Rosey the Riveter

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Homemade Laundry Detergent

I have FINALLY used up the bottle of laundry detergent I bought at at beginning of June when we moved in to the hotel for 9 weeks.  Time to make a batch of homemade stuff!  When we lived in IL, I made a very large liquid batch that I had to store in a 5 gallon bucket.  This time, I knew I wanted to try powder. 

There are tons of recipes on the internet, but they all use the same basic ingredients... a bar of castile soap, washing soda, and Borax.

Using a grater (or food processor if you want), shred half the bar of soap (which will give you about a cups worth of shavings).

Mix together with 1 cup of Borax and 1 cup of washing soda (NOT baking soda).  Shake it up good.  You want it to be well blended.

Use 1 Tbl per load.  It will NOT suds up, so is safe to use in front-loaders.
Someday, may be I'll get around to covering the Planter's paper with something pretty. May be that will make doing the laundry more enjoyable.  Or may be not.

Preserving Broccoli

One of the first things I planted once we moved in was broccoli.  Fall planting is new to me, so I was excited to try it out, and having never grown broccoli before, the whole process was exciting. 

I didn't really know when it was ready to pick, so I probably waited a few days too long, but the first thing I did was to soak it in salt water.  This is (SUPPOSEDLY) supposed to kill any of the cabbage worms that love any plants in the cole family.

Then, I chopped it up into bite-size pieces.

Place into boiling water and blanch for three minutes.

Immediately remove from heat and put it in an ice-water bath to stop the cooking process.

Drain (and dry) thoroughly.  After the colander, I set mine on the counter on a clean dish cloth to dry more.  The less liquid that is on it, the better it will freeze.  It is interesting to note that it was while dumping the broccoli into the colander that I found not one, but TWO little worms.  I did not tell the family, as that would have grossed them out.  Lesson learned:  don't rely on soaking!

Store in freezer-proof containers.  I used Ziploc freezer bags but next time I may try the vacuum sealer just to compare.

I only planted 8 heads.  In the spring, I think I'll bump it up to at least a dozen.  Once you harvest the main head, small shoots will start growing which will provide even more.  But there's no way 8 plants will be enough to last us through the winter, which is my ultimate goal ('winter' here being a relative term.  I'll be harvesting the broccoli probably until Thanksgiving, and the spring crop will be ready in April, so really I need only a 4-5 month supply from both the spring and fall harvests).  Still, ideally that means about 16 plants, and I'm not sure I have the room for them.

These plants were the Packman variety, purchased as plants at a big-box store.  Next time, I think I'm going to try growing organic Thompson from seed.  It's slower growing (70 days vs. 55) but it has a long harvest period so I think it'll all come out in the wash.

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Apple Fail

So, you all know I made apple butter the other day.  I only used half the apples I'd bought, so while the crock-pot and canner were still out, I decided to make a batch of applesauce.  My method is simple... peel the apples, throw them in the crock pot, and cook until mushy.  Add in cinnamon to taste.  Hit with the stick blender until texture is the way you like it (my kids like chunks).  Process in jars or freeze.

I knew something was amiss when I opened up the canner and got this view:

Sure enough, one of the jars broke.  I was so sad!  My precious (expensive) organic apples... wasted!  I don't know what made it happen (probably the jar was weakened during our recent move) but it was the first time ever that I've had a jar break.

The upside is that I got to dehydrate more peels.  I tossed them in the blender and they look like this:

I store them in a sealed jar.  The kids like to snack on them.  If there are any left when I make our oatmeal packets, I'll add some in.  It's also a great way to add some natural fiber to yogurt, breads, muffins, or what have you. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Canning: A Self-Study

The National Center for Home Food Preservation offers a FREE self-study for Boiling Water and Pressure Canning.  I just finished it this evening and highly recommend it if you are a beginner wanting to learn more.

Go here to register.  It will take a few days for them to send log-in information, so don't expect it instantly.

If you get a 70 or above on the quizzes, you will even get a certificate of completion.

Hotter than Hades Pepper Jelly

I'm ready to cry uncle with the Cayenne peppers.  I've picked and picked and STILL there are blossoms on that plant!

I've dried a ton and turned them into crushed pepper flakes.  But we just don't eat a lot of hot things, so I am at my wits end.  I decided the only way to get rid of a ton of these at once is to make Cayenne Pepper Jelly.

This recipe caught my eye, so I gave it a whirl.  Only I refused to waste the time seeding all the peppers when I wasn't even going to eat any of it, anyway.  So I left them all in and decided to call it "Hotter than Hades".

I weighed out 12 ounces of Cayenne peppers, but basically it was enough to fill the food processor.

Pour in 1 cup of cider vinegar and process.

Transfer to a large saucepan and add another cup of cider vinegar and 6 cups of sugar. 
Bring to a boil and, stirring constantly, boil for 10 minutes.

Add two packets of liquid pectin and return to a rolling boil for one minute.

Transfer to jars and process in a boiling water bath.

This stuff is HOT.  As in, I tried a teeny little bit with no seeds and it had quite the kick.  I decided to let all the seeds float to the top, so that whoever ends up with these can spoon them off if they want.  Another way to reduce the heat is to mix some in with Raspberry or Strawberry jam, and then serve over cream cheese with crackers.  I actually had a commercially-made raspberry hot pepper jelly and it was really good, so don't think I'm crazy!

The batch made 7 pints and one is for Dad for Christmas (he's the only one I know who will eat anything this hot!).  The rest will be used for bartering!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Canned Chicken

I got a great deal on Amish-raised chicken breasts through Quail Cove Farms, and on Thursday it was all delivered right to my door (along with 40lbs of sweet potatoes.  Seriously, what was I thinking?)  I could only fit 6 of the 12 packages in my freezer, which meant either plugging in the upright that is out in the garage and raising the electric bill even higher, OR pressure canning it for shelf-stable storage.  Needless to say, the canning won out.

On Sunday, I cooked up the chicken and added carrots, celery, and onion to make some broth at the same time.  After it all cooled, I de-boned the meat and skimmed the fat off the broth. 

This morning, I packed the meat into freshly washed pint jars while boiling the broth.

I added a teaspoon of salt to each jar.  I think I could have gotten away with half a teaspoon, so we'll see what it tastes like.

Then I added the broth, leaving an inch and a quarter headspace.

I placed them in the pressure canner, then covered and waited for the steam.

Once the steam starts coming out at a steady pace, set the timer for 10 minutes.  This takes all the air out of the pot.

Place the pressure gauge on, and watch the pressure climb.

Once it reached 11 pounds of pressure, I started the timer.  Pints require 75 minutes... and most of those 75 minutes have to be spent in the kitchen, keeping an eye out and adjusting the stove to make sure the dial stays at 11 pounds.  This was a good time to wash dishes, empty the dishwasher, clean off the counters, sweep and mop the floor, etc. etc.

When processing time is up, turn off the stove and remove the pot to cool.  LIFT it, don't drag it off the stove. 
Once the pressure is back to zero and the lock pops down, take the gauge off and let it cool for 10 more minutes.  At this point, you can open the canner and admire your work.
Most of the jars sealed immediately.  One of them didn't, so I thought we'd have to use it for dinner.  But a couple hours later, I heard a ping and sure enough, it had sealed!
I learned a couple of good lessons.  The first is that I should NOT have tried to squeeze a canning session in this morning.  I started the process at about 7:30am...  and I was still late to my 10:45 meeting.  Next time, I'm picking a day when I have nowhere to be.

Also, the next time I get a good deal on chicken, I am hoping it will be on boneless, skinless breasts.  That way, I can pack them raw and not have to spend the time making the broth and deboning them, and waiting for the broth to cool to skim fat.  The processing time remains the same, so to me, it's a 'wasted step' to cook the chicken before.  Except there was no other way to get it off the bone, so I had no choice.

Finally, I've decided that I need to get another rack for the pressure canner so I can 'double up' and do 14 pints instead of 7.  It would be about 5 more minutes of work but result in twice the chicken, so that's a no-brainer.  Luckily, Amazon sells the extra racks for like $10.  Well worth it!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Guest Blogger

One of my favorite blogs in the world is Chickens in the Road.  Yesterday, I was a guest blogger with my post on Homemade Lara Bars.  You can check it out here!

Today, I am working on prepping chicken for canning.  I've never pressure canned before, so this is going to be interesting.  Stay tuned to see how it goes, and wish me luck...

Friday, October 21, 2011

Apple Butter

Today was the day I finally got to make apple butter!  I am looking forward to slathering it on corn bread this winter!  This 5-star recipe was my inspiration, but as you'll see, I doubled it and changed it up a bit.

First, I started out with 11 pounds of apples.  Mostly Gala, but some Golden Delicious, Fuji, and Granny Smiths, too.
And then I whispered a silent prayer of thanks for my Pampered Chef apple peeler.  I got it (and the wooden stand to stabilize it) at a yard sale many years ago for $2.  It was a steal.  I only use it once or twice a year, when I have to peel A LOT of apples, but it is SO worth it to have it. 
Apples went into the crock pot, peels went into another bowl, and the cores went into the compost.  This is a ZERO WASTE project.  Everything gets used.  (Yes, even the peels.  More on that later.)
Once all the apples were peeled, I mixed together 6 1/4 cups of sugar, 2 Tbl of cinnamon, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp ground cloves.
Then I poured it all over the apples and turned the crock pot to high.
 The peels then went into the dehydrator.  They will crisp up once dried, and I will run them through the food processor.  This will yield apple powder which will be great in homemade oatmeal, muffins, etc.  I may even try making my own tea.

This is when I decided to read all the reviews of the recipe and discovered that many people thought that there was too much sugar in it.   (Someday, I'll remember to read the reviews BEFORE I start cooking!)  I'd already reduced it from 8 cups to 6-1/4 but decided that I'd add some more apples to counter-act the possible over-sweetness.  So, I peeled another pound or two and added them in.

At this point, the kids came home from school and Abby saw the apple peeler and got all excited.  "That means you're making APPLESAUCE!  Can we eat the peels?"  I had to laugh.  Last fall, during the annual applesauce making marathon, they fought over whose turn it was to eat the peels as they came out of the peeler.  There were none left for me to dehydrate!  I would have totally forgotten about that, so I love that that memory stayed with her.  Someday I hope she'll tell the story to her own daughter, while they are having a marathon of their own.  This is what I want for my kids.  Happy memories in the kitchen...

Anyway, I digress.  The recipe said to cook on high for an hour, but I let them go for longer just because the crock pot was SO full.  Then I turned it to low and let them simmer, stirring every once in awhile.
Once the apples were soft enough, I hit them with the stick blender and left it simmering for a few hours.  The original recipe said to cook them for 11 hours, then uncover for another hour.  But most of the reviews said it took longer than an hour to get a thick consistency.  My strategy, since I started in the early afternoon, was to cook it on low until bed time, and then switch it over to warm overnight.  The next morning, I uncovered and let it simmer for awhile.

It still wasn't thickening up like I wanted, so I transferred it to the stove top and mixed in a little lemon juice.  This does two things... brightens the flavor a bit and also provides some natural pectin for thickening.
 At that point, I processed the jars in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.  As you can see, I only got 8 1/2 pints out of the deal!  Which means each jar contains about a pound and a half of apples and 3/4 cup of sugar, but we don't need to think about that!!!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


October is my favorite month.  I love the cooler temps, the colorful trees, the apples and pumpkins.  I am a New England girl at heart.  I am not so much of a Halloween fan, which makes decorating easier (I can leave it all up until Thanksgiving!)

In the Dining Room, we have some mason jars inspired by Pinterest.

And a small pumpkin I need to bring to Joanna's class on "Pumpkin Day"

A thrift store wreath with some flowers I got on clearance at Micheals last winter.

And of course the "Thankful Tree" (also inspired by Pinterest).

I love that I finally have a real hearth to decorate in the family room.  I threw some leaves in with the Eucalyptus on the mantel, along with some more leaves in one of the crocks, and called it a day.

I didn't go overboard on the front porch, either but I love the flowers in the wagon.
 Happy Fall, y'all!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


Every week, the nice Oberweis man delivers our milk and one container of heavy cream.  It's my standing order.  I intend to make homemade icecream once a week.  It hasn't happened yet.  As a result, we had four containers of cream that I did NOT want to waste, so I knew it was time to make butter.

I've done it before.  It's super easy with a food processor.  It takes all of about 5-7 minutes.  Here's a great video.
So, begin with pouring cream into the food processor.
 Now you're going to turn it on and let it go for a spin. The cream will be liquid at first, obviously.
Then it will gradually thicken.
In no time at all you will have whipped cream.
And then it will get really firm.
Just when you think nothing else will happen, the butter milk separates from the butter and starts splattering all over the food processor.
That's when you know you have butter!  Strain out the buttermilk (this is not the same as the cultured stuff you buy in the store, but it is great in pancakes and muffins, so be sure to save it.)  Then what you want to do is rinse the butter with COLD water in a bowl (sorry, I didn't take pictures)  I find that 3 times is a charm... squeeze the butter (the more liquid you get out, the longer it will last) and rinse.  When the water runs clean, you're good to go.

And just because I don't want you to do what I did, please don't think it's a good idea to make butter while you have milk heating on the stove to make yogurt.  This is what you will end up with:
It was not fun to clean.  At all.