Category Archives: seasonal

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.

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Better than Wedding Cake.

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Gather ingredients and tools. It is such a disappointing feeling to get part-way through a recipe only to discover you don’t have everything you need.

I think I may have a serious addiction. Pumpkins. They really do capture my attention as they are the source of the pure goodness known as: Pumpkin Pie.Welcome to the second part of the pumkin series.

I love pumpkin pie.  I could eat it morning, noon, and evening meals….and the occassional 1 a.m. kitchen raid.  In fact, when we married, I didn’t want a fluffy, fancy wedding cake.  I wanted pie.  🙂  The bridal cake was a pumkin pie, in case you wondered.

“Pumpkin pie, if rightly made, is a thing of beauty and a joy – while it lasts…..Pies that cut a little less firm than a pine board, and those that run round your plate are alike to be avoided. Two inches deep is better than the thin plasters one sometimes sees, that look for all he world like pumpkin flap-jacks. The expressive phrase, ‘too thin’, must have come from these lean parodies on pumpkin pie. With pastry light, tender, and not too rich, and a generous filling of smooth spiced sweetness – a little ‘trembly’ as to consistency, and delicately brown on top – a perfect pumpkin pie, eaten before the life has gone out of it, is one of the real additions made by American cookery to the good things of the world. For the first pumpkin pie of the season, flanked by a liberal cut of creamy cheeses, we prefer to sit down, as the French gourmand said about his turkey: ‘with just two of us; myself and the turkey.'” –‘The House Mother’

So this blog post is a follow-up to the last one.  If you remember, we baked pumpkins and saw how easy it is to get to the point of making a pie.  (I’m sure you rushed right out and cooked up pumpkins yourself!)

Pretty nice ingredients. Our free range hen eggs, milk from a local dairy, pumpkin from our garden…mmmmmmm

As I type this, I probably should have done a post on the pastry, but oh well, forward motion.

Pumpkin pie is pretty easy too.

Find your recipe.  I hope you’ll consider sharing your favorite one with me in the comments!  I use one that has become my favorite.  It requires simple ingredients….(no milk product from a can).  Now, gather your ingredients.

Two basic rules that will really help you enjoy your time in the kitchen is to prepare (premeasure, make sure you have everything) and clean as you go.

One pie pastry. Line the tin, forming the pastry to the pan. Flute the top.

Line your tin with the pie pastry.  In these photos, I’m making a smaller pie that will be gifted to a friend so it is in tin that she doesn’t have to get back to me.

Whisk all the dry ingredients together in a medium sized bowl.  This such a great recipe for requiring very few tools and bowls.

Now is time for the wet ingredients.  But first…Did you preheat that oven?  I frequently forget so thought you might like a reminder too.  A couple of comments on how I do things.  You might do them differently, but am sharing them anyway.  I bake my pies on a foil lined cookie sheet to catch drippings.  I also bake my pies in the lower part of the oven to direct the heat right onto the bottom pastry so it bakes before getting too soggy.

Add the wet ingredients.  With Pumpkin Pie, the usual suspects will be milk, pumpkin, eggs, extract.  But your recipe may differ.  It is really important to get the eggs thoroughly whisked into the filling.  If they are not incorporated well, you will have bits of egg white visible in your baked pie.

I whisk the eggs and pumkin in first. Taking care to get a good blend.

Place your pastry lined pie tin on the cookie sheet now if you are going that route.

Now, pour into the pastry lined tin and pop into the oven!  Be sure to double check your recipe for baking time.

I line my crust with foil to prevent overbrowning and to help support the pastry until it bakes some. It is so sad to discover your crust gave way and the filling poured out!

VOILA!

The recipe:

3/4 cup Brown Sugar             1/2 tsp Salt

1 TBSP Flour                            3/4 tsp Ginger

1 tsp Cinnamon                       1/2 tsp Nutmeg

1/2 tsp Cloves                          1 1/2 cups mashed cooked Pumpkin

3 Eggs                                       1 1/2 cups whole Milk

1 pie tin lined with pastry

Bake at 400 F for 50 minutes

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PUMPKIN PIE RECIPE?  Does it have a family history?

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!

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.

A Compost … Post

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Confessions of a Composter

Most who know me well, have seen me spirit food scraps from restaurants. Yes. I admit. I am one of THOSE people.

I can’t stand to see waste. I think it may be a disease, as it is getting worse as I get older.

My possible disease diagnosis aside <wink> .. I’m getting quite a nicely rounded bio-cycle. Food for human consumption enters the cycle (via my own gardens, grocery, gifts from other growers…and um…restaurant take-away… What isn’t immediately consumable is given to the chickens.

What my free-range feathery little girls who run about the lawns with happy little smiles on their beaks then do, is give me eggs! What chickens can’t eat, goes into the compost. The chickens also produce manure; and that, along with their straw bedding, is regularly put into the compost, too.

The compost eventually gets dumped into the garden. The chickens eat bugs from the compost after random spreading there and further spread it out in the garden with their scratching. And I get eggs.

The compost improves the soil, helping grow abundant good food in the garden…and the cycle revolves. Did I mention I get eggs out of the deal too!? So I have learned that the more organic resources I can introduce into this little bio-cycle, the more powerful the food growing cycle is.

Now please note, I live within CITY limits…in a neighborhood. But fortunately, I also have a few acres of space for gardens!  (yay me!)  This style of healthy living is possible even with small patio gardening. (you should fore go the chickens if there is no room for them to be happy) You can compost in small places and keep vigorous plants in that soil in containers on your deck even. I’ll tell you how:

There are some really nice home use and commercial composting equipment you can pay a pretty penny for and if you want to go that route, that’s fine. I prefer to look around first to see if there is something I can reuse or recycle before I go buy new things.

Let’s call it creative composting.  You can have a compost bin made out of just about anything.  Look around, what have you laying about?  Some cinder blocks?  An old tarp?  Old wooden pallets (these work great because you can stand your rakes and hoes, even Shepard’s crook flower holders to prettily screen your pile, in the outer wall).  Old unused small dog kennel?  A few 5 gallon plastic pails?  Discarded window screens (just wire them together).

We use the big bulk food plastic barrels that would be discarded by huge food processors and go to a landfill to never break down.  They are great for rain barrels too.  Since turning your compost is important, you need access into it with a pitchfork…or in the case of my compost barrel…John has made a lid that fits tightly on the top and I just knock it over and roll it around a bit and stand it back up.  When the time comes to put it on the garden, we just roll it there.  He did drill some small holes in the sides and bottom for proper drainage and aeration.

Essentially, you just need something that will contain your compost, give it some aeration and drainage, and allow you to turn it in some manner.

Start your compost with brown matter.  No…not poo.  Lawn clippings, leaves, even cardboard/newspaper.  Yes…paper is organic and will return to the earth as nutrients instead of a landfill if you mix it in a compost pile.  You can even toss in some soil to introduce the microorganisms that break down matter into soil.  Then you can begin tossing in your household scraps.  Keep throwing on the brown matter.  But there are somethings you shouldn’t put in your compost:

  • used cat box litter (could spread disease)
  • bones (won’t break down)
  • large quantities of fat in one glob (add shredded newspaper with it and stir the pile)
  • Meat (just be cautious as this may attract unwanted interest in your compost…I have never had a problem)
  • non-organic items (plastic, heavily glossy mailings…)

Definitely add your coffee grounds; paper filter and all!

See an earthworm after a rain?  Put him in too, to help break things down.

It works well to have two barrels as it takes about three to 6 months for a good compost to do it’s job.  I fill one and let it sit for a month or two (still need to roll it around once in a while) while I start to fill the other.  About the time the second one is getting full, it is time to put the first one on the gardens.

We have two kitchens at Bygone Basics/Amanda’s Bequest.  We keep two small compost buckets in the kitchen and dump them daily into the larger one out doors.  We just use a bucket we’ve found to re-use for this purpose, but you can purchase kitchen compost containers that are specifically made for this in many home-improvement stores.

Composting is a great way to boost your plants and food output, reduce your trash bill, keep a lot of paper and waste out of the landfill, take care of livestock manure, and of course, get eggs!  

(did I mention I LOVE eggs?)

If you haven’t already, have a look at our websites:

Bygone Basics:  www.bygonebasics.com

Amanda’s Bequest – A Heritage Farmstay Bed & Breakfast:  www.amandasbequest.com

There’s Always Time for a Quickie

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There’s Always Time for a Quickie

Having just returned home from Kansas after being away for quite a while, helping a very ill family member, I find myself buried in about 7 pages of “to-do’s.”

BUT…I didn’t want to let this week go by without a bit of a “quickie” blog post.

It is hard to believe so much food can come from such a little box.

This post is a gentle reminder about one of the FUN parts of winter….planning your garden and ordering seeds!!

My package containing all of my summer’s bounty arrived while I was in Kansas. …so far I’ve been able to restrain myself from borrowing Dorothy’s “I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore”….oops… 😉  Just can’t wait to sink my fingers into the dirt and plant those little seeds while thinking of all of the good nutritious foods that will come of them.  I’ve made some changes in what I plant this year and am looking forward to gardening with an eye for massive production in small spaces.  I’m going as vertical as possible, using the fence around the garden to grow the cucumbers up, for example.  Also there will be even more companion gardening, as that was quite successful last year.  Growing beans right in between the cornrows was perfect!

If you have any great garden tips, share them!  I love to learn new ways.  ICan@bygonebasics.com

So…..plan that garden….or even just a few container gardens if you don’t have much space.  There’s still time to order seeds and get them growing for summer’s bounty.

I officially CAN'T WAIT for Spring now...

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This Week’s post is written by a guest blogger:  Jessica Rabe.

I would like to apologize.  I am a guest blogger today, and I accidentally published something while trying to link.  This is why I don’t have much to do with technology 🙂

With Valerie is in Kansas for a week to help with an ill family member, I have the pleasure of being a Guest Blogger for Bygone Basics.  First, I’ll introduce myself, and then, I’ll let you read what you came for in peace 🙂

My name is Jessica, and I’m Valerie’s oldest daughter.  Mom, jokingly calles me her Scullery Maid.  I’ve been helping with the heritage kitchen whenever I can, and I love *almost* every minute of it.  (I mean, who truly enjoys the cleanup?)

Waste Not, Want Not

Have you ever thought about all of the trimmings you throw away, or even toss on the compost?  I never really did either, but it turns out the answer is: A lot!  Recently, Valerie and I stumbled upon a wonderful blog post: Five Packaged Foods You Never Need To Buy Again by Jane Mountain.  I’ll be the first to admit that I got a bit carried away in my excitement.  My second favorite part of the Bygone Basics is learning how to take food as far as it will go, so the idea of saving the trimmings, bones, and juices really got me excited.

You mean….. I can use garbage to make all the soup I could ever hope for!!?

(For those wondering, my favorite is the health aspect.  There’s just nothing like using raw closest-to-nature products, and the only drawback is cost.  Hence my excitement!)  Imagine my shock when Valerie told me that she already knew all about this.  It’s so easy, why weren’t we already doing this?  (Her answer was that she found she got great eggs from the chickens by feeding them the trimmings.)  I figured we can do both….first make the soup stock and then feed the skimmed off, boiled stuff to the chickens.  Worked like a charm!  We got four times the product from our food.  ate the carrot, peelings and ends went into making stock….and the the chickens got everything strained out of the stock…and we got our eggs.  NOTE:  chickens didn’t get the bones…those got composted.

A lot of product was gotten out of everyday "trash". This is a shot of our fresh soup stock and some of the day's pasta sauce all canned and ready for the shelves.

After about a week of saving, we had enough to start making a meat/vegetable stock.  (I’m still waiting to make just veggie stock.  There is much anticipation for a huge mess and a delicious way to squeeze every last drop of goodness out of these vegetables .)  It sure isn’t a pretty process, and it takes a lot of time to boil down.  But really, we just did other things while it simmered (sure smelled good).  I have to tell you, I don’t see any future need to buy soup or bullions.

Now is the time

During the summer, everyone is rushing to get their produce in jars before it spoils.  There’s really no time to try out any of the fancy recipes you dream of doing when it’s a race against time.  However, winter is the perfect time to start unsealing some of those jars and making that spaghetti sauce, or to try any other experiment you’ve always wanted to try.  Such an urge grabbed Valerie just last week, at the same time we were doing the meat stock.  She began breaking into some canned basic tomatoes, herbs she’d dried, and threw a few fresh ingredients in there.  This is also a great way to turn disappointment into satisfaction.  Amanda and myself had messed up a bruschetta recipe…she added that too…a perfect way to put some good use to those still-good tomatoes.  The result was a delicious pasta sauce that’s also healthy!  (My favorite part.)

Remedy from Ukraine

In December, I returned home from spending a few months in Kiev.  I was there teaching English, and honing my Russian language abilities.  Of course, I ended up sick a couple of times, and so my host family made me some “tea.”  Surprisingly, it was as easy as putting some lemon slices in some hot water, and squishing the juices out of them with a spoon.  It went down so nicely.  What a great way to give your immune system a boost!  This is the time of year when people begin to get sick, and this is a great, simple home remedy to drink before or after you start feeling poorly.  Stay healthy!

Contact Valerie today by calling (231) 740-4065, or emailing ICan@bygonebasics.com to ask about the February classes, (click to here check them out) put in an order, or schedule your own Experience.  Be sure to visit the newly redesigned (and easier to navigate Bygone Basics website.  www.bygonebasics.com

You might not agree, but I think this photo is a thing of beauty. Stock simmering in the back and pasta sauce simmering in the front. I wish you all could have shared in the aroma!