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Homemade Dog Treats

 

Well homemade dog treats is kind of misleading. These dog treats are made out of chicken feet. Wait, let me correct that, they ARE chicken feet. Just dehydrated.

Should I change the title of the post? I mean, they are homemade and they are the perfect treat for dogs.

Ah F it. Homemade dog treats it is.

If y’all didn’t read the last post about our chickens, take a gander. We unfortunately had to get rid of our chickens sooner than expected. These ladies were our first major step towards our homesteading journey and our intention was to love them, allow them to be chickens and then they would provide us with food at the end of their production.

The time had come and even though we tried to chicken out, literally, we stuck to our intention and butchered our first chickens. A more in-depth post on our experience is coming soon I promise. It was nothing like we expected. It was harder than we ever imagined.

But let’s get on with our dog treats shall we. Unfortunately, the only salvageable part of our butchered chickens were their feet. Again, a more in-depth post will come soon.

Their feet, being the only thing we were able to save, were dehydrated and made into perfect dog treats for our pup Angus.

It was super simple to. Ready to hear how to do it?

All you need:

Dehydrator

Chicken feet…….obviously

All you do is:

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  • Soak chicken feet in a bowl of water over night. This helps get all the dirt off their feet.
  • After soaking run under water and scrub feet with a bristle brush. Using soap is not necessary. Be sure to scrub off as much dirt as possible.

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  • Next, you want to clip off their nails.

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  • Bust out that dehydrator of yours and lay the feet on a tray.
  • Now, turn that bad boy on and let it go for about 24-48 hours. Or until they become super crispy. You will know they are ready when you try to bend a toe back and it breaks off without bending. If it bends, even a little, let it keep going. I think ours actually took about 3 days.

***Small tip, plug the dehydrator in the garage if available. Not like the dehydrator is super loud but it can be annoying to listen to after about an hour. In the garage, it’s away doing its bad boy thing.

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That is is y’all. Super easy and your pup gets insanely delicious healthy treats.

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Happy dehydrating!

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Strawberry Jam Yo!

DesignIt was 93 degrees today with a humidity of 84%, sounds like a perfect day to stand barefoot in the kitchen over a hot stove and make some jam.

Don’t you think?

I mean, when really is a good time to can. No matter what, you are going to be dripping sweat so, I say F it…..

Can it up yo!

I love canning food. It is just so empowering to take a delicious piece of food, homegrown or from the farmers market and preserve it at its finest. But canning to many can be super intimidating. When really, it’s not. Today we will can up some delicious strawberry jam. Now, back in the day rule of thumb was a cup of white sugar to a cup of fruit. That just seems a little intense. When you have a pure piece of fruit that is organically grown with love and picked at its prime, there really shouldn’t be any reason to cover up it’s natural sweetness with processed white sugar. This recipe we will be using honey and the ratio will be more fruit than sweetener.

Jams, jellies and other high acidic fruits require the water bath method. Water bath method is using boiling water to process your jars. Usually you can find a water bath canner at walmart, target or even the grocery store. Or you can just click here and bam get one delivered right to your door.

Usually I skip out on added pectin when making jam in the past, which pectin is just a natural starch found in fruits and vegetables. This helps naturally thicken up jams and jellies. I did use it in this recipe and was pleased with the results.

Ready for the recipe…..

What you’ll need:

8 cups of strawberries

1 cup of honey

6 tablespoons of pectin

Juice of half a lemon

Whatcha wanna do is…..

Start up your water bath canner first thing. It’s a ton of water and takes some time to get boiling. Next, place a small plate in the freezer, trust me.

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Then wash and de-stem your strawberries. Now, you can either throw whole strawberries in a sauce pan and use a masher to mash them up or you can puree your strawberries. Either way bring those bad boys to boil.

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Add in your honey, pectin and lemon juice. Bring to a boil that can not be stirred down.

***Let’s take a second to talk about “scum.” Scum is simply air bubbles that rise up from the fruit during the heating process. It is a white foam that sits on the top of your jam while cooking. If you do not remove the scum, your jam will be discolored and processing may be compromised. You do not want air trapped in your jars. You can easily remove the scum as it rises to the top with a spoon.

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Next, remove the scum. See now aren’t you glad I explained what scum is first, now you’re not scratching your head wondering what the in the hell is scum?

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At this point, the water bath should be boiling. Go ahead and put all your jars, rings and seals in the water. Allow to boil for 10 minutes. This will sanitize and keep everything safe for canning.

Now, take that plate out of the freezer, I told you to trust me, and put a small spoonful of jam on it and place back in freezer for 3 minutes. This is an old trick to see if your jam is ready to can. When you run your finger threw it, it gels up a bit, that is when it’s ready to rock.

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Now take those hot jars out carefully, along with the rings and seals. Place a funnel over the jar and fill those bad boys up with jam, leaving a quarter inch of headspace. Gently wipe the rim of the jar, this prevents any residue from not allowing the jars to seal properly. Place seal and ring on and tighten only finger tight. ***Do not over tighten.

Allow filled jar to wait in canner by lifting your rack.

***Ball blue book suggests you do one jar at a time and allow filled jars to wait in hot water until jars are ready to be processed. By doing this all jars stay hot and at appropriate temperature.

Now gently drop your rack down, put lid on and process your jars for 10 minutes.

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Place jars on a towel and do not touch for 24 hours. This allows the jars to properly seal. Hopefully you get to hear the sweet sound of a delicate BING throughout the day. That sound my friends tells you all that sweating you did in the kitchen was worth it.

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***If your jars have white residue from hard water after processing, spray a paper towel with vinegar and wipe jars down.

Boom son, you just canned yourself some sweet delicious strawberry jam.

Happy canning!

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Damn Delicious Spaghetti Sauce

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Alright y’all, I feel as though it is time that I share our spaghetti sauce recipe. I get it, there are thousands of recipes out there, so why should you try this one? Because it is mutha f-ing delicious that’s why. This recipe has been handed down from my mother-in-law, thanks Gail! And now I hand it down to you.

Enough with the bull s*** let’s do this thang already

***Yo, use as many organic ingredients as possible, I feel like at this point I shouldn’t have to say it but I am…….so do it!

Ingredients:

3 cans tomato sauce

3 cans of stewed tomatoes

1 lb ground beef or turkey (we use turkey)

4-5  sweet Italian sausage links

1 Mayan sweet onion sliced or chopped

3-4 garlic cloves

Optional: mushrooms and bell peppers

2-3 teaspoons of each of these seasonings

thyme

marjoram

oregano

basil

italian seasoning

salt to taste

Directions:

*** This sauce is best cooked in a slow cooker ALL. DAY. LONG. But if you are running low on time and have a handy dandy pressure cooker, which side note I believe everyone should have one of these because they are freaking amazing, you can use this as well and it comes out beautifully.

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  • In a crock pot put your three cans of tomato sauce and three cans of stewed tomatoes. Add sliced or chopped onion, all dry seasonings and garlic. Start cooking the sauce while you prepare the rest.
  • In a pan cook your ground turkey or beef until fully cooked. Once cooked add to crock pot.
  • Remove sausage from casing and roll into small meatballs. Cook in a pan. Once fully cooked add those little balls of deliciousness to the crock pot.
  • Now just cook on low for as long as possible. Stir occasionally.

***You want your onions to be soft and supple.

Yes, I just used the word supple.

Cook yourself up some noodles and BAM you got yourself a damn delicious bowl of spaghetti sauce.

If you’re like us, you’ll end up eating the whole pot throughout the week. BUT let’s say you have more self control and want to save this bad ass sauce for future dinners. If you have a food saver you can seal up this sauce and stick it in the freezer. If you don’t have a food savor, get yourself a freaking food savor, stop reading this post click here. This thing along with the pressure cooker have been two things we have not regretted.

***If you plan on using your food saver and intend to freeze it, here are a few tips.

  • Portion out servings. Because let’s say your having a lazy Sunday and no one is really in the mood for anything and everyone fends for themselves. And let’s just say you are craving spaghetti, well you can just mosey on over to the freezer pull out a serving and make yourself a bowl without wasting a bunch of sauce.
  • Put the date on it yo!
  • Freeze your sauce as close to the date you made it as possible. I suck at doing this to be honest but it is so important. Portion out a couple of dinners worth and then freeze the rest.

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To have homemade spaghetti sauce on hand in times of need has been so incredible. So again get yourself a food saver homie and stock that freezer up!

Happy spaghetti sauce making!

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Fermenting Carrots,With Brine!

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So you have some carrots do ya. And you want to ferment them do ya. Let’s do this thing yo! Fermentation doesn’t always have to be about making sauerkraut, the sky’s the limit when making fermented foods. Whatever your favorite vegetable is, you can ferment it to give it a ton more health benefits. Or if you harvest to much from your garden and can’t think of what to do with it, ferment it up, yo! We are going to talk about fermentation using a brine rather than only salt.

When do you use brine?

When you have a vegetable that does not allow liquid to be withdrawn easily. For example, cabbage,  when you put salt on cabbage and massage it, you are able to pull liquid out by just doing that simple act. Now, unless you want to shred your carrots, you can’t just put salt on a whole carrot and get liquid to come out. So you’ll need to make a brine to create the liquid.

Things you’ll need:

1 quart Filtered water

2-3 pounds of Carrots

1-3 TBL Sea salt or Celtic sea salt

Optional: Lemon, peppercorns, garlic, dill, rosemary….

Glass jar (Quart size mason jars work beautifully)

Fancy lid or plastic lid or coffee filter

Fancy weight or plastic baggy filled with brine

Whatcha want to do is…

  • Wash and peel your carrots. Slice them to whatever size tickles your fancy. I did quarters.
  • In a pot dissolve salt in filtered water.
  • Place your carrots in glass jar and cover with liquid. Be sure to leave some head space for your weight.
  • Now either you can add your additional flavors now or wait until after the fermentation process is done and add them before you place in fridge.
  • Place weight on top of carrots.  ***If you’re not using a fancy weight don’t worry, just fill a baggy with some brine and place baggy on top of carrots. This will help keep everything down and if the baggy happens to have a hole or breaks, it has the same brine as the carrots so your fermentation is not ruined.

***Remember, your vegetables MUST stay below liquid. The liquid creates the anaerobic environment (free of oxygen) that allows good bacteria to form and prohibits bad from growing. BUT if your vegetable mass reaches air, mold can grow.

  • Place fancy lid on or which ever lid you choose and place in cabinet for about 7-14 days. Like sauerkraut, taste test it after 5 days or so. Find your ferment. If it is too salty, let it ferment longer. The longer it sits the more sour it gets. Plus the more health benefits it will have.

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Enjoy whenever! Adding some form of fermented food to every meal you consume, is the most effective way to get the health benefits.

Let’s ferment the world homies!

Happy fermenting!

If you are following from our last post on making sauerkraut, I can’t wait to hear how your sauerkraut came out. Leave a comment below. Let’s make this process loud and loved. I want to hear your questions, comments, thoughts even recipe ideas. 

This post contains affiliate links. That means if you purchase a product through the link we provide, we get a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thank you for supporting Oh Sure I Can Homestead. 

 

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Homemade Elderberry Syrup

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If you haven’t already read the medicinal herb series post on Elder, I suggest you stop what you are doing and mosey on over there. Elder is incredible stuff especially during cold and flu season. Every year there is huge talk about how this years cold and flu season are the worst they have seen yet. Every year it’s the worst one? Crap, I am scared to see what next year brings. So I plan on stocking up on this stuff to help prevent any nastiness that may come our way. Right now I am putting all my faith into this stuff, well this and a handful of other herbs, my household is battling a stomach bug and I am wishing and hoping it doesn’t find a happy place in my belly. Fingers crossed that 4 doses of elderberry syrup, 4 doses of oregano oil and 3 doses of black seed oil throughout the day helps this mama stay strong. Anyway, back to what we are here for. Elderberry syrup. Let’s do this!

First things first, get your grubby little paws on some dried elderberries. Mountain Rose Herbs is an incredible source, however, they were out when I went to order them. So next best place, Amazon. I bought these and so far, we are rockin!

Ingredients: 

3/4 cup dried elderberries

1 tsp cinnamon powder or 1 stick of cinnamon

1-2 tbsp fresh or powdered ginger

3 cups of filtered water

1 cup of raw unfiltered honey

Directions:

  1. Bring elderberries, cinnamon, and ginger to a boil. Lower to a simmer and cover for 40-45 minutes or until liquid reduces to about half.
  2. Strain liquid into a bowl using a cheese cloth or a metal strainer. Be sure to squeeze excess liquid from berries.
  3. Allow to cool just a bit before adding your honey. You don’t want to kill of the honeys natural properties but warm enough so that the honey melts.
  4. Stir it up!
  5. Pour into a mason jar or a swing top bottle.

Elderberry syrup will last about 2 months in refrigerator.

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Dosage: 

Children: 1 tsp once a day for maintenance. 1 tsp twice a day for maximum health benefit.

Adults: 2 tsp once a day for maintenance. 2 tsp four times a day for maximum health benefit.

Elderberry syrup from the store can cost close to $30 for a bottle. Making this syrup at home will not only save you a ton of money but you’ll feel good knowing you put your love and energy into keeping your family healthy.

Happy Syrup Making!!

The information provided is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to treat, diagnose, prevent or cure any illness or disease. Consult with a health care professional before use.
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Kefir: You Got A Question? I Got An Answer!

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I have received a ton of question around Kefir. So I thought I would compile them all together and help take the fear out of fermented milk. When people hear the words fermented milk they immediately shut off. Seriously people, this stuff is the best stuff in the world for your entire well being. When I encourage people to make it at home, they look at me like, there is no way in hell I can make this stuff. Then they look at me and ask, are you sure it’s safe to drink? So lets take the fear out of it and start feeding our bellies with homemade Kefir.

What is Kefir: Kefir is a probiotic. It is a fermented milk that has the consistency of a drinkable yogurt.

What are grains: Grains are essentially little SCOBY’s, Symbiotic Colonies Of Bacteria and Yeast. Grains provide the milk with the necessary bacteria and yeast to create the fermenting process. They are only called grains, they DO NOT contain any wheat.

What kind of milk do I use: Preferably raw organic goats milk.

Next would be organic pasteurized whole milk. You do not want to used Ultra-Pasterized milk. When milk is pasteurized it is heated to a certain temperature inevitably killing off natural bacteria while still leaving some to live in the milk. When milk is Ultra-Pasterized, the milk is heated to such a high temperature that is kills of any and ALL bacteria, leaving no nutritional value in the milk what so ever. If you notice, that is why Ultra-Pasterized milk products have such a high shelf life.

You can use raw whole milk but you would want to acclimate your grains first. Using 25% raw to 75% pasteurized milk and then with each fermenting session increasing the amount of raw milk. Raw milk has tons of good bacteria already present. So sometimes if the grains you purchases or inherited were not acclimated to raw, they tend to compete with the other bacteria.

If you are looking for a non dairy option, coconut milk is the way to go. Coconut milk has natural lactose, which give the grains enough to feed off of to create the fermenting process.

How do I acclimate my grains: If you get fresh grains the first thing you should do is give them some fresh milk. Most likely you will receive 1-2 tablespoons of Kefir grains. To acclimate them place them in a quart size mason jar, pour milk to the top line and place in a cool dark place for 24 hours. After 24 hours, drain grains using a plastic strainer, place grains back in jar and pour more milk and do the process all over again. After the third time, your grains should be good to go. If you receive fresh grains in milk from a friend, those bad boys are ready to rock right when you get home.

When you buy dehydrated grains, some can take up to 2 weeks to acclimate. Usually dehydrated grains will come this a set of instructions to properly hydrate them.

Where do I buy grains: We have grains available for purchase here. When I first purchased my grains I purchased them from amazon. Just be sure you look into the company and feel good about who they are.

I am lactose intolerant, can I still drink Kefir: The grains feed of of the lactose in milk, which is basically the sugar. The fermenting process turns it into lactic acid making it much more easily digestible. 99% of lactose intolerant individuals can drink kefir with little to no problem.

One trick you can do is put a drop of kefir on your skin, let it dry and wait 24 hours and if you do not see any inflammation, you are good to go.

How long do I ferment for: Ideally, 24-36 hours. That doesn’t mean that you can’t strain your grains at 22 hours or if it hits 38 hours it’s ruined. That is just a guideline. The weather has a tremendous impact on any fermentation process. I’ve allowed my kefir to ferment 48 hours and I have also strained it at 18 hours, both perfectly fine to drink.

What size jar do I use: Best size jar to use is a 6 cup mason jar. You can use any size or style of jar you prefer, just make sure you can place a lid or coffee filter over the top during the fermentation process.

What milk to grain ration do I use: The best ratio I have found to make a great batch is 2-4 tablespoons of grains to 6 cups of milk. Now, I have also used about a cup of grains in about 6 cups of milk and my ferment comes out perfectly fine. So again, it’s a guideline. Fermenting is giving, it does not need to be exact. Adding more grains will speed up the fermentation process. Not having enough could make the process a bit longer. You need to play around and find how your grains like to react.

What kind of lid do I use: I used coffee filters with a rubber band at first, which worked great. However, sometimes my rubber band would break off. So I now use plastic mason jar lids. You can find them at any grocery store where they sell canning supplies. Plastic mason jar lids are not air tight, so it is perfect for keeping gnats out while still releasing CO2.

There is a lot of separation during my fermenting process, what is that: Separation is totally normal. When the grains feed off of the lactose it begins to separate the curds and whey within the milk. So you will most often times see a layer of yellowish liquid. Absolutely normal. That separation could occur super quick on a hot day or if you have to many grains for the amount of milk, either way perfectly safe to drink.

Is my Kefir supposed to have a strong smell to it: YES!!! The beautiful thing about grains is that they are a Symbiotic Colony Of Bacteria and Yeast, (SCOBY) so they will smell yeasty. They will smell sour. When they don’t smell is when I question my batch. If I do not smell a strong yeasty smell I usually allow my kefir to ferment a bit longer. Now with any ferment, your nose is the best thing you have to determine if something is not right. If in your gut you feel it’s not right, dump that batch and start a new one. BUT 99% of the time it’s a perfect ferment.

Why is my kefir sometimes really thin and watery: It could be the weather. If it is colder outside than usual, it may take your ferment a bit longer to reach desired consistency. Also, if you have to much milk for the amount of grains you have in your batch, you will end up with a thinner batch. Sometimes just letting it ferment another 24 hours will help thicken it up.

My kefir is super chunky, how do I make it smooth: Ok so you finished your ferment, you added your pureed fruit and it’s still really chunky, throw it all back into the blender and blend that puppy for 30 seconds or so. It will come out super smooth and delicious. It may seem a bit thin at first, I tend to find that after having out in the fridge for a bit, it will start to thicken up.

After each batch I strain out, I will puree 3 bananas for my 6 cup kefir batch and it helps thicken it up perfectly. I also add any seasonal fruit to add natural flavoring.

How do I store my grains when I do not want to make a batch: You can store your grains in the fridge if you’re not up to making a batch. Place them in any size glass jar, I use a quart size mason jar. Fill that bad boy up with milk and allow to sit in fridge for a week or two. When you start to see major separation, add more milk or make a batch. By placing them in the fridge your grains will hibernate.

My grains look different then from when I started, why: Grains are alive. They feed off of every batch you make, so they will grow and multiply. You may start with 1-2 tablespoons of grains and in a few months have 1-2 cups worth. They will look more plump than usual, thats ok, that just means you are loving your grains the right way.

I store my grains in the same jar I always have when I am not fermenting, but lately there is a lot of separation, quicker than usual, why: Your grains are multiplying and growing and they need more space and more milk to make them happy. Transition your grains to a bigger jar.

Can I rinse my grains: There really is no need to rinse your grains. After every batch just move your grains around as much as you can to get the kefir off of them. But if you must rinse them for any reason, you can do so by pouring milk or filtered water over them. Do not rinse your grains with tap water. The fluoride, bad bacteria and other chemicals found in tap water will kill your grains.

My Kefir is super sour, how can I sweeten it: I have found great results with 100% organic pure maple syrup. You can use fruit, agave or honey. However, there is some back and forth about honey. Because honey is an antibacterial and antimicrobial, some say it will kill off any bacteria found in the kefir. Some have great results using it. I’ll let you decide.

What are the nutritional benefits to Kefir:

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What is the difference between Kefir and yogurt: Kefir is considered a drinkable yogurt but is not considered actual yogurt. Kefir contains mesophilic strains, which are microorganisms that thrive in natural temperature. That is why we place our kefir in our pantry to ferment. Kefir contains about 10-40 strains of probiotics.

Yogurt contains thermophilic strains, which are single-celled organisms that are activated through heat. Which is why yogurt is made by heating up milk to a precise temperature. Yogurt also contains only about 4-10 strains of probiotics.

I hope I took some of the fear out of making homemade kefir. It sounds intimidating but once you find your groove it is super fun and the best thing you can give yourself and your family. I am always happy to answer any other questions. Please feel free to leave them in the comments below.

Happy questions answered!

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How To Juice a Pomegranate Like A MoFo

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So come to find out these “seeded apples” are absolutely amazing for you. I mean, we all kinda figured. Pomegranate is an incredible little fruit that contains tiny little seeds. Around the seeds are ruby colored juicy pieces of fruit. If you have ever tried to enjoy a pomegranate, I’m sure you’ve discovered they can be extremely messy. If you have never had a pomegranate, they can be extremely messy. We are going to be juicing a pomegranate today people. And even though it was incredibly tedious, I really enjoyed the whole process. It was actually relaxing.

Ok, so why are we juicing a pomegranate?

Well, like mentioned before if you have ever tried to enjoy a pomegranate it can be messy and frustrating. Plus, eating the seeds, although super good for you can get a little bla.  So why not learn how to juice the mutha f-er and get all the incredible benefits that way.

What’s so great about a pomegranate?

This post is about juicing the damn things, so I’m just going to touch lightly on the benefits.

* High in antioxidants: The amount of antioxidants that are present in a pomegranate can actually reduce the risk of cancer. There is what is called natural aromatase inhibitors, which actually decrease estrogen in the body. This can actually protect against breast cancer.

* Promotes memory and mental function.

* Helps protect against heart disease.

I encourage you to dive deeper into how amazing this fruit is.

On to juicing!

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1. First things first slap on an apron y’all. These little suckers can spray a beautiful deep red juice that will stain like a……… (insert your choice of profanity)

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2. Fill a bowl with water.

3. Score the outside of the pomegranate with a sharp knife into fours. Do not cut all the way through. You just want to cut enough to where you can break it apart.

4. Dip the whole pomegranate into the bowl of water and break it apart. Once you have a quarter of the fruit apart, gently rub off the seeds. The white skin will float and the seeds will sink.

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5. Drain out the water using a strainer. And pour seeds into a blender.

6. Blend gently for about 30 seconds. The point here is to break the juice off of the seed. You do not want to grind the seed.

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7. Use a mesh strainer, place over a bowl and pour your pulp and seeds through.

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You should be left with a beautiful deep red juice that is absolutely delicious.

The fresh juice should last in the refrigerator for 3-5 days.

You can pressure can the juice to add a much longer shelf life without using refrigeration.

Or you can fill mason jars leave about an inch of head space and freeze it. I choose  this method.

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There it is my friends. Fresh pomegranate juice that is insanely good for you.

Happy Juicing!

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No Refrigeration Required?!

 

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Let’s talk eggs people! Now I’ve gotten some eyebrows raised when I tell people we keep our eggs out on the counter. Wait, you think we are crazy too? Well listen up y’all, FRESH-OUT-OF-THE-CHICKENS-BUTT EGGS do not have to be refrigerated.

You see when the chicken lays an egg, the egg has a protective antibacterial coating over it, called the “egg bloom”. The bloom closes all the pores on the egg preventing bacteria and oxygen from entering the egg, allowing it to stay fresh longer without refrigeration.

Once the egg is cleaned, the bloom is removed and it must go into refrigeration. We leave our eggs out on the counter for about a week. Yes poop, straw and all because well, what are you gonna do. Now, I know what you are thinking, “HOW GROSS.” But here is the thing, seeing this gorgeous pile of eggs, poop and all, connects us. It connects us to what is real. Real being that, those chickens that we love and take care of worked hard to give us that egg and you see that all over the egg. You appreciate it more. You respect it more. It……connects you.

Now, once a week we wash our eggs and pretty much use most of them right away. What we don’t use, we put in an egg container and put in the refrigerator.

Now at this point you’re probably thinking, “well, now how the hell do I know if my eggs are good or not?”

Ok, I hear ya, I get it. I’ve got a trick though, get a bowl, fill with water and see if that bad boy floats. If it FLOATS, it’s BAD. Ditch it. If it SINKS, it’s GOOD. Whip that sucker up into a plate of deliciousness.

Living naturally means living naturally. What do you think your great great maybe even GREAT grandmother did? Do you think she had this bad ass stainless steel refrigerator that made fancy ice and allowed you to download pandora? F no, she had a basket on her counter that sat there until she used all those gorgeous eggs up. We tend to forget where we came from and what we are actually capable of. As my family and I continue to live this homesteading life we learn more and more that living simply, means to live simply. Let go of that ridged “it needs to happen this way and only this way” mentality. Now don’t get me wrong, I know that mentality very well but I’m working on it………I swear.

Leave your home-raised eggs out on the counter, BE A REBEL. LIVE SIMPLY.

Happy eggs!

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Simple Beet Kraut

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Let’s  do a little fermenting shall we, a simple Beet Kraut perhaps.

We harvested some beautiful looking beets and carrots a few weeks ago. So I decided to ferment them. Man, the world of fermenting has just got me. It is so much fun. What made this batch even better, was that we grew it.

The word ferment, scares people. But it shouldn’t. Read here to see why. We are going to get on with this simple beet kraut that is quite delicious.

Beet Kraut Recipe

What you need:

1 head of purple cabbage

2-4 medium size beets

1 1/2 tablespoons sea salt

1 clove of garlic (optional)

Quart size mason jar, crock or fido jar

Airlocks (optional but highly recommended)

Weights

Directions:

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Suggested Reading: What is fermentation, sauerkraut, Kombucha, Kefir
  1. Rinse cabbage and peel off outer few layers that are damaged. Save one or two good leaves to use as a weight.img_3473.jpg
  2. Wash and peel beets.IMG_3474
  3. Thinly shred cabbage and place in a bowl.
  4. Grate beets. Now do not skimp on this step and thinly slice the beets. You want to grate them. Grating them allows more liquid to be drawn from them. Wear an apron because this little veggies will spray red juice everywhere. Place in bowl with cabbage.IMG_3476IMG_3478
  5. Sprinkle salt on top and use your hands to massage the veggies. If you feel like you have been massaging for a while and still no liquid, cover your veggies with plastic wrap and let sit for 30-40 minutes. Come back to it and massage again. By this time the salt will have drawn out quite a bit of liquid.
  6. If using a clove of garlic, place clove in bottom of jar. Place veggies in a quart size mason jar, crock or fido jar and press down as much mass as you can. When you press down on the veggies, liquid will rise. You want that liquid to stay above the veggies. Place cabbage leaf, that you saved from earlier, on top of veggie mass. Now place a weight on top of that. If you do not want to buy actual fermenting weights, you can use rocks, (make sure you boil them to sterilize), shot glasses or baggies filled with brine. You want to use anything that will keep that liquid above the veggies. This is what creates an anaerobic environment where bad bacterial cannot grow.
  7. Cover with a coffee filter and rubber band or use an airlock lid. I personally love to use airlock lids. It allows carbon dioxide to be released while keeping oxygen out. And so far with them, I have not lost a batch to mold.
  8. Place in a dark place, like a pantry for 7-10 days. After 7 days test the flavor.

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If you do not take the time to have all your veggies submerged in the brine, you run the risk of mold growing. It takes just one little piece of cabbage sticking out above the brine to create mold. So take the time and use weights and wipe of any loose veggies that are stuck to the walls of your jar.

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Oh and I love this fermenting book. It is super simple to read and has some great recipes.

Happy fermenting!

Tell me about your latest fermenting experiment. Veggies, Kombucha, Kefir…..

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Cooking with Cast Iron…Finally

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Oh man, has it been fun learning how to cook on one of these bad boys. When you first start your journey into homesteading, cast iron is a no brainer. That is until you bring home your first pan without really doing a ton of research and you attempt to scramble up some eggs. If you are a cast iron user, I am sure your cringing and smiling at the same time. Well when all but a bite of egg was stuck to the bottom of our pan, we tossed it aside and said no way. Well as the years have gone by and cast iron always in the back of our minds, we decided to give it a go one more time. However, this time we were armed with knowledge and confidence.

So off we went, mentally prepared, super excited and ready to make the change into the cast iron world. We brought home two pans. I am not going to lie and say we didn’t keep all of our nasty Teflon pans for a just in case moment. But I will say, we were thumbs upping each other with confidence that this was going to work.

So which seasoning method did we use first?

Well, we read that the best oil to use ranged from crisco to bacon grease to olive oil. Oh my goodness this whole process can be overwhelming. So olive oil we did first. Stuck it in the oven for so many minutes but out came a super sticky pan. We stripped it and tried again. Maybe we didn’t use enough oil. Bam, sticky pan. Hmm, maybe we didn’t leave it in the oven long enough. Bam, sticky pan. So after the third try, we found this method. This super long process that sounded just a tad bit much for me.

But remember our thumbs up to each other? We were committed to this thing.

So we stripped the pans just once more, crossed our fingers and went for it. Let’s talk a little about the fundamentals for a second. I am just going to remind you that we are NOT experts, so I am just going to throw out what we found worked and what didn’t.

Oil

Flax Seed oil worked the best for us. It is a bit more expensive but when you are guaranteed a smooth non sticky surface, I am sold. Flax seed gives the surface of your pan a somewhat hardened layer. Olive oil and vegetable oil came out super sticky for us. And to use bacon grease or crisco, you run the risk of the oil going rancid.

How to apply the oil

Use a lint free material to apply the oil. A handkerchief works well. Do not use paper towels.

Okay, lets season up our pans.

  1. Start with turning on your oven to 200 degrees. Place your pans upside down in your oven for about 10 minutes.

This warms up the pans and opens its pores to allow the oil to soak in.

    2. Pull your pans out and turn your oven off.

3. Now you are going to want to coat the pan, handle outside and all with flax seed oil. The secret here though is to use your hand to rub the oil into all the nooks and crannies. Now I know what you are thinking, but the pan is hot yo. Just give it a minute it will cool down enough to touch it but still warm enough that the pores are still open. If you are being a small baby about it, no one is judging you if you use your towel. Just make sure you get every inch of the pan.

Now, I know you are going to think I am crazy for suggesting this method, but I want you to just hear me out and follow these next steps and DON’T CUT CORNERS. For someone who has ADD and wants to just get things done to get them done, it taught me more than just how to season a pan. I felt a sense of pride when I followed these steps exact and these pans came out perfect.

Are you ready?

4. You just applied all your oil right. Now I want you to take a lint free cloth and wipe it all off. I know, I know, you’re thinking, I am over it let me find a new article to read. I am telling you though, this is the most important part. This step doesn’t allow a sticky residue to be left behind.

5.Place your pan upside down in the oven. Turn your oven to 500 degrees and let it cook for 1 hour. You want your pan to heat up with the oven. Not to go into an already pre heated oven.

6. Once your hour is up, turn off your oven and let it sit there until the oven is completely cool. This took my oven about 2 hours.

Now here is the part where I was like, “this is a bit much, I mean come on…”

Do these steps 5 MORE TIMES.

Yes, a total of 6 times altogether. I am telling you, yes it may be a two to three day process but holy moly, you will have some beautiful pans when you are done. Smooth, non sticky perfect looking cast iron pans.

The trick we found when cooking on them is to use real fat to create a non stick surface. Now I know you are going to cringe but we save our bacon grease and use that to cook. A small dab goes a long way when looking to get those perfectly scrambled eggs.

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I have learned, “fear the fake not the fat.” 

Of course each time you use your pan you season it afterward, which is also creating a stronger non stick surface. The process is much simpler once you created this strong base on your pans.

Let’s talk about what to do after you use your pans.

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I cooked some ground turkey for homemade spaghetti sauce.

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While I did use a dime size serving of bacon grease to help it not stick, I had a residue left over. The little black plastic scrapper on the left of the picture is a must. See, you never really wash these pans with soap because that just strips away all your seasoning. So this little scrapper helps get the food off the pans.

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While the pan is still hot, get your water as hot as possible and run the pan under it. If you run cold water over a hot cast iron, you run the risk of cracking it.

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Use your fancy little scrapper and some elbow grease and try and get as much off as possible. Sometimes you just can’t get it all off. So fill your pan with hot water, put it back on the stove and bring it to a boil. Then try and scrap off as much as you can. Now, for the most important step, you MUST dry your pan completely by putting it in the oven 200 for about 10 -15 minutes or by heating it up on the stove. If you do not dry it all the way, rust will be waiting for you in the morning.

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Once your pan is dry and still a bit warm, drop a dab of flax seed oil and rub it in. Wipe off all the oil as much as you can and you’re done. I mean, look at that beautiful pan.

Oh and these pot holders are an absolute must.

Good luck and let me know how your pans turned out. Leave a comment below.

Happy seasoning!

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A Peaceful Garden

Is it time for an update on the garden? I think so.

It amazes me how fast everything blooms. How fast it takes off and thrives. I caught a nasty flu this past weekend and was in bed. But what brought me peace was being able to look outside our sliding door into a world of pure beauty.

As the wind blew, the delicate leaves of the peach tree swayed back and forth. As the leaves danced I caught a glimpse of perfectly round peaches and my heart filled with happiness. Mmm peaches…..

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Each time I got out of bed I saw something new. Like how incredibly happy the comfrey was.

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Or how bright and full the beet leaves were….

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As I stare closely I see more apples blooming then I could imagine.

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And what just made my heart smile more than anything, was when I saw beautiful flowers blooming on my little honey crisp apple tree. This little trees life has been threatened more times than I’d like to count due to the lack of growth. But I just felt it in my bones,

Husband: “This tree has to go, it’s not doing anything.”

Me: “Give it time, please. It will grow.”

Husband: “You and this tree.”

Me: “I want honey crisps.”

Then BAM two years later, look at these perfect little flowers.

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Delicious kale…..

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Carrots that we cannot wait to sink our teeth into.

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A grapevine that is seriously loving life.

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And how perfect is this hibiscus flower…….

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I am just so thankful everyday that I get to be apart of all this.

What are you growing? Leave a comment below, I’d love to hear what fills your heart with happiness.

Happy gardening!

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Blaukraut Recipe

 

 

Blaukraut Recipe

Let’s ferment some deliciousness, shall we. We are talking blaukraut recipes here people. This batch of fermented veggies came out much more mild than my last batch that had more onion flavor. This recipe calls for caraway seeds, which I had never experienced before. They are very interesting little seeds. They give the kraut a minty, spicy weird taste. There were times that I was like, “wooo okay, I can dig it.” Then there were times where I was like, “damn it, why are there so many?” If you have not figured it out by now, we are honest here, people. Take it or leave it. We still gobbled down two jars of this stuff, well because it was delicious and good for our bellies. So give it a try and let me know what you think, caraway seeds just might be your new favorite flavor. Anyway, let’s get on with it.

You can serve this with any dish as a side. You can put it in your sandwich for a nice crunch or you can top it with blue cheese crumbles and walnuts and have it as a salad. I didn’t have blue cheese but I had feta and Mmm it was tasty. Onward.

 

Blaukraut Recipe

Ingredients: 

1 head red cabbage

3 honey crisp apples

1 onion

1 1/2 tablespoons salt

1 tablespoon caraway seeds

Directions:

1. Rinse cabbage and peel the outer layers of leaves that look run down. Save one or two leaves and set aside. Thinly shred cabbage and put in a big bowl.

2. Rinse, core and peel apples. Quarter apples and again thinly slice apples into little sticks. Add to bowl of cabbage.

3. Thinly slice onion and place in bowl with apples and cabbage

Blaukraut Recipe

 

4. Weigh your bowl to make sure you have about 2 lbs of mass.

5. Now add your salt and caraway seeds and begin to massage your veggies.

Now I must stress that massaging with your hands is truly the best way to work your brine out of your veggies. My first few batches I used my plunger from  my VitaMix blender and all it did was make way more work for me. The liquid took FOREVER to draw out and it just frustrated me. Then I started massaging it and BAM, liquid all over the place. The salt needs to be worked agains the walls of the veggies to draw out the liquid.

 

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6. Massage for about 5 minute and then cover with plastic wrap or a towel and let sit for about 30-40 minutes. When you come back to it you should see a little liquid in your bowl. Massage for another 15-20 minutes. When you squeeze the veggies in your hand and liquid pours out, you are about done.

7. Pack veggies in vessel of choice. You can use a crock, Fido jars, or a mason jar with airlocks. I went with mason jars with airlocks on them. I have been very pleased with this system. You can fit about 2lbs of mass in two quart size jars. Make sure you are pressing the veggies all the way down so that the brine (liquid) is covering over the veggies. This is what creates the anaerobic environment you are looking for. 

Fermenting Cabbage for Blaukraut

Fermenting Cabbage for BlaukrautFermenting Cabbage for Blaukraut

8. Remember that cabbage leaf I had you save, take one and place on top of your veggies. This is your primary weight. Now take a small jar and place it on top of the leaf, this is your secondary weight. Make sure to push down all the veggies so that the liquid rises. Your secondary weight can be a boiled rock, small jar, a plastic baggie filled with brine, whatever gets your veggies to stay under the liquid. 

Fermenting Cabbage for Blaukraut

 

9. Place your lid with the airlock on it, the lid to your crock or your Fido jar lid and place in your pantry for a week to whatever tickles your fancy. This batch, since I had two jars, I took one out at a week and put it in the fridge. Then I let the other one sit for about three. We dug how tart the three week old batch tasted. This is all experimentation. Try different lengths of time, try different veggies, just try.

Fermenting Cabbage for Blaukraut

That’s it my friends. Delicious fermented veggies that do amazing stuff for your bellies.

If you are interested in more information on fermentation read my post “What is fermentation?” And I have another fermented veggie recipe for you!

 

I am still on my experimenting journey. So share any secrets you have, I would love to hear them. Leave a comment below or shoot me an email.

Happy Red Cabbage Fermenting!

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Drying Lavender

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Oh man, was today a delightfully pleasant day. A day where the kids just went with the flow and there was no bickering involved with anyone. A day where you just feel like you utilized and appreciated every second.  I’m sure my Arborvitae essential oil and chamomile tincture didn’t hurt the situation either. Oh more to come on that, for sure. But for now let’s do a short post on drying lavender.

Oh lavender, how I love you so. I mean, who doesn’t love the sweet delicate smell of a beautiful lavender bush. I looked out into our back yard and all the flowers were just blooming all over the place. So, time to do a little cutting and make some magic out of these little beauties. Alrighty, grab your scissors and let’s roll.

The best time to cut any flower or herb is in the morning before the sun hits them. You want them to be perky and still full of life. You don’t want any that have died. Cut the dead ones off and throw in your compost.

On any plant there is what you call the node. It is the part where you have two leaves coming out to the sides and a stem in the middle. When cutting your flowers, you want to cut the stem in the middle of the node.

Check us out on YouTube for a quick video.

There you have it, cut away my friends.

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Once you have all the flowers that tickle your fancy, go ahead and bundle them at the stems. Take some twine and tie the bundle up. At the end of your twine you want to make a loop, where you can hang your bundle to dry.

Find a spot that you can hang your lavender for about 4 to 6 weeks. Once you are able to touch the flowers and hear a slight crunch to it, those bad boys are done.

After it is done drying, take a bowl and lay down a piece of cardboard or newspaper, something that can catch all the little flowers that come off on their own. Something I don’t do and regret every time. Now softly just twist at the flowers and they will fall right off. There it is, beautiful smelling home grown lavender.

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You got all this lavender, now what in the world do you do with it? Go ahead and read on here.

And if propagating tickles your fancy and you want more lavender then you know what to do with, read here.

Happy Lavendering!

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Kombucha Series 3: Brewing Up Some Kombucha Yo

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So you made yourself a SCOBY and your thinking, how in the world do I brew a batch of Kombucha to drink? I got you covered homie, I got you covered. See now aren’t you glad you hit the follow button and received an email updating you that this post was available? I thought so. Ok carrying on. This is the third post to this three part Kombucha series. If you missed the first two be sure to read, WTF is Kombucha and Growing a Kombucha SCOBY. Let’s Kombucha it up yo.

Lets talk about ingredients for a second.

Teas:

When it comes to choosing which tea is the best, you really want to stick with black at first and allow your SCOBY to grow and mature. When using green tea, you want to be sure your SCOBY has at least four batches under its belt. It takes a bit more strength to get green tea fermented. You can use white but again your SCOBY needs to be mature. I’ve heard of some people using Rooibos tea, which has great antioxidants properties to it, with no problem. So really, there is room to experience the with. After you have done a few batches with  black and your SCOBY is strong, take a baby off of it and brew up a couple batches with different teas.

Let’s talk caffeine for a second

Kombucha contains about a third of the caffeine compared to a normal brew of tea. The longer the Kombucha brews the less caffeine it has. Do not use decaf tea, as it is treated with a chemical, leaving filled with toxins that can harm the SCOBY. You can brew your Kombucha with a mix of green and white tea, which contain less caffeine then black. It is suggested that every fourth brew you use black though to keep your SCOBY strong.

Sugars:

I’m sure the thought of adding so much white sugar made you cringe a little bit. I get it but you have to rememebr that sugar is what the SCOBY feeds off of. So when you start with a batch of sweet tea, you are not ending with sweet tea.  Organic white cane sugar allows for consistent results each time. Sweeteners such as honey, agave, maple syrup can give inconsistent results. There is also some debate about honey since it is an antimicrobial and what we got growing here is pure microbes but some use it with no problem. So again experimenting is the best thing to do to answer those kinds of questions. So far, I have only used cane sugar.

Alright let’s get a brewing.

Ratios:

Half Gallon                                                                                         Gallon

1 cup starter tea or white distilled vinegar                              2 cups starter tea or vinegar

1/2 cup white sugar                                                                       1 cup white sugar

7 cups of water                                                                               14 cups of water

4 tea bags.                                                                                         8 tea bags

1 cup starter tea                                                                              2 cups starter tea

Directions:

Before you get started, you want to make sure everything is clean, dry and ready to go. Remember when handling your SCOBY you want to keep everything really clean. DO NOT use antibacterial soap when washing your hands before handling the SCOBY. Again, we are harboring good bacteria in the SCOBY so we don’t want to kill off any bacteria when handling it. 

1. Boil up your desired amount of water.

2. Once boiled add your sugar and allow to dissolve.

3. Add your desired amount of tea bag and take your pot off the heat. I put it on a pot holder on the counter to allow it to cool faster.

 

 

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4. Allow your tea to cool to 95 degrees or lower with the tea bag in it.

5. Take the tea bags out and compost them.

6 Pour your cool tea into the jar that has your SCOBY.

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7. Cover with a paper towel, thin muslin fabric, or doubled up cheese cloth.

There are chances with all covers for gnats to get into your tea and lay eggs in your SCOBY. So making sure you have a big enough covering and a tight enough rubber band is key here. This just happened to me. I’ll post how to take care of your SCOBY after gnats soon. 

8. Put in a cool dark place for 7-14 days.

You are going to want to check the taste weekly. Each week it becomes more and more vinegary. So when it reaches desired taste then it’s ready to pour and put in the fridge or go for a second ferment.

I have my tea fermenting in a glass jug with a pour spout. One tip I found is that when using this kind of jar you never really have to touch your SCOBY and your starter tea is always available. When your Kombucha is ready to pour then just pour it out into another jug or into air tight bottles if doing a second ferment.

A little side note

Your SCOBY will take the shape of any jar you use. Before I learned about using a glass container with a pour spout, I had my SCOBY in a square container. When I transferred it to the large round container, it formed an entire new layer. The SCOBY acts as a seal, to not let oxygen into the tea. So even if you transfer your SCOBY to a bigger vessel, magic still happens. Pretty amazing.

On the left is my original SCOBY On the right, you can see my original SCOBY on the bottom left under the newly forming SCOBY? Is that not just incredible.

Lets talk about the second ferment:

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This is where you build carbonation and add flavoring. You can add flavoring and not do a second ferment but it is just so much tastier all bubbly. So pour your tea in air tight glass amber bottles. Choose flavoring of your choice. The sky’s the limit here.

Ginger- slice up pieces of ginger and place in bottle.

Lemon- thinly slice pieces of lemon and place in bottle.

Strawberry- purée a handful of strawberries and pour about an inch in each bottle.

Blueberry pomegranate- pop a handful of blueberries and pomegranates in each bottle.

Mango- either slice or purée mango and place in bottle.

Leave a good amount of head space in each bottle. I stop right at the neck of the bottle. Carbon dioxide is being created when using an air tight lid so you want to make sure you leave some room. You also want to remember to burp your bottles everyday to lower the risk of the bottles bursting. 

Allow bottles to sit for about a week. I did three days and it seemed bubbly but not super carbonated so my next batch is going for a week. I’ll keep you posted. Again, its all about experimenting. Once they reach desired bubbly action, place in fridge and enjoy.

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Or you can pour Kombucha through a jelly strainer and strain out all the fruit or purée. It is nice to be able to drink it without chewing on stuff. It’s kind of an extra step in the process but I think it’s worth it. Your choice.

Don’t forget to save tea from your batch to keep as your starter tea before you do your second ferment. 

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You are done my friends. Now brew yourself another batch of sweet tea and get another round brewing. If you do not want to brew another batch or you’re going out of town. Make a SCOBY hotel. What in the world is a SCOBY hotel? Hang on. I think a fourth post to our Kombucha series was just added to the list.

Tell me about your favorite flavor of Kombucha in the comments below. 

If you want to learn how to make a proper SCOBY hotel, hit the follow button. That way, when it posts you receive an email notification.

Happy Kombucha brewing!!

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Kombucha Series 2: Growing A Kombucha SCOBY


Ingredients for a homemade Kombucha Scoby.

Let’s make a mutha Fing SCOBY shall we.

If you have not already read the first part of this three part series: WTF is Kombucha, I suggest you check it out. This post is going straight to the point and discussing how to grow yourself a SCOBY.

Let’s do this thang.

Things you’ll need:

A bottle of store bought raw organic unflavored Kombucha

A glass half gallon or gallon size jar

1/2 cup organic white cane sugar

4 organic black or green tea bags

7 cups filtered water

Thermometer

Cheesecloth

Directions:

1. Boil your water. It’s important that it is filtered water. The SCOBY has trouble forming or surviving in tap water, due to high amounts of chlorine.

2. Add your sugar and allow to dissolve.

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3. Place tea bag in water and turn off heat. Allow tea to cool to a temperature of 95 degrees or lower. Any hotter then that and it will kill the tiny strains of SCOBY that you’ll be adding from your bottle. Even when you have a full grown SCOBY, the temp still needs to be 95 degrees or lower.

Side note about this thermometer, it’s amazing. At first I was like, holy crap why did I spend $40 on this thing but it really does come in handy. 

Kombucha Scoby Recipe

4. Once tea is cooled remove the tea bags, don’t forget to compost yo. Pour your tea in your jar and then pour your store bought Kombucha bottle in.

Those little weird slimy things in your store bought bottle of Kombucha is actually little pieces of SCOBY. That is all it takes for a full mother to form. See that little tiny piece of SCOBY on the left, that’s all it takes.

How to make a Kombucha Scoby

5. Cover the top with a piece of cheese cloth folded a couple of times. That way it’s  thick but will still allow the tea to breath. Hold it down with a rubber band.

Place that sucker in a cool dark place and allow the magic to happen. This whole fermenting thing blows my mind. Over the next two weeks you will see this weird foam start to form. Then that foam will form a layer of film on top. That film will start to get thicker and thicker and then BAM, you got yourself a muther Fing SCOBY. I’m telling you, it will blow your mind.

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SCOBY at 1 week
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SCOBY at 2 week
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SCOBY at 1 week
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SCOBY at 2 week

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Your SCOBY should be ready to go after two weeks. If it needs another week, give it another week. If you feels it’s thick enough then congratulations you now have a beautiful Kombucha SCOBY that will last forever as long as you feed it. The incredible thing about a SCOBY is that it will continue to grow with each batch you make. You will start to see this little layer laying on top of the mother. The mother is the main SCOBY. Feel free to start sharing your baby SCOBYs after about batch number four. After four batches you have got yourself a strong SCOBY. So share the love.

The tea that was used to create the SCOBY is good to drink as well. So don’t let that go to waste. It’s going to be pretty strong so make sure to taste it. Flavor it up if you want or if you’re a bad ass, drink it straight.

Rememebr, your SCOBY is a living thing. So if your not up for making another batch, that’s cool, just make sure you place your SCOBY in a “hotel.” Make some sweet tea and place your SCOBY in it and you can allow it to sit for up to two weeks. If you need it to go longer just add another cup of sweet tea on top. Your SCOBY needs the sugar to feed off of to stay alive.

I do believe that’s it my friends. Now I’m sure you’re thinking, wait how do I brew an actual batch of Kombucha? I gotcha homie, I gotcha but patience is key.

Happy Growing a SCOBY!

Share your SCOBY making adventure with me and leave a comment. Don’t forget to hit the follow button to receive an email when there is an awesome post waiting for you to read, like the third part to this series, Brewing up a batch of Kombucha.

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Propagating Like A MoFo

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Let’s propagate some stuff up, man. Taking cuttings from plants to make more plants is super duper easy. Did I just say super duper? Yes, yes I did. When you have plants thriving all around you, all you want is more and more to grace your presence. So what do you do? Cut a piece off a plant and make some more. You can literally do this with any plant. Do what exactly? Well, let me show you.

First thing first, find the plant that you would like to propagate. Well, first things first, what does propagate mean? Propagate means to breed specimens of a plant from a parent plant using a natural method. So back to our first things first, pick a parent plant that you would like more of. Here we took passion fruit, goji berry, two different lavenders, Sage and pineapple sage.

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Once you have an idea of what you would like to propagate. Get your trays ready. We took any shallow container that we had on hand and burned little holes in it using a wood burning tool. This way we made drainage holes. Next, fill those little bad boys with sand. Yup you heard me, sand. Damp the sand a bit that way it retains the holes you dig in it. We took a plastic spackle tool and made straight lines through the sand.

You want to make sure the plant you are taking cuttings from has matured and is stable. What you want to do is fine the new growth within the plant. When taking from the passion fruit the new growth was shooting directly out. The leaves were shiny. The leaves were a little smaller then the rest. You can tell right away what new growth was. However, with sage seeing the new growth was a tad bit harder to depict. I had to kind of pull the more mature leaves and stems back and look deeper. The leaves were a deeper green then the rest. The lavendar had a softer stem as opposed to a more hard barky stem. Every plant is going to be different, so make sure you spend some time with the plant and really be mindful of your cuttings.

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When making your cut, you want to cut right below a node. A  node is the area on a plant where the leaves grow. You want to cut a 45 degree angle right below that node.

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Once you have gathered your cuttings, you are going to remove all leaves except for the very top two leaves. Or in the case of the passion fruit, the top little bunch. What this does is allows all the energy to now go to building the roots for this new little plant.

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Dip this little beauty in some water and then dip it in some rooting hormone. And place in your holes. For cuttings like the passion fruit, we took wooden skewers and tied  the cutting to the skewer. That way they were a little more stable.

Place a plastic bag over your cutting and keep a little eye on them. The plastic bag acts like a little green house for the cuttings. Place in a spot that gets some sun but stays mostly shady. Now just let those little bad rides do their thing.

How easy was that. And in a few weeks you have that many more plants to grace your garden or share with a friend. Get crazy and go for it homie.

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I would love to hear about which plants you plan on propagating. Leave a comment below.

Happy Propagating!

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Freeze That Cheese

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So you are walking down the isle of Costco and you see that huge block of cheese. You think to yourself, “I really need cheese but not that much.” Here is the thing homie, you can freeze that mofo. We purchased our FoodSaver a few years ago. A purchase I didn’t think we would ever really use. Holy moly, we use the crap out of this thing and I just love it. I freeze spaghetti sauce, chili, soups, meat, I mean you name it I’ll freeze it.

We go through a lot of cheese and that block of cheese at Costco, has always enticed me but I knew we would waste most of it. So I did a little research and what in the world, YOU CAN FREEZE CHEESE. The only thing I have found so far, beside remembering to take it out of the freezer, is that it is a bit on the crumbly side. You can still grate it with no problem it just has a slightly different consistency. The taste is great so it doesn’t bother me. The best part is, is that it last up to a year in the freezer. Heck yes, one more thing to add to the FoodSaver list. Here is what you want to do.

If you haven’t already purchased a FoodSaver, I highly suggest you buy one of those bad boys. It makes like so much easier. When I freeze stuff like chili, soups or sauce I just boil water in a huge pot and drop the whole bag in my water. Let it heat up and BAM instant delicious meal for those, “crap I don’t know what to do for dinner!” nights. Seriously, buy a FoodSaver. Anyway, on to cheese.

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Cut your cheese into whatever size blocks that tickle your fancy.

Seal up your bags on one end and label right away.

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Place your cheese in bag and vacuum seal it up. I like to fold the top of the bag over so that what ever I am putting inside, does not get the outside of the bag dirty. This is a must when bagging up chili or sauces.

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Umm BAM, you just saved some money yo.

Happy Freezing! Or Cheesing!

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Kefir? What’s That?

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Holy moly have I been dying to write this post. It’s homemade kefir time people. For those who have never been introduced to the lovely world of good bacteria, kefir is a great place to start. Now, either you are raising your fists in the air with your head tilted back whispering, yeeeesss. Or you are scratching your head wondering what in the world is kefir. Kefir, my friends, is fermented milk. Now now, before you start judging and thinking why would anyone drink fermented milk? Kefir is one of the best ways to put the good bacteria back into your gut. Why is that important? Well let’s dive in shall we.

We tend to lose the good bacteria in our guts through our diets and through medications we take. Have you ever had stomach issues? Diarrhea for no good reason? IBS? Allergies? Fatigue? The list really could go on and on but we will stop there. All these things are actually linked to our guts. What research has shown is that most illness and diseases can be a direct link to the health of our gut. Our guts are the main source of health if you think about it. Our digestion controls how we feel. If we put a big fat greasy burger in our bellys, are you going to feel like you are on top of the world with energy and motivation? Probably not. Most of us would be thinking of plopping down on the couch after because holy moly we feel like we just ate a brick. That’s because the amount of energy it takes for our body to digest that big slab of meat with a bunch of grease on it, is A LOT. Our diets tend to kill off the good bacteria we should have in our guts that allow us to absorb the nutrients we ingest. These good bacteria are so much stronger then the bad bacteria that they actually kill of the bad bacteria and do not let illnesses flourish. They allow your digestion to take a rest and start flowing the way it is suppose to. I am not saying go out and eat a big fat burger then drink some kefir and all will be right with the world. Energy in changing your diet needs to be present as well.

Along with our diets, medication can really disrupt the good bacteria in our bodies to. When we take antibiotics we are essentially killing ALL bacteria in our bodies that are causing infections to grow. That’s great for the bad bacteria but we just so happened to kill off our good bacteria to. Probiotics, like kefir, help replenish that good bacteria.

What is kefir?

Kefir is a probiotic. It is fermented milk made from kefir “grains.” Now I put grains in parentheses because they are not actual grains. They are little cauliflower, gelatin looking grains that are a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY). If you are thinking, Kombucha? You are right my friend. What the grains or SCOBY’s do is, they feed off of the lactose in the milk and fill the milk with 30-50 strains of good bacteria. Store bought kefir contains about 6 strains.

Benefits to Drinking Kefir

Boost Immune System: Biotin and folate are highly present in Kefir and are directly linked to the immune system.

Fights off Cancerous Cells: By healing the gut with the presence of good bacteria, toxins that are linked to creating cancerous cells in the body are fought off.

Supports Digestion: Again, by healing your gut and intestinal track through the use of good bacteria, your body begins to digest foods properly, when given the right diet.

Reduces Allergies: The live microorganisms which are present in Kefir help reduce inflammatory in the body, helping reduce allergic reactions.

Incorporating Kefir into your diet daily, multiple times a day, can help heal your body by filling it with good bacteria. Kefir is a fermented product, when you ferment something you are preserving that food item through the use of bacteria, good bacteria. Our bodies need bacteria to to stay balanced. However, it is when we have to much of the bad bacteria in our systems that our body’s begin to become off balance. We start to feel more tired than usual. We suffer from allergies. Stomach issues. Depression. Anxiety. Have thyroid issues. When we do not create a balance with bacterias in our systems, we run the risk of developing leak gut syndrome.

What is Leaky Gut Syndrome?

Our entire health starts in our gut. When we trash our gut with processed foods, medications, alcohol, caffeine…. we run the risk of developing what is called leaky gut syndrome. Our intestinal track has what is called tight junctions. These are the gateway to our blood system. When they become malfunctioned due to all the daily wear and tear, they began to open up. When they open, they let all the toxins that are in your intestinal track leak out into your blood stream. When these toxins enter your blood stream, they inevitably go straight to your brain. This can cause so much damage to our bodies. This has been linked to diseases such as Autism, Alzheimers, depression and ADHD just to name a few. I encourage you to research Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, who is famously known for her research on gut health.

How do I make Kefir?

Making kefir is really odd because you leave milk out on you counter for 24-36 hours with the grains inside. I am not going to lie it’s pretty nerve racking the first time you make it because the thought, “did I do this right” will be screaming through your head. I promise you, you made it right. It is really hard to mess up. The kefir grains put so much good bacteria through the milk that it is impossible for the bad bacteria to grow.

Some bacteria and yeasts found in kefir are:

Lactobacillus acidophilus

Bifidobacterium bifidum

Streptococcus thermophilus

Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus

Lactobacillus helveticus

Lactobacillus kefiranofaciens

Lactococcus lactis

Leuconostoc

And this is seriously a modest list. However, all grains contain more or less. It is kind of impossible to get all grains tested for which strains they carry. Just know it’s a ton and all that goodness is going into your belly.

How Do I find Grains?

When buying grains look for a company that has treated their grains with love. May sound silly but its not. When treated with love the grains tend to be happier and healthier. You want plump grains. Grains that have been active within the last week or two.

There are two options, fresh or dehydrated. When you have the option of fresh, I feel that is always better. Dehydrated are still good but they may take longer due to the fact that you have to rehydrated them and acclimate them all over again. Amazon is a great place to find grains. We do offer grains here and I assure you, I love my grains as if they are apart of my family. Because, well, they are.

What if I am lactose intolerant?

There are some people who are lactose intolerant, I’ve got good news for y’all. Since the grains feed off the lactose, which is the sugar in milk, it’s turns to lactic acid. That sounds kinda creepy, but it’s actually a really amazing thing. Don’t freak out people. Making kefir is like fermenting vegetables. You are essentially controlling the environment with good bacteria to inhibit the bad. So for those of you lactose intolerant, there is a 99% chance you can drink it with little to no problem.

Are you dying to know how to make it? Oh my goodness, I thought you would never ask. Let’s roll.

Happy learning!

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Reference: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kefir

 

 

 

 

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Save Those Banana Peels Yo

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What in the world does one do with a crap ton of bananas? Eat them silly! Now what in the world does one do with a crap ton of banana peels? Use them in your garden silly! Let’s talk about that delicious piece of fruit that contains oh so many uses. Now you’re probably wondering why in the world do they have so many bananas. I know that’s what you’re thinking. We are banana eaters people. We freeze them and our kids mow on them like they are going out of style. Who am I kidding we do to. Frozen bananas are our ice cream. When we want something sweet we bust one of those frozen bad boys out and indulge. They are perfect. So needless to say we tend to buy a crap ton of bananas. This last trip to the store I bought two 5 lb bunches and then my husband came home with two bunches of marked down bananas. Hello crap ton of bananas. This was perfect because we needed to refill our fertilizer bag anyway. Wait, I thought we were talking about bananas? Oh yea, so what you do with all those banana peels is dry them, grind them and spread them as fertilizer in your garden. Let’s dive in shall we.

Bananas contain high amounts of:

Potassium which helps with root development. It also helps regulate water flow through the steam and leaves building a stronger plant that becomes disease and pest resistant.

Magnesium which helps photosynthesis to take place, which actually feed the plant the nutrients it needs.

Calcium which is another helper with root development. Calcium helps build your soil by helping breakdown nitrogen. Egg shells are another great way to add calcium to your soil.

While bananas contain many other nutrients, these three help a great deal with soil and plant development.  Adding them to your garden in various ways can help build a beautiful strong garden. Doing some research I have found a few ways that we have not yet tried but may give it a go this year.

One way is by making a banana peel compost tea. All you do is cut up the banana peel throw it in a pitcher or bucket, depending on how many peels you have, with water and let it sit for a week. After a week you strain out the peels throw them in the compost. When ready to use mix one cup of tea with one gallon of water. This could be used to get rid of aphids, just spray your plants generously. Or water the base of your plants to add some extra nutrients.

The main way my husband uses our banana peels is by drying them out, grinding them up and mixing it in with the soil as an added fertilizer. To do this method we are going to either bust out our dehydrator or just turn the oven to the lowest setting. We are going to use the oven here. Let’s get a rollin’ shall we.

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First things first, get a peelin’. Peel like you’ve never peeled before. Peel your little heart out. Peel like you just don’t give a f….. I mean…..

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Next line a baking sheet, or in my case sheets, with foil. Turn your oven to the lowest setting. Lay out your peels, try and not let then touch each other to much. If they overlap it will just take that much longer for them to dry.

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Don’t forget to freeze your bananas for a tasty treat later.

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Let those bad boys dry for a good 6-8 hours. A funny smell will travel through your house, just get over it and let it happen. When you touch them you want them to be hard. Not squishy. Once they are ready, let them cool.

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Bust out your food processor or blender, which ever tickles your fancy. Break those suckers up a bit and place in your chosen grinder. Boom, grind like you’ve never ground before. Grind it up good yo.

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That’s it homie. Store them in a plastic storage bag or container of your choice and use at will. I do believe that’s it. Enjoy!

Happy banana peelin!

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Purple Sweet Potato Baby Food

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Let’s indulge our little sweet human in the deliciousness of purple sweet potatoes shall we. Making baby food is really not that difficult. I think many mamas get a little intimidated and don’t even try but seriously, try. It’s so easy and what better thing to feed your brand new little baby then homemade pure food. Am I right or am I right!

Purple sweet potatoes are high in vitamins A and C and in magnesium. They are a super food. Purple sweet potatoes are high in vitamins B6, iron and potassium. Purple sweet potatoes are perfect for your baby! I mean come on, you should be eating this delicious potato as well. And seriously, how beautiful is the color. Alright, well let’s get to it and make our little human some food.

Purple Sweet Potato Baby Food Recipe

Step by Step Purple Sweet Potato Baby Food Recipe… It’s So Simple!

First things first wash your potatoes with a brush and get as much dirt off of it as possible.

Get a pot with a few inches of water and put a steaming basket in. Bring water to a boil.

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Next, peel and cut ends off of potato and cut into big chunks. Don’t forget to throw your peels and ends in the compost.

Making some yummy japanese sweet potato baby food!

Drop potatoes in pot and cover.

Allow to steam for about 20-30 minutes or until you can pierce them with a fork very easily. Just like regular russet potatoes.

Purple Sweet Potato baby food is so easy to make!

Once done allow to cool for a bit and put them in a blender or food processor. Add some filtered water, breastmilk or formula and blend those puppies up. This purple sweet potato baby food is so nutritious for your little one!

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Pour potaoes in ice cube trays. Cover with press and seal wrap. Label and place in freezer.

Once frozen take trays out for about five minutes. This makes popping out the cubes a lot easier. Then pop out the cubes and place in freezer bag. Date, label and high five yourself!

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How easy peasy was that. Now, get yourself a crap ton of potatoes, make a big batch freeze them like I told you and you have baby food for a month. I’ll do big batches of a few things like apple sauce,  pears, even butternut squash. That way I can mix cubes up and give my little poodle noodle a variety.

To cook just heat them up in microwave for about 30 seconds to a minute.

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If y’all enjoyed this post head on over to here and or here for more baby food recipes.

Happy making!

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Canning: Chicken Stock

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It’s getting fun up in here with some chicken stock people. We love making chicken stock. Now, it does take some time and effort and sometimes we just don’t feel up to making it. But when we do man, oh man do we love it. Now when I say we, I’m mostly saying my husband. He’s been the real master mind around this chicken stock making adventure. This post is really a big fat thank you to my husband for taking time after working all day to make us this deliciousness. The feeling that comes from popping open your own delicious can of chicken stock, is like no other feeling in the world. You feel accomplished, satisfied. How do we (my husband) make it you ask, oh well let me tell you.

You know that whole chicken you buy from the store that you cut up. You cut out two breast, two legs and two wings,  then you throw the rest away. Well I encourage you to stop throwing the carcass away. You are going to take that bad boy and bust out your crock pot. If you don’t have a crock pot, that’s cool, just take out a big pot and throw it in that bad boy. After you cook it for a full 24 hours you are going to bust out that bad ass canner you bought your self and can up that delicious stock you just made. If making it in a pot, you’ll just cook it for about 12 hours.  I guess that was a little vague uh, ok let’s get into the details.

Ingredients:

Chicken carcass
3 carrots
3 celery
½ sweet onion
2 cloves garlic
1-2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
Filtered water

Directions:

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After you cut up your chicken and your carcass is left, throw it in a crock pot.

Rinse carrots and celery, no need to peel the carrots. You are not eating them, all these veggies are just for flavor. Chop carrots, celery and onion. Throw in crock pot. Along with cloves of garlic, peppercorns and bay leaves. Now add filtered water just until it covers chicken and veggies. Turn on low and cook for a full 24 hours, you may need to turn it back on low after so many hours. My husband usually starts it after dinner, after cutting it up and then finishes it the following night right before we start dinner.

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After the full 24 hours, get your pressure canner on the stove filled with water and start heating it up. Get everything else you need for canning. (click here for a refresher) Next, you are going to take a big pot and put a strainer on top of it. You want to strain the meat and veggies and reserve the liquid. We usually pick out the bones and as many of the peppercorns as possible and feed it to our dog. Nothing goes to waste.

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Put the pot back on the stove and just bring it to a boil. Once your pressure canner is ready, put your funnel on your jars and fill with stock. Leave ½ inch of head space. Wipe rim of your jars with your paper towel, put your lid and ring on and tighten only finger tight. Place those suckers in the canner. Put your lid on and allow steam to vent for a full 10 minutes. Now, steam will start to trickle out of the vent hole as soon as you put your lid on. What you want to wait for is a full flow of steam to come out of the vent. Once that happens set your timer for 10 minutes. Once your timer goes off you are going to put on your weight at 10 lbs and process for 20 minutes for pints 40 minutes for quarts.

Once your time is up you want to just turn off your stove and allow the pressure canner to cool and release the pressure. DO NOT try and speed up this process by trying to cool it down with a wet towel or ice. Just turn off the stove and go about your business for about 30 minutes or until the gauge reads zero. Then you can take off the weight and I usually wait about another 30 minutes. I believe the instructions say to wait another two minutes but I stay on the safe side. Take your jars out and place on a towel on the counter and leave for 24 hours. By leaving the jars alone you ensure the jars seal properly. If you’re lucky you might hear the sweet sound of the PING, the sweetest sound to a canners ear. That sound tells you, you just canned yourself some chicken stock, homie.

How to use your chicken stock:

1. Sip on it when you are sick, it is amazing at boosting your immune system and makes you feel so much better.
2. In any recipe that calls for stock or broth.
3. I use it in my homemade Spanish rice.
4. Use it in sauces.

The list can really go on, use it like you would store bought stuff. Don’t forget to label and date your jars. They will sit pretty in your pantry for about a year.

Happy chicken stock making!

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7 Uses for Lavender

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Let’s talk lavender for a second. Who here loves lavender, anyone? I mean come on, how could you not. Am I right. Think about it, it is this gorgeous plant with these beautiful delicate purple flowers. When you run your hand through the soft willowy strands of leaves, this aroma consumes you. It brings you to a state of purity and peacefulness. You inhale the deep, rich scent of calmness. It is no wonder that this plant is used for so many things. Let’s dive into lavender itself shall we.

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Why should lavender be apart of your life:

Umm well because it is down right amazing, that’s why. Not only does is smell so delicious, it has medicinal properties to it, making it a must for your natural medicine cabinet. Lavender promotes calmness to the nervous system making it a great remedy to help ease anxiety and relieve stress. It is a mild antidepressant, antifungal, antiseptic, and antibacterial. It is used to help treat headaches, heal minor burns and scraps and relieve tension in the body. Lavender is one of those plants that can do more then you ever imagined. You can use it in your bath to whisk away the stress of the day to disinfecting a door knob in a strange place.

How to use this delightful plant in your daily life: Here are 7 suggestions

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1. Make a tea.

Boil a cup of water in a sauce pan on the stove. Turn off your water and add 1-2 tablespoons of lavender flowers, cover and steep for 10-15 minutes. Add a touch of honey and maybe a squeeze of lemon. There really is nothing more relaxing then sitting in your favorite place in your home and sipping on this delightfully fragrant calming tea. As your hands grip the warmth of the cup and you slowly raise it to your lips, you are transported to this place of absolute peace.

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2. Lavender infused vinegar.

Whaaaat!?!? You heard me, lavender infused vinegar. As if vinegar wasn’t already awesome enough. Like mentioned above, lavender is an antibacterial, antifungal and antiseptic, making it a perfect addictive to help keep your home clean and safe. No chemically induced products needed here. What you do is, for every cup of white vinegar you use add ¼ cup of lavender flowers. If you don’t have enough in your garden. The best place I have found to buy them is through Mountain Rose Herbs. They are organic and pure. Once you mix the lavender and vinegar cover with a lid and allow to sit on your sunny window for about 2 weeks. Everyday shake it and love it. I say a little prayer as I shake it everyday. For me, that just puts the good juju in and I believe that makes it work even more. After 2 weeks strain out the flowers and don’t forget to compost those bad boys. Now you want to dilute the lavender vinegar with water, making it a 1:1 ratio. Now spray away my friends, clean and disinfect that house of yours.

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3. Make an air freshener.

This one is easy peasy. If you grow your own lavender, just cut some sprigs and some flowers and hang them to dry. In 2-4 weeks they will be nice and dry and all you do is scrap off all the leaves and flowers. Put then in some cheese cloth, tie it up and stick it in a drawer, closet or area needing a little pick me up. The smell is divine.

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4. Make some linen spray.

Here, you can make some lavender tea to add to the solution or you can use lavender essential oil. I would suggest using essential oil because the tea is a deep purple and could, not always but could, stain something. So if your feeling brave enough tea it up yo. Now you’ll want to mix 2 cups of distilled, I repeat distilled water, ¼ cup of vodka or rubbing alcohol and about 30-35 drops of lavender essential oil or half a cup of tea. Mix it up and bam you’ve got some lovely linen spray.

5. Diffuse it up yo.

We LOVE our diffuser. It runs almost every night with all sorts of yummy scents. Most of the time it’s lavender mixed with a handful of other oils. This is the best way to get those tiny scent molecules running though the air and making a positive impact on the whole family.
6. Make a tea for the bath.

You heard me, tea for the bath. When our kids are a little extra crazy, I make a pot full of double strength tea and pour it in their bath and let them just sit and relax in it. They come out just a tad bit more relaxed and it helps them sleep. Not to mention they smell heavenly.

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7. Make a tincture.

Oh my goodness I love tinctures. They are the best way to get direct results. A tincture is medicine made by infusing a plant with alcohol. When making a tincture for children you can also use vegetable glycerine or apple cider vinegar. It just has a shorter shelf lifelong, about a year. Generally, you use vodka 80-100 proof, which gives it a shelf life of about 5 years. What you do here is pretty simple and non formulated, take a mason jar and fill it with lavender, however much your little heart desires. Now pour your vodka, apple cider vinegar or vegetable glycerine until it covers the lavender. The lavender will rise to the top and float in most cases. That’s ok as long as there is enough liquid. Cover with a lid and let it sit on your sunny window. Make sure to touch it everyday and give it a little shake with a little prayer. A tincture is used to help relieve an ailment so you want your prayer and good juju to be apart of that healing. Allow to sit for 6 weeks. After 6 weeks strain out flowers and put in a dropper bottle. Take a dropperful under the tongue when needed. When placing it under the tongue, it actually enters the blood stream faster, making it more effective.

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This list can go on and on but we really need to stop somewhere right. So dive in and start exploring the world of lavender, it really is amazing.

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Propagating Lavender

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Let’s root some things shall we. We have a ton of lavender plants that have blossomed like you have never seen. So I thought I would share that love and start rooting these bad boys. Lavender is just such a beautiful plant to have in your garden. It smells divine and the flowers are these delicate purple blooms that just make your heart smile.

Lavender is a wonderful medicinal plant to have around. It can be made into a tea to help relax the mind and soul or to help smooth an upset stomach. It can be used to bring down the swelling of a burn or bug bite. It can help reduce headaches and toothaches. It is an anti-inflammatory, as well as, purifying. It can be made into a salve, poultice, tea, it can be dried for an air freshener. You can make a linen spray with it and feel like you are in heaven every time you walk into your room. Seriously people, this plant is absolutely amazing. The one thing about the medicinal properties of any plant is you have to believe in it. You have to see it as medicine. Once you do a whole new world opens up! Now, you are probably thinking, “yea, whatever hippie!” You can think what you will homie, but seriously, a whole new world opens up. Anyway, let’s root some stuff.

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You want to look for a stem of the plant that doesn’t have a flower on it and seems some what younger. When you feel the stem it will feel a tad bit softer then the others. You don’t want one that feels……woody. Now you want to cut right below a node. If you look at the picture above, the very end you can see sprouts on both sides, that’s a node and you want to cut right below it.

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Next, you want to cut off all the leaves. All the way until the very top.

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Now, you want to actually cut the leaves in half. By doing this you release some of that energy that the plant is putting towards those leaves. This let’s the plant put energy into producing new roots.

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Place your stems in water and place in a sunny spot. Rooting takes about a week or two. You will see tiny little strings coming out from the bottoms of the stem. It’s all very exciting! Once you see roots you can plant that bad boy in a pot and put back in your garden or you can share the love and pass it along to some one else to enjoy.

Happy rooting!

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Introduction to Canning: Everything You Need

 

This post is going to be the muther of all posts and won’t have a lot of pictures. Normally I like to keep my post short, sweet and to the point. However, with this being a blog about preserving, I feel like I should break it down to the nitty gritty for you. So bare with me.

Let’s talk about the equipment you need, utensils, jars, preservers, labels and books. Ready, set lets preserve some stuff up homie.

Equipment: Canners

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There are so many canners out there and to each there own. I am not here to tell you I have tried them all or that one works better then the other. I’m just going to tell you about the one I have and absolutely love. I have the All American 921 pressure canner. This is a beast of a canner but well worth the investment if you are serious about preserving food and want it to last FOREVER. This canner does not require a gasket seal like most pressure canners. That means there are no parts that need to be replaced after so many uses. It has a weight on the right side, which actually helps preserve the food inside. What it does is allows that many pounds of pressure to be inside the canner. The amount of pounds needed to can depends on the altitude in which you live. This helps preserve food that are low acidic foods. On the left, you have a gauge, this tells you when the amount of pressure is present within the canner. Anytime you use this canner you want to ensure that all pressure is released before you open it after a canning project. It also comes with two racks making it easy to stack jars on top of each other. It is heavy duty, which may scare the living crap out of you when you pull it out of the box but it is so easy to use. It took me two years to even use mine. I bought it in our early days of learning how to homestead and then life happened you know got married, moved to a new city, bought a house and got pregnant all in span of three months! But anyway, it took some time for me to grow the balls to use it. Then I did and fell in love with it. Like I said, it’s a beast so it cost about $230. I could not stress it enough, it was well worth every penny.

Water Bath Canner:

This one is pretty basic. You can find this water bath canner on Amazon, Walmart or Target for about $30. Sometimes the grocery store will carry it as well. It’s pretty much a big pot with a rack inside. Side note, in all canners there must be a rack or something that lifts the jars up about an inch or so. Jars will break if they come in direct contact with the bottom of the pot.

Utensils:

This little group of utensils are life saving when canning. I say you splurge and get the kit. Don’t think you can get by without it, you can’t just face it now. The kit usually comes with a funnel, plastic knife, magnetic picker upper (yes, I just said picker upper) and jar tongs. I highly suggest a mesh strainer that will easily fit over a jar, a timer and a ladle. Bust these bad boys out with each canning project.

Preservers:

I fought buying pectin in the beginning of my Canning journey. I started with jams and most recipes include pectin but I though I don’t want to add that to my jams, I want it all natural. Just buy the pectin, it makes your jams cook down to the right consistency. With out it your jams and preserves will stay on the runny side, it being runny doesn’t compromise the safety, just the quality. Lemon juice is another item you will need to keep on hand. Lemon juice brings low acidic food to the right acidity in order to keep it safe for canning. In my recipe for canning tomato sauce you will see that I used it to help ensure my canned tomato sauce stayed safe. Citric acid does the same thing. Sometimes, depending on what food you are canning, lemon juice can leave a taste. Citric acid does not, so it’s canner choice. If vinegar is not already a staple in your pantry it should become one now. Vinegar is used so often during canning projects. Get yourself a big bottle of it and feel good that you always have it on hand. We use vinegar for cleaning, sanitizing, hair conditioner the list literally can go on. When making jams and preserves sugar is going to be your best friend. Sugar helps preserve food, that’s why you will find so much is added to jams and preserve recipes. Adding pectin can help reduce the amount of sugar added. Lastly, salt, get your self some canning salt and store that bad boy in your pantry right next to your vinegar. Canning salt does not contain anti-caking agents or additives like iodine. These additives can compromise the quality of your foods turning the water cloudy and your food dark in color.

Jars:

There are a few brands of mason jars, any will do. I have not found anyone brand to be more superior then the other. The same thing with lids. You will find Ball and Kerr available. Either work perfectly fine. You can have a Ball jar and put a Kerr lid on it and it will work perfectly. Try not to think too hard about it. The rings usually come with the jars and the lids. Now, you can reuse the rings but not the lids. Once you process a jar with a lid and it seals, that lid is now compromised once opened. You can use it to store jars in the fridge after opening, like pickles, but you cannot use it again in another canning project.

Labels:

It’s fun to buy pretty labels because these jars will sit in your pantry and let’s face it pretty labels make us smile. But in reality not necessary what so ever. It’s actually kind of a waste because once you open that jar most of the time you’re done with that jar and have to wash it. Trying to peel off a pretty label is just going to piss you off in the long run. Just stick to the dissolvable kind and be done with it.

Books:

My all time favorite is the Ball: The Complete Book of Home Preserving. When it comes to canning food safely stick to any ball book. These next two books are just super fun and well let’s face it, pretty. Canning for a new generation, this book has some really fun recipes for chutney and pickled veggies. Jams and preserves book is just as fun. Jams and preserves are the easiest to start with when exploring the world of canning. I recommend this book for any beginner. When it comes to jams and preserves all you need is a water bath canner. Keep it simple when you begin exploring the world of preserving food. You will learn quickly if this is for you then you can justify spending $230 on a pressure canner.

Happy Learning!

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Harvesting Tomato Seed

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We are going to get down and sticky with the inside of a tomato today. We are harvesting tomato seeds for next years garden. This process is a tad bit lengthy, a whole lot messy, and totally worth it. So grab a jar, gloves if your girly and all your tomatoes. Let’s do this.

First things first, wash those bad boys.

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Next you want to cut them length wise so that you are cutting the core all the way down, not just in half. Take your spoon and spoon out the seeds and its gelatin into a jar. Now if your are preserving these tomatoes, which most likely you are, take a knife and cut the core out. You’ll save yourself some time.

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Next slap a lid on that puppy and let sit for three days. Make sure you stir it everyday. Do not add any additional water. What’s happening here is that a fermentation process starts and the seeds that are viable sink to the bottom. Stirring it helps release the seeds from the gelatin.

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After three days, you are going to add three time the amount of water. So let’s say you have a cup of tomato juice goodness, you are going to add three cups of water. You are going to change the water everyday until your seeds are clean.

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After seeds are clean, strain them out and lay them on a drying screen or paper towel. If laying them on a drying screen, you want to spread them out using water. If you try to use your hands all the seeds will just stick to your hand. If using a paper towel, try as best as you can to lay them out as much as possible. Every day for the next three to five days run your hands through the seed, breaking them up from each other. Once seeds are completely dry, drop in an envelope label, date and wait for the fruit of your labor to flourish in your garden next year.

Happy seeding!

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Canning prep list

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Let’s talk about what we need to prepare for all our canning adventures. Canning food is a long process that is very detail oriented. Surprisingly for someone who has ADD, me, I get it and it just works. Don’t ask! Ok focus, so here we we’ll get down and dirty on all the good you need for almost every canning project. This is a quick list and reference for your project in case you need a refresher before your projects. I’ll make a more detailed post about all the equipment, utensils and other goodies. Let’s get to it.

1. Depending on your project get your correct canner going first thing.
2. Bring out all your utensils.
3. Get all your jars, lids and rings.
4. Get a paper towel ready to go.
5. Get a bowl and put your lids in.
6. Get a towel ready on the counter where the filled jars will stay.
7. Start some music up.
8. Put on a fun apron.
9. Have fun.

Happy Canning!

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Canning:Jalapeños

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Jalapeño, don’t mind if I do. Let’s can up some delicious jalapeños people. Many recipes for canning jalapeños include sugar, which helps balance the hotness of the pepper and the acidity of the vinegar. This recipe does not include it, my husband doesn’t like sweet, even a hint of it, when it come to his peppers. Or anything really. This canning project is super easy. As with all canning projects get yourself ready (read here) Let’s roll.

First thing first, get your water bath canner boiling on the stove. That bad boy takes some time to get going. In this project I only used 8 oz jars. So you don’t have to fill up your canner all the way if you are using that size, just enough to cover it about two inches.

Wash those peppers up yo. Now at this point it is probably a wise idea to grab some gloves and glove up. Unless you want to live on the edge and say, “F” it I am a rebel. Then be my guest and chance it away. Oh by chance it away I mean last the entire project in a hot sweaty kitchen cutting jalapeños and not touching your face the whole time.

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Next, we want to slice them and throw them in a bowl of room temperature water. Letting them soak for about ten minutes helps get some of the seeds off. You are not getting all of them off, just the ones that fall off easily.

In a pot get yourself together, 4 cups of white vinegar and 2 tablespoons of salt and bring to a boil. Don’t do this until you are ready to pour into jars and put in canner. The longer it boils the faster it dissipates. When you start your vinegar mixture, ladle some boiling water from your canner over your lids. This softens them up for the sealing process. This is the point where you want to drop your jars into the boiling water bath canner and sterilize your jars for ten minutes.

How ever many jars you are canning get a clove of garlic for each. I didn’t mince the garlic, although you are more than welcome to. After I opened the cloves I just smashed them a bit to get the juices a flowing and dropped them in the jars.

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Place your funnel on your jars and scoop the jalapeños in. Next ladle the vinegar salt mixture in leaving a 1/4 inch of head space. Place your seals on and your rings only finger tight.

Drop those puppies in the canner and process for about 10 minutes. Your time starts when the water goes back up to boiling.

Ta da! You just canned yo self some jalapeños.

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Now what to do with these little mouth watering pickled peppers?

You can:

Put them on hot dogs

In quesadillas

Chop them up put them in your eggs or omelette

Lay them on top of nachos

Any meal you want a little pucker to, throw some of those bad boys in.

Happy canning!

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Canning: Tomato Sauce

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Hmmmm homegrown tomato sauce, yes please. This canning project can be processed in a water bath. Tomatoes are usually a high acid food, which makes them safe for a water bath method of canning. However, not all tomatoes have the same acidity so you want to include 1 to 2 tablespoons of lemon juice. Now, you may think oh I can just use fresh lemon juice from a real lemon. Unfortunately you can’t, the lemon juice that comes in a jar ensure it contains the proper amount of acidity. By adding the lemon juice you are increasing the acidity, making it safe for canning. You can also use citric acid to increase the acidity. Depending on the food you are canning, lemon juice can add a flavoring so that’s where you will have to decide which you will use. This tomatoe sauce is your basic tomato sauce no seasoning at all. If you want to spice it up, knock yourself out. The canning process is the same. Let’s get to it!

As always wash your tomatoes. Then get your water bath canner filled with water and start that bad boy on the stove. It takes quite some time to get that water boiling so you want to start it first thing. Keeping the lid on the pot brings the water to a boil a little faster.

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You want to cut your tomatoes length wise and scoop out with a spoon all the seeds into a jar, you can save those seeds for next years garden if you really wanted to. A post on that is coming soon! Ok focus, after spooning all the seeds out cut the core out by making a small little V.

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Next, we are going to blanch these little suckers, so you are going to get some filtered water boiling and a bowl of ice water ready. Once your water is boiling, throw in enough tomatoes to fill the pot a good amount but not over flowing, work in batches. Once you throw them in set a timer for three minutes. Once your timer goes off scoop them out of the boiling water and dump them straight in the ice water until they cool. Get all your tomatoes done.

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Get a fresh pot on your stove; cleaning as you go is a life saver just an FYI. Take your tomato and peel the skin off and throw them in your clean pot. Start heating it up homie. You are going to want to mash them up or even toss them in the blender for a quick spin and throw it back in your pot. Whatever tickles your fancy. I like to blend it. Cook your sauce until it cooks downs quite a bit and thickens up.

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For the water bath process you need to sanitize your jars. At this point your water should be boiling so toss your jars in the boiling water for 10 to 15 minutes. Make sure you do this when you are ready to fill your jars. They need to be hot when you fill them. At this point you want to ladle some boil water over your sealing lids. This softens the seal getting them ready to properly seal up the goodness you are sweating over.

Put a funnel over your jar and put 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or citric acid for pint size jars and 2 tablespoons for quarts. Now pour your sauce in your jars. Slap a lid on them and a ring, only finger tight though!

Here’s the fun part, take your jar tongs and drop them, not literally please, into the boiling water. Make sure the water stays boiling, if it cools down when you put your jars in just bring it back to a boil. Start your timer pints for 40 minutes quarts for 60.

Boom, bang, bam you be done yo! Take your jars out and place them on a towel on your counter and leave to sit for a full 24 hours. If you’re lucky you’ll get to hear the little PING that tells you, you just canned up some tomato sauce. Job well done.

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Happy Canning!

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Cayenne Pepper Flakes

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We are making cayenne pepper flakes people. Little red skinny peppers of hot fury. So grab some gloves and join me. It’s a super easy process.

When harvesting your peppers, you kind of want to wait until they are bright red and shriveled a little. That word is kind of weird to use but you don’t want to pick them right away, give them some time to morph into their hotness.

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After harvesting you want to wash them the night before so that they are completely dry the next morning. Lay the dry peppers  on a cookie sheet lined with foil. They cannot touch each other, if they do, they won’t completely dry out.

Turn your oven to the lowest setting, mine is 200 degrees. And cook for as long as it takes to dry them out. These took 6 hours but my husband says I burnt them, oops, so just keep checking on them. Pinch them every now and then to see if they break easily. You’ll know when they are done.

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Once dried out, place in a food processor and grind until they are little pepper flakes. And you are done my friends. Now I just have one piece of advice, do not say “F wearing gloves I got this,” then forget that you are working with hot peppers and decide to wipe your ENTIRE face with your hands because it’s 100 degrees out and you are sweating like a hog. Yes, that is a run on sentence, I know. Enjoy you little jar of ass burning goodness!

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Happy cayenne peppering!