Saturday, May 19, 2018

Getting Off The Grid - Planting And Spring Canning

My Winter Tomatoes

Usually most farmers in my area, Central Alabama, plant on good Friday but this year that fell in March and way into April we had cold nights, some areas under a frost warnings. So, we are now planting in May just to be safe.

Seems everything has came alive and green, we even have full shade under the trees, green grass underfoot.

The Homestead :

The past few weeks have been full, discovering what the Spring has to offer. As some know, a few plants are around in spring and that is it so take advantage of what nature has to offer.

Chamomile  aka wild daisy

Wild mushrooms and greens that thrive and disappear with the heat, the spring flowers to make teas.

The Garden :

I did have plants sowed from seed in the winter ready to plant, Cabbage, tomatoes, sweet green bell pepper and egg plants. They went into the ground this week. 

Sown straight into the warm dirt were okra, cucumbers and squash seed. Living in the south they have plenty of time to grow and give a wonderful harvest.

In pots I have Marigolds but they are still to small to go into the garden.

I have basil and I am potting those into their forever pots so I can harvest anytime and bring them inside for the winter to continue to thrive.

I also have a second round of baby tomatoes on pots for the second round of tomatoes, yes I can do two crops per year.

The blackberries are plumping up and in the next couple of weeks I will be picking those. 

The stockpile :

This year is going to be a little different than the years before. I am planning to only home can jelly that is not available in the stores. So far I have Honeysuckle and Rose Petal, some I will attempt to sell at the farmers market.

I have also home canned my first wild mushrooms, after learning for a year or more what can and cannot be eaten, I felt confident to eat and home can these. Dryad`s saddle, there are no look a likes.

And good old poke salad, aka poke weed and poke berry. I have always ate this every spring since I can remember so this year I am taking a step up and I have home canned poke salad. 

All of the above do take a lot of time to clean and make but I think it is worth every second, its all free! No buying seed, no watering and no digging. 

For recipes and home canning click :

I made sure to get the last of the winter kale picked and home canned before the new garden was plowed, I hope to collect new greens soon.

I am also picking the wild daisies to dry, that are actually chamomile, for teas to treat medical problems.

The Learning :

I have to say that the month of May had been a very interesting and learning experience. 

I have went back to primitive picking and gathering in the wild. Taking what mother earth has ready to eat, each and every month of the year, hopefully.

I have been doing research online and I am making my own essential oils, I have my fingers crossed that the first try goes well. I will update the accomplishment or failure and what went right or wrong.

What is happening on your homestead? 

By Andria Perry
Photos By Andria Perry

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Dryad`s Saddle Mushrooms - Preserving Wild Mushrooms - Getting Off The Grid

When I say get off the grid I do not mean I will go live in the woods and live just off the land, I will have technology and air conditioning, even a washing machine. What I want to do it have what I want and power it with solar power, water from a well and most of my food grown by me. Therefore I am reducing my cost of living per month as much as possible. 

Learning to collect food that grows naturally is the best, its free and the only cost is putting it in jars.

After doing a years research I have decided its time for me to begin to preserve mushrooms that I have collected off my own land, Spring is the perfect time to collect mushrooms and preserve them for the whole year, if they last that long before getting cooked.

A few days ago while picking poke weed, aka poke salad, Tony found mushrooms that we have not seen or did not recall seeing, so he picked two small mushrooms and we brought them home to look them up. I personally love the guy that runs the YouTube videos at I have learned so much from him. 

What Tony had found was Dryad`s saddle mushrooms and this is one of the best to pick for beginners because there is no other to confuse this one with. When I heard this I was thrilled so next I looked for blogs on cooking them, watched a few videos and combined all that knowledge. For the video about Dryad`s saddle click Here  

One cook explained that she did not like the texture of the honeycomb spongy underside and I knew right away I would not either so I scrapped that off, easily with a knife. Another man showed to stick a fork into the mushrooms underside, if the fork goes through its what you want to eat, if it does not dehydrate that part to make powder for soups and stews. All of the people that knew about Dryad`s saddle said they tend to dry out cooking to add water to keep moist.

This is how I used their knowledge.  I home canned a couple batches and I dried a couple batches. 

Step One :

Clean the mushroom! 

No one tells you around the tiny little bugs that are on all mushrooms. I treated them just as I would any green I picked from my garden. I filled the sink with cold water and added a whole bunch of salt.  The salt kills the bugs. I allow them to soak for a good 15 minutes. 

Next I pull the plug and let the salt water out and rinse them off.

I turn them upside down and I use a knife to scrap off the honeycomb pores. This comes off easy.

Then I slice chunks off, put them into a plate and I cut off the tough part and set aside.  I cut the mushroom into small bite size pieces, what I would like in spaghetti or on my mushroom Swiss burgers and other dishes I use mushrooms in. 

I then put them into a pot of water and cook them 10 minutes before home canning.

With the parts that the fork would not go through I take a very sharp knife and I slice it very thin and I put it on trays for the dehydrator. I dehydrate them on the jerky setting (165°) for 12 hours. 

Step two : 

Preserving the mushrooms.

Home canning 

Always first I sterilize my jars, I use half pint, and set them aside. I put new seals inside my lids. I prepare my pressure canner with hot water and a spoon of vinegar.

I cook the mushrooms for 10 minutes.

Using a slotted spoon I divide the mushrooms into 4 half pint jars (I guesstimated how many) and added enough liquid to one inch head space, added a pinch of canning salt and wiped the jar rim with a clean cloth. Applied a lid and put into the hot waiting pressure canner.

I processed the mushrooms for 30 minutes at 10 pounds pressure.

Making Mushroom powder

After I have dehydrated the tough parts of the dryad`s saddle mushroom I decided to make powder, I can add a spoonful to soup and stews for flavor, or even to gravies.

I simply put a hand full of broken up pieces into the grinder and let it go till it was powder, I allowed it to settle a minute before opening and doing it again. For me it took three times since I had three racks.

Label a ziploc bag, add the powder and roll the air out, seal. The store in a glass jar with a tight fitting lid. This keeps all the moisture out. 

That is how I have preserved my first Dryad`s saddle mushrooms. I hope you take the leap and try wild mushrooms as well.

You Might Also Like : Cooking Wild Greens

By Andria Perry
Photos By Andria Perry

Saturday, May 12, 2018

How To Make Rose Petal Jelly - Getting Off The Grid

Every year I hear about making jelly from flowers but its usually in the wintertime and I always forget when the flowers are in full bloom, the spring for the most part and its something I want to do, I want to experience the flavors that the past enjoyed.

This year when Tony brought in a handful of rose petals because I might want to have them to lay around to make the house smell like Spring it hit me, rose petal jelly! 

I rinsed the petals off in cold water and laid them on a clean white towel and went back to the work I was doing.

Later I looked up a recipe for rose petal jelly and it seemed like a lot of work but I was willing to try. The first batch did not work out, it did not gel so now I also have rose petal syrup :) so I made my own recipe, based on what I know about making jelly and it turned out wonderful!

This is a jelly that takes an overnight sit in the fridge and make the jelly the next day, but its worth it! So lets get started.

Step One :

This recipe calls for rose water. I did not have any rose water and when I looked it up, its expensive. So I thought I will make my own! And I did. 

First I snipped off those little white edges on each petal, okay I did not get them all and it still taste wonderful! All that I read said it would make the jelly bitter but that did not happen.

Next, I put 1 1/2 cup of boiling water over 3 cups of rose petals and allowed that to steep for a couple hours. The water turns so dark it looks brown but that is okay,Strain the rose water through cheese cloth, then add 1/4 cup of vodka. So all in all you just are making rose extract. When finished I stored the rose water in a pint fruit jar with a new seal and lid, labeled and put in the shelf with my other homemade extracts.

Step Two:

Making the rose juice for the jelly. Put 3 cups of rose petals and 1/2 cup of sugar onto a bowl and using a spoon bruise up the petals so that they release all the rose essence, stir and mix all the sugar over those bruised petals, refrigerate over night.

Now Its Jelly Making Time!

You will need :

2 cups of rose juice

4 cups of sugar

1/4 cup of lemon juice

1 - 3 oz. package of Ball liquid fruit pectin

1 - tablespoon of rose water

4- half pint jars

1 - 4 ounce jar

5 - New seals and rings
Take the rose petals with sugar from the fridge, in a sauce pan boil 2 cups of water and add rose petals that are mixed with sugar, allow to boil a couple minutes, remove from heat and strain through cheese cloth pushing all the water from the petals. Measure 2 cups of rose juice.( you should have exactly 2 cups if not add water to make exactly 2 cups) this rose liquid will be brownish, don`t worry magic will happen and it`ll be a pretty color.

As always when home canning sterilize those jars and set aside. Heat up those new seal with rings, keep hot.

In a large cooking pot add the rose juice and the lemon juice, its magic! now its red! Bring to a boil. 

Add sugar and cook another minute till a rolling boil. Add rose water.

Add the liquid fruit pectin and bring to a boil that cannot be stirred down, cook for two minutes.

Ladle hot jelly into sterile jars and apply lids.

Process for 5 minutes in a boiling bath water. 

Keep jelly in a cool dark place.

By Andria Perry
Photos By Andria Perry


I know this makes 4 half pints and that 4 ounces that is left over usually makes it to the fridge and the breakfast table the next day, but that is my choice and I though maybe you would like to do the same. 

Some people still can jelly the old fashion way and skips the boiling bath by inverting the jars for so many minutes and then flipping them to make sure there is a good seal, use your best judgment on this part.