So, I wrote several years ago how I got a ton of tomatoes to bottle. I was big into canning and gardening that year. I haven’t as much of a desire to do it as much since then. This year, however, I’ve wanted to do more canning than the last few years. Unfortunately the same source that we had for tomatoes in the past plowed their fields earlier than expected. My friend and neighbor, Andrya, gave me several bags of tomatoes that she wasn’t going to be able to use before she left out of town for a few days.

I was excited that I had some tomatoes to put up! I was a little concerned I wouldn’t be able to get them done though since I had sprained my ankle a few days earlier. Thanks to the knowledge my Heavenly Father gave me and the prompting to use arnica gel and lavender oil for my ankle after spraining it, I’ve been walking better and was able to stand long enough to take care of the tomatoes Saturday afternoon, just before the second session of General Conference began. It took all afternoon to cook down after I ran the clean tomatoes through my Victorio Strainer and put it in the stock pot. {If you don’t have a victorio strainer for canning, I highly suggest you get one, especially an older model that is all metal!} Even though I only got 3.5 quarts of spaghetti sauce, it was worth it and really not that much work. The stove did most of it for me! Aren’t they beautiful?

Spaghetti Sauce Oct 2012
Spaghetti Sauce Oct 2012

We’ve been blessed with an abundance of apples again this year. Of course, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to preserve them all! I made dried apple rings with those without worms and major blemishes. Thanks to my apple peeler/slicer, I can get them done quickly. I simply run it through the peeler, cut it down the side for rings, put in lemon water for a couple of minutes, and then place the rings in my dehydrator. It takes about half the day to dehydrate them enough. I can get about 10-12 medium-large apples at a time in the dehydrator. Instead of making apple-pie filling in jars this year, we’re just dehydrating the apples to use later for the same purpose. It saves the use of new lids and jars as well!

So, I sort-of made a tutorial for Applesauce and juice. I hope it’s helpful!

Applesauce and Apple Juice
Step 1: Pick apples from tree
Step 2: Wash Apples, throwing away rotten ones and any leaves

Step 3: Cut up apples. (Mine are golden delicious apples.) Large apples should be cut into 6-8 pieces. Smaller apples can be cut into quarters.

Step 4: Put clean, cut up apples slices into the colander part of the steam juicer. Steam for 12-15 minutes depending upon size of apples and fullness of juicer. If you don’t steam them enough, the applesauce will be too juicy. If you steam them too much, they will be to pasty; however, too pasty means you can add back the juice from the steam juicer. It’s harder to take the juice out of the sauce, so steam the apples more.

Step 5: Take steamed apples and put them in the victorio strainer and push down through hole and crank handle.
Each batch in the steam juicer (if filled fairly full) makes about 2 1/2 quarts of applesauce or about 5 pints.

I use a cake pan for the applesauce because it fits nicely underneath the strainer, but you can use what you want/have/like.

Step 6: Put 2 Tablespoons of Lemon Juice in each quart jar for acidity and color preserving. If using pints, use 1 tablespoon per pint.

Step 7: Using a jar funnel, scoop applesauce into jars on top of lemon juice. Fill to bottom of funnel or about 1/2 head space. Use a knife to help get large air bubbles out.

Step 8: Wipe top of jar clean and put on a warmed new canning jar lid. Put on ring. Your applesauce is now ready for the steam canner.

Step 9: Put jars into steam canner. Make sure there is always enough water. The water should be just below the rack. When steam is continuously flowing out of the holes 8 inches, start counting the processing time. Process for 20 minutes at sea level. (Adjust according to your altitude. Add 2 minutes for each 1000 ft above sea level.) Let sit for 2-3 minutes after turning off heat. Carefully remove lid so that the steam escapes away from you.

Step 10: Remove processed jars carefully from canner. I love my jar tongs! Place on flat surface, and on dry towels if you’re worried about the surface you’re putting the jars on. Never put the jars on a very cold surface. They will crack or break. Make sure your bottles are where you can leave them alone for 24 hours to cool.

Enjoy the fruits of your labor! Don’t they look pretty?

To help you get an idea of how many batches of apples I went through, I had to follow steps 2-8 twice to have enough to process 7 jars in the steam canner. As I finished each jar, I would place it on the canner until it was full. Then I would start the canner.

Apple Juice
Remember to carefully pour the apple juice out of the steamer into HOT jars. You simply unclamp the tube and pour into hot jars. Reclamp after you’re done. Sometimes I pour the juice into a plastic pitcher so that I don’t need to worry about changing out jars before the juice is gone from the steamer.

Put a clean lid and ring on them and process with applesauce or on their own (they take 10 minutes per quart, add 1 minute per 1000 ft above sea level). It won’t hurt to process them longer though.

P.S. Gotta love our “clamp” for the juicing tube. It’s not normally what would be used to clamp the tube closed during steaming, but we didn’t have the proper clamp, and my genius husband made one for me. Thanks, honey!

I’ve been busy lately with so many things, I can hardly write about them all. So, I’ll try to summarize it…

Knights of Freedom Summit is through! It was an amazing experience, and I was so excited to meet new people and get out of my comfort zone. I was Volunteer Coordinator, and although it took a lot of leg work, it paid off in the end. With very few exceptions, it went off extremely well! We had very few problems, and nothing we couldn’t handle. I could feel the excitement and the awesome impact that the event was having on these 130 boys and everyone else who volunteered–from a distance from it all! It was simply awe-inspiring. Thank you, Emily, for asking me to help. I truly needed and appreciated it! If you want to know more about the event click here, and if you want to see the wonderful photos taken by my friend, Tamra, click .

I’m still getting into the AYLI Secretary thing. I had been so caught up in the KOF Summit, that the other stuff has gone to the wayside. So, I’m playing catch-up. Gratefully, it’s not a huge deal. I’ll be working on updating the database which will be quite the task. I think it’ll take longer than Diann wants it to, but I have a family life too. I can’t spend all day calling hundreds of people. She knows that, however, so I’m not even worried about it.

I may be released from my ERSA position as secretary this month. We’ll see. They may just vote me into another position. I won’t mind either way. I can’t give it up! I’d have to move far away to give it up again. By the way, for those who don’t know, ERSA is the Eliza R. Snow Association, and it’s the wonderful book group I belong to…and I mean, belong!

I haven’t posted many pics of the kids this summer. We’ve been hanging out at home a lot and working on our school work…because they want to! David has been home a lot this summer because of unemployment. So, we occasionally go out and about as a family. David’s working on his writing. He’d like to become a syndicated writer and write a book. It’ll be exciting to see what he does with it!

I have a garden this year…amazing, I know! We’ve grown tons of zucchini and tomatoes. We also have had radishes, beets, carrots, cucumbers, pumpkins, and my favorites: peaches and watermelons. I get at least 3-4 medium-size zucchini a day off of my 8 plants. I get lots of pear tomatoes, and some romas and beefsteaks too. I get at least one cucumber every-other day. We just harvested our second extra-yummy watermelon today. It was so exquisitely tasty! I need to harvest some of my pie pumpkins to cook and freeze. I’ve shredded some zucchini in 2 cup amounts for breads and such later in the year. I froze almost all of my peaches, but I did bottle 9 quarts in sucanat syrup instead of the refined sugar syrup. I made tons of apricot jam (as previously posted) and some strawberry jam earlier this year. I look forward to getting more tomatoes and apples for bottling. My friend, Penny, gave me a bunch of her concord grapes to juice–which reminds me I need to borrow a juicer tomorrow! I’ve been abundantly blessed with a bounty of food this year! I’m so grateful!

Okay, so on to birth…and no I’m not expecting to give birth myself any time soon.

My sister-in-law, David’s sister, is expecting her first baby in February. I’m so excited for her, and I really need to get some books and other resources to her so she can read up on birth. She wants to do it unmedicated and as natural as possible. I’m praying she chooses to educate herself a ton, because that’s really the only way to get what you want, in birth or life.

My friend, Tamra, went on vacation this week, and she asked me to take her baby (aka Digital SLR Camera and lenses) while she was gone. It’s not only to take care of her equipment, but so I can photograph our friend Julia’s birth if she goes into labor while Tamra is gone. Is it selfish of me to want her to go into labor this week? I’ve played with the camera and lenses a bit. It’s been fun, and it only makes my excitement and desire for my own DSLR someday stronger! So, that being said, I’ve been combing the internet for birth photography and looking back on my own attempt at photographing Tamra’s birth. I wanted to get some ideas for labor and birth shots. I went to Tamra’s birth barely knowing how to use her camera and played everything by ear, literally. I didn’t look at anyone else’s pictures for ideas, and I used auto on the camera. This time I know the basics of her camera and I can use the aperture, shutter speed, and ISO settings without freaking out about it. I thought it would be fun to get some ideas about what else to take pictures of. My midwife, Cathy, is Julia’s midwife too this time around. I’m excited to be able to work with her again! Both her and Tamra trust me to not mess up the photography, and knowing Tamra’s abilities, that says a lot! If the photography thing doesn’t work out, well, I still may be assisting at Julia’s birth as Cathy’s assistant. We’ll see. No pressure, Julia, I promise! You know I love ya!

I have several other friends, besides Julia, waiting to welcome their babies into the world in the next few weeks. I wish all of them immense joy and peace during their birthing times. Know I’m praying and thinking about you and your families, my dear friends!

P.S. I fixed the theme again. I hope it stays this time.

{Update: For a printer-friendly version of the recipe, click here.}

My family was blessed with an abundance of apricots this year…again! I used to bottle apricots and make jam, but now I like to freeze them to keep them raw for smoothies and to eat later. I wash and halve them, lay them in gallon size bags in one layer, and then stack the bags in the freezer. Once frozen I sometimes combine bags, but they store better in a flat layer.

Since my family and I love apricot jam, I couldn’t help making an alternative to the super-sugary type I used to make. So, my husband and I came up with a new recipe and made 23 quarts of Apricot Jam made with Honey. (I won’t eat the refined sugar.) I think we may have overdone the amount, but we love apricot jam around our house, so we’ll see if it’s too much.

Apricot Honey Jam
42 cups crushed Apricots
6 cups Honey (add to taste, this amount makes a semi-tart jam)
7/8 cup Lemon Juice

Makes approx. 12 quarts of jam.

First we had to pick all the apricots. My next door neighbor’s tree wasn’t quite ripe enough, but a lady in my ward had 8 trees or so. Aurora and Lightning came and picked with me. We picked a bunch and brought them all home. I have to say that a wagon is a life saver when you have to transport heavy buckets/boxes back to the van!

When we were ready to make the jam, we sorted, washed, halved, and pitted the apricots. Apricots are really easy to open when they are ripe. Just put your finger in the natural split and it opens right up. My kids could help with that task. Of course we threw away all the pits. I’m not personally interested in sprouting and planting my own apricot trees when there are so many in my neighborhood whose fruit would go to waste.

Next we used my Vitamix blender to crush the apricots instead of using the hand-crank food grinder we used to use. We wrote down how much we put into the giant 32-quart stock pot since we’re making this recipe up based on other apricot recipes we’ve used. We added the lemon juice and honey (add to taste) and stirred it well.

We turned the heat on the stove and waited for it to boil, while stirring it frequently. Once it was boiling, we continued to stir it frequently for about 45 minutes while it thickened up a bit. If you don’t want to wait that long, just buy boxes of pectin to add. The no-sugar kind I have says 1 box per 6 cups of fruit. The reason why we boil it for so long is that apricots naturally have pectin in them, you just have to heat it long enough to thicken it. Just an FYI: the greener apricots have the most pectin, but the jam has less flavor if you use a lot of them.

Once the jam was thicker, we ladled it into hot jars, wiped off the tops, put a hot lid on, and tightened the ring (not too tight). Next we put them in the canner. I have a steam canner, but a water-bath canner works well too. Since I’m around 4300 ft above sea level, I steamed the bottles for 33 minutes, then removed them to the counter where they could sit for 24 hours and cool down. If you’d like to know how to adjust for altitude and processing time, here is a great resource! All of the jars sealed within the first couple of hours, although if they hadn’t after they were cool, I would have refrigerated them or re-processed them.

I could tell the jam wasn’t “set” yet, but I understand that it can take apricot jam 2 weeks to set completely. Also, since I didn’t add any additional pectin other than what was in the fruit itself, it likely won’t set like the store-bought jams. Actually, I don’t think I’ve had any of my jams set like store-bought jams, even when I used pectin, unless I used a ton of sugar in the recipe.

The batches of jam we did this year are not runny or super-sweet. So if you want a very sweet and completely set jam, you’ll need to add pectin and regular sugar instead of following my recipe above. There is great information and recipes on this site if you want to learn more about canning. Why reinvent the wheel, right?

I’ve enjoyed preserving several foods, although next year we want to preserve more veggies from the garden we’re planning.  I haven’t done many veggies before, but I’m excited to learn.

 Several websites that I’ve found have been quite helpful.  The first one is probably my favorite (they also happen to sell canning products, but I’ve been able to find them for less locally).

I’m sure there are many more links I could give.  I’ll leave it at those for now.  :)

Ball makes several books with lots of recipes.  I did a search for books on “canning” and came up with several books.  I’m sure the library has some of them.  Some of the titles are:

  • Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving: 400 Delicious and Creative Recipes for Today by Judi Kingry and Lauren Devine
  • Preserving Summer’s Bounty: A Quick and Easy Guide to Freezing, Canning, and Preserving, and Drying What You Grow by Rodale Food Center and Susan McClure
  • Ball Blue Book of Preserving
  • Canning and Preserving for Dummies by Karen Ward
  • Complete Guide to Home Canning and Preserving (2nd Rev. Ed.) by the USDA
  • The Joy of Cooking: All About Canning and Preserving by Irma S. Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker, and Ethan Becker
  • Blue Ribbon Preserves: Secrets to Award-Winning Jams, Jellies, Marmalades, and More by Linda J. Amendt
  • The Busy Person’s Guide to Preserving Food: Easy Step-by-Step Instructions for Freezing, Drying, and Canning by Janet Chadwick