Archive for the ‘Food Preservation’ Category

Garlic is not a quick crop. We planted a 4′ x 8′ garden bed with approximately 100 cloves last fall. You want to plant the garlic cloves late enough in the fall so they get enough root growth with keep them in the ground during the frost-heave cycles but not too much top growth.  When it turns cold in the winter, you mulch them in and wait for Spring.

When Spring comes you pull back the mulch and let them start to grow… and grow… and grow. Finally when the tops turn brown and fall over it is time to harvest the garlic. Using a small garden fork, we worked them up out of the soil. Yes, a few heads got damaged but that’s just the way it goes.

garlic in the garden

Garlic Ready To Harvest

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Now they need to cure in the sun. We laid them out on the wire sifter and set them on top of an empty compost bin. I didn’t even rinse them because I didn’t want to add any more moisture to the drying time. In fact, with the rainy weather we had I was constantly covering and uncovering them with a tarp but the outer skins finally got nice and “papery”.

Garlic Curing In Sun

Garlic Curing In Sun

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I cleaned them up some by rubbing them gently with a towel and cut off the roots to prepare them for storage. After watching a couple of videos on YouTube I decided to try my hand at braiding them. I got 9 braids with 10 heads each and a couple of extra on the side.

How do they look?

Braided Garlic

Braided Garlic

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Of course, quite a few cloves will have to be saved back to plant this fall.  Garlic is a very adaptable plant. If you use the largest cloves to replant it will grow  larger heads. Repeat the process each fall when you plant.

The actual harvest was 95 heads but since Bob and I use about 2 heads a week this won’t last until the next harvest but it’s a good start. At least I know that they were grown in good soil and nothing bad was sprayed on them. Looks like I’ll be planting 2 beds full this year 🙂


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Here’s our duck bevy “at the water cooler” 🙂 Our bevy currently has 4 Indian Runners (2 drakes and 2 ducks) and 4 Khaki Campbells (3 drakes and 1 duck). Our plan is to keep one of the Khaki drakes (we just need to decided which one it will be) and all of the female ducks.

As I mentioned in my post yesterday we’ve already butchered 4 drakes and since the weather is going to get cool again looks like we’ll be firing up the pressure canner to process some more stewed duck and stock.

I’m really looking foward to being able to use the meat and stock to provide some of our meals this winter. We’ve already used some of it to make soup and it was really yummy.

Yet another step towards self-sufficiency.

A bevy of ducks around a water pan.
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Ok… here’s some more about blackberries. We went berry picking (again) yesterday evening and got enough to make my very first batch of blackberry jam.

I’ve been reading about making soft spread jams without pectin and was anxious to try this out. As one of our new friends here says… I made it the “old fashioned way”.


9 cups blackberries

6 cups sugar

We purposely picked some less ripe berries (about 10% of the total amount) because they’re supposed to have more natural pectin.

After assembling my canning equipment, I crushed the berries in a large bowl with a potato masher. Then I put them in a large sauce pan over medium heat and started adding in the sugar. As I said in yesterday’s post, we don’t like things super sweet so I a

ctually only used 5 cups of sugar.

I cooked the berry mixture for quite a while in order to get it to the “gel stage”. Ok…. I admit it, it was getting late and getting dark and I was having a hard time telling if I had indeed reached the “gel stage” but I said the heck with it… I’m canning it up anyway.

We think that a lot of the commercially produced jams and jellies are almost too hard to spread so it’ll be ok if our homemade jam is a bit softer. If it’s too soft then we can always use it on pancakes or waffles…. RIGHT?

Luckily, I’m thinking it’ll be ok. The little bit left in the pan thickened up nicely after it cooled off.

We’ll let you know how it turns out when we open the first jar 😉

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Yum! Yum! The wild blackberries here on the homestead are finally getting ripe. Hubby and I went berry pickin’ and got enough to make our favorite cobbler recipe. It’s more of a “quick” cobbler recipe rather than a traditional one. We really like this because it’s quick and easy!

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Just in case you don’t have wild blackberries growing in your back yard, it also works well with frozen berries (drained) or canned pie filling. Don’t forget to check out your local Farmers’ Market for fresh fruit that’s in season.

We’ve cooked this cobbler with cherry pie filling and frozen berries but this was the first time we got to use fresh blackberries! I think it would also be good with apple pie filling 😉


1 stick butter
1 cup flour
½ cup sugar
1 tsp. Baking powder
½ tsp. Salt
½ tsp. Cinnamon – optional
1 cup milk
½ tsp. Vanilla extract

2 to 2 ½ cups berries or 1 regular size can pie filling.
Note: If you’re using fresh berries (cherries, apples, or peaches) you’ll probably want to add ½ to ¾ cup of sugar to them depending on how sweet you like them. We don’t like our cobbler super sweet so we try to add as small amount of sugar as we can. You’ll have to experiment with the recipe until you find out what works best for you.


Preheat oven to 350º.
Mix dry ingredients in a medium bowl.
Add milk and vanilla and stir into a batter.
Mix fresh berries or fruit and sugar in a separate bowl. Be sure to test for sweetness. If you’re using canned pie filling you don’t need to add any more sugar.
Melt butter in the bottom of an 8” dutch oven (DO) or a 2 quart casserole dish.
Pour batter into DO or casserole dish.
Spoon filling evenly on top of the batter WITHOUT MIXING.
Bake at 350º for approximately 30 minutes. The batter will expand up and around the berries, fruit, or filling. Bake until golden brown.

Let cool to room temperature… if you can wait that long. Goes down well with a big scoop of ice cream on top!

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Makes 4 – 6 servings depending on how big of a pig you are! Oops… I meant to say how hungry you are 😉

Got any other good recipes to share? Bring ’em on!

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I don't know about you but I think that you just can't go wrong with a recipe that includes ground beef! Today Bob and I have decided to can up some pint jars of ground beef to use this winter on the homestead. We decided that a pint jar should be just about the right size to cook up a tasty meal for two adults. 

Even with all of the research and reading that we've been doing we still read the instructions several times before we started. I have to confess that I'm a little bit afraid that if I screw this up I may kill us both with botulism. YUCK!

First we set up a preparation area in the garage where we planned to use our new Camp Chef stove for canning. We had pan with hot water for our canning lids, 2 dutch ovens to keep our jars hot and sterilzed (yes… next time I'll know to use my water canner for this!), a pan with some broth to top off the canned beef,

At last — the moment of truth — we opened the lid to the canner and were rewarded with several satisifying "klunks" as the jar lids sealed. Using our jar lifter, we lifted the still boiling jars of beef onto the waiting towel to cool.


I'm not quite sure if it's ok to have that much fat in the jar. If anyone knows more about that leave me a comment. Any and all information is welcome. Other than that I think it looks ok.

Sorry I didn't get any photos while actually doing the canning. We were caught up with the whole new experience that we just forgot. I'll be sure to be better about that during my next canning project — PICKLES!

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Ok… so when we get moved to our homestead we're going to need to know how to preserve our food without refrigeration. We plan to try several different preservation methods such as drying, lactic acid, and, of course, the traditional method of canning.

We wanted t least one pressure canner — two would be better. Fortunately we were able to find two 23 quart Presto pressure canners on Craigslist.com that were in good condition AND at a reasonable price. We got 4 cases of wide mouth quart jars too! 

Of course, we want to be safe when we can so we took our canning lids to the county extension today office to have the gauges tested.

Keep your fingers crossed that they pass!

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