Posts tagged ‘canning’

Cheap and natural cleaning ideas, pumpkin cookin’, and a little randomness

Back to the basics (and cheap!) cleaning supplies/tips:

I try to use only vinegar, baking soda, and borax for cleaning – well, and Mr. Clean Magic Erasers (these things are AMAZING!). Only exceptions so far are laundry soap, dish soap, and mopping – please share if you have natural cleaning tips for these πŸ˜€ Don’t have to worry about chemicals in my food, etc, and it’s so much cheaper. I’ve only recently discovered borax, but I’m telling you, when I started cleaning the counter-tops (who knew that was a hyphenated word?) with it, they literally sparkled! And these are just standard counter-tops, nothing fancy like granite or anything,Β  but I seriously don’t think they sparkled this much brand new! (Only down-side to borax is that you have to give a wipe down with clean water after.) My sister is much more serious, and also includes bleach in the mix (she worked in a nursing home for a while – bleach goes in her dishwater, etc).

We keep the vinegar in a spray bottle, and just use it like we would any spray cleaner, and if you need some added “umph” add some baking soda (cleans up grease stains like you would not believe!). I use the vinegar and/or baking soda for spot cleaning, and the borax for the full wipe-down. Another note on vinegar – kills ants DEAD. D-E-A-D, dead! Won’t prevent ’em, but if you’ve got a trail of ants coming in, spray those suckers with vinegar and watch ’em die – instantly. And borax is supposed to be good against roaches.

Also, I’ve started using a “glug” (I don’t measure, just dump from the box) of borax in with my wash, which is what it’s intended for, actually. I can’t believe all the money I spent for years on Oxi-clean and/or off-brands, when borax does just as good a job, AND helps with my hard well water!

And these things are SO much cheaper than traditional cleaning supplies. Now to figure out how to cheapen up laundry and dish soap…. (Haven’t tried making my own)

A tip for “I ran out of dishwasher detergent” – which works just as good, and is cheaper. Can’t take credit for it; it was suggested to me, and it works great. Put NO MORE THAN a quarter size circle of regular dish soap (this is what ensures it won’t blow up with bubbles) in your dishwasher’s soap dispenser. Fill the rest of the way with bleach. If you wish something in the pre-rinse cycle, only add a glug of bleach, no dish soap (b/c a little will leak out of the pop-open dispenser, and you don’t want a kitchen full of bubbles).

Hmmm, the borax box says something about cleaning fine china – might have to experiment with it in the dishwasher and see what happens.

ο»ΏOn to the randomness – I had some issues (largely not cooking it long enough), but I got my pumpkin murdered and cooked, well 1/2 of it at least. Thanks to the crock pot, all is well! I have 8 cups of pumpkin puree cooling in freezer bags on the counter waiting to go in the freezer. the other 1/2 pumpkin in the fridge still needs to be scooped, crocked, pureed (hey, I spelled that one right 1st try!), and then bagged up to join in on the freezer party. Funny how a 2-qt crock pot exactly full yields pretty much exactly 8 cups πŸ˜‰ (Okay, so one of the bags has about 2-1/2 cups in it, close enough….)

Scrubbed and ready to be cut up!

Holy pumpkin, Batman!

Make room! Everybody’s gotta fit! Except the little boy, that is πŸ˜‰ And yes, this is a standard size oven. Note the pumpkin in the bottom right is actually touching the rack above it. It would not fit on the upper rack. Made things interesting when it came time to play “switch places in the oven.”

Told you it was touching the rack πŸ˜‰

4 baggies, ready for the freezer. Libbey, who’s that?

Tip: when I’m filling baggies with stuff for the freezer, I detest having to clean out the zipper portion/top of the bag before sealing it. I figured out how to get around that today! Since I now have a canning funnel (translation: big bottom opening), I just held the baggie up around the bottom of the funnel – carefully – the puree was still HOT – and scooped in 2 1-cup measuring cupfuls into each baggie, then scraped the bits that stayed in the funnel down into the baggie with a spatula. Viola! No more messy baggie tops πŸ˜€

Another tip somebody taught me long ago: don’t you hate when you’re lining a pan with aluminum foil trying to get it in the corners? It crinkles really badly, and sometimes tears? Use your pan as a mold; turn the pan upside down, lay the sheet of foil on top, and fold the corners DOWN.

Now take the foil off, turn the pan right side up, and insert! There will be a little bit of crinkling in the corners as the outside of the pan is a little bigger than the inside, but this is SO much easier, IMO.

And last, but not least, I think I’ve found a new addiction – canning! In addition to pumpkin stuff yesterday (well, I did the puree part this morning), I also made grape jelly πŸ™‚

My steam canner says it will process 7 pints or quarts, but I found out yesterday that it holds quite well 2 1/2 pint jars (see my pretty Italian amphora jar in the middle?) and 6 4 oz jelly jars. I just processed the whole lot at the 10 minutes it said to process for 1/2 pints; somebody please correct me if I did wrong! (Everybody sealed and jellied though :D) And I’ve already given away one of the 4 oz jars, and hope to give 2 more this afternoon – it really, truly is so much better to give than to receive!


Enjoying the AppleΒ Butter

I’m pretty much just gonna let the pictures do the talking in this one, with a big thank you to our Pastor’s wife for the homemade wheat bread – prepare to be jealous (unless youΒ  have your own apple butter, that is!) πŸ˜‰

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Apple Butter!

As promised, here is my first canning experience, the joys, fun, and wonders of APPLE BUTTER :D, fully documented in pictures!

My recipe is based on the Sweet Apple Cider Butter Recipe at πŸ™‚

If mine looks a little different, it’s because mine is out of a beginner’s canning booklet put out by Ball:

The Sweet Apple Cider Recipe is on the next to last page:

My el-cheapo apples! I was thrilled to see these in the store πŸ˜€ They had all kinds of apples lined up in 3 lb bags at $3.99/bag, and I had my hands on 2 bags of Gala apples – when I saw these lovely Golden Delicious, BOTH bags on sale/clearance for $1.20/bag! That’s not a problem, I’m gonna use ’em up real quick-like making apple butter πŸ™‚

The apple cider – and that, folks, is my raw ingredients!

3 lbs of apples peeled, quartered, and cored, another 1/2 bag to go

4-1/2 lbs apples, ready to go!

The peels, cores, and stems from approx 4-1/2 lbs of apples – can we say “compost pile”

The lonely 3 apples that didn’t go in the pot – LOVE the leaves still attached!

(There were actually 4, but Teddy couldn’t help himself and snacked on an apple – kid LOVES apples!)

I was wondering how that many apples and only 1-1/2 cups of cider would get the apples soft in cooking – that’s how! After about 5 minutes, this is what it looked like πŸ™‚

After about 25/30 minutes, they’d cooked down to this, and are good and soft and ready to puree. I LOVE the effect the steam gives the pic!

This, folks, is my handy-dandy, super-duper, WONDERFUL, Tupperware Quick Chef – otherwise known as a hand-cranked food processor!

And since it was my brand new toy, I pureed the first batch (one downfall, it only holds 4 cups, so for maximum efficiency, you can only puree about 1-1/2 cups at a time), but Teddy was oh-so-willing to demonstrate and be my model for batch #2

6 cups of apple puree – aka applesauce if I’d stopped right here! Had to do some quick math in my head for the next step, because the recipe called for 9 cups of puree. So I’d figured then that I’d only get 2 pint jars instead of 3 😦 Don’t know if I let the initial cook-down go too long, or if I just should’ve used more apples. It just tastes yummy wonderful, though, so I’m not complaining too much πŸ˜‰

bubbling away, with sugar, cinnamon, and cloves added – I was starting to wonder if it was ever going to thicken enough!

So while I waited, here’s what I did:

Got the jars warming and the lids simmering….

And took pix of (some of) my new Tupperware! This is a small canister (got my coffee in it) and my Quick Shake Container. The canister is from a set of 4, it’s actually labeled Hispanic collection or something like that because of the flowers. I just know I liked it, and it will go wonderfully well with my (future) Coca-Cola kitchen – loving that the Tupperware colors right now are RED and WHITE!

This is the Chop-n-Prep, and if you wanna fine-dice some herbs/onions/etc, THIS is the way to go. It even comes with the lid so that you can take the blade out and store whatever you finely minced in it. Teddy calls it the lawnmower because you pull the little cord (the white handle thing in the pic) like when you crank a lawnmower πŸ˜‰

This is the SmartSteamer (I got it as one of my 1/2-priced items). The microwaves are directed away from the food and only into the water tray at the bottom, so that the food is truly steamed. Best broccoli I’ve EVER eaten! I love broccoli raw, and I usually like it cooked – but drowned in sauce. This was just straight, steamed broccoli, with only the occasional flavoring that dripped from the marinaded chicken in the top tray. DELISH!

And so you can see the two cooking trays and lids, here ya go πŸ˜‰

I got two sets of these Empanada Makers/Pie Presses (total of 4) – can’t wait to make my own Hot Pockets! So much healthier πŸ™‚

Teddy wanting to get in another pic

For now at least, this is what I’m using my Thatsa Mega Bowl for – Perler Bead storage! Also, I got 4 sets of the Midgees (2 oz shot glasses, essentially), but they are perfect for sorting and storing the different colors of beads πŸ™‚

Tupperware not pictured (already put into storage): the other 3 canisters, the measuring cup and spoon set (Why is Tupperware the ONLY company that includes the 2/3 and 3/4 cup measuring cup?), the Mix-n-Store pitcher, the Saucy Silicone Spatula, and the Double Colander. (Yes I know, I made out like a BANDIT! Thanks so much if you helped make it possible by ordering from my party!)

This is another round of Pumpkin Yumminess ready to go in the oven. And yes, that’s a Perfect Brownie Pan. No, I’m NOT thrilled with it. This is only the 2nd time I’ve used it, and it was a Christmas gift last year. At least this time, the batter didn’t leak out onto the cookie sheet. But I still had to bake a LOT longer than the time listed on the box in order for the middle square to be done. In my opinion, it doesn’t turn the inside brownies into “corner” brownies as advertised. Now is it cool because everything’s evenly cut? Absolutely. But I’m just not thrilled with it.

By now, I THINK the Apple Butter is about ready….

See how much it’s cooked down? The question is, does it “hold its shape on a spoon?”

and about 8 seconds later…

looks good to me!

(If that’s not what “holding shape on spoon” is, PLEASE somebody let me know if I need to let it cook down longer ;-))

ahhh …. finally! The moment I’ve been waiting for πŸ˜€

My 2 jars of apple butter, processing away!

2 jars of apple butter, steam canned πŸ˜€

And there they are! All done and cooling and resting and such. AND SEALED!

And I leave you with oven-baked Pumpkin Yumminess
Had to do 2 pans worth – pay no attention to the “hole” in the back pan; had to test for quality, ya know πŸ˜‰

And it’s SO much better baked in the oven than the microwave!

God bless!

Free Stuff!

So I mentioned a couple days ago that I won a giveaway. Well, after a visit from Mr. UPS man and Mr. Fed-Ex man on Wednesday, and the UPS guy again today, it’s officially all here!

My Steam Canner (I LOVE IT!) and the Canning Tools

Close-up of what tools I got in the canning kit

My fancy canning jar πŸ˜‰

This is a .30 litre (that’s 10 oz to us) amphora jar. The one piece lids are even pretty!

See? Even the lid says it’s Made in Italy!

Diametro 70 mm – lucky for me, that’s the exact same as the standard Ball canning lids πŸ˜€

And notice the pretty little detailed “handle” on the side

I know it doesn’t show up well in the pic, but the glass has a pretty floral design in it, too

My 3 pretty Italian jars! The other two are .5 litre, or 17 oz, and also have the pretty floral design on them

Once I get used to canning, I can’t wait to use these!

And here’s my lovely steam canner, hard at work πŸ˜€ If you look above the date, you can see the steam plume jetting out

This lovely is multi-talented, too! The steam dome (top part) can also be used as a 15-qt stock pot, and the bottom can also be used as a roaster. It can process 7 pints or quarts at a time (I almost felt bad only doing 2 pints) for at least an hour only 6-8 CUPS of water, and the process time is the same as traditional water-bath canning. You just start timing once the steam plume hits 8″ πŸ™‚

And tomorrow, pictures of APPLE BUTTER! Okay, okay, one sneak peak:

Ain’t it bee-you-ti-ful? My first ever canning experience πŸ˜€

Can’t wait to taste this yumminess on some homemade wheat bread! (There wasn’t enough to make the 3rd pint jar – what a shame! – but it means I’ve got some in the fridge NOW – yippee!)

Plans for today

I hope to begin my adventures in canning today πŸ˜€ I found some good recipes for beginners on, sponsored by Ball canning equipment. The reason the recipes are good for beginners is that they only makeΒ  enough for 3 pint jars. I plan to try the Sweet Apple Cider Butter (it just sounds yummy!), the Blueberry Syrup (I don’t care for it, but I know my Mom, son, and Mother-in-Law will love it), and the Basil Garlic Tomato Sauce – sounds like it’s gonna make EXCELLENT spaghetti sauce. I know, I know, the point is to preserve food I’VE grown, but I’m not there yet; another reason for the small recipe sizes πŸ˜‰

I have everything I need, supply-wise, thanks to winning the gift certificate from CSN stores – or, I will once the UPS guy shows up one more time with my steam canner.Β  (None of Mama’s stock pots is deep enough for water-bath canning; big enough diameter to fit the 3 jars in, yes, but NOT deep enough to cover the jars with the recommended 1″ of water.)Β  So once the UPS guy gets here (and according to the tracking info, he should), I’ll take pix of my goodies, hopefully as I’m putting them to good use!

Also, the Fed-Ex guy showed up yesterday with all my Tupperware πŸ˜€ Now I get to play delivery girl to my wonderful friends and neighbors who ordered from my party, making it possible for me to get so much FREE and 1/2-price stuff! (My reward to me for quitting smoking – Monday will be 17 weeks! Tuesday was hard, it did not go as planned, and I had to make an unexpected trip to and from a doctor 2 hrs away and be back before Teddy got out of school, and I had to pray myself past every, and I do mean EACH and EVERY, gas station that I drove past so I wouldn’t stop and buy some cigarettes, but I didn’t buy any, not even at the one I had to stop at because I did have to get gas! God is SOOO good to us :D) So I’ll take pix of all my Tupperware goodies, too – will actually be using some of it to help process my food for canning. Don’t remember the Tupperware name for it (Quick Chef, maybe?), but hand-cranked food-processor, anyone? πŸ˜‰

AND, I’m waiting on Facebook friends to comment on my status. Today is Homecoming, and Teddy and I would like to go to the parade. We THINK it’s at 4, but the paper just says “Friday afternoon,” and I don’t want to have to sit and wait for an hour because I’m too early, but I don’t want to miss it either. In a town this small, there’s only a couple big shindigs a year, and Homecoming is a DOOZY, especially the parade.

Okay, so I’ll get going, and start peeling apples or something in preparation for tonight’s festivities in the kitchen πŸ˜€

Y’all have a blessed day!