Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Chestnuts

My dad planted these chestnut trees about 12 years ago.  They are still small trees but this year they had a bumper harvest.  I have heard of an old wives tale that says we are supposed to have a hard winter if the nut trees are really loaded.  I hope this is not the case.  The middle tree was so loaded with nuts that the branches were actually bending down from the weight. 


Chestnuts have a thorny outer shell to them.  When the nuts are ripe this thorny outer covering will split open allowing the nuts to fall off.  The nuts will then drop from the tree ready for us to gather up before the squirrels get to them.


Sometimes the nuts don't fall out of the thorny outer shell when it falls to the ground.  So you have to step on it with your shoe to split it open the rest of the way in order to free the nuts.  These thorns hurt when touched with your fingers!!


Once you have gathered all of your chestnuts you have to store them some how.  Well this is the first year I decided to gather up some chestnuts.  I have never tasted them so I peeled one right there under the tree and popped it in my mouth.  I was sold.  The taste was wonderful.  Now I had to figure out an easier way to peel the chestnuts from their leathery shell.  So to the Internet I went.  I had no idea how complicated the chestnut was.

Did you know that the chestnut is not like any other tree nut.  Most tree nuts you just gather them up and put in a bag and let dry out.  Chestnuts have to be removed from their shell and refrigerated or frozen.  Chestnuts have a high water and starch content.  They are perishable.  I found a great website that tells all about the chestnut and how to remove them from the shell and store them. It is called Chestnuts on line .  I was amazed to find out that chestnuts are very high in fiber and low fat.  Only 3.5 oz of chestnuts has more fiber in it than 2 slices of whole wheat bread.  I suggest to take a look at that website and find out all the great things about chestnuts!!

To store the chestnuts I decided to use the boil method and then froze them.  The website said that if you freeze them they can last up to a year.  They won't last more than a few weeks in the fridge!

Here are my chestnuts in a bowl.  My parents have several small buckets full.  I will have to let them know that they need to get them shelled and in the freezer or they will go bad.


I sliced them all in half.  You have to vent the chestnuts some how before heating them or they will explode.  You can either cut them in half or cut an X on them making sure you cut through the leathery shell.  I found it easy and quick to just cut them in half.  I layed them flat side down on a cutting board and cut them in half.



Now you can either lay them in a single layer in a baking pan to roast or boil them.  In order to store them for later use it was suggested to boil them.  So bring a pot of water to a boil and drop in the chestnuts.  Boil for exactly 7 and a half minutes for large ones or 7 and a quarter minutes for small to medium ones. 


Drain them and start sliding them out of the shell. 

A lot of them fell out of the shell during the boiling process.  You need to get them out of the shell while they are still warm.  Once they cool down it is harder to get them out.  Most of mine  just popped right out when I picked them up.  When I got to the bottom of the pile they were getting cool and started to getter a little harder to get out of the shell.  They still were separated from the shell I just had to peel it back instead of sliding it right out.  So when I help my parents get there chestnuts stored I will suggest doing small batches at a time so they are still warm and slide out easily.


What is nice about the chestnut is you don't have a lot of waste in the shell.  This is the same bowl that I had the chestnuts in to start.  It is still almost full of chestnuts now that they are out of their shell.  Most nuts you have a huge shell and you get a tiny little nut out of it. 


I measured the chestnuts out and I had 1 lb 4oz of chestnuts.  So I vacuumed seal two 8oz bags of chestnuts and put them in the freezer.  The other 4 oz I put in a bag in the fridge to eat up!!  Yum!!  They are so good!!!





Sunday, October 23, 2011

Putting up the Harvest

The other day we harvested a bunch of things out of the family garden.  I  canned beets, carrots and sweet potatoes. 


I also threw a bunch of red bell peppers and onions in the dehydrator.  The hot peppers I sting up and hang in my kitchen window to dry.  All you have to do is take a needle and thread.  Pull the needle through the stem on the pepper.  Do a bunch and hang up to dry.  I like doing this with the hot peppers.  As they dry they turn red and then completely dry out.  These then can be used for crafts, cooking, flavored oils and vinegars or just for decoration. 

Here are my peppers hung up in my kitchen window.  The ones on the right are from a previous year and are dry. 


Some onions I put in old clean panty hose.  I tie a knot after each onion.  This separates them and allows them to dry better.  Plus when you want an onion all you have to do is cut off the bottom knot and remove an onion.


All in all I had a pretty productive day of preserving my harvest.  There are still a lot more vegetables in the garden to harvest!!  My canner has not been put away for the season yet!!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Fall Harvest

Welcome to the jungle!! 
No this is not a field.  It is our family garden.  It may look like a jungle of weeds but there is a lot of vegetables still in the garden.  The weeds grew up between the rows but once you get into the garden you still can find a lot of vegetables waiting to be harvested.  Here in our part of Ohio we have not had a frost yet.  So we still have time to get things harvested.  Which is good for us. 


Here is a wagon full of pumpkins and squash that some of the grandchildren picked!!


The raised beds still have some kale and beets in them.


Swiss Chard


Peppers


Squash still in the garden


Pumpkins still in the garden


Watermelon


A pile of kidney beans pulled from the garden.  We pulled all of the soup beans.  You harvest them the same way you do soybeans.  You wait until the beans dry right in the pods on the stalks.  We pull the entire plant up and bring them up to the house.  Then I have the kids start shelling the beans.  They only got the kidney beans done.  There are also a bunch of black turtle beans, cranberry beans, and white northern beans.  We just put them all in the green house and when we have time we will shell them out of the pods. 


Here are the bowl of kidney beans.  Aren't they pretty.  The boys enjoyed shelling the beans at first.  They loved finding the brightly colored beans inside the brown dried up pod.  The novelty did wear off after a while and then they began to complain that they were tired of shelling beans!!


We still have some green beans, egg plant, cabbages, and Indian corn in the garden.  As we get to it we will harvest.  As long as there is no threat of frost we still have time!!!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Canning Sweet Potatoes

Remember back when I posted on our big family garden in the summer.  The sweet potato patch looked great. 


Well that clear plastic did it's job.  We got a bumper crop of sweet potatoes!!  Moles did chomp on a few but the potatoes are so big that it did not do that much harm.  We just trim off the spot that has chew marks on them and use the rest of the potato.   The average weight of the potatoes was probably between 3 and 4 lbs.  Yes I said 3 and 4 lbs.  The largest topped out at a little over 6 lbs and we had many that weighed 5 lbs.  After they were dug they went into the green house to harden up.  This cures the potatoes and they develop their sweet flavor during this time. 





I took a few sweet potatoes and decided to try canning them.  I have never done this before but they turned out great and was rather easy to do. First you wash your potatoes.  Then cut in half or quarters depending on the size of the potatoes.  I had to cut them into quarters.  Put in a large stock pot and cover with water.  Bring to a boil and boil for 15-20 minutes until the skin will peel off easily.  I also steamed some of them while waiting for the canner to finish.  It worked well too!!


Notice how the flesh turns from a paler pink to an orange.  Drain the potatoes and peel off the skin.  You can either grab the skin with your hand and pull it off or use a knife to scrape it off.


Cut the potatoes into smaller chunks and fill your clean sterilized jars leaving 1 inch head space.  Then you fill with either boiling water or a boiling syrup.  I used a light syrup that is one part sugar to 3 parts water.  Fill the liquid leaving 1 inch head space.  Wipe the rims clean with a clean wash cloth.  Put on new lids and adjust caps.  Process in a pressure canner at 11 lbs pressure for dial gauge and 10 lbs pressure for a weighted gauge for 90 minutes for quarts and 65 minutes for pints. Here are some of my jars waiting to go into the canner.


After the pressure has gone back to zero wait about 10 minutes before opening your canner.  Then remove your jars and let sit on a towel on your counter.  Let completely cool and check to make sure they sealed.  If any did not seal put in the refrigerator to use up within a week.  I canned 14 quarts of sweet potatoes from only 11 sweet potatoes.  I guess it helps when you have gigantic potatoes!!  Here are my jars of potatoes.  The potatoes continue to cook in the canner and get darker.  They look just like the store bought and I am sure that they will taste ten times better!!


Friday, October 14, 2011

Canning Cider

I have a great friend who offered to let me and the kids come over and help pick up apples and pears.  We then took them over to a local Amish Farm where we had them pressed into cider!!!  All of our kids anxiously watched as our apples and pears were pressed into the golden goodness.  We started out with about 4 1/2 bushels of pears and 1/2 bushel of apples. 


To this we added 1 bushel of apples from the Amish man.  He suggested to add some apples since we mainly had pears.  Our kids watched as the apples and pears went up a gasoline powered conveyor belt be chopped and dropped down into a pressing table.  Then they were slowly pressed.  It is amazing how much juice comes out of the fruit.  Out of respect for the Amish faith I did not take pictures of this process.  The Amish family were working around the machines and they do not believe in taking pictures. 

Out of all this fruit we got 22 gallons of Cider!!  My  friend was gracious enough to let me have half of this.  So I brought home 11 gallons of Cider.  I gave one gallon to my parents and decided to can 8 gallons of it.  That left us with 2 gallons to consume fresh.  Since we picked up the apples and pears off the ground I pasteurized the cider before drinking it.  This is simply bringing it to boil and boiling it for a couple of minutes.  I then let it cool back down and put in jugs and put in the fridge to drink.

To can the cider it is very simple.  You just bring the cider to a nice rolling boil, this also pasteurizes the cider that I am canning. 


Pour the hot cider into your hot, clean, sterilized jars.  Fill the jars leaving 1/4 inch head space.  Boil your new lids and place on top of jars after wiping the rims clean.  Hand tighten the rings and place in a boiling water bath for 5 minutes. 


Here are my 8 gallons of Cider ready to be put into the pantry.  It will be nice to open up a jar of cider this winter and serve cold or mulled with spices.  The tall jars are 1/2 gallon jars.  I purchased 18 of these this year.  These are only used for juice.  The smaller jars are quart jars.  I am excited to have some good cider.  Since we had more pears than apples it is a bit sweeter than apple cider.  My kids love the taste of it and so do I!!


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Making Pierogis

After spending a week in Disney World eating all that rich food I wanted something kind of bland for supper.  So I threw some country ribs in the slow cooker and and decided to make pierogis for the side dish.  Now I am not Polish and don't pretend to be.  So I don't make my pierogis in the traditional Polish way.  My friend who is Polish makes them with all kinds of fillings like sauerkraut, sausage, potato, and even fruit fillings.  She also fries them in butter after they are boiled. I just stick to the basic potato filling and don't fry them after they are boiled.

For the dough you mix together 4 cups of flour, 2 eggs, 1/2 cup sour cream, 1 teaspoon salt, and 2/3 cup warm water.  I mix it together with a fork.  Once it clumps together knead the dough until firm and elastic.  I put the dough on the counter and turn the bowl upside down and cover the dough.  Let the dough rest for 10 minutes. (When my son had a severe milk allergy I replaced the sour cream with a non dairy sour cream, the dough still made up nicely)

Then I prepare the filling.  For the filling I use one quart jar of my canned potatoes.  I bring them back to a boil then drain and mash.  You can salt them and flavor them with cheese or onion or just leave them plain. 

Now cut your dough in half and roll out onto a floured surface.  Roll to a 1/8 inch thickness.  (I have never been able to get this dough that thin.  They still turn out nicely though)  Cut into 3 inch rounds with a cutter.  Place a small teaspoonful of filling in the center of each round.  Fold in half and press together firmly to seal.  I use a pierogi press to seal the edges good.  You can also use a fork around the edges to flute them and get a better seal. 


I press them together first by hand then lay them in the pierogi press


A quick flip and I have nicely sealed and fluted edges!


The recipe says it yields 7 dozen.  I have never gotten anywhere near that many.  I also can never get the dough that thin.  I normally get about 4 dozen pierogis.  I just lay them on clean kitchen towels as I finish them.  I normally cook up half for dinner and freeze the other half for another night.


To freeze I just lay the uncooked pierogis on a cookie sheet and put in the freezer.


When they are completely frozen I put them in a vacuum seal bag and vacuum seal them.  To make them I just put them right in my boiling water straight out of the freezer and cook like normal.


To cook the pierogis bring a pot of water to boil.  I add chicken bouillon with 1 teaspoon of oil to the water.  Drop in the pierogis.  Do not crowd them.  You will have to boil them in several batches.  Simmer for 15 minutes.  Stirring gently with a wooden spoon to prevent sticking.  To serve I toss them in melted butter or margarine. 

Monday, October 10, 2011

Fall Crafts

This fall has been so busy for me.  We finished up September with our county fair.  My son did a great job showing his rabbits and goats this year.  We had lots of good times and created new memories. Plus he got a new stack of ribbons and trophies to add to his collection.  We cleaned up from the fair and packed our bags and went to Disney World for a week!!!  Now we are back home and it is back to business as usual.  Which means schooling and finishing up the harvest and canning.  I am happy to hear we did not have a frost yet.  So I need to get to the farm this week and finish harvesting and canning. 

I got out my fall decorations and saw many more that I made.  So I thought I would share some more fall crafts.  I have a few more I want to make this year.  But we will see if I actually have time for it.  I need to start working on Christmas gifts too!!


Here is my fall table.  I made these place mats many years ago.  I took canvas and painted them.  I sealed with a spray sealer then sewed bias tape around the edges.  I like them because they are not specifically for Halloween or Thanksgiving.  I can use them all fall.  Plus they just wipe up with a wash cloth.  They are getting old though. I will eventually have to replace them.


Here is a close up of the place mats!


This is my Turkey napkin holder.  I normally don't get turkey things out until after Halloween but I wanted a napkin holder.  So I just put it on the counter.  I made this several years ago.  It is made out of 1 inch pine and glued together with a dowel rod helping to hold it in place.


Here is my turkey holding some napkins.  If you look closely you can see the Mickey faces on the napkins.  They are left over from Disney World!


Here is a Halloween train that I made out of 1 inch pine.  It is old and the chains have busted on it.  I fixed it several times, now I just set it up and don't worry about the chains!


This fun trio is also cut out of 1 inch pine.  The accent pieces are cut out of 1/4 inch plywood.  The wheels are purchased wood wheels.  I took dowel rods and sharpened the ends with a pencil sharpener.  Glued them in place and stained them.  I also made a set of these that I gave to a friend!


I found the design for this fun little witch out of an old craft magazine.  My cat has fun playing with her.  She is never on the bench where she is supposed to be.  I guess the raffia is just so tempting to play with when you are a cat!!


I made two of these that adorn the archways in our living room.  The wood pieces are cut out of 1/4 inch plywood and painted.  They have been sanded afterwords to give them a more rustic look.  Even though these are Halloween themed I leave them up all fall. 


Once Halloween is over I will bring out the turkeys that I have made.  Then on to all the Christmas decorations!!  Happy fall to everyone. 

I am linking to Homestead Barn Hop