canning and drying.  It will be so nice to have this taste of summer when the snow is blowing this winter.

Thanks again, Duane and Becky.  I had such a good time.  I'm thinking that by the end of this week there may just be a few jars of home canned goodness waiting for you!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Monkey Bars

When I checked my email this morning, I found this video of my grandson, Jacob.  It made my day!

His smile at the end is priceless.
Thanks to his Dad for sharing it with me.  Love it!