Saturday, August 12, 2017

Making Banana Jam, Dill Pickles And Fig Spread - Getting Off The Grid

August 12, 2017

Busy as a bee as they say, its August and that means to get in a hurry to get prepared for Winter. School already started back and the first crops have gone. Time to take a count of what you have already harvested and put up by home canning, drying or freezing and what you will need or want in January.


Each year it seems to be about the same month by month of what to put up and that is because that is that fruit or vegetables season, but one fruit we do not grow local is bananas but they are enjoyed here at this homestead and as always some get ripe faster than they are eaten so I looked up a few recipes to make a jam, a way to preserve and not waste the bananas. I did the test in my own kitchen and I have a nice flavored jam home canned, however I did alter the recipe because for one it was way to sweet, with bananas naturally sweet I had to reduce the amount of sugar.

Banana Jam - Makes 4 half pints

3 1/2 cups of mashed bananas

1 1/2 cups of Sugar

6 tablespoons of Lemon juice

1 cup water

A dash of Cloves - Nutmeg - Cinnamon.

In a large cooking pot combine water and sugar and boil for around 5 minutes.

Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. 

Reduce heat to medium low and cook till thick, 45 minutes. Stir often to prevent burning.

Spoon into prepared Jars and seal with new lids. 

Precess in a water bath for 5 minutes. 

Now you have this wonderful banana jam to enjoy.

Serving suggestion : Peanut butter and banana jam sandwich.

NOTE : This is not a pretty jam, but the taste makes up for the beauty. 

Dill Pickles

I usually always make a few jars to a case of dill pickled but I always bought the mix because mine always turned out way to sour for my taste but the mix is way to salty so I looked around, listened to a few shows on t.v. and I gave the old fashion down home recipe a chance. I cut back on the salt just a bit and I think this one will be used in the future, a plus is that you can grow everything it calls for.

Dill pickles - Makes 7 pints : How I make them

Cucumbers - One Medium per Jar - See " Note"

2 3/4 cups of Vinegar

3 cups Water

Whole Cloves of Garlic

Fresh Dill Weed

1/4 cup of Canning Salt

Peel and wash the garlic, slice each clove in half. Put 4 halves in each pint jar. 

Add 2 sprigs of dill weed to each jar.

Wash the cucumbers in cold water. Slice the cucumbers into spears. Fill each jar with the cucumbers tightly and just below the one inch head space ( the rim)

In a large cooking pot combine water, vinegar and canning salt and heat to a boil. 

Fill each jar to the one inch head space and apply a new lid.

Process for 7 minutes in a water bath.

Allow 2 weeks for the pickles to be ready to eat. 

NOTE : Sometimes I don`t measure out how many as some recipes ask because the cucumbers are not large or small, so this is what I do, I prepare my jars and slice or chop how I want the cucumber to be and place them in the jars, that way I do not cut up to many or not enough.. I did spears this time, To make spears cut  the ends off, cut in half, next cut the half in half and if its still to big cut that in half. 


Figs! Its time for figs and if you are lucky you will harvest more than the birds eat and the ants finish up. Last year I was given a whole crop of figs so I still had plenty of preserves, so I wondered what to do with this years figs, I dehydrated a couple screens and that became a pint bag,  I made some with light syrup and I made fig spread, like what is in the middle of the cookie fig newtons. I thought that would be an awesome treat around Christmastime. 

Fig Spread - Makes 2 half pints

2 quarts of fresh ripe Figs

1 cup of sugar

1/2 cup water

1/4 cup lemon juice

Chop figs into small pieces. 

In a large cooking pot combine figs and the water and bring to a hard boil, add sugar and lemon juice and return to a boil. Reduce heat to low. Stirring often so not to stick to the bottom and burn.

When the figs get thick and dark remove from heat and fill jars. Apply a new lid and process in a water bath for 5 minutes. 

NOTE : Figs are naturally sweet and they have a good amount of water naturally, so this will take some time to make, it will cook slow and on a low setting. I put it on the back eye of the stove and made dinner while it was condensing, once it gets super thick keep an eye on it so not to let it burn.

So that is what has been happening around the homestead. Putting what I grow into jars to enjoy for the cold months coming. And not letting a banana go bad and being wasteful. 

Have you home canned or froze any of this seasons fruits or vegetables? 

By Andria Perry
Photos by Andria Perry

Friday, August 4, 2017

Getting Off The Grid - The Homestead and Banana Jam

August 4, 2017

I have to say that I am not making much progress this year as far as getting what I want most, solar power. And, although I have looked up people about getting a well drilled I have no talked to anyone about price and a well would be welcome because this water is terrible at this place. With not knowing if I will stay here or go is another problem I am facing, I wont give up this house but I may downsize and use this place as a vacation house.


For now I will continue to work on the food stockpile, I am still maintaining the food for now and Winter stock plus beyond that. Sometimes I think about how much fruit, jams and jellies I am home canning, is to many? to much and I need to get back to vegetables only?  Then I remember the years that the fruit blooms got froze with a Springtime freak storm and we had no fruit or jams that year, and most everyone knows that the canned foods last for years so I continue making the jam, jelly and plain fruits since I am getting 90% of them free. 

The vegetable garden is sort of at a stand still except the cucumbers, I am beginning to get a basket full every other day. What okra plants I have left are making but I have to collect twice before I get two servings for a meal. I still get a few bell peppers. The new tomatoes are blooming as well as the new bell peppers. 

My fig bush, to me its a tree since I have to get on a ladder to get them, is doing great this year. I am canning figs about once a week. Plus Tony`s uncle gave us a basket full and told him to come get the rest if he wants them. This time I canned the last batch in light syrup  so that I can enjoy the figs because the preserves are just to sweet for me.

Click here for : How to make fig preserves 

I also put a couple racks of split figs into the dehydrator, this is the first time I have dried figs. After drying I got 1 pint of dried figs. I put them into a ziploc freezer bag and then into a quart mason jar for extra protection.

What about banana? Well.... when I mentioned watermelon jelly Tony asked " how about banana jelly I bet that would be good!" I never thought about using bananas so I looked it up and sure enough there was a recipe so I made a batch. However I did alter the recipe a little by cutting the amount of sugar and I must say the cloves are strong so next time I will cut back on those as well, its not pretty in the jar because its a grayish color but the taste is fantastic! Recipe for Banana jam coming soon!

Click here for Recipe :  Watermelon jelly  

As far as me getting the fields cleared I have not. I manage to keep the walking track me and the dogs use mowed and that is it. I do push mow the area around the house and my dogs area. Since both riding mowers quit and I began push mowing all of it again I nearly killed myself working 12 to 14 hours a day working, so I have up the fields when I had to chose. The past few weeks each time I go to buy a new riding mower either they do not have what I want or they try to push one on me I cannot afford, something always happens right there at the store and I end up not getting what I need.

Now that its a new month, usually our hottest of the year, we will see what mother nature has in store for us here in central Alabama, the way this year has been so far we may have an early Fall. 

What is happening at your homestead? 

By Andria Perry
Photos by Andria Perry

Friday, July 28, 2017

How To Make Watermelon Jelly - Getting Off The Grid

I have to say that this is the year of experimenting with home canning new jams and jellies and when I mentioned the jalapeno jelly I made an online friend (@Ithink) mentioned watermelon jelly so I had to jump on this one and I asked for the recipe.

Click here for : The jalapeno jelly recipe 

She gave the the recipe and I looked up the time needed to use the water bath canning method and I learned a little more about home canning watermelon jelly, its good to do your homework, be in the know of how things work, the good and bad. I did alter the recipe just a little but its the same flavor, watermelon. (I added more lemon juice)

Since watermelon is so low on the acid scale some say that its not safe to home can but when you add lemon juice you make it safe to home can, so make sure to put the lemon juice in the recipe! As well as the exact amount of sugar.

First always : Wash and sterilize your half pint jars, prepare water bath canner with hot water.

You will need : 

8 cups of watermelon - cut into chunked with no seed

1/2 cup lemon juice

4 cups of sugar

2 boxes of sure-jel No sugar/low sugar fruit pectin

Now lets make Jelly!

In a blender or food processor add the watermelon and  process till puree. 

Measure out 4 cups of the puree and put into the cooking pot.

Measure out the lemon juice and add to the watermelon puree.

In a small bowl mix the fruit pectin with 1/2 cup of sugar, set aside.

Measure 3 1/2 cups of sugar into a large bowl, set aside.

Bring watermelon puree to a boil over medium high heat.

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

Add the rest of the sugar and stir until dissolved and bring to another hard boil that cannot be stirred down, cook 3 minutes.

Remove from heat and ladle into half pint jars. 

Wipe rims of jars with a clean wet cloth, apply lids.

Cook in a water bath for 7 minutes.

Remove from water bath and place on a clean towel to cool.

Makes seven half pints. Store in a cool dark place. 

This watermelon jelly taste wonderful as it was, hot, So I know after it had been refrigerated it will be even better. 

NOTE : There is absolutely no way to get every tiny white seed out but they are not hard and can be eaten. 

By Andria Perry
Photos By Andria Perry

Thursday, July 27, 2017

How To Make Jalapeno Jelly - Getting Off The Grid

I absolutely fell in love with this jelly when I had a taste at a anniversary party many years ago but every year when the jalapeno peppers were producing I always forgot to make this jelly to enjoy at home for myself. 

Well, not this year! My pepper plants are not at the full harvest time so when I seen these large beautiful jalapeno peppers at Aldi grocery store I grabbed a couple 8 ounce bags for very little money.

I love the taste, its unique. Its tangy and sweet with just a hint of heat from the peppers.

Lets Make Jalapeno Jelly!

First - I have to say jalapeno pepper are hot so precautions need to be taken. Do not touch the peppers with your hands while removing the seeds and the white flesh from inside, use gloves if possible. I used a fork and knife being care not to touch any of the pepper.

What you will need to make Jalapeno jelly:

12 ounces of medium to large jalapeno peppers - sliced in half, no seeds and no white flesh.

2 cups of apple cider vinegar 

6 cups of sugar

2 pouches of Ball liquid fruit pectin

A few drip of green food color (optional)

Measure your sugar and set aside in a large bowl.

Remove the liquid pectin from the pouches into a cup, set aside.

In a food processor pulse the jalapeno peppers with 1 cup of the apple cider until blended but still has small pieces. 

Measure the jalapeno mixture and add more apple cider vinegar (one cup) to make 3 cups total. 

In a large pot add the jalapeno mixture and bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes.

Add sugar and bring to a rolling boil that cannot be stirred down.

Add pectin and bring to a rolling boil that cannot be stirred down and boil one minute.

Remove from heat and skim off foam if needed. 

Fill prepared half pint canning jars leaving 1/2 inch head space. 

Wipe rims clean and apply lids.

Process in a water bath for 10 minutes. 

Makes 8 half pint jars.

NOTE : If you want smooth jelly do not process a lot and run through a cheese cloth to remove pieces. However, I find a few small pieces makes the jelly more interesting.

Serving suggestions :

On a larger serving plate put a bar of cream cheese, allow to soften at room temperature. Pour a half pint of jalapeno pepper jelly over the top and allow to run over the sides. Arrange crackers around the cream cheese and jelly.

I also think jalapeno jelly will make a wonderful glaze for pork or baked chicken.

I hope you enjoy your jalapeno jelly and look forward to more delicious jams and jellies from my homestead.

By Andria Perry

Photos By Andria Perry

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Getting Off The Grid - When Its Hot Its Hot!

July 26, 2017

Life in July. Life in July in Alabama. Well, I could say typical July but this year has been anything but typical in every aspect. But as far as July in Alabama goes its hot and humid and my favorite time of the year.

What is going on around the homestead? 

The okra, what survived the wet months, has began to produce more and I am now getting a couple meals each week, that is small meals for two people.

I have one nice eggplant and the plant is blooming, I will pick this one today.

The tomatoes that was set out a couple weeks ago are now blooming as well as the new bell pepper plants. As for the older bell pepper plants I picked all of them so that they would bloom again and they are.

The few cucumber vines that I have are doing great. I am beginning to get more each day but I am not home canning them this year, I am eating them, in many cold dishes so not to have to cook each meal.

The sunflowers are small, except a few so I am not so sure about getting any seeds this year, but its a beginning to learning about how to grow them and care for them.

The may pops (passion flowers) I dug up and put into flower pots on the porch are blooming! I love the flowers but if I get to grow my own in pots means I can harvest the seed pods on time and not have to out to the woods to check them.

 It is time to start harvesting more sage, I try to do a massive picking once a month. By doing it once a month it has time to grow more leaves and to get some size on them. 

The basil is slow growing and I cannot understand, I need to learn more about basil. 

The Stockpile

About the only thing, from my garden, I have been able to put away for later has been the bell peppers, I will chop them and freeze but I did home can a few jars, (four) of pepper steak using many of the bell peppers. 

Yesterday I made Jalapeno jelly, I have wanted to make this for years so I finally did but most of the jalapenos were store bought. However, they were not costly and I do have what I have been wanting. It made eight half pints.

Last week I did manage to buy mushroom for .69 per container so I home canned seven pints.

For More about Mushroom click here : How to Home can mushrooms

I also took count of how much food I have in stock and I counted 789 jars with 140 being just veggies. I added to that by 15 jars this week for a total of 804 fruits, vegetables, meats, soups etc. and jams/jellies/pickles and relishes.

What is happening on your homestead? 

By Andria Perry
Photos By Andria Perry

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Getting Off The Grid - Life On The Homestead

July 15, 2017

The good and the bad, no one said life was easy.

The Bad :

Things change and they can change in a blink of the eye. Sure we make plans to live the best life we know how but then when life throws you a curve ball and it was totally unexpected, things change and sometimes never go back to the way they were.

That is kind of what has happened here. Things happened.

First a mild winter and a rainy Spring and Summer and that means bugs, bugs and more bugs. 

I lost crops that was going to be food for the winter.

The grass and/or weeds took over the bottom field, so much rain I could not keep up with it. 

Next the riding mower broke down and I just did like I always have, push mowed, but never made it to the bottom field so its four feet tall. I worked so hard in the garden and mowing I totally exhausted myself, so much so I stayed in bed a whole day and slept 16 hours. 

I am completely defeated, tired to the bone.

What is funny is people were shocked to hear me admit defeat, they said " I have never heard you give up on anything!" Well there is a first time for everything. I just cannot do everything with nothing. I refuse to mow anything but around the house until I get a new mower, and I plan to this week. 

The Good :

While I gave up the upkeep of the property I never gave up on providing for myself, even with cost.

I bought more peaches and I made more peach products  and I hope they will last for a good long time. 

I made a different Peach jelly/jam, sliced peaches in light syrup and a few more jars of whole pickled peaches.

And I made three pints and one half pint of tomato sauce. As I get the tomatoes I process ( home can) what we do not eat, I try not to waste any.

Another wonderful thing is the tomato seed Tony had sowed in a flower pot outside got big enough to be planted in the garden on Monday and the bell pepper plants I had sowed from seed got put into the ground on Wednesday. 

What I did was I took up the wire cages from the tomatoes that were dead or already had all the tomatoes it could bare and was no longer flowering, I mowed them down. In those spaces Tony planted more tomatoes and I replaced the wire cages for each plant.

I am beginning to get okra and I made a meal of fried okra and green tomatoes one evening. I am also getting cucumbers, not many but enough to feed us a couple daily. 

For how to home can peaches click here :  Pickled peaches and Jelly  

After thoughts :

Although I had planned things so well, that I would be off the grid with solar power, well water, a root cellar and a large greenhouse things just are not happening, I am in limbo and I cannot make these decisions at all because of the unknown, that little curve ball is still in motion. I do know one thing about me and that is without proper tools I cannot and will not be able to handle this place alone.

So I must invest to reap the benefits. We`ll see how thing are in one month and maybe then I will know what will take place and what will not. 

By Andria Perry
Photos by Andria Perry

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Getting Off The Grid - Pickled Peaches and Peach Jelly

July 12, 2017

This year was not a good year for the peach crops in Alabama, most of the peach farms were low to no peaches and the lucky ones did have a hefty price tag. No matter how much this household loves peaches I will not pay that inflated price for my states peaches. So I shopped Aldi`s grocery store and got my peaches shipping in from California for the low price of .99 per pound. I home canned several wonderful peach products for us to enjoy for the next twelve months, Pickled peaches and peach jelly are two I will talk about today. 

Home canning peaches is an easy canning job. Most people scold off the peelings but I prefer to do things differently, to get the most out of the fruits, I hand peel! By hand peeling I can get one more peach product from the fruit, with no waste, plus scolding is a harder way in my opinion. 

What do I do with the peelings? I make jelly! After all there is a lot of flavor in the peels and you also have that tiny amount of peach still on the peel when you do it by hand. 

Most of the time I work with five to ten pounds of fruit at a time so not to be overwhelmed.

Peach Jelly

How And What to do :

First of all, I always wash and sterilize my jars and get the lid and rings ready before I do anything. Next I make sure I have hot water waiting in the canner, whether water bath or pressure canner.

Wash the peaches in cold water, making sure that the fuzzy is all gone. 

Next I peel the peaches, putting peels into one large cooking pot and the peach into another large vessel, bowl or cooking pot, with cold water and fruit fresh to keep them from turning brown.

When I get them all peeled I cook the peelings over medium heat, just covering them with water and stirring every now and then. When the peel looks light brown in color and the juice is a reddish color they are done. Strain off the peels and use the juice to make your jelly. 

Using the Ball liquid pectin, I just follow the directions for plum jelly. 

BUT where the recipe states it makes 5 half pints I got 9 half pints, so have your jars and lids ready, just in case.

Store jelly in a cool space til used. 

Pickled Peaches

This was always a favorite on the holiday dinner table when I was a child and the recipe was passed down to me from wonderful cooks dating back to around early 1900`s. They are tangy from the vinegar and sweet from the sugar, with that spicy taste from the cloves and pickling spices. 

I made a mixture of sliced pickled peaches and whole pickled peaches, both are delicious just the same but the sliced cooks faster.

How to home can pickle peaches :

You will need : 

Pint and/ or quart  home canning jars

Lids and rings for each jar

2 1/2 cups of white vinegar

2 1/2 cups of white sugar

3 tablespoons of pickling spices

1 tablespoon of whole cloves (I used ground cloves, this will make the liquid dark)

Peel peaches and set them aside in cold water with fruit fresh.

In a large cooking pot add the vinegar, sugar and spices and bring to a boil.

Drain the water and fruit fresh from the peaches.

Add peaches to the hot liquid carefully and cook till a fork inserts easily into the peach. 

Remove from the heat and fill jars to 1/2 head space.

Wipe rims of jars clean and apply lids.

Process 30 minutes in a water bath. 

Store in a cool place. 

NOTE : peach colors vary, some are white and some are deep yellow. Its just different type of peaches but the taste are the same.

By Andria Perry
Photos By Andria Perry