Punkin Jam

Halloween came and went. It’s 2020 and COVID-19 took over. We made a few improvements to our homestead this year, including a new Frigidaire! We finally finished the bamboo flooring inside the house. We added more chickens to our flock, which had been attacked by coyotes, so we were left with only a few hens. Of course, there are ALWAYS projects to do on a homestead, even a tiny one like ours. Firewood to stack, chicken pen to build, decks to stain…. that TO DO list is endless. After a few years of struggle, I am thankful that we are able to get back to doing many of the homestead improvements we want.

Back to Halloween. While those improvements are setting into my planning for next spring and summer, we are rapidly approaching winter. Our favorite fall activities include visiting local farms, hay rides, going to our local agriculture fair, and Halloween trick-or-treating. Welp, none of THAT happened. Our daughter was able to go through our recreation department’s Spooky Walk in the woods with a friend, which is nice. Otherwise, the pandemic cancelled essentially everything else. Pumpkin carving was still on the agenda.

I bought four pumpkins this year, and only one of them ended up being carved. So, a few weeks after Halloween, I used one one of my mother’s favorite canning recipes: Punkin Jam. (This is literally how she wrote it on the label).

Wait… you used a carving pumpkin? But why not a pie pumpkin? I have never used a small pie pumpkin for this recipe; it has always been done with a full size carving pumpkin. In fact, I even munch on those big pumpkins raw! The white pumpkins, though even more difficult to find, are absolutely delectable, and my ideal choice when I make pumpkin curry. For the pumpkin jam, though… jack o’lantern pumpkin it is.

This is a recipe that has been made for… decades? by myself and my mother. But, here’s the catch: pumpkin is not really supposed to be canned in a boiling water bath. Risk of botulism and whatnot. (See note at end). “But that’s how we’ve always done it!” Yup. That is true. That doesn’t make it any less safe.

Granted, this recipe has a lot of sugar, and a decent amount of citric acid. I have never once had a “bad batch” or a jar that hinted of toxicity. That said, I’m sort of in the “better safe than sorry” mode with this pandemic business.

Enter Pressure Canner.

I’ve been relying on my Ball Blue Book guide to preserving for as long as I can remember. The thing is, I’ve never been able to make about half of the recipes because they require a Pressure Canner.

Now, I grew up a bit afraid of the idea of pressure canners. We never owned one, using only the boiling water canning method. Maybe there was the fear of the pressure canner exploding. (Did they actually do that?) Maybe it’s just less stressful to not have to manage a pressure gauge. Whatever the reason, pressure canning was just not in my experiences.

However, I’ve been doing A LOT of canning this year, and I wanted to do the pumpkin jam right. So I purchased a pressure canner. There aren’t too many choices when it comes to this device. There are two known brands: Presto and All American. Presto is the lower end brand, while All American is the higher end brand. I picked up a Presto 16 quart at my local Tractor Supply.


Basic Pressure Canner Steps

For canning jars, fill the canner to the first notch on the inside. Place the jars inside. Seal the lid. heat the water until the steam begins to come out.

When the pressure Top air vent pops up, place the pressure regulator weight on top of the steam vent. Once the weight is on the steam vent, the pressure will begin to raise. (This might take a few minutes). Increase heat to increase pressure, decrease heat to decrease or maintain pressure.

Once the desired pressure is reached, begin the processing timing. Watch the pressure gauge to make sure that is the maintained pressure, adjusting heat as needed.

Once the processing is done, remove the pressure canner from the heat. Don’t touch! Let it depressurize naturally, so don’t remove the weight, don’t try to open the lid. Just leave it be.

When the pressure is 0, the weight can be removed. Do NOT open the lid until the Top air vent is down. Even then, if the lid gives resistance, let the canner cool down more before opening. Safety first!


Pumpkin Jam Recipe

Yields 10 pints

INGREDIENTS

  • 5 pound pumpkin
  • 2 1/2 pounds sugar
  • 1/2 pound raisins
  • 1/2 pound apricots
  • 1 lemon, sliced thinly
  • 1 tablespoon fresh diced ginger
  • 1 teaspoon whole cloves
  • 1 teaspoon whole allspice
  • 2 sticks cinnamon

INSTRUCTIONS

This is a long process! It takes awhile to prep the cubes, the pumpkin and sugar needs to soak overnight, it takes time to cook down, and pressure canning is an involved step. Be prepared to commit time to this recipe.

Pare pumpkin and remove seeds. Cut pulp into 1″ cubes and place into a large bowl. Add sugar, mixing well. Allow to stand overnight.

Cut apricots into thin strips. Combine pumpkin, apricots, and raisins in a large pot. Place spices into a cheese cloth bag and tie to secure, then add to pot.

Cook slowly, stirring frequently, until the pumpkin is tender and translucent. Add lemon and ginger halfway.

Ladle jam into sanitized jars, secure lids, and process in a pressure canner at 11 pounds of pressure for 10 minutes.

Once pressure canner is opened, remove jars and allow to cool. Label “Punkin Jam” if desired. Listen for the lids to “pop” and check each lid to make sure it is sealed, then store in a cool, dark place.

Note: In 1989, USDA withdrew pumpkin canning recommendations from the Complete Guide to Home Canning after expert review. “The USDA processing recommendation for pumpkin and winter squash should only be used with squashes cut into 1-inch cubes. Pumpkin and winter squash are low-acid foods (pH>4.6) capable of supporting the growth of Clostridium botulinum bacteria which can cause the very serious illness, botulism, under the right storage conditions.” Can at your own discretion… Refer to this page for more information: https://nchfp.uga.edu/questions/FAQ_canning.html#36

The Boys The Boys!

Remember these adorable little doobers?

Well, they are all grown up! And TWO of them are roosters.

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And the lonesome little hen is in the middle.

We’ve named them. :/ The roo on the left is Copper. The hen is Jane Grey. The roo on the right is Hei Hei.

ONE of the roos has taken to crowing in the middle of the night. Granted, we’ve had the supercalifragilisticexpialidocious full moon lately, BUT.


In other news, I am SO ready for Spring. This winter (every winter, really) has been brutal. I hate winters. I want to get outside and grow things. And improve the coop. And sit around the firepit after dark. Alas, six more weeks. Thanks, woodchuck.

Jewelweed for Poison Ivy

A friend recently posted on Facebook that she was making some jewelweed spray. She filled a jar with fresh jewelweed and crushing it up, then added some witch hazel.

I thought – oh, hey! I have TONS of jewelweed! (I also have tons of poison ivy.)

There are other ways of making poison ivy relief with jewelweed. I’m not a great user of herbs and plants, so I don’t really know all the ways to infuse, extract, etc.

I washed mine, chopped it up, and put it in my blender with a little bit of water. I pureed the plant, then poured into ice cube trays to store in the freezer!

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Hatching Chicks

This summer was definitely more prolific than last summer. We had peas, beans, tomatoes, zucchini, and cucumbers grow very well. I canned watermelon pickles. We started our mushroom logs, which we need to try to force fruit soon. We built an in ground fire pit with a stone surround. But the highlight of the summer was the baby chicks!

We had a wyandotte go broody. Usually, we try to break our birds of their broodiness. But this time, we asked if anyone had any fertilized eggs for her to try to hatch. And a good neighbor did!! He brought over a handful of eggs, which he thought would be some kind of Ameraucana mix. The bird was able to successfully hatch out three eggs, and the chicks are all growing up and doing well!

I follow Lisa Steele on social media, and she has shared out her newest book to be released at the beginning of 2018: Let’s Hatch Chicks! an illustrated children’s book where the experience she had with her own chickens hatching and adding babies to the flock.

For awhile, we were concerned that maybe the eggs wouldn’t hatch. The hen had left them and then became trapped away from the eggs, so we thought maybe they had become too cold and had died. We candled them and could sort of tell there was something, so the hen got back to work. It was exciting to watch when they did actually hatch! I had picked up one of the eggs and tapped it, and could hear the ‘peep’ from inside. Soon enough, the chicks were pecking their way out. So cool!

Not all of the eggs did hatch. I think we had six eggs, and three of them hatched… which I consider a wonderous success! Each chick looks a little different: one is a darker grey, with a little bit of barred look to the feathers, one is a gorgeous light brown and grey combination, and the littlest chick is a soft ball of fluffy light grey. I can’t wait to see what they all grow up to look like!

Chicken count: 3 Barred Rock (hens), 4 Rhode Island Red (hens), 3 Golden Laced Wyandotte (hens), 3 chicks, breed unknown

Pests

Trying to plants peas in my (newly upgraded raised bed) garden, I was unrelentlessly attacked by black flies. They are terrible, mean, bitey things.

Black flies are particularly bad this year. I’ve been coating myself in bug spray to no avail.

Also, the mosquitoes are plentiful. In fact, I just found a mosquito *inside* my shirt. Jerk. (This Avon bug repellent does work against black flies, mosquitoes and ticks).

Wasps. A lot of wasps. Unfortunately, I am allergic to stinging insects so I can’t be the one clearing out nests.

AND… tent caterpillars. That’s right. These buggers are back.

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While these little crawlies are mostly harmless, and they do make a tasty snack for birds, they will contribute to diseases in the tree they are taking residence in. If you care about that tree (fruit trees, ornamentals that you paid big bucks for, etc.) then removing them is important.

Using gloved hands, pull the caterpillars and their webs out of the tree (if you can reach it!). Bag and then double bag for the trash, OR throw the nest on a fire to kill them. Then spray the affected tree with insecticidal soap.

Insecticidal soap.

Garden Safe organic brand is good. You can also make your own.

2% Dr. Bronner’s pure liquid castile soap

98% water

Mix around 1 tablespoon of liquid castile soap to 1 quart of water, or 4 tablespoons of soap to 1 gallon of water. DO NOT USE DISH SOAP!

Other, optional additions:

  • 2 tablespoons of cooking oil to help with adhesion to the plant; in hot sun, this might contribute to leaf burn, so use cautiously
  • 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar if the plant has powdery mildew issues
  • to prevent leaf chompy bugs, finely diced garlic clove

A Dollar and a Dream – of Eggs!

Our daughter wanted to color easter eggs. The dollar store had some egg coloring kits, so I picked up a couple.

We didn’t need to buy eggs. We literally have so many eggs…. we composted at least 3 dozen, sold another 7 and there are still 2 in the fridge. And another dozen probably in the coop. Girls are super laying like crazy.

(14 hens : 6 Rhode Island Red, 4 Barred Rock, 4 Golden Laced Wyandotte)

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And, we spent an evening of fun, coloring eggs!

I blow out my eggs, rather than boiling them. 1. It’s super easy, 2. You can keep the eggs for years!

To blow out eggs, take a raw egg and puncture both ends. I used a screw to do these. I do a “larger” end and a “smaller” end. Then I blow the egg out by putting the smaller end against my lips and blowing the yolk and egg white through the larger end. Then, rinse the eggs, running the water through the egg.

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The dye we used were the little dissolvable pellets. One came with cute little cups, and the other kit came with gold paint. They actually colored the brown eggs well!

Each egg needed some individual attention, to really get the right color. It took some time! But I think the result was a beautiful basket of colorful eggs. OK, so it cost me $2.

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Maple Sugaring

Tree tapping day!

It is currently 40° outside, despite the remaining foot + of snow on the ground. We thought today would be a good today to tap the maple trees. We are starting MICRO. We have three spiles and three buckets, and even though we id’d the maples last summer and made a map, that map is now gone, so we are *hoping* the trees we tapped are actually maples.

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Gotta admit… ZERO clue what we are doing. I’m usually confident in homesteading adventures, but maple sugaring is so very new to me, I have never done it, and I have no background knowledge whatsoever.

Wish us luck!

 

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Add Herbs Until It Looks Tasty

Another forecasted snow fall. Blizzard, they say, this time. 18″ to 2 feet? Ugh. At least it might help resolve our drought issues.

Sunday evenings are usually getting ready for the week, chores and roast chicken. Then, I use the chicken carcass to make bone broth for recipes during the week.

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Wash, pat dry, place pats of butter on top, sprinkle with poultry seasoning, bake at 350° until done. 

I also mix my own poultry seasoning. I don’t measure, I just add herbs until it looks tasty. I’m so precise. :/

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sea salt, black pepper, rosemary, sage, thyme, marjoram, and nutmeg

 

New Rabbit

Another snow fall. 12″ this time.

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I spent the day in the kitchen and clearing snow. For lunch, I made Moroccan carrot lentil swiss chard soup. I also made kale chips with the dehydrator, but it was my first attempt and I need to tweak the recipe.

The big adventures this week is our new rabbit. We saw that one of our local farms was selling some rabbits (for pets only – some farms do sell rabbits for meat) and this cutie just had to be ours. So we are learning how to be bunny parents. He’s currently 9 weeks old, he’s a Satin cross (though not sure what with). He loves greens and scares our kitten.

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Speaking of cats, (now 2 years old) escaped the house and run into the snow. Then he panicked, climbed a tree and started to howl until I rescued him.

While that was happening, we were trying to convince him to come back in using some treats. Well, the elder feline ate some of those treats and they make him sick (every time – we just don’t feed them to him but he snuck them). So, of course he vomits. I heated up some bone broth for him and he’s trying to soothe his kitty tummy with it now.

The chickens are just cranky because they couldn’t leave the coop today.

How To Make Bone Broth

I’ve been making bone broth. I used to think that Paleo, Gluten Free and similar diets were just a fad. Turns out, I was way wrong! These diets are specifically targeted for people that have specific medical issues. Allergies to gluten, Celiac’s, and auto-immune diseases are all medical reasons to go Paleo.

This is all very new to me, but basically I began showing symptoms of hypothyroid disease. Many people in my circle also have reasons to do a Gluten Free diet, and over the past year, the need for this switch has started to become more apparent.

I’d like to point out that the Paleo diet is useful for weight loss, but for me personally, weight loss was not the issue. For me it is addressing the inflammation, allergic reactions, fatigue and other auto immune related problems. I’m in the middle of an allergy complication right now, so I was extra motivated to make some healing foods.

Essentially, grains are hard to digest, offer very little in nutritional value, and can contribute to inflammation. The Paleo diet limits food options, and cuts out grains completely. In fact, it’s mostly just vegetables and meat (so not suitable for vegetarians/vegans). Add a teeny tiny bit of fruit to that, and that’s basically what you get to choose.

BONE BROTH is one of the good choices. I roast a chicken nearly every week (NOT one of my flock – we purchase our eating chickens), and making the chicken bone broth from the weekly chicken has been super easy. This week, I also picked up some beef bones to make beef bone broth. The high collagen content is supposedly great stuffs.

How to make bone broth

ROAST the meat! It is critical that the meat is roasted, in an oven and fully cooked before simmering.

Adding apple cider vinegar will help leach the nutrients from the bones. (I have actually added vinegar to my stocks pretty much my whole life, though I didn’t know why.)

Other than whatever spices were added during roasting, do not add any salt to the bone broth.

Add bones to a crock pot and cover with water. Simmer for a seriously long time. The chicken I left overnight (around 12 hours). The beef simmered in the crock pot for 48 hours.

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Strain out all the bones. The chicken meat leftovers I saved for my elder cat, who really benefits from a chicken diet. The beef bits I saved for a meal; maybe a hash or tacos?

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Store the bone broth in the refrigerator. It should gel, and a layer of fat will congeal on the top.

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Also, we got another snow storm, so my blog writing was interrupted with having to replace a shear pin on our snow blower so my  husband could clear the driveway of 4″ of fresh, heavy, wet snow.

Life on our Homestead in NH.

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