Blueberries and Peaches!

This time of year is so fresh, and my favorite time to eat.  Apples are starting to ripen, peaches are in full swing, blueberries are winding down but still around and fresh veggies are coming out of the garden left and right.  Wanted to share with you a way to preserve some of those blueberries and peaches.  Lets get to it!

How to Dehydrate Blueberries (super easy and excellent in mega-bars)

Ingredients:

  • Blueberries

Directions:

Last year I did this and is was a royal mess because the recipe called for blanching the blueberries for 30 seconds to puncture the skins.  I had blue juice everywhere it leaked all over every crevasse in my dehydrator and after cleaning up that mess I swore I would find a better way if they turned out good.  Well as it happens they were excellent, especially in the mega-bars They added really great flavor, texture, and as Huz’s says “a nice chew”.  So this year I decided to experiment and I must say was pretty excited when it worked…

  • I pulled a 1 gallon bag of blueberries we had picked and then froze a week earlier.
  • I spread out the frozen blueberries all over my trays, since they were frozen they did not stick together.
  • I turned the dehydrator on to my fruit setting, for ours it is 135-145.  Then left it alone… about 30-ish hours later we had perfect little blueberries all dehydrated, with no mess (alleluia).
  • Depending on the size of your blueberries it might take longer or shorter, I started to check mine after 24 hours.  To test if they were done I ate a few.
  • Once done I stored them all in a ziplock bag with a good seal after they were done.  See picture steps below.  It was so easy and it is awesome to add the variety to our diet.

  blueberry 1

blueberry 2

blueberry 3

blueberry 4

30 Hours later - Finished!

30 Hours later – Finished!

  

How to Make Peach Freezer Jam

Next strawberry this is my favorite.  I love mixing strawberry and peach in my plain yogurt for a bit of fresh flavor, sometimes I throw in a few frozen blueberry’s too.

Peach Jam is just like making strawberry but with a different fruit.  Thus if you need the step by step with all the tips please see the strawberry post but follow the “peach freezer jam” recipe in the Sure-Jell box for proper fruit and sugar proportions.  Few tips on the peach freezer jam:

  • To make peach jam follow all the tips you did for strawberry but follow the “peach freezer jam” recipe in the Sure-Jell box.
  • The one major difference is lemon juice.  You need to add fresh lemon juice, the juice helps to slow peach browning.  Make sure you use the fresh stuff here that reconstituted stuff you get at the store is lacking in favor and if you use it your peach jam will be lacking in favor also.  I know from experience…  I did it once a few years ago as I did not have lemons in the house and figured it was the same.  I was so disappointed in the flavor of my jam that year.
  • Remember to year date your lids to ensure proper rotation in the freezer.
  • Below is a picture of my finished product.

peaches 1

Please let me know if you have any comments or questions!  Enjoy ~ Megan

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Canning Hot Peppers… Jalapeno!

hot pepper 2A brine hot pack canning method for hot peppers.  For this post I picked jalapenos, as I needed 10 jars for my pantry this year.  We average about 1 jar a month plus I have 4 jars left over from last year.  We also use this canning method for hungarian wax peppers and cherry bombs.  All 3 peppers are excellent canned in this style and they are great on/in sandwiches, pizza, mashed potatoes, scrambled eggs, etc.  It is a very healthy way to add a bit of spice to your life.  Lets get to it!

Ingredients:

  • Jalapenos – fresh picked from garden or local from farmers market
  • Brine – see this post on how to make brine…
  • Wide Mouth Canning jars, (wide mouth makes it easier to fill the jars and remove later to eat, also we like the pint size since you won’t go through them as fast)
  • Wide Mouth Canning lids
  • Wide Mouth Canning rings
  • Disposable plastic gloves

Directions:

Rinse jalapenos, then wearing gloves (IMPORTANT you will get pepper juice on your hand so wear gloves and do not put by your eye or face) slice the peppers into rings up to stems.  Fill the jars as you go.  Once done slicing and jars are full it is ok to remove the gloves.  See picture below.

hot pepper 1

Now are going to “hot pack” can our peppers, because if you put them in a pressure cooker you would cook them to death.  Heat up your brine until it is boiling.  (To see how to make brine click HERE) For this batch of 10 pint jars heat up about a gallon of brine.  Once the brine is boiling fill each jar with the boiling brine solution and let them sit for 10 minutes.  This heats up the peppers.  See pictures below.

hot pepper 3

While waiting the 10 minutes, fill a small sauce pan with an inch or 2 of water, put the number of canning lids you will use in the pan, and turn on to a medium-high heat.  This will heat up your lids, and help in the sealing process.  Set on a low heat once boiling until ready for use.

pickles 4

Once the 10 minutes is up drain the brine, which is now spicy into a different pot.  NOTE VERY IMPORTANT:  This brine in the different pot is now “hot or spicy” brine since it has hot pepper oils in it.  Brines you can re-use, but if you re-use this brine say for example canning pickles they will be spicy/hot from the pepper oil.  We save this brine label it as HOT BRINE so we know not to use it canning pickles but we re-use it when we can our cherry bombs,  hungarian wax, tabasco peppers or anything else pepper related.

Once the hot/spicy brine is drained into a different pot refill the jars again with boiling brine, or you can quickly bring the orignal brine you just removed back up to boiling and use that brine again.  This way you do not have a bunch of hot brine on your hands.  Once the jars are full with boiling brine for a second time, top with canning lid, and screw on a ring, hand tight to ensure a good seal.  We have a handy magnetic lid grabber I would recommend having on hand, you can usually find them in the canning section at your local grocery store.  It makes taking the rings out of the water so much easier. See pictures below.

hot pepper 4

Done, they will seal as they cool.  This year we had 1 that did not seal, so it is in the fridge waiting to be used up.  Date the lids once cool, remove the rings, gently wipe the sides of the jar and store until ready for use.  So versatile… great to bring places or spice up your own dishes.

hot pepper 5

Tips: 

  • Don’t forget to wear gloves throughout the cutting process. Huz wore them through the whole process but that is not necessary, he is just super careful because spicy contacts are no fun.
  • Also remember your brine becomes hot/spicy brine after the initial 10 minutes while it is infused with the hot peppers.  You can re-use this brine (brine keeps a really long time) but label it as HOT BRINE..
  • Some peppers we have found to be excellent canned are:  Jalapeno, Hungarian Wax, Cherry Bomb, and Tabasco
  • These will keep for 2 or 3 years if sealed, both hot peppers and vinegar have high acidic levels making them great for preserving.

Please let me know if you have any comments or questions and remember it is good to spice things up in your life every now and then!  Enjoy ~ Megan

How to Freeze Green (Sweet) Bell Peppers

How to Freeze Green (Sweet) Bell Peppers

Have a lot of green or sweet bell peppers getting ready in your garden that you just cannot keep up with?  Here is a good, quick, easy freeze idea to take care of them and enjoy at a later date.  Freezer peppers go well with winter comfort foods such as chilis and soups, or thawed and used as pizza toppings.  Lets get to it!

Ingredients:

  • Bell Peppers
  • Freezer containers or bags.  We usually do pint sizes, it seems to be about the perfect amount for a batch of this or that.

Directions:

  1. Rinse
  2. Remove seeds and core
  3. Cut/chop into pieces
  4. Put into your freezer containers or bags
  5. Date to ensure proper yearly rotation, place in freezer and enjoy later!  Done… pictures below!

Freezer pepper 1

freezer pepper 2

freezer pepper 3

I cut up 7 sweet peppers from our garden, and froze 3 of those freezer containers and 1 pint freezer bag, it took 30 minutes from picking to finish.  I will probably freeze a total of 10.  4 down, 6 to go!

Please let me know if you have any comments or questions!  Enjoy ~ Megan

One Way to Can Pickles… that stay a bit crispy

One Way to Can Pickles… that stay a bit crispy

I grew up on those crispy store-bought pickles that you get in the refrigerator section at the store, but as I started to remove process from our foods and really checked out the ingredients in those things I decided it was time to make my own.  Huz & I started to experiment with different ways to can/pickle cucumbers.  Huz grew up canning pickles so it was fun taking his base knowledge and experimenting.  It took a few years and even Huz’s Mom trying out a few ideas for us to land on this way of canning cucumbers into those crispy pickles.   Lets get started!

PS – Honeybee update below: Extracting honey day photos

Ingredients:

  • Cucumbers, ideally the size for pickling.
  • Fresh Dill
  • Garlic cloves, one per jar
  • Brine – see this post on how to make brine…
  • Wide Mouth Canning jars  (wide mouth makes it easier to pack the pickles because you can fit your hand in the jar)
  • Wide Mouth Canning lids
  • Wide Mouth Canning rings

Directions:  Note, I was making 6 jars for this post. 

Rinse pickles well to remove spines or grime and set aside in a colander until time to pack into jars.  Next, peel and skin all the garlic cloves.  Then place a clove of garlic and sprig of dill into your jar.  This is all I like, very simple, but at this point if you want to try to add more spices feel free, a quick google search should give you ideas.

pickles 1

Next it is time to pack your pickle jars with the cucumbers.  Depending on the size of your cucumbers you can either cut them into slicers or pack them whole.  We did 2 whole jars and the rest as slicers since we had quite a few long ones. Huz is the pickle packer in this family, he is very good at wedging those suckers in the jars.  The reason you pack pickles as tight as possible is it uses less brine and you fit more cucumbers in a jar netting in more pickles!  See packing photos below…

pickles 2

Now are going to “hot pack” can our pickles, because if you put them in a pressure cooker you would cook them to death.  Heat up your brine until it is boiling.  (To see how to make brine click HERE) For this batch of 6 jars heat up about a gallon of brine.  That should be enough unless they are not packed well, you might need a bit more.  Once the brine is boiling fill each jar with the boiling brine solution and let them sit for 10 minutes.  This heats up the pickles.  See pictures below.

pickles 3

While waiting the 10 minutes, fill a small sauce pan with an inch or 2 of water, put the number of canning lids you will use in the pan, and turn on to a medium-high heat.  This will heat up your lids, and help in the sealing process.  Set on a low heat once boiling until ready for use.

pickles 4

Once the 10 minutes is up drain the brine into a different pot, and refill the jars again with boiling brine.  Once full with brine, top with canning lid, and screw on a ring, hand tight to ensure a good seal.  We have a handy magnetic lid grabber I would recommend having on hand, you can usually find them in the canning section at your local grocery store.  It makes taking the rings out of the water so much easier. See pictures below.

pickles 5

At this point, you have a couple of options:

  1. For Crispy: – Once you have all your jars done, place them while still hot in the freezer for about an hour.  Watch them after an hour, once they feel cool to the touch remove them.  Ensure all have sealed, date, and store in your fridge.  The reason they stay crispy is because you cool them down fast, not allowing the brine to cook them for a second time.  Note:  We have tried this method, then stored them in our canning area rather than fridge, and while they stay crisper longer, eventually they do get soft.  Keeping them cool, keeps them crisper.  Below is a picture of my finished product going into the fridge.  They will keep up to a year or two in your fridge.
  2. For non-crispy:  You can set them aside and let them cool at room temp until they seal.  Once cool, date lid, ensure they sealed, and place in your canning storage area until ready for use.  They will keep up to a year or two in your pantry.

pickles 6

Tips:

  • The only down fall to this version is if you want them to stay crispy you need to keep them in the fridge.  That is why each year we do between 6 to 9 jars.  For 2 – 4 people who are not huge pickle eaters this is a perfect amount for crispy pickles.
  • NOTE – If you do not care about the “crispness” of the pickles, rather than moving them to the freezer for the quick cool down you can just leave them on the counter until they seal, then date them for proper yearly rotation and place them with your canning storage

***Honeybee Update:

MIddle of August, and it is honey extraction time.  Here are a few pictures and quick explanation of the process:

  • We pulled 15 medium and 5 deep honey frames from our hives
  • Then we uncapped the honey using an uncapping knife.
  • Then we place the frames in an extractor, which spins the frames full of honey.  Centrifugal force pulls the honey out of the frames and it pours out the base of the extractor in to a bucket with a strainer over it to catch any pieces of wax or other particles that also spin out.
  • So far we have extracted around 50 pounds of honey.  Great use for mega-bars!

extract honey 1

extract honey 2

extract honey 3

Please let me know if you have any comments or questions!  Enjoy ~ Megan

Pickling Brine Basics

What is Pickling Brine – Even Parts of water and apple cider vinegar strongly impregnated with salt.  We use it for canning pickles, jalapeno peppers, cherry bombs, and hungarian wax peppers.  Next few posts involve using brine…

How to make it?  Lets get started!

Ingredients: For a 2 gallon batch

  • 1 Gallon of apple cider vinegar (16 cups to a gallon)
  • 1 Gallon of water (16 cups to a gallon)
  • 2 Cups of *canning salt* (2 Tablespoons per 1 cup of water and 1 cup of vinegar) *Canning salt is iodine free and does not have any of the anti-caking additives it is just salt, very important to use canning salt.

Directions: For a 2 gallon batch…  We make it up and it keeps for a long long time (few years) until you use it.  We just pour it back into the cider container or plastic jug and store it. 

In a large pot, mix 1 gallon of apple cider vinegar with 1 gallon of water and 2 cups of canning salt.  Once mixed your brine is made.

brine 1

brine 2

brine 3

Tips:

  • The idea here is you mix 8 parts vinegar with 8 parts water with 1 part salt.  8x8x1.
  • For example if you made a 1 gallon (4 quart) batch of brine you would need 8 cups of vinegar, 8 cups of water (16 cups to a gallon) and 1 cup of salt.
  • For example if you made a 1/2 gallon (2 quart) batch of brine you would need 4 cups of vinegar, 4 cups of water (8 cups to a half gallon) and 1/2 cup of salt.
  • Store brine in your apple cider vinegar container and label as brine until ready to use.

Please let me know if you have any comments or questions!  Enjoy ~ Megan

How to Freeze Green Beans

How to Freeze Green Beans

Have lots of delicious green beans or yellow beans ready in the garden that you just cannot keep up with but do not want to see them wasted? Or do you have a farmer at your local farmers market that just grew the most flavorful green bean ever and you wanted to preserve them?  Here is how using a freezing method… it is simple and quick.  Lets get started!

Ingredients:

  • Green or yellow beans
  • Pint or Quart Freezer bags.  (We use pint since it is just the two of us, a pint will feed about 2-4, so adjust accordingly)

Directions:

First snip off the end (or both ends if desired) and snap beans to into desired chunks.  We usually snap in half or into thirds.  The day I did this we had picked both our green and yellow patch of beans.

freezer beans 1

Blanch for about 1 minute, a few extra seconds are ok, they should start to change color slightly the greens will look a bit greener and the yellows a bit more neonish.  What “blanch or blanching” means is to put the item of question in boiling water for the recommended amount of time.  We have a blanching pot which has a large strainer that is nested in but you can also use a metal strainer if one is big enough so the beans get immersed in boiling water for a minute.  See different pictures below of blanching process.

freezer beans 2

Once the minute is up, remove immediately, and immerse or dump the beans in to cold water.   Immersing in cold water stops the cooking process.  I usually just fill one side of my sink up with cold water and throw in some ice-cube so gets it good and cold, because those beans are very hot.  Once in the sink I swirl them with my hand a bit to ensure they cool down.

freezer beans 3

Once they have cooled a minute or two usually does the trick, scoop them out with your hand and put into a strainer.  Then I spread them out on a couple of non-lint dish towels or paper towel and let them air dry for an hour or so.  This minimizes the frost you will get in the freezer bag.

freezer beans 4

At this point if you have another batch to go into the blancher then repeat this process for the next round.  Once compete, and they have sat for an hour or so and dried some scoop desired amount with hand into your freezer bags.  To move the process along you can pat the beans dry, then scoop into your bag and freeze.  Then this fall, winter, or spring enjoy the fruits of your labor in soups, or as a side with corn flake chicken, salsa chicken, taco grande, pita bread dinner, etc.  We recommend dating the bags so you can ensure proper yearly rotation.

freezer beans 5

Tips:

  •  I never rinse my beans before freezing because the blanching and cold water immersion bath both act as a rinse, but an extra initial rinse won’t hurt if you are apprehensive.
  • Only fill the blanching strainer with enough beans so that they call get covered in the boiling water and the boiling water does not spill out as you add beans to blancher.  Usually we have to run 3 or 4 loads thru the blancher until all beans are done.
  • Each pint will hold about 0.4 – 0.5lbs of beans, so for example if you had 10 pounds of beans, you would net about 20-25 pint freezer bags.
  • HOW TO PREPARE:  To prepare the freezer beans this fall, winter, or spring simply add an inch of water into a sauce pan, dump beans in, cover, and boil until the bean are done to your liking.  Server with butter, salt, and pepper (optional but delicious).

Please let me know if you have any comments or questions!  Enjoy ~ Megan