Our first eggplant!

When we were growing a traditional garden we tried growing eggplants a few times and it never turned out well for us or the poor eggplants.  This is out first year implementing the Mittlieder Gardening Method but I decided to try it again as a benchmark.  It’s not yet close to being ready to eat but this is further than we’ve been able to grow one in the past so I’ve got high hopes it will continue and we will get to eat it.

eggplant grown with the Mittleider Gardening Method
eggplant grown with the Mittleider Gardening Method

Canning great northern beans

Canning great northern beans

Canning great northern beans is something new we have been doing.  Allow me to explain why  Dry beans are always a great item to have in your pantry.  They have lots of protein, are inexpensive and have a great shelf life if stored properly.  The problem with dry beans is they amount of time it requires to get them from dry bean to ready to eat.  By canning them we are able to have them on the table in a pinch.

Canning great northern beans

How we canned our beans

We followed a no soak method that  we found in a YouTube video made by a woman named Starry Hilder.  (I will include the video below.). In pint jars we added a heaping half cup of beans and added hot water.  After sealing up the jars they went into our canner.   As you can see in the picture they expanded quite a bit once the process is complete.  We will make up labels and get them into the pantry.

Canning great northern beans for our pantry

Great Northern Beans before and after canning
Great Northern Beans before and after canning

 

Starry’s no soak method was super simple and we will do more beans of a different variety soon.

What will you need to do this yourself?

For starters, you will need a pressure cooker.  Walmart carries an inexpensive model that will work.  We started with one and used it for years.  It is a small unit and can only do small batches.

When we decided we wanted to larger batches during our canning sessions we retired the Presto and bought an All American canner.  You will need a stove, or camp stove to can outdoors,  and a basic pressure canning tools kit.  Of utmost omportance, it is vital that you have a good canning book from a reputable company.  We like the Ball Canning Book

Here is Starry’s video on canning beans with a no soak method

My favorite kale smoothie recipe

My favorite kale smoothie recipe with bananas and blueberries

One of my favorite smoothie recipe is also a simple one.  We use various green from out garden, I’ve even got a section just for this  we call the smoothie section.  My go to green leafy vegetable is usually kale.

I’m beginning the process of eating healthier. As part of that process I try to add one or two kale smoothies to my meals daily.  I’ve borrowed bits and pieces from various kale smoothie recipes found online to end up with my go to recipe.  Because I prefer a really cold smoothie the fruit I use is always frozen.

my favorite kale smoothie recipe
my favorite kale smoothie recipe with blueberries and banana

 My favorite kale smoothie recipe

For this recipe I use half a frozen banana, approximately half a cup of frozen blue berries, one half cup of vanilla Greek yogurt and two large kale leaves.  Milk is used to fill the blender container for our NutriBullet to the fill line.   Blend thoroughly and enjoy!

The NutriBullet is necessary.  And to be honest if we hadn’t received one as a gift I don’t think I would have one at all.  With that said I really like it for this task because it helps cut down on my messes and the dishes I get dirty.  Everything goes in the cup, the blender head screwed on and then its blended.  Screw off the blender head, clean it up and then drink right from the cup!

One recommendation is a good reusable silicone smoothie straw.

Other favorite smoothie ingredients

There are several other really good vegetables that I use.  Beet and brussel sprout leaves are really good.  The leaves are good for you and pruning encourages the plant to grow.

Swiss chard is also really good for you but can can give your smoothie a bitter taste.  If you it then make it small quantities.

Canning butter for storage in our pantry

Canning butter for storage in our pantry

Today we decided to put up some butter in pint sized jars.  During our last trip to Costco we picked up 8 pounds of unsalted butter to add to our pantry.  There are lots and lots of opinions on canning butter, so please look into it extensively and form your own opinion before you do it.  We sterilized all our jars and lids and re-pasteurized our already previously pasteurized butter during this process.

melting 8 pounds of butter for canning
melting 8 pounds of butter for canning

After the butter is melted and re-pasteurized

Once the butter was re-pasteurized it was ladled into sterilized jars and the lids and rings added.  Finger tight on those lids.After the butter is in jars with the lids secured you will need to frequently shake the jars as the contents will separate.

You can see the separation in the second picture below. We were shaking to combine the contents every 10-15 minutes for several hours.  We continued to shake until the color was returning to normal.  This morning, as seen in the last picture, the butter has solidified and has its usual appearance.

canning butter for storage in our pantry
canning butter for storage in our pantry
Canning butter - canned butter ready to go into our food storage pantry
Canning butter -canned butter ready to go into our food storage pantry

 

The 8 pounds of butter yielded 10 full pints. In the future I hope to work out how much butter is required to fill an even 12 pints.  We like having a full flat of the same item in our pantry.

Watch Starry Hilder can butter

As a visual learner myself, I thought I’d add the video we watched and used as a guide.  Again, there is risk in doing this, don’t make the decision to try it lightly.  Doing this incorrectly can make someone very ill, or even worse.  Do this at your own risk.  Below is Starry’s video.

 

horse shoe trivets

Horse shoe trivets for dutch ovens

We had a local guy make some horse shoe trivets for us to be used with our Dutch ovens for cooking outdoors.  They hold the Dutch ovens up off the coals and are suited for baking cakes, biscuits and such.  The shorter trivet also works well for setting a lid on when you remove it to stir or add ingredients.

We used a bead blasting cabinet to remove all the rust and dirt before applying a black high temperature rust-oleum spray paint.  The ones that look silver in color are what they looked like after bead blasting.  They all received a few coats of black paint.

horse shoe trivets for a dutch oven
dutch oven trivets made from horse shoes
horse shoe trivets for a dutch oven
dutch oven trivets made from horse shoes
horse shoe trivets for a dutch oven
horse shoe trivets for a dutch oven

Why use a trivet?

Cooking in a dutch oven on a trivet allows you to better control the temperature.  To add more heat to your dutch oven, or other cast iron, one simply adds more coals around the trivet.  If your food is cooking too fast one simply uses a shovel or other tool to take coals out from under the trivet.

In addition to controlling temperature a trivet helps to keep dirt, leave or other debris out of your food.  By putting the lid on the trivet you don’t get dirt or grass in what you’re cooking when the lid goes back.

I’d like a trivet but can’t weld

If you can’t weld or don’t have access to one you have a few options.  You can hire a welder to weld up your horse shoes and stand for you.  You can find the horse shoes by reaching out to farriers, farms that board horses, Amish and Mennonite communities.  Interestingly enough, you can even buy used horse shoes on Amazon.

Lodge does make a stand for dutch oven lids.  I wouldn’t use it in place of my trivets to hold a heavy oven, but I do use one for my lids.  You can also find the dutch oven lid stand on Amazon or in the camping section at many Walmarts.