Crockpot Apple Butter

One of the great things about where we live is the close proximity to hot off the farm food. We recently bought our weight in a variety of apples and weren’t eating them quickly enough. The first thing I decided to do was make crock pot apple butter. I don’t utilize this glorious kitchen gadget often enough and this was a nice easy way to use up some apples. I didn’t need to stand and stir, watch for bottom of the pan burning, etc. All I needed to do was some prep work.

The recipe below is more than enough for my family of two adults, a toddler and a baby who is old enough to eat solids (aka not solely breastmilk or formula fed). It fit nicely in my crock pot to start and cooked down with plenty of room to mash it up without a mess.

You will need:

*Approx. 2.5-3 apples (look below for chart)

*1/2 cup white sugar (or use what you prefer)

*1/2 cup brown sugar (or use what you prefer)

*1 tablespoon vanilla extract (I used homemade)

*1 teaspoon cinnamon

*1/4 teaspoon clove

*1/4 teaspoon salt

Optional:

*1-2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar or spiced alcohol

*1/4 teaspoon ginger or replace all spices with pumpkin pie spice

*honey or maple syrup to taste or to replace sugar

I found this handy guide via Google if you don’t have a scale to weigh apples:

Peel, core and chop all apples and add to crock pot.

Add all other ingredients including optional ingredients (if using store bought vanilla extract I would wait to add this until you mash the apples).

Mix well then set lid on to cook on low for approximately 10 hours. I tend to just leave it for the day then switch the heat setting before bed.

Stir occasionally.

Turn onto warm overnight. In the morning or after 8 hours or so check on contents to see if the mixture has cooked down well and browned. Turn off, remove lid and let cool for 30-60 minutes before continuing. You can add imitation vanilla extract, etc at this time. You can alternatively cook on low a few extra hours instead but I like it all to stew together as long as possible.

Mash contents up using a whisk or potato masher. Alternatively, purée in blender in small batches or use an immersion blender. I have also seen people blend down the apple mixture raw before cooking. Some even include the peel to create less waste and for any additional benefits the peel may have (still core and chop apples).

Now you can add your mixture to jars, Tupperware, etc. It freezes well! Use on toast, in cookie cups, as a cake filling, etc!

Enjoy!

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Veggie Scrap Broth How To

A few months ago I was making broth from kitchen scraps like I normally do (unless I’m making meat stock or broth) and I took pictures for the blog. I was dealing with post partum depression, military life and getting my toddler evaluated for neurological disorders so you can say I was a little overwhelmed. I just couldn’t get myself into my writing. I have a dozens of photos to make blogs for but I haven’t been able to get my brain to function enough to write. Here it is. Finally. 

So onto the broth! This is such a great way to utilize all of your veggies! To not waste one bit. To start you just need to begin saving scraps! Everything I cut off and normally toss (or compost in our old home) would be put in freezer bags (you can use jars or Tupperware but we were low on space) and frozen. Even veggies nearing their end that you wouldn’t get to in time. I didn’t add veggies that were too starchy like potatoes but we almost never have scraps from those as we eat the skins. You can add the skins if you would like to but I think it changes the consistency and flavor. I also avoided the main part of things like beets. Though I did use the leafy greens. 

I ended up saving four of the gallon sized ziplock bags to make a mega batch! Much more than what I actually needed (I still have a few jars left and I made this in late June!). I had continuously put off making it because I couldn’t get to it with my kids needs. So I ended up with a ton of scraps! I think storing it less of a time would be better so if you try this go one bag at a time! 

I added everything to my big canning pot and went to town adding herbs and spices. Chosen for their flavor and health benefits! You can also add extra veggies for flavor and health. Such as garlic! Or things like soy sauce, miso, etc. 

Then I covered with filtered water and stirred it up!

I didn’t have a weight or anything to keep the veggies down (not necessary but I prefer to) so I used the rack that normally holds my cans. Worked decently! 

I covered heated on high for about 15-20 minutes and then cooked on low for around 2 hours. It was such a big batch I wanted to get everything well! You can also do this in a crock pot. Once finished I took the lid off and let it cool for about an hour. 

I forgot to get pictures of this but I strained the chunks out with a colander then used a ladle to pour the broth through cheesecloth that I fixed onto a big jar. 

I used that jar to fill smaller jars and ice cube trays full of broth goodness to freeze! 

When I ran out of jars and trays I cooked down what was left (not all pictured here) to make a concentrated bit to use for cooking with the next week. I put it in everything and even just drank some hot. It’s good! I used to love drinking broth or stock as a kid. 

The cubes are great for dishes that need a little moisture and so instead of adding water you can toss in a bit of broth! I put them in a ziplock after freezing. I would keep trays specifically for food as they retain the smell and a bit of flavor after use. 

Turmeric Powder Tincture 

When I first met my now husband he introduced me to herbs to help with skin issues. He suffered a skin injury that required almost a year of medical attention but wanted to help his skin in any way he could. So he looked to herbs. The best way to get the herbs he chose to help in his opinion was to ingest them. Now we use many of the herbs he loved in our food and tisanes frequently. Turmeric is one we go through a lot of. It helps with inflammation and many skin issues are the product of other health problems such as this. Check out the link at the end of this post for more in depth information.

When a neighbor/friend asked if I wanted her bag of turmeric she didn’t like (it has a peppery taste that isn’t appetizing to some) I started brewing up ideas for usage. More than putting it in almost everything we eat. Which poses an issue with my toddler who ends up staining her clothes with any food saturated with it. I decided the first thing I wanted to make with it was a tincture. 

Most recipes I found suggested using the root. Fresh or dried in slices to help the alcohol base saturate it more easily. Well, I didn’t have a root. I had powder. So I did a 1:5 concoction to test it out. 1 part turmeric powder to 5 parts alcohol. It worked great! It was also really fun to work with and see the lovely color changes. The powder is a gorgeous yellow color and once it settled it created a red hued liquid. Later I saw it was more orange when not stacked the way it was but still lovely. 

One small pint jar creates a ton of tincture in my opinion. So unless you have a large family using it, are taking the tincture several times a day or are creating to share this should work great to start with. I filled two 2 oz dropper bottles to last me a while and barely made a dent in the tincture. I left the rest to continue brewing until I needed to strain some off again for use. 

This is what I used: 

I filled roughly 1/5 of the jar with powdered turmeric then filled it up with the alcohol.

After mixing gently and being sure to scrape any bits off the bottom I noticed the amount of product went down.

So I topped it off with a bit more alcohol. 

Then I added the lid and shook it up! Making sure to get any clumps out. 

It WILL settle and you will notice that it may look something like this:

It will definitely still brew perfectly fine so no worries! What you need to do though is shake vigorously every day at least once until the day before you decide to strain it. 

Typically, you would leave this for 14 days then let it rest on the 15th day before straining. That’s the bare minimum needed. I let mine brew for almost 3 months. Many saw the longer the better with tinctures. 

When the time came to strain I got out my sterilized bottles, a funnel, a bowl to catch any spillage, a measuring cup and a magic eraser sponge because I’m bound to spill something! 

I poured off some of the liquid from my jar into a measuring cup. Purely for the ease of pouring from it. I made sure to let the jar settle so I would get the least amount of powder in as possible. You can strain your concoction if you wish but I found that powders can be tricky business to work with. So I decided to use just the liquid from the top of the jar. 

Once I filled my bottles I put the leftover tincture back in the jar to save for a future pour. Letting it continue to brew.

I put some in my iced tea to test out immediately. A few drops definitely effects the flavor! If it’s too much to sip a drink with it then use the dropper to squirt directly into your mouth then chase with a drink or food if needed. Or add it to your food. 15-30 drops a day up to four times a day is the highest recommended dosage. Though I am not a doctor or certified herbalist so please do your own research! 

I then labeled my bottles and put the jar back in the dark cupboard. 

For an in depth look at the uses and side effects of turmeric feel free to check out this article: http://www.m.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-662/turmeric

Buttery Flatbread Recipe 

Yesterday, I started soaking black beans to make for dinner tonight. My original plan was to make a Mexican inspired dish. I ended up making taco style pasta last night however so I wanted to change it up. I tossed some black olives in garlic and butter, made quinoa seasoned with herbs and lemon and cooked my beans in smoked paprika, turmeric and other spices. Then I made flatbread! I originally was thinking of making some sort of wrap but honestly I suck at shaping these things. So I used them to dip into my food instead. So good! Much easier for my toddler to join in and eat as well this way.

You will need: 

*4 cups unbleached flour

*1 1/2 cups milk

*1 stick of butter (I used salted)

*1 tsp salt

*oil for cooking 

Melt butter completely.
  

Warm milk. I used the same pan I melted the butter in. You can use room temperature but this was quicker and I didn’t have milk sitting out. I actually used heavy cream as we usually don’t have animal milk at home. We had this around for our Droste cocoa. 
  

Mix the milk and butter together.

Add the flour and salt.
  

  

Mix well before dropping out on a floured counter to knead. It will be buttery and flakey so no need to work it all out perfectly like bread dough. 
  

  

Place in floured bowl and cover. Leave for 30 minutes to rest.
  

Placed on floured surface and press gently down to flatten slightly. Then cut into 8 pieces.
  

Roll each piece into as much of a ball as you can. As you can see I wasn’t great at this. 
  

Flatten out into as much of a circle as you can with a rolling pin. I am THE WORST at this! I make delicious food. It’s just usually not very pretty. The thinner you flatten it the more flexible it becomes. Don’t be afraid to thin it out. It will thicken slightly when cooked.
  

  

Fry on medium low for around a minute on each side. It will bubble when ready. I tried using a spray oil at first and it got absorbed too quickly. So I switched to pouring a good deal in. So much better! 
  

  

  

Serve immediately! Great for using with dips, wraps and if made thicker they would be a nice floppy flatbread for sandwiches. 
  
  

Looking For Land – The Search Continues 

Listening to your gut feeling (some would say responding to a nudge from the gods/ancestors) is a great thing. I resist at times thinking I’m just being indecisive. So glad I listened recently with a recent glimpse into our future and didn’t get my hopes up about property we explored online. We are not ready to move. We have a bit of debt to still pay off so we can start fresh instead of adding more to the pile. We also want to expand our family in the next year or two and starting on a bigger homestead with a toddler and a pregnant lady/newborn is kind of silly. Not saying it can’t be done but that for us as a military family it would be extra stress we don’t need. Slow and steady wins the race. Waiting gives us time to prepare and adjust to living in the PNW. 

The land we were considering was something that wasn’t going to be placed on the market for quite a few years. That was great for us so we could get to know the area in the meantime and prepare for the transition. Knowing what we were getting in the long run seemed like an impossibly true dream. Like knowing the future and just having to wait for it to come to be. Well, it was impossible. Which was actually more than fine for me. 

My husband and I share many of the same dreams for our life and future. It makes many things easier for us. One thing we differ on is people. He grew up on a chunk of land in a small town. I grew up in the city where you have a neighbor within spitting distance. I fear living too remotely. He craves it. We have made some compromises in trying to come to a conclusion that will suit us both. The plans make sense considering we want to farm and own animals. So having neighbors too close wouldn’t be great for us. Being able to be heard if I scream is basically the distance we decided on. I’ll be buying a megaphone to be sure they can hear me if I need help. Sort of joking there but not entirely. My main concern is having medical care nearby. Living on a small farm with eventually multiple people is bound to end up with someone needing a couple stitches or cast at some point. We can hope that won’t happen but better safe than sorry. I would also prefer not to give birth on the road to the hospital like I have heard of so often of before when living in more remote areas. Home birth isn’t something we personally after my first birth. 

This property was too far for me from neighbors, hospitals and stores if any of my (future) kids were sick or needed something ASAP (though we would plan to be prepared for this instead of needing to o into town). It wasn’t nearly as far as other farming areas we looked at but still too far for this part of our lives. It was perfect in many ways for our homesteading plans. We even drove out to it to take a peek and talked to the owner about visiting when the land was a bit more dry. It looked great in the back (from looking online) but the house itself wasn’t our style and too hidden in the forest. Not enough bodies of water for us either from what we saw. It’s something we feel our best near. It was the best option we had found since moving here though. Just not quite right. Our idea of a perfect home may change once my husband retires from the military or other things change but for now a more urban homestead may be our best option for the area. 

Plans change. People change. 

Gardens of our Past – A Look Back 

  

This image showed up in my Timehop (an app that shows you pictures and posts on that particular day from years before) today. It makes me so happy to see it. It’s also a reminder that we make it work wherever we live. 

  

We were lucky when we lived in this horribly run down apartment in San Diego. The landlady told us we could use the garden bed. I don’t think she expected us to go as far as we did! My husband tore out all the giant half dead succulents that were probably older than us and over time we amended the soil and had a wonderful herb garden that was so out of place there. French Lavender, English Lavender, Spanish Lavender, Spearmint, Peppermint, Chocolate Mint, Lemon Verbena, Thyme, Oregano, Rosemary, Mugwort, Kitchen Sage, Geranium leftover from before, Mexican Sage for aesthetic purposes (and because I like it and it attracts bees and butterflies) and a few herbs I can’t remember anymore. An elderly German woman would often come from the farthest apartment away just to look at it. We were pretty proud of it. 
  

Living where we do now our home is literally three times the size of the cardboard box we lived in before. An upgrade from our first apartment my husband and I (and eventually our baby) shared. I miss its garden and how much less I had to clean but beyond that I am much happier in our home here in NW Washington. The downfall here is the lack of gardening space. We live on a military base and apparently the landscapers are known to toss your garden if you don’t take special care in placing it somewhere they won’t mind. In our case our backyard is a forest. So we plan on growing things outside of our back window since I have only seen the landscapers back there twice since we moved here almost 9 months ago. 
  

Our garden may be temporarily much smaller than before but it’s a step. It will also help us to understand the environment and seasons here better. Less than half the year has sunny days and we have high winds and lots of rain. Back home was almost always sunny and hot with little rain. It’s a big change! And quite the learning experience. Great for us before we find our perfect homestead to buy and live on. 

Homemade Soy Milk Recipe 

 I decided to try my hand at making soy milk recently. My family went to a store here with a wide variety of health foods and we were happy to find raw dried organic yellow soybeans. We bought a pound of them to make milk and other foods. Yesterday, I started the process of creating them. From my understanding it was a good deal like making almond milk. Though there is a time for heating the mixture it makes which you don’t do with almond milk. 

  


What you will need: 

*1 cup raw dried soybeans 

*4 cups water 

*1/2-1 teaspoon of real vanilla extract 

*Sugar/Honey/Sweetener of choice to taste if you want to sweeten it
   

  
I took the soybeans and soaked them in water overnight. I generally left my almonds soaking for 18-24 hours so I left these around the same time (mostly because we went on a hike and I didn’t get yo it beforehand). No harm in leaving them longer than the minimum of about 12 hours. 
  

Then I poured the whole thing into the blender and put it on the highest setting for some time. I wanted to really mix the two ingredients. Then I let it sit while I cooked dinner. Waiting isn’t necessary but I feel as it does with my almond milk that it might enhance the flavor to let it sit broken up and blended for a while. 
  

Then I strained with cheesecloth. Or rather tried to. The mixture was so thick and foamy I had to put it into a strainer first.  
   

   
Even after that it was slow going.
   
 

When finished I put the strained liquid in a pan and brought it to a boil as I stirred. 
Once it started to foam I began scooping those bits out. It was difficult as stirring kept making more but I got most of it.
After that I turned down the heat and let it simmer for 20 minutes while stirring occasionally.
  
I then turned off the heat and added the vanilla extract. I like a bit more than what most recipes call for so I added 1 full overflowing teaspoon. I also dropped in a tablespoon of honey. 
  
Then I stirred it a bit more before letting it cool.

  
After cooling I placed it in a mason jar and stuck it in the fridge to try out later. It’s super good warm though (I HAD to test it!). It should last about 5 days in the fridge. Easy and yummy! 
   
 

Starting Small – Thoughts On Livestock

Currently, I am reading about how raising livestock will change my life. It started with list of all these things that could go wrong and how much care the animals will and could potentially need. My immediate thoughts were something as follows: “I’m a mom. I care for things. I have a crazy schedule (aka no schedule). I’ve seen my own body grown placenta sitting in front of me as I bled profusely all over the table after giving birth. I have zero issue (currently) needing to do what I have to and I’m extremely excited about it!”

How hard is it though to raise livestock? We currently don’t have any animals but I remember the commitment just house pets needed when I lived at home. Each had their own distinct personality, needs, et cetera. Reading about these animals makes me know we need to start small. By small I originally thought miniature would do best for us. Raising miniature livestock from what I have read is a growing trade. They generally cost less, need less (compared to one larger animal) and in some cases you can own several that matches the purchase and raising price of one larger animal. They also supposedly tend to pay themselves off and/or produce more income than larger animals (if you’re selling anything from the animals). This is from reading about small scale farming however. When I actually own animals I will of course let you all know how true this is! From one local homesteader I was told that miniature isn’t the way to go where we live but that beastly goats and such might also be too much. So there’s that. Books VS Local Opinion and Experience. Both have already proven extremely helpful. I highly suggest employing both lines of education long before buying animals. 

Starting small doesn’t necessarily mean miniature but it is important to new homesteaders to think SMALL at first. Many (this included us) want to dive in and own a bunch of animals. If you have never worked with a lot of livestock at once it is probably not the best idea. You don’t just go out and buy 10 cats. So why would you buy 10 goats that need more room, care and depending on what you got them for whether it be milking, shearing for fiber, meat, etc? 

Our goal is to start small. We want milk goats and good egg laying chickens for sure. Now that I am learning to spin yarn I want animals for fiber as well at some point. An angora rabbit may be a good start before moving on to a sheep or other animals though despite their size they need a lot of grooming. A les needful type of Angora rabbit with a better undercoat might be best. 

Dreaming of a certain future is one thing. Having to be realistic and knowing starting small would be better is another. These are just thoughts I wanted to share for those looking into obtaining livestock for the first time! If you can work with animals prior to owning some is a great way to get a feel for things. That is definitely something we plan to do and luckily we live in a place where that is possible to do! 
  

Finishing Up My First Plied Yarn

I wanted to show this process once more! I wrote about finishing yarn after spinning it in a previous blog but seeing as this is my first plied yarn I wanted to document it again. Mostly, for myself.

I recently got this birch wood yarn swift. The last yarn I made I used the neighbors. To start I opened it up just a little bit then screwed it into place. I didn’t open it all the way as I only have a little bit of yarn. At least that was my thinking. Now I am thinking it may have been easier to open it more for when I wrapped it into a hank. 
  

I then tied the beginning piece directly onto the yarn swift instead of tying it to yarn after wrapping it once. This worked better for me so I still had a hand to take pictures. 
   
 

After rolling it all out I tied the end to the yarn itself. 
  

I then began randomly loosely tying the yarn into bunches with another yarn so it would unravel from the loop as I washed it, etc. 
   

 
When taking it off I untied it from the swift and used the extra yarn to tie it on. 
  

Then I filled up a sink with HOT soapy water. I used Dawn dish soap but they make special wool washes. 
   

 
I poked it down with a spoon and left it for 10 minutes. 
  

After that I gently rinsed it and then squeezed it out. 
  

  

I was supposed to roll it with a towel but I didn’t have space with cooking and such going on in the kitchen and a super curious one year old in the living room who is grabby. 

So I took it outside and I spanked it! Ok I just smacked it a bit outside to loosen it all up before hanging it up to dry. 
   
 
  

After it dried (took a day) I cut all the extra yarn off at this point instead of before drying. Mostly, because I was worried my one year old would get to it and turn it into a felted ball or at least get knots into it. 

Then I used my ball winder to roll it up! I could have used the yarn swift to make a skein or assist me in winding but this was easier for me. Sort of. It was bulky and soft and didn’t fit into the guide so it was all over the place. 
  

But now I have yarn! Tah-dah! 
   
 

Mason Jar Raw Milk Butter – Revisiting My Childhood

I believe I was in the 5th grade the first time I can remember making butter in a mason jar. We took a jar, heavy cream and a classroom full of kids and made butter! How? Pour and shake. 

And shake. Shake and shake and shake! By the time we all got a try I think a few of us gave it some more shakes. 

Since then, I have often made butter in this fashion. Salted, herbal, plain, etc. It is a work out but worth it. Much different tasting from store bought too. You can easily make this in a food processor or a blender but what’s the fun in that? 

Recently, my mother set out to make butter. When she got to where she was told she could procure raw milk she was told she needed to own part of the cow that produced it. That wasn’t happening. Living where we do now we fortunately have access to raw milk and cream. Store bought milk is generally stripped of the goodies needed to make butter. Even heavy cream wasn’t really the same. Raw milk butter? Heavenly. We generally make ours salted. 

This time around we have raw cows milk but we always buy raw goats milk or cream when available. We prefer it. It is one of the many reasons we want to own goats. 

This recipe and process would be a lot easier with raw cream. There is still some fatty goodness in the milk but it takes longer in my experience and doesn’t yield as much butter. We are out of butter though so I’m working with what I’ve got! 


Here’s what you need to make it with just a jar: 

*Raw milk or cream 

*Jar with tight fitting lid

*Salt

*Manpower (it’s just me and the baby today so I WISH my mom was here to help!)
Now, I don’t have an exact recipe. I pour whatever amount of milk fits into my jar with a good bit of space left. Later I add salt to taste. 

  

  
Add milk and and shake! You will start to see pieces chunk up and eventually separate. It will start to turn a light hue of yellow. When it starts to look like chunky lumpy butter (I’m not super helpful with this recipe) you can pour the buttermilk out and save. 

    

  

Some people will now rinse their butter but I never felt there was much of a difference. 

  
I generally just flip the jar over and use a spoon to push out extra liquid. You can put it in cheese cloth and gently squeeze out extra liquid though. 

  

  
Once you are satisfied you have all the buttermilk out you can add salt! I added one pinch to this because we may like salt a bit much in this family.

  

  

Store in a jar! I generally will refrigerate if I make a ton but you can leave this out if you plan on eating it all in about a week.