CANNING PUMPKIN

Our pumpkins are starting to go “off” so thought I’d better get into canning them.

I have already done some with onion, bacon and chicken stock for a quick and easy pumpkin soup, but this lot I am doing just plain.  I have a great pumpkin roll with cream cheese recipe that I use the plain pumpkin for.  Will post that later…

Here’s how I can pumpkin.

First I grab a nice big pumpkin (my options are small due to pumpkins going off).  Preheat your preserving jars – I do this by filling with hot water.

The pumpkin
The pumpkin

Then I grab a sharp knife and cut it up into cubes (or any other interesting shape that comes).

Pumpkin ready to can
Pumpkin ready to can

Fill your jars with the pumpkin and top up with boiling water.  At this stage I wiggle the handle end of a wooden spoon in the jar to release the air bubbles.  I then place the lid and clips on.

In jars ready to go
Jars ready to go

Then I place the jars in the canner (I have already put the required amount of boiling water in the canner).

Jars in the canner
Jars in the canner

Then can as per usual method.

Canner on the stove
Canner on the stove

I take the jars I use to be about a quart so I put my pumpkin on for 90 minutes.

The finished product
The finished product

Take the clips of the jars and store. (I leave mine overnight and then remove the clips)

PS: I use Fowlers preserving bottles and screw top jars.  I like the Fowlers bottles because I have heaps and it was a bit too expensive to buy mason jars.

PPS: I don’t precook my pumpkin, it goes in the jars raw.

 

ON BEING A GRANDMA

I can’t explain the feeling that I got when I first found out that I was going to be a Grandma.

It was pure joy!!!   But underneath the joy it didn’t feel quite real either.  Who would have thought that I’d be a Grandma at age 45.

We have been truly blessed to be Grandparents at such a young age. We get lots of comments about being too young (which is quite nice I must admit – especially on those days when you feel a bit old and tired).

There was also some feelings of regret.  Why, you ask????

I suppose they are just irrational feelings that come at the end of a stage in your life.

We had No 1 daughter eleven months after we were married and awaited with anticipation for No 2 child to come along.  But we waited and waited and after 5 1/2 years he appeared.  His birth was not what I would call a pleasant experience and it truly put me off.  It wasn’t his fault, just a culmination of stuff that happened.

Life continued on and we moved house and changed jobs and sent the children to school and then decided that we would homeschool.

Those same magazines and articles that encouraged us to homeschool were also talking about children being a blessing and a joy.  The truth hit us as we allowed God to take over the control of our reproduction.

It took 3 years for me to conceive No 2 daughter.  Whilst watching our other friends have baby after baby I sat there asking God why, when we were doing His will, why wasn’t He fulfilling our desires.  I understand His ways to be  perfect and we just needed to wait (although it wasn’t easy).

No 2 daughter arrived almost 10 years after No 2 son.  She was beautiful.  We then suffered a miscarriage 16 months later, there had been some issues right from the start of that pregnancy but we were believing God to heal.  Once again His ways are perfect and His plan is perfect (and once again it wasn’t easy).

No 2 son arrived 2 1/2 years later and once again he was beautiful.

It amazed me that when I was young I didn’t conceive and needed some help with fertility medication and here I was at age 40 starting to be fruitful.

Another 14 months after No 2 son was born I was pregnant again, wow this was great.  We were so excited that it was so easy to handle the “oh not another one” comments from family and friends. But sadly this child was meant only for Heaven and she passed away at 26 weeks gestation.  This was true pain.  Lord we are doing your will, what is going on.

Her birth and our hospital experience was wonderful.  I have never had such an experience, the staff and doctors were really amazing and because we had been to the same hospital two times before there was a comaraderie that I didn’t experience the first 2 times.  God really blessed us through this experience and once again His ways are perfect.

Since then we haven’t conceived again and I suppose we wait to see if it will happen again.  I am scared somewhat to become pregnant but God is in control.

So to see our daughter having babies is such a blessing.  To be able to hold their little bodies and get to know them is a joy.

When our oldest granddaughter saw me last time she raised her arms and trotted over with a big smile on her face.  That was just the best feeling (and makes me teary now just writing about it).  It doesn’t matter to me that she probably does that to all the people at church – she did it to me and I know that even at her young age she knows me to be her Grandma.

Life is surely complete.

This post is linked up here….

Linkup

FETA CHEESE RECIPE

I’ve been making cheese on and off for quite a few years.  I usually make a farm house cheddar but I found a very easy very yummy feta recipe.  I make this cheese once a week, sometimes two.  It is great in salads, on pizzas and is extremely great on toasted sandwiches. So here it is…

Feta Cheese

  • 4 Litres of full cream milk – I use somewhere between 4 – 8 litres with 1 teaspoon of rennet diluted in 1/2 cup water for the larger amount.
  • 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon Calcium Chloride diluted in 1/4 cup of water.

The addition of Calcium Chloride generally improves the rennet coagulation properties of your milk and this is particularly true when using pasteurised milk from the grocery store.

  • 1 dose MO 030 Mesophilic cultureI use a butter knife and put a few grains on the end.
  • 1/4 rennet tablet or 1/4 teaspoon liquid rennet diluted in 1/2 cup of water.
  • 2 tablespoons of salt.

Directions

  • Mix your Calcium Chloride solution into your 4 litres of milk.
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No 2  daughter adding the calcium chloride
  • Slowly heat milk, using indirect heat, to 30° C – I bring my milk in straight from the cow and it is already at 30 degrees and saves heating it.
  Two stainless steel ‘stock pots’ with water in the large pot and milk in the small pot makes an effective ‘water jacket’, heating your milk indirectly.

 

  • Add starter culture and stir well. Leave to incubate for 1 hour, maintaining the temperature at 30° C. – place an old bath towel over the pots to keep the warmth in.
No 1 daughter adding starter culture
No 2 daughter adding starter culture
  • Add rennet solution and stir in gently using an up and down motion for one minute to ensure that the rennet is evenly distributed. Allow to rest undisturbed for one hour, maintaining the temperature at 30° C.
  • Check for a ‘clean break’. If the curd is not firm enough leave for another 5 minutes and check again.

Patience is the key here, wait for a clean break, and do not despair if this takes a while. If you do not get a clean break after several hours, do not throw throw your mixture out, but keep it warm overnight perhaps, and then drain it through a tight weave cheesecloth. Your end result might be a soft cheese, instead of feta, but it still is a cheese.

  • Once the curd is firm enough and gives a clean break, cut the curd into 1.5 centimetre cubes. Let rest for 10 minutes.
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No 2 daughter cutting the curd
  • Gently stir the curds for 20 minutes, being careful not to break them down. – I like our Feta to be quite firm so I stir quite vigorously.
No 2 daughter stirring the curd
No 2 daughter stirring the curd
  • Gently pour the curds into a colander, lined with your cloth, to drain off the whey. Tie the corners of the cloth together to form a bag and hang to drain for 5 hours. The curds will knit together into a solid mass. – I don’t have anywhere to hang our cheese so I just leave to drain on the sink and if it is really moist I squeeze it out.
Curds draining in sieve
Curds draining in sieve

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  • Untie the bag and cut the curds into 2.5 centimetre cubes.
Curd ready to cut
Curds ready to cut

 

Curd cut into container with salt on top
Curd cut into container with salt on top

 

PS.  As I have said before I am not really a measuring type of cook and I am probably the same with my cheese.  I found that it still works well.  We eat this cheese the next day and it lasts for about a week.

PPS. Sometimes this cheese sits on the bench all day, depending on what I have to do.  I have found that it is alright to do so but ultimately it is best to have it draining by the late afternoon.

PPPS.  I get my starter culture and calcium chloride from Green Living Australia and my liquid rennet from Cheeselinks (you can get rennet from Green Living but I like to buy a bigger amount.

Let me know how you go if you try it or let me know if you have a cheese recipe I could try.

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ONE POT WONDER

I am the queen of one pot wonders (self imposed title)

I love them, they are so quick, easy and tasty.

Here’s the recipe of the one I made tonight.  I think I’ll call it …….

Mince One Pot Wonder

  • 500 grams of Mince
  • 1 Onion
  • 3 Stalks of Celery
  • 1/2 Small Cabbage
  • 2 Carrot (grated)
  • 1/2 cup Tomato Sauce or 1 Tin Crushed Tomatoes
  • 1 Packet French Onion Soup Mix
  • 1 tblsp Olive Oil
  • Water
  • 1 Packet Pasta – I used macaroni

Place saucepan on the heat and add olive oil.  Fry onion and celery until soft, add mince, cook until mince is browned.  Then add the cabbage, carrot, tomato sauce and french onion soup mix and water. Cook until cabbage is soft.

Cook pasta in separate saucepan and drain and rinse and then add to mince mixture and combine.

PS: I know I said this was a one pot wonder and technically I used two pots, but you can make this in the pressure cooker or in one pot but you need to add more water so the pasta cooks.

PPS: If you cook this in the pressure cooker just make sure that the pasta is covered by liquid.

PPS: You can add any vegetables or meat that you like to this dish, the process is the same.

ENJOY

 

 

SWEET AND SOUR PORK IN THE MULTI COOKER

No 1 son very generously bought me a multi cooker for my birthday and mothers day.   It is a Newwave cooker but there are many more brands on the market.  This one slow cooks, steams, high and low pressure cooks and has a soup function.

My multi-cooker
My multi-cooker

I actually wanted an electric pressure cooker but I got a lot more than I bargained for.  I had a stove top pressure cooker when we were first married about 25 years ago but it just seemed to turn everything to mush, so I didn’t use it much at all.  After watching various cooking shows I thought an electric one would be a good idea.

Well it turned out to be a great idea.

Last night I made Sweet and Sour Pork Chops and it was really yummy so I thought I’d share it with you.

Sweet and Sour Pork Chops.

  • Pork Chops – enough for your family
  • 1 Onion
  • 4 stems of Celery
  • 4 Carrots
  • 1/4 Cabbage
  • 1/4 cup Flour
  • 1/2 to 1 cup Tomato Sauce/Tomato Soup
  • 1 tin Pineapple
  • Pinch of Salt
  • 2 tblsp of Vinegar
  • 1 tblsp of Olive Oil
  • 2 tblsp of Brown Sugar
  • 1 cup hot water (optional)

Press the brown function on your cooker and add the tablespoon of olive oil.  Chop onions into chunks and add to the cooker and brown. Slice celery, carrots and cabbage and add.  Place 1/4 cup of flour in a plastic bag and add the pork chops, give the bag a shake until chops are coated with flour and then add these to the cooker and brown.  (The flour will give you a thicker sauce)

Add pineapple pieces and juice, tomato sauce, vinegar, salt, and brown sugar, mix altogther.  At this stage you may need to add some hot water, this is optional, you need to have enough liquid so that the cooker builds up pressure.

Close the lid and press high pressure and set for 30 minutes.  I did it this long last night and the chops were still intact but the meat easily came away from the bone.

When finished allow the pressure cooker to vent naturally, and serve with mashed potato or rice.

PS.  I vented the pressure cooker with the release valve to vent and ended up with the liquid coming out of the top (we had the power off until 7pm so I was in a hurry) so I had a small mess to clean up.

PPS.  I had enough sauce left over to make a sweet and sour tuna for tonight.  I will just cook some rice and heat up the tuna with the left over sauce and maybe add another tin of pineapple (my husbands favourite) and mix it together and serve.

PPPS.  I am not really a measure and cook type of person, I do tend to just chuck stuff in and change things.  You can add whatever else you like to this dish.

ENJOY!!

 

CANNING

I was thrilled when I finally discovered canning.  I had been preserving using my Fowlers Vacola outfit for years, bottling fruits, but I wanted something that I could store meat and vegetables other than our freezer.

I had been reading the Above Rubies magazine and a Mennonite publication and they talked about canning their meats and vegetables.  So after some internet research I found a company online in Australia that sold canners.

It has been fantastic!  I started with peas, corn and beans.  I have since then over the last few years moved onto meats, soups and casseroles.  I have canned sweet and sour pork, chicken and corn soup and even wild rabbit (our meat ones keep dying before they are ready to eat !!!)

I feel very pleased when I go out to my pantry and look at all the jars out there and find it hard to use them because I don’t want them to run out and they look so good.  I have to shake myself and say “hey, you need to use it before next season”.

I find the bottles great to just heat up and send with my husband and son for their lunches.

Mind you, in the beginning I was concerned about getting sick from botulism but so far so good.  I would recommend canning to anyone who wanted to store their produce without it taxing their electricity bill.

Stay tuned for more pictures and canning ideas……

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TO HOMESCHOOL OR NOT TO HOMESCHOOL

I always said that I would never homeschool and I mean NEVER…

I have now learnt that you never say NEVER.

Sometimes we just don’t know the road that God will take us on.

We started homeschooling around 13 years ago.  Our No 1 daughter had spent her primary years at school and No 1 son had done a year of schooling and finished prep.  I really don’t remember the turning point that made us change our minds but I do know that the change has been (for us) the better.  No 1 son had difficulty learning to read so when we brought him home we taught him to read using phonics, and within 6 months he was reading well.  We found that if you gave him things he was interested  in to read, he would read more, his first novel was Swiss Family Robinson.

We brought No 1 son home first and started him off with No 1 daughter returning to school for her first year of secondary education.  A christian friend suggested we meet this lovely family who had been homeschooling for years.  Well to make a long story short we met this family and brought our daughter home to school as well.  We had never met a more well adjusted friendly bunch of children who greeted us at the door and didn’t run away to play on a computer game.  They were well spoken and could give their opinion with respect and confidence.

Our decision was made – we would homeschool both of our children.

It hasn’t always been easy, but I think God has led us to this place to develop not only our childrens characters but also our own.  I must admit my patience level isn’t great and I hope that has improved somewhat.

Since then our No 1 daughter has finished school, worked various part time jobs, whilst running her own sewing business and has now been married for 2 years and has 2 beautiful daughters.  She has a wonderful husband who is supportive and caring and really looks after her well (Her husband is the youngest son of the family who’s character convinced us to homeschool).

No 1 son has finished his schooling, and completed a farm apprenticeship with his Father.  He has been working now for a couple of years.  We only hear good reports about his attitude and character and it is so pleasing to see him forge a life for himself.  He is caring and considerate and terribly generous both with his time and money.

God has truly blessed us with these 2 children and our hearts burst with love for them both.

God then blessed us with more children some years on, when WE finally decided that 2 wasn’t enough.  I think it was when WE decided to let God take over our lives instead of us controlling it (this is another post I am sure).

We are now homeschooling No 2 daughter and No 2 son.  It still isn’t always easy but it is very rewarding.  I am older now and have finally realised how much I enjoy being at home and how much I enjoy having my children here.  I now no longer need to be a super mum, involved in everything and doing everything.

So we have got quite a few more years ahead of us of homeschooling but we look forward to where God takes us in that time and the character he will develop in all of us and the journey it will be.

PS: even though I write this post from my thoughts and feelings, my husband and I made the decision to homeschool together.  He is the headmaster in our school and I am the teacher.  I have a wonderful headmaster to turn to when I have issues that I need help with.  My headmaster is a great support and without him I couldn’t do the teaching that I do.

 

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PRIZE WINNING CHOCOLATE CAKE RECIPE

Our No 2 son got eczema at 5 months of age.  His skin was pretty terrible and his cheeks were a bleeding, weeping mess.  It was awful.  We kept going to the doctor, who kept prescribing medication that really didn’t do anything.  Finally we found a doctor who sent him for testing in Melbourne.  We made an appointment, and waited. The waiting list was months away.

When we had him tested he was allergic to dairy, egg (got an epi pen he was THAT allergic), and basically a whole lot of other things.  He was taken off everything he was eating and was reduced to bread, potatoes, chicken, apples, pears and a smattering of other vegetables.  It was fantastic that he wasn’t gluten intolerant or I don’t know what I would have fed him.

He wasn’t allowed outside until his face cleared up (which is hard for a 2 year old – this was how long it took us to get a doctor to do something and then how long we had to wait for an appointment).  He was prescribed creams 3 to 4 times a day for a week and antibiotics.  Well he cleared up within 7 days, it was amazing, he could go outside and play again.  His cheeks were quite red for a long time but it has now cleared up.  We thought with all the creams over the years that he may have some skin damage, but praise the Lord his cheeks are just smooth and beautiful.

So over the last 4 years it has come and gone, we had another breakout after travelling to visit family and I thought it was back in full force again.  But after a period of time (and only eating what he was allowed) it went away again.  I am happy to say that his face is still clear, which is great, he still has to deal with it on his inner arms and behind his knees, but that is fairly manageable.

So I suppose the point of this post is to share with you a chocolate cake recipe that I used so that he could at least have something special and a birthday cake.  I became quite adept at cooking without dairy and eggs and really basically substituted butter for olive oil.

Anyway here is the recipe,  it sure put a smile on our little boys face.

Chocolate Cake

  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 cups white sugar (I always use raw)
  • 2 tsp baking soda (bi carb soda)
  • 6 tblsp cocoa
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cups cold water
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tsp vinegar
  • 10 tblsp olive oil

Mix dry ingredients, add remaining ingredients.  Bake at 190 degrees for 35 mins or until skewer comes out clean.

When I made this cake for our son I iced it with a chocolate icing and changed the butter for water.

OPTIONAL EXTRA:  when mixing you can add frozen raspberries.

This mixture is also great for muffins as well.

No 1 daughter made this cake for our local show and won first prize in the relevant section. (even after the cake had hit the ground, face down – it was covered in glad wrap!!!!)

ENJOY

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