Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Canning Cranberry Juice

This fall when my dad got a bladder infection my mom asked me to pick up some cranberry juice for him.  I was shocked at how hard it was to find just plain cranberry juice.  Most of it was mixed with apple juice, grape juice, high fructose corn syrup, and other natural flavorings.  They did not name what they used for flavorings.  What was my dilemma? My dad was recently diagnosed with a bad allergy to apples.  I know it is odd, but having kids with food allergies nothing surprises me anymore.  So I decided to make my own cranberry juice and can it for my family.

It was good timing being around Thanksgiving almost all the stores had bags of cranberries on sale for under a dollar.  So I bought a bunch of them up and threw them in my freezer for a rainy day or when I had time to actually make the juice and can it!!

Today was that rainy day. Well actually a snowy day, but a day that I had nothing else to do and had time to make my juice.

Here are my 19 bags of cranberries!

I ended up having to split the cranberries into two batches.  They could not
fit all into one batch.  To start out making the juice add equal amounts of 
water and cranberries to a large kettle or stock pot.  

Bring to boil and simmer until all the cranberries have popped!! I 
put a lid on top because the cranberries tend to splash when they pop!
This will take anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes, depending on how 
many cranberries you have.

While the cranberries are cooking I get my strainer ready. I put a metal 
strainer over top of a large stock pot.  As you can see in the picture 
I attach the strainer to the handles to keep it from falling in and splashing
hot juice everywhere.  I learned this the hard way while making grape juice.

Then I cover the strainer with a piece of old pillow case to strain 
out the seeds, skin, and pulp.  

When the cranberries have all popped I scoop them out a 
little at a time and put them into the strainer.

Once all the juice has strained out I return the pot back to the 
stove to heat back up.  If you feel bad about throwing out the pulp 
you can run it through a food mill to remove the skins and use it 
to make some other desserts.  

Add sugar to taste.  For ten bags of cranberries I added about
3 1/2 cups of sugar to sweeten just enough so it did not have 
that strong bitter/sour taste.  Return to a boil and put into jars.

You can put into quart or 1/2 gallon jars.  Fill leaving 1/4 inch head 
space.  Wipe rims.  Bring your new lids to boil and place on jars.
Adjust your caps and process in a boiling water bath for 5 minutes for
quarts and 10 minutes for 1/2 gallons.  I got 7 1/2 gallons and a couple
of glasses for the kids to drink out of 19 bags of cranberries.  

I may have only saved about $10 by canning my own juice, but it is pure cranberry juice and I know what is in it.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Apple Vinegar

I saw this on Pinterest so I just had to try it.  Making apple vinegar out of your apple peels and cores.  How simple and to think I always threw these away.  Apple vinegar is so good for you and there are thousands of uses of vinegar.  I am constantly buying it especially to pickle with so why not try making my own. 

To start with you make pies, apple sauce or something with your apples.  Save your peels and cores and put them into a dish.  The original post used a small mixing bowl.  You cover your peels with water and add 1/4 cup of sugar.  Mix it and weight the peels down and cover with a towel to keep gnats and things out.  I had a very large bowl so I used 1/2 cup with that.  The other two bowls were smaller so I only used 1/4 cup of sugar in those.  Then you just let it sit for a week to ferment.  It will develop mold on top.  That is ok.  Just keep spooning off the mold.  After several days you will smell it fermenting. 

Here is one of my smaller bowls.  As you can see there is mold that has developed around the edge.

After a week, spoon off the mold, then strain off the liquid.  I did this by pouring it into an old pillow case which I use as a jelly bag.  Then bottle up your liquid.  Put a square of cheese cloth on top before putting on the lid.  This helps the vinegar continue to breathe and also keeps the vinegar from corroding the metal lid.  Now for the waiting game.  Let it sit for 6 weeks.  During this time the fermented sugars will eventually and hopefully turn into acetic acid and become vinegar.  I have just bottled up my liquid.  I marked the calendar for 6 weeks.  I will then check to see if I have successfully made apple vinegar.  Thankfully my kids have some ph strips I can use to check if it has turned to acid!!
Here are my bottles that will hopefully become vinegar.  I am glad that I started saving bottles!!

I will have to check back in 6 weeks to let you know if it turns to vinegar!!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Violet Syrup

Canning season is open!!!  It is funny how by mid August I wish that canning season would be over.  I spend hours days weeks   ok more like months canning food.  It is well worth it though when we eat all of the wonderful things that I have put up all year long.  But it never fails by spring I am itching to start canning again.  It starts out slow in the spring with a few jams and jellies.  Then gets busier as the summer goes on. 

This spring we have been having a quite a few warm days again.  It is supposed to be cold again on Saturday (40's) so I wanted to get violets picked again before they were gone.  There are a ton of them this year.  I did not get any last year so I spent a couple of hours and picked 2 quart jars full of violet blossoms. You don't want them stem or leaves in these. 

To get the violet infusion or juice that you will use for most violet recipes cover the blossoms with boiling water.  I fill the jar until the blossoms are completely covered which is normally 1 inch from the top.  Let this steep until there is no color left in the violets.

Drain the violets into a jelly bag and let sit  until no more juice comes out.  To see instructions on how to do this look at my post on Violet Jelly

To make the syrup bring 6 cups of sugar, 1/4 cup lemon juice and 2 cups of water to a boil.  Boil until the syrup begins to thicken.  I made a double batch and boiled it for about 10 minutes. 

It won't seem real thick when hot.  I tested it by pouring a tiny bit on a plate.  It thickened up to a syrup consistency on the plate so I knew it was ready.  Now pour in your violet infusion.  You will need 2 cups of the violet juice.  I made a double batch so I had a quart of violet juice.  The juice is a dark purple.  The lemon juice in the syrup is what turns it to the pretty violet color.

Cook this for another 10 minutes.  Then pour into hot sterlized canning jars.  I decided to put them in pints. 

With the rest of the violet juice I made a batch of violet jelly.  I processed them along with the violet syrup.  Fill jars leaving a 1/4 inch head space.  Wipe rims and adjust lids.  Process in a boiling water bath for 5 minutes.

I was able to get a double batch of the violet syrup and a single batch of jelly all in my canner!!  When done remove from canner and let sit on counter until cooled.  Check for seals and label and store.

Add this syrup to club soda or lemon-lime soda for a refreshing spring spritzer!! 


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Science Lessons

I love hands on science lessons.  And since I found out one of my boys is dyslexic and a complete hands on learner  I am really trying to incorporate more hands on learning.  While out on hikes and bike rides we are always on the lookout for interesting objects.  And since I have boys we have a collection of rocks, shells, feathers, and skulls or bone fragments.

Yesterday was a nice warm spring day so we went on a bike ride.  We found a new skull in the ditch so we picked it up and brought it back home.  I clean the skulls by putting them in a solution of bleach water.  This just helps clean out the dirt and bugs and kills the germs. 

Here is a collection of skulls that my kids have found so far.  They look up in books and identify the skulls after they have found them.  They try and guess what kind of animal it was first and then look them up. 

The first two from left to right are raccoon skulls.  The first one is a young raccoon.  The bones are still fusing together.  It has been chewed on quite a bit by chipmunks.  The second skull is a mature raccoon.  The bones have fused together and formed the ridge on top of the skull.  It is in really good condition.  The last one is one that we found yesterday.  It is a woodchuck.  It has not been chewed on but did not clean up real white.  I think it has been exposed to the elements for some time. 

Here is a good view of the top.

The best way to identify skulls is actually from the underside.  You can count the
teeth and see the tell tale markers better from this view.

Even when the teeth are missing you can see where the teeth were.  My son was excited that the woodchuck still had it's two front teeth.  And even though the color is not real white on it the skull is actually in real good condition with only a few of the smaller teeth missing.  This time of year we tend to find more skulls. Animals that died over the winter are left in the fields and trails and are normally cleaned off by now!! 

It just gives us an excuse to get out and exercise and combine some science lessons with it as well!!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Home Made Fruit Roll Ups

Wow!! It has been a long time since I have been on here.  How life does get hectic and busy.  I spent the last 4 months getting my son tested and finally diagnosed with Dyslexia and a Language Disorder.  So I have been spending a lot of time catering to his needs in this new journey to help him through school and therapies to help him learn better.

I have been wanting to try and make fruit roll ups for a long time.  I have a dehydrator but it only came with one fruit leather tray.  I did not want to spend the time and only make one tray.  I saw about a year ago on someone's blog that they used parchment paper to line their trays with.  I tried it and it actually worked!!

I just used a spiced applesauce that I had made and canned last fall.  I have a lot of canned applesauce and my family is just not eating it up like usual.  So I used my fruit leather tray and lined my other three trays with parchment paper.  I opened up my jars of applesauce and spread it directly onto my trays.  Set my dehydrator to the fruit setting which is 135 degrees Fahrenheit and let it go over night.  By morning I had wonderful fruit leather.  It peeled right off the tray and parchment paper.

You want to peel it off while it is still warm and roll it up. It should be a little sticky but not wet.  I sliced each tray up into three pieces.  I had four trays so we got 12 fruit roll ups.  And to my delight I finally found a healthy snack that my picky eater will eat!!  I wrapped each one up individually in plastic wrap. 

Sunday, February 17, 2013

12 Days of Christmas Finished!!

One of my goals for this year is to finish all the projects that I have started.  I have had several projects that I have been working of for many years.  I get bored and set them down and move on to other things.  Or I have to make a gift for something and do that instead.  I am on a roll right now.  I finished a sweater which I gave away as a gift.  I finished a knit scarf and a cute ice cream cone afghan.  I was very excited to finally finish up my 12 days of Christmas ornaments.  Next Christmas these will adorn my Christmas tree!!

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Basketball Cake Pops

I am learning a few new tricks and getting better at making cake pops.  Each time I make them they turn out a little better. 

I kept wandering how to get the cake into nice fine crumbs.  Never occurred to me to use my food processor.  I saw this on line some where.  So I gave it a try.  It Turned out perfect.

See how fine the crumbs are!

This is one cake mix baked and crumbled.  To this add 1/2 cup of a nice thick butter cream frosting.

Mix it up by hand until the frosting is thoroughly mixed.  Form into balls or desired shape.
I used a scoop to insure uniform size.  Refrigerate until nice and firm.  Dip sticks into melted
chocolate and insert into cake balls.

Then dip them into chocolate shaking off excess.  Let dry.

I used Royal Icing to pipe on the lines for the basket balls.
Here they are packages up and ready to go.  These are for a friend who
wanted them for her kids snack for their basketball games.