October 29, 2020

Random Shots: October

Time got away from me this month, and now, October is nearly over. Was it the same for you? Here's a round-up of random shots from my October photo folder that never made it into blog posts.







Goat check

Greens, preparation

Greens, cooked


Kudzu basket




Chickens, old

Chickens, new

Ground pine




Looks like we may get our first frost this weekend. Winter is on the way!

Random Shots: October © Oct 2020 by Leigh 

October 26, 2020

Reviews for The Sequel Are Starting to Pop Up and They're Good!

I had to interrupt my regularly scheduled blog post because reviews for 5 Acres & A Dream The Sequel are starting to pop up and they're encouraging!

One so far at Amazon, here.

And two at Permies.com, one here and one here.

Any author will tell you that after pouring their heart and soul into their work, they hope against hope for good reviews. That's what gets the word out. Most of us (especially Indie authors) ask, beg, and plead for people to write reviews. But for whatever reason, folks are rarely willing to write them. So that means that the reviews I do get, are all the more exciting and precious to me! 

These reviews also encourage me to keep writing. They tell me that I have something interesting and useful to offer. That the hours, weeks, and months I put into it have been well spent. It's like getting comments on blog posts. What blogger doesn't like getting comments? Every comment is an encouragement!

Anyway, I'm excited so I had to share. I hope you'll take a few minutes to read them. I'll be back to regularly scheduled blog posts next time. 

October 23, 2020

Elderberries for the Natural Medicine Cabinet

For the past couple of months, I've been working on late summer and autumn harvested herbs to fill my herbal medicine cabinet. One of those is elderberry (Sambucus); actually a fruit with medicinal properties. It's well-known for it's healing support for colds and flu.

August was my month to harvest the berries. I was thrilled that my berry nets worked and I harvested so many clusters of elderberries. 

I froze quite a few and dehydrated some too. Of the fresh berries, I made two preparations: elderberry vinegar and elderberry tincture.

Herbal vinegars are nice because they can be used as culinary vinegars: as salad dressing, in cooking, marinade, switchel, etc., or wherever vinegar is called for. Yet they contain the medicinal goodness of the herb. They're also very easy to make. 

Fill a jar about ¾ full of fresh elderberries and cover completely with your choice of vinegar. The vinegar should cover the berries with about an inch to spare. Give the jar a shake once a day or so.

Compare the photos above and below. Above is freshly made, below is about a week later. You can see the color change in the vinegar.

It's stored in a cool dark place for a minimum of two weeks. I made a quart and strained out the first pint after two weeks. 

I'll strain the rest after we use up the first. 

I also made elderberry tincture. It has a longer shelf life than the vinegar, and is used for medicinal dosing. I finally strained it the other day. You can read how I make an herbal tincture, here.

Squeezing the berries with a wine press.

One other preparation folks like to make is elderberry syrup. I thought about it, but it has a shorter shelf life than either the vinegar or tincture. I wasn't sure we could consume it in a timely manner, so I didn't make it for now. I figure I can always do it later from my frozen berries. 

Of the frozen berries I'll make jelly this winter (a favorite). And who knows, maybe I'll try my hand at elderberry wine(?) I certainly have an abundance to experiment with.

October 19, 2020

How To Can Brats, Kielbasa, & Smoked Sausage

Canned sausages like this are one of my absolute favorite home-canned convenience foods. Go into the pantry, grab a jar, heat 'em and eat 'em. A meal doesn't get any quicker than that. The other day, I found 19-ounce packages of these sausages for $2.95 each at my favorite discount grocery store.

Now, I know some folks assume discount groceries are either outdated, dented, or busted packages and cans. Sometimes, but less often than you think. How's that? As a retired truck driver's wife, let me tell you about something that goes on in the food distribution world behind the consumer scenes.

Food is generally shipped and delivered on shrink-wrapped pallets. That makes it easy to move large quantities with a forklift. However, if the pallet has been damaged in any way: maybe a small dent in one corner of the pallet or one box of cereal got punctured, then the entire pallet is rejected. Often, the entire pallets-worth (even the undamaged stuff) gets thrown into a dumpster. Sometimes, it's donated to food banks or auctioned off to discount grocery stores. (This kind of waste isn't just with food. If you want to hear about the ludicrous waste that goes on in manufacturing, ask a truck driver!)

I have no idea about these packages of brats and Italian sausage, but they were intact, not expired, and had been frozen.

Canning these is super simple. They must be pressure canned, with wide-mouth jars being the easiest to work with. They can be canned whole or sliced into chunks.

We like whole ones on brat buns. For those, I like four per jar.

There are two reasons for this. One is practical. It's a good number for just two people. The second is for safety. Because I'm canning a dense (thick) item, I need plenty of space between the sausages to make sure they are all heated properly in the pressure canner.

Five packages gave me six quarts of sausage with one left over. As an afterthought, I wondered why I didn't get six packages so I could can seven quarts (a full canner load), but at the time it was more about making sure my food dollars stretched to cover everything on my shopping list. As it is, that lone sausage was cooked and diced to add to scrambled eggs.

Another option is to cut the sausages into slices or chunks before adding to the jars.

A quart jar can hold five sausages if they're cut like this. They aren't packed down, just loose to allow for heat circulation during the canning process. I can add these to spaghetti and meatballs, or serve with rice.

Raw meat requires no liquid be added to the jar.

This is because it cooks as it cans and makes its own broth. If I was canning cooked sausages (or any cooked meat), I would add liquid to each jar according to instructions for headspace.

Quart jars of meat require 90 minutes in the pressure canner at whatever pressure is recommended for your altitude. Your canner's manufacturer's directions will give step-by-step details of the process. Generally, steam is vented for ten minutes prior to letting the pressure build up. Processing time starts from whenever the correct pressure is reached.

Canned whole brat sausages.

Canned Italian sausage chunks.

So there we are. What about you? What's your favorite home preserved convenience food?

October 18, 2020

Blogger's Custom Theme Settings

Warning! Don't mess with Blogger's custom theme settings. I just tried to change the background image on my blog and they shrank the full-size photo I uploaded down to a teeny thumbnail and stuck it in the upper left-hand corner. They want you to tile it, which looks terrible. So I picked one of their generic backgrounds and lost my blog's unique look. The other consequence is the blacked out date of the post. Not sure where that came from because there's no setting to change that. 

If their goal is to take the fun out of blogging, they're certainly succeeding.