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 ~

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~