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Writing about the things I love. My writing work has appeared in hard copy magazines including Green Prints, Twins Magazine, Practical Parenting Magazine, Good Old Days Magazine, The Journal of Court Reporting, and more as well as hundreds of articles in Sunset Hosta Farm's Hosta blog and The Homesteading Village blog.
Showing posts with label growing and preserving food. Show all posts
Showing posts with label growing and preserving food. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Canning - Why Headspace is So Important

 



Why is headspace so important?


So first, what is headspace? 


Headspace is the space at the top of the canning jar between the underside of the lid and the top of the food or liquid in the jar. 

Friday, October 2, 2020

Ten Steps For Vegetable Garden Success



Ten Steps to Veggie Garden Success


Successful gardening doesn't come by accident, and in my opinion, there is NO SUCH THING as a green thumb. Success comes from good pre-planning and thoughtful follow-through. It's knowing what each vegetable plant needs to grow to a successful harvest and giving each plant what it needs.

Monday, September 28, 2020

Growing Pumpkins for Fall Decor





Growing Pumpkins for Fall Decor



If you've priced the cost of buying pumpkins and other winter squash for your Fall display lately, you've probably discovered that growing them from seed would definitely be worth your time. 

Saturday, September 5, 2020

Great Gifts for People Who Can Food



Great Gifts for People who Can Food



Looking for a great gift for that relative or friend who is into canning food?

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Which Vinegar to Use in Canning


Which Vinegar to use in Canning


If you have been looking into the process of canning your own food, you've undoubtedly noticed a lot of talk about safe canning.  Some of the most-asked canning questions relate to the correct use of vinegar.

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

List of Items Not Safe to Can




List of Items NOT Safe to Can


Pressure canning and water bath canning have recently become much more popular due to the increase in home food growers, so it follows that there's also a big increase in newbies or first-time canners.

Monday, August 31, 2020

Already Growing your Veggies! Pressure Can Them!




If you're already growing your own food and haven't yet delved into the preserving world of pressure canning and water bath canning, you're really missing out on a great opportunity.


In addition to saving money by preserving your hard-earned harvest, a pantry full of jars of food will give you confidence that your family will stay safely fed through these current uncertain times.


Here is a great list of items you'll need to get you started.





First, to learn the basics of pressure canning, a good book like this one is very important.




There are some essential kitchen appliances that you will need to get started.  The cost of some of these items may seem a bit daunting at first, but the investment will be well worth it. 


First, you will need a pressure canner.  NOT a pressure cooker, but a pressure canner.  A pressure canner is used to cook, sterilize, and preserve low-acid foods that are to be canned for future use.
 



Pressure Canner



Another way to can food is by using a water bath canner.   This is a large pot with a jar rack. It is used with all high-acid foods. High-acid foods include all fruits, jams, jellies, pie fillings, pickles or condiments, and tomatoes with added lemon juice. 


Water Bath Canner




You will need a good supply of canning jars, lids, and rings.  These three items come together in a case of canning jars.


You cannot use just any jar in canning food. Canning jars are specially designed to withstand the high temperature of steam pressure processing and the low temperature of freezing. These jars will be labeled as canning and/or freezing jars.


Canning Jars



These jars come in a variety of sizes, most commonly found are:


Pints. 

Pint jars are great for just about anything you want to add to them for smaller portions.


Quarts. 

Quarts are a great family-size jar. They are ideal for canning whole fruits and vegetables like peaches and green beans, or for just for canning larger portions.



Half Pint or Jelly Jars





Half Pints. This small size is great for creating gifts or small batches of jams, jellies, or preserves. Some smaller or cut vegetables may fit in these jars if using a wide-mouth canning jar.


Canning jars also come in what’s known as “regular mouth” and “wide mouth” jar openings. The only difference is the size of the jar opening.




You can sometimes find some canning jars at thrift stores, or maybe you have a relative that no longer does canning and has a stash of jars.  If you find some of these older canning jars, you may need to buy lids and rings to go with those jars.


Canning Jar Lids and Rings



There are reusable lids available now that are called “Tattler” lids that are made in the USA.  They also come in sizes suitable for both wide mouth and regular mouth jar sizes.  You can use these with pressure canners, water bath canners, and vacuum sealers.

Tattler Lids




There are also plastic lids for canning jars for use in storing the jars in the fridge after they've been unsealed.

Plastic lids that fit canning jars






You will need various kitchen utensils to make your canning projects easier.  You can buy a kit of items like the one below that has most if not all of the items you will need.

Utensil Kit



Or you can purchase items separately.  You will need:

Funnel that fits jar openings


Ladels



Jar Lifter






Other supplies you may need, depending on the types of food that you intend to can, are:

Pickle Crisp (for pickling veggies and pickles)



Citric Acid, commonly used for home canning tomatoes



Canning Salt (Not regular salt)



Real Fruit Pectin for homemade Jam and Jelly recipes.



5% Vinegar  You will probably use large amounts of this.  Vinegar is used in the pressure canner to prevent minerals from hard water from building up on the jars or on the inside of your canner.  Vinegar is also used along with water to fill jars of some foods to be processed.


5% Vinegar



There are also seasoning packets available for use in canning like salsa tomato mixes, pickle mixes, potato seasonings, etc.  Mrs. Wagers' brand is very popular with canners.


Mrs. Wagers' Packets






So what are you waiting for?  Learn to pressure can and water bath can and start saving money on food and getting some much-needed food security!


Related Articles:
Canning Article List
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Friday, August 28, 2020

Growing Sage - Homesteading 101


Perennial Zones 4 – 8 (Hardiness Varies)

Sage is a shrubby perennial that’s an obvious choice for the kitchen.  From spring through mid-summer, Sage displays blue to lavender flowers which are very attractive to birds.  It has an earthy, rich, spicy flavor and it is part of the mint family.

The most popular types of culinary Sage are Garden Sage, Golden Garden Sage, Berggarten Garden Sage, Dwarf Garden Sage, Tricolor Garden Sage, and Window Box Sage.





Starting Sage from Seed

Seed Longevity:                                            2 years.
Seed Sowing Depth:                                     Surface, cover lightly.
Best Soil Temp for Germination:                   65 – 70 degrees.
Days to Germination:                                    15-21 days.

Spring Sowing                                           

Sow Indoors 6 – 8 weeks before the last frost.  Transplant out after the last frost date.

Fall:    Not recommended.








Winter Sowing



If you haven't tried winter sowing, you're in for a treat.  This method is especially good for sowing herbs.  Winter sowing is basically sowing seeds in the bottom of milk jugs in the winter, setting the milk jugs outside for the winter and leaving them there until the seeds germinate in the Spring.
For our article containing detailed information about Winter Sowing, see our separate article.





Herb Scissors


Herb Mincer



Growing Sage

Plant Size:                                                     1-3’ Height.
Growing Soil Temperature:                            55 – 80 degrees.
Spacing:                                                         12 - 18”.
Container Size:                                              12” x 12” good size for Sage.
Soil:                                                                Well-drained.                                                             
Watering:                                    Light, only during dry spells.  Avoid overwatering.
Light/Sun:                                    Full sun to light shade.
Fertilizer:                                      Add some compost throughout the year.

Other Care Tips:   


  • Prefers cool to warm temperatures and will need some shade during the hot weather.
  • The plant should be replaced every 4-5 years.
  • Remove flower spikes before they have a chance to flower.
  • After three years, trim off woody parts to encourage new growth.




Dividing Sage

Best to divide Sage every 4-5 years when the plant becomes woody.  Dig up the entire plant, and using a sharp shovel, divide it into sections.  Remove all woody parts and replant the tender sections planting at the same depth.



Softwood Cuttings of Sage

Take cuttings in spring when new growth is several inches in length.  Side shoots of 4" in length are perfect. Cut the stem at an angle and remove lower leaves leaving an inch or two of the stem bare.  Plant cutting bare side down into a well-drained soil mix.  No fertilizer is needed at this stage.

Wrap the container in plastic to keep in humidity.  Avoid having the leaves touch the plastic.  Place the pot in light but out of direct light.  Keep soil moist but never soggy.  Remove the plastic when cutting grows roots.  A light tug that gives you some resistance means it has rooted.






Harvesting Sage

Start to harvest Sage once you see good growth on the plant.  Best harvested when tops of blossoms are barely open.  You can gather leaves at any time.  Sage is most flavorful as flowers begin to open. Purple-leaved Sage tends to be more aromatic than green-leaved Sage.


Storing Sage



Fresh
Damp Paper Towel

This method works well for hardy herbs that have woody stems as well as a few soft-stemmed herbs.

Clean and thoroughly dry the Sage.  Arrange lengthwise in a single layer on a slightly damp paper towel.  Loosely roll up the herb and transfer to a plastic bag or plastic wrap.  Label and store in the fridge.  Sage will stay fresh in the fridge using this method for up to 2 weeks.


Freezing

For best results, use frozen Sage within 1-2 years.  By freezing herbs, you will lose some of the herb's texture but preserve the flavor.  Here are a few freezing options to consider:

Tray Freeze

Strip leaves off the stems of the Sage and spread onto a cookie sheet on a single layer. Freeze in the freezer, then place it in a labeled freezer bag to store.  Since the leaves are frozen separately, you can easily remove the amount you need.


Ice Cube Trays with Oil

This method works well for hard-stemmed herbs that would probably be cooked when adding to a dish.  The oil reduces some of the browning and freezer burns.
Clean and thoroughly dry herbs.  Mince and firmly pack herbs into an ice cube tray 3/4 full.  Add Olive Oil to fill and freeze.  Transfer frozen cubes into labeled freezer bags to store.






Flat Freezer Bag

Trim off the stems and place them in a labeled freezer bag.  Squeeze out the air, flatten the freezer bag, label and store.



Drying

Sage contains more oil than most other herbs so it dries more slowly.  It is one of the best herbs to dry.   For best results, use dried Sage within 1-2 years.


Hang to Dry

Pick your Sage in bunches right before you intend to store them.  Tie the bottom of the bunch together with twine and hang upside down to dry in a dry, low humidity area. For added protection against dust, you can put the bundles inside paper bags with plenty of holes for ventilation.  When the herbs are dry, the leaves will crumble easily between your fingers.  Store in an airtight container.



Using Sage

  • Sage can be overwhelming so start with small amounts.
  • Use leaves fresh in recipes or add them sparingly to salads.
  • Dried sage is commonly used with Thanksgiving stuffing. 
  • It can be paired with pork, beans, potatoes, and cheese. 
  • You can mix it into a soft cheese for a tasty bread spread.

To see the other herbs in the culinary herb series, click a tab below.

Basil
Chives
Cilantro
Dill
Mint
Oregano
Parsley
Rosemary
Thyme



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Thursday, August 27, 2020

Growing Cilantro - Homesteading 101


One of the world's most popular spices with a zesty, citrus flavor. It’s a fast-growing and easy-to-grow tender herb from the carrot family. Cilantro is the actual leaves of the plant, while Coriander refers to the two Cilantro seeds that are actually encased in the husk. Cilantro has a short life cycle and bolts quickly to produce its seeds in hot weather, so succession sowing of 2-3 weeks is recommended for a continued supply.






Starting Cilantro from Seed


Seed Longevity:                               Five years.

Seed Sowing Depth:                        1/4” to 1/2” deep.

Best Soil Temp for Germination:      55 – 65 degrees.

Days to Germination                        7-10.

Seed Spacing:                                 At 2-3” tall thin to 5” apart.








Spring Sowing

Start seeds indoors 2 weeks before the last frost date to plant out after the danger of frost has passed.



Direct Sowing

After the threat of frost has passed and every three weeks until Fall.



Fall Sowing

In warmer areas, direct sow in summer for a fall harvest.


milk jug as winter sown container with seeds

Winter Sowing

If you haven't tried winter sowing, you're in for a treat. This method is especially good for sowing herbs. Winter sowing is basically sowing seeds in the bottom of a milk jug in the winter, setting the milk jugs outside for the winter and leaving them there until the seeds germinate in the Spring.

For a detailed blog about Winter Sowing, click here.






Other Sowing Tips

  • Cilantro reseeds easily, so give it a place in your garden to do so. 
  • Cilantro will bolt quickly in hot weather.


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Growing Cilantro


Plant Size:                            Height 18-24"     Width to 18"

Soil Temperature:                 50 - 75 degrees.

Spacing in Beds:                  6-8"

Container Size:                    8-10" deep and 18" wide

Soil:                                     Well draining.

Watering:                            Dry soil causes the plant to bolt.

Light/Sun:                           For seeds, full sun. For leaves, light shade.

Fertilizer:                             Avoid fertilizer if growing for seed since that may actually delay 
                                           flowering.



Other Care Tips

  • For a continuous supply, make succession sowings every three weeks.
  • Snip off the top part of the main stem as soon as it develops flower buds or seed pods.



Harvesting Cilantro Leaves


Leaves can be cut at any time. Use the upper newly-cut leaves for cooking.



Harvesting Coriander Seeds


Harvest large seeds on a dry day. Cut off the top of stems when the seed pods begin to turn brown and crack if pressed. Place seed pods in a paper bag and let dry. Pods can be rolled around in between your fingers to release the seeds.



Storing Cilantro

Fresh
Bouquet Storage


This method works well for tender herbs with soft stems and leaves.

Clean and thoroughly dry the Cilantro. Trim the ends of the stems and remove any wilted or browned leaves. Place Cilantro in a Mason jar or clear glass with 1" of water like a bouquet of flowers. Loosely cover with a plastic bag or cling wrap. Label and store in the fridge.

Cilantro will stay fresh in the fridge with this method for up to 3 weeks.





Freezing


For best results, use frozen Cilantro within 1 to 2 years.  By freezing herbs, you will lose some of the herb's texture but preserve the flavor.

Here are some methods for freezing:


Tray Freeze

Spread the Cilantro onto a cookie sheet on a single layer. Freeze in the freezer, then transfer the herbs into a labeled freezer bag to store. Since the leaves are frozen separately, you can easily remove the amount you need.


Ice Cube Trays

Clean and thoroughly dry the Cilantro. Mince and firmly pack herbs into ice cube trays 3/4 full. Add water to fill and freeze. Transfer frozen cubes into a labeled freezer bag to store.






Flat Freezer Bag


Clean and thoroughly dry the Cilantro. Chop herbs into 1/2" pieces, place in a labeled freezer bag. Squeeze out the air, lay flat and freeze.


Drying

Cilantro does not dry well.



Using Cilantro

  • In omelets.
  • A staple in Latin and Asian cooking. The sweet stems are usually eaten raw.
  • Use fresh whenever possible.
  • Sprinkle raw Cilantro on salads or salsas.
  • The seeds are mildly spicy. Good for casseroles and baked goods.
  • Also adds a nice aroma to the kitchen!


Growing your own herbs is fun, easy, more healthy than the herbs shipped to grocery stores, and what's best, saves you tons of money!  Try it today.



To view other herb articles in our culinary herb series, click on the herb name below.


Basil

Chives






This post may contain Amazon affiliate links and as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases without costing you anything extra.

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