Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Making Grape Jelly - A Tutorial

I made some grape jelly this afternoon and thought I'd share "my" recipe (taken from the Ball Blue Book of Preserving)and a little how-to with pictures.

Grape Jelly
1. Select 3 lbs of concord grapes - wash, destem, and take out the bad ones.

2. Mash grapes with hands or masher, as shown above.

3. Add 1 cup of water in large sauce pot, along with the grapes. Cover, and simmer until soft. Strain mixture through a damp jelly bag or several layers of cheesecloth to extract juice.
** At this point, if you want to can the juice, heat juice just to a boil. Ladle hot juice into hot jars, leaving 1/4" headspace. Adjust two-piece caps and process for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath.

I did this the following day:
4. Put grape juice in a large sauce pot, as shown above. Add 7 cups sugar, stirring until dissolved. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly. Stir in one pouch liquid pectin. Return to boil. Boil hard one minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim foam. Ladle hot jelly into hot jars, leaving 1/4" headspace. Adjust caps.

5. Process 10 minutes in a boiling-water canner. *Excuse the mess... we have a propane cooking thingee in the garage and that's where we use the canner!
That's it... now enjoy your home-made grape jelly on some nice home-baked bread!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Wheat Bread

I've been baking home-made wheat bread for years and today, finally bought a wheat grinder. I don't have it yet, but I'll let you know how I like it when it comes in.
I thought I'd share the recipe I use quite often for just an everyday bread.

Wheat Bread
3 Cups warm water
1-1/2 TBS salt
1/3 cup honey
1/2 cup oil

Add above ingredients and mix a few moments. Add 4 cups wheat flour and 2 TBS instant yeast. Add 5(ish) cups flour. Knead in mixture with dough hook, then place on floured board, sprinkle with more flour and knead a few minutes. Let rise with damp towel covering the dough. Punch down and form in loaves. If you'd like seeded bread like mine pictured, mix sesame seeds and poppy seeds together. Lightly wet your loaf of dough, roll in seed mixture and then place in bread pan sprayed with cooking spray.
Bake at 375 for 10 minutes, then lower heat to 350 for another 25 minutes or so. Remove from oven and spread butter over tops of loaves.
Makes 3 loaves of really, yummy bread!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Peach Brandy

Well this is a new adventure for me! My friend gave me a recipe to make Peach Brandy. I thought it would be a nice addition to a few of the baskets I'm making up for Christmas. My friend told me the brandy is just delicious and when compared to store bought peach brandy, the store bought one tastes synthetic. We'll see...
If you plan on making some for Christmas, now is the time to do it as it needs to ferment or whatever for a couple months.
Here's the recipe. I'd give proper credit to the original recipe maker, but I have no idea where she got the recipe from so let's just say it's Connie's Peach Brandy.

Connie's Peach Brandy
1 cup water
1 cup granulated sugar
1-1/2 lbs peaches, washed, peel left on, and sliced very thin
1 fifth brandy - the plain kind
1 tsp fruit protector i.e., Fruit Fresh - found in the canning supplies, but call your grocer before you leave the house. It took me 5 phone calls to find it.

1. In small pan, combine water and sugar. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until clear.
2. Set aside, and allow to cool until warm.
3. Place peaches in a 2 quart jar, and divide evenly among two 1 quart jars.
4. Add sugar syrup, brandy, and fruit protectgor to the jars.
5. Tilt the jars from end to end to blend gently.
6. Place jars in a dark, cool area for 1 month.
7. Strain brandy through cheesecloth, and place in a one quart jar.
8. Allow brandy to sit for an additional 1 to 3 months.
9. You can strain it again, if you would like, but she does not usually find a need to.
YIELD - 1 quart of homemade goodness

For a spiced variety, add in 2 whole cinnamon sticks and 4 whole cloves with the sugar syrup, brandy, and fruit protector. Directions after that are the same.

You can substitute other fruits in place of the peaches.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Sure Smells Like Fall in My House!

Here in New England the orchards are just overflowing with apples. Along the roadside there's plenty of trees weighed down with beautiful, ripe apples. Many go unpicked and that's really a shame. The town I live in, here in the Berkshires, there's quite a few peach and apple orchards. We take advantage of this time of year as it really brings in the change of the seasons so nicely. After our visit to Sturbridge on Thursday, I made this delicious apple pie and then canned some apple butter. The pie was yummy, and broke my no-sugar, low-carb diet. Well, Fall only comes once a year and I don't want to miss out. The apple butter came out really good, too, and the aroma in my house, well, screamed FALL! I hope you enjoy the recipe below - oh, and I doubled the recipe:

Apple Butter
Yield: about 3 pints
4 lbs (about 16) apples
4 cups sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves
Core, peel and and quarter apples. Combine apples and 2 cups water in large pot. Simmer until apples are soft. Puree using food processor or food mill. Measure 2 cups apple pulp.
To Make Butter: Combine apple pulp, sugar and spices in large pot. Cook slowly 'til thick enough to round up on a spoon. This takes about 2-1/2 hours. Stir frequently. Ladle hot butter into hot jars, leaving 1/4" headspace. Remove air bubbles. Adjust two-piece caps. Process 10 minutes in a boiling-water canner.
Recipe loosely taken from the Ball Blue Book of Preserving

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Old Sturbridge Village

Yesterday, we visited Old Sturbridge Village, a colonial village with reenactors (is that a word?) playing the part. We had such a fun time! I've gone there for many years, since I was a a kid. It's one of those places that every school kid goes to on a field trip. There's so much to learn and it's such a beautiful place. The gardens are fascinating as there's lots of herbs, vegetables and flowers growing. There's of course, the old homes, bank, church, schoolhouse, blacksmith's shop, tinsmith, etc., you name it, it's there, to see and learn about. This time 'round my younger ones went on a stagecoach ride. They loved that. There's a lot of hands-on activities, too, and since we bought a family membership for the year (which is basically the same price admission to get in for one time, if you have a large family) we'll do one special activity each time we go, since it's you have to pay extra. This time it was a stagecoach ride, next time, candle-dipping, I hope, if they're doing that when we go.
Of course, being my family, there always has to be some kind of commotion, right? We were in one of the homes, upstairs, looking at one of the roped-off rooms, when I looked at my husband and asked him if he had our 3yo, Caressa. He looked at me and said, "No, I thought she was with you!" The rest of us looked at each other and panicked! My older kids went looking room to room in the house, while my husband and I went outside. I was totally panicking! I was calling her name and some woman must have seen the anxiety in my eyes and asked me if I wanted her to call security. I said "YES!" My husband went running down the road and there she was, the poor little thing, walking down the road, all by herself. When she saw my husband, she started crying. My husband scooped her up and brought her back to me. I had to sit down on a bench to catch my breath and hold my baby. What a scare! She told me last night, while we were lying in my bed, that she wouldn't leave my side anymore, that that was scary. Yup, it sure was, for all of us!
So between that scare and the one last Friday with my oldest son initially thinking he had contracted menengitis from a patient, my nerves are pretty fragile. I'm hoping to do some schoolwork today, but hope to mainly take it a bit easy to give my mental health some much needed TLC.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Roll-Up Crochet Hook Holder

I really, really need to get my craft stuff organized. It's everywhere, growing and an uncontrollable mess. In an attempt to keep my crochet hooks in one place, I made this crochet hook case. I love it! It was quite easy and in an afternoon, filled with inturruptions, a menengitis scare from my son (thank you Corey for my anxiety filled afternoon) and the usual mayhem, this little thingee came to be. I now want to make a matching needle-roll case for my knitting needles and a couple zippered pouches for my knitting stuff like needles, stitch-markers, you know, the usual stuff. I found this great tutorial from http://www.planetjune.com. She walks you through the whole process, including tips on putting on binding... thank you for that, I needed the hand-holding... Anyway, I couldn't be happier with the results!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Elf Shoe Ornaments

Are these little thingees cute, or what? Every year I make or (the past few years) buy one ornament for each of my kids. It was fine when I only had two, three or four, but with seven, well... I'm a little busy, ya know? So I thought I would get a head start this year and try to make them. When I found how quickly these things sewed up I was able to do them while helping Cassidy with her work. No-thinking and can be put down and picked up without having to worry about losing my place. I got the free pattern from Allsorts Blog... see my side-bar. She has some adorable things on her blog - go take a peek!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Peach Jam & Buttermilk Bisquits

I was a busy bee on Sunday, making up this yummy Peach Jam. Pair the jam together with Buttermilk Bisquits and a cup of tea and you have a delicious breakfast or snack. Here are my favorite recipes for both:

Peach Jam
1 quart or so of chopped, pitted, cored, peeled peaches
7-1/4 cups sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup water
1 pouch liquid pectin
Mix water and sugar in bottom of saucepan, add peaches and bring slowly to a boil, stirring occasionally. Here, I also mush up the peaches with a potato masher. Stir in liquid pectin and return to a boil; boil hard for one minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and skim off foam. Ladle hot jam into hot jars, leaving 1/4" headspace. Process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
Makes 8 half pints

Buttermilk Bisquits
Stir together in a bowl:
3 cups flour
3/4 tsp. salt
4-1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tbsp sugar
3/4 tsp baking soda
Cut in until crumbly:
6 tbsp. shortening
Combine and then stir into mixture:
1 egg, beaten with fork
1-1/3 cups buttermilk or nearly 1-1/3 cup milk with 1 tbsp. lemon juice or vinegar
...if using mixture, let sit for five minutes
Knead a bit. Roll into 1/2" thickness and cut with bisquit cutter. Place on greased cookie sheet and bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes
Makes 24 bisquits
Taken from Mennonite Country Style Recipes

Friday, September 5, 2008

Noah's Ark BOM

Here are two completed blocks from the past two months of the Noah's Ark Block of the Month. These little blocks are so much fun. I wait in anticipation for the new block to come out at the beginning of each month to see what I will be stitching. They don't take long at all and it's a nice way of visiting a project, completing that tiny bit and then forgetting about it until next month. This month's square is very easy... I'll stitch that up as soon as I get a quiet couple hours. If you're curious or interested, click on my side-bar of the pic of the Ark and it will take you to where all the fun is!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

FiveStones Game

Remember playing Jax as a kid? How 'bout playing it with your kids? I always liked that game and seem to buy it every now and then for my own kiddoes. Well here's the Chinese version with a little more pizzazz... It's quite fun as I had to try it out before I tucked it away in my Christmas gift basket. This one will go into Cassidy's stocking. If you'd like to make the game you can go to:
She has a great tutorial! I also made a draw-string bag to go with it but did that one on my own. The directions for playing the game can be found here: