Category Archives: Canning

Amanda – The Green Chemist & her Den Adel Community Garden Project

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A guest blog – by Daughter, Jessica.

My daughter, Jessica, is one of my kitchenaire assistants.  I have been known to lovingly and in great fun, call her a scullery maid.  Jessica is in the U.S. Army and a tough gal who speaks Russian.  No scullery maid she.  She is however, a study in conflicts.

She is a pretty, little pixie looking girl – but tough as nails.  She is traveled, even living in Kiev in the past – yet enjoys the small town peace and character.  She has a degree from MSU in Russian and possibly seeks deployment into scary areas of the world – yet happily dons a “Fetching Apron” and becomes a scullery maid for a day.  She reads War and Peace – but is currently helping me write a humorous cookbook.

So….that was a long intro….but I wanted you to know the author.  She writes about Amanda (and Kyle) who have gone from learning from me at Bygone Basics to create a phenomenal project.  At our first session, I actually asked Amanda if she knew how to pare an apple.  (she did)  My comments are italicized in red (my favorite color):

Bygone Basics was sad to lose Amanda Goudreau, but we all must grow up. Amanda was a celebrated Kitchenaire
Assistant in the days when Bygone Basics was still young and living in the suburbs of Whitehall, MI. (Amanda was my “scullery maid” for a long time and helped me build Bygone Basics into what it is and dreamt the dream of Amanda’s Bequest B&B with me as well.  She seems to think I named it after her!!  I am forever grateful for her friendship and assistance). After marrying Kyle, who had just arrived back home from Iraq, (his absence nearly drove Amanda….and those of us around her …CRAZY.  We are so glad he’s back and safe.)  the couple moved to Kalamazoo to attend the university there. To Mom, (Valerie) it must have seemed like one of her chicks was leaving the nest, but I knew that it meant the ideals Bygone Basics was founded on was simply spreading to a new city. And how right I was! ( I really tried hard to talk them into giving up the silly notion of attending University 😉 and having them buy a farmhouse just down the street….)
Kyle and Amanda Goudreau are excited to announce the opening of their community garden. There is a hideous, vacant half-lot directly next to their new house, and a condemned house on the other side of that. Why not make good use of it? If all goes well in their endeavors for the next couple of months, they will be able to use that plot of land to start a community garden….and hopefully they will even be able to remove the mostly-dead tree that stands smack-dab in the center of it. Currently, they are still in the planning stages, but the more community support they gain from the start, the easier it will go for them. Luckily, they already managed to find a supporter willing to fund 100% of their project, and to also help out with any legal matters that may need attending to. (I’m not going to lie, I fought a tear when I watched them find out they weren’t fighting an uphill battle alone.)   We were/are SO PROUD of them.

Amanda.

Local people will be able to secure a plot for a very small fee, which has yet to be decided, and will be provided with every opportunity to be successful in gardening their plot from the very beginning. They are also hoping to get some chickens for the garden, so that local children will be able to hunt for eggs, and will have a better understanding of where their food comes from, in all it’s forms. In addition to the garden, itself, Amanda and Kyle will be hosting several workshops, about one per week. They will, of course, be free to attend, and will cover such topics as: drying out seeds and saving them for the following year, vermiculture – composting with worms, animal husbandry – mainly with raising and breeding chickens and rabbits, and plenty of generic ones about gardening that will be immediately applicable on the plot.  (Understand that this isn’t just a pretty pipe dream.  These two Goodreaus are outstanding and intelligent young people – Amanda is in the Chemistry field and Kyle is studying Medicine.  I have zero doubt they will make numerous impacts on the world as they proceed through life.)

Any surplus crops from the community garden will be donated to local food pantries. The over-arching mission for this project is to promote community cohesiveness, and to improve the surrounding area through inspiration.

Jessica wrote this blog a few weeks ago….(yes, Jessica, I know, I know….it took too long for me to post!  But at least now I can add this good news follow-up…)  A follow-up note from Amanda tells us:

“Well guys, we did it. We’ve been given the green light for the Den Adel Community Garden Project. There are a few last legal details to iron out but we should be breaking ground before the end of the month. That gives us just enough time to get the tree removed, lay the beds, and get a fence up before the ground freezes.”  

There may have been occasional silliness occurring in the Bygone Basics kitchen (with Valerie Hanson, Mary Lynn Rabe, and Amanda (Putnam) Goodreau

If you are in or about the Kalamazoo, Michigan (USA) area and wish to be a part of this very neat project, let me know and I will put you in touch with Amanda.

Do you have a desire to learn some of these progressive AND retro (talk about conflicting words) skills (gardening, canning, baking, raising chickens/ducks, soap making, butter churning, composting…etc)?  Come visit Bygone Basics at Amanda’s Bequest!  Heck….you can even stay here while you learn (true immersion).

CONGRATULATIONS AND GOOD HARVEST WISHES TO AMANDA AND KYLE.

Jade Jam

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Hi all.  This week’s Bygone Basics’ blog is very special.  Jade has taken what she learned here in our kitchen to her home kitchen and gone crazy making jam.  She then “infected” her Mother-in-Law, Debbie, with her jam-making and now they do it together.  Next in her sticky wake she wrote notes and took photos.  Be still my heart.  I LOVE to hear of stories like this.  Here is Jammin’ Jade’s story as she sent it to me. (there may have been some notes added by the editor in the interest of fun…darned editor) 😉  Jade’s words are in green (of course).

The rule is, jam tomorrow and jam yesterday – but never jam today.  -Lewis Carroll 

Today, Debbie  and I made Caramel Apple Jam. If it weren’t for you, Valerie Hanson, this never would have been able to happen. I took the liberty of sending pictures that I have taken and hope that my notes come across. It was a lovely bonding experience for us and I’d like to take this opportunity to say thanks to you. So, thank you.

You could thank me with a little jar of that jam. CARAMEL APPLE, nice. But seriously….You are most welcome….THANK YOU!

First we peeled, cored and sliced the apples.

We made sure to have washed and sterilized jars on hand.

We pre-measured (yay) the sugar, brown sugar, lemon juice and butter (to stop the foaming). This is of course so that we had exactly what we needed the instant we needed it.

Someone was paying attention!! I bet they were exact measurements too, so the jam “sets” like it should….

Then Debbie diced the apples into small pieces. Then put the apples, lemon juice, apple juice and butter into a pot to boil.

Mother-in-Law was made to do the tedious job of processing the apples? tsk tsk.. 😉  Guessing that Jade is doing this while her little girl is napping (taking note of the monitor).

After it came to a boil, we turned the apples down to a simmer for 5 minutes while covered. Then we added the brown sugar and sugar very carefully and a bit at a time. Making sure to stir until it was all blended.

After it had came to a rolling boil we added the liquid pectin. Having already prepped the package for use. lol

Standing it in a glass is handy.  It IS very disappointing to reach for the envelope of pectin at the proper time only to discover that it has slid down from where it was leaning and the pectin escaped all over the counter.  Don’t ask me how I know this….

Then after it started boiling we waited one minute before removing it from the stove.

Then Debbie put the jam into the jars while I checked the amounts. Then they were wiped on the tops (where the rubber meets the road…hahahah) and sealed with the lids and rings. We both turned them just to make sure there was no leaking problems.

I hate it when my problems leak…

Here is what it looks like pre-lids.

Then the sealed jars were put into a water bath for 10 minutes.

Then the jars were removed and put onto a wire rack to cool until tomorrow. Then we will wash the jars, label and store. This was extremely simple to do. As for the blue duck, it isn’t required. My daughter Beth kept handing it to me. Presumably it is for good luck. I can only say that when I sampled the jam it was really good. 🙂

We all should have a blue good luck canning duck.  (must be Beth got up from nap-time mid-jamming)

Here is Jade at Bygone Basics….

Schedule your jam session at Bygone Basics.  What better time than food, friends, fun?

What treat this has been. Thank you Jade and Debbie

….and blue good luck canning duck.

As Easy as Pie


Oh…the joys of Spring and Summer are upon us….no?  It’s Autumn, you say?  Really?  Where’d my Summer go?!!

You might also feel that way…just a bit?

These little 3 to 4 pound beauties make the best pies!

This post really brings me into reality.  I just realized it was time to bake the pumpkins. (still shaking my head that it is autumn)

“Oh how we love pumpkin season. You did know this gourd-ish squash has its own season, right? Winter, Spring, Summer, Pumpkin…. We anxiously anticipate it every year.” ~Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer, October 2010

I usually prefer to bake up actual pie pumpkins and my favorite one is the little “Winter Luxury” pie pumpkin, as smaller tends to mean sweeter.  I get the seeds from the Jung Seed company in Wisconsin.  But since my unofficial motto is (according to my husband) “Can it before it rots” I pretty much put-by food regardless of pedigree.  I rather enjoy carving a huge jack-o-lantern and baking a pie from the face parts I cut out.  It brings a chuckle to any kid in your home to be eating “face pie” on Halloween.  I also will use hearty sweeter pumpkin like squashes like Red Warty Thing and hubbard as pumpkin mash as they are pretty much interchangeable in recipes.

Pumpkin is the one thing I don’t can.  Instead I prefer to freeze it.  The pure density of squash leaves too much question about whether the pressure canning process brought the center of the jar up to the right temperature and for long enough.  Additionally, I prefer to take it out as ready to go mash.  NEVER, can mashed pumpkin as it is too dense for safe home processing.

So….this morning, my house was 59 degrees.  By George, I am NOT lighting the furnaces in September.  That makes it a perfect day to bake pumpkins.  Here is what I do:

Just halve the pumpkins and place on a cookie sheet to bake.

Preheat oven to 325 (you can do 350 for a faster bake, but don’t go higher).  You want to slow simmer the flesh, not bake it crispy.  Take a long carving knife and slice the pumpkin in half.  Scoop the seedy center our with a spoon and …in my case at least….feed that yummy center to the chickens and ducks!  Lay the halved pumpkin face down on foil covered (for clean-up ease only, foil bottom not necessary) cookie sheets and cover with foil.

Boy…that took all of 5-10 minutes.  Really…this isn’t that hard or time consuming.  I might lose my day-job if people realized how easy some of these very heirloom activities actually are….

Bake for 1 to 3 hours, depending on how much you have in your oven and how big the pieces are.  Smaller equals faster.

You know the pumpkin is done when a fork slides easily in all the way to the shell as if warm butter.

You know they are done when you can sink a dinner fork like into warm butter until it reaches the shell.  Take out and let cool a few minutes.  You probably can read half of “Fifty Shades of Grey” during this effortless time and people will thing you slaved to make them a pumpkin pie from scratch.  Your secret.  🙂

After baking let the pumpkins cool just enough to handle. It is easier to work with when warm.

Next is up to you.  At this point the pumpkin is ready to use in recipes.  I don’t like the texture of the occasional strings in the flesh.  So here is what I do:

With a soup spoon I scoop the now soft and warm flesh into my old food mill.  Press it with a few turns of my hand and it deposits into the bowl underneath.  Any strings are strained out by this extra step and it is also not time consuming.  Warmer is better.

If not using it right away, stir and premeasure into freezer containers or bags, writing the amount,date, and of course, contents on a label.  100% pumpkin.

SO EASY.  AND, it is your family food quality control … You know what is in that pumpkin puree and what isn’t.  You may not have read that aforementioned book, but I get a lot done when baking pumpkin and I adjust the oven temp lower if I have to run on an errand that is longer than an hour or so.

This food mill may be old, but it sure does a quick job of sending pumpkin through.

It is very easy to scoop out a baked pumpkin.

Mine almost entirely goes into pumpkin pie.  Which should be another post perhaps.  Equally as easy, but oh so tasty!  My favorite pie.  I actually had it be my “wedding cake” when I married.  I love it that much.

Do you bake your own pumpkin?  What is your favorite variety for it?

Ready for the freezer!

Holy Cow

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Holy cow, it has been a very eventful summer.  My apologies to you for a prolonged absence.

We have had twin grandaughters and a grandson born.

We have also learned of another grandchild on the way, and were saddened by the loss of a grandbaby-in-womb.

Our garden has been prolific lately, but as a result of much tending and watering due to the extreme high temps this summer and drought.

Our bed & breakfast, Amanda’s Bequest Bed & Breakfast, in here in Montague, Michigan  www.amandasbequest.com  has been busy.  Certainly for its opening year!  We operate as a farmstay and guests are immersed in a real working farm-stle home.  They collect eggs and can help churn butter or gather food from the gardens for breakfast if they wish.  We have enjoyed many wonderful and diverse guests from all over the world now!!  (How cool is that?!)  One guest, who was a world traveler, rated us as top two B&B’s in all his travels.  Turns out I’m I’m an ok cook.  He couldn’t decide who was better, a B&B in Scotland, or us.  I have to tell you, I was so dumb-struck at the remark.  After all…we are just..us.

Also busy for us has been our Bygone Basics culinary experiences.  www.bygonebasics.com  People are really wanting to know how to go back to the healthy nutritious foods that were on our predescessor’s tables.  I teach them how to use what tools they already have to get that heritage “kitchen is the heart and soul of the home” healthy foods back into their lives and in their “today” lifestyle.

We have had kitchen guests from 7 countries and 44 USA States now.

To top it all off, I’m now a licensed kitchen and am baking and selling heritage recipe and artisan foods.  All made to order and by hand from natural foods and basic ingredients (nothing you can’t spell or say!).

We have grown our little flock of hens from 6 to 12…plus a duck…but don’t tell Daisy, she thinks she’s a chicken.

My loving husband has been amazing as our journey has brought us to this kind of activity.  He just smiles and builds what I need.  🙂  I wish this kind of a husband on all of our daughters.

Anyway….

My niece Jade is now “apprenticing.”  Leaving me with a few hours at the end of the week to blog and do other things that I’ve been too swamped to do.  I taught her how to hoe the other day.  I told her she was going to be a great hoe-er someday.  She laughed.  I realized what I said.  Too funny.  She’s been learning to bake, make pies, artisan breads, hoe, can, make soap…she’s been a treasure of help to me too!

I will “talk” with you soon.  Just needed to catch you up on my busy-bee “holy cow, what changes!” summer.

Yours,

Valerie Hanson

Twins!

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I have been “off-line” lately due in part to the immanent birth of our daughter’s baby.  (And that cooking & canning classes have really booked me up, along with our bed & breakfast.  I am pleased to announce the birth of twin granddaughters!!  Photo to follow soon.

A Sprung Spring

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See the plant nursery in the window? Pretty nice “digs” for them, if you’ll pardon the pun.

We try to use as much space as possible for planting. Even vertical shelving and mismatched planters. Soon the pots and shelves will be screened by moon flower and morning glory vines.

Rhubarb!! A seriously under-used food plant.

One of the lucky pepper plants that survived the greenhouse demolition. We don’t really know which of 4 varieties if may be!

Finally!  I got to plant my garden.  It has been a crazy spring.  80 degree March and 30 degree April.  Wind heavy storms.  I happily started seeds in the parlor windows in mid February so my little pretties would be ready to transfer out to the big outdoors greenhouse by mid to late March.  The weather was so nice in March, I was pleased to re-pot the now leggy tomatoes, ground cherries, and peppers, etc. and haul them all out to the sunny warm shelter of the outdoor greenhouse.

That’s when it started.

The Crazy Spring.  It was like Spring sprung a spring and went bouncing off its track.  The weather didn’t just turn cold, it turned frozen with night temperatures plummeting to 23 degrees and daytime ones nudging 40 and 45.  Certainly not growing weather.  I took to hauling the many flats of plants back into the house at night and then, out to the greenhouse by day.

Eh…it’s Michigan.

That’s what I told myself.  You do what you have to, to garden in Michigan springs.

Then, it warmed up a smidge and I let the plants have a sleep-over in the outside greenhouse.  That’s when disaster struck!  Fantastical high winds.  They arrived as if on a freight train and demolished my greenhouse and spilled my lovelies all over.   Broken stems and dashed harvest.  I did my best to find and re-plant what I could and hauled them back into the parlor to stay.  Then, fortunately, I had more seeds, I started new plants.

Here is a young row of strawberries interplanted with asparagus. In normal years, the asparagus would be much shorter! Plus, it has been left to grow healthy roots instead of stalks this first year.

That is one of the great things about starting a garden with seeds instead of nursery plants.  Extra seeds.

Well.  I finally got my gardens planted.  The recovered older plants are in the ground with smaller ones.  Rows of seeds are now sprouting into red trails of beet leaves and fine tendrils of newly emerging green onions.

There’s cabbage, broccoli, rutabaga, potatoes, carrots, onions, garlic, horseradish, sweet corn, peas, beets, ground cherry, squashes, beans, pickles, lots of herbs, nasturtiums, sunflowers, morning glories, marigold….and lions and tigers and…

Beets make a pretty row of red and green. My how the chickens love the little ones I pull out to thin the row.

Already in the ground were the perennial plants.  Strawberries, Asparagus, Rhubarb, Onion, Garlic, Blueberries, Raspberries, Currants, Apples, and Pears.  I’m loving my rhubarb harvest right now.  Couldn’t pick the asparagus as it was planted only last spring and it is best to give it a year or so without harvest to let the plant focus energies on the root growth.  The first crop of strawberries froze off but there’s more on the way.  We surely lost the pears and apples to the Crazy Spring.  I’m also getting lots of spring perennial herbs and the onions that make our food practically dance with flavor.

I can’t wait to start canning season.

I’ve been teaching a lot of canning lately and it is certainly the season

Herbs! Oregano and tarragon in front. Planted area for basil and cilantro next. Then, fennel, lavender, lemon balm, pineapple sage, dill, chives…

for canning pickled asparagus.  Bygone Basics guests enjoy taking their green jars of treasure home.  Now it is my turn.  This weekend…I’m canning as much as possible of this neat treat…for ourselves and our guests.

After that…Jam!…of the strawberry rhubarb varieties…and then…summer produce will be in full swing and all harvest will break loose.

What is your favorite food to grow?

What do you look forward to “put by?”

We grow things in the ground and in pots and buckets….here is some basil that will flourish in vertical space.

A newly “grounded” plant. It had just been rained on so it looks a tad bedraggled.

Is Valerie Crazy?

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I thought I might have your attention.  <chuckling>  Anyone who knows me may have actually asked themselves that very question.

You may not know that I went from business executive to helping others learn about a more simple life, one that includes hands-on messy work…(compost comes to mind).  Why not just keep doing what I was doing so I could just BUY anything I thought I needed or wanted?

It took me a bit, but I learned what others already knew.  One cannot buy the best things in life.  Love.  Happiness.  Health.  Those things come from a bank of a different sort.  And you have to work for them.

But…I digress…Is Valerie Crazy?

Yep.  Just crazy enough to open two businesses, in MICHIGAN, in this poor economy..and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.  It is quite an adventure too!  Crazy enough to trust the relationship my husband, John, and I have.  Although, maybe he’s crazy-er for smiling and helping to make all this happen!  A very good friend, Gordon, reminds me once in a while that “John didn’t sign up for that.” when I get a bit ahead of our plans.  (John says I do everything fast.)

Bygone Basics is nicely established and picking up steam.  I am thrilled with the uniqueness each guest brings to an experience.  I feel truly blessed by them.

Amanda’s Bequest Bed & Breakfast is just now opening.  (click the name to check out the website) John and I look forward to every guest.  I’m all excited too…MORE PEOPLE TO COOK FOR!  (I can’t help it, I grew up on a rural country farm in a big family….food was a very important part of life…and you fed people as a means of letting them know they are welcome)

Here is the perfect example of why I do what I do:

Bygone Basics' guests sitting down for a hearty farm lunch.

This family planned a vacation in March 2012 around their Experience with Bygone Basics.  They drove through two states plus part of Michigan to get here.  They were a brother, sister, husband, mother.  And oh did they know how to enjoy each other’s company (I can only imagine that road trip)!  They make a point out of celebrating holidays with a unique theme every time so noone takes any holiday for granted.  Isn’t that a great idea?  It might sound odd, but think how memorable a “Mexican” Easter would be.  As each is different, it isn’t as likely that these special family times will fade from memory.  They learned how to can at Bygone Basics, both pressure canning and water bath canning.  I feel certain they will take that knowledge home and have much quality, happy, family times, canning produce from someone’s garden together.

Canning CAN be fun!

People of the past always knew, but we’ve begun to forget.  Many hands make light work and lighter hearts.  Think barn raisings and Amish summer kitchens.  It’s not much work when you are enjoying the company of others while using the time industriously.  Some might even call it a vacation.  Is that crazy or what?

Light is the task where many share the toil. – Homer

On a completely different note:  Here is a link to the March “I Can at Bygone Basics” Newsletter.  Try the dried apples recipe.  They are easy, healthy, and delicious.