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!

 

Tropical Squash & Pomegranate Bread/Muffins

It’s that time of year again! What time? The time to figure out what to do with the bountiful harvest of summer squash and zucchini that consumes our garden, refrigerator, counter space and even the dining room table. Even though our family enjoys both squash and zucchini…the multitude and rate at which it grows during the month of July can be a bit overwhelming, especially if you don’t know what to do with these tasty and healthy veggies. God has truly blessed our garden abundantly this year. I’m excited today to share some creative ideas of how we are preparing both squash and zucchini for our summer meals as well as filling our freezer and pantry for the winter months ahead. So grab a cup of coffee and delve into day one of our journey of preparing and processing summer squash and zucchini.

So what did we do with our bountiful harvest of zucchini and squash? We prepared them and also processed them into the following;

1. zucchini & pomegranate bread/muffins (today’s recipe)
2. tropical squash bread/muffins
3. dehydrated zucchini and squash slices
4. dehydrated zucchini noodles
6. zucchini chips
7. zucchini & squash vegetarian lasagna
8. canned pineapple zucchini
9. zucchini and squash stir fries
10. pickled squash and zucchini
11. parmesan zucchini boats
12. zucchini & squash omelets

What better way to kick off this series of blogs than with bread recipes! I love the smell of fresh-baked breads in the winter and just as much in summer months. Actually, I like the smell of fresh-baked breads any time of the year. But, there’s nothing quite as aromatic and satisfying as tropical squash bread baking. Yes, that’s right, squash bread. I have and enjoyed a variety of zucchini breads over the years but had never attempted squash bread until last week. As I worked around my kitchen with the abundance of both squash and zucchini that we had picked my mind raced with what to do with all of those beautiful yellow squash. With the dehydrator full of both zucchini and squash slices awaiting their fate of being vacuumed sealed for later rehydration. I began planning a new zucchini bread recipe…so why not try baking bread with squash. I am so happy that I followed through with this idea. Both breads were amazing! I hope you and your family enjoy them as much as my family does.

Squash Pomegranate Bread Ingredients

3 cups of self-rising flour (can be substituted with whole wheat or coconut flour)
1 pinch of salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon (I prefer fresh grated cinnamon)
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon of organic flax chia seed combination (optional)

1/2 cup organic dark brown sugar
1/2 cup fresh raw honey
1/2 cup semi-drained unsweetened crushed pineapple (fresh is best)
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1 medium yellow crooked neck squash (about a cup and a half grated)
1/2 cup of dried pomegranates (can substitute with dried cranberries)
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce or apple butter ( I prefer using my homemade apple butter as it adds an additional layer to the flavor)
3 fresh eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 over-ripe organic banana
1/2 cup chopped organic pecans

Mix dry ingredients well and set aside. Mix remaining wet ingredients and add to the dry ingredients. Mash the banana and add to the mixture. Rough chop the pecans and add to the mixture. Don’t over mix. Wash, dry and grate one medium-sized crooked neck squash into the mixture. There’s no need to peel the squash as the peel adds wonderful flavor, color, and fiber to the bread. Don’t worry about the seeds as they will bake away as well. I use a simple hand grater to grate the squash. Once the squash has been grated give the mixture one last stir.

Pre-heat oven to 350 and spray a loaf pan or you may spray a muffin tin and bake as muffins instead. Once the oven is preheated pour the mix into the loaf pan or muffin tin and bake on the bottom rack of the oven for thirty minutes. Check the bread at the thirty minute mark for doneness with a toothpick. Ovens will vary therefore check every five minutes until baked. I like my bread to have a bit of a crispy edge and moist inside…so, usually fourty minutes and my bread is done! Don’t over bake the bread. You’ll know when your bread is done by the edges, when the toothpick comes out clean, and it springs back to touch.

squash II

Before you know it your kitchen will be filled with the aroma of tropical bread baking! This is a sweet delicious treat that is great served as a breakfast treat with a cold glass of milk, a hot cup of coffee or served as a dessert! Honestly, it tastes great anytime of the day or night. It’s tropical flavor dances on your tongue warm or cold.

Tip of the Day:

Once your bread has cooled  you can freeze individual vacuum sealed slices to ensure that you have a slice of this tasty bread anytime. I have vacuum sealed pumpkin roll, zucchini bread and now tropical squash bread. When you are ready to indulge in this sweet treat simply remove from the freezer and either allow it to thaw or defrost for a couple of seconds in the microwave. The bread is amazingly still moist and just as flavorful!

squash III.JPG

Pictured above are loaves of tropical squash bread and chocolate zucchini bread. I can’t wait to share the chocolate zucchini bread in upcoming days! I hope your family enjoys this delicious bread as much as mine! Please feel free to leave comments. To find out more creative and useful ways to preserve and bake both squash and zucchini click the follow button on my blog! From my kitchen to yours…Blessings from the mountains of Kentucky!

squash bread II

squash bread

 

 

 

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!

 

 

Drying Stevia

I love fall, but I’m saddened about not being able to step outside my backdoor and clip fresh herbs. My summer herbs are still green, perky, and plentiful…but their days are numbered! Even though I love fall, and will miss fresh herbs, it’s time to focus on the chore of harvesting herbs. To harvest tasty herbs, the herbs must be green and still full of life. Fresh herbs make any dish taste better. I cut fresh basil this morning for an omelet…delicious to say the least! As tasty as summer herbs are during the hot months…they still kick your dishes up a notch when they are dried. Dried herbs can be used year around, but are especially a treat during the cold winter months. Drying herbs can be a bit of a slow process, depending on the method that you choose. Drying herbs is the process that I thoroughly enjoy the most!

My backdoor herb box

My backdoor herb box

When I made the choice to eat clean, I also made the choice to grow my own herbs. What better way to know that your herbs are truly organically grown! I was also eager to try different types of sweeteners. I found that I love using agave nectar and honey, but sometimes a dry sweetener is necessary. After researching, and speaking with some wise old farmers about stevia, my mind was made up. I would grow and harvest my own sweetener!

Stevia is a beautiful green plant that is very easy to grow. It takes very little maintenance, other than water, regular pruning, and a lots of sunshine! I decided to start small, since it was a new herb in my garden. I planted a very large pot of the beautiful green plant. One pot of the sweet herb has provided through the spring and summer months, and is now ready to be harvested for the fall and winter months ahead.

Sweet Herb/Stevia growing outside my back door!

Sweet Herb/Stevia growing outside my back door!

The process is fairly simple. There are a variety of methods of drying herbs. You may air dry them by placing in them in shallow pans, dehydrate them, hang them to dry, or oven dry them. If you plan to dehydrate your herbs, or in a flat pan, simply clip the desired amount of shoots of the sweet herb, and then clip off the leaves. If you dry them by hanging them, you will not need to clip the leaves.

I prefer to dry stevia in a pan in a dark room near filtered window light. No matter the method discard leaves that may be bruised, or have brown spots on them. Rinse the leaves to remove any pests, or dust and allow to air dry. Once the leaves are dry place them in a dry shallow pan near filtered window light in a dark room. Be patient, and check the herbs in a couple of days. You may occasionally manipulate the leaves to allow even drying. After about two weeks, your leaves should be dry enough to pass the crunch test. The crunch test, is simply hearing the crisp and crunchy sound when you crumble the leaves. If they pass the test, you are ready. If they do not pass the crunch test, allow a few more days and check them again.

Process:

Dry leaves in a shallow pan in a dark room with filtered light

When leaves pass the crunch test, crumble the leaves by hand onto a clean white paper towel or large pan.

Place crumbled leaves in a coffee grinder.

Pulse until you’ve reached the desired consistency.

Place fresh ground herbs in a clear glass jar with a lid. (I prefer glass jars to preserve the freshness of the plant.)

Label the Lid or Jar to identify the herb.

Growing & drying stevia

Growing & drying stevia

Enjoy your organically grown stevia in teas, desserts, canning, and more. If you have enjoyed learning about growing and drying stevia, be sure to check out Drying Fresh Basil. I look forward to hearing from you! I would love to know how you incorporate fresh stevia in your favorite dishes.

My Grandmother’s Canned Pickled Green Tomatoes

With fall comes the clean up of the final tomatoes lingering on the now drying vines in our garden. Yes, it’s hard to believe that it’s time to harvest the last of the green tomatoes. Pickled green tomatoes is a third generation family favorite. I also love the memories that come with canning pickled tomatoes each year. Fall canning was one of my favorite times of the year when I was a little girl. I’ve stood beside my grandmother and mother countless times washing jars, rinsing tomatoes, and eventually slicing tomatoes. My grandmother passed away more than fifteen years ago, but she left me a treasured keepsake, her hand-written recipe for pickled tomatoes. My mom doesn’t can anymore due to age, and health complications. But that doesn’t keep me from taking her our canned goods to enjoy! I love to share our canned food, or what I like to call our blessings with others.

Okay, enough reminiscing! If you’ve never had the pleasure of eating one of these crisp and spicy slices of deliciousness…you don’t know what you’ve been missing! I know they sound weird, but trust me, they are delicious with pinto beans, aka soup beans, soups, meatloaf, and any other hardy supper. Pickled tomatoes doesn’t have to be limited to a side for heavy country cooking. Remember, clean recipes can include soup beans, soups, tuna patties, meatloaf made with venison, or elk, grilled chicken, and so much more. They also make a great addition to salads as well. I like to use them in place of pickled banana peppers with my salads. The possibilities are endless!

Pickled Green Tomatoes are a fall and winter favorite.

Pickled Green Tomatoes are a fall and winter favorite.

Now for the few ingredients that you will need.

green tomatoes
1 pint of salt
1 quart of vinegar
5 quarts of water
jalapeno peppers (optional)

Process

1.) wash and sterilize quart jars

always wash jars, even if they are new

always wash jars, even if they are new


wash jars

Sterilize all jars before using them

2.) in large stock pot combine salt, vinegar, and water

3.) While these ingredients are coming up to a boil, wash and quarter the tomatoes, or slice them according to your preference.

4.) Slice jalapeno peppers (the removal of seeds is optional)

5.) add sliced tomatoes and jalapeno peppers to sterilized jars

5.) Bring ingredients up to a boil and pour over tomatoes

6.) wipe rims and seal tomatoes

7.) Process in boiling water bath for ten minutes (optional) 

my canner

8.) Carefully remove jars of tomatoes, place on a towel to cool

9.) Do not disturb the jars over night, check rings to ensure tightness the following morning

10.) Don’t forget to date the lids before putting the jars of tomatoes in the pantry

Tomatoes will change from bright green to a dull green after they are processed.

Tomatoes will change from bright green to a dull green after they are processed.

Now all that’s left to do is to try to contain the excitement ,and desire to crack open a jar of these delicious green tomatoes! You can experiment with various seasonings for spicier pickles. We have added red pepper flakes to the ingredients, which resulted in a much spicier pickle. They were delicious, but I prefer to use the recipe above. I confess, I’m somewhat a creature of habit! This recipe is time-tested and has always turned out a crispy delicious pickle. I’ll never forget my youthful summers spent helping my grandmother and my mother can tomatoes. I’ve been canning pickled tomatoes with this same recipe for nearly thirty years, and still enjoy the process almost as much as I did when I was a little girl! I am super excited to share this recipe with you, and for you to try my grandmother’s green tomato pickles. If you have enjoyed this fall favorite, be sure to check out my clean and spicy salsa recipe Clean and Spicy Salsa. I look forward to hearing from you. Feel free to follow my blog for many more upcoming fall favorites.

Drying Fresh Basil

Clean eating has changed my life in many different ways. I feel better physically, I have more energy and stamina than I’ve had in twenty years, and I’ve lost sixty-eight pounds during this three-year journey. Clean eating has changed the way I see food, and how I see my life. I am enjoying my life, my career, my Christianity, and my family more than I have in a number of years, simply because I feel better! I have learned that clean eating is not a diet, but a lifestyle. So, what does drying herbs have to do with clean eating? Everything! Herbs can enhance the flavor of an ordinary meal…turning it into an extraordinary meal! Herbs grown at home are also organic, and free of pesticides. Growing herbs can also be therapeutic and a source of relaxation.

I have always dabbled a little with small pots of herbs in my kitchen. I enjoyed the convenience of having fresh parsley and chives at my fingertips. But, I wanted more. I wanted a wider variety of fresh unprocessed herbs that were organically grown and free of pesticides. During the winter I planned a herb garden that included fresh basil, dill, a variety of mint, sweet herb, chives, thyme, oregano, and more. A few months later, my herb garden was a reality, and a success! Believe it or not, I raised enough dill to can and process several dozen quart jars of kosher dill pickles, fill my pantry with dried herbs for the winter, and also give an abundance of herbs to family and friends. We’ve enjoyed fresh, oregano, and chives all summer and still reaping the rewards from my small herb garden. I will probably harvest herbs at least two more times before fall at which time I will transplant most of the herbs inside. Transplanting the herbs will allow my family to enjoy fresh-cut herbs all winter, and start a fresh garden outdoors in early spring.

nanny's herbs

My herb box in early spring

basil

One of my pots of basil, oregano, and sweet herb

There are several easy methods for dying basil. I often cut basil, tie it in small bundles, and hang it to dry, I also clip the leaves and dry in flat containers, and occasionally I like to use the dehydrator. My favorite method is hanging basil in bundles in my kitchen. The aroma of the fresh-cut basil fills the kitchen for days. I also prefer the intensified flavor of air-dried basil. Today, I’m going to share step by step instructions of how to air-dry basil in flat containers.

You will need:

Fresh basil
cookie sheets or paper plates
coffee grinder
small glass jar

1.) Cut fresh leaves from basil just before it flowers as the flavor will be at its peak. Discard leaves that have blemishes or bruises.

fresh basil two

Fresh basil mid-summer

2.) Rinse with clear water. Spin dry, or pat dry with a clean paper towel

3.) Lay basil leaves on a flat container such as a lined cookie sheet, or paper plate. I prefer using paper plates.

4.) Place in indirect sunlight. Herbs retain a better flavor if slowly air-dried, rather than drying quickly by sunlight.

5.) Check the herbs weekly until they are dry and crispy.

dried flat

basil leaves air-dried in indirect sunlight for approximately three weeks

6.) Place dried basil leaves in a coffee grinder and pulse until the desired consistency is achieved.

coffee grinder

A great little inexpensive coffee grinder!

7.) Check basil after a couple of pulses to prevent over grinding. Repeat this step until all of the basil is ground.

fine basil

Fresh ground basil

8.) Place ground basil in a clean glass jar. I prefer using glass jars as it helps maintain the herbs freshness.

9.) Don’t forget to label your herbs to prevent any possible mix ups.

glass jar label your basil

I’m anxious for you to grow and dry your own herbs! But, be warned…once you’ve tried both fresh and dried herbs, you’ll be hooked! There’s a distinct difference in the taste, quality, and cooking results. There’s no turning back to store-bought herbs!

Canning Your Very Own Delicious Apple Butter

apple butter

It’s a beautiful morning in the mountains of Kentucky! I love taking early morning walks and listening to the sounds of the mountains waking up! To me, there’s nothing more inviting than hearing our roosters crowing their early morning wake up calls, listening to the doves gently cooing a peaceful call from the tree-tops, and hearing the creek water flowing over the time-worn stones. This type of morning was especially inviting and therapeutic today after a long day of working in fresh picked apples yesterday!

Haney's

Entrance to Haney’s Apple Farm in Nancy, Kentucky

A couple of days ago, we decided to visit Haney’s Apple Farm located in Nancy Kentucky. I want to take a few minutes to give a shout out to this exceptional family owned and run business. The grounds were beautiful, clean, had a nice large variety of ready to pick apples, already picked apples, and many more apple related products, and treats. The prices were affordable and they had a friendly and informative staff on hand to answer all of our questions. After we picked three bushels of apples, we enjoyed eating a delicious homemade fried apple pie in a quainte little café located at the entrance of the farm. All in all, it was a memorable day of picking apples in preparation of making and canning apple butter, as well as a few other family favorites. I’ll share those favorite recipes in future posts, but for now…let’s make apple butter!

apple two

Beautiful crisp Molly apples at Haney’s Apple Farm

apple three

My family enjoying a day of picking apples

You will need the following ingredients & tools to make and can your apple butter.

Ingredients

One half bushel Apples of choice (I’ve used a variety of apples. Most work well, but I didn’t like using the Granny Smith apples for apple butter)
3 cups of white sugar
1 cup of brown sugar
3 tablespoons of ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons of ground all spice
2 tablespoons of ground cloves
2 tablespoons of Real Fruit (I use the little or no sugar and pectin type)
the juice of two lemons
3 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar
Keep in mind that you can season to suit your own taste. After adding these ingredients taste and add additional spice if necessary.
Tools

One dozen pint jars with bands and flats
Large stock pot
Crock pot
Food processor
Water Bath stove top canner

1.) Wash and rinse jars, bands, and flats in warm soapy water. Next you will need to sterilize jars, flats, and bands. This can either be done by using the dishwasher with hot water, placed in the oven for ten minutes on medium-high heat, or boiling for ten minutes.

wash jars II wash jars

2.) While your jars are sterilizing, peel and slice one half bushel of apples. Place apple slices in the stock pot and add water. Cook over medium-high heat until apples are tender, not soggy. The apples will swell up and rise when ready, so allow room for expansion.

cooking apples two

3.) Turn off apples and transfer softened apples to a food processor. This might take several attempts to work through all of the apples. Process the still warm apples in the food processor by pulsing a few times. The apples will look similar to apple sauce.

processing apples one processing apples two

If you don’t have a food processor you can use a blender or any other kitchen gadget that chops, such as a ninja or bullet.

4.) Transfer each container of warm diced apples to a clean crock pot. Turn the crock pot on high.

crock pot one

5.) Now you are ready to add your spices. Remember, you can add additional spices to suit your own taste. Some people prefer more cinnamon, while others like more all spice. That’s totally up to you. Once your spices have been added, stir well and cover with a lid. You will need to stir frequently while cooking for four hours. Your apple butter will get darker each time you stir it. Again, add extra seasoning after taste-testing your apple butter if necessary. I always start with the amount I have listed above and sprinkle or add as the apple mixture cooks until I reach the taste that I prefer.

crockpot two

The apple butter will become darker  as you add spices and cook it.

6.) After the apples have been seasoned to taste and cooked for four hours, turn the crock pot off. Next, you will transfer your apples back to the food processor. I prefer using my Ninja for this stage, simply because the apple butter pours out into the jars easier. Either device will produce the same results. You will pulse the warm seasoned apples a couple of times to achieve the desired smoothness. It will not take very long as the apples are soft and easily processed.

ninja one ninja two

7.) Once the desired consistency is achieved transfer the warm apple butter to jars and wipe the rim. Place flats and bands on the jars. Now your are ready to process your apple butter in a water bath in your canner. (My daughter doesn’t have a canner, so she uses a large stock pot to can in. She places a dish towel on the bottom of the canner and rolled up wash clothes between the jars to prevent the jars from bumping. It works just as well.)

my canner

8.) Process the jars in boiling water for twenty minutes. Remember the water must be over top of the jars. After processing carefully remove jars with a jar lifter and place them on a bath towel to cool. You will immediately begin to hear the beautiful popping sound that we love to hear! Once the jars have cooled add dates to the flats and check bands to ensure tightness.

date two

apple butter

Now you are ready for the job of cleaning up, and a little rest and relax with a good book! You deserve it! I hope you and your family enjoy this delicious apple butter as much as my family does. I can’t wait to share more canning recipes with you soon. I also have a few dried fruit recipes, and much more to share with you. Feel free to share my blog site and recipes with others. I also welcome your comments! Remember you can follow me on twitter, facebook, pinterest, or follow me at http://ahealthiermesimpleandclean.com

I look forward to hearing from each of you! I love feedback!

Canning Green Beans the Time-Tested Way

My husband and I both grew up in the mountains of Kentucky where summers were long, hot, and filled with outdoor adventures. Playing in the creek, swimming in the river, and exploring the mountains was part of our weekly routines. But, mountain living was not all fun and games. We had daily chores to do as well, many of our chores were garden related. Neither of us are strangers to garden-work, or the work that comes with harvesting.

Speaking of harvest time…it’s harvest time on our small farm! We’ve been picking green beans for weeks to eat for supper, and we’ve put a few quart bags in the freezer. But, it’s that time of year when the vines are hanging full of beautiful green beans, which means it’s picking time! Last week, while my husband and I were picking beans and canning, we began reminiscing about the jobs we were given as children during canning time. It was unanimous, both of us were always designated, the washing jobs. Yes, we were washers. We determined that it was our small hands that landed us this job. We didn’t mind, because we both loved canning, even as children. We still enjoy the pleasures and work that comes with the bounty of a garden.

It’s not too late to fill your pantry shelves with your very own canned green beans. I’m excited to share my family’s recipe for canning green beans with you. This is an easy and time-tested recipe that our family has used for generations. I know your family will enjoy these tasty green beans this winter when the snow is flying as much as we do!

Ingredients & Tools

1 bushel of fresh green beans (this yields 12-13 quart jars)
1 dozen quart canning jars with lids & rings
iodized table salt
water & canner

1) Find somewhere comfortable to string and break your beans. We prefer sitting outside on the porch and stringing in the early morning hours. However, when it’s too hot, we’ve been found stringing them in the kitchen where it’s nice and cool!

green beans                          Beans II

2) Next, wash the beans in cool tap water to remove any traces of garden dirt, or insects.

wash beans

3) Wash jars, rings, and flats carefully in hot soapy water.

wash jars II

4) Sterilize jars, rings, and flats by placing them in boiling water for ten minutes. I use the canner to boil my jars in. Sterilizing jars is a must. It helps prevent bacteria from forming.

wash jars

5) Fill warm jars with clean beans and add boiling water. Allow an inch for head-space. Add a teaspoon of salt to each jar of beans. Place flat on the top of the jar and tighten the ring. The ring doesn’t have to be extremely tight, as you will tighten them again after the canning process.

fill jars

6) Carefully place filled jars in canner of hot water. The water should cover the jars with at least one inch of water. Place the lid on the canner and turn the heat up to medium high.

canning beans
My Canner holds seven quart jars

my canner
This is my canner that I have used for years! I found
it at the Dollar General Store for 10.00!

    

7) After the water comes to a boil, set the timer for one hour. Process beans for the entire hour.

8) Turn the burner off and carefully remove jars out of the boiling water with a jar lifter. If you don’t have a jar lifter, you can dip some of the water out and remove the jars with an oven mitt, or a rubber glove. I place my jars on the counter top on a bath towel to cool. You should immediately hear that wonderful popping sound that ensures your jars are sealing! Once they’ve cooled check rings, and tighten as needed.

canned green beans

9) After the jars have cooled, write the month and year as well as the variety of beans on the lid with a permanent marker.  Now your ready to fill your pantry with your very own beautiful green beans!

dates on jars

My family has loved these tasty beans for generations.  I must admit, I enjoy the feeling of accomplishment and small sense of pride that I feel when I open a fresh jar of my very own green beans. They’re a wonderful treat in the winter when the ground is covered with snow!  They’re also a great addition to homemade vegetable soup, but that’s a recipe for another blog! Truthfully, they make a fine addition to any meal, any time of the year! I hope you and your family enjoy my time-tested green beans year after year! Feel free to share my blog with family and friends. I would love to hear from you! Feel free to leave a comment and share you families canning experience!

Canning Clean and Spicy Salsa

Our entire family enjoys indulging in spicy salsa. It tastes great on organic blue corn chips. It makes a Mexican omelet spicy and tasty. We also enjoy adding it to pinto beans, or as we call them, soup beans. It’s a wonderful addition to taco salads, and many more dishes. We have found numerous uses for this wonderful spicy treat. We also found that the time spent together making and canning the salsa is just as fun as eating it! I wanted to share my recipe with you and your family. Are you ready? It’s easy, clean, and tastes great!

Spicy Tomato Salsa

7 quarts peeled and chopped tomatoes
5 cups of peppers (I use a combination of both red and green peppers)
1/2 cup finely chopped jalapeno peppers
5 cups of chopped onion
6 cloves of garlic, finely chopped (this can be substituted with minced garlic)
2 cups of bottled lemon juice
1 tablespoon of black pepper
2 tablespoons of salt
1 tablespoon of red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons of hot sauce
1 teaspoon of sugar
2 tablespoons of ground cumin
3 tablespoons of fresh oregano leaves
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro (optional)

Carefully place clean tomatoes in boiling water for three minutes. Remove tomatoes and submerge in ice water to cool. Once the tomatoes cool they are easy to peel and core. Combine all ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil, stirring frequently, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Ladle hot mixture into clean sterilized pint or quart jars, leaving one-half inch head space. Adjust lids and place in canner and boil for 15 minutes. (I prefer to use a stove top canner) This yields 13 pints or 8 quarts.

I hope your family enjoys this recipe as much ours does. Feel free to leave comments about your salsa experience. You might find a use that we’ve not tried! We’re open to suggestions. Remember, you can modify the spices to suit your own taste.

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