Travel

5 Favorite Things {on our FL vacation}

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1. The beach, of course!

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We did a beach day yesterday and everyone absolutely loved it. How could we not? Sure there was sand everywhere and we all got a little burnt. But what is that compared to nature’s loveliness?

Something about the beach soothes my soul in a deep way. Beautiful, beautiful beach. We will miss you!

 

2. Knitting squares.

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In my last post I mentioned that I was just learning to knit. For our vacation I decided to bring my knitting supplies so that I could knit on the long drive. I do have some traveling anxiety and this has been awesome to help with that. Knitting is very therapeutic 😊

 

3. A favorite read.

I’ve been reading quite a few different books on vacation but one of my most favorites has been Gift from the Sea, by Anne Morrow Lindbergh.

It is absolutely wonderful the way she combines the beachscape and different kinds of shells with just life and motherhood. It sounds like a simple concept and it is. I just really fell in love with her soothing, yet relevant writing style.

 

4. Local flora.

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Some of you know I love looking at plants and studying them. This one seems to be very common in Florida. It is a weed but I still think it’s lovely.

After a quick bit of research I believe this is Bidens alba, also known as Spanish needles. Wikipedia says that the leaves are edible but I didn’t test that one out.

 

5. This salad.

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This salad was 100% wonderful. We walked down to a produce stand where I bought beet greens and Florida strawberries and oranges, among quite a few other things. So good and way better than anything up north where I live.

I wish I would have taken a picture of the aloe vera leaf (for our sunburns) I bought before I cut it up. It was as long as my arm…and only 90¢!

Wishing you all warm and happy thoughts!

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canning, Food, Seasonal Food

Canning Local Concord Grapes to Make Juice & Jelly

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These grapes are amazing. I picked them and canned them myself and it was a fantastic experience.

I discovered, much to my joy, that a local vineyard was offering those in the community a chance to pick your own grapes. Even better? Only about 5 miles from my house. Better than that? Only 10¢ a pound. I could not believe it.

So I set out for an adventure, with the kids at home with my husband. I went to this vineyard that was rather out in the middle of nowhere. Not knowing what to expect. But everything went well. Talked with the owner, he loaned me some pruning clippers, parked the car and unloaded the baby bathtub which I hoped to fill with luscious grapes.

And I did.

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I thought I picked like 20 or more pounds but it turned out to be 15. Which was amazingly exactly how much I wanted.

So that was $1.20 well spent. And let me tell you, it made the most delicious grape juice.

This is my first time ever canning grapes. I did not do 100 quarts, like my neighbors in the vineyard were discussing. And how does one even make that much??

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I digress.

Here is the shortened version of the process I went through. Obviously there was a sorting, washing and plucking process. Followed by cooking and lots and lots of…straining. 3 separate strainings might not seem like a lot but it was. There was a lot of liquid and I think in the end I had strained out about 5 cups of puree.

(*See note at the end of the post on the recipes/canning directions I used.)

It took a long time. I did the bulk of it one night from about 9pm until 1am. It was a pain.

But so worth it.

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The first straining for the juice. I used this batch for the jelly.
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About to begin second straining with fine mesh strainer and 3 layers of cheesecloth.
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Finally completed. This part is for the jelly. Now to do it all over for the other portion to be canned as juice only.
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The juice had been in the fridge for 24+ hours so now it was ready to strain, (again!) boil and can.
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About to lower the jars and bring to boil for processing.

The steps for making jelly was very much the same. It was refrigerated for 24+ hours, strained and boiled. But once boiled, sugar and sure jell, then more sugar was added to make it into jelly.

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About to add sugar mixed with sure jell.
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This was right before or after I added remaining sugar.
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I had about 1/4 cup leftover so of course I had to make a PBJ ☺
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8 jars on right are jelly. All others are juice.

Here is the end result! 7 pints (or 3 1/2 quarts) grape juice and 8 half-pints (or 4 pints or 2 quarts) grape jelly.

I wouldn’t say it was the easiest process but it wasn’t super hard either once I got past the straining business.

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Cost

For (8) 8oz jelly jars of grape jelly I spent $14.41. (Jars included.) That’s $1.80 per 8oz jar and 23¢ per oz.

Aldi’s jelly is more like 1.29 for 32oz and 4¢ per oz. But this homemade grape jelly is so much better. And it doesn’t have any of that corn syrup business in it. Ew.

The grape juice was $4.98 for 112 oz or 3.5 quarts. That’s 4¢ per oz.

Store bought grape juice can easily be that price for only 32oz. So I think this is a huge win.

All in all, I really enjoyed this. I’m looking forward to using up the juice & jelly this winter. Yummy!

Have you cannned grape juice before? This was something totally new for me…have you tried anything new & yummy in the kitchen lately?

~Rachel

*Note: I used the Concord Grape Jelly recipe from the book “Foolproof Preserving: A Guide to Small Batch Jams, Jellies, Pickles, Condiments & More” by the editors of America’s Test Kitchen.

The grape juice recipe I followed part from my canning book “Saving the Seasons”, by Mary Meyer and part from the National Center For Home Food Preservation website. (Basically the same recipe although the one on the web was more detailed.)

Food, Seasonal Food

With this apple, I will make…

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It’s October. Such a gorgeous, gorgeous month this year. One thing we love about this month in my house are the apples. Apple season starts typically in August and reaches its peak towards the end of October. That’s the time when you can find the best apples for the cheapest price. I am so very excited about this blog post. Here’s 5 reasons why:

1. Buying local, delicious

2. Apples to make into

3. Homemade applesauce

4. Using the crock pot

5. And doing it on the cheap.

Applesauce.

In the crock pot.

Where have I been? Why didn’t I think of this before? I was browsing pinterest, looking for things to do with some wicked awesome apples I picked up in Amish Country when I came across these recipes for crock pot applesauce:

How To Make The Best Slow Cooker Applesauce (Live Simply)

How To Make Your Own Applesauce In The Slow Cooker (One Good Thing By Jillee)

My blog post is based on sort of a combo of these two recipes. I used the ratio of apples to lemon juice and cinnamon from @onegoodthingbyjillee and I did my prep like @livesimply and took her advice and added water and honey.

Because I’ve made applesauce on the stove-top a kadjikillion times, I felt ok just using guidelines from these recipes to make it in the crock pot.

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First, of course, I had to get some apples. So long story short, I found this wonderful place to buy apples. It’s cheap, local and the customer service and product value are exceptional. About a week ago, I went there for the second time to buy more Macintosh apples and some Golden Delicious with the intent of making boatloads of applesauce.

Amount: I ended up buying a 1/2 bushel of golden delicious and 1 peck of Macintosh. I wasn’t really sure on the exact amount of applesauce I wanted to make. Maybe I should have checked out this chart sooner..

According to the chart, I could have made 6-7.5 quarts of applesauce with 1/2 bushel of apples, and about 3 quarts with the Macintosh for a total of 10 quarts of applesauce. That’s roughly 52 pounds of apples for 10 quarts or 40 servings of 8 oz each.

I did not feel like making that much. Plus, I would rather save some apples to eat. The Macintosh are especially good for eating in my opinion. Here is what we brought home.

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Tiny baby hand for scale 🙂
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Add cinnamon and lemon juice.

Mix.

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All Golden, batch #1.
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Batch #2 is Golden + Macintosh.

My method:

1. Peel, slice, cut the apples. I would guesstimate I cut up 6 lbs, or a little over 1/4 of the 1/2 bushel bag. I was aiming to double jillee’s recipe. I just filled the crock pot with as many slices as it would hold.

2. Juice 2 lemons for 3 TBS lemon juice. Again, this is double of jillee’s.

3. Grate 2 tsp. of cinnamon.

4. Pour on the lemon juice and sprinkle the cinnamon over the apples.

5. Then toss it all together and turn the crock pot on high.

6. On batch #1, I added about 3/4c. water and a few TBS honey about 1 1/2 hours into it.

7. Stir it periodically. I had to watch every so often to make sure the apples weren’t boiling over.

The apples actually cooked rather quickly. It took only 2 or 3 hours for the applesauce to be done. I didn’t need to mash them overly either. I actually prefer the semi-chunky texture, so I didn’t puree or alter the sauce in any way.

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It’s very easy, no? As long as it isn’t too sour or cinnamon-y for your taste, you should be good. Live simply used Red Delicious apples in her sauce, but I really wouldn’t use that kind…her sauce was really brown and I think the type she used may have something to do with it. But to each his own! My fav. apple is a Golden Delicious, so I used those. On batch #2 I mixed in some Macintosh with the Golden Delicious. It’s all in your preference, really 🙂

How much did it cost me? About $3 (apples) + $1 (4 lemons) + 79¢ (4 TBS organic honey) = $4.79 for both batches.

We did eat some before I really measured but I think it’s safe to say we made 4 quarts out of 12 lbs. It adds up with the afore mentioned chart (http://www.pickyourown.org/info.htm). So that’s about 3.7¢ per oz, 30¢ per 8 oz serving. And $1.20 for 1 qt, or 32 oz.

The farm that I got my apples from is open year-round. I understand that not every apple farm operates that way though. If you can’t get out to an apple orchard in your area, just remember that apples go on and off sale at the grocery store all throughout the winter. It’s not a must that crock pot applesauce be made from farm fresh apples, although I highly recommend the experience. I would equate it to comparing my Grandma’s homemade strawberry jam to Smuckers jam. You can just taste the difference, and you’ll never want to go back to store bought again.

Cooking food from home is all about combining what your values are, what your family loves, what’s available in your area and what you have time and energy for. There are many many paths to healthy homemade cooking!

~Rachel