Friday, October 10, 2014

How to Can Apple Sauce

Fresh Picked Apples From My Dad's Tree

There is just something about Fall and apples.

The nice crunch and sweet burst of flavor. Mmm. I love apples.

And they are so versatile. Which is a good thing too because if you have an apple tree, chances are you have more apples than you can get though by just eating them plain.

Apples can be used in salads, rice pilafs, desserts like pie and cobblers, pressed for juice or made into my girls' favorite: Applesauce.

Making your own applesauce is so easy. It helps to have a few gadgets but I have made them without too.


This is an apple corer, slicer and peeler. You can take off the thing that peels it if you want to leave them on for more nutrition. (And a pretty color of applesauce.) You can also use it on potatoes.


Stick the washed apple on. Slide it up to the peeler and start turning the handle.

Isn't this the coolest thing ever? Look how it peels and slices as it easily turns.


Pretty huh? Notice the core stays on the machine and the part of the apple you want slides off.


Put the sliced and peeled apples in a ascorbic acid or vitamin C water bath to keep from turning brown while you work on more apples. (At this point you could put the slices on a dehydrator for a healthy snack)


Once you have enough apples to fill a pot fill it with a cup of water simmer until the apples start to turn soft. The apples will start to make their own juice but just make sure it isn't cooking too high and starts to burn.


These are soft enough.


Next, carefully blend in batches. It is very hot.


At this point you can start putting it back in a new pot and then season with sugar or cinnamon if you'd like but I think that the applesauce is amazing plain and that's how my kids prefer it so I just move on to filling the jars.

When you put hot food into the jars it is called a hot pack. This is what we do for applesauce so if you decide to make a big batch of applesauce one day and can it the next, make sure you heat it up again before putting in your jars. Fill to 1/2 inch of the top (headspace). Put on heated lids and rings. And process in a water bath canner for the time indicated for your altitude in the chart below.

Table 1. Recommended process time for Applesauce in a boiling-water canner.
Process Time at Altitudes of
Style of PackQuart Size0 - 1,000 ft1,001 - 3,000 ft3,001 - 6,000 ftAbove 6,000 ft
HotPints15 min202025
Quarts20253035

Take out of canner and leave undisturbed on a surface free of drafts for at least 24 hours to cool. When cool, wash jars and store without rings in a cool, dark place.



Freshly canned jars have got to be one of the prettiest sights in the world. It always brings a smile to my face.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

How to Make Apricot Nectar

I'm sure you've been wondering what I've been up to in my absence. I'll give you a hint.



I was an exchange student in Germany one summer and my host family always served a drink called Apricot Nectar at breakfast on the weekends. It was so delicious. I loved it but I've always thought it was just something they had in Europe. 

 The area where I live had a bumper crop of apricots this year and I was trying so hard to find something to make with them but all I could think of was apricot jam, fruit leather and dried apricots. We don't really go through that much jam and unfortunately I'd just bought a ton of dried apricots so didn't feel like making an more.

Luckily, one day found me at the house of an acquaintance when they were making Apricot Nectar and I had a flash back of how much I'd loved that stuff.

So I went right out and found some neighbors who didn't want their apricots. (I am the Provident Princess of course and nothing is more provident than free!)

Canning is always much more fun when you have help so my friend and I recruited our daughters for some of the grunt labor and got to work.

We washed, halved, and boiled the apricots in a little water for about 10 minutes. (you do not have to remove the skin.) We then used a juicer to run the apricots through and what came out was a nice, thick, nectar. 

NOTE: if you don't have a juicer you could use a high powered blender, sieve or foodmill to run the softened apricots through.

We sweetened each batch by juicing some pineapple (fresh or canned is fine) and honey. 

Ladled the nectar into jars and processed in a water bath canner for 20 minutes for pints and quarts.

15 min for sea level-1000ft
20 min for 1001-3000 ft
20 min for 3001-6000 ft
25 min for anything above 6000 ft.

We ended up making over 50 quarts! My family is loving it but surprisingly the way my girls like it most is warmed up a little. That is the way they first tasted it as we were cooking it all. 


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

A New Year

Wow, it has been a long time. I took a hiatus because I really wanted to think about what direction I wanted to take this blog. I am passionate about being self-reliant and I love to share my interests and knowledge with others. But I want to go about it in a healthy way.

You can store a bunch of mac and cheese or other heavily processed foods. That would help with the food storage and self reliance goal but it is not healthy.

Food storage is a big part of self-reliance. But a bigger is knowing how to grow your own food and more importantly what to do with it once you have it.

One summer I grew 4 yellow squash and 3 zucchini plants. Needless to say we had squash coming out our ears and I had no idea what to do with it. We could only eat and give away so much. I learned my lesson that year. Perhaps if I had had my deep freezer then, I could've cubed it up and saved it for stir fry but I didn't and a lot of food and effort went to waste.

The same can be said if you store a bunch of wheat in your basement but don't have any idea of what you can do with it. It will just be a waste if you don't know the ways in which you can use it.

That will be my focus this year. Growing more of my own food and using all the different kinds of grains I have in my food storage. I will go more and more in depth on this subject but for now, know that I have thought long and hard about how to feed my family. I want especially my growing kids to have the best chance at health that they can and I believe most of that comes from what you eat. And I believe that is eating a plant-based diet. I mean real, whole foods. Not a bunch of made from soy wannabes.

Don't worry. I really enjoy food and good tasting food so I'm not advocating a diet of just flavorless iceberg lettuce. There are so many yummy tasting foods out there just waiting to be discovered and enjoyed. And like I had to assure my husband. I am not swearing off meat. Plant-based to me means mostly plants, not all. But I will be using less meat. Instead it being the main part of every meal, it will now be used as a flavoring agent. Think beef stew with vegetables instead of a 12 oz steak with a few puny potatoes or green beans on the side.

You won't be stuck just making bread with your wheat either. Although I don't know if anything tastes as delicious as fresh baked bread straight out of the oven, there is a lot more you can do with wheat and all the grains have different things to offer.

I'm excited to start this new year and hope you all are excited to join me.

The Provident Princess

In the mean time, if you'd like to read up on The China Study, or watch Forks over Knives (available for streaming on Netflix) you will know the direction I am heading.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Food Storage: Where to Start?

I think there are a lot of people who are interested in having food storage but just feel too overwhelmed to even know where to start. I know I was when I first started thinking about it.

1 year worth of food...it just seems so daunting.

I know it can be so overwhelming to think about getting a year's worth of food storage. The task seems almost insurmountable. But I have a few ideas to make it easier to get started.

There are so many different angles you could take. You could just buy extra of what you are already eating every time you go shopping. But I think the problem with that is that there are so many things that we buy that are perishable that I wouldn't want to 1. buy more of that or 2. buy the dehydrated or freeze dried equivalent because those foods are a lot more expensive and lets face it, not essential.

I think the best place to start is to think about how much food you would need to survive.

When I say survive, I mean it. No frills or extras.

To stay alive you could live off of Wheat, Milk, Honey and Salt.

Obviously you would need water too but we already established that it isn't really reasonable for a family to store more than about 2 weeks worth in a previous post.

The nice thing about these 4 items is that they can essentially be stored forever.

Honey, sugar and salt can all be stored indefinitely and if your wheat is packaged correctly, it can be stored for 30+ years. Same with powdered milk.

These items are also used as a base for almost everything in most of our diets and contain nutrients vital to survival. I will cover each of these items in separate upcoming posts.

To get an idea of how much of these items you will need to store, check out this food storage calculator.

Note: I think that having enough of these items stored would give a beginner peace of mind knowing that their family could survive if they had to. Remember though, this is just a place to start, a jumping off point.

Variety is the spice of life. Especially for food storage.

The next thing on the list would be beans/legumes. But I will show you how to enhance your food storage after the basics are taken care of.









Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Family Storehouse Coupon Code

Are you thinking about giving emergency preparedness or food storage items to your loved ones for Christmas? I went to the Family Storehouse the other day to buy a 72 hour food kit.

I'd been thinking for a long time about what food to include in our 72 hour kits. Most of the advice out there is to have ready-to-eat food that requires little to no cooking. That usually translates into canned foods which are great but really weigh down the pack and take up space. 

Then I can across Family Storehouse and noticed that they sell a 72 hr kit with 33 servings including milk that weighs only 3 lbs!

I think it is a great option especially if you are evacuating because it frees up so much space and weight. I bought 2. 

All their meals come in 5 serving pouches that only require water to make. Yes, I know. Water is heavy. I don't plan on including more than drinking water in my 72 hr kits because I figure the only way we will be needing to eat this food is if we are evacuated or sheltering in place. 

There will be water at the shelter. Or we could use the water we have stored at home if we are sheltering in place and need to eat this food. (And I have extra water stored in my car trunks in case we are stranded somewhere.)

What's best about this food is that is can last up to 25 years. Now I don't have to worry about rotating so often. I'm sure I still will though. I can imagine these little pouches would be great on camping trips.

Can you tell how excited I am about this? 

I met the owner of the store while I was there. We talked about emergency preparedness and food storage of course. I told him all about my blog and he offered to give my readers a promo code for 10% off any purchase! Awesome huh? 

They carry all sorts or long-term food storage kits out of the same food pouches ranging from 5-8 servings. I can imagine what a treat it would be to have no cook meals like Chicken ala King and Beef Stroganoff some nights if we were living exclusively off our food storage. 

They also have first aid kits, emergency supplies, survival tools and water treatment equipment. I'm asking for their water filter system for Christmas...it's awesome.  

So if you are interested you can check them out at FamilyStorehouse.net and don't forget to use your 10% off by typing in provprincess at checkout. 

Merry Christmas Shopping!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

More Reasons to Grow and Preserve Your Own Food

My husband sent me this video clip. It is a 60 Minutes piece about the Flavoring Industry and the methods they use to make our food taste good. I think it is a must see for everyone.

We all know chemicals are added to our foods. I mean what do we expect when right on the label it says 'artificial flavorings'?

But the thing I found most interesting in this clip is that the 'natural flavorings' in our food aren't necessarily from the source we think it is. For example, a flavorist mentions that they procure a 'natural strawberry' flavor from the gland of a beaver!

That just grosses me out.

I don't like thinking about all the junk that is added to our processed food to make it palatable. I mean there are many times I have bought something that said natural flavorings because I thought it meant it would be better for my family.

Now I realize we are all being manipulated.

Not that I blame them.. I mean lets face it. Food that is creamier, saltier and fattier usually tastes better. They want to make what sells. But for me, I want to know what is in my food and have it come from the real thing.

So not only did this clip make me feel really good about all the food that I have preserved myself, it made me more determined to grow as much as I can next year.

I'd love to hear what you all think after watching this.

Tweaking Tastes and Creating Cravings

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Emergency Preparedness Planning for Infants and Children

Liquid Formula for my Baby's Disaster Supplies Kit
Disasters and emergencies can be stressful to anyone but more so when you have people besides yourself to look after, especially young children. 

When planning your disaster supplies kit, it is wise to consider what will make your life easier having children if such an event were to occur.

 My baby is exclusively breastfed. So when I was putting together our kits, I initially was going to just put all of her stuff in mine since I figured I would have her with me. I wasn't worried about food since I figured I would just feed her.

But then I remembered that under extreme stress it is very possible for your body to stop supplying milk. I can't really think of a more stressful situation then trying to deal with the aftermath of a disaster. Adding to that the possibility I wouldn't be able to feed her is more than I would want to handle.

Or, what if I was separated from my baby or something happened to me? I would want someone to be able to look after her. So I decided to make her her own kit that could be kept with her. I then saw these boxes of prepared formula for an amazing deal on amazon so I picked up a few.

I love them! I'm super frugal so I wouldn't ever use these everyday. But they are perfect for emergencies. The formula comes in 8 2oz bottles where you just have to take off the lid and pop on the nipple that comes included in the box. 

Before I bought the liquid formula, I had cans of powdered formula in her kit. They were a great option too. They were the sample cans the formula companies send you after you have a baby so I didn't have to pay for them. The only downside was that besides the formula, I had to pack water to mix it with and a bottle so it took up a lot more room in her pack. 

Some other things that you may want to include in a disaster supplies kit for your infant include:
  • Diapers and Wipes (these can be used for washing hands and bottles)
  • Baby Food and Snacks, bibs and spoons
  • Water
  • Clothes
  • Favorite Blanket (It's a good idea to buy 2 of something that your child loves just incase something happens to the 1st one)
  • Bottles with disposable liners (if you don't have prepared liquid) or dish soap and bottle brush
  • Antibacterial Wipes
  • Medication
  • Bath towel
  • Pacifier
  • Immunization Records
  • Toys
Hopefully these tips are useful in planning for you infant in case disaster strikes. Do whatever you can, something is better than nothing.









Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Preserving Herbs: How to Freeze Parsley

Garden Fresh Parsley
Today I'm going to show you how to freeze herbs. 

One of my neighbors gave me a ton of parsley from their garden. I love fresh parsley but it doesn't keep that long. Maybe a week in a glass of water.

Being able to freeze herbs is a wonderful way to preserve them before they go bad but still be able to add a fresh herb taste to your meals. You just grab an ice cube and pop it in your food and all the water around it melts leaving the parsley in pieces.

Freezing parsley is so easy. This method can be applied to any herb you want to preserve like basil, oregano etc.

Directions:

First, wash your parsley.

Dry the herbs. I use a salad spinner. It pulls all the water off the leaves without bruising them.

Meanwhile, bring some water to boil.


Next, separate the leaves from the stems. 



Chop the herbs. This is how they are going to be once you add them to your recipes so make sure you chop them in pieces small enough to eat.

Grab an ice cube tray and fill it with the herbs.

Next, pour the boiling water over the herbs. The boiling water will blanch the herbs helping them to retain their best color and flavor. It also helps keep the parsley from developing a slightly bitter taste which herbs will do if they are just frozen without being blanched. 

Stick trays in the freezer and freeze. Freezing herbs in ice cubes is the best way to prevent them from getting freezer burn.

Once hard, transfer them to a freezer-safe plastic bag. Then whenever a recipe calls for fresh parsley just take one of these suckers out, throw it in and voila! Fresh parsley taste without the hassle of trying to always have fresh herbs on hand.

Tips:
  • 1 ice cube of herbs equals about 1 Tablespoon.
  • The ratio of fresh herbs to dried herbs is 3:1 
  • Freezing herbs in ice cubes is the best method but there are other ways: 
Dry Freeze

Once your parsley is washed and dried off completely, separate the leaves from the stems and spread them on a cookie sheet. Put that in the freezer.

Once they are frozen, transfer to a freezer-safe plastic bag and store. When needed, take a pinch of leaves out and use as recipe directs. 
Pros: less effort and steps than above.
Cons: might develop a slightly bitter taste although I haven't ever really noticed.

The Fastest Method: 

This is the way my host mom in Germany did it and it is by far the fastest and easiest. Once your parsley is washed and completely dried off, stack a bunch (stems and all) in a paper towel and roll once until the parsley is covered but there is still paper towel left.

Grab another bunch and roll again. You can see that I did 3 bunches in this paper towel. It is just a way to separate them a little better instead of freezing in a huge chunk.


Place in a freezer-safe plastic bag and freeze. When needed, reach inside and rip off as much as you need and toss the stems in the garbage. 
Pros: Less work upfront. A great method if you need to preserve a lot of herbs at once.
Cons: May develop the slightly bitter taste although I've never noticed. You also have to put in the work to separate the leaves and stems later while you're in the middle of cooking.





Monday, November 7, 2011

How to Dehydrate Mushrooms

Dehydrating vegetables is such a great way to use up extra food. Dehydrated food loses 75-90 percent of its moisture making it a very effective way to store a large volume without needing too much room.  And drying mushrooms is one of the best vegetables to dehydrate because they keep their flavors so well.

You can dehydrate things using your oven. But with the cost of energy as high as it is, I don't think it's very economical to dry them like that.

On the other hand, dehydrators are very energy efficient and are an easy way to dehydrate big batches of food any time. Dried mushrooms can be used almost anywhere fresh ones are called for, except perhaps salads. But even then dried mushrooms would taste good crumbled up and sprinkled on top for a little crunch.

Mushrooms are so easy to dry. So when my local store had them on sale, I stocked up.

Directions:
To start, DO NOT wash your mushrooms. You can wipe them off gently with a paper towel, but washing them whether for dehydrating or cooking is a no no. It will make them rubbery. Once they are dehydrated and you want to use them, you can wash them then.

OK, now that we got that out of the way, let's get back to the mushrooms.

Slice your mushroom about 1/4 inch thick. I bought the pre-sliced ones because I thought it would save time but I found out that there were quite a few I needed to slice smaller anyway.


Lay your sliced mushrooms on one of the trays of your dehydrate. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat until all of your trays or full or you run out of mushrooms. Turn on your dehydrator and let mushrooms dry for about a day. Mine were done after about 14 hours. I put my trays in after dinner, rotated them before I went to sleep and dried them overnight. They were done when I woke up.

Look how much they shrink down. You can tell your mushrooms are done when they are brittle and snap easily between two fingers.
Place in an airtight container. If you have oxygen absorbers your could put one in with it. You don't have to put them in a bottle but they won't get broken this way. This quart jar holds the mushrooms from two 8 oz. containers of fresh mushrooms.

Store these in a cool, dark place for 6-12 months. You could also extend the life of your mushrooms by freezing them from this point.

To Use:
Wash, then add to recipes that will be cooked for at least 20 minutes. Otherwise, soak in liquid (hot water, broth or wine for added flavor) for an hour or 2 before using. 

Tip:
You can also eat these plain like chips. For more flavor, sprinkle with seasoned salt before drying. They have a really nice crunch and earthy flavor which your kids will love.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

How to Make Pumpkin Puree in a Pressure Cooker

Wondering what to do with your pumpkins now that Halloween is over? A great way to use left over pumpkins is to make pumpkin puree. 

Pumpkin is actually really good for you. It is packed full of Vitamin C, Riboflavin, Potassium, Vitamin E, Thiamin, Vitamin B6, Folate, and minerals like Copper, Manganese, Iron, Magnesium and Phosphorus. 

And get this. 

One cup of pumpkin provides 245% of your daily Vitamin A allowance. 

Now that you know how good it is for you, I'll show you how to make your own pumpkin puree from scratch. 

Directions:
Gather your pumpkins. Don't try to use a pumpkin that has been carved and hanging out on your porch for weeks. 

I didn't carve any of my pumpkins, I just stacked them next to each other for a more 'harvesty' display rather than 'Halloweeny'

This is a pie pumpkin also known as sugar pumpkins. They are smaller than the carving pumpkins and have a sweeter taste. You can use a carving pumpkin, the taste will just be a little less pronounced. But pumpkin recipes always call for so many strong spices like cinnamon and nutmeg that a carving pumpkin would do just fine.

Slice it in half with a sharp knife.

Scoop out the guts and cut out the stem. I have found that using an ice-cream scoop is perfect for getting all the stringy seeds out.

Chop up the pumpkin. I cut it into about 8 chunks.

Next throw them in your pressure cooker. If you don't have a pressure cooker you can lay them on a cookie sheet and cook them in the oven for 1 1/2 hrs at 375.

This is what I love about pressure cookers. I could cook this in the oven for 1 1/2 hours or I could throw it in my pressure cooker for 4 minutes! It saves so much time and energy costs.

When the 4 minutes are up, use the quick release method to release the steam and let your pumpkin pieces cool. I moved mine to a plate to cool faster.

After your pumpkin has cooled, scrape off the flesh and toss it in a blender or food processor. One pumpkin will yield anywhere from 2-4 cups of puree.

Blend until smooth. (If you have trouble, add a little water. Just decrease the amount of liquid called for in your recipe later) You may want to do this in a couple of batches.

Doesn't that look so much better than what you buy in the can? Why would you ever buy canned pumpkin puree now that you know how easy it is to make yourself?

You can use this puree for pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin muffins or baby food. 

I am proud to say that I have never bought a jar of baby food. I love making my own baby food and knowing my girls are getting the healthiest food possible, not loaded with a ton of preservatives, salt or sugar.

This pumpkin puree freezes so well.

For the baby food, I just pour it into an ice-cube tray and then transfer the cubes into a freezer bag once they're frozen. The cubes make the perfect serving sizes so I just grab one or two out of the bag when I need one.

I also freeze puree for me to cook with later. (You could can it yourself if you would like but I feel freezing is more convenient. One store-bought can of pumpkin puree is about 1 3/4 C. But, I freeze mine in 1 cup measurements.There are recipes like pancakes that don't call for a full can so I like them in smaller increments because I can always just double up if I need to.

 I found the cleanest way to get the right amount of puree into my bag is to put my bag into the measuring cup first then fill it with the puree. That way you're not scooping the puree then trying to get it all in the bag without making a mess. 

Label your bags and freeze for a later date.

Or if you can't wait...

Pull out your favorite pumpkin recipe and get cookin'. I made chocolate chip pumpkin bread. It has such a warm, comforting taste. Just perfect to eat during the blizzard of a snow storm we got hit with last night.




Monday, October 17, 2011

How to Plant Garlic

I am so excited to share this post with you today. I'm going to teach you how to grow garlic at home.

Growing your own garlic is so easy! Anyone can do it.

Have you ever had some store-bought garlic so long that it started to sprout?

I bet you didn't know that you could just stick that clove in the ground and it would grow into a head of garlic next summer.

Fall is the perfect time for planting bulbs, flowers or garlic. You need to wait for the weather to start cooling down but make sure you plant before the ground freezes.

Directions:
All you need is a head of garlic from the store. Just the regular kind you buy to cook with.

Break apart the head of garlic to get the individual cloves. One clove will grow into an entire head of garlic next year.

You only want to plant the biggest ones because they will yield the biggest crop next year. Just save the small ones to use in the kitchen.

Go out to your garden and turn the earth under. Basically just loosen up the dirt and add in any compost you might want to.

Once your dirt is turned over, dig holes 6 inches apart all the way around and about 3-4 inches deep. If you don't have raised garden beds you might want to think about leaving space for a walkway depending on how many cloves you plant.

I use a stick like this to dig. I feel a little like a cave woman digging in the dirt with a stick but hey, it works.


Next stick your garlic clove in the ground with the point sticking up. You will want the top of the garlic about 2 inches from the top of the dirt once you fill it in. (sorry it's blurry right where the garlic clove is, you can see the white tip in the center of the picture.)

 
Cover and repeat for all remaining cloves.  I like to dig one hole at a time because my dirt is really loose and falls back into the holes easily making it harder to go back and stick the cloves in. But you could dig all your holes first, then stick in all the garlic cloves, then cover all at once.

You're done.

See what did I tell you? Easy! And you'll love cooking with your homegrown garlic next year.

Tips:

  • you may want to put a layer of mulch like leaves over the dirt to help insulate the garlic over the winter.