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

A Year Of Crochet 

In November I celebrated one full year of learning crochet. It was an on and off journey as I had other crafts I enjoy that I would spend long periods of time on instead. With the holidays coming up and a husband that was at sea I decided several months ago to focus almost solely on crochet. It was the craft I know most people I was going to give gifts to would enjoy. I also snuck in quite a few things for my toddler and baby that is on the way. The more I made the more I learned. I progressed and learned more about crochet in the last month than I have learned the rest of the time I have been learning. I can now read patterns a bit better and am more confident in my abilities as well as what I know I can tackle. 

Here are some of the things I have made recently:

I can’t wait to continue this journey and expand my knowledge and experience. I’m hoping with two little ones I’ll have plenty of projects year round to work on for them and others. Mamamade goods they can give their own kids should they choose to have any. 

To see more pictures and updates find me on: 

Instagram: theheathenhomesteader

Facebook:

http://www.facebook.com/theheathenhomesteader

Crispy Pumpkin Seeds Recipe

Pumpkin seeds are probably my favorite thing about taking apart pumpkins. Sure, purée is amazing when you are using sugar pumpkins but making Jack O’ Lanterns and other decor you won’t be eating makes the work somewhat of an unrewarding job when cleaning them…except for the seeds! It is a long and time consuming process but so worth it! I might have cried when I burnt a batch before. Seriously. 

The other day, I cleaned out the “guts” from a sugar pumpkin destined to be purée. To start you simply need a pumpkin and to use whatever method you decide on to remove the guts. It depends on what you’re doing with your pumpkin. So we will start with the guts. 

You will need:

*Pumpkin guts! These are the stringy fibers and seeds. 

*Salt

*Oil

*Seasonings of choice. You can make salted, cinnamon sugar, cayenne, pumpkin spice, etc. Here I am making salted because they are my favorite. 

*Tools such as bowls, strainer, spoon, etc. Read the entire recipe before beginning to make sure you have everything you need! 

Pull seeds out of pumpkin fibers. Toss or compost the fibers. This is time consuming, slippery and messy so take your time. They don’t need to be perfectly clean. 

Soak seeds overnight in salted water. This is a method my mom taught me. They somehow create crispier and more flavorful seeds as well as helping prevent sticking a bit. 

Strain seeds. Rinse if you are making sweet seeds to remove salt. Most of the extra fibers should slip off of the seeds and stick to the strainer as well. Thanks salt water! 

Place in a flat container to dry. This can take several hours depending on the amount of seeds in the container, temperature in the home, etc. You can see some extra fibers here. Remove them or leave them. They don’t hurt the seeds. I wouldn’t use paper towels or a rag to help. The seeds will stick to it! Which is a PAIN to deal with later. I prefer waiting over using the oven to dry the seeds. 

Once dry cover with just enough oil to wet the seeds. I prefer to use my clean hands to massage the oil in and around. 

Add seasonings and toss the seeds. 

Roast in the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes or so. Stirring halfway through. Be sure to get the seeds on the sides especially. 

Let the seeds cool completely after removing from the oven then enjoy! 

Pumpkin Spice Coffee Syrup Recipe 

While waiting impatiently for my pumpkin seeds to dry today I decided to make some pumpkin spice coffee syrup. I considered buying some but realized I had everything to make my own! Other than a nice pump container to keep it in. Which I worked around. This type may not last as long as commercial syrup but at least I know exactly what is in it and it tastes great! You can also use this thin syrup in place of regular syrup, to replace honey in Fall baking, etc. It isn’t limited to just coffee! 

Read all the instructions to make sure you have all the tools and ingredients you need before beginning!

You will need: 

*1 1/2 cup water

*1 cup brown sugar 

*1 cup granulated sugar. You can switch out sugars to suit your needs, tastes, etc. I used white sugar as I ran out of Tamarind. 

*1/3 cup pumpkin purée 

*1 tablespoon vanilla extract

*2 teaspoons cinnamon

*2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice 

Add sugars and water to a pot. Turn onto medium heat and whisk for a few minutes until the sugars fully dissolve. 

Add spices! You can use more or less than listed to suit your tastes. Whisk a bit before adding the pumpkin.

Add in pumpkin and whisk for a minute. I used homemade purée so it never really got creamy like canned purees can. 

Reduce heat to low so the concoction will not boil and then continue whisking to prevent burning. Simmer 8-10 minutes. I did ten minutes due to my homemade purée not breaking down as easily as store bought. 

Once finished immediately strain using a fine strainer or cheesecloth. This worked for me. 

It helps to do it in sections as it can clog. 

Use a spoon to scrape the bottom and help flow. 

Add vanilla extract to syrup and stir well when finished straining. You can add it before straining but I prefer this method. You can save the chunky leftover bits of purée and spices to bake with.

Place in containers! I didn’t have anything with a pump so I used this bottle. It’s actually kind of fun and makes me feel all witchy! 

The rest I added to jars. 

This should stay for about a month based on your home temperatures, etc. Adding a spoonful of honey to the mix while cooking can help preservation as well. Alternatively, you can refrigerate the mix for 3-4 months but it may come out thicker and in larger portions so be careful when pouring. Enjoy! 

Homemade Pumpkin Purée 

Making pumpkin purée is one of my favorite things to do as a family in the Fall. Even though my husband isn’t here and it isn’t technically Fall it was still a family affair! My toddler helped pick out the pumpkin and was intensely curious and observant during most of the process. Pumpkin purée is fairly easy to make. Just time consuming! We use pumpkin pie/sugar pumpkins for ours. It tastes so much better than the canned purees…but I admit I love those as well. This purée will last about 3 days refrigerated and about 3 months frozen. Deep freezing should allow it to keep longer…but honestly…it never lasts long because there are always yummy recipes you’ll want to make with it! 

You will need: 

*Sugar pumpkin (ours said “Pumpkin Pie Pumpkin” on the sign at the farm stand when we bought it)

*Kosher salt 

Wash and dry your pumpkin! 

Cut a little bit of skin off of each side to create a flat surface to help the pieces stay upright when baking. You’ll be cutting it in half so you just need two. One of each opposite ends. 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cut your pumpkin in half! Careful…they can get super slippery! I cut it in sections then pry it apart. 

Scoop out the guts! Use a spoon or ice cream scooper. Save the insides to make pumpkin seeds later!

Place pumpkin halves on container of choice. I prefer glass and this one has sides if they end up slipping around when I remove them from the oven. If you use a cookie sheet or other metal pan I would cover it in parchment or aluminum foil. 

Sprinkle with Kosher salt. You don’t actually need this much in my hand. I just poured a lot to toss in with the guts to prep them for baking tomorrow. 

Bake for 30-50 minutes. It really depends on your oven, size of pumpkin, amount of pumpkins you’re baking, etc. I would start testing the meat by poking it with a butter knife after 30 minutes. When it goes through easily and smoothly it’s done! 

Remove from oven and cool completely. About an hour. 

Use a spoon to help peel all the skin off. Toss or compost skin. 

Add meat to blender to purée. You may need to do it in sections depending on your blender. Ours has a little tool to shove things down but I still had to turn it on high and push down hard to get it all puréed as I added it all at once. You do not need to add water. The meat will release moisture as you go. 

Put in a container with a lid to save or use immediately! Enjoy! 

Pecan Bars Two Ways – With and Without A Heath Toffee Topping

I have been wanting to bake for weeks now but felt held back by the part of me that had 100 pumpkin recipes on their mind but no pumpkin and the part of me that has been too tired with a husband at sea, a toddler to keep up with, pregnancy and most recently a stomach bug. So much fun right? The combo left me in bed unsure what to do except for watching Netflix, crocheting Yule presents and reading when I wasn’t Mommy-ing. Today, I finally got the push to make these pecan bars! You can make them two ways! One with Heath bar bits like I added here or alternatively with an extra half a cup of pecans and no Heath toffee. Up to you! It’s a very easy recipe to alter. I just happened to have Heath bar pieces my mother in law sent last week so I thought I would put them to use. 

For the CRUST you will need:

*3 cups flour

*1 cup brown sugar 

*1 cup/ 2 sticks melted butter (or butter substitute)

*1/2 teaspoon salt 
For the FILLING you will need:

*1 cup brown sugar 

*1 stick or half a cup of butter (or butter substitute)

*2 cups of pecans if not using Heath bar OR alternatively 1.5 cups pecans and half a cup to a cup of Heath bar bits. Crushed or whole are fine. I already had these crushed from a previous recipe. You can also simply use chocolate bits.

*1/3 cup honey (you can try maple syrup if looking for a vegan alternative but the flavor may be strong)

*2 tsp sweetened condensed milk (heavy cream was in the original recipe or you can use a nut milk)

*1 tsp vanilla (optional)

*1/2 tsp cinnamon or pumpkin spice (optional)

Start by preheating your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Then cover your chosen pan (I used glass) with non-stick aluminum foil. Or grease regular aluminum foil before use. I would suggest a deeper pan around two inches deep as the contents will bubble. 

To make the crust mix all the ingredients well. 

Dump into prepared dish and press down evenly from corner to corner. 

Bake for 20 minutes. 

About 5 minutes or so before the crust is done baking start the filling! Mix the butter, brown sugar, sweetened condensed milk and honey together in a pot. Stir on medium low for 2 minutes. 

Mix in vanilla and spices if so desired. They are optional. 

Add in pecans. Stir. Turn heat off and set aside until the crust is done. 

When the crust is ready remove from the oven and immediately pour in pecan mixture. Use a spoon or other tool to even it out. 

Bake 10 minutes before adding the Heath topping. Bake an additional 10 minutes after you have evenly added the topping. If you do not plan on adding a topping let bake untampered with for 20 minutes until done. 

Once finished let cool completely before removing from pan using the foil and slicing into bars. Enjoy! 

Freezing and Storing Water Kefir Grains

I have found that as of late our water kefir concoctions have not been used as much. My daughter was the only one who wanted some. Pregnancy made the taste and smell suddenly unpalatable and my husband was working 12-16 hour shifts and not gone to drink it. I decided instead of stressing out and starving the grains by accident through forgetfulness and underuse that I would store them until a time they could be used more. I decided to freeze them. 

To freeze your water kefir grains (milk kefir grains need an additive before freezing so this is specifically just for water kefir grains) you will first need to dry your grains. I added a piece of fruit to my jar the day prior to color the grains a bit. They are essentially clear so they can be potentially overlooked if you drop any. First you will need a fine strainer to clear off the liquid. I use a plastic strainer as some suggest using metal can have adverse effects on the grains in time. The plastic is also easy to poke and manipulate if any of the grains decide to stick. 

Then use a paper towel to let them sit and dry for 2-3 hours at least. You can pat them down slightly if you wish. We generally use crocheted dish cloths and store bought cloths in our home but this made it easier to see the tiny grains. 

Place in a jar when dried (they will still be gelatinous but fluffier). Close with a tight lid and place in the freezer. I stuck mine all the way in the back. A deep freezer would be even better. These should last at least 2 months in a regular freezer that is opened a few times a day. Longer can be attempted but it seems the longer they are frozen the more of a chance they have to not do great when defrosted. 

To use again simply defrost in the fridge for a day (or more of you have a larger amount of grains). Then feed well and place in a warm area. Water kefir grains love to be warm! 

Maple Cacao Banana Bread Recipe

Banana Bread is a favorite in our house! We even bake it as gifts as we love to experiment with different ingredients we add to our recipes. Share the love! Today, I started with a plan to make chocolate chip banana nut muffins but thought it might be easier to transport a pre-sliced loaf on a walk later today. I wanted something a little different so I looked at our ingredients and saw maple syrup and Droste cacao. Perfect! The maple syrup helps to sweeten the bread as cacao can be bitter. This recipe doesn’t need to include nuts but I added pecans as I love varying textures in my banana bread. This recipe makes two loafs. 

You will need:

*4-6 bananas (2-3 is recommended per loaf)

*3 cups flour

*2 eggs 

*3/4 cups sugar 

*3/4 cups brown sugar 

*1/2 cup melted butter

*1/3 cup maple syrup

*2 tbsp cacao of choice (I used Droste) 

*2 tsp baking soda 

*2 tsp vanilla extract

*1 tsp salt

*optional 1-2 cups of nuts of choice or chocolate chips. 

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F. 

Smash up your bananas! I used half frozen bananas I had chopped up when very ripe (the riper the sweeter they will be) and half fresh. 

Start melting butter.

Add dry ingredients.

Add maple syrup!

Add melted butter! 

Mix lightly before continuing.

Add vanilla and then the eggs.

Dump in nuts if you decided to use then!

Mix mix mix! 

Greased two bread tins then pour your bread mixture in. Bake for 1 hour or until fully cooked. 

Let cool for 3-5 minutes then pop out of containers. 

Let cool then enjoy!