Thursday, October 27, 2022

Fall Projects

 Fall is a busy time of the year. The leaves are beautiful when they display their colors but piled up on my decks, sidewalks and doorways not so much. Daily cleaning with the blower and raking and collecting the leaves to feed the many compost piles is quite a chore. Picking up hickory nuts to keep them from being slung through a window by the mower is another chore. I did manage to get Gypsy my little Scottie bathed and clipped and performed a bumble foot surgery on one of the duck hens. Patient and doctor are recovering nicely. Geez the hats I wear sometimes are just mind blowing.

I have been concentrating on dehydrating frozen fruit to clean out the freezer some. Jars of dehydrated okra, figs and herbs put in jars removing the oxygen with oxygen absorbers or my vacuum sealer. I reuse lids for these and have never had a problem. 

Dehydrated figs are addictive. 

Dehydrated okra is not only great for soups and gumbos but makes a nutty snack out of hand.

I got the last of my retired laying hens butchered and canned in chicken broth. Now all I have are my new batch of young Buff Orphington pullets. These young hens should be laying within the next month or two and I will just have to make do with duck eggs for a bit.  My chicken house and duck house are cleaned out and fresh bedding applied. 

SO I am going into fall with ever growing compost piles, the fall garlic planted, the fall butchering done and canned, and my dehydrating knocked out. I have started gathering and drying okra seeds and my other vegetable seeds are now dried and in the freezer. 

My project for the day is canning blackberry pie filling with a couple gallon of frozen blackberries. O Wise One is cleaning and getting walnuts ready to crack. We did not get a great walnut harvest this year probably due to low rainfall but a few for holiday baking will be nice. 

With the wood shed full winter heat is prepped. While we have a gas furnace we always stockpile firewood for those power outages that seem to always pop up when you least expect them.  So we go into the season knowing that we have done all we can to prepare ourselves for the upcoming winter. While the nation struggles we seem to have worked out the food and heat dilemma for the time being. 

Blessings from The Holler
The Canned Quilter

Thursday, October 20, 2022

Canning Butternut Soup

 It has continued to be a busy time here in the holler. First frost has come and gone a week early no less and we have had 3 consecutive night of freezing temperatures. We did finally get a small amount of rain but it continues to be really dry for this time of year. Before frost we scurried around picking everything we could. One of those vegetables still out there was Butternut quash. They were growing on vines in various parts of the garden up fences and trellises and left to ripen and the skins harden in the cool weather of fall. Once that frost danger approaches they must be picked though. 

All together I picked about 14 off of 3 vines so not bad for a harvest and plenty for the two of us. This really is one of those plant and forget crops for me. I add plenty of compost when I plant and occasionally train the vines on fences and wires and forget until time to pick. I do prefer to grow the vertically though. 

The first three I picked I peeled then chunked up and covered raw with some rich chicken bone broth then pressure canned for 90 minutes (quarts) at 12 pounds of pressure for my altitude. They turned out beautifully and will be used to make butternut soup once opened, heated and pureed with an immersion blender. Then I will add cream and a flour and butter roux as a thickener for a rich and creamy winter soup. Served with fresh garlic croutons and crumbled crispy bacon bits on top.

The seeds were saved and are drying on paper plates while the largest ones will be used for seed stock to replant for years to come. The extra seeds will be roasted in the oven for snacking

With 11 more squash to go I will bake some of these and scoop out the meat to mash and freeze for holiday pies and breads. 

The fall season is beautiful right now with the leaves turning colors and we have been enjoying nightly fires with the cooler temperatures. We have been gathering lots of walnuts and wild persimmons. I still have a bit of canning to do with frozen fruit that was picked earlier in the year. A couple gallon bags of blackberries again need to be made into  pie filling and canned to clear some space in the freezer. We have a pig that is being butchered from a local farmer next month so I need to make room. 

Blessings from The Holler

The Canned Quilter

Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Dehydrating Figs

I have 6 fig trees now here in the holler. Three are the variety Chicago Hardy and the other three are an unknown variety gifted from a friend. Some winters they freeze all the way to the ground and some years they don't but they always come back and every year they are bearing more and more figs. The picture above is of an ordinary size fig on the bottom and the huge size figs I get off the unknown variety on top. It does not turn dark purple like the Chicago Hardy nor do I think it tastes as sweet but the greenish unknown variety can get HUGE! They usually start getting ripe by August and bear until the frosts of October. There are always figs on the trees though that do not have a long enough season to ripen before frosts but I always get enough for my family so I am happy. 

I have 4 large gallon bags of figs frozen for fig jam or preserves that I will take out and do once things slow down but for now I am dehydrating figs daily. I simply slice them thin and dehydrate until rubbery which if I pick early in the morning they are done before I go to bed at night. They end up so sweet that way and are great as snacks or in trail mixes but our favorite way to use them is to add them to our refrigerator oats with some maple syrup or local honey and almond milk.   

Figs and blueberries have become my easiest and best producing fruits. No diseases or pests problems for me and fruit production grows every year. No spraying, easy to propagate and mine require very little pruning. I used to wrap them in winter when they were young but now that they are established I just let winter do what it will and I haven't lost one yet. And for some reason the birds don't even mess with them much maybe because there is so much other stuff to eat like elderberries. Boy they love them. 

I keep my dried figs in Rubbermaid containers until I get enough then I move them to Mylar bags with oxygen absorbers. I have in the past also stored them in Mason jars with oxygen absorbers. 

I will warn you though that dehydrated figs are awfully addictive . 

Blessings from The Holler

The Canned Quilter

Monday, October 3, 2022

Cocozelle Zucchini

Well we finally pulled up the zucchini before frost. There is too much of a good thing! My favorite variety of zucchini to grow is an old Italian heirloom called Cocozelle. This Italian heirloom was called Cocozella di Napoli in the 1800s. It is a smaller bush but bears prolifically with a sweet and nutty tasting fruit. Flavor wise this is my favorite. It is open pollinated and I save seeds.

Zucchini for me is a pretty no brainer crop and I usually always end up with way more than I need but the chickens love them so they just become food supplements for the chickens and rabbits. 

My husbands favorite zucchini recipe is the zucchini bread that I have made for years. I always make up a dozen loaves or so and freeze for winter. 

Zucchini Bread

3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
3 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp baking powder
3 eggs
2 cups white sugar
3 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup vegetable oil
3 cups grated zucchini
1 cup chopped walnuts optional
1/2 cup raisins optional

Preheat oven to 350. Sift together flour, salt, soda, cinnamon, and baking powder. Beat eggs. Add sugar, vanilla and oil to egg  and mix well.  Add zucchini to egg mixture. Add dry ingredients, mixing well. Stir in nuts and raisins if desired. Pour into 2 loaf pans. Bake at 350 for 1 hour.. or until tests done. Cool on rack and then remove from pans. May be drizzled with a powdered sugar and milk glaze.  

Or maybe zucchini pineapple canned. 


4 quarts zucchini, grated or diced
1 1/2 cups bottled lemon juice (standardized acidity)
1 can ( 46 oz. ) unsweetened pineapple juice
3 cups sugar

Remove peel from zucchini and seeds. Coarsely grate or cube zucchini into small cubes.

Mix all ingredients thoroughly and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring frequently. 

Fill clean hot jars with hot zucchini mixture leaving 1/2 inch head space. Adjust lids an
process 15 minutes for half pints or pint jars. ( Do not put in jars larger than pints. )

Remove jars and allow to cool completely. Test seal and store in a cool dry place. 

 And I even have 4 baseball bat sized ones on the table for seeds.

Blessings from The Holler

The Canned Quilter

Friday, September 30, 2022

Dehydrating Mashed Sweet Potatoes


Other than just consuming my sweet potatoes baked this is one of our favorite ways to consume sweet potatoes other than maybe pie. I simply put the sweet potatoes in the oven and bake them. Then peel the potatoes and mash just like making mashed potatoes. I add apple juice if they need a little liquid and I add to also add cinnamon and maple syrup and then run my immersion blender through them. You do what your family likes to taste. Then I spread the mashed potatoes out on parchment paper on my dehydrator trays and dry like fruit leather only drier. At the end I take it off the parchment paper and let it finish drying to a point it can be broken into small pieces. 

The sweet potato pieces are in the jars in the above picture. You can easily take out small pieces and just let them melt in your mouth. We personally like to add them to our refrigerator oatmeal again. A great source of potassium. They can also be reconstituted as just plain mashed sweet potatoes or used in bread, pies and casseroles. 

Blessings from The Holler

The Canned Quilter

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