Canning Green Tomatoes For Frying

Hello from the mountains of Kentucky. Can you feel fall in the air? With the days becoming shorter and the nights getting much cooler, you can tell that fall is just around the bend. With fall also comes garden remnants. Lingering tomatoes here and there, an occasional head of kale that decides to sprout new growth, and the last nubbins of corn. We’ve had a really good tomato crop this year. We’ve ate our belly’s full, canned nearly one hundred quarts of tomato juice, an abundance of tomato sauce, and a good deal of crushed tomatoes. We’ve canned pickled tomatoes and and fried quite a few, which by the way is one of my all time favorite dishes!

A few of our tomatoes early in early summer.

A few years ago while frying a pan of fried green tomatoes memories of eating my mom’s delicious fried green tomatoes filled my thoughts. I savor those memories and enjoy the trips down memory lane. When I was growing up life in the mountains was simple, plain, and a time filled with family and always good southern cooking, With that thought, I decided that fried green tomatoes didn’t have to be a seasonal food. I wanted to enjoy them year around. So, I began the journey of trying new recipes.

I fried the tomatoes as if they were ready to eat and froze them in vacuum sealed bags. That was a great way to have access to a quick dish of deliciousness, but it wasn’t quite the same as frying them fresh. They’re good, just not as good as fresh fried tomatoes. So, moving forward, I decided to try an idea to can green tomatoes. This is what I died. While canning a batch of my grandmothers pickled tomatoes, I made up a jar of sliced tomatoes with a few preserving ingredients, sealed the jar and added them to the canner of pickled tomatoes. All I could lose was one jar of tomatoes. I was excited to see how they turned out. The rest of the story is why I’m posting about my recipe for preserving green tomatoes for frying! It was a success!

Sliced green tomatoes preserved for frying!

It’s a simple recipe. I hope you like it.

Ingredients: Green tomatoes, lemon juice, salt, and water. You’ll also need clean pint bars and a canner.

Process: Wash and sterilize jars. Add a teaspoon of lemon juice and 1/4 teaspoon of salt to each jar. Rinse tomatoes, pat dry, and slice tomatoes. Place slices of tomatoes in pint jars leaving about a half inch for head space. Bring a tea kettle of water to a boil and using a funnel add boiling water to each jar. Don’t forget to leave about at least a half inch of space for head space. Add a teaspoon of lemon juice and 1/8 teaspoon of salt to each jar.

Wipe rim of jars and place clean and sterilized flats and rings on each jar. Place jars in a canner of water with water covering the jars by at least two inches. I use a stove top canner because I enjoy the old fashioned method of a water bath for canning. Allow water to come to a boil. Allow to jars of tomatoes process under the boiling water for 35 minutes. Remove carefully and allow to cool. Always add the date to the lid of all jars. This year, I added a 1/8 teaspoon of pickle crisp to few pint jars as an experiment. When I fry the first batch, I’ll let you know how they turn out. Experimentation is one of the best methods of learning. Feel free to check out my pickled tomato tomato juice recipes!

I hope you enjoy this method of canning and winter fried green tomatoes as much as we do! Feel free to leave comments and also check back for my new recipe of refrigerated spicy pickled grape tomatoes. I’m going to try to post that easy and delicious recipe next week. For now, God bless from the mountains of Kentucky!

Reflecting on the Past

Good morning from the mountains of Kentucky! I hope your day is off to a great start! The weather is beautiful here in the mountains this morning. Temperatures were in the mid-fifties when I awoke this morning. Mornings like these transport me back to mornings that I cherish. Cool September mornings reminds me of my childhood in the mountains. I loved early cool mornings and porch sitting with my mom or grandmother. We called our grandmother, Mamaw. She and Papaw were a huge part of all of our lives, and our small community.

Enjoying a good book on a cool September morning.

While porch sitting this morning, I began to think about days of my youth. I thought of how when we were children the days seemed to last forever. Now as an adult days often don’t feel long enough to get everything on out to do list done. Maybe we’re rushing life instead of appreciating it. Have you noticed fall holiday decorations come out in the stores before the hot days of August have passed? What are you supposed to do? Do we enjoy days by the pool, a summer walk, or are we supposed bypass August and begin decorating with pumpkins?

Maybe, it’s that we don’t take time to cherish the moments in the day. Maybe we’re overlooking the smaller things that amazed us as kids. A school of minnows swimming in the creek, a squirrel gathering nuts for the winter, or the amazing web a spider so cleverly wove. Maybe, we spend too much time on social media wishing our lives were like others, or worrying too much about things we can’t fix anyway. Before we know it, we’ve been robbed of precious hours of our day worrying and wondering, instead of appreciating the simple things in our life. Simple things can be a flower bloom, a gentle breeze, a good book, an afternoon of fishing, or spending time with grandkids canning and preserving, and teaching them about family traditions.

Teaching even the youngest grandchildren about gardening.

As a young girl growing up in the mountains, September days were filled with days of canning the final vegetables from the garden. It was a time to can and preserve the final lingering tomatoes and peppers, dry the last of the beans that were left clinging to the fences, and a time of preparation, work, and family. This was and still is a time of a mixed emotions; happy and grateful for the bounty of our hard work, and also sad that the fresh vegetables will soon be gone. It’s always a time of reflection for me. Cool foggy September mornings takes me back to my youth in the mountains of Kentucky when life was simple, hard, yet a life filled with love, family, and respect.

Fog rising above the mountains.

I remember rising early with excitement to sit on the porch of Mamaw’s store with her. The air was cool, fog lingered near the tops of the mountains, and relatives were busy getting their mornings started. Papaw was usually in the garden, mommy would be working in our garden or the flowers. Customers walked to Mamaw’s store to spend a few dollars or sometimes just to share conversations or news they had to share. Neighbors passed always waving or greeting us with a howdy, hello, or good morning. All the while, we worked for hours stringing the last of the garden green beans on heavy quilting thread. The long strings of beans were then hung on the front store porch from old rusty nails near the ceiling of the porch. They hung there to dry during the later days of summer. Once the beans were dry, they were removed from the string and placed in a plastic container and stored in the old deep freeze that stood in the back of the store. They were later rehydrated and cooked as what we referred to as, shuck beans. I remember Mamaw cooking them with a piece of pork and plenty of seasonings. They were delicious served with potatoes and cornbread.

Mamaw, my aunts, and my mom were always planning ahead for cold days of winter when traveling to a grocery store was not as common as it is today. Life in the mountains in the sixties and early seventies was a simple time devoid of social media, television drama, opinionated media, and especially devoid of a lazy society. We were raised hard, but raised with pride, good work ethics, and raised to know about Jesus. Life was simple, but yet life was happy and we knew how to plan ahead for a rainy day.

Mamaw’s pickled green tomato recipe still alive today.

Life in the mountains has changed since I was a little girl, let’s face it life as we all know it has changed a lot in the past three years. However, we still have a choice to enjoy the simple things in life, take time to stop and smell the roses, rise early to greet the day, savor family time, work hard, love deeply, forgive others, help a friend or neighbor, and to plan ahead for our rainy days. With the many recent changes in our world, I am even more determined to hold on to traditions of the past. They were good traditions filled with checking on neighbors, baking a friend a cake, checking on the elderly, taking time to listen to their stories of the past, attending church on Sundays, praying for others, taking pride in our homes, working, and loving others, while also planning ahead through canning and preserving.

Fresh canned tomato juice from our garden tomatoes.

There’s something rewarding about planting seeds, watering them, watching them sprout from tiny sprout into a beautiful plant filled with a rainbow of vegetables. It’s even better to set a table for your family that is spread with a meal that was 90 percent grown on your land with love of your own labor. Yes, planning ahead for a rainy day was a tradition that I enjoy still carrying on. I also enjoy sharing with our elderly neighbors who seem to ever so quickly be leaving this life for their eternal home.

I’ve thought much about that dying generation of elderly grandmothers and grandfathers a lot lately. I miss my grandmother even more when I think of all the memories that we made stringing beans and also canning them. I miss the days of porch sitting in the afternoons, listening to my relatives stories of days gone by, laughing at their funny tales and also quivering a little from the scary stories. I miss star gazing at night with my cousins in the backyard, playing red-light, green-light in the lane beside Mamaw’s store, catching crawdads in the creek, hearing my relatives praying at night before they turned in for the night, and miss those that have passed on.

Yes, cool September mornings brings back a flood of memories. I recall happy memories, sad memories, and memories of a time when the simple things in life, hard work, our neighbors, and self was appreciated. A time when people took time to love deeply, enjoy the fun times and work through the hard times without blaming others. When respect was taught, caring for elderly neighbors was just what we did, and days that families planned and worked together planting, tending, harvesting, preserving, and enjoying the time together listening to stories of days gone by, while carrying on a mountain tradition.

Three generations picking poke salad.

After a beautiful morning of emotional reflection, quiet time of prayer, finishing a chapter in the book I’m reading… I’m off to work on canning tomatoes today. I hope you have enjoyed my reflective ramblings this morning. Have a safe and wonderful holiday weekend. For now, God bless from the mountains of Kentucky.

Vegan Apple Bread

Good Evening from the mountains of Kentucky! It’s a gorgeous day in the mountains today! I enjoyed a walk around the garden today with the warm sunshine on my face. It felt good to relax a bit. Life has been hectic on our small farm this week. We picked our first picking of beans this week. We picked a bushel and a half, which is not bad for the first picking! We enjoyed them with dinner last night and canned the remaining beans for a total of thirty quarts. Farm life is a busy life, but one that I truly enjoy. There’s a sense of satisfaction with planting, tending, watching the crops grow, and then harvesting, cooking, and canning the fresh veggies! It’s nice to have home canned vegetables and fruit for meals in the cold winter months while the garden is resting beneath the mountain snows gaining nourishment for the next season.

First batch of beans of the season canned.

I’ve also enjoyed trying a few new recipes this week, with fresh produce. Im excited to share my recipe for vegan apple bread with you. It’s the perfect time to try this recipe as the apple trees are loaded with beautiful apples right now. My family described the vegan apple bread as being the best bread I had made! This brought a big smile to my face. I love to create recipes that makes my family happy! I hope you and your family enjoys this recipe as much as mine did. I have a feeling that I’ll be making this moist, flavorful, and delicious bread for most family gatherings in the future.

Vegan apple bread

Ingredients:

  • Two apples of choice (I used honey crisp)
  • One half cup of craisins
  • One half cup of golden raisins
  • One half cup of chopped organic walnuts
  • Two cups of whole wheat flour
  • One cup of organic raw cane sugar
  • Two tablespoons cinnamon
  • One tablespoon nutmeg
  • One teaspoon cardamon
  • One pinch of salt
  • One tablespoon baking powder
  • One teaspoon pure vanilla
  • three flax eggs (see recipe below)
  • One cup unsweetened apple sauce
  • One half cup unsweetened almond milk
  • One half cup unrefined coconut oil

Preheat oven to 350. Spray a Bundt pan with organic cooking spray and set aside. Mix all dry ingredients fold in fruit and nuts. Add remaining ingredients one at a time folding the mixture after each addition saving the milk until the final ingredient. Once all of the ingredients are combined (the mix will be thick) use an ice cream scoop to dip mixture into the pan. Press mixture gently once all of the mixture has been added to the pan. Bake for 60 minutes. Remember oven temperatures may vary. When a tooth pick comes out clean, your bread is ready. Allow the bread to cool completely before trying to remove it from the pan to prevent it from sticking.

Once the bread is cooled, place a large plate on top of the pan and gently turn the bundt pan upside down still holding the plate and the pan to allow bread to come out onto the plate. I run a small flexible spatula or small handle of a spoon along the edges of the bread to help ensure it releases. You might have to tap the bottom of the pan as well. Once the bread is on the plate, using a small mesh strainer, sprinkle organic confection sugar over the top of the bread.

This bread is a great breakfast treat, can be made into muffins, and also tastes great with hot cup of coffee. I hope you and your family enjoy this delicious bread. Feel free to leave a comment and tell me how you enjoyed this recipe and if you ate it for breakfast, or dessert. For now, God bless each of you. Have a blessed week and weekend. Check back in a few days for my newest squash soup recipe and more memories from the mountains of Kentucky!

Tomatoes are doing great this year!

Flax eggs are basically ground flax seed and water. Mix one tablespoon of flax seed to two tankards of warm water for the equivalent of one egg. Mix ingredients using a fork in a small bowl.

Making Organic Vegetable Broth. Mountain Life…Is the Best Life.

Early June morning in the mountains.

I, like most everyone, have spent a lot of time at home since early March. I’m not going to complain about being at home. I love and believe the old cliche, there’s no place like home, especially during the spring, which is planting time for our family.

Our grandson learning to till while planting beans!

During this time of uncertainty I find myself reflecting a lot about days of my youth and also being even more thankful for my heritage. We grew up learning how to plant, harvest, and preserve. We were taught how to be frugal, make a dollar stretch, and also how to enjoy and reap the bounty that our beautiful mountains gift us with.

Our mid-May garden.

Growing up in a low socioeconomic area can be hard, but it can also be a blessing in disguise. Many years ago when the economy was unstable, I watched my family work a farm, harvest crops, reap the delicious bounty, preserve the goodness, and also sell their produce and goods.

Even during my adult years when the economy was thriving, I found it difficult to depart from our way of country living. My family has enjoyed continuing the tradition that was handed down to us from our parents and grandparents. We continue to work the land, plant a large garden, labor lovingly over the many rows of vegetables, enjoy the tasty bounty that our garden produces, and also preserve and put away for the winter and seasons to come. It was a good life the and is still a good way of living. It was and is a lot of sweat and hard work, but well worth it.

Hard work truly pays off! There’s nothing quite as tasty as fresh-picked green beans, freshly dug potatoes, and a crisp ear of golden yellow corn from the garden that you’ve worked, nurtured, and watched grow from a seed to a bounty of deliciousness. As for me and my tastebuds, a meal is not complete without a side of sliced ripe tomatoes, cucumbers, and green onions from our garden to make the dinner complete. Who needs meat? Not me! I love vegetables and fruits of all kind. But, for the meat-eaters in our family, we are blessed to keep a freezer of locally grass-fed beef readily available.

As a little girl, I remember watching my mom create savory dishes from leftovers, re-purpose leftover veggies into tasty soups, create awesome potato cakes from left over mashed potatoes, and also turn stale popcorn into delicious sweet caramel corn. During our quarantine time at home, I too, have learned a few new tricks that has made my life easier, our pantry fuller, and also our stomachs happier. I am excited to share a few ideas that I have tried and also to share a new recipe that I created for an unctuous and delicious apple tea bread. Get ready, that recipe’s coming tomorrow! For today, let’s talk about making homemade vegetable broth!

One of my favorite quarantine discoveries was learning how to make homemade vegetable broth! Let me add, delicious homemade vegetable broth. Have you ever heard the expression, waste not…want not? I grew up with that being repeated often, and have encouraged our children, and grandchildren to do the same.

Are you faced with the dilemma of what to do with leftover vegetables, vegetable peels, and scraps of veggies that’s not big enough to use? So, what do you do with all those vegetables and veggie scraps? We either feed ours to the chickens to ensure they are getting enough protein, or we add them to the compost pile. Either of the above is a great method of useful disposal, but I found myself in need of organic vegetable broth and wasn’t able to find it when many of the store shelves were emptying. So, I figured out a way to turn my veggies scraps into vegetable broth. I’m anxious for you to give this simple recipe a try!

Shopping during a pandemic can be a challenge.
Veggies being prepared for the vegetable broth.

Process: First, you will need to begin saving vegetable scraps such as celery stalks, leaves, herb stems, and bulbs. You can also save onion skins, peppers, herb leaves, leeks, onions, zucchini, cucumbers, carrots, turnips, and etc. Basically, the only vegetable that you would not want to include in your broth is tomatoes due to the acidic level. You may not want to add hot peppers, unless you want your vegetable broth to be spicy. Also, do not add decaying or withered vegetables to your bag of scraps. Place your vegetable scraps in a gallon zip lock bag and keep it in the freezer until you have enough vegetables to process. I found that a full gallon bag of vegetable scraps made four full quarts of vegetable broth.

Once you have enough vegetable scraps, thaw them and add them to a stock pot of water, The water should cover the vegetables by at least three to four inches. I prefer to use filtered water or spring water rather than tap water. I used a large deep stock pot to make my broth. Add vegetables to pot, cover with water (water should be three to four inches above vegetables) allow the mixture to come to a rolling boil on medium heat. Once the mixture comes to a boil, cover with a lid, reduce the heat to medium low, and allow it to gently simmer for at least an hour. Uncover and allow it to simmer fifteen more minutes on low heat. You may do a taste-test at this point. If your broth is more bland than you would like, you may add more herbs and allow to simmer for an additional ten to fifteen minutes. I added a pinch of salt to mine to add a little flavor, but this optional.

Adding spring water to the veggie scraps.

Allow the broth to cool. Once the vegetables have settled to the bottom of the pot and the broth is cooled, you may use a colander to strain the vegetable broth into a large pot or bowl. Once you’ve drained the vegetables well, they can be added to the compost pile or used for feed your fowl. Pour the broth into clean canning jars, seal with a lid, and place in the refrigerator. The broth keeps well for up to six weeks. The color of your broth will vary depending on the type and color veggies that you use. I used some red onions in my first batch of broth. It was delicious, but darker than the second batch in which I used pieces of yellow onions. Both broths tasted delicious! I think this recipe for homemade vegetable broth fits the description of, waste not want not, while also satisfying saving money, and reducing waste.

Delicious homemade organic vegetable broth!

With so much going on in our world today, from riots, protesting, people dying from COVID-19, and many losing their jobs, life can feel very unsettling. Think about it, life as we know it has literally been turned upside down. Social distancing has created a sad year for our seniors from high-school to college. Prom dresses that were carefully chosen remain in their zippered bags, and services inside the church looks much different than before. Even the process of laying loved ones to rest changed. Through it all, We are still blessed! We had the opportunity to attend church via the zoom app until we were once again able to attend church services. We had food for our family prepared from food we preserved in recent years. We’ve had time to complete some home improvement projects, while also planting our garden. I’ve also been able to teach my courses from home.

During this crazy time, I decided that life does not have to be a doom and gloom situation amidst this horrible pandemic. Also, instead of complaining and worrying, I was determined that I would search for the positive and quit watching the number of people affected by the virus, quit worrying about the economy, and watching the news so much. I decided it was time to set social media aside and dust off that book that I’ve had shelved for too long. I made time to work and improve my herb garden, expand our vegetable garden, do some deep down spring cleaning, enjoy my family, and also make sure to take time to be thankful for the wonderful things that we’re blessed with, and share our blessings with neighbors and friends. But, most of all…it was time to quit living in fear, but time to live and enjoy life!

A glimpse at my herb garden!

It feels good to be posting again. I am pumped about sharing my Apple Tea Bread recipe with you tomorrow. In upcoming posts I’ll share my crouton recipe, new pickle recipe, a ew strawberry vinaigrette dressing, and a garden tip or two. Through it all, we’ll carry on and be thankful for our blessings, health, and family…all the while finding new ways to recreate and re-purpose wonderful dishes from leftovers and what once would have gone straight to the compost pile.

Feel free to leave feedback or ask a question. New followers are welcome. I love to share ideas of organic clean eating, vegan recipes, whole food plant based ideas, and also some vegetarian recipes. I also love to share our story from the mountains of Kentucky, the mountains we call home. God bless and happy Friday.

I love to take a walk in the morning after it rains. God’s beauty is everywhere!

 

Vegan Chocolate Chip Coconut Protein Bites

Hello from the mountains of Kentucky! Has your week been as busy as mine? It’s that time of year again! Time to can, preserve, dehydrate, and freeze all the wonderful veggies, fruit, and herbs that the Lord has so graciously blessed us with. As busy as it can get, I still love this time of year!

Canning in the last days of summer reminds me of the hot summer days of my youth when helped with the canning each year. It also reminds me that summer vacation is quickly coming to an end and a new academic year is about to begin. Where did summer vacation go? Seems we were planting our garden only a few weeks ago and now we’re harvesting and the fall semester begins next week!

Eight of the 21 quarts of tomato juice we’ve canned so far this year. 

Eight of the forty-two jars of green beans we canned this week.

With all that being said, even with all of of the hard work picking and canning, I did have a little time to work on a new recipe that I think you’re going to enjoy! My family is in agreement…this recipe is a keeper! It’s easy to make, requires no cooking, very versatile, sweet, satisfying and really tasty! But, best of all, it’s clean, healthy, and vegan! I hope you enjoy my vegan chocolate chip coconut protein bites as much as we do!

Ingredients;

10 Whole pitted dates (I prefer medjool dates)

2 tablespoons of Organic or non GMO peanut butter

1 scoop preferred plant protein powder (this ingredient is optional)

1 cup organic gluten free oats

1 tablespoon organic chia seeds

1 teaspoon ground flax seed (optional)

1/2 cup organic vegan dark chocolate chips

1cup organic shredded unsweetened coconut

1 tablespoon pure maple syrup (I have substituted Walden’s Chocolate syrup for a more of a chocolate taste and also less sugar)

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Process:

Put all of the ingredients in a food processor or a ninja reserving the chocolate chips and half of the shredded coconut. Process until blended well and forms a dough. Add chocolate chips and pulse a few times until chips are incorporated but not completely ground up.

Roll dough mixture into preferred size balls or you may press the mixture in a pan lined with parchment paper for protein bars. Roll the protein balls in shredded coconut and chill for at least an hour or place in the freezer for thirty minutes to eat sooner. The longer these bites chill the better they are!

My choice of preferred dates! They’re delicious right out of the box!

You can change these delicious bites up by melting a few of the vegan chocolate chips and drizzling the melted chocolate over the protein balls. You can also substitute almond butter for the peanut butter. They’re delicious either way! They keep in the fridge in a sealed plastic container or zip lock bag. I have found that they keep their shape in my lunchbox chilled with blue ice and they make a great midday snack!

Delicious peanut butte coconut protein balls!

I have modified this recipe a few times and added coco powder for a deep chocolate taste. I’ve added cinnamon, different flavored protein powders, added craisins, and different flavored Walden’s syrups. Either way, they’re delicious and powerful protein snack. I have to say the recipe above is my favorites as well as my family’s favorite! FYI: If your dough feels sticky you can add a few more oats to make the consistency more dry and easier to handle.

Protein balls with drizzled melted chocolate.

For now, I’m off to grade a few more assignments for the students in my summer course…yes, I even teach during summer vacation, but just one or two classes. I hope you enjoy these delicious protein balls. I’d love to hear from you and maybe your modified version.

If you’re interested in my canning recipes for homemade tomato juice or canning green beans, check out the following links to the recipes that I have used year after year.

Canning Green Beans the Time-Tested Way

Canning Tomato Juice the Easy Way!

God bless from the mountains of Kentucky! Remember, it’s never too late to begin your journey to a healthier and happier you!

Making Memories in the Mountains…

Hello from the mountains of Kentucky! We’ve had a couple of beautiful fall-like days in Appalachia. It almost feels like fall with temperatures in the upper seventies! I’m not complaining, this is perfect weather for outdoor activities, porch sitting, and for picking and canning beans.

Fourteen quarts of green beans picked and canned this morning!

I enjoyed the morning yesterday with our oldest granddaughter working up beans that we had picked from the garden. It was a memorable morning for both of us. We enjoyed small talk, reflecting on different things going on our lives, sharing fun-filled memories, and also our dreams and some of our future plans. I love days like this. It reminds me of my days as a young girl sitting on the front porch of my mamaw’s little grocery store. We would string green beans to hang dry for shuck beans, or as some prefer to call them, leather britches. We also sat countless hours breaking freshly picked beans for canning. These were experiences that helped mold me into who I am today and memories that I will forever cherish.

Rows of vining beans on fence from our garden last year.

As we sat working up the beans yesterday, i couldn’t help but allow my mind to drift back to a much simpler time…a time when days seemed to be forever long, summer vacations were the best, hard work was appreciated, porch sitting was welcomed, and families actually talked to each other… face to face! Those were the days prior to personal technology (AKA cell phones) and also days that make me long for those simpler times! I recall sitting for hours on the old bus seat or wooden ladder-back chairs helping my mamaw work up her beans. I never remember saying I was bored or complaining about helping. I enjoyed helping and also working the produce from our garden, even as a kid.

I loved spending time with my mamaw, and also hearing the stories of her youth, and when her kids were growing up. She would talk about the importance of putting away/canning enough food for winter and for what she called, hard-times.

I also thought about the days we spent on our back porch with our mom working in freshly picked cabbage. She would divide the big heads of white cabbage and place a half in a large bowl for me to chop. I loved having the job of chopping cabbage with the sterilized open ring of the empty cream can, and then gradually graduating to using a grater, only after she was sure I wouldn’t lose a knuckle.

I worked along side my mom as she would fill the sterilized jars with beautiful white shredded cabbage to be pickled into delicious sour kraut. We enjoyed the fresh kraut immensely with soup beans, AkA pinto beans. The heat from working outside didn’t bother us or deter us from our mission whether it was work or play. We were not accustomed to air conditioning and often went outside to seek refuge from the heat inside our house. Some of my fondest memories of summer and summer vacation are playing outside, playing hide and seek in our papaw’s corn field, making club houses in the barn, and playing in the creek. Regardless the heat index or what the thermometer read, we enjoyed playing and having fun outside!

Our youngest grandson running through the rows of young corn.

I can also remember as a kid pondering on the words that I had heard my mom and both grandparents speak of. Hard-times, I wondered what they were, when they would arrive, and why would canning hundreds of jars of beans, cabbage, and corn help us when hard-times arrived. I thought canning, drying, and preserving was just something that everyone did, what we were supposed to do.

I didn’t realize that many times in my youth we were actually living in those hard-times that my mamaw and papaw spoke about. We always had plenty to eat, a full root cellar or pantry of canned goods, which included fried apples, peaches, beans, corn, jams, apple butter and more. Today, I am thankful that I learned from my mom and grandparents how to garden, can, preserve, and how to plan for and also to survive and make it through real-life hard-times.

I recall in our youth, and in our own children’s youth relying on our pantry of dried beans, canned beans, baskets of potatoes we dug from our garden, corn from the freezer, and many other goodies we put away. I learned early on in our marriage that when the primary source of income comes from coal mining, pink slips and lay offs were inevitable. Unfortunately, we also learned that unemployment insurance barely met the bills. This was when I truly learned that having a well-stocked pantry of preserved and canned food helped families to survive those real-life hard-times.

Our garden early in early spring.

But, more than anything, I learned from my mom, grandparents, and experience that God will always provide, and He honors hard work. I’ve also learned that planting and working the garden as a family creates many cherished memories, provides nourishing healthy food for our entire family, supplements the weekly grocery bill, and also ensures that an Appalachian tradition of gardening and preserving is still handed down from generation to generation and remains a way of life.

Our oldest grandson hoeing young tomatoes in late spring.

I hope you have enjoyed my Appalachian memory and a small part of my heritage. Feel free to leave feedback. I enjoy hearing from my readers. For now, God bless from the mountains of Kentucky!

Canning Tomato Juice the Easy Way!

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It’s hard to believe that fall is upon us! While walking Freckles this morning I noticed the colors of the leaves. The subtle changes that are already taking place are beautiful, which make me anxious for all of the fall festivities, foods, colors, fashion and every part of fall except knowing that winter follows these wonderful months. Dreading the snow and ice of winter is a natural part of living in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains…but I can honestly say, there’s no place like home and I can’t imagine living anywhere but the mountains of Kentucky.

With the happy thoughts of fall also came a bit of sadness. As we walked past our garden a mix of emotions consumed me. We’ve been very blessed with a bounty of delicious vegetables this year. But, seeing the final tomatoes of the season struggling to cling to the dying vines, the bean vines turning yellow and the corn stalks anxiously awaiting becoming decorative fodder shocks…a bit of sadness consumed me and filled my heart. I knew that I would miss visiting our garden and picking vegetables each evening. I would even miss hoeing the rows of ripe delicious vegetables, all the hours of hard work…but then thinking about the abundance of canned food our garden has provided somehow made the upcoming days of winter a little less undesirable. Suddenly, I had an overwhelming urge to cook a bit stock pot of homemade vegetable soup!

With the last days of summer approaching also comes the time to can tomato juice. My family loves tomato juice in homemade vegetable soup, chili, macaroni and tomato juice and sometimes just as a wonderful and tasty juice to drink. Anyway homemade tomato juice is incorporated…it’s delicious and always makes the dish a bit tastier!

When I first began canning for myself and my family. I was eager to incorporate skills I learned as a child growing up in a farming community and also experiment and create strategies of my own to discover my own style. I was eager to make it mine, to know it and to own it! Over the years I have learned many new tricks, strategies, and ideas that have made canning much more pleasurable and shortcuts that also helps canning fit into my busy schedule. As a college professor, writer, wife, mother and grandmother my schedule can fill up very quickly, as I’m sure yours does as well. I also wanted to find methods to can healthier food to accommodate my style of clean eating. I’m anxious to share my quick and easy method of canning delicious time-tested tomato juice with you so that you can also preserve your own delicious jars of tomato juice for you and your family.

Ingredients:

Fresh tomatoes (I typically process 3-5 gallons of tomatoes at a time, but you may process as few or as many as you have)
Table salt
Lemon juice

Tools:

Quart jars with rings and lids
Water canner
Large fine mesh wire strainer or sieve 
Ninja, blender or food processor (I prefer using a ninja but either will work)
Large stock pot
Wooden spoon
Funnel

Process:

Wash and sterilize jars, rings and flats. Add a tablespoon of lemon juice and one-quarter teaspoon of salt in each quart jar and set aside. Wash tomatoes, cut the core and any bruised or bad spot out of the tomatoes. There’s no need to peel the tomatoes. Cut tomatoes into quarters and place in the ninja or blender. Using the ninja I pulse several times and then process the tomatoes for a couple of minutes, usually only two minutes or so, just until they become a thick tomato puree. Pour the puree into the large stockpot. Once all of the tomatoes have been processed through the ninja and poured into the stockpot turn the burner on and slowly bring to a boil. Once the tomato puree is boiling begin stirring and allow tomatoes to boil five minutes stirring constantly. After five minutes turn the burner off and remove tomatoes from heat.

Place the funnel in the mouth of the quart jar. Holding the strainer or sieve over the funnel begin adding the tomato puree into the strainer. You may use a ladle to add the tomatoes to the strainer. Using the wooden spoon press all of the tomato mixture through the strainer and through the funnel filling the jar with beautiful tomato juice. Once the jar is full with at least a half-inch head space remaining wipe the rim of the jar and place the sterilized flat and ring on the jar. You can then clean your strainer out. You will notice that there’s not much left in the strainer, but you will find seeds and a little tomato peel remaining. The great news is there are little to no seeds in your juice! Yay!

Continue filling the jars by pressing the tomatoes through the strainer and into the jars. Once you’ve filled the jars (usually a 3-5 gallon bucket of tomatoes makes at least 7 quart jars of juice) place jars in the canner with water covering the jars by at least an inch. Slowly bring water to a boil. Once the water begins to boil process the jars of juice for twenty minutes. After twenty minutes turn the stove off and allow the water to settle and slightly cool. Carefully remove jars from the canner and place on a towel or cooling rack. You should hear that wonderful popping sound that we all enjoy hearing so much! The jars should begin to seal right away. Once they’ve sealed and cooled you are ready to add the dates on the lids with a permanent marker and add the beautiful jars of red deliciousness to your pantry shelves!

I have learned that canning a few jars of juice at a time prevents me from getting burn out and becoming overly exhausted with making tomato juice. I have also found that I still gain as many jars of juice over a period of weeks or possibly two months as I do when I have tried to juice bushels of tomatoes at one time. I like juicing in increments as I can involve my grandchildren and allow them to learn the process of canning and gaining a cultural experience and learn a tradition that many have already forgotten. I love passing down cultural experiences from generation to generation.

I hope that you enjoy my method of canning tomato juice as much we do and find as much pleasure in the dishes that you create with this tasty deliciousness. Be sure to check out Canning Green Beans the Time-Tested Way for another time-tested method of preserving your beautiful bountiful vegetables. If you’ve enjoyed my recipes or articles, please feel free to leave a comment. I truly enjoy hearing from my readers. Also, thank you for your continued support. For now, blessings from the mountains of Kentucky!

 

How to Dehydrate Summer Squash & Zucchini

chickens

I love quiet mornings in the Appalachian Mountains. With the house filled with the aroma of brewed coffee and the roosters crowing their good morning wake up call I am filled with enjoyment, peace and the security of home. I’ve always believed in that all too familiar cliche…”there’s no place like home”…even when home is buzzing with activity. Activity is actually an understatement. It’s been a very hectic week around our home. My kitchen is still buzzing with action as we plan, prepare and fill our pantry and freezer with healthy garden food for the upcoming winter months. 

As our garden flourishes our table continues to be filled with family, memories, conversation and wonderful healthy dishes. We’re also still enjoying the process of canning, dehydrating and freezing for upcoming winter months. It’s a comforting feeling and a feeling of accomplishment to know that our family will be enjoying green beans, okra, corn, apples and many more delicious homegrown treats from our garden including summer squash and zucchini. Yes, those big bountiful plants are still producing an impressive amount of deliciousness daily! We have been blessed with enough of both vegetables to enjoy daily and to also preserve for our family, our families family, our church family and our neighbors! God has truly blessed our garden with a bountiful harvest this year!

squash

In my last blog post I shared twelve ideas of how to enjoy all those summer squash and zucchini that you’ve grown. I hope you  stepped outside of the traditional banana bread and baked as well as enjoyed the tropical pomegranate bread made with summer squash! I’ll be honest…we’ve enjoyed a couple more loaves since I posted the recipe. It has quickly become a new family favorite. When you bake don’t forget to vacuum seal a few extra slices for that warm winter evening snack, or anytime snack! If you’ve not checked out this delicious recipe…don’t hesitate…check it out! What are you waiting for? You’ll love it! Tropical Squash & Pomegranate Bread/Muffins For your convenience, just simply click on the link above and introduce your family to my families new favorite!

squash II

 

With the freezers beginning to fill up and the canning shelves being carefully lined with a multitude of goodies, I decided it was time to crank up the dehydrator and begin filling up a couple of gallon jars that house dehydrated squash and zucchini each year. Year after year I am amazed how quickly a gallon of each delicious dried veggie accumulates! Dehydrating is a simple process that is also an easy an effective way of preserving almost any kind of fruit or vegetable. For squash and zucchini the process is easy. Simply follow the directions below and then enjoy your favorite summer vegetables year round.

Process:

Wash and dry squash and zucchini
Slice in desired thickness and shapes (I prefer thin sliced) with the peel
Long spiral noodles are great as well
Line dehydrator trays
Set temperature to 135 for 13 & 1/2 hours
Dehydrators will vary, but this works best for me
Check vegetables for crispness.
Stop the process when vegetables become crispy.
Place slices in an airtight jar (glass works best)

dehydrated zucchini

These wonderful slices of goodness can be enjoyed in a variety of ways. Put a few in a bowl or zip lock baggie and season them with your favorite seasonings and eat them as a snack. They make great veggie chips! I enjoy putting the crispy slices in soups, omelets, casseroles and many other dishes. When the crispy slices are added to dishes they will rehydrate from the moisture of the other ingredients in your dishes. For example, in soups the broth will rehydrate the veggies and bring them back to plump deliciousness. Either way…crispy or rehydrated you can’t go wrong with dehydrated vegetables. The shelf life is great as long as the container is airtight, they don’t take much shelf space, are very versatile, they’re healthy and they taste great!

I hope you and your family enjoy yet another method of preserving, enjoying, and serving all of those wonderful summer squash and zucchini. As always, it’s a pleasure to hear from each of you. Feel free to share your comments, ideas, recipes and your thoughts on my posts. Don’t forget to clik follow to be notified of new posts in the future. Also, check out and enjoy my recipe of the week Tropical Squash & Pomegranate Bread/Muffins I’m sure your family will enjoy it as much as mine. As always, God bless from the mountains of Kentucky.

http://www.ahealthiermesimpleandclean.com Copyright 2017

 

 

Canning Spicy Kosher Dill Pickles

It’s been a little while since I last posted. But, I have to admit…life has been a bit crazy for this farm girl/college professor/author. Between teaching two fully loaded classes this summer, which I loved, promoting book sales, and I’ll let you in a little secret…I’ve been working hard on two more books. I’m hoping to have one of the books ready for editing by fall and the other complete by winter. I’ll keep you posted as both books progress!

However, the summer has consisted of more than just being connected to my laptop with students and writing. June was planting time for the Bowling’s. We finally have everything in the ground and have begun to reap the wonderful rewards of hours and hours of planting, weeding, hoeing, and nurturing. The cucumbers, zucchini and squash are growing faster than we can keep them picked. Needless to say…we’ve thoroughly enjoyed zucchini and squash sautéed, baked, zucchini noodles and also made into delicious breads. By the way, I’ll be sharing a new zucchini bread recipe very soon!

I can’t believe we’re already harvesting from our garden! We just canned our first dozen spicy kosher dill pickles this week. For years we worked to perfect our kosher dill pickle recipe. We’ve developed our pickle recipe over a few years by adding, taking away and adjusting the seasoning. After several attempts, we finally perfected the recipe a couple of summers ago. I’m anxious to share our delicious pickle recipe with you so you can enjoy these quick and easy spicy kosher pickles with your family.

Canning pickles requires a little prep work and a few ingredients.

Ingredients:
30-35 cucumbers of choice (I like the pickling cucumbers best)
3 cups of water
3 cups of white distilled vinegar
1 tablespoon of whole black pepper corns
1 tablespoon of red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon of coriander seeds
1 teaspoon of white sugar
at least 12 sprigs of fresh dill
1 tablespoon of dried dill
1 tablespoon of mustard seed
1/4 cup of kosher salt
one cup of fresh garlic cloves (whole)
Pickle crisp (optional)

Process:
Wash cucumbers (set aside)
Wash and sterilize a dozen jars, rings, and flats (even if they are new)
Slice cucumbers into quarters and pack carefully into jars (pack jars tight)
Add a sprig of fresh dill to each jar
Add one whole crushed clove of garlic to each jar (can be processed whole garlic, but fresh is better)

Combine the following ingredients in a large cooker:
3 cups of water
1 tablespoon black pepper corns
1 tablespoon dried dill
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 tablespoon mustard seed
1 tablespoon of red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon of coriander seeds
1/4 cup of kosher salt
bring to a rolling boil and add 3 cups of white distilled vinegar and turn heat off.

Pour or dip mixture into jars over the sliced cucumbers and I like to add 1/4 teaspoon of pickle crisp to each jar for an added crispness to the pickles. Be sure to leave head space for the processing of the pickles, wipe the rim of the jars, add the flat and ring. Seal the jar but don’t tighten extremely tight. Place the jars in the canner, cover with water at least an inch above the jars and put the lid on. I like to use a stove top canner. I’m a creature of habit and have always canned with a boiling water bath. I’ve found it to be successful. So, I find no reason to mess with success. Set temperature to medium high so the jars don’t heat up too fast. Bring the water to a rolling boil.

Once the water begins to boil set your timer for fifteen minutes. After fifteen minutes turn the stove off and allow jars to sit for five minutes. Carefully remove the jars from the water with jar lifters (which are the handiest inexpensive tool you’ll ever invest in) carefully place the jars on a towel to protect the surface beneath them. Don’t allow the jars to touch. Soon you’ll hear the POP that I never grow tired of hearing. That sound means the pickles are sealing! They should all seal within the hour. Once the jars and lids are cool to the touch write the date on the lid with permanent marker. Allow jars to cool completely before storing away in the pantry.

kosher pickles

I hope you and your family enjoy our spicy kosher pickles as much as my family, friends neighbors do. We’ve found them to be a tasty addition to burgers, hotdogs, soup beans, and actually as a side to most of our meals. Please feel free to leave feedback. I always look forward to reading your comments. Feel free to check back for upcoming summer canning ideas and more about my new books, life as a college professor, and more of my adventures of living in the Appalachian Mountains. If you notice there’s a jar of squash that’s visible in the picture above. I’ll be sharing this recipe with you soon. Wishing you and your family the best from the mountains of Kentucky!

 

 

Making and Canning Homemade Clean Veggie Soup

I’ve have heard people complaining that there’s too much waste when clean eating. Some people feel this way because other family members won’t eat from the same clean menu. Some people are apprehensive about clean eating as they claim that it’s too hard to figure to plan a lunch menu. Still others confess to being bored with eating the same thing over and over. I totally disagree with all of the above statements and think you will too after trying my clean veggie soup!

This delicious soup allows me to make one item on the dinner menu, as everyone loves it, even if they’re not clean eating. Canning the leftovers allows me to have access to a quick and delicious lunch at home or on the go, or have it months later for a delicious supper. This soup is anything but boring!

I love making homemade clean vegetable soup. However, as many can witness when making soup there’s often an abundance leftovers. I’ve tried freezing soups in the past, which worked out pretty good, but not as tasty as a fresh pot of soup. So, the last time I made this delicious soup I decided to can the left overs. It worked out great! I actually ate a bowl of it today for lunch…and it was delicious! I’m excited to share not only my recipe for clean veggie soup, but also the directions for canning this delicious soup.

soup II

Okay, first things first the ingredients.

1 medium package of ground elk, venison, or organic beef
1 large sweet onion
1 teaspoon garlic
1/2 teaspoon cumin
salt and black pepper (this can be adjusted to taste)
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
one large organic sweet pepper, or one homegrown sweet pepper (any color)
1 large can of organic tomato juice, or 1 quart home canned tomato juice
1 can of organic corn, or 1 small bag of fresh corn
1 can of organic green beans, or 1 quart of fresh green beans
five-six large potatoes
small bag of organic carrots, or homegrown carrots
1 pint of fresh crushed tomatoes, or one small can of organic crushed tomatoes
1 can of organic peas, or 1 small bag of homegrown sweet peas
3 beef bullion cubes

Next, easy to follow directions:

  • Chop onions and peppers to desired size. I like to chop mine rather large for more of a bite.
  • Place a couple of tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in a large dutch oven and heat over medium heat.
  • Tenderize onions and peppers in olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
  • Add very lean choice of meat in the same pot and brown with onions and peppers.
  • Stir in garlic and add red pepper flakes and cumin.
  • Drain if necessary. If the mean is lean enough there will be little to no drippings to drain.
  • In the same pot begin adding vegetables one at a time and stirring.
  • When all the vegetables have been added incorporate tomato juice. You may add more if desired. I sometimes add a little water.
  • In a separate kettle boil peeled potatoes and sliced carrots and add salt and pepper, boil until a knife will pierce but still have a bite.
    (if you use can carrots, they can be added when the other vegetables are added)
  • Drain potatoes and carrots and add to the pot of soup
  • Add bullion cubes to soup and season again with salt and pepper to taste
  • Simmer on medium to low heat for at least two hours before serving

This is a great supper for a cold relaxing evening at home. It’s also a fantastic soup for lunch. Very filling and deliciously clean soup that will leave full and guilt free!

Now for canning those delicious leftovers!

You will need very few things to can this delicious soup. You will need clean sterilized pint jars, rings, flats, and a canner. The steps to can it are as simple. Simply fill clean, warm, and sterilized jars with warm leftover soup. It’s important that the soup is warm to prevent jars from breaking. Also, leave approximately a half an inch to an inch headspace. Wipe jars clean and place flats and rings on them. Don’t tighten the rings extra tight, as you can do this after the jars are removed from the canner. Place warm jars of soup in a canner of warm water, bring water to a boil, and boil for 45 minutes. Remove jars carefully from water and allow to cool. Dry jars and check to ensure that each jar has sealed. Secure the rings, and date the soup. Seriously, this soup is as good, if not better after being canned than it was the day it was made! I typically will have enough soup left over to can at least four or five pints of soup.

IMG_1263

I hope you and your family enjoy this soup as much we do! It’s delicious! It’s clean! It’s satisfying and as savory the day you make or six months later when you want it for lunch! If you enjoyed this recipe feel free to check out all of my canning recipes! Also, please feel free to leave comments. I love to hear from my readers! Happy canning!