How to Dehydrate Yellow Squash

The squash have taken over my garden! It's beginning to look a little like Jumanji because the butternut and yellow squash have just gone crazy! We've eaten tons of it, gave away tons of it and there's still tons of squash left! I guess I could freeze some, but my freezer is getting pretty full. So I decided to dehydrate some of these never-ending vegetables to use this winter in soup.

I used to dehydrate the old-fashioned way by drying vegetables on a screen. But thanks to the Farmer (my loving husband!) I now have a fancy electric dehydrator!  This modern machine sure does make the dehydrating process a lot easier and faster.

Dehydrating is a great way to use up those giant squash that somehow end up in our gardens. Just slice them in half and scoop out the seeds. Then chop and dice the squash. Next you'll need to blanch the chopped squash in boiling water for 3 minutes.

Drain and place evenly on the dehydrator trays. 

Dehydrate at 130 degrees for 10 hours. The squash is done when it is crispy. 

Store in mason jars or use a Food Saver to vacuum seal. 

Another option is to cut the squash into thin slices (1/8 inch) and sprinkle with sea salt and dehydrate at 130 degrees until crispy. Yum!  

Pressure Canning Potatoes!

Canned potatoes are an absolute must in my cellar. I love the convenience of being able to grab a jar of potatoes off the shelf to heat up as a side dish or add to a roast. I recently bought 30 pounds of potatoes on sale and couldn't wait to get them in the pressure canner!  Since potatoes are in the low acid category, they do require pressure canning as opposed to water bath. 

I'm going to share my method of canning potatoes, however, be sure to follow the instructions specific to your own pressure canner.  I also highly recommend the "Ball Blue Book of Canning".

First, prepare the jars by sterilizing them. This can be done in the dishwasher or by putting the jars in boiling water for 10 minutes. Prepare the lids by placing in almost-boiling water for about 5 minutes.

Now get a large pot of water boiling. This water will be used to fill the jars after packing in the potatoes. 

Rinse out your pressure canner and put about 4 inches of water in it and put on the stove over low heat to get the canner heated up. (of course, check your canner instructions just in case they are different.)

And get yet another large pot of water boiling on the stove. This water will be used to blanch the potatoes.

Wash the potatoes. Peel the potatoes and remove any discolored spots.

Cut the potatoes into cubes about 1 1/2 to 2 inches in size. As your cutting them up put them in a bowl filled with water and about a cup of lemon juice. This is to keep the potatoes from turning brown. When you're finished cutting up the potatoes, drain them. 

Next pour the potatoes into the large pot of boiling water and cook for 2 minutes. Be careful not to cook too long or your potatoes will be mushy. After 2 minutes, drain and pack the potatoes into the jars leaving 1 inch of "headspace", the space needed for expansion during canning process. 

Now you're ready to use the other pot of water to fill the potato-packed jars with hot water. The potatoes should be covered with water and still leave a 1 inch headspace. Wipe off the rims of the jar with a clean cloth. Put the lids and rings on the jars snugly. 

Place the filled jars into the pressure canner using a jar grabber. Put the lid on the canner but leave the weight off.

Let the canner vent for 10 minutes. After the 10 minutes, place the weight on and let the pressure build to 11 pounds. With my canner, the weight begins to shake when the pressure has built. Process for 35 minutes.

When the processing time is done, turn off heat and allow the canner to cool and the pressure drop before opening the canner. It may take 45 minutes to an hour for the pressure to drop. DO NOT try to speed up the cooling process! Opening the canner too soon may cause liquid to be lost from the jars.

After the pressure has dropped, lift the jars out of the canner using the jar grabber and place on a wooden cutting board or a towel to cool in a draft-free area. Be careful not to bump the jars together. When the jars have cooled, usually overnight, check to make sure they have sealed. To do this, just press the center of the lid gently with your finger, if it pops up and down the jar did not seal. If this happens, place in refrigerator and consume right away. If the lid doesn't pop up and down then the jar sealed correctly!

What's so great about canned potatoes is that they are already cooked so all you have to do is open a jar, heat them up and they're ready to eat! So convenient and so delicious!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Over-Ripe Bananas? Make Banana Bread!

Have you ever noticed that nobody ever wants to eat that last banana? You know, the one that has a few too many brown spots on it. Well, at our house, I just toss that poor ugly banana in the freezer and when I'm in the baking mood (which is just about all the time!) I dig out those frozen brown bananas and bake banana bread! 

Today not only was in the baking mood, but I also had an abundance of eggs (and frozen bananas) that needed to be used as well. So I grabbed those pitiful bananas from the freezer and grabbed one of my favorite cookbooks and one my favorite aprons and started baking!

This recipe is super easy and uses basic ingredients that are sure to be in your pantry. 

Don't let outward appearance fool you! These bananas are still delicious!

Don't let outward appearance fool you! These bananas are still delicious!

Banana Bread

  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 ripe bananas
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • nuts (optional)

Beat egg, sugar and melted butter together. 

Use a fork to mash the bananas.

Sift flour, salt and baking soda together and add to the above mixture.

Pour batter into greased loaf pan or two greased mini-loaf pans.

Bake at 375 degrees for about 45 minutes or until inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Enjoy freshly baked, place in a ziploc bag or vacuum seal with a Food Saver to put in the freezer to serve another day! I baked 8 mini-loaves that may end up in the freezer to take to the Farmer's Market next week! 

 

 

Homemade Elderberry Syrup!

The elderberries are just about ready to harvest and they are plentiful this year! I suppose you could make elderberry jam or elderberry wine with these berries, but my favorite way to use elderberries is to make elderberry syrup! Elderberry syrup is a natural remedy for colds and flu. It’s easy to make, inexpensive and effective!

Naturally high in immune boosting compounds, the dried berries of the elderberry plant (sambucis nigra) are known to help prevent colds and flu.  It is also beneficial in speeding the recovery of those who already have the flu. The berries contain high levels of antioxidants, vitamin A, B, and C which all help to stimulate the immune system.

The other ingredients also provide needed benefits to the syrup. Cloves have natural antiseptic and germicidal properties that help fight infection. Ginger root has been noted to have healing properties and cinnamon is a powerful anti-viral and anti-bacterial. And of course, honey, gives the immune system a boost as well.

Mix these all things together and you have a natural way to prevent and treat colds, flu, and sore throats!

HOW TO MAKE HOMEMADE ELDERBERRY SYRUP:

INGREDIENTS:

2/3 cup elderberries

3 1/2 cups water

2 TBSP ginger root

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp clove

1 cup raw honey

Pour water, elderberries, ginger, cinnamon and clove into sauce pan. Bring water to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to simmer for 45 minutes. Then pour through strainer into glass jar or bowl. Discard the elderberries and let liquid cool until just warm.  Add honey and stir well. Store in glass jar in refrigerator.

For prevention, it is recommended that adults take 1/2 to 1 tablespoon daily. Children (not recommended for children under age 1 due to the honey), 1/2 to 1 teaspoon daily.  If someone already has the flu increase the normal daily dose to every 2-3 hours. My family also increases dosage at first signs of sore throat, cough, etc.

Easy Blackberry Pie!

This year's blackberry crop has been amazing! I've canned plenty of blackberry jam, put quarts and quarts in the freezer, given some away, baked cobblers and pies, and we're still picking blackberries!

Blackberry picking will always hold a special place in my heart. As a child, I would walk the railroad tracks in Menfro (our little hometown) and pick blackberries with my Grandma Bea. She loved picking blackberries! And she loved baking blackberry pies!

Being a grandma myself now, I love picking blackberries and I love baking blackberry pie (of course, I love eating blackberry pie too!)!  Perhaps those childhood memories are the reason behind my love of these summertime berries and I hope to pass a little of that happiness on to my grandchildren.  

This blackberry pie recipe is easy and so delicious you'll enjoy making it almost as much as eating it!

INGREDIENTS:

4-5 cups blackberries (fresh or frozen)

1/2 cup flour

1/2 cup white sugar

2 Tbsp milk

1/4 cup white sugar

2 NEVER-FAIL PIE CRUSTS

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Mix flour and 1/2 cup sugar in bowl. Add 3 1/2 to 4 cups blackberries and stir. Spoon the blackberry mixture into pie crust. Sprinkle remaining 1/2 to 1 cup berries on top of the mixture. Cover with another whole pie crust or cut pie crust into strips to make a lattice top. Brush top crust with milk and sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup sugar. Bake 15 minutes then reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees and bake another 20 minutes. The crust will be a light golden brown when finished. 

Can't you just taste it? My Farmer sure was happy to see two of these delights cooling on the kitchen counter when he came in from the fields! One for our family and one to share with the neighbors! 

P.S. If you have any extra crust dough left make a simpler version of Blatz Kuchen (a German sweet treat)! Just roll the dough out and place on a cookie sheet and cut into strips. Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar and bake for about 5-8 minutes until light golden brown. My children and grandchildren love this easy little treat and even the Farmer will take a bite or two as he waits patiently for the pie to bake.

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Make the Perfect Pie Crust!

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Yes, I'm guilty of buying frozen pie crusts. In the past. If I didn't have a store-bought crust in the freezer, I didn't bake a pie. What was I thinking?!?! I just assumed that making your own pie crusts had to be difficult. Then one day I decided to try the "Never Fail Pie Crust" recipe that I had copied out of a church cookbook years ago. 

 

 I was skeptical. (Seriously, you're talking about a lady that had Jello fail). But much to my disbelief, my crust turned out perfect the very first time I tried the recipe! Beginner's luck? Nope. Every single time I use this recipe the pie crusts are beautiful! So I suppose the recipe is worthy of it's name. Trust me, once you try this recipe you'll never want to buy frozen pie crusts again! They're easy to make and so delicious!

NEVER FAIL PIE CRUST

Ingredients:

3 cups pie & pastry flour

1 tsp salt

1 cup lard (or shortening)

6 TBSP water

1 tsp white vinegar

1 beaten egg

Cut shortening into flour and salt. Mix water, vinegar and egg together. Add to flour mixture.  Mix by pressing firmly together. Roll out on slightly floured surface.

This recipe usually make two thick crusts or three regular crusts for me. If I'm needing one crust, I simply place the remaining crusts in a ziploc bag and freeze for future use.  

Now, that you have the recipe for making the perfect pie crust, be sure to check out my post on making blackberry pie! Yum!

 

Homemade Herbal Allergy Tea!

homemade herbal allergy tea

Warm weather is finally here! Unfortunately, for some folks that also means allergy season is here too. Sneezing, itchy eyes, runny nose and watery eyes are just a few of the symptoms of seasonal allergies. Do you suffer from allergies? Are you looking for a natural alternative to help relieve those irritating allergy symptoms? Look no further! Relief could be just a cup of tea away!

Herbal teas are easy to make and offer wonderful therapeutic benefits. This Allergy Relief Tea recipe uses common herbs and brings results from allergy symptoms rather quickly.

Nettle, Red Clover, Fennel, Peppermint, Calendula, Lemongrass, Lavender and Stevia are the herbs included in this tea and are readily available in most areas. Growing or foraging for your own herbs is the best way to insure you’re getting quality herbs. Drying your fresh herbs is easy too. Either hang to dry, place on a screen to dry or use a dehydrator!

Each herb in this recipe has specific properties that help with eliminating allergy symptoms.

  • Fennel, Calendula and Red Clover work to keep the mucous membranes hydrated to prevent infection
  • Nettle is well-known for the natural antihistamine qualities it has and has been used in treating respiratory problems throughout history
  • Peppermint can help to open airways
  • Lavender can help to prevent infection with due to the antiseptic properties
  • Lemongrass and Stevia can be added to enhance the flavor of the tea

Medicinal teas should be prepared as a strong decoction (which just a fancy word for really, really strong tea!). Therefore, for an 8 oz. cup of tea, use about 2 tablespoons of each herb. My favorite way to brew this tea is in a mason jar using 4 to 5 tablespoons per quart of water.

When using a mason jar, just put your herbs in the jar and pour boiling water over herbs. Cover with lid and place in refrigerator overnight. In the morning, strain the herbs and enjoy your tea throughout the day.

To brew on the stove, bring water to boil, add herbs, cover with lid and let steep for 10-20 minutes. Strain herbs and enjoy your tea! To obtain the best relief for your allergy symptoms, drink about 32 ounces of this tea each day during allergy season.

Don’t have all of the herbs? No problem! Each herb can be brewed by itself to bring some relief. For example, the Nettle Leaf is a great antihistamine when brewed alone. A tea blend of Nettle, Peppermint and Lavender is also a tasty combination that provides results as well.

Spring is here….but sneezing, itchy eyes, runny nose and watery eyes no longer have to be a part of the season! Relax, enjoy a cup of tea, and enjoy the outdoors without having to suffer with those annoying allergy symptoms!

 

Weather Wisdom

In like a lion and out like a lamb. Rain before seven, quits by eleven. Rainy May dry July. Many of these bits of weather wisdom passed down from generation to generation are surprisingly accurate. By observing weather patterns and conditions, those before us gained a wealth of information on how to predict the weather rather well.  

Before modern technology and the 24 hour weather channel, folks needed to figure out for themselves what type of weather was on the way. The following is a list of some of the traditional sayings of yesteryear gathered by our ancestors:

RAIN

  • When the sugar maple leaves turn over, a rain shower is on the way
  • Clover leaves will turn up just before a rain
  • When the full moon is pale on rising, rain can be expected
  • A halo around the moon means rain, the bigger the halo the sooner the rain
  • If the sun comes out while it’s raining, it will rain the next day
  • A morning rainbow is a sign of rain
  • If a dog eats grass in the morning and shuns meat, rain is coming
  • When grass is dry in the morning light, look for rain before the night. When dew is on the grass, rain will never come to pass.
  • Watch for rain when distant sounds are long and sharp
  • When cattle extend their necks and sniff the air, rain will come
  • Rain long foretold long last, Short notice soon past
  • If cattle out at pasture recline early in the day, rain is on the way
  • When the stars begin to huddle, the earth will soon become a puddle
  • If the rooster goes crowing to bed, he’ll wake up with a watery head

 

STORMS

  • When a cow bellows three times without stopping a storm is on the way
  • A growing whiteness in the sky, storm approaching
  • A solitary crow in flight means bad weather
  • A halo around the sun means bad weather will come
  • Stormy weather is on the way if ants move in columns
  • Flies bite before a storm
  • When a bird stops singing, listen for thunder
  • Red sky in the morning is usually a storm warning
  • When cattle and horses stay in close groups, a storm is coming
  • When sun dogs (little halo type rainbows that peak from behind clouds) appear after fine weather, stormy weather will follow
  • Evening red and morning gray send the traveler on his way. Evening gray and morning red brings rain down on his head.
  • Rainbow at night, shepherd’s delight, Rainbow in morning, shepherd’s warning
  • Sounds traveling far and wide, a stormy day will betide

FAIR WEATHER

 

  • Rainbow in the evening says fair weather will follow
  • Soft fluffy clouds says fine weather on the way
  • Red evening and morning gray are sure signs of a fine day
  • If fireflies are plentiful, fair weather will follow for 3 days
  • When horses and mules roll in the dirt and shake off, dry weather is here
  • Steady rising barometer means fair weather
  • Red sky in the morning is the sailor’s sure warning, Red sky at night is the sailor’s delight
  • Wind from the west brings fine weather

SIGNS OF SPRING AND SUMMER

  • Thunderstorms that come before 7am in April and May foretell a wet summer
  • If ants build small hills, it will be a hot and dry summer
  • If the hay in the fields lean to the northeast, summer will be hot and long
  • When trees split their bark in the winter, it will be a hot, dry spring

The Farmer’s Almanac is full of weather wisdom and is an essential resource to have on every homestead. I pick one up every year at Buchheit along with their calendar. In addition, a rain gauge and an outdoor thermometer are must-haves on our farm. We use the calendar to document each day’s weather and then refer back to this information to help forecast what’s ahead. Instead of depending solely on technology to find out if rain is coming, keep an eye on the sky and take note of the signs that nature is giving you to predict the weather!