Sunday, July 18, 2010

Peaches, Preserves, and the Pursuit of Simplicity

This last week was spent preserving Peaches :)
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We get our local peaches from an orchard out in the country, and like many places, they offer discounts on less-than-perfect fruit :) So we ended up coming home with 2.5 bushels (or 150 lbs).
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I rinsed all the fruit in small batches before we started peeling...
In the water, I added 1 tsp baking soda to get them really clean.
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After blanching the fruit, we slipped off the skins and removed the pitts before slicing.
I made a light syrup of 9 cups water, 2 cups sugar--Added peaches, then using the hot pack method, added the fruit/syrup to quart jars before canning for 20 mins.
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Second-Hand Treasure
We found a vintage 1950's Presto Canner & rack for $5 at a country sale nearby. It's not in the best shape, but I love it! Believe it or not, the wooden handles make all the difference. I can lift the lid without oven mitts!
But my goodness it weighs a ton! lol
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For four days straight, my sister and I worked 8-11 hour days in the kitchen! To say we were exhausted is an under-statement :) I didn't realize how hard it is to stand for THAT long all day!
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One of my last canned recipes was Peach Barbecue Sauce. I thought y'all may like the recipe!
(I doubled this)

5 lbs peaches (or 6 cups puree)
1 cup red or green bell pepper, finely chopped
1 cup onion, finely chopped
3 tablespoons garlic, finely chopped
1 cup honey
¾ cup apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons dry mustard
2 teaspoons salt
a few drops of liquid hickory smoke (optional)
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Combine all the ingredients in a large pot, and bring to a boil. On medium/high heat, boil until it reaches desired consistency, about 20-30 mins. Remove from heat, ladle into sterilized jars with 1/2 in. head space. Wipe rim, Put on your lids, and place jars in canner for 15 mins (pints) or 20 mins (quarts). Recipe makes 2 quarts or about 4 pints.
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The taste is tropical to me...not a southern BBQ sauce w/ peach puree, but a light, flavorful condiment...reminiscent of a chutney. We all really like it! :)
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Here's our kitchen pantry shelf so far :) This is our first season canning, so its encouraging to see we have our own preserves!
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The tomatoes have been coming in slowly!
I've only been able to can a little sauce, but for the most part, we eat our tomatoes fresh or freeze them.
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So far the vegetables really have to be done on a small scale, (and are ready at different times!)so that's why we haven't made a big batch of salsa yet! But I have enjoyed canning okra :)
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Rinsing off Tomatoes...
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My Mother bringing in the guys' laundry
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Traveling for the weekend...

We visited a family who are running an Organic dairy farm...it was absolutely refreshing to sit back and enjoy the time spent together.
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Before dinner, I went out to the garden with one of the daughters as she picked fresh Summer Spinach to add the meal. I had heard of this plant but hadn't seen it, so now we know what to grow next year!
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We were very encouraged by their (weed free!) garden, and learned many tips that we'll be applying to our little area this fall!
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Their new little calf!
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It was great to watch all the dedication to getting the farm chores done as they worked together as a family. My sister and brother went horseback riding down one of the trails, and I enjoyed learning more about keeping milk goats (aka alot of responsibility! lol)

It was a wonderful visit!
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From there, we lodged at a dear family's home, and had the best conversation about homeschooling! My sister and I were able to testify to how wonderful our first years of Homeschooling began, because it was relaxed and centered around the family. My Mother was able to encourage the young Mother to persevere and continue...the fruit will come :)
We had many laughs as stories were told!
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On Sunday we went to home-church, and it was great to see all the families again, whom we hadn't seen in a while! The family who hosts has a lovely homestead :)
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It was so green outside, and nice to admire all their beautiful flowers!
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Their animals are free-range and have so much space to enjoy...It was fun to see the cows laying under the shade of the tree w/ the chickens!
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The pigs were really friendly, lol!
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Walking outside before we had to leave...
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Family History
We stopped by my great-aunts home to visit before we took the backroads to GA, and it was a lovely time! The home she's living in was built for my great-grandmother as a newlywed in the 30's by her husband, and this oven was purchased in the 40's..and still works perfectly!
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We were able to ask her questions about family history, and she went to the old family heirloom desk and took out the photo's!
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In the kitchen--1950's

As she shared stories and old pictures w/ us, she talked about both the hard times and good times, and what she remembered as a girl.
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Memories
They were the first family in the neighborhood to have an automobile, and she told me of the man who would come into town w/ his horse and carriage selling blocks of ice for whoever needed to refresh their icebox!
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Before leaving, my great-aunt showed me the portrait of my great great grandmother, who lived through the 1860's, and post-war, which interested me since the Living History events I attend are focused on that time-period.
She told us a bit about this great womans' personality and life-- it is a blessing to have valuable info passed down for us to know.
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We stopped to see my great-grandfathers tombstone.
He was a painter and carpenter, and came home after serving in WWI.

So much history!

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Now that we're back home...

Tonight we were invited over our dear friends home to pick figs, and we were able to harvest quite a few lbs. So hopefully I'll be canning them soon!

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Echinacea
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"That you may take it to its territory,
That you may know the paths to its home..." Job 38:20


Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Welcome, July!

We spent the past weekend visiting a dear family's home! When we arrived, we went to their town's festival. We all enjoyed walking together, observing all the different booths. I always make a point to stop to buy or sample the Kettle Corn! I couldn't resist!!
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"...That our daughters may be as corner stones,
polished after the similitude of a palace."
Psalm 114:12
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Down the lane...

On Sunday evening many families gathered on the lawn to watch the festivities :)

I thoroughly enjoyed the fellowship all weekend.
We had a delightful time!!

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We don't have many blue flowers,

but this touch of color is a beautiful sight along the cottage walkway.
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Speaking of Blue...

My sister and I picked Blueberries...
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We've been eating fresh berries as a snack for a while, so I thought I'd try to pick enough to make preserves!
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{I love this old scale!}

I measured 1 lb of blueberries for Blueberry Jam.
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As the berries were crushed, the aromatic pulp was incredibly fragrant--Ah, lovely!!

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Using the Pomona Pectin, I was able to make 3 half-pints using only 1 cup sugar!

My brother wrote 'Blue Berry Jam' on the lids :)

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Later that day...

I used our vegetables to make Sweet Pickle Relish.

*6 cups chopped Cucumbers, *3 cups chopped red, green & banana peppers, *3 cups minced onions.

ps) My goodness, chopping all these vegetables seemed to take me forever and a day! lol

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Pour 1/4 cup pickling salt over vegetables...
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Pour enough cold water over the vegetables until its covered. Then let it sit (room temperature) for 2 hours.
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Pickling Spice

In a large pot combine: *3 cups sugar, *2 cups Cider vinegar, *1/2 tsp Turmeric, *1 TBsp Pickling spice (or 2.5 tsp celery seed & 2.5 tsp mustard seed)

Heat to boiling, strain out the spices, then add drained vegetables; return to boiling. Cook over med/high heat for 15 mins. or until most excess liquid has evaporated. Ladle relish into sterilized jars, leaving 1/2 in. headspace. Screw on lids and process in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes.

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Makes 7 half-pints or 3 pints & a 12 oz jar. If you enjoy sweet relish, this recipe is delicious!! Next time, I'll pace myself though...the prep was close to an hour. Also, it's best to let it sit for at least a week on the shelf..the flavor improves, trust me!

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Mother on the front porch shelling our purple hull beans
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Our peas must be Really delicious....

I tried to tell you Homegrown tastes better... :)

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We also have been shelling the dried beans as well.
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"Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart:
wait, I say, on the LORD." Psalm 27:14
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My red onions are ready! I'm carrying some of the onions in the basket, not all :)
Are those onion tops wild or what!? I didn't expect them to be so tall!
Out of 80 bulbs, I lost about 10-15 due to rain.
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lol. My cat loves to 'tap' me on the shoulder!!
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A few upclose.
I'm going to be storing them in a dark cool place for a few days, then hang them to dry.
So after they've been stored for a week or two, we'll try them!!
ps) If they're kept in a warm place (like near the oven) they'll be more prone to rot.
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So today I'll be attempting to can/pickle our okra and see what I can do with the green peppers.
Is it just me or are these weeds in the garden tryin' to TAKE OVER. lol
Pray for me, Y'all!!
:)