APRIL = HITTING BRASS TACKS. If you lined up what needed to be done in March and made a list, then, if you haven't already started, April is the time to crack open some windows, let the fresh air chase out the stale, and start on that list of projects. Don't kill yourself. Target one room or project at a time, whatever suits you and your schedule. Doesn't even have to be done in one month. It's a home and you want it clean and organized, but alas, it doesn't come with a maid, butler and a couple of footmen. You do what you can according to the skills and strength you drew at birth and the number of chattel (er..kids, spouse) you have at your disposal to give you a hand. Last month I forgot to mention TOOLS. Big topic to forget, but I managed. If you have a lot of tile or wood floors, think about investing in a floor machine. It will knock days off that chore. I have a Hoover Floor Mate and love the job it does. I use a vegetable based soap though. Not according to the manufactorer's specs, but that's me. Ditto if you have a lot of carpeting. Think about investing in a labor-saving machine. There are other tools of course, but these are the biggies. Think about what you need and what you can afford and plan over the coming year to acquire those things. After a certain age, the elbow grease wears out. And frankly our modern lifestyle, even when we try to simplify it, can still be pretty stressful and time-consuming. So always try to have the right tool for the job. If you came in late and would like to check on previous months' suggested activities, go to the Archives.
MARCH = LINING UP THE DUCKS. Depending on where in the country you live, you're either starting your spring cleaning or thinking about it. First get paper and pen and examine each room with the intention of jotting down exactly what you plan in each living space. Wash the walls or paint? Cracked window need replacing? What's the best way to clean the drapes/curtains/shades/blinds? Woodwork need paint or a cleaning and polish? Shampoo the carpet, or wash the floors? Don't forget the basement and attic. Those always need a good clean out at least once a year. Once you have your information on paper, you can make a plan of attack. One that won't exhaust you. Break it up into manageable bits. Relegate some of the chores to family members (even little ducks, although they quack a lot, can contribute and feel good about themselves afterward for being responsible for their share of work in the family unit). And don't settle for a half-hearted job. Everyone lives there, everyone chips in.
FEBRUARY = SWEAT the SMALL STUFF. Gadgets, gizmos, appliances. We've all got them. And they've all got a manual or warranty papers that have a way of getting lost in the blizzard of papers that enter the house each day. At the very least though, the manual should be somewhere in the same room with the 'whatever'. If you haven't already done this, round up all manuals pertaining to anything in the kitchen. Store them in a plastic container, a shoe box, whatever fits, and place them in a draw or cupboard or on a shelf where they will immediately be available should they be needed. All manuals need to have the serial number, model number, or anything you might need if you have to get on the phone about problems. Write it all on the front cover where you can't miss it. If there's a contact number for the company, put that on the cover as well. When you purchase a new item, staple the store receipt to the inside front cover. Comes in handy when there's a warranty question. Once the kitchen manuals are put to rights, move on to the other rooms in your home. If you own a house, no doubt you have papers relating to heating systems, septic systems, the roof, the siding, etc. Put these all in a single file folder in your file cabinet or in some other spot where you can locate them quickly. When the manuals and important papers are filed away, this is a good month to clean all those appliances and tend to their maintenance.
JANUARY = ORGANIZE You look around the house after Christmas and grimace at the clutter that's grown like an evil seed over the holidays. This is the best month to get a grip on it and strangle the life out of it. I like to start in the kitchen, go through all the cupboards and get rid of things that didn't get used before they're best-used-by date. Or maybe I tried something new, then didn't like the way it workedwell out it goes. In the case of canned goods, if they're still within their use-by date, give them to someone who likes them, or offer them to the local soup kitchen or food bank. If you tried a cleaning product and didn't like it, give it to a friend. It might work for someone else. From the kitchen it's on to the other living areas of the house. Declutter! Show no mercy! Of course, if you have the slightest doubt about an item, hang onto it until you're absolutely certain you won't want it in the future. Tackle the bedrooms next and get rid of outgrown toys, broken toys, clothes that no longer fit or are fit only for the rag pile. Of course some old toys may be outgrown but be very special, so hang onto those. Ditto for collections. Some kids are born collectors, so hands off those. You might be able to help him/her find a way to display or store them in an attractive and organized manner. Those are just the high points. And you've got all month to work on it. Some rooms need several days of an hour or two, others you can probably do between coffee breaks. The biggest job (at least for me) is going through the file cabinet and sorting out what needs to be kept and what doesn't. The shredder gets a workout that leaves it panting. If you're one those people who can't seem to let go of anything, then get a friend in or even hire a professional declutterer to help you out. When I finally get my feet up, January is the perfect month for perusing the seed catalogs and planning my spring garden. Because one thing is certain: come spring my house is going to be in order so I can play outside.
Other projects have kept me busy these past months, but there are some new recipes in the Cooking with Herbs and Wild Foods topic.
I believe I have mentioned this before, but it bears repeating. Living in an area that is rife with poison ivy and being particularly sensitive to it, about a year ago I began washing with Dawn dish liquid when I returned to the house. At any time I might have reason to think that I have come in contact with the oils (such as on our pets), I wash with the Dawn and have had no reoccurrence during that time. Several weeks ago we hired a specialty tree service to remove some trees that threatened our garage. Those particular trees were covered with the nasty stuff. During the course of the day, each of the men would stop occasionally to wash three times successively and then rinse off with the hose. (YES! You do need to wash 3 times!) They were using Dawn!
Although it is too late for this season, it is something to bear in mind. And it is still possible to develop a rash even in the depth of winter. If out in the woods or cutting wood, beware of the vines. Bruise the vine and you can still end up infected. If Dawn dish liquid is good enough for the professionals, then I certainly feel vindicated!
Have a safe and happy Halloween!
Although I usually work alphabetically, I chose to skip ahead this month in order to bring you Wine Making. This is part of the series on Cooking with Herbs and Wild Foods that I've been working on for the past few months. I wanted to be sure to have the recipes up before the harvest season was full upon us. If the idea of making your own wines from flowers, fruit and vegetables sparks your interest, you have over 60 recipes to choose from on the new page. Save yourself some money and labor and let those dandelions proliferate organically on the lawn and try your hand at some dandelion wine. It is really quite a treat and the fruity flavor is great for use as a cooking wine. There are some 45 herbs, fruits, flowers and vegetables represented in those recipes.
There are two types of people when it comes to shopping....those who love and those who don't. I fall into the latter category, but am a catalog queen. I love shopping from home. Perhaps that puts me into another category altogether. My personal favorite is Coldwater Creek. Not only is the quality of the merchandise exceptional, but the prices are moderate. My highest esteem is reserved for their return policy...it doesn't cost me anything in way of return postage. If I've erred and ordered the wrong size, I simply call them and they send a replacement along with return, post-paid packaging. I merely have to send it back. To date I haven't had to use it (I am, after all, an expert in catalog shopping, she says tongue-in-cheek), but I love the fact that's it is available. They have a website where a catalog can be ordered: Coldwater Creek.
I'm turning my nose back to the grindstone now in order to continue bringing you the series mentioned above. Have a safe and happy summer. And don't forget to sign my guestbook. I'd love to hear your feedback on my efforts to bring you a well-rounded site.
The best laid plans of mice and men...and I guess...women. Well my plans certainly ran amok regarding the new curtain for the dining room. I was unable to experiment with the stencil on the plain cream colored panel, but still needing said curtain, I made it up and put it up in its unadorned state. Knowing it would be far too long before I could get to any stenciling to rectify the matter, I purchased a lovely 6-foot floral swag and strung it corner to corner to drape over the folds of the basic no-brainer curtain. Everyone has complimented the effect with genuine approval, so I may have just discovered an even simpler method of covering windows which is fine in my book. I did have another thought though....those lovely sheer window scarves that are being sold now would make a lovely decorative effect over a plain panel such as the no-brainer. More effective for a living room, sitting room or bedroom than the more utilitarian rooms of the house, but it is an idea I plan to take advantage of when next I need to redo some windows.
I have not been idle entirely. The Cookbook Herbalism series is finally completed and I've begun adding pages to a new series called Cooking with Herbs & Wild Foods. (There are a few new recipes on the Apple page of the regular Cookbook as well.) Many trees and shrubs are also used by herbalists and a good portion of those bear fruit which is edible. In that spirit I have chosen to add recipes using these wild foods.
Spring has finally arrived and the melody of songbirds make getting out of bed in the morning so much more enjoyable. Yard work is necessary but the smell of spring earth and the sight of crocus, daffodils and tulips bringing a palette of color to the winter dreary yard makes being outside a real pleasure.
February 1, 1999
Did you know?
Patent leather shoes and handbags can be made to shine again by polishing them with milk. Just use a soft cloth to rub the milk into the material to give it a new finish.
If you can't get ahold of rock salt because everyone beat you to it, try sprinkling some kitty litter on that ice to prevents slips and spills.
Use floor wax on your snow shovel to keep snow from sticking. If it's metal it will help to prevent rusting as well.
To keep paint can lids from sticking, rub some petroleum jelly around the rims of the lids.
Heat a nail over a flame before driving it into a plaster wall. It will keep the plaster from cracking.
If you don't wish to subject your dog to a bath in cold weather, rub baking soda into his fur and give a good brushing afterwards.
To prevent soap scum from building up on a shower door, rub a soft cloth moistened with baby oil over it.
A half cup of rubbing alcohol to 1 quart of water in a spritzer bottle is an excellent solution for cleaning windows and is especially good in cold weather.
Don't forget the love of your life this month. Do something special for your mate. Such loving expressions have a way of enriching your own life many times over.
1 January 1999
That period of time between Christmas and New Year's never fails to feel like one very long Sunday. The idea of beginning any new projects languishes as the need to sort through the past year's dross and get it organized constantly nudges us. Making sure things are in order and functioning properly is the order of the first few days of a new year. To that end I want to mention checking out the gizmos and gadgets that occupy the little nooks and crannies of our homes and are often forgotten during the year. Clean them up and see to any maintenance that is required. It's a good time to clean the sewing machine too and give it that drop of oil you're always forgetting about. Get all your manuals and warranties in a place where they are easily accessible. I use an old looseleaf notebook to store these things with tiny manuals tucked inside page protectors where I can easily spot them when I go looking. Warranty information can be kept on the computer in a single file so you can quickly locate it if need be.
One appliance that gives you a great deal of grief if it's not working properly is your oven. Trying out a new recipe only to have it come out less than what you'd hoped for can, in some part, be the fault of the oven. Get an oven thermometer and, once a year, check it out. Turn the oven to a set temperature (anything you like) and place the thermometer inside at about the center. They usually have a hook for hanging onto the rack. The directions should tell you how long to wait for the correct temperature to register on the thermometer and your oven will alert you when the set temperature has been reached. Check the temperature registered on the thermometer for what you set the oven for at the beginning. If there is a discrepancy, then that is the number of degrees you need to set your oven temp (up or down according to what you discover) in the future to get the correct temperature for cooking whatever you have your heart set on making. A serious difference in temperature will need an appliance repair service person to set it right. It means that before too long you'll turn the oven on and nothing at all will happen and then you'll be forced to call them at the worst possible time. (I find these sorts of things usually DO happen at the worst of times!) At least you'll be able to budget the repair if you know in advance that one is bound to happen.
So clean out the files, put all the tax papers together (groan!), check out all the gadgets and gizmos, put the holiday decorations away and then put your feet up, sip a cup of hot coffee, tea, cocoa, whatever and browze the garden catalogs. Till next time.....
15 November 1998
A couple of tips to pass along this time. To keep your shower curtain or plastic tablecloth pliable, add 1 tbsp of vegetable glycerin to the rinse water. Last time I gave you a few good reasons to start viewing your dishwasher as a more useful machine than we generally give them credit for. After reviewing a series of notes on a veterinarian's message board, it became evident to me that we don't think enough of the germ carrying capacity of our pets' feeding bowls. Toss that pet bowl in the dishwasher once a day. You don't need the heated drying cycle and it's horribly expensive to run anyway...so shut it off. It will make it safer for plastics. Your dishwasher uses the hottest water you've got to offer and along with the chlorine based detergent, it's highly unlikely any microbe is going to survive which makes the heated cycle redundant as far as sterilization is concerned. In any event put your plastics in the top rack. And...use silver polish to remove crayon marks from vinyl tile or linoleum.
If you're lucky enough to have one of those gizmos that turns newspapers into logs, here's a tip for the holidays. If you don't have this gadget, you can still tie newspapers into small bundles and tie with heavy string. Place the logs into a gallon of water in which you have dissolved 1 tbsp of Epsom salts. When these are thoroughly soaked, remove them and let them dry thoroughly. When these are lighted, they will produce vari-colored flames.
Here's our favorite stuffing recipe to go along with the turkey cooking directions I posted for you last time.
For a 12-14 lb turkey
(20-lb turkey use 16 cups bread)
Leave bread out overnight to get stale; cut bread into cubes. Combine all dry ingredients in a large bowl. Moisten ingredients slightly (you do not want this to get too wet) with the butter or chicken broth. This can be made the night before and stored in a bowl or plastic food storage bag. Do NOT stuff the turkey the night before! Not unless the idea of food poisoning sounds adventuresome.
|12 cups bread cubes (about 1 loaf)|
9 tbsp chopped onion
2 tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
¾ tsp poultry seasoning
½ cup melted butter or chicken broth (as needed for moisture)
2 cups chopped celery
Real Cornbread Stuffing
From our friend Gretchen Ellis down in TX. Catch Gretchen's latest take on what TV has to offer the public these days over at TV-Now. Gretchen says this is the REAL southern way to make cornbread stuffing.
NOTE: This cornbread can be made 1 to 2 days ahead or more. In fact, it's better slightly dried out. Do NOT mix any of the wet ingredients until just before stuffing the turkey. This recipe does NOT use white flour!
Oven: Preheat to 375°F
|2 cups yellow cornmeal|
3 tbsp baking powder
3 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
2 large eggs
1 scant cup of whole milk or buttermilk
(Oh, puleeze don't use canned or skim milk!)
Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl; slowly add the milk until the cornmeal mixture has the appearance of a stiff cooked cereal. Then add both eggs and mix thoroughly. Mixture should look silky and be soft but not runny. If runny, add a touch more cornmeal.
Butter (yes, butter) two regular cake pans. Add equal amounts of the mixture to each cake pan, which should fill each pan to about 1/3 of its depth. This cornbread is going to Rise like good souls on final day! A pat of butter may be placed on top of each mix, or better still, a bit of melted butter may be poured over each pan's contents. Not necessary, but makes the cornbread brown nicely.
Bake until the top begins to crack a bit and look dark gold and a touch tan. There is no optimum time, since ovens vary as does elevation. It takes me 20 minutes, but I live at sea level. Baked cornbread should be almost at the top of the cake pan.
Remove from oven and set on baker's rack to cool. Don't be amazed if family members arrive in the kitchen and want to know what you're baking. I usually make three pans; one to feed - a slice at a time - to People Under My Feet. (For three pans, which would stuff a 12-pound turkey with a bowl of cornbread dressing left over, just add another half of each above ingredient. Good luck halving an egg. I just use a whole 'nuther one and watch that cornbread rise even more.)
On Turkey Day:
Put the turkey's neck, heart, bits of trimmed skin or fat, etc, into a deep pot half-filled with water. Add chunks of yellow onion, an "egg" of butter (okay, about 2 tbsp), a dash of poultry seasoning (don't stint and don't use last year's poultry seasoning or sage....get new tins each year) and about 2 tsp of salt.
Bring this to a simmer. If you can, drain off a bit of "blood" from inside of the turkey as you're cleaning it and put this in.
Now bring to a boil and then cut it down fast. Simmer on very, very low for an hour or more. Now your dog and cat will come into the kitchen and get under your feet.
|One large yellow onion roughly chopped|
(this should be a mounded 1 cup or more)
1½ cups celery, roughly chopped
2 large eggs
2 bowls: one should be ovenware and the other deep
Butter the ovenware bowl.
Mix the dried ingredients in the large bowl, but stint on the sage, poultry seasoning and a bit of the salt 'til you've added the boiled conserve. You're going to season to taste. You know whether your family likes savory, peppery or sage'y stuffing. If you haven't figured this one out - or they haven't - go with savory: more onion and less celery, less poultry seasoning.
Break up the cornbread (which has been drying out, remember) into a deep bowl. Add the following: 2 pieces of bread, toasted and cubed. Put in some of the seasoings, most of the onion and all of the celery.
Stir, then pour VERY hot (look out, now!) conserve slowly in until the dry mixture is just moist. No visible conserve showing in the bowl. Toss with a spoon or a large fork as you pour. Stir all for a few minutes. Now taste it. What do you want to add? The taste at this point is a mild version of the ultimate flavor. You can add melted butter, more onion (savory), more sage (getting spicy), more poultry seasoning (snappy). You can even make half the stuffing mild and savory, the other half "N'Awlins style"
Now add one of the eggs an stir again.
By now you have wrestled the turkey and won 2 falls out of 3. The cavity is washed nicely and you have salted the inside. The skin has been buttered. It is almost trussed, save for the legs. If you find that you are almost trussed call for help (this happened to me once, no kidding!)
Using a large spoon or your nice, clean hand, stuff about half of the big bowl's contents inside that bird. Put some in the neck skin, too, to fill it out. This first half or so of the stuffing is dryer because the turkey is going to "baste" it while cooking.
Truss the turkey and put it into the roaster, on the rack or however you're going to cook it. I cheat; I use a brown-in bag. Great skin, cooks faster, stays moist.
Get that second bowl ready. Mix more of the conserve into the mixture now, and adjust the seasoning to your taste. This really ought to be your zippy or sage-y batch. Add that second egg and mix. Put this in the buttered bowl and then put the whole thing in the fridge until about 1 hour before the turkey is ready. Remove from fridge, warm the bowl BEFORE putting it in the oven now (A very short microwaving on low will do this, but I prefer to set it in a pan of hot water for a few minutes).
If you have a turkey baster that won't squirt you, withdraw some of the juice from your roaster or the pan under the rack and mix this into the bowl. Bake this in the 350°F oven for 45 minutes to an hour. Watch the top; it will brown slightly and the mix will rise a bit.
STUFF you can put into the bowl of STUFFING:
Oysters (from the grocers' cold case, in jars, with date)
Chestnuts or pecans. In the South and Southwest, we like pecans.
This isn't anything LIKE as much work as it looks. It was more work typing this up than making the stuffing. That dried, ready-to-mix junk is full of chemicals and has no flavor when compared to this. Plus, the major difference is that you're going to bake your own cornbread. Big deal! It takes about 20 minutes to make 2 pans of fresh corn bread.
Have a very Happy Thanksgiving!!! GE
25 October 1998
It's been a very busy couple of weeks with quite a number of interesting tips and recipes falling into my lap. Dee Stewart of Oregon sent me several pages of information about vinegar which I'll be adding to the Basics page of the Cookbook. And from Bev Tanner over on the Prodigy Classic Bulletin Boards comes this great autumn snack recipe. The kids (big or little) will love this one.
Caramel Corn in a Bag
Tools:Microwave and brown paper bag
Notes: It takes 2/3 to 1 cup of unpopped popcorn to make 3 quarts of popped corn.
|1 stick margarine|
¼ c. light Karo syrup
1 c. brown sugar
1 tsp baking soda
3 qts popped popcorn
In a 2-quart microwave-safe dish, combine margarine, brown sugar, and Karo syrup. Microwave on HIGH for 5 minutes, stirring halfway through. After cooking, stir in 1 tsp of baking soda. Place the popped corn in a brown paper bag and pour the brown sugar mixture over the popcorn. Fold the bag closed and cook on HIGH for 1 minute. Remove from microwave and shake vigorously. Cook on HIGH for 1 more minute, then shake again, and then cook again for 1 minute more. Remove and shake then pour into a large bowl and enjoy!
A couple of cleaning tips I really liked and thought I'd pass along. Rubbing alcohol cuts grease. Now I really wish I'd known about this one when I was cleaning the hood over the stove a month ago. And you can put some in a spritz bottle diluted with water to help you out around the kitchen. Naturally, since it's a flammable liquid, you'll need to be careful not to use it around a hot surface or near an open flame or cigarette. And when you're finished, you'll want to wash down any treated surfaces with water. It sure does the trick though! Easy on the wallet too!
Another tip: wipe down the basins of your sinks with baby or mineral oil...it will keep stuff from sticking to it and make cleanup a lot easier. Puts a nice shine on it too.
If you have a dishwasher, do you use it just for dishes?? You can wash other things in there too. Hubby got a collection of baseball hats? Are they so grungy you want to scream? Surprise him...stick them in the dishwasher and run them through the cycle with a small amount of the usual dishwasher detergent. Make sure you shut off the heated cycle. You can dry them by sticking them over small beach balls or balloons.
By the way, you can save a good deal of money on your electric bill by using a short wash cycle and shutting off the heated drying cycle at the end. It isn't really necessary. Your machine is already using the hottest tap water available and a chlorine based cleaning powder...not much is going to live through that. It also allows you to toss in odd items to be washed.
The kitchen is one of the most germy places in the house (okay, so that's not a technical term, but you do get the idea that it's crawling with all kinds of bacteria). And your kitchen sponge is the worst offender of all (do you really want to think about where that sponge has been??). Dishwasher to the rescue again. Keep two sponges handy so you can rotate them. Place the dirty sponge in the top rack of the dishwasher and a clean sponge ready for use. Next time you run the dishwasher, switch them around. You'll always have a sterile sponge handy (and then you'll be ready for that guest stint on the E.R. tv show).
A visit from a flock of wild turkeys to my yard early this morning reminded me that I promised to give instructions for cooking the holiday turkey. These wild rascals will be no where in sight in a couple of weeks...they're wise to our human ways. Did you know they can fly quite well and that they roost in trees at night? Fascinating creatures and Ben Franklin's personal choice to be our national bird. In that I think he erred...we need something a tad more inspirational. With the politicians we have nowadays it helps to have our attention diverted by a high soaring symbol. The eagle serves to remind us that we aspire to higher-minded ideals than what we're currently being exposed to from the public sector.
Thirty-seven years ago I said "I do" quite forgetting that getting married meant I was inheriting the turkey duties. Since I couldn't cook to save my life (luckily my husband saved it for me), I had to do a whole lot of learning really fast. One thing I was certain of...there had to be a better way than getting up in the middle of the night to slow roast and baste a bird. All that ever meant was total exhaustion by the time everyone finally sat down to the table. Ever see a woman kerplop head first into the mashed potatoes from exhaustion? Honestly, it could happen. So what's to enjoy about a holiday like that? Luckily, before that first experience happened, an article appeared in a woman's magazine on how to cook a foil-wrapped turkey. It's been my modus operandi ever since for turkey and also for chicken (although I reduce the oven temp to 400°F for a chicken).
If you've never cooked a turkey before and you're buying a frozen one (actually the best buy), you'll need to let it thaw out in the refrigerator for several days (for 12 to 14 lbs - more for larger birds). Don't put it on the counter and expect it thaw...it will eventually, but certainly not safely. Look inside the cavities of the bird. You'll find either bags of giblets and/or the neck of the bird. Get them out of there. I hate to mention how many times a new cook has cooked plastic bags full of giblets. Wash out those cavities with cold running water until the water runs clear and also wash the outside of the bird and pat it dry with a paper towel. Now you can place it in your pan and stuff it. You can make your stuffing up the night before, but never, never, never actually stuff the bird the night before or you could make an unexpected trip to the hospital with food poisoning. When you stuff the bird ahead of time like that, all manner of nasty bacteria have a chance to grow. So play it safe. Make your stuffing up ahead, but store it in a bowl or plastic container in the fridge separate from the bird and then after cleaning the bird, stuff it and pop it into the oven.
The real trick to cooking this bird in quick fashion is to foil wrap it and use a high oven heat. Foil wrapping also ensures a moist bird every time since it steams in its own juices. After your bird is in the pan and stuffed and/or basted to your satisfaction (everyone has favorite tricks in this regard), then create a tent out of aluminum foil and seal it around the edges of the pan. Place your turkey in the oven and cook at 450°F for the times and weights indicated. For stuffed turkeys add 30 minutes more to the cooking time upto a 12 lb turkey; 40 minutes more upto a 16 lb turkey and 50 minutes more upto a 20 lb turkey. Remove foil during the last 30 minutes of cooking time to allow the skin to brown.
|Weight||Cooking Time (unstuffed)|
|8 to 10 lbs||2¼ to 2½ hrs|
|10 to 12 lbs||2½ to 3 hrs|
|14 to 16 lbs||3 to 3¼ hrs|
|18 to 20 lbs||3¼ to 3 hrs|
For larger birds (20 to 24 lbs) you'll need to plan for at least 4 hours or more of cooking time if they're stuffed. You can still see how this cuts down enormously on the number of hours needed to cook the turkey as well as not having to baste it. Foil wrapping eliminates the need for basting.
31 Aug 1998
If you've never made jelly, jam, or fruit butters before, then this a great place to begin and it's very simple. For those of you who are old experienced hands at food preservation, you might enjoy this non-labor-intensive way of making fruit butters. I recommend using 8-oz wide-mouth freezer canning jars and freezing this to preserve its fresh taste. Of course...it might not last long enough to keep around either.
Note: The cover to the crockpot is only used in the first 4 hours. After that it remains off.
Crockpot Apple Butter
You will need: 1/2 peck Cortland apples, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, cider vinegar
Time: 12 hours cooking time
Yield: about 6-1/2 pints
12 cups Cortland apples, cored and sliced
4 cups sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
pinch of ground cloves
3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1. Combine all ingredients in crockpot except vinegar; cover; set on "high" for 4 hours.
2. Remove cover and cook 4 hours more. (Beginning here to end, you might want to stir once in awhile..I doubt you can resist) Elapsed time: 8 hours
3. Add 3 tbsp of apple cider vinegar and cook 4 hours more. Elapsed time: 12 hours.
4. Place in sterile canning jars; cap and cool.
Crockpot Pumpkin Butter
You will need: 1 medium sized pumpkin, sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, ground ginger, nutmeg, cloves, apple cider vinegar
Yield: 5 pints
Note: You will need a food processor or blender to make this job go quickly.
12 cups fresh pumpkin cut in cubes
3 cups sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg
pinch of ground cloves
3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1. Process the cubed pumpkin in a food processor to the smallest bits possible. This eliminates the need to pre-cook and puree the pumpkin.
2. Place pumpkin in crockpot with sugars; cover and cook on "high" for 4 hours.
3. Remove cover and add spices; cook 4 hours more. (Beginning here to end you might want to stir once in awhile) Elapsed time: 8 hours
4. Add vinegar and cook 4 hours more. Elapsed time: 12 hours
5. Allow to cool a bit and then place in food processor and puree.
6. Spoon into sterile 1/2 pint jars.
One other item of interest this week. I'm a terrible book-a-holic. Now I don't think there's a 12 step program for me, but just so I don't have to mortgage the homestead to keep myself in books, I browse bargain book sales and overstocks. A couple of offerings from the Bargain Book Warehouse caught my eye this week. One is Needlework Masterpieces (1994) by Melinda Cross at half price with charts and instructions (I must admit that the Van Gogh "Sunflowers" being mentioned among the other patterns caught my eye here). The other is The Mother-Daughter Book Club (1997) by Shireen Dodson. This one speaks of improving relations with your kids by starting a bookclub. Sounds like a lot of great possibilities is this one.
21 August 1998
Food preparation is one of the most important family skills there is. It's the mortar that holds the bricks of the family together. Not everyone loves to cook...in fact there are those who wear the statement "I hate to cook" like a badge which confers cooking duties to others or else provides an excuse for inadequate meals tossed before a family in a loveless mealtime. It's one thing to joke about it...we all love to do that...it's another matter to be serious about it and not care about it at the same time. It's an attitude which is unfair to everyone else. You don't have to love cooking to be proud of your skills in the kitchen. Some people enjoy making pastries or breads, but not main meal dishes and some get a greater sense of achievement in planning and preparing a different grand entree every day. In some homes it's possible to split the cooking among 2 or 3 family members...each responsible for a different portion of the meal.
Cooking a meal should not be viewed as a "chore". Mealtimes should be wonderful daily events. Only in this land of plenty do we view food as the "enemy". It's a terrible attitude for children to have to grow up with. They learn to hate their foods, their bodies and anything else in the world that doesn't "look" politically correct for this week. GOOD food is to be relished, savored and enjoyed! By good foods I mean salads, vegetables, grains eaten with healthy habits. Don't expect the prepackaged, frozen and boxed things at the supermarket to do anything except distort your sense of taste for food you really should love.
At this time of year the garden harvests are bountiful. Preserving food is one area that can save the family large amounts of money and add a healthful source of fresh organic food. If you garden, check the Links Page here for organic gardening websites. If not, there are many farmer's markets during the summer and fall months where you can stock up on fresh, locally grown foods. If you have young children, creating your own jelly supply alone will save you at least one week's worth of grocery money if you added it all up. And you don't have to make jellies high in sugar...fruit butters, using less sugar and a lot less work, are a great choice and you can put your crockpot to work on those.
There are 4 basic methods of food preservation: canning, drying, pickling and freezing. If you plan to can or pickle, you need a good book on the subject...one that's up to date on food safety information. At this time of year you will find the inexpensive "Ball Canning Guide" at your supermarket, usually on display next to the canning jars and supplies. There are also a number of very informative websites on food safety that you can refer to. (Check the Links Page.) Don't try to do too much canning the first year. Until you devise a system of your own and get a feel for it, it can quickly become a seemingly never-ending chore and then the enjoyment would quickly wear off. Start off with a few fun things the first year (like those crockpot fruit butters) and then plan what else you'd like to do next year when you've had a chance to taste and enjoy your own food products over the winter months.
Freezing is the simplest of the methods, but does require a freezer. The frost-free compartment of your refrigerator is not able to handle deep storage for a year at a time. If it's frost-free, it operates on a cycle that can not safely keep foods longer than a few months. Frost-free freezers are especially calibrated and operate a bit differently. It is often possible to obtain a freezer for nothing or next to it. Ask around; check the "moving" sales and "garage" sales and the "items" for sale in your local papers. Freezing foods most often involves blanching the vegetables to stop the ripening process, draining them till dry and then popping them into food storage bags or boxes, labelling them with description and date, then placing in the freezer. If you buy a blanching kettle, a guide will come with it to tell you how large the vegetable pieces should be and how long to blanch them (blanching means dipping into boiling water for a minute or two). Berries in season and particularly the ones you pick yourself are a great money saver and what could possibly taste better? Berries are simply frozen "as is" with no special preparation. Meats on sale are especially good candidates for a freezer. You can buy in quantity when prices are lowest.
Drying requires a dehydrator. There are many good ones on the market today, but if you'd like to also dry herbs with it, you might want to make sure that it has a temperature control. For drying herbs you need "air only" or a very very low temperature; otherwise you destroy the essential oils which give the herbs their distinctive flavors and aromas. Fruits on sale bought in bulk and dehydrated into things like banana chips, or fruit leathers make wonderful and healthy snacks for kids. And then there are dried tomatoes which can be powdered and serve as a basis for tomato soup and flavorings. I dehydrate a number of vegetables like tomatoes, carrots, leaf celery and use these along with a number of herbs to create my own seasonings (see the Herbalism link above for the recipes).
These are some of your options and it doesn't hurt to try one or two of them to see if you'll enjoy them. Although I do plan to get a food and recipe page up in the near future, the herb page needs some new major additions first. Remember...career homemaking is your chosen profession. Somewhere in the job description it says that one of your main duties is to bring in the harvest and prepare it well for the welfare of your family. Therein lies enormous pride and self-satisfaction. When you look in the mirror and say "who am I? why am I here?", you need only look at your home and your family for the answer...without you, they don't exist. Without you as an anchor, creating a safe haven to which they can return each day from their journeyings, they cannot develop well, learn to cope, learn to survive in this world or be a fully productive, contributing member of it. Although that statement sounds directed towards your offspring, your mate cannot operate at 100% efficiency out "there" if things at home aren't happy and operating efficiently. It takes two people working together and balancing the duties to make it all work (sometimes that means you take the burden off of him and sometimes he has to take it off of you, but working together are the operative words). One thing the homemaker does is supply the solid psychological background for the family by providing the proper home environment from which they move out into the world and back again for respite. But that isn't the sort of thing you wake up in the morning and say to yourself either. It's hardly what you're thinking when the 3-year old drops a peanut butter sandwich on a newly washed kitchen floor. Still...it's what it's really all about. I don't know of a more important job on this planet.
17 Aug 1998
One important thing to report on this week. For those of you who use waterproof sunscreen on your children, you should know of a potentially serious problem. Read the label on that box or tube, it contains important warnings and information. If that sunscreen should accidentally get into the little one's eyes, it could blind them. Since it's waterproof, there's no way of getting it out. A trip to the emergency room is essential. They will flush the eyes with special solutions, but the sunscreen can still cause damage.
© 1998-2006 by Ernestina Parziale, CH