Thursday, October 16, 2014

How to Dry Onions from the Garden

One of my favorite things to eat in the summer time is onions and tomatoes.  I remember when I was young, my grandpa would pull a green onion out of the ground, clean it and then let me eat it.  Awww, those were the days...


In my garden this year, I went big.  Go big or stay home right?  I planted 5 rows of onions, several varieties, and I dried them out and hung them in my pantry to store for winter use.



Drying onions is very simple.  When the green stems start to die off, or when the onion has outgrown the hole you put it in, pull the onions and let them dry for about two days out in the sun so that the skins can harden up.  Air needs to reach the entire onion, so if you don't have something to put them on that has good ventilation, you might want to rotate your onions every other day.


I had my onions laying on our flatbed trailer, but Bill needed the trailer, so I had to move them.  I laid them out on the front porch where they would be in the shade most of the day, but where it would still be warm and breezy for them.  You can see that some of the onions still have very green stems while the others are starting to turn brown and shrivel up.  This entire process can take between 2 and 4 weeks.

The onions are finished drying, or "curing" once the stems have all turned brown and are completely dried up.  Additionally, the skin on the onions should have a withered look around the stem.  Once the onions were to this point, I clipped the stems/tops off the onions leaving about 1/4" - 1/2" from the bulb.  If you don't leave at least that much space, the neck of the onions won't dry out and could possibly rot when you store it.

The next thing you will want to do is have several pair of pantyhose, yes pantyhose on hand so that you can store your onion in them.  To store your onions in pantyhose, simply cut off legs of each hose, and drop an onion in one of the legs.  Make a not at the top of where the onion is and repeat until the leg of the pantyhose is full.  This is a very cheap way to store onions and still allow them to breathe.

After you have the onions in the pantyhose, you are ready to store them.  You should choose a dark, cool area that stays between 40-50 degrees year round.  For some people, this might be your basement or a root cellar.  We simply shut off the heat vent in one of our rooms and block out the light from the window through the winter time.  If the area that you store your onions in becomes to hot, the onions will begin to sprout, if it's too cold the onion will begin to rot.  

When the times comes that you need to use them, simply cut them off the pantyhose!


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

How to Use a Pressure Canner

If you have never used a pressure canner, let me assure you that it's not as scary, or as hard, as you might be led to believe.  In fact, it is so user friendly that you'll be kicking yourself for not trying it sooner.  I have a Presto 01781 Pressure Canner and I love it.  You can get a good Pressure Canner for around $75.  Some may be a little cheaper, but most of them will cost between $50-$100.  My Presto will hold 7 quarts at once.  I also have an older Pressure Canner that I bought off of my friend Ruth.  They are both wonderful!  The picture below is of the newer Pressure Canner.



Ok, so let's learn how to use this canner in what I would like to say is simple terms...

The first thing you want to do is READ the directions.  Yes, read them.  I don't like to do it either, and I didn't understand them when I was done, but I read them so at least I had a working knowledge of what parts and pieces my canner had.  Next, follow the instructions and clean it before using it.  Get familiar with it.

Once you are ready to start canning, you will need right at 3 quarts of water in the canner.  You want the water to be around 3" deep.  The first time I used my canner, there was an indention on the inside that showed me how far to fill the water up to.  However, after I used it 2 or 3 times, I could no longer tell where the indention was, so using the 3 quarts of water works about perfect for my canner.  




After you have filled your canner with water, I suggest putting it on the stove and turning it on the lowest setting, until you're ready to put the jars in.  Once you put the jars in the canner, twist and lock the lid in place on the pressure canner. Turn the stove onto the highest heat setting and wait for a steady steam to start coming out of the vent pipe.  When this happens, set a timer for 10 minutes and let it vent.  After the 10 minutes, put the pressure weight onto the vent pipe.  The pressure in the canner will now start to slowly rise.


This is the pressure weight on top of the vent pipe.

*********DO NOT TAKE THE PRESSURE WEIGHT OFF FOR ANY REASON*********

As the pressure begins to rise, the safety valve will pop up.  The lid is now fully locked.  You may notice that some water or steam might escape through the safety valve as the pressure inside the canner goes up.  This is perfectly normal and is an excellent safety feature of the pressure canner.

Safety valve


Once the pressure gauge is at the pressure you need it at...let's say 10 pounds of pressure for green beans...I would let it go over a pound to 11 just to be safe, you will want to adjust the heat on the stove to keep it at that constant pressure.  The processing time begins when the pressure gauge reaches the correct pressure.  When this happens, you will want to set your timer at this point for however long your items are to cook - for green beans it would be 25 minutes.  You will need to watch the pressure gauge the entire time and make adjustments to the heat accordingly.


Pressure Gage

When the timer goes off, turn off the heat and remove the canner from the stove.  Let the canner depressurize at room temperature.  Again, DO NOT TAKE THE PRESSURE WEIGHT OFF FOR ANY REASON.  You will notice that the dial will slowly come back down to 0.  Once the dial is back to zero, I usually weight another 10 minutes before removing the lid.  At this point, you can remove the pressure weight.  Be careful when removing the lid, as the steam will be hot and can cause burns. Lift the lid away and set to the side (I usually set mine on pot holders because it is so hot).  Again, I wait another 10 minutes before removing the jars and placing them on a clean towel on my counter.

What do you think?  Not that hard, but it takes a lot of patience.  I had pressure canned with my mother-in-law at one point, but wasn't comfortable doing it myself until a friend showed me.  Hopefully these instructions and pictures will help.  Happy canning!




Thursday, September 25, 2014

Tomato Soup Canning Recipe

There's no doubt about it, it has been an incredible year for the garden.  I have literally canned so much that I ran out of jars twice and had to clean out  cabinets to make room for all my canned goods.  It will be quite the reward this winter when we are eating from our stocked pantry.

Last year I received a recipe from one of our 4-H Grandma's for Tomato Soup that is pressure canned.  This soup is delicious and perfect for eating with a grilled cheese sandwich on a cold Winter's (or Fall) day.

Tomato Soup

Ruby Hoop's Regal Tomato Soup Recipe


6 medium onions
1 bunch celery
8 quarts cut-up tomatoes
(I used about 24 pounds worth)
3/4 cup sugar
(I only used 1/2 cup)
1/4 cup salt
1 cup butter or margarine
(make sure it's at room temperature)
1 cup flour


Chop the onions and celery and put them into a large kettle with just enough water to start a good boil and prevent scorching. Add the tomato pieces (no need to peel off the skins) and cook the vegetables until they're tender. Then put them through a food mill to remove seeds and chunks, and return the pulp to the kettle along with the sugar and salt. Cream together the butter and flour, add the well-blended mixture to the boiling purée, stir thoroughly, and continue to simmer the combination until it thickens slightly (to about the consistency of thin gravy). Pour the soup into hot jars and process in a pressure canner for 10 minutes at 5 pounds. At serving time, (I omit this step when serving but you are welcome to do it) empty the concentrate into a saucepan, add 2 pinches of, soda per pint, warm the tomato mix slightly, and dilute it with an equal amount of milk or water. Then heat the soup to eating temperature. 

For a publication on tomatoes and canning visit The University of Maine.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

How to Get Rid of Fruit Flies

Do you ever have fresh produce in the house and notice fruit flies hovering around it?  Or have you ever brought in items from the garden and had fruit flies?  I am not a fan of these tiny insects.  I feel like I have an unclean house when I see them flying about. Over the years I have learned a trick on how to get rid of these nasty pests and I wanted to share it with you.  The picture is disgusting, but as you can see, it works.



All you need is Apple Cider Vinegar and Dawn dish soap.


  

Combine the two ingredients in a disposable dish. I usually do 3/4 cup of Apple Cider Vinegar and 3-4 drops of Dawn. 

Leave the container out on the counter close to the produce and within 24 hours, they will be in the disposable container that you can just throw away.  Easy, simple and fool proof.  Give it a try!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Slow Cooker Chicken and Noodles

Time is often of the essence at my house.  Although we do not have children, we seem to be busy all of the time.  If there isn't a night meeting to attend, there is something to be done on the farm.  With that being said, I ran across this sign at the Indiana State Fair in the Pioneer Building..."Without good farming, there can be no good food.  Without good food, there can be no life." 

Bill and I strive each year to be good stewards of the farm ground that we are entrusted with by our landlords.  We want to be good farming neighbors to those that live around us. We also like to eat "good" food.


Everyone enjoys chicken and noodles, but when you run short of time, try using your slow cooker!



Slow Cooker Chicken and Noodles

Ingredients:

4-5 boneless/skinless chicken breasts
2 cans (14.5oz) of chicken broth
2 cans (10.5 oz) Cream of Chicken Soup
1/2 cup of butter
24 oz bag of frozen egg noodles


Directions:
Put the first 4 ingredients in a slow cooker and cook on low for 5-6 hours.  Remove the chicken and shred (I actually shred the chicken in the slow cooker).  Return the chicken to the slow cooker , add the egg noodles and cook for another 2-3 hours (until the noodles are tender).  Add salt/pepper to taste.

For a complete meal, serve these with Slow Cooker Mashed Potatoes and Homemade Sweet Rolls.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Sweet Pea Salad

Eating peas right out of the garden is one of the best parts of my summer.  I only wish that Bill enjoyed eating them as much as I do.  He doesn't dislike them, but they aren't his favorite neither.  Several years ago, I came across a recipe for Pea Salad and adapted it.  Bill will actually eat several helpings of it, so you know it has to be good:)


Judge for yourself...





Sweet Pea Salad



Ingredients:
1 (12oz) bag of frozen (or fresh) sweet peas, thawed and drained
1/4 cup of diced onions
1 cup of peanuts or sunflower seeds
1 lb bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
1 t sugar
1 T and 1 t of vinegar
1/2 cup mayo
1/4 t soy sauce
1/4 t Worcestershire sauce



Directions:
Combine the mayo, vinegar, sugar, soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce together in a small bowl.  Whisk well.  Add the remainder of the ingredients to another bowl.  Top with the mayo topping and combine well.  Let set in the refrigerator for at least an hour before serving.




 

Friday, June 13, 2014

Happy Father's Day

One of my favorite things in the entire world is when my Dad shows up at my office and takes me out for lunch.  Since my parents live in another state, I don't get to see them as often as I'd like.  When Dad comes to Indiana, he usually surprises me by just showing up.  I am always excited to see him and it's the highlight of my day.


My Dad and I getting ready to go to lunch.
Had to take a selfie first!


My Dad, is really my step-dad, but he adopted my brother and I when we were younger (it's a long story, but my parents went through an ugly divorce) and has treated us as his own ever since.  I can't thank him enough for always being there for me and I can't thank my two step-sisters and step-brother enough for sharing him with us.

Dad,

  • You didn't have to take on the responsibility of providing us with food, clothing and shelter - but you did. 
  • You didn't have to take on the responsibility of making sure we went to church and had a relationship with Jesus - but you did.
  • You didn't have to take on the responsibility of making sure we had a good education and a positive upbringing - but you did. 
  • You didn't have to love us like we were your own - but you did.
Although there have been several important men in my life (my grandpa's, Bill and my brother's) my Dad has always been that one constant and voice of reason for me.  Here's to my Dad on Father's Day and to all of yours!