Blog

A Day in the Life

My friendly bird

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This little birdie likes to sing to me from my window. I have a feeling that isn’t about to change.

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I’ve done my research, he’s a red-shafted northern flicker (here’s another link). Apparently only the males have the red on the face. and I know I shouldn’t be happy to have a woodpecker hanging out in my trees, but I don’t really care. Yet, anyway. I haven’t seen much damage from him. And it sounds like if I start to hear him pecking my trees instead of singing to me in the mornings, all I’ve gotta do is give him a man-made bird house and he’ll leave the trees alone. Why do all the work when your shelter becomes free? Otherwise, he’ll keep the bug problem down. We have tons of ants in the summertime (so far I haven’t seen any inside, but we moved in during the fall).

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I never really see him anywhere besides my front window and occasionally a tree out front. I’ve never seen or heard him peck anywhere, even when he is hanging out in a tree, so I’m not worried about him, too much.

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He’s kind of hard to spot in this picture. Do you see him?

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Anyway, until I decide he’s destroying anything, I’ll just listen to him crooning outside my window.

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Canning/Harvest, Recipes

Lemon Pectin (citrus Pectin)

Having food allergies has taught me so much. It’s also led me to so many doors I otherwise would not have passed through. I never thought I’d be the type to WANT to make homemade pectin, because I didn’t much care for jam. Come to find out, what I didn’t care for was the pectin. It has corn syrup solids in it (called dextrose). No wonder I’d always thought jam was too sweet. I have made preserves, instead, for years, but my husband misses jam. And preserves are not easy! They require standing over a hot stove all day, usually in a hot month. They fog up my windows and the humidity lingers. And they just plain take forever. Still good, though. Just lots of work.

Interestingly, my daughter hated jam as much as I did, but when she tasted some without the added dextrose, she told me instead, “Well maybe I like jam… but only if you make it.” Someday, kid, you’re going to actually put two and two together. Hates marshmallows unless mom makes it… corn. Hates jam unless mom makes it… corn. Not a big candy fan… corn. Kid, you have a corn allergy, too!

I think she doesn’t want to put the pieces together yet. Especially because her other biological relation already ignores her other, clearly tested, and serious allergies. If she recognized this one, she’d have to starve for 2 days.

I’ve made apple pectin before, and if I had to pick just one method, I’d go with citrus from now on. It worked easier and I could see results faster. If you’ve got lots of green, unripe apples, though, you may want to look into the other pectin.

During canning season, I go through lots of lemons. That is one other thing that I have to do now because of allergies. Bottled lemon juice contains a sulfate. Sulfate-anything makes my mouth go numb and my throat swell up. Not a good combo. Plus, fresh lemons are so much better for you. I know that canning people usually say avoid lemons because you can’t guarantee the pH, but I’d rather not die from anaphylaxis . Some day, I might find a way to check the pH of my food and then find out what it’s supposed to be in canning, but I don’t know where to start; which always leaves me spinning in circles. I feel like Captain Jack Sparrow trying to find a certain chest when he doesn’t know what he wants. “Ah! A heading. Set sail in a… uh… a general… that way! direction.”

but I digress. Lemon pectin. Love it. Will never buy a box again. Easy-peasy.

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In order to help you understand, lets take a second and go over the parts of a citrus fruit. Biology lesson. Okay, these are not the terms you’d find in a biology textbook. But you would find them in old cookbooks.

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    • Zest: the oily coating on the outside of a lemon, lime, orange, or other citrus fruit. The part of the rind that has the color to it. Strong, potent flavor. Used in essential oils. It really only becomes zest after it’s been grated off of the lemon, but peel becomes so ambiguous and jumbled as part of the rind, that for my purposes, we’ll call it zest.
    • Pith: the white squishy part of a citrus fruit. Contains the most pectin. Pretty flavorless. Most often discarded (what a shame).
    • Fruit: the piece of a citrus most commonly used. Contains the juice and the pulp inside of membranes dividing the fruit into sections. Most often used for both consumption and juices.
    • Pips: the seeds. I don’t know why they’re not just called seeds, but pips sounds fun. Especially when you want both the pips and the pith.

It will be WAY easier on you to grate/peel the lemons first, before you do anything else. Seriously. And before you do THAT you will want to wash/scrub your fruit. You can’t be sure of how carefully that fruit was cared for or what is on the peels.

I took a regular peeler to my citrus, but you can get the colored skin off however you would like. I wish I had a channel knife zester (affiliate link. I have no proof that this is a good choice). There are so many uses for the zest. I, however, have not come up with enough ways yet. I’ve added the lemon zest to lemonade, before. That was great. I also want to learn how to candy them and such. My sister makes cleaners out of them. I haven’t tried that. I have dried them, but when I do dry them, they just sit there. Unused. Unloved. Wasted. I confess, this year, most of them ended up in my compost. Baby steps. Next year, I’ll try harnessing the lemony powers of goodness into something… good.

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anyway, after you’ve peeled the citrus (as you can see most of mine is lemons and limes. It was salsa season. Grapefruits work amazingly, too. So much pith, it only takes a few of them. Plus they have a milder flavor. probably because you get more pith and less oil residue), juice them and use the juice for whatever you had in mind. Or bottle it. I’ve seen recipes, but I haven’t tried it. You will need some lemon juice for your pectin, so it’s nice to have lemons in the bunch, no matter what other combination you have in mind.

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The more color you remove from the lemon, the better off you are. You can still see quite a bit of color on my citrus, but I’m not particularly worried about a lemon/lime taste in my jams.

After you’ve isolated the pith, throw in the pips (the seeds. They have tons of pectin, too). and add everything to a food processor. Chop, chop, chop.

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When you’re done, you’ll end up with something that looks like this:

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Now you have the base for your citrus pectin.

Measure out your pith into 8 ounce batches. Add 1/4 cup of lemon juice, and let it sit at room temperature for two hours. Then add about 2 cups of water and let it sit another hour. Transfer everything to a pot and rapidly bring it to a boil (stirring as needed). Once it boils, turn it to a simmer, and let it simmer for 15 minutes. Remove it from the heat and let it cool in the pan for about 20 minutes.

Then send it through a jelly bag or a few layers of cheese cloth (sorry, I lost my picture of this part of the process). If you squeeze the bag you will definitely get more pectin out of it (and I often find that it’s the pectin that will congeal the best), but your jellies will be cloudy. I don’t know why people care, but some do.

Test your pectin. To do this, I like to scoop out a spoonful and chill it in the fridge, so it cools faster than the rest of my pectin. Sources say you can’t test it when it’s warm (though I have gotten citrus pectin to set up even when warm. Never apple pectin, though), and then add a splash (my grandma’s terms) of rubbing alcohol over it. If it sets into a semi-solid blob that you can get onto a fork, you’re set. If not, reduce it down a little bit more (I’ve never had to do that with citrus, but I have had to do it with the apple pectin. Now you know why I prefer citrus pectin).

To Store:

Either bottle (which I’ve never done) or freeze your pectin. To freeze, measure into an ice cube tray. I know that each of my cubes will be about 1 1/2 Tbs. When solid, remove from trays and add to a freezer bag (they’re still kind of sticky when frozen. That’s not a bad thing. That’s pectin that works). It should store for 6 months to a year.

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My sources tell me that to bottle it, re-heat the pectin until just below a boil, fill sterilized jars with 1/2″ headspace, and then process for 15 minutes, depending on your altitude. I haven’t tried it. It seems a waste of cooking time to bottle pectin.

To Use:

Here’s where it gets tricky. With a box of pectin, it tells you exactly how much sugar to use, how much fruit to use, and how much pectin to add. With homemade pectin, it’s all a bunch of variables. Your pectin is different based on each individual fruit. I would definitely use a box pectin a few times until you know what you’re looking for (although, really, sometimes they vary, too. I’ve got some syrup downstairs in my fruit room that was supposed to be jelly. I also have some really soft-set jams. Both from store-bought pectin).

The most important bit is to add the pectin before you boil your fruit (I think store-bought pectin is added after). You’re going to need a whole lot more pectin than you add from a box, too. A good place to start is 3 tablespoons (for me, that’s 2 pectin cubes) per cup of fruit. You may still need to add some fresh lemon juice as you’re making pectin, but with this recipe, you get a head start because it’s already in the pectin. You could need up to a whole cup of pectin.  You will need to keep track of how much pectin to add because a good rule of thumb is equal parts pectin and sugar (more sugar, to taste). It all depends on how hard of a set you have. To test your fruit to desired thickness, freeze a plate in advance, and when you’re ready to test your jam/jelly, take a spoonful and drop it onto the plate. You need to be able to run something through it and it takes a while to re-fill the space. This is a soft set. If you want a really firm jelly, you will want to let it set on the plate, and then touch it. If it wrinkles, it’s good.  I’m impatient. I don’t want to wait for it to cool, because then the jelly in the pan is cooked much beyond the jelly I tested on the plate, so I usually keep track of how thick it is and how long it takes to lose its shape.

 

If all of this is just too much work for you, you can just throw a few pips, or a mixture of chopped pith and pips into a cheesecloth pouch and add it to your boiling jams/jellies. I like something I wont have to fish out, though. And I like to adjust the amounts as needed. both are harder with throwing in a bag. You get much less control.

 

Citrus Pectin
Recipe Type: canning
Author: Keira @ Searchforseven.com
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 1 batch
Making pectin from citrus peels. Easy Peasy.
Ingredients
  • 8 ounces chopped pith/pits from citrus fruit
  • 1/4 c lemon juice
  • 2 cups water, any temperature
Instructions
  1. Measure out your pith into 8 ounce batches.
  2. Add 1/4 cup of lemon juice, and let it sit at room temperature for two hours.
  3. Add 2 cups of water and let it sit another hour.
  4. Transfer everything to a pot and rapidly bring it to a boil (stirring as needed). Once it boils, turn it to a simmer, and let it simmer for 15 minutes.
  5. Remove it from the heat and let it cool in the pan for about 20 minutes.
  6. Send it through a jelly bag or a few layers of cheese cloth
  7. Can multiply recipe.

 

Archives

Why My Ring is a Pearl

[disclaim]This article was put on my old blog on January 16, 2011. I wanted to share with you because it is the anniversary of the day my husband and I got engaged. [/disclaim]

My ring is a pearl. There’s a reason behind it. Let me explain:

Jenny’s Pearl Necklace

by: Author Unknown, Source Unknown

Jenny was a bright-eyed, cheerful young girl. One day when she and her mother were checking out at the grocery store, Jenny saw a circle of glistening white plastic pearls in a pink foil box. They were priced at $2.50. She begged her mom to buy them, they were so beautiful!

Her mother looked back into the pleading blue eyes of her little girl and said.”If you really want them, I’ll think of some extra chores for you and you can save enough money to buy them yourself. Your birthday’s only a week away and you might get another dollar from Grandma.” Jenny saved up and at last she had enough money to buy the necklace.

Jenny loved her pearls. They made her feel grown up. She wore them everywhere–Sunday school, kindergarten, and all around the house. She treasured her pearls. But since they were just beads, eventually they got pretty worn down. Soon they were nothing but white beads on a worn string.

Jenny had a very loving daddy and every night when she was ready for bed, he would stop whatever he was doing and come upstairs to read her a story. One night when he finished the story, he asked Jenny, “Do you love me?”

“Oh yes, Daddy. You know that I love you.”

“Then may I have your pearls?”

“Oh, Daddy, not my pearls. These are my favorite, I love these pearls.”

“That’s okay, honey. Daddy loves you. Good night.” And he brushed her cheek with a kiss.

About a week later, after the story time, Jenny’s daddy asked again, “Do you love me?”

“Daddy, you know I love you.”

“Then will you give me your pearls?”

“Oh, Daddy, not my pearls. But you can have my baby doll. The brand new one I got for my birthday. She is so beautiful and you can have the yellow blanket that matches her sleeper, if you want. But I love my pearls. You cant have my pearls.”

“That’s okay, Honey. Sleep well. Daddy loves you.” And as always, he brushed her cheek with a gentle kiss.

This went on for quite a while, always with the same result, until one night as Jenny’s Daddy came to read her a story, Jenny was sitting on her bed. As he came close, he noticed her chin was trembling and one silent tear rolled down her cheek.

“What is it, Jenny? What’s the matter?”

Jenny didn’t say anything but lifted her little hand up to her daddy. When she opened it, there was her little pearl necklace. With a little quiver, she finally said, “Here, Daddy. It’s for you. I know you love me, and you wouldn’t ask for my pearls unless you needed them.”

With tears gathering in his own eyes, Jenny’s kind daddy reached out with one hand to take the prized necklace. He quietly left and when he came back, the other hand held a blue velvet case. He handed it to Jenny and told her, “Thank you for giving me your most prized possession. I know you even saved up for it all by yourself. Now, I have this for you also.”

As Jenny pried open the blue velvet box, so nice a thing itself she’d never known, the glistening white sheen of the rich genuine pearls struck her teary eyes.

Her daddy hugged her tight and said, “I needed to know you would take care of these. I needed to know you would keep these pearls nice. And now I know.”

I remember when I was trying to make things work out with my ex, I called my mom one night and I said, “mom, what if this is like that stupid pearl story? What if God’s just waiting to bless me when I’m ready to let go? But what if I don’t WANT to let go? I already know what this is like, and I am okay with fake pearls. I don’t want to let go.

And then when he left, I realized just how worn and chipped those plastic beads were. And how much I would have been missing.

And now… Now I have my real pearl.

Archives

Questions: Which Reindeer is your favorite and why?

[disclaim]This post is an archival post. It was originally posted on my old blog in 2010. Occasionally I bring a post back from my old blog because … well because I’m conceited and like rereading what I wrote. I use them in place of times when I just don’t feel like blogging, but don’t want to let my blog go dormant.[/disclaim]

okay, lets see…

If I had to give personalities based on the names, this is what I’d come up with:

  • Dasher: Hasty and sporadic. He leaps before he thinks, is impulsive, and very driven. Although usually victorious,  such victory is often a near-miss, and a result of sheer determination not to give up. He often gets himself in situations he shouldn’t, nearly avoiding danger. He also makes a bold leader, and is very determined. Often called a wild card. (Personalities similar to Artemis Fowl and Wolverine)
  • Dancer: A dreamer. Fluid and elegant. No sharp edges or sporadic chaos. Likes things orderly, but isn’t controlled by the need for order. Often well-rounded and balanced.  She gets things done, and does them with flair, but doesn’t do them for selfish reasons or because she wants attention. She does them because she enjoys doing them or because they need done. She’s a firm believer in doing what’s right for the right reasons.
  • Prancer: a little egoistic (as opposed to egotistic), knows the world doesn’t revolve around him, but wishes it would. Doesn’t think he’s better than the world, but that’s because he’s never stopped to pay attention. Often showy and ostentatious, in a lovable sort of way. He knows how to charm the crowd. (think Tom Cruise)
  • Vixen: Saucy and sensual. If Vixen were a color, She’d be a bold, seductive red. She’s the type who was born to turn heads, in a classy sort of way. She’s strong and bold, confident in who she is. She’s also smart and a little manipulative. She knows how to get things done and she knows how to get others to do them for her. And think it was their idea. But she’s not too overpowering to the point where people get annoyed with her, she has a way of finding her way into your heart. (Personality similar to Angelina Jolie)
  • Comet: Stalwart. Doesn’t quit the task until its completed. Very methodical. Sometimes known to have a temper, but surprisingly able to keep his cool. Although he has his flaws, others often only see perfection. Often driven to do things because they’re right, for the good of all. (Think I Am Legend and Froto)
  • Cupid: Well, everything I can find for a personality fitting Cupid says a lot the same things as Vixen, but to me, that’s not Cupid. I’m torn to whether Cupid is bold or subtle, awkward or completely collected. To me, cupid is like pure love. If Cupid were a color, it’d be deep pink. Soft and comfortable, but whole and complete and subtly moving. Cupid is a friend to everyone. Cupid is loyal (this one can follow the Greek version of Cupid). He’s willing to do anything and overcomes great obstacles for the ones he loves. [Not sure if he’s more like Hercules (ironically, another mythological tale) or Alma the Younger (that fits the rebel turned good aspect that fits the Roman tales of Cupid)].
  • Donner: often called old-fashioned, Donner believes in old-world values and respect. He is a reindeer who likes complete order and is often driven to find it. Donner is a protector, but one with power. Think mafia lord or Thor the Norse god. But in a good way.
  • Blitzen: Quick and clever. Blitzen is smart, one you could classify as a genius. He has a short temper and sharp tongue, and is often an instigator. He’s a major player in revolution, which isn’t always a bad thing. He’s innovative and resourceful, and doesnt back down, even when the odds are stacked against him. Think Indiana Jones meets Marty McFly.
  • Rudolf: the underdog who let it get to his head, in my opinion. A little too famous.

I guess under these descriptions, I’m definitely leaning towards Comet being my favorite. With Dancer taking a close second.

This site also has a summary of what each character’s personality would be, but I didn’t follow too closely with what they said.

Archives

Questions: Do you believe in Santa Claus?

[disclaim]This post is an archival post. It was originally posted on my old blog in 2010. Occasionally I bring a post back from my old blog because … well because I’m conceited and like rereading what I wrote. I use them in place of times when I just don’t feel like blogging, but don’t want to let my blog go dormant.[/disclaim]

Now really, how am I supposed to answer that?

Truth is, yes. Sorta. Not in the naive “Santa is real, I know it, He’s gotta be, he gave me such-n-such, mommy tell them he’s real” sort of thing. But I believe that Santa’s spirit and influence have changed the world. I believe he keeps the spirit of giving alive. At least the REAL Santa does. Not the commercialized version of him. I believe that he motivates people to be a little more giving, a little more jolly, and a little more hopeful. I think he helps all of us set aside ourselves. He allows us to do things in his name that we may or may not have done or been willing to do in our own names.

And besides, “he” gave me an AWESOME table last year. And it SERIOUSLY made my Christmas. I cant explain how much it meant that someone thought of me. And gave me something I could not afford. Or even afford to dream about.

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This is one of my favorite ornaments from my tree. I got it as a gift in High school.
Canning/Harvest, Recipes

Tomato Paste from skins

In case you haven’t noticed, I hate wasting any part of my fruits and veggies. Every time I process my produce and there is something left over, my mind asks, “what can I do with this? There has to be some use for it.” And, surprisingly, there usually is! With tomatoes, I was left with tomato skins. So I googled it, and found this recipe. I’m glad I found it, because I bottle about 200 lbs of tomatoes in a given year. From just 25 lbs, I got about 22 quarter-pints of tomato paste. I could have had more, but by the time I got to the last batch of bottled tomatoes, the first batch of skins went bad. Note to self: Do the sauce as the skins become available. They don’t last long in the fridge.

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Isn’t this perfect sauce? I could have boiled it down a little further into a thick paste, but I left it as sauce. It’s a thick sauce, though.

It is important to wash all the pesticides and bacteria off of your fruit and veggies, especially if you intend to use the skins! There are a few different ways to wash them, so you can pick what works best for you.

Then blanch your tomatoes by sinking into their pot of boiling water (I let the skins pop. It cooks the tomatoes a little longer, but I like how much easier it is) and then sinking them into cold ice-water.

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Do whatever you planned with the tomatoes. I make salsa, stewed tomatoes, and just plain bottled tomatoes. When I fill the bottles, I go in sets of 7 to fill my canner, then  I throw any extra tomatoes that don’t fit in the right amount of jars into the pot. It’ll take a little longer to boil out the liquid in the tomatoes, but it is a good use for the extra tomatoes.

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I know, it doesn’t look like much, yet, but place all the skins and the extra tomatoes into a pot and turn the stove to medium (avoid any high setting. Burning tomato is not the best way to spend your evening).

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When it starts to get all soupy-looking use a stick blender to puree the skins. I simmered the tomatoes about an hour and a half, then pureed them and let them simmer another hour.

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you see the good pulp forming? I’m sure it’s overkill, but after the second hour, I blended the tomatoes again, and let them cool slightly (just so I didn’t get burned. The tomatoes were still hot, but not boiling).

Here’s where I deviated from NW Edible. She works her tomatoes through a fine-mesh sieve. I have a fine screen
attachment to my Victorio. It saves a ton of work! I don’t know if you need the fine screen, but I didn’t want to risk it. I ran it through twice. I wanted as much of the tomatoey goodness as I could get. I actually got a ton the second time, too! In the end, I got a bowl full of little straw-like skin leftovers and a bunch of coarse seeds and beautiful tomato sauce in a clean stock-pot.

To season, the measurements all depend on how much sauce you get. my tomatoes were really sour, so I added a bit of honey, some powdered garlic, some onion powder, dried parsley and oregano, and a little salt. Dried seasonings don’t mess with the pH too much, but I wouldn’t want to mix in too much. The flavor will get stronger as it is processed. And you can add more flavor afterwards.

Make sure to get the pH right. This is best achieved with a bit of lemon juice or citric acid. I can’t use the citric acid, though I wish I could (it’s usually corn-derived), so it’s lemon in this house. Add the appropriate amount to each bottle. Also, word to the wise: once I used vinegar. DON’T do it. sure, you wont have to worry about botulism, but you also wont have to eat it. It’s nasty. Oh, and do just the right amount of lemon juice, too. My tomatoes were so acidic this year, adding the lemon juice made my whole body cringe. I’m probably not being safe, but I cut the amount in half. It was the only way I could stand to eat them! I’ve never had that problem before, though. Just with one farmer’s boxes of tomatoes from the local farmer’s market. It might just be the variety he grew.

 

Canning/Harvest, Recipes

Fruit leather recipes

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Apples, apples apples! I feel like I will never run out of apples. Thank heavens, though. I like apples. And so does my picky little miss. With having over 25 cups of applesauce still in my fridge after making apple butter, apple pie filling, apple sauce and apple juice, I decided that we were in dire need of fruit leather. Or at least my apples were in dire need of becoming fruit leather.

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We all enjoy fruit leather, as long as it’s done right, but I’ve never actually made it with apples before. I feel that was a major oversight on my part, because if you look at any store-bought fruit leather (not fruit rolls, though. They’re mostly corn or pectin), the main ingredient is apples. Knowing what I know about food science, I’d attribute that to a few wonderful characteristics from the apples themselves. apples make a softer, smoother fruit paste. They have natural pectin, so they can congeal without added ingredients. This also makes them stay softer when they’re dry.

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I tried a few different apple leather recipes this year, and I can tell you, I ate the left-overs with a spoon. So yummy. After scouring the web, I came up with 15 different recipes of my own creation, tweaking what I found online to fit my own needs/tastes.

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Some are a bit weird, but they’re worth a shot. Truth be told, I actually like the weird ones. I just can’t get my family to try them. They are an “acquired” taste, I suppose.

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We took a bunch of the leather on vacation with us, and didn’t come back with any leftovers. They made a convenient snack while waiting in line.

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I’ll post this here, though I’ll probably have to mention this in every recipe, as well. My dehydrator says to dry fruits at 135º. The internet says to make it 140º. Following either instruction will leave you with something rubbery and very undesirable. It dries the outside too quickly and leaves the centers still gooey and moisture-laden. Moisture means mold and spoilage. Bad news. I dried my leather between 115 and 125º, depending on the thickness. It actually took less time to dry at that temperature, because the dry was more thorough. It didn’t have to fight a hard crust to get to the moisture.

That brings up another point… Most ovens don’t go below 170°. I’ve never made fruit leather in an oven. I have heard it can be done, but I don’t know what happens to shelf-life. From what I can understand from the process, it will either shorten self-life greatly or it will give you a tough hart-to-chew product. The internet is full of how to dehydrate in an oven. Most say cook at 175º for 2-4 hours, checking after 1 hour. I think the oven is good in a pinch, but you really should consider a dehydrator if you like the idea of homemade fruit leather. It will give you safer results.

Fruit leather Recipes:

Classic Apple Fruit Leather (also known as plain)
Raspberry-Apple Fruit Leather
Pumpkin-Apple Fruit Leather
Lavender-Apple Fruit Leather
(I warned you there were weird flavors)
Whole-foods Green Apple Fruit Leather (The recipe looks weird, but try it. It’s one of our favorites)
Cinnamon Spice Fruit Leather
Spiced Blueberry Fruit Leather
Apple-maple Fruit Leather
Apple-Rhubarb Fruit Leather
Apple-Peach Fruit Leather
Cranberry-Apple Fruit Leather
Apple-Pear Fruit Leather
Apple-Almond Fruit Leather
Apple-Coconut Fruit Leather
(My personal favorite)
Apple Vanilla Fruit Leather

A Day in the Life, Canning/Harvest

Apple Juice

A few weeks ago, Ranger’s family and I finally had enough time to get together and make apple juice. His family has a big press; his uncle designed it. I think it’s pretty awesome. My apples weren’t the greatest for it, but I still got a ton of juice. His family makes about 100 batches every year. They had already done some a few weeks ago, then they did mine, and they actually did a neighbor’s apples last weekend. I bet they froze last weekend. But when we worked on my apples, we were still wearing short sleeves! Isn’t that crazy?

Anyway, the apples start in boxes and buckets in the yard. We pull out some card tables, and grab all of Grandma’s cutting boards, and we slice and de-yuck the apples (Mine were pretty full of yuck. I don’t think the guy we bought the house from did anything to keep them good. And I have a ton of birds that like to take a bite from each apple. I don’t think I can help that, though.

Then the apples go into a wash and rinse, where they are carried to this table:

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I’m pretty impressed by this ingenuity. They bought a garbage disposal in order to chop up all the apples. I spent my whole time at the cutting table, so I never saw how they actually chop the apples safely without destroying whatever tool they use to do it. The apples come out of the black tube at the bottom, and they form a slushy mushy mess. Then you take the apples and bring them to the press. they have a tray set on here, with plastic trays to divide each layer of juice. Then they hook a weight up to the springs, and use a jack to stretch the springs and press the juice. It kind of makes a pulp sandwich. Then the juice collects in a drip pan with a funnel-like hole on one end. that hole has a hose that runs into the buckets.

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The buckets then fill water jugs and old juice containers for the freezer. I got about 13 jugs. The rest stayed in 5-gallon buckets so I could bottle them. Freezing gives a much purer taste, but I have a small freezer.

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I filled 2 5-gallon buckets with about 4 gallons of juice (had to leave room to travel home safely. And I still spilled a little. Its a good thing my Ranger loves me, or I’d constantly be in trouble.

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My apples were ab it too thick, so the apple juice is pretty dense. Interestingly, when I bottled it, it thinned out and the thickness all collected into little jelly globs. They actually aren’t that bad to eat, but I don’t recommend shaking the bottle to mix them in. It leaves a funny texture throughout the juice. Next time, I’ll probably let the sediment stay in the buckets and use it as pectin. clearly it works, even if it is just a little. Processing time, for me, is 15 minutes. You can check your processing time here.

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A Day in the Life

Washing my Produce

I talk a lot about washing my produce and avoiding toxins in my produce, but I never shared how to do it – or why.

I admit, at first, I bought a fruit wash on a whim, and since I had it, I used it. Before that, I rinsed my fruit, but didn’t do much more.

Why you should wash your fruits and vegetables

I’m sure there’s at least one person wondering why I’m so glad I upgraded from just rinsing my produce off. In fact, I KNOW there’s at least one person, because he lives in my house. When it comes to health concerns, I’m the health nut and Ranger’s the junk food junkie. (he says at least he’s enjoying his time dying slowly). We’ll see what he says if he ever suddenly becomes allergic to everything, too.

Even though I grow most of my produce (except this year), I still live in an agricultural community. I cannot guarantee that my neighbors don’t spray their fields for pesticides. I also cant guarantee that their fertilizer isn’t full of yucky stuff I don’t want in my food. I read a soil conservation survey that found over 40 pesticides, nine heavy metals, and tons of other yucky stuff like bacteria and synthetic compounds in the fertilizer. the thing about dirt is that it’s not going to stay in one place. Your soil will mix with your neighbor’s. It’s not enough just to eat organic or grow organic. In my personal opinion, organic doesn’t exist any more. I’m sure there are quite a few people who will argue with me on that, but I did give the disclaimer on personal opinion, so let them argue. I cant guarantee that my “organic” fruit did not come in contact with some non-organic compound.  But that is why I feel it is so important to wash my produce! Especially because I like to use as much of my fruits and vegetables as I can, including peels/skins.

And what if you do buy or grow organic produce? If you grow produce, you know who touched it, and you’re a little more confident that they’ve washed their hands (a little more confident. I’ve had a toddler. And even though she was the type to hate “gick” on her hands, I still wouldn’t want to eat out of them most of the time!). But what about the stranger in California or Mexico harvesting your produce? Do you know that they washed their hands? That’s regulated, right? But what about the person who packaged the produce, loaded the truck, unloaded the truck, and put it on the produce display? I’d like to trust them. It’s their job not to spread contaminants. But that’s still not all the people who have touched your produce. There’s the other customers in the store! I have actually met a mother who brought her child to the store with hand foot and mouth disease! Yeah, we all washed our hands after finding out THAT tidbit came out.  And our produce. And anything that touched any part of the store (The cashier actually halted after she left and wiped everything down before checking me out. Thank heavens).

After I bought my fruit wash (oh a whim, remember?) and started using it, it just became a habit and one of those things you just … do. Like brushing your teeth or washing your hands. It seems wrong to not use something now. I wasn’t really stuck on the product until making apple juice with my in-laws. They added bleach to the wash water. I had mini nightmares. I’ve known the harm of bleach for a while. I know some people demand bleach, but if the idea of washing the fruit is to remove toxins, I don’t want to use a TOXIN to remove other toxins. That doesn’t make sense.  You can’t tell me your food doesn’t absorb it. So I did a little digging, and I’m glad I did. I’ve learned so much!

So, here are 4 alternatives to bleach:

1) Environne Fruit and Vegetable wash

There are many pre-made washes on the market, but the only pre-made wash I’ve ever used has been Environne Foaming Fruit & Vegetable Wash, but I don’t have any proof that they’re as good as they say they are. However, the ingredient list looks promising.

(photo from Amazon.com, along with affiliate link)

The only ingredient here that worries me is the Polysorbate 20; but in the bigger bottles, it isn’t included. I think it must be related to the foam? According to the Environne website, it shouldn’t be an issue, because it can be derived from safe and natural ingredients, and they claim that they use the safe stuff, but I advise you to take info from a product’s website with a little grain of salt.

To use, squirt one to three pumps into my sink as it’s filling with water. Then I just drop my fruit in, pick it up, and wipe the fruit off to get any remaining residue. I wouldn’t let it soak, like I do with DoTerra, because soaking fruit too long will replace some of the good fruit liquid  This is a good time to use that Norwex veggie cloth.There are other products similar to this on the market, but I’ve never tried any of them.

The best time to use this product is right before you intend to use the produce you are washing, as it also strips away the waxes that help to keep some produce fresher longer.

2) Norwex Fruit and Veggie Cloth

To get us started, Norwex has a fruit and veggie cloth. It is great for something quick and simple. Google before and after pictures. You’ll be impressed. It’s a great cloth for getting anything off the surface. But, it’s not a liquid. Norwex used to sell a wash, but they’ve discontinued it. I wish they hadn’t. I love Norwex products! I didn’t link to anything here, so if you want info on Norwex products, contact me. Or check out Norwex.biz. I could write a whole post about why I love Norwex, but that is another day’s fodder. Specifically why I love the Fruit and Veggie cloth: it removes the wax and bacteria, but it doesn’t scratch the fruit. 307010-Veggie-and-Fruit-Scrub-Cloth

3) Vinegar

Vinegar has been tested and retested as a cleaning agent. Most of the tests come back as toting Vinegar as a good cleaner. It also makes a good produce wash. I’ve found the best information from Kitchen Stewardship, and honestly can’t think of anything to add, so I suggest checking out her link and I won’t copy her word for word. Blog publishers don’t like that. ;c).

4) DoTerra’s Citrus oils

I saved the best for last! Mostly, because with DoTerra’s Citrus oils you will know exactly what is in the water; but also because it has other health benefits, as well. We’re not just removing bad, but adding good. Can’t complain, there. I’ve heard the best things about the grapefruit, lemon, or orange oils, but my DoTerra consultant says any of the DoTerra citrus oils removes toxins. To use, fill the sink about half way and then add 3-4 drops of lemon or other citrus oil. I’m betting it varies by sink size, but 3-4 is a good rule. Add your fruits or vegetables and let them soak for 10-30 minutes. Rinse off, and pat dry.Make sure to never use a plastic dish to add the oil into! Because the citrus oils remove toxins, they will break down the plastic. Glass is fine, however. I still prefer the sink, though, because I feel the oils help clean the sink, as well.

Image from DoTerra’s website.

My DoTerra consultant says she’s been wowed the most by when she washes her potatoes with DoTerra’s lemon oil. She also loves how it helps preserve her produce because she can wash it all as she gets home and put it in the fridge and then her kids can just open the fridge and pop the fruit right into their mouths. Bonus info: She also says, “with apples you can cut up and add on guard in water and let the apples soak….it gives you all the healing benefits of OnGuard and makes the apples taste like cinnamon! It’s so yummy! You can add as many drops depending on how strong you want the flavor.” From what I know of OnGuard, you’d also get the sickness-fighting benefits added to your healthful snack!

 With using DoTerra on produce as you get it, I’d be very gentle when you pat your produce dry. As an example, when you wash carrots, they go bad faster. Carrots have a fine protective layer that keeps the freshness of a carrot locked inside. I studied carrot harvest last year (when I was up to my ears in carrots) and learned that professional carrot gardeners rub their carrots in the dirt if one gets cut when it shouldn’t have been. The dirt protects the carrot like that thin layer does, and the carrot builds a new one. Soaking the carrot in lemon juice may or may not remove that layer, I’m not sure, but lemon oil helps with preserving freshness anyway. Most kitchen experts would agree to that. However, patting dry may disturb it irreparably. Get to know your produce and see how it handles being dried.

What I suggest:

I suggest a little of all of them! Anything is better than nothing. But personally, I like using a balanced combo of the last 3 options. I would use vinegar as a quick rinse, DoTerra as a good soak (if the flavor absorbs into anything, I wouldn’t want it to be vinegar flavored!), and use the Norwex fruit/veggie cloth where appropriate to dry. Sometimes you need options! Some will work for one fruit/vegetable. Some will work better for another. My favorite would be DoTerra, mostly because you gain health from the oil. It’s like a sneak-attack back-up army for your immune system.

A spiel about wiping off your fruit

In my research, I’ve learned it is not simply enough just to rinse a product. For the same reason that sanitizer and paper towel usage are not enough, it’s not enough to simply soak and rinse your fruit. Although that’s better than nothing.
Do you remember back in elementary school when they talked about health and why we wash our hands? The world likes to leave off the end part, where they tell us that it is just as important to DRY our hands. And it’s not just because germs like moisture, though that is a big part of it (one statistic said 85% of micro-organizms are transmitted by wet hands, but only .06% were transmitted by dry hands, although I already know that most statistics are tweaked to say whatever the argumentator wants them to say.
The wiping itself is important!  Wiping off surfaces removes more gunk than most soaps! When my daughter was on a field trip tour of our local hospital, they did a black-light demonstration of germs on your hand. First, the nurse has a student rub their hands with the “germs” (I don’t know what they used as germs, but google has some clever ideas), and then she shows how they look under black light. Then she has the student wash their hands and switches the black light back on. Most of the “germs” are removed. We’ll say about 80%. But there is still quite a bit that shows up under black light. After the student dries their hands thoroughly with a paper towel, that left over 20% is almost non-existent. It wasn’t that the hands were dry, its that some times, water and our hands are not enough to get the remaining bacteria. It is the same with our food.
 I know that I’ve picked some good products, but why should I miss a step? It is one extra checkpoint to get all the gunk off of my food! The less gunk on my food, the less gunk in my body! And some gunk is stubborn. Wiping is best done with an antibacterial cloth like Norwex, since it won’t spread the germs you just wiped off right back onto the next fruit you scrub, and it has a better durability than paper towels, as long as a surface that grabs germs instead of pushing them around.
Brag, Recipes

Soft salts for a baby shower

Guess what? My sister’s having a baby! like, in a month. I’m actually pretty excited. We’ve got her shower coming up and so we made her favors the other day. I LOVE them. I’m sort of hoping she doesn’t have that many people show up, so I can keep some of the left-overs (Some, because of course the pregnant mommy should have her fair share).

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16 c Epsom salt ( I’d change it to 12 cups and add 4 more cups of sugar)
3 c sugar
2 c quick oats (or oats run through the blender)
2 cups Dr Teal’s Body & Bath Oil with Olive Oil & Aloe Vera
4 cups coconut oil (I would probably add more for personal use, but this was more of a bath salt instead of a scrub)
1 tbs vanilla
10 drops rose oil (ours was cheap stuff, so this may vary)
8 drops lavender

It smelled so good! And it was so pretty and sparkly. Perfect for a winter baby! This made about 22 cups of scrub. It ended up a really light scent, but that’s perfect for a baby-shower gift. For my personal use, I’d definitely cut back the salt and add more coconut oil. I’m more in favor of a scrub than just salts.

You could just use regular olive oil, but I’d recommend Dr Teals because it has a nice fragrance and because of the health benefits from the aloe.

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Soft salts for a baby shower
Author: Keira @ Searchforseven.com
Ingredients
  • 16 c Epsom salt
  • 3 c sugar
  • 2 c quick oats (or oats run through the blender)
  • 2 cups Dr Teals olive and aloe oil
  • 4 cups coconut oil
  • 1 tbs vanilla
  • 10 drops rose oil (ours was cheap stuff, so this may vary)
  • 8 drops lavender
Instructions
  1. mix all ingredients together.
  2. divide into favor-size containers.