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The DIY Life: Habanero Pickled Eggs

2 Oct

Having backyard chickens means that there are times when we are buried in fresh eggs. Right now, the chickens are still laying pretty regularly, but the time is looming when the days get shorter and cooler and the girls will slow down production. So, while eggs are plentiful, I decided to pickle some. Beet eggs are usually the type that people are most familiar with. Since I’m limited in what I can do in the kitchen since I have no countertops, I decided to do a simple pickled egg and make it spicy. I made some jalapeno pickled eggs last year, but they really lacked the heat I was looking for. We grew habanero peppers in the garden this year, and they’ve done well. So I decided to use those for the heat factor. In 7 days, you’ll have nicely pickled eggs with a heat that varies. These are great to have on hand for a flavorful boost of protein, or to have out as a snack for guests with assorted meats and cheeses.

Habanero Pickled Eggs

Habanero Pickled Eggs

18 hard boiled eggs, peeled

3 cups vinegar

3 cups water

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon dill

1/2 teaspoon celery seed

1 tablespoon pickling spice

6 cloves of garlic, mashed and roughly chopped into chunks

4 habanero peppers, tops trimmed off

 

Add all your ingredients (except the eggs) to a large pot and bring to a boil. Once boiled, remove from heat, stir and let sit to cool slightly.

Add your eggs to a heat safe glass container – I used a 1/2 gallon mason jar.

Pour the brine over the eggs until the container is almost full. Be sure to get the peppers, garlic and any pickling spices from the brine into the jar so that they can continue to flavor. You will have extra brine, but that is ok.

Add the lid to your jar and let cool for about an hour, then place in the fridge for 7 days to allow the mixture to pickle. Shake the jar each day to get the seasonings, spices and peppers to move around and flavor your eggs evenly.

After 7 days, your eggs are pickled and you can enjoy them!

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The DIY Life: Canning your own fresh made pasta sauce – Tomato Basil

13 Sep

I realized when looking into my freezer, stuffed to the gills with bags of frozen garden tomatoes, that I had never posted the recipe for Tomato Basil sauce last year. Then I looked at my drafts and confirmed it. And I’m thinking, hmmm….we are coming up on the end of tomato season here in Pa, with the last bushels available for purchase at the local farms thinning out and thought ya, I should probably post that recipe. You know, as a reminder to folks who want to can some sauce to get their hands on some tomatoes…and those who have tomatoes get canning! Below is my original, forgotten about post from Tomatopalooza of 2012. Tomatopalooza of 2013 hasn’t happened yet, so I don’t know what my sauce yield will be. I still have some sauce on the shelf, so I’m not in a huge hurry to get on canning sauce. Plus, I’m waiting for hubs to hook me up with an outdoor propane stove so I can can on the deck under the the open sky. *hint hint hubs*

Enjoy the post from the past!

 

Tomatopalooza continued – this round consisted of a basic pasta sauce with simple flavorings so that it can be canned and stored for later use. With the surplus of tomatoes I have in the freezers, I needed to get a head start on making pasta sauce. We don’t eat TONS of pasta anymore because of the heaviness of it and the fact that it packs on pounds unless you are planning to run a marathon – so pasta becomes a special treat instead of a weekly meal. But I wanted to stop having to buy canned pasta sauce. I have become a huge fan of being able to look at a the jars on my shelf and be able to recite – and pronounce – all of the ingredients, regardless of the jar. And gifting someone a jar of something I made from scratch is so fulfilling. People are so appreciative of something, anything in a mason jar. And canning makes me feel proud and empowered. In control of my food source. It also makes me feel in touch with my family history because my Bubba was the canning icon in our family. Sadly, she passed away when I was only 7 so she never got to share her wisdom with me but I can feel her in the things I do.

This batch of sauce was something I spread out over 2 days. Since all my tomatoes were frozen, I thawed them in a HUGE pot over the next two nights, draining off any of the water that seeped out of the tomatoes (this made the cooking down process much faster!) and piling more in as the tomatoes settled and squished down. Out of roughly 40lbs of tomatoes, I ended up with 8 quarts + 6 pints of sauce. It wasn’t super thick like some of the commercially produced sauces but it was a nice consistency. We had some for dinner and with it being just a basic tomato sauce I added spinach, ricotta cheese, some salt and some cooked sausage. It was great!

I have linked to the original post on the Ball canning site for those of you wanting to not do such a huge batch of sauce. Me, I can’t help but do everything in bulk!

Basil Garlic Tomato Sauce

Adapted from Ball Canning

Yield: will vary depending on how long you cook the tomatoes and what type you use. 

2012 yield: 8 quarts 6 pints

40lbs frozen tomatoes – preferably Roma’s

2 cups chopped Vidalia onion

16 cloves garlic, minced

¼ – ½ cup dried basil

Citric acid or bottled lemon juice – refer to canning book for amounts based on jar size

Canning jars, lids and bands – sterilized and hot according to proper canning methods.

The day before cooking sauce, thaw your tomatoes in the pot you will be cooking them in. Drain off any “water” that seeps out of the tomatoes. Add your onion, garlic and basil to the pot. Use a potato masher to break up the frozen tomatoes. Cook until everything is boiling and onion is soft.

Strain the mixture through a food mill to remove seeds and skins. (At this point, you may put the strained sauce into the fridge and cook down another day)

Cook the strained mixture down until reduced by half for a thin sauce.

Add your citric acid/bottled lemon juice to each jar according to size. Fill with sauce to 1 inch headspace. Add to PRESSURE CANNER and process for 15 minutes for both pints and quarts at 11lbs of pressure, adjusting for your altitude.

No pressure canner, or you’re scared of it? You can process jars in a water bath canner as well: 35 minutes for pints

Let cool on counter for 24 hours. Remove bands and wipe down jars and store in a cool dark place for up to 1 year. Any jars that did not seal can either be reprocessed or stored in the fridge for use.

***Follow all canner directions for both pressure and water bath***

The DIY Life: Fermenting your own Kombucha Tea. Part 1

1 Jul

Good things come from fermentation – pickles, wine, beer, kraut. But who would have thought tea? I know I didn’t. Until I heard a friend talking about brewing up her own Kombucha. The short of the process is you brew up some tea, sweeten it, add the SCOBY to the cooled sweet tea, cover with a clean cotton cloth and let sit for 7-21 days to ferment. The longer you let it ferment, the stronger the tea. Drink a little of the tea each day for the health benefits. The health benefits are wide and don’t really have a whole lot of documented proof because Kombucha tea is not evaluated by the FDA. I think it’s pretty refreshing to have a  jelly jar full each morning or evening.

A SCOBY is a Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria & Yeast. They are also known and kombucha mushrooms, Mother, Baby or plain old kombucha.

Why did I decide to start brewing some? Because it DOES contain probiotics, like those found in yogurt. Probiotics are good for you. They help keep the good bacteria in your body from going all wild. Here is a great article over at Kombucha Camp if you want to see more of the purported benefits of drinking Kombucha.  Since I have only been drinking it for a couple of months, I can’t confirm or deny any of the implied benefits. However, I like the taste and the process of making it is so easy that I can’t find a reason to NOT make it. So far I made a batch up with black tea and let it ferment for only 7 days. I wanted to see how it tasted at that point. At the 7 day mark, the tea was slightly carbonated and still sweet. My next batch was a green tea, and I let that one ferment for 10 days. It was a lot milder in flavor over the black tea I had from the first batch, and was a teeny bit more carbonated and tangy. Batch 3 I went back to black tea and let ferment for 15 days. The carbonation was pretty good, with a nice flow of small champagne like bubbles. It had a bit more zing to the taste. I think 7 days will continue to be my max first fermentation time for right now, until I get a little more adventurous.

The longer that you let the tea ferment, the more pronounced vinegar flavor it takes on. I like vinegar, but I don’t want to drink it. If for some reason I forgot about my tea, and the flavor was more vinegar like than I could handle, it can easily be saved and used AS vinegar – in dressings and what not.

Below is a basic recipe for Kombucha, for a single fermentation process. You can do a double fermentation, where after the first round you remove the SCOBY and ferment with a fruit or flavoring. I’ll be doing a follow-up post on how to do the second fermentation.

Since the Kombucha is fermented, there is a low percentage of ABV – the highest I’ve seen is 1%. So no, you can’t get drunk off of it. It does have a very slight booze taste when you first take a sip, because of the little bubbles and the whole fermenting process. But you are fine.

And please, don’t freak out about the sugar content. The sugars are for the SCOBY, not for you. The SCOBY will eat the sugars, which are what causes your brew to ferment. There will still be SOME sweetness to your finished brew, but it won’t be like the overly sweet tea you started with.

Tips

* If you don’t have a friend who brews their own Kombucha and can hook you up with a SCOBY, be sure to purchase one from a reputable supplier. Kombucha Camp does sell them as well as kits.

* NEVER allow any metal to come in contact with your SCOBY. Contact with metal will kill it. Nobody wants to have “SCOBY killer” as their nickname.

* NEVER use organic teas. They will cause the brew to grow mold and you will have to throw everything out.

* Don’t worry if your SCOBY sinks or is sideways. It will float back to the top of the container and right itself. This usually happens if the SCOBY and tea are not at the same room temp. No biggie.

* DISTILLED WATER ONLY. Just suck it up and spend the $0.88 on a gallon of the stuff. Don’t use tap, whatever you do. Just don’t.

* Don’t be sloppy with your sanitation skills. Make sure all jars and containers are clean. You wouldn’t want to eat dinner off of a dirty plate, so don’t use dirty utensils for brewing!

* NEVER store your SCOBY in the fridge.

* Share your baby SCOBY’s with others! Be sure to include some of your finished Kombucha tea/Mother with the baby so they can get their own brew going on.

* Too many SCOBY’s from brewing tons of Kombucha? Toss extras or old SCOBY’s into your compost pile. They are good for your garden.

 

Ingredients:

2 cups sugar – I use Zulka Pure Cane GMO free 

4-6 tea bags

1 SCOBY + 1 cup Mother (starter tea)

8-10 cups distilled water

Tools:

Large glass container (I use this 1 gallon mason jar, minus the lid)

Tea towel

Rubber band

Large pot

 

In a large pot, bring your water to a boil. Add your tea bags and let steep for 10 minutes. Add your sugar and stir until dissolved.

Let your sweetened tea cool to room temperature.

In large glass container, add your room temperature sweetened tea. To the sweetened tea, add the starter tea. Gently place your SCOBY into the jar, letting if float on top.

Cover the top of your jar with a clean flour sack/tea towel that is secured with a rubber band. This will let your tea breathe and ferment, while keeping out bugs. Place your jar in a dark corner of your house out of direct sunlight and let sit, undisturbed for at least 7 days.

At 7 days, remove your SCOBY and 1 cup of the freshly fermented kombucha. Store in a ziplock bag or jar until you are ready for your next round of brewing. If you have a second “baby” SCOBY, separate it from the Mother SCOBY and store with another cup of Kombucha to give to friends. I always keep 2 SCOBY’s on hand, in case something happens to the original.

To store your finished tea, strain the tea through cheese cloth to remove any of the stringiness that happens when you brew Kombucha. You do not have to strain the tea if you don’t want to. Store in a gallon sized glass jar in the fridge, or pint/quart mason jars for easily portable drinking.

Enjoy daily, and get started brewing your second batch!

The DIY Life: Healing Salve

19 Jun

Every so often I make something from scratch and think, hmmm….I MAY need an intervention. And then I take a moment to gather my thoughts and realize, nope, I’m good. Making this healing salve was one of those ohmygoshwhatthehellamidoing!!! moments. BUT – why aren’t MORE people doing stuff like this? I mean, it was simple enough. And people were making their own medicines and salves long before traditional medicine came into play. Don’t get me wrong. I am glad we have hospitals that can heal us, where they perform surgery under sedation, not where they give you a bottle of booze, then cut at you until you pass out like back in the day. Whew. But still. There is something to be said for the healing powers of natural things. Things found in nature, not created in a lab. Enter in this healing salve. It’s simple enough to make, with quality ingredients easily found on the world wide web (see below for links to small businesses I purchase from). This salve is anti-microbial, anti-bacterial, moistening, and soothing. And, it’s all natural. The ingredients are simple – coconut oil, olive oil, dried comfrey, dried calendula, beeswax, honey, and lavender oil. That is it.

This took me about 30 minutes total – with roughly 10 of that hands on. EASY. Mine turned out slightly darker than MrsHappyHomemakers, I’m guessing because my olive oil was a lot greener than hers. I had some baby food jars that I had originally set aside for another craft but decided to use them to store this salve. The recipe was enough for 2 jars. I’m looking forward to seeing what it does in the long term for any wounds. I put some on a cut that was already healing and it felt nice on my skin and softened the rough edges of it. After I finish are jar I’ll decide whether to make another batch!

homemade neo

Click HERE for the recipe, as well as details on what each of the ingredients does!

I purchased my herbs and lavender oil from Ancient Indigo Herbs. Get your own here. Fast shipping, and quality products.

Beeswax purchased from Mill Creak Honey. Get your own here. Fast shipping of an unfiltered great quality beeswax. I purchased one pound just to have it around for future recipes!

The DIY Life: Homemade Sweet Cream Coffee Creamer

14 Jun

I’m slacking lately on the posts. Between the garden, weekend obligations, and a ginormous amount of work, ain’t nobody got time for blogging. But before my anniversary camping trip, I decided to grace you all with an easy to do from scratch post.

The hubs and I love to have a morning cup of coffee, english breakfast tea or chai tea. Something about a warm beverage jest feels like it helps to slowly melt away your sleepiness and get you ready for the day! That being said, when you have two people drinking a cup of coffee on average 5 days per week, you can really go through creamer. I admit that I have been purchasing the Sweet Cream varieties in the refrigerated section at the grocery store. 😦 I decided to stop that since only one or two options contain actual dairy ingredients, and all contain additives that aren’t found in homemade versions. This is so simple to make that I can’t believe I was spending $3.50 weekly when I could spend that same amount for enough creamer to last us at least 2 weeks and not be full of artificial ingredients!

This recipe isn’t exact in taste as the store-bought, but that is because I don’t have any chemical taste enhancers. The next batch I make I think I’ll add a teaspoon of vanilla extract to boost the flavor profile.

sweet cream coffee creamer

Sweet Cream Coffee Creamer

1 14oz can organic sweetened condensed milk

3 12oz cans organic evaporated milk (not fat-free or low-fat)

Add all of your cans to a medium saucepan and heat of low heat for roughly 5 minutes, until the milks have combined. Let cool and place inside a container that you can easily pour from. Store in the fridge and use to sweeten your coffee and tea!

Slow Living – May 2013

5 Jun

SLOW LIVING UPDATE – May 2013

Heidi over at Lightly Crunchy has been posting these Slow Living updates each month, and I find them rather interesting. It gives you a chance to look back on the prior month with a sense of accomplishment. There are days that I feel kind of lazy, lounging around and not really getting anything done even though there are mountains of laundry to be washed and put away, dishes to be done, floors to be scrubbed. Then there are days, even weeks, where it feels like my head is spinning from all of my to-do’s! I know that I’m not right on top of posting, but figured you gotta start somewhere!

Nourish:

The month of May was an opportunity to clean out the freezer so nothing goes to waste, and save some money on groceries in the process. I didn’t do a whole lot of recipe posting, even though I was getting creative in the kitchen (those recipes will be coming soon!). I made flax bran muffins, “fried rice”, and my own Sweet Cream Coffee Creamer. I did manage to post a recipe when I whipped up a healthier alternative to mashed potatoes with a Garlic Cauliflower Mash.

Prepare:

May was spent prepping the garden for veggies, as well as some landscaping around the chicken coop. A whole day spent pulling rocks out of our creek to keep the flowers up nice and close to the coop. It helps create a little more shade, and will also make the area around the coop look nicer once the flowers grow and fill in.

flower bed

Reduce/Reuse/Repurpose/Repair:

This month was a great cleansing month at our house. During April and May, I scoured the house for things to donate to charity. I’ll never understand how 2 people can manage to end up with so much stuff. It was mostly me donating my items, but over the next month or 2, hubs is going to go through his things and part ways with duplicate and unused items. For the scheduled pickup for the VVA, I had 4 big bags of clothes, shoes, coats and purses, 2 boxes of books, and one box of miscellaneous kitchen items. I’m happy I was able to pass along so much gently used, well taken care of stuff so that someone else could enjoy it!

Green – cleaners, body products and basic herbal remedies:

I’ve slowly been using up all of our chemical laden store-bought products so that I can replace them with more earth friendly ones. I’ve been using a homemade citrus vinegar spray that smells lovely and cleans great. It cleans up the chicken coop, counters, toilets. The recipe is too simple to deserve a whole post. Basically, soak citrus peels – lemon, lime, grapefruit, orange – in white vinegar for 2-4 weeks (I did 4) strain out the peels, mix 1:1 with water, and place in a spray bottle. Green cleaner with about zero effort. The hardest part is remembering to save the peels!

Grow:

We managed to make our garden the nicest looking it’s been since we started. This is our fourth year with the garden, and hubs created nice rows for all the veggies. We – meaning I – scaled back on the amount of plants because I tend to overcrowd the garden, making it hard to harvest tomatoes before they are overly ripe. This year, that won’t be a problem. All that’s left to do now is fence it in to keep the chickens out. They enjoy tomatoes.

garden2013

Create:

I created a front porch herb garden, complete with mint, parsley, oregano, basil, pineapple sage and dill. It’s nice to look at and makes it easy to have fresh herbs on hand for recipes.

Discover:

A friend had been talking about the show Mad Men. When I realized that all but one season was on Netflix, I started watching. I’m hooked. I want Betty Draper’s clothes. We also discovered a bicycle trail near my little brother and made use of it on my birthday. We did 10 miles that day, and while the first 5 were a bit rough and all up hill, we did it and it was awesome!

image

Enhance – community:

Now that the hens are laying pretty regularly, we have a big surplus of eggs. Many more than the hubs and I can eat. So, I’ve started sharing them again with my gram, and allowing coworkers to put in an order for some. The only thing I ask for is for them to give me back the egg cartons, and to donate towards the chickens feed. It’s been working out for everyone!

eggs!

Enjoy:

The hubs and I have rediscovered our deck after it’s winter hibernation. We’ve pressure washed it, busted the cushions out of their prison tote, and entertained some family on it. I was able to share a meal with an uncle whom I had not seen for almost 20 years. We plan on spending many evenings on it, eating dinner, having an adult beverage or two, and sharing the space with family and friends.

Apple Pie in a Jar – Apple Pie “Shine”

2 Apr

When I think of apple pie, it reminds me of being a kid, playing outside and being able to smell the delicious fragrance of freshly baking apple pie flowing out the open windows in the spring. There is just something about that smell and taste. It’s childhood.

As an adult, I like to enjoy apple pie in different variations. Cookies, cupcakes, cakes, tarts. As a grown up beverage, it can’t be beat. I did an Apple Pie Sangria with a jar of this mixed into the batch. It was AMAZING. Slightly potent, but AMAZING.  The best way to make a batch of that sangria is to actually have a jar of the Apple Pie “Shine” to mix into it. It’s easy to make, and just as easy to drink. My second batch was a little less potent, so I may add another shot of grain to the jars upon opening them. The recipe listed below is my variation of the recipe given to me by a friend. I think it makes something great tasting become epic tasting!

apple pie shine

Apple Pie Shine

1 gallon apple cider

1 gallon unsweetened apple juice

3 cups brown sugar

2 tablespoons molasses

2 vanilla beans, split lengthwise

1 heaping teaspoon cinnamon

2 tablespoons vanilla extract – do not use imitation

1 liter (plus a couple extra glugs if you are heavy handed like me!) moonshine, Everclear, or the highest proof vodka you can find

Take and put all of your ingredients into a large pot, with the exception of the alcohol. Bring to a boil and let boil for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to dissolve brown sugar and molasses. After 10 minutes, remove from heat and let sit for 10 minutes to cool slightly. Add your grain alcohol, stirring to combine.

Fill clean pint or quart mason jars to bottom of threads on jar, wipe rims and add lids and screw bands, twisting to finger tight. Rinse jars to get rid of any sticky residue and store in a cool dark place. Let “age” about 1 month to get rid of any strong booze flavor. Enjoy ice cold, shaking the jar before passing the jar around with friends! Tastes just like apple pie – in a jar!