What’s Going On…

August was a pretty busy month for us. As we prepare for our move this coming Spring, I feel that the coming months will be just as busy.

We continue to declutter and organize, being mindful of exactly what we’re taking with us. What really matters to us the most. What brings us joy. What will we actually benefit from and use.

I’m thrilled that we’ve cleared out our rented storage unit. Most of the items that we were storing were building materials and tools that we will need once we move to the homestead, so we went ahead and moved those items to our storage shed on the property. Even though our stuff just went from one storage area to another, it still felt good to move it “home”. Not to mention, it feels good to be able to out that monthly payment amount into our savings account each month now.

There were also off season clothes, various kitchen items, and “projects” that we’d been holding on to. Once we’d been without it for a period of time, it was easy to decide what we were going to actually wear/use/complete and donate the rest. Those items have served us well and now they can be a blessing to someone else.

Since Labor Day was a long weekend, we spent it doing maintenance around the homestead. Clearing silt from the drainage ditch that runs along the road, cleared brush and moved some downed trees. Moving downed trees will be the theme of our life over the next year I’m certain. Thankfully, the weather was perfect. Low humidity and cooler temperatures.

I just loved the way the sun was shining through these trees.

A clearing is emerging!
The woods are calling, and I must go!
That SUN! Love!

And I had a visit from my little hummingbird buddy! He seems to thoroughly enjoy the butterfly bush I’ve planted.

While I didn’t get food preserved each and every day of August, I was able to add quite a few items to our storage. As mentioned in my previous post, I canned fruit cocktail, cherries in light syrup, potatoes, chicken breast, chili beans, carrots, pineapple, and homemade chicken broth and veggie broth. Oh! And I found the most AMAZING baked bean recipe for canning. I will definitely be making another batch to add to the pantry! Much to my delight, I was able to find a few deals on ground pork, turkey and beef, so I added that to our freezer. I also tried my hand at dehydrating for the first time. I started simple – just did some carrots. 3 pounds dehydrated to about 12 ounces in a jar. Dehydrating is going to be an amazing space saver. I can’t wait to try more things!

~Blessings!~

August Food Preservation Goals

In a recent video from one of my favorite Youtube channels, Three Rivers Homestead, Jessica is reorganizing her pantry and working on cycling out her inventory. There’s just something so beautiful about a well stocked pantry of home preserved food. A pantry, shelf or cabinet becomes a beautiful show piece and part of the home decor. I could binge watch any of these type videos for hours!

Jessica is also participating in the #everybitcountschallenge on her Instagram page. The goal is to preserve/can something each and every day of August. Wow! With her busy family and farm, that certainly is going to be a challenge. But I’m sure she’ll rise to it. 🙂

It got me to thinking about my own pantry and setting some goals for myself. I know my limitations with time and budget, so to try and get something preserved each day is just setting myself up for failure. I currently don’t have my own garden, so I’m relying on the grocery store, local farmers market and excess from friends gardens for my fresh veggies. But, because “every bit counts”, I can make some realistic goals for myself and add quite a bit of food storage over the next month.

Here’s what I’m planning.

Fruit Cocktail

My inspiration for this comes from the fact that cherries are in season! They look so delicious, but I couldn’t think of anything to do with them outside of a cherry pie, which neither of us would eat. I opened a jar of my home canned pineapple a few days ago and then it occurred to me that I could make fruit cocktail! A quick trip down the Youtube rabbit hole, and I found this recipe. Cherries, pineapple, grapes and pears canned in the natural juices, just like I do my pineapple. I’ll omit the peaches since we don’t care for those. For around $10, I’ll have 9 pints of delicious fruit cocktail made from fruits chosen at the ripeness we like them preserved with no extra sugar or preservatives!

Kidney Beans

While this is not one of the beans we eat as a side dish or entree, I do use them in my chili recipe. I’ll go ahead and can these in quart jars, since I usually use two cans. Sams Club has 4 pounds dry kidney beans for around $6, so I should be able to get 5-6 quarts on the shelf.

Carrots

Perfect as a side dish or adding to recipes. I can buy organic carrots in bulk and get around 9 pints for roughly $6.00.

Potatoes

This is a vegetable that I’ve been on the fence about for a number of years. I’ve heard how terrible the texture of home canned potatoes is, how mushy they get, etc. and so that never appealed to me at all. But, the idea of being able to just grab a jar, heat them up and have mashed potatoes in less than 5 minutes does. I think the key is to choose waxy types -like yukon gold, or yellow or red potatoes – instead of baking types, like russets. Mashed potatoes is the way we eat potatoes most of the time anyway and waxy potatoes are typically what I buy simply because that’s our favorite type of potato. So I’m just gonna go for it and see what happens! The guesstimation is around 13 pounds for 9 pints. That should cost me around $7.00.

Chicken and Ground Beef

(No, not together of course!) While I would love to get a couple canner loads of each done in August, it’s really going to depend on the sale cycles. There was a really good deal on organic chicken a few weeks ago, so I’m hoping that will be coming back around soon. It is usually easier to find a good deal on quality ground beef rather than chicken in my area. Even on sale, it’s going to take me about $50 to get enough of each to fill 16 pints. But since each pint holds a pound, that will be a really good value in the long run. It will decrease our dependency on using the freezer and it will retain it’s quality longer than it would in the freezer.

Dehydrating

I have several things that I can dehydrate! They’re inexpensive and won’t take much hands on time. As follows: garlic, onions, green beans, corn, mushrooms, peppers, peas and kale. Shelf stable and ready to add to so many recipes!

In Closing

Well, there’s my basic list. I feel this is completely attainable and I will be so proud of it once I’ve completed it. I’m sure I’ll be motivated and inspired to add more to the list as I get going!

I hope you’re inspired to start a pantry or add to yours over the next few months as well. There are so many delicious fruits and veggies to choose from this time of year and I can’t wait to enjoy them into the months to come. The time and effort spent adding to our food storage pantry will all be worth it down the road with the time saved and the convenience of having a well stocked inventory.

Please be sure to check out the youtube links above and if interested, follow Three Rivers Homestead on Instagram and join the #everybitcountschallenge.

~ Blessings ~

Resources For Buying Seasonal Produce

Summer produces some of the best fruits and veggies! The variety is abundant and when you buy seasonal, it’s less expensive.

Now is the perfect time to stock up for canning, preserving, dehydrating and freezing so you can enjoy the bounty of summer all year long. Check out this seasonal produce guide for the perfect time to purchase your favorites!

Summer is also a great time to check out your local farmers market, co-op or local farm. Make it a family fun day at a local farm that allows you to pick your own produce. They often times have attractions or games to make the day more eventful!

Another way to obtain fresh produce locally is by joining a CSA. Local Harvest is a great resource to locate a CSA, farm or farmers market in your area. Now, you may not have any of these in your area locally or that would be within reasonable driving distance, but some farms actually do ship items. Definitely worth checking it out!

I hope you find these resources valuable and that you are enjoying the summer!

~Blessings!~

How to Can Pineapple for Pantry Food Storage

Canning pineapple for your food storage is quite easy. It can be labor intensive and a bit messy, but it is so worth it!

When I started canning a few years ago, it had not occurred to me to can fruit for food storage. Vegetables, pickles and jams and jellies are obvious, but it wasn’t until this past year that I realized I could actually can fresh fruits. I’m so glad I did! Having canned fresh pineapple on hand is so handy for baking, pineapple sandwiches or for a pizza topping.

Pineapple is canned using the water bath method, so you don’t even need a canner if you don’t have one. It can be hot or raw packed.

Pineapples are just coming into season, and I was fortunate to find them on sale this past weekend. I went ahead and picked up 3 and will purchase more throughout the season.

There are a couple of options when it comes to what type of syrup to use, so you will need to decide this before you begin the process.

Simple Syrup

(Recipe is for about 6 pineapples. Just adjust according for the number of pineapples you have.)

In a large stainless steel pot, combine 1 cup sugar to 5 cups water. Bring to a boil and stir constantly until dissolved. Add your cut pineapple and stir to evenly combine and heat approximately 30 seconds, just long enough to heat through.

“Natural Juices”

Place skins and cores of pineapples (NOT the leaves) into a large stock pot. Add enough water to cover by 2″. Boil for 15 minutes. Strain through coffee filters or cheesecloth before adding to pineapple in jars.

Just Water

Heat a pot of water just to boiling. Place pineapple in jars and ladle enough water to proper headspace.

Next, gather the canning supplies – rings, lids, funnel, ladle, pot to heat water, de-bubbling tool, canning pot and of course, jars. I typically use pint jars, since that’s closest to the amount I would usually use per recipe.

To avoid dirt or debris getting into your jars, go ahead and wash your pineapples in a sink full of water, giving them a good scrub with a dishcloth. As an extra precaution, I wash everything that will be used in the canning process each and every time I begin a canning project. Even though it was washed before it was put away after the previous session, I do not want to take any chance with anything contaminating my end product.

Before you begin cutting and preparing the pineapple, get the water started heating in you canner pot. Place your washed jars into the water so they can heat gradually and sterilize as the water comes to a up to temp in the canner pot. Remember, hot food into hot jars to avoid thermal shock.

I like to place my cutting board in a old cookie sheet to catch the excess juice and to cut down on the mess. Peel and cut your pineapple into slices or chunks, or a combination of both.

No matter which syrup option you choose, the rest of the process is the same:

  1. Remove the hot jar from the canner water.
  2. Fill with pineapple and syrup to within 1/2″ headspace. De-bubble, wipe the rim of the jar, place ring and lid, tightening to fingertip tight.
  3. Place back in canner and proceed to filling the next jar.

Once your canner is full , cover it with the lid and turn your heat to medium high. Make sure your jars are covered by at least 1″ in water. Once the water begins to boil, set your timer for the correct processing time. 15 minutes for pints, 20 minutes for quarts.

When the processing time is done, turn off the heat and leave the canner covered for 5 minutes. Then remove the lid and move jars to a towel or mat in a draft free area to cool.

And that’s it! Aren’t they gorgeous?!

If you’d like to add pineapple to your food storage, now is the perfect time. The peak season is March – July, so it’s at it’s tastiest, and will be cheaper to purchase than when it’s not in season.

I hope this is helpful and I hope you’ll give it a try!

~Blessings~

The Game Changer for my Long Term Food Storage

I am so incredibly excited! I ordered a food dehydrator today!

Much like canning, I’ve been contemplating getting a dehydrator for more than 10 years. Why have I put it off for so long? Heck if I know!

Dehydrating is an economical, space saving way to store a LOT of food for long term. And it looks so pretty on the shelf!

Modern Survival Blog

I love to stock up on fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables when they are in season or on sale to freeze and have throughout the year. I also like to do bulk cooking to have “dump and go” meals ready to throw in the crockpot or put together quickly for busy night dinner. I currently have a small top freezer unit, so space is at a premium. I have to keep in mind what will actually fit rather than how much I necessarily want to have in storage.

But now I’ll be able to have a fuller freezer and pantry!

During the winter, we eat a lot of soups and stews. Mixed vegetables, carrots, celery, onions, tomatoes – these are all the base for so many dishes that I make. It’s going to be so great to have a half gallon mason jar full of my bases instead of having to unpack my freezer every time I need to find something for a recipe.

Another application I’m excited about is making meal packets for camping. What an amazing idea! This makes so much sense and I’m so mad I hadn’t thought of it before. A true “well, duh!” moment. While traveling down the youtube rabbit hole looking for reviews of dehydrators, I ran across so many videos of backpackers, hikers and campers showing how to do this. If we plan right, we could quite possibly eliminate the need for a cooler or ice! And the space it will save!

Scout Magazine

After much research, I decided to purchase the Nesco FD-75A. I bought mine online from Home Depot for around $66.00. This seems to be the common price across the internet, even Amazon.

Nesco FD-75A

Nesco is a “tried and true” brand that has been in business since 1931. Their products are made in USA of global and domestic components in Wisconsin. The trays and sheets are made of BPA free food grade plastic. Many of the youtubers I follow who use this exact same dehydrator have had them for 15-20 years. It’s a quality product that’s made to last. It comes with 5 trays, but can be expanded up to 12 trays. You just have to purchase additional trays separately.

This particular model has a top mounted fan, as opposed to a bottom or rear fan placement. Basically, the fan and heating element are located on the top of the dehydrator. As with virtually any appliance, there are pros and cons to their particular features.

With a top mounted fan, there is no chance of food spilling on the fan or the heating element, it’s easy to clean and maintain, it results in even drying of the food and they are easy to operate. Some of the “cons” are the trays have to rotated and the air is pushed to spread on the trays so some of the foods may be “less dry”. So, when I rotate the trays, I may need to move the foods around for the best drying. I don’t think it will be a big deal.

If you are interested in this particular model, let me save you a bit of research time. When I would search for the FD-75A, the search engines would sometimes take me to an FD-75PR. After a bit of confusion and side research, I found that these are the exact same machine. The only difference is the packaging.

Again, I’m so excited to add this appliance to my kitchen. I feel that it will pay for itself rather quickly and will be an invaluable tool for my food storage needs.

~Blessings~

Canning Okra

Okra is one of my favorite things to grow in the garden. It’s not difficult to germinate, grows quickly and produces like crazy. Not to mention the flower of the buds are absolutely gorgeous. The bees love them!

Quite honestly, over the years, I have ended up giving most of it away to friends and family. For as much as I love to grow it, there’s only so much of it we can eat. And when your freezer space is limited, well, you have to choose your battles.

Now…

When I first came across this tutorial from one of my favorite Youtube channels, I had my reservations.

I watched the next video with a turned up nose. One of the draw backs of okra is its tendency to become excessively slimy when not cooked properly. So, I was a bit surprised when at the end of the video, it seemed to have turned out crunchy and light.

I decided to make a small batch and give it a try.

You’ll start by washing and chopping your okra into 3/4″ – 1″ pieces. Then you make a simple brine on the stovetop, fill your jars with the okra and brine and put on the lid and ring. Easy peasy. Then, you just wait for the PING!

The texture held up beautifully when cooked. It was not mushy or slimy. And I just love how it looks in the jars. So pretty!

Even if you don’t have a garden, this is a great way to add more veggies to your storage pantry. You could purchase fresh okra from the farmers market or a pick-your-own farm. As with most foods, the fresher it is, the better it will preserve.

I love the simplicity of the process. Especially during the hottest days of summer when the garden is producing at full tilt and there’s always something that needs to be processed, preserved and put by. Even though it’s a complete labor of love, it can still be exhausting. But with this easy method, I’m excited to grow even more beautiful okra plants and add to the bounty of my pantry!

~Blessings ~

Keeping calm and canning on

Growing up, I heard countless horror stories about the dangers of pressure cooking and canning. That distant relative that had a canner explode, impaling the lid into the ceiling. Someone’s sister got third degree burns and horrible cuts from a jar that exploded. And that aunt whose kitchen was ab-so-lute-ly COVERED in beans that they never really were able to get clean. Oh, the drama!

Now, once I started gardening, I really got into water bath canning. Pickles, relish, salsa, apply butter and jams, and oh so many jars of stewed tomatoes. It was so thrilling “putting stuff by” and decorating my pantry shelves with my treasures. I just knew there had to be a way to conquer my fear of the pressure canner and really get into some serious food preservation. There’s only so much freezer space that can be dedicated for long term storage.  And it’s not necessarily the best option for long term to maintain the quality of many vegetables.

I liked the idea of being able to store various items that I didn’t grow myself. Buying them in season and preserving to have them year round. It also appealed to me to have items that take a long time to cook – like dried beans – ready to go simply by opening the jar and heating them up. Not to mention the huge savings of buying items in bulk and canning myself.

Over the years of watching countless Youtube videos and reading blogs and tutorials, I usually found myself left with more questions that I couldn’t find the answers to. I’m sure most of it was my over thinking and paranoia. But still. It paralyzed me and I couldn’t seem to get over it.

This past year I too became concerned about food shortages and the increase in food costs. Having a store run out of toilet paper is one thing, but the dried beans and rice shelves bare – that’s a whole ‘nother level of concern.

This Summer while at Walmart, I ended up on the canning supply aisle. I wasn’t there for canning supplies, but when I saw the shelves, I was gobsmacked. These shelves were just as ravaged as many of the grocery and cleaning supply shelves! I had heard about the stores – online too – selling out of canners and supplies. I had also witnessed that once those items were back in stock, the price was increased, sometimes ridiculously.  There was one remaining Presto weighted gauge canner and it was a decent price, so I went ahead and got it along with a flat of pint and quart jars and a pound of dried pinto beans.

I re-watched a few videos, re-read a few blogs and read my canner manual very carefully. I unboxed, inspected and washed my canner and supplies. I carefully and methodically followed the directions EXACTLY as written, took a deep breath and locked the lid down on my canner. I kept reminding myself that I had followed all the directions and I just needed to practice to gain confidence. It’s gonna be fine.

That first batch,  I was a nervous wreck! Was there supposed to be steam coming from the petcock, was I supposed to actually smell the beans, should I hear the water boiling, is the weight rocking too fast, is my temperature too high? Finally, the timer was done and I could relax.

Once it was time to remove the jars from the canner, I was so excited! They were beautiful! Ping! Ping! Ping! I’d done it. Not only had I stepped outside of my comfort zone and overcome a paralyzing fear,  I was on my way to mastering a new skill. Currently on my pantry shelves, I have a variety of beans, vegetable and chicken broth, and butternut squash. I’m hoping to add a greater variety of vegetables this coming spring and summer.

So, if you’re wanting to try pressure canning, go for it!

Do your research. Follow all the safety guidelines of your recipe. Read your canner manual and inspect the canner itself carefully. While it’s not hard, you do have to be mindful of the correct and safe way to do it.  Believe me, I wish I had started years ago!

~ Blessings~