When I talk to customers about canning their food usually one of two things happen. They either:
a) are already doing it and are eager to share a story about their latest project; or
b) they have never done it but want to learn.
So I asked those in the second group what's keeping them from getting started from learning how to can their food at home.
Their answers varied but the #1 reason was the fear that they would accidentally poison their family.
Their concern is valid - food poisoning and botulism are very real things. And, I'm glad that they take it seriously.
However, done properly, home canning can be done safely and can provide you with nutritious food all year long.
What exactly is botulism? It is a toxin that thrives in room temperature, oxygen deprived, moist conditions. It goes way beyond a stomach ache and can be fatal.
You may be thinking - why even take the risk? For me and my family, it comes down to trust. When I can food for my family, I pick from the best fruits and vegetables, follow strict cleanliness rules, and stick to the rules for safe canning. This food gets my personal attention - it hasn't been handled by multiple people in a large facility.
Home canning can be done safely by following a few simple rules:
1) Use approved and tested recipes for your canning projects. That means recipes from your local State Extension Office, the National Center for Home Food Preservation, or any of the Ball® canning resources. Never adjust a recipe, the pounds of pressure, or the processing time.
2) Low acid foods must be pressure canned. Examples of low acid foods are vegetables and meat. Botulism spores cannot survive in temperatures over 240°F. Pressure canning brings the temperature high enough to kill off any botulism spores.
3) Water bath canning is used for high acid foods only. Examples of high acid foods are pickles, jams, and most fruits. Often acid is added in the recipe to bring the food up to a safe level. Common acids used include vinegar and lemon juice. The vinegar must be labeled at 5% acidity and use only bottled lemon juice since the acidity of fresh lemons can vary between varieties. Test the acid level of the recipe before canning using pH test strips to ensure that the pH is 4.6 or lower.
4) Most importantly - curb your creativity when canning. Altering a recipe can make your food unsafe.
If canning is something that you've always wanted to do but have been afraid or unsure of where to begin, we're here to help.
We will be holding canning and food preservation workshops at the Farm Stand this year and invite you to join us. Be sure that you have signed up for our emails so you can be notified of the upcoming workshop schedules.
The week before Christmas -- are you feeling a little frazzled, worn-out, stressed? Our days is filled with a long to-do list with very little time for self-care.
It's time for a change. Come along with me (and my Danish roots) and embrace the hygge life this winter.
So what is hygge? I'm glad you asked.
First things first - it is pronounced "hoo-ga". This Danish word is not easily translated. It is better defined as the concept of feeling "cozy contentment and well-being by enjoying the simpler things in life". Maybe it is making the time to read a good book, or enjoying a warm cup of tea or cocoa, and just lighting a few candles at night to give your home that warm glow. Did you know that Denmark is known to be the land of happiness?
My Danish heritage comes from my mother's side of the family. She perfected the hygge life. She made sure the guests in our home were comfortable, always fed, and she always had time for warm conversation. This was especially evident during the holidays when the mood in our home was light and joyful - never hectic or hurried.
So here are a few ideas for you to put a little more hygge (Danish happiness) in your life and practice a little self-care during the holidays.
- Go for a walk. Breathe the fresh air. Take notice of nature.
- Get something warm to drink. Tea, coffee, hot cocoa - dress it up with honey, whipped cream, or marshmallows.
- Take a break from social media and watch the sunrise or sunset.
- Read a good book, learn to do a craft, play a board game with friends or family.
Let's be intentional this holiday season about slowing down and relaxing and practicing a little bit of self-care. It's a difficult world out there so take a few deep breaths and hit the reset button. May joy and happiness be your best gift this year.
I admit - I gave in to a moment of weakness.
Yesterday I was cruising through my local multi-offering box store picking up a few things for Thanksgiving. I came upon a display of brown 'n serve dinner rolls that were priced at just a mere $1.00. I hesitated and before I knew it they were in my cart. All I was thinking was it's just a dollar and it will save me time on Thanksgiving. I reasoned with myself that it was okay since everything else on our table was going to be homemade. Can you relate?
It wasn't until I got them home and turned the package over that I noticed that there was a warning label on them. A WARNING label - y'all - on my dinner rolls! Yep - there it was - "Consuming this product can expose you to chemicals including acrylamide, which are known to the state of California to cause cancer ….." Ughhh!
I starting doing a little digging on acrylamide. Turns out that we have likely been consuming this all along without realizing it. According to the FDA website (fda.gov), acrylamide forms from sugars and an amino acid during certain types of high-temperature cooking, such as frying, roasting, and baking. The sugars and amino acid are naturally present in food - such as potato products (think French fries), grain products, or coffee. It goes on to say that since it is formed through cooking, it doesn't matter if the food is organic or not.
So what's a gal to do. Well, the dinner rolls won't be making an appearance on the dinner table. Not necessarily because of the warning label, but because of the three inch list of ingredients next to it with a whole bunch of words that I can't pronounce. And for the future, just like you, I'll continue to do the best that I can. It may not be perfect but each good decision is one less bad one.
My wish for you this Thanksgiving is that you are surrounded by good food, good thoughts, and good people. Happy Thanksgiving!
So I just read a statistic from one of my favorite bloggers that said the average American eats out 5.9 times per week.
Oh my goodness ….. that has to affect not only our health but also our wallets.
While I enjoy a meal out every now and then, it has always been a "treat" and not part of our routine. It's just too darn expensive!
I say it's time to take up our aprons and revolt --- it's time to return to the kitchen! Cooking can be fun and convenient with a little planning ahead of time. For our house, this happens on Sunday morning. I sit down with my calendar, review our appointments and activities, and pencil in our dinners for the week. I take a quick inventory of the refrigerator, freezer and pantry and add any missing ingredients to my shopping list that I keep on my phone.
I have to tell you - this is freeing! No more stress about "what's for dinner" at the last minute or trying to defrost something quickly. No more calling the pizza place (again) because the day got away from you. You have a plan!
To give you some inspiration, I've put together some quick and easy meal and dessert ideas in our "Favorite Fall Recipes"
book. Snag your free copy here:
Oh, any by the way …. we put some of that summer goodness away for you and even did some of the prep work to make your meal planning even easier. In our Field to Freezer section of our Farm Stand, you will find;
Whole Green Peppers - cleaned and ready for your favorite stuffing
Pepper Packs - sliced with onions and ready for fajitas, stir fry, pepper steak, . . . .
Diced green pepper and onion - perfect for meatloaf, meatballs, potatoes obrien, omelets, . . . .
Sliced green peppers and tomatoes - can you say pizza night!!!
Shredded zucchini and shredded yellow summer squash - ready for your favorite bread recipe
Stop by the Farm Stand and pick up a little inspiration and let's get cooking!
Welcome November - we're glad you're here - sort of.
It seems like I have been living in my kitchen for the last 6 weeks. Canning, freezing, dehydrating - you name it - it's been happening here. The good news is that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and preserving the harvest is almost done. Our surprise snowstorm yesterday really put a period at the end of that sentence.
I don't know about you but I'm still craving everything pumpkin. I know, I know - some of you are sick of it already but I promise that these pumpkin pancakes are easy and will be a hit with your family. And the best part is that they can be made ahead of time and popped into the freezer for a quick breakfast.
1 cup pumpkin puree
5 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. cloves
2 cups flour
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. salt
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup oil
1 1/2 cups milk
Mix your dry ingredients: in a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, nutmeg salt, baking powder, cloves and cinnamon.
Mix your wet ingredients: Using a smaller bowl, whisk together the milk, oil, eggs, vanilla, and pumpkin puree until fully blended.
Combine: Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl with the flour mixture and then stir until everything has combined. Let the batter rest for 5 - 10 minutes.
Cook: Get your skillet or griddle to about medium heat. Pour about 1/3 cup pancake batter onto the griddle and cook each side for about 3 - 4 minutes. Flip when you see there are large bubbles forming in the batter.
Top with maple syrup (the real stuff!) or whipped cream.
Freeze: Leftover pancakes can be frozen. Place in a single layer with waxed paper or parchment paper between layers and freeze in an airtight container. Pull individual pancakes out when needed and heat in the microwave.
I hope that you will find this recipe quick and easy. As the holidays approach, quick and easy is the name of the game between now and the end of the year!
And a quick farm update - a HUGE thank you to everyone who has come out and visited us at the Farm Stand. We've enjoyed connecting with you and we are looking forward many more conversations. The Farm Stand is open with limited hours as we enter into the winter season. If you need something, don't hesitate to reach out to us. Our "Field to Frozen" freezer has our vegetables safely tucked away for you so that you can enjoy local produce throughout the year. And - we've got those jams, pickles, honey, and salsa too!
See you soon!
Whew! We did it! We opened up the Farm Stand yesterday and we had a ball!
So many of you stopped out to say hello and to check out our new digs and we can't thank you enough. We so enjoyed the opportunity to visit with you.
We are blessed with good family and friends that helped us along the way. Thank you - we could have never done it without you.
To our Farmer's Market customers - a warm thank you for your support and encouragement this summer. We always looked forward to our Friday nights in Marengo and Saturday mornings in Huntley because we got to see you - our friends.
Going forward - our Farm Stand will be open Friday from 1:00 - 6:00, Saturday from 11:00 - 5:00; and Sunday from 11:00 - 3:00 during the month of October. We anticipate that we will remain open with reduced hours for November and beyond. We've put lots of goodies away for you to enjoy this winter and have a few surprises in store as well. Of course, we will update this website and our Social Media outlets with any changes.
You will also find us at the Huntley Indoor Market the first Saturday of each month at the American Legion Hall from 9:00 - 1:00 from November - May.
Once again, thank you for being a part of our farm. See you soon!
Heading to the apple orchard is a favorite Fall pastime for most us in these parts.
We have many orchards around us so we make at least one trip a year. And, if you're lucky, not only will you be bringing home some delicious apples, but you will be toting a bag of warm apple cider donuts as well. I bet you can smell the cinnamon sugar right now - can't you?!?!
So - what to do with all of those apples.
How about an easy apple pie filling that you can put into the freezer now and pull out say around Thanksgiving. Did I mention that it is EASY?
Here's what to do:
for each 9-inch pie you will need -
3 cups peeled and sliced apples (about 3 to 4 medium apples - I find mixing tart and sweet apples together give the best flavor)
1 Tablespoon flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
a couple of pats of butter
Mix all of the ingredients together except for the butter. Pour into a quart size freezer bag (or use your vacuum sealer). Add the pats of butter and seal up - removing as much air as possible. Now put that gem in your freezer.
Easy - right!
When you're ready for pie, remove the filling and thaw overnight in the refrigerator. Place your pie crust in your baking dish - homemade or store-bought (no judgement here - I've done both!) and dust the bottom crust with just a little bit of flour. Add your filling and top with your second pie crust. Crimp the edges and cut slits in the top to allow the steam to escape. Brush the top crust with a little bit of milk and dust with a bit of sugar.
Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for about 50 minutes.
And voila - you have pie.
I hope you try and enjoy this. Now it's your turn - what is your favorite apple recipe?
Okay - so this is the time of year that zucchini mysteriously shows up on your doorstep. Your well-meaning neighbor zealously planted a few extra plants this spring and they became overachievers.
Or, you grow your own and turned your back on those buggers and now they are the size of baseball bats. Hey, it happens!
Well, I've got a few tips on how you can preserve those beauties and have ooo-la-la wonderful zucchini bread this winter. Buckle up 'cause here we go:
- always give your produce a good bath when it comes into the house - because there's no dirt allowed at freezer camp (which is where they will be staying)
- trim off both ends and discard them. Now, if your zucchini is large, you may want to cut it in half and remove the seeds. Totally optional.
- Time to get grating. If you have a food processor, get it out - your arms will thank you later.
- Here is where I let you in on a few of my secrets. You're going to want to save this in two cup portions because that is what most bread recipes call for. Place a zipper type sandwich bag in your 2 cup measuring cup and filler' up. When you've got your two cups,
lay that bag on the counter and squeeze out as much air as possible and seal.
- Now that sandwich bag is not enough protection for those goodies to go into the freezer. If you have a vacuum sealer (like a Foodsaver), slip that sandwich bag into a foodsaver bag and seal it up. By the way, this double bag trick works with most moist foods that give you trouble with getting a good seal. If you don't have a vacuum sealer system, a quart sized freezer bag will do the trick.
- Label your bag and send it to freezer camp.
- Fast-forward to January - it's cold and snowy and you're thinking that the warm flavors of zucchini bread would be pretty nice with a cup of tea or coffee. Pull out one of those gems from the freezer and thaw.
- You will notice that your thawed zucchini gave you a lot of extra liquid. Carefully remove the sandwich bag from your freezer bag making sure that your sandwich bag is zippered up nice and tight. Using a sharp knife, pierce a few holes in one side of the sandwich bag. Gently squeeze out the extra liquid and now you are ready to use it in your favorite recipe.
By the way, grated zucchini can be used in more than just bread. Here's a recipe to get you thinking "out of the box":
Zucchini and Egg Breakfast Burrito
1 slice bacon - diced
1/4 cup shredded zucchini
1 Tablespoon red bell pepper, diced
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons shredded cheddar cheese
1 6 inch tortilla
- In a medium skillet over medium heat, cook the bacon until crisp. Add the zucchini, red pepper, ad salt and cook until it begins to brown. Add your eggs and cook until desired consistency.
- Lay the zucchini/egg mixture in your tortilla and top with cheese. Roll up burrito style and enjoy with your favorite hot sauce or salsa.
Now it's your turn. What is your favorite zucchini recipe? Comment below and share it with us!
Listen, do you hear that? Yep - it's Christmas carols playing in the background. Welcome to Christmas in July.
Okay - so you may be saying "Bah! Humbug!" right about now because it wasn't so long ago that we chased the cold temperatures away. However, in less than 90 days, our homes will be filled with fall colors and flavors and that means we are on the express train to the holidays.
So as our daylight gets shorter and our outside temperatures start downward once again, it's time to make some preparations.
In our house, there is a fair amount of baking that goes on in the fall and winter. Today I wanted to share with you my recipe for homemade vanilla extract. If you've noticed, the price of real vanilla has skyrocketed in the stores and I won't even think about using the imitation stuff.
It's much more economical to make your own but it does take a little planning ahead of time. It will need to sit for about six weeks before it is ready to use.
This recipe does use alcohol - however - the alcohol evaporates during baking. The alcohol also prevents most bacteria from growing and is necessary to extract the flavor from the vanilla beans.
Homemade Vanilla Extract
What you'll need:
7 - 10 vanilla beans
8 ounces vodka or white rum (going cheap here is A-OK!)
What to do:
Using a sharp knife, run a slit lengthwise down the vanilla bean to open it up. Cut the vanilla beans in 1-inch pieces and place in a pint sized mason jar. Pour the alcohol over the beans making sure that they are completely covered. Place the lid on the jar and gently shake.
Place your jar in a cool, dark area. Give it a shake every 2 - 3 days for about six weeks. The longer you let it steep, the more intense the flavor will be.
Once your extract has reached its desired strength, strain out the beans using a mesh strainer and store in a clean bottle with a tight fitting lid.
Easy right?!?! This makes a great gift so make an extra batch for a friend (you'll be immediately moved to best friend ever status!)
Now that I have you thinking about Christmas, please tell me - what homemade gifts to you give during the holidays? Comment below and share your ideas with our community. It will be fun and inspirational to see what everyone does.
And - if you found this post to be helpful, please pass it on to your friends!
Is it just me or does it feel like we just haven't gotten summer started yet?
We get a couple of nice days and then - bam! - more rain. And not just a little rain - a lot of rain.
So this week we celebrate the 4th of July and typically, that signals that summer is half over. You've heard the saying "knee high by 4th of July" for measuring sweet corn? It's a bit of a stretch this year.
Nonetheless, the Independence Day celebrations must go on! There will be fireworks and picnics with loads of good food. The strawberries will definitely be there and I would like to share a recipe with you for Strawberry Rhubarb Dump Cake. It's super easy and doesn't dirty a lot of dishes - cuz' who has time for that!
I wish I could take credit for this recipe but it belongs to Melissa K. Norris. She is an author/blogger/podcaster/and homesteader extraordinaire. If your looking to get back to a simpler lifestyle -she's your gal. She's written two books that focus on homesteading ways - The Made from Scratch Life and Handmade - The Modern Guide to Made from Scratch Living. I highly recommend them both for your summer reading list.
Here's her recipe:
Strawberry Rhubarb Dump Cake without Jello
4 cups diced rhubarb
1 and 1/2 cups sliced strawberries
1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar
1 scoop (2 and 1/2 teaspoons) gelatin
1 cup cold water
Homemade cake mix (below)
1 and 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3 Tablespoons organic non-GMO corn starch
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Place rhubarb and sliced strawberries in pan, sprinkle sugar over it, then evenly sprinkle gelatin over top.
2. Thoroughly mix your dry cake ingredients together and sprinkle evenly over rhubarb. Pour your 1 cup water over all of this and dot with 3 tablespoons chopped butter. Don't stir!
3. Bake at 350 for 1 hour. Serve this warm by itself, or add a dollop of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
Enjoy and Happy 4th of July! If you try this recipe, drop me a note and let me know how you liked it. See you soon!