The other day, my wife picked up a watermelon at the farm stand. I’m not a huge fan of watermelon, but my wife and daughter love it. They ate about half of it and now it is all but forgotten in the beer fridge.
When I was making the corn cob jelly, my daughter asked if I could make watermelon jelly. I had never heard of it, so decided to look it up. Of course I found several recipes for it. After looking at a bunch of them, I found that it is just like most other jelly recipes. It is just fruit juice, sugar and pectin. So here’s my description of how to make watermelon jelly. Sorry there aren’t many pictures, I think my camera is going up. Continue reading
Welcome to this week’s homestead update. I hope you all had a nice labor day.
Food mill assembled
The Summer garden is winding down. The tomatoes look horrible. They are huge, but are sprawling all over the ground now that they have escaped the cages. They still produce some tomatoes, but not very many. I did get enough to use my Roma food mill to make some tomato paste. This allowed me to put together a review of the Roma and my experience using it for the first time. I’m really happy with this purchase. My son can’t wait until we can get some apples so he can use it to make apple sauce. Continue reading
Last week, I posted about how to freeze corn. After cutting all that corn off of the cob, I was left with a bunch of corn cobs. That sure seemed like a lot of waste, so searched the Internet to see if there was something I could make out of them. Of course, I found suggestions of making corn cob pipes or feeding them to the animals to get the last of the corn off of the cob. But I recalled hearing about corn cob jelly. So I did some searching and found a couple of recipes. Continue reading
Over the weekend, I decided to try my hand at another dutch oven main course. This time around, I went with pork chops. I found that most of the easy recipes are really easy. They are recipes where you add the food to the dutch oven and cook it. There isn’t a lot of additions half way through the process. Today’s dish is no different. Continue reading
The fall is the time for great local apples. One of my neighbors is a farmer with a small orchard. He had 1/2 peck bags of Fugi apples out on his cart for $4 per bag. I picked up 2 bags of apples to make my favorite apple product, apple butter. I love the sweetness of the apples, mixed with a bit of a bite from the cinnamon and cloves. To me, this is what apples were made for.
Since I was off work today, I decided it was time to make up a batch of apple butter. Here’s the base recipe that I found on the National Center for Home Food Preservation. It is a great place to start. Last time I made this, I got 6 pints out of the batch. I want a little more, so I increased my number of apples to almost 9 pounds but left the rest of the recipe alone.
Apple butter ingredients
- 8 lbs apples
- 2 cups apple cider
- 2 cups cider vinegar
- 2 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 2 tbsp cinnamon
- 1 tbsp ground cloves
Wash, core and cut up the apples. Cook the apples in the apple cider and the vinegar over low heat until they are soft. This took me the better part of an hour.
Straining the apples
When I didn’t feel the resistance of uncooked apples while stirring, I figured they were soft enough to strain. To me that means into the antique food mill that my mother gave me. It is a bit of work, but the wooden plunger fits the contours of the strainer perfectly. My only complaint about this mill is the base doesn’t fit inside the pots I use to process various food.
Cooking down the apple butter
Once strained, this goes into a big pot with the sugars and spices. This is cooked down to a thicker consistency. I test for the proper thickness by using the plate method. Spoon a little of the apple butter onto a white plate. If a big ring of liquid forms, it isn’t thick enough. I like my apple butter slightly thinner, so I allow a small ring of liquid eventually forming around the apple butter.
Apple butter processed
Once thick enough, I ladle the finished apple butter into sanitized wide mouth jars, leaving about 1/2″ head space. Put on sterilized lids and tighten down the bands. These then go into a boiling water bath canner. Process pints and half pints for 5 minutes. If doing quarts, process those for 10 minutes.
Cottage cheese with apple butter
Here’s my favorite way to eat my apple butter. A bowl of cottage cheese with a generous serving of apple butter on top. It doesn’t get any better than this.
I don’t really have much time for an update today. I had to work late, so didn’t do anything with the homestead today. As soon as I got home, I had to get the grill started and cook up some chicken breasts. I cooked more than we needed, but Karen’s making chicken tortellini soup tomorrow and needed the chicken.
Jelly update: It doesn’t seem to have gelled up as much as I would like. Turning the jars upside down, the jelly does move. It isn’t extremely runny, but looks to be about the same viscosity as slime.
I know, not appetizing, but looks to be like that. I’m giving it another day and if it still is a little runny, I’ll re-process it on Thursday.
Based on a comment, there are a couple ideas for future posts. How to go about selecting fruit trees, berry bushes and nut trees for the homestead. Paying attention to what is hardy in my zone. Insect, weed and disease control without using chemicals. I’m not totally against chemicals. I know they have a place in a modern homestead. But they are never my first choice. There are much better natural alternatives.
I was listening to one of Jack Spirko’s podcasts on my commute today. This was about personal branding. During it, an idea for a pretty useful camping site came to mind. I’m pretty excited about this, but I’m not at the point where I can give out any details. I did buy my domain names and already have hosting available. But I’m still hashing out exactly what I want to make of this. What it should look like, what info will be provided, etc. I’ll post here details when I get this all figured out.
I’m home today because my wife had to take care of some stuff with her mother, so I had to get the kids off to school and pick them up this afternoon. It all works out since I had some stuff to get done at home. I took the car in for maintenance and on the way back stopped off at Home Depot. I picked up what I needed and came across a pair of Fiskars Cuts+More scissors. Bought those and will put them through their paces.
I decided that one thing that I’m going to do in this blog is do some reviews of the tools that I use here on the homestead. I’ve heard that you can write them off as a business expense. I guess I’ll have to look into that. But for now, I’m going to start doing a review each week. I haven’t decided which day, but it will likely be either Friday or Monday. Either way, I’ll probably pick up a new tool each Friday and do some testing to be reported the next week. We’ll see where that goes.
Now on to the homestead. I like to grow Jalapeno peppers. I don’t really eat all that many of them, but they are so prolific that they really boost the ego. Last year I planted 5 plants and had too many peppers. So this year I only planted 1 mammoth Jalapeno plant. I think I’ll go back to standard Jalapenos next year. The mammoth peppers are still pretty good. But they are too big. I’m getting peppers off this plant that are 4″ or bigger. My favorite way to eat Jalapenos are as poppers. A 4″ pepper is too big to make into a popper.
Since I can’t really do poppers with them, I decided to make up some Jalapeno jelly. I have never had it, but I’ve heard it is good. I used the pepper jelly recipe from over at Pick Your Own. The recipe says it makes about 5 cups of jelly, but it calls for 3/4 to 1 pound of peppers. I went with the 1 pound of peppers so I got 6 half pint jars. The recipe says to puree the peppers, I used a blender and put it on liquify. The only problem with that is I ended up with a lot of foam. It took me a while to get that to go down.
It hasn’t gelled yet, but it has only been about 2 hours. I’m pretty confident that it will gel up. I tasted the little bit left in the pan and it tastes really good. I’ll likely eat it on Ritz crackers with cream cheese. Here’s a shot of the jars.
As you can see, the color isn’t all that great. It is much darker than I thought it would be. Next time around, I might try putting some food color in it to see if that improves the appearance. I’d like to end up with something about the color of ripe Jalapeno peppers. But I don’t know if there’s anything that will lighten up the jelly to that shade.