Author Archives: Homesteader's Supply

{this moment} Applesauce Apples

{this moment} – A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

If you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see.

By the end of the day this week’s drops will be applesauce.

Applesauce apples

Future applesauce

apple cider jelly recipe

Making Apple Cider Jelly

Apple Cider Jelly

Growing up, apple jelly on a toasted English muffin was one of my favorite breakfasts. When I discovered a recipe for apple cider jelly on the internet a few years ago I knew it was going to be my new favorite. I bought a gallon of fresh pressed cider and got to work. It took me several tries to get apple cider jelly right, and we ate a lot of ice cream with apple cider topping (code for jelly that didn’t set up). Apple jelly from the crab apples on my ancient tree was much easier. I couldn’t figure it out.

A neighbor came to pick apples and we talked about my apple cider jelly problem compared to the simple, dependable apple jelly. “Do you simmer peels in the pot,” she asked? I didn’t. I learned that day that there’s a lot of pectin in apple peels. I peel two apples, simmer the peeling in the cider, and remove the peels before pouring the jelly into jars. Problem solved.

apple cider jelly, recipe, hot water bath

Waiting for the jelly to come to a boil

Apple Cider Jelly Recipe

4 cups apple cider of good quality
3 cups sugar
2 oz pectin
Peelings from two medium apples
(Optional) 1-2 teaspoons apple pie spice or a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom

Add the peels to the cider at the start.

Mix spices into sugar if you’re going to make spiced apple cider jelly.

Methods of making jelly and jam vary between brands of pectin. Follow the directions provided in your pectin. Remove peels before pouring the jelly into jars.

apple cider jelly, recipe, hot water bath

Hot water bath

Preserving with Pomona's PectinOld school canning told us to fill the jars, cover the jelly with paraffin wax and allow to cool before adding a cover. Another formerly accepted method didn’t use paraffin. We tightened the jar lid and turned the jars upside down until they sealed. We know now that these aren’t the best methods. You’ll find great information including how to hot water bath your jelly in Preserving With Pomona’s Pectin by Allison Carroll Duffy.

apple cider jelly recipe

Apple cider jelly

A homemade biscuit or English muffin with a pat of homemade butter and jelly or jam is one of my favorite breakfasts in winter.

Butternut Squash Soup Recipe

Butternut Squash Soup Recipe

Butternut squash

Butternut squash, so fresh it’s still in the field

The first and second killing frosts came last week, first on Thursday and then on Friday mornings. Some of the winter squash and pumpkins weren’t quite ready to be picked but nothing goes to waste on the homestead. The pigs and poultry are happy to eat the unripened squash. The plants, nearly black a few days later, will feed the micro herd in the soil.

One of my favorite ways to use butternut squash is in soup. It’s creamy and rich, has a hint of nutmeg, and can even be a little spicy. If there’s a winter squash you like more than butternut you can use it instead. A variety that isn’t stringy works best.

Saute two cloves of garlic and one medium onion in EVOO
Peel and seed two pounds of butternut squash, and cut into two inch pieces
Peel and core one medium apple, sliced

Simmer the butternut squash and apple in four cups of chicken stock until squash is cooked. Add onions and garlic, and puree in a blender or with an immersion blender.

Sauteed diced onion and garlic until golden.  Add cider and simmer five minutes. Sautee apple in butter until tender. Add chicken stock and squash, cover and cook until squash is tender. Add apple to the pot.  Puree either in a blender or with an immersion blender until smooth. Stir in 1/2 cup of cream and nutmeg to taste.  Serve warm.

This stores in the fridge for up to a week.

For variations, you can add apple or pumpkin pie spice in place of nutmeg. To add a bit of spiciness, slice a four inch piece of Chirico or Linguica into 1/4″ pieces and pan fry to remove some of the fat and improve flavor, and add to the soup before pureeing.

butternut squash soup

A cup of butternut squash soup

Winter squash is simple to grow. You’ll need space enough in the garden for the vines to spread, and that amount of space depends on the variety of squash you grow. You can start seeds indoors three weeks before the average last frost date for your area and transplant the seedlings, or start the seeds in the garden. Plants should be from three to six feet apart. The longer the vines grow the further apart the plants should be placed. The soil should be rich with compost and as weed free as possible. The vines will grow together by mid summer and help control the weeds.

Watch for pests such as squash vine borer, cucumber beetles and flea beetles, and treat as necessary.

Butternut Squash

Butternut Squash

Harvest mature squash before first frost or cover the plants with a heavy sheet or blanket the night before expected frost. Wait until the sun has warmed the cover before removing.

Cut the squash from the vine and store out of direct sun and rain for 10 days. Most varieties of winter squash will store in a cold cellar, cool closet or even under the bed for several months. Check the stored squash every two weeks while in storage for signs of soft spots or spoiling, and use squash starting to go by first. If necessary, winter squash can be frozen.

 

Fruit Presses & Apple Cider Season

Fruit Presses & Apple Cider Season

It’s apple cider season! Not the apple cider that’s been stored somewhere for who knows how long before put out on the store shelf. It’s the season of picking, crushing and pressing fruits to make cider. We offer a variety of fruit presses!

Apple & Fruit Crusher - Fruit Presses

Apple & Fruit Crusher

Let’s start with the Apple & Fruit Crusher for hard fruits. Before you press your apples or pears you should break them up. If you have just a few you’ll be fine cutting them into quarters or halves depending on size, before you put them into the press. More than that and you’ll spend a long time cutting.

The Crusher mounts easily on a table top. I’ve seen it mounted between two saw horses. Whatever works for you is great. It’s that simple.

I love the old-timey look of the Crusher with its bright red color and old fashioned handle.

Fruit Presses - Hopper for Fruit Crusher

Apple & Fruit Crusher Hopper

The Apple & Fruit Crusher is easier to load when you add the wooden Hopper. It’s sturdy, easy to put together, and holds a peck of apples at a time. Pouring the apples into the Hopper will save you time and a lot of bending to pick up fallen fruit.

We offer Fruit & Wine Presses from a reputable company called TSM. They’ve combined the old time feel of hand cranking and beautiful presses with modern technology. The baskets are made of oak grown in the USA! Each press comes with a filter bag except for the Deluxe Stainless Steel Press which doesn’t need one.

Fruit Presses

The Harvest Deluxe Fruit & Wine Press is my favorite. It holds 4.7 gallons of fruits. It’s sturdy, mounts to a wooden base for added stability, and has padded hand grips. You’ll be able to press your hard fruits as well as grapes and other soft fruits. The juice drains from its spout into your container.

We also have the Harvest Apple Fruit & Wine Press that holds 4.7 gallons of fruit, and its larger model that holds 8 gallons of fruit. If you prefer a ratchet model you’ll find it here.

You can drink your juice fresh or turn some of it into cider. We love to cook with cider. One of our dishes is pulled pork that has been slow cooked in apple cider.

Apple Cider Pulled Pork Recipe

4 pound pork butt
2 cups apple cider
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon apple pie spice

Add everything together in the slow cooker, set it on low, and let it cook for at least eight hours. It will pull apart with a fork as you take it out of the slow cooker.

Chicken Tractor

Myth Busting for Meat Chickens

Myth Busting for Meat Chickens

I’ve been watching my meat chickens while I work outdoors this afternoon and thinking about how simple they’ve been to keep. Raising chicks for the first time about 15 years ago was nerve wracking. I had to keep them between 95 and 100 degrees for the first week, then decrease the temperature by five degrees weekly. They had to be taught how to eat and drink as soon as they arrived. Never, ever let them run out of food and water. I was a helicopter chicken momma, hovering over them constantly.

There’s so much misinformation out there about raising Cornish cross or similar breeds. There’s no need to hover. Let’s do this the simple way.

Myth #1: You must teach the chicks to eat and drink when they arrive.
You don’t. Instinct, hunger, thirst and curiosity will take care of this. Put them in the brooder with food and water and watch. They’ll have it figured out in a few minutes.

Myth #2: You must keep chicks very warm at all times.
You don’t. Give them a source of warmth in the brooder and the ability to come and go and they’ll make themselves comfortable. I use a heating pad under one end of the brooder. I dislike heat lamps. They’re a fire hazard. If the chicks are cold they’ll move to the warm spot. If they’re hot they’ll move to the cool spot. They’ll move around and generate their own warmth if you let them.

Myth #3. Meat chickens are filthy.
This is true only if you choose to raise them in filthy conditions. I raise mine in chicken tractors.

Chicken Tractor

Chicken Tractor

The tractor is moved to clean grass every day. I feed them in the morning, outside of the tractor. They race out the opening to get to the food, and while they’re busy eating and I know where they are, I move the tractor. I pick up one end and slide it to the side. Repeat on the other side, then back to the first side to straighten it up. Done. The chickens run around either free or inside electronet for the day so manure doesn’t build up.

TIP: I get my chickens in early August. It’s warm enough to keep them from getting chilly at night. By the time they’re big enough to get too hot it’s September and the days are much cooler.

Myth #4
All meat chickens do all day is eat and poop. This is true but it doesn’t have to be.If you put an endless supply of food in front of these birds they will lay down to eat and not get up. I feed my birds in the morning so I can move the tractor and again in the evening. I feed them inside the tractor in the evening so that they go in on their own. They spend the rest of the day finding their own food.

Just like laying hens, meat chickens will spend their days chasing insects. They’ll eat crickets, grasshoppers and other garden pests they find in the grass. Free protein! They’ll eat rodents and frogs (chickens are not vegetarians), worms and small snakes. If you’ve never seen a chicken running with a screaming frog in its beak, well, you’re missing out.

And just like laying hens, meat chickens will take dust baths and scratch for grubs and worms. Keep your birds searching for some of their food and you’ll eliminate growth that’s too fast for their hearts and legs. Just like us, they need to be up and moving.

An old friend said something to me 15 years ago that I still repeat often. “Raising these chickens is only as difficult as you decide to make it.” He was right. You need a feeder and waterer, shelter, and preferably some grass. Add fencing if necessary. That’s it. My meat chickens are five weeks old now. They’re running loose with the laying hens and Khaki Campbell ducks. Our English Shepherd keeps them safe from predators. It’s as simple as I decided it should be.

Time Management Tips for the Homestead

I love reader questions. Did you know that? I love to open a reader’s email and see what they have to say. I’m going to answer a question here.

“You talk about having a lot to do this time of year but you haven’t told us everything you do. What do you do and how do you fit it all in?” ~Rhonda

Raspberries freeze well

Raspberries freeze well

This time of year feels like it’s busier than others but in reality, I’m probably feeling more rushed. Homesteading can be a full time job and if you’re already working a job, it can be stressful.

The first killing frost is hanging over our heads any time after the first week of September. It might be early or it might not happen until October. The first frost could come early and then we’ll be frost free for weeks. It’s too late for the tomatoes, squash, cucumbers and other warm season crops once they’ve been frost killed no matter how good the weather is after so there’s the rush to force the plants to produce.

The late raspberries are ripening and the wild blackberries are still going gangbusters. Making jam and jelly is simple but it’s time consuming. I have more time in the winter than right now they’re being frozen in a single layer on cookie sheets. I don’t think these berries make the best jam after they’ve been frozen but freezing them makes it easier to make jelly. They skins burst when they’re frozen so they let go of the juice easily as they thaw.

  • Tip: Freezing strawberries saves time during the summer. You’ll make thicker jam with less pectic and sugar and have juice for jelly when the berries thaw.
Deluxe Stainless Steel Food Mill

Deluxe Stainless Steel Food Mill

Apples don’t have to be sauced, jellied, pied or otherwise put up immediately. You have at least a few weeks, and sometimes months, to get them processed. I picked a bushel of apples one day last week. They were roasted another day and then stored in the fridge. On day three I put them through the food mill (if you don’t have a food mill, you need one). I warmed the apples turned applesauce on the stove, added sugar and spices, and hot water bathed the batched. It took a little time on each of three days but I didn’t have enough time in one day to do it all. Do what you can when you can and it will come together. A little time here and there resulted in 18 pints of sauce.

Salsa Verde Ingredients

Salsa Verde Ingredients: tomatillo, Jalepeno pepper, garlic. Missing – onion and cilantro, to be pulled and picked in a few days.

  • Tip: If your tomatoes are not ripening fast enough you can push a spade into the ground around the roots to stress the plants. Cut 12 inches from the base of the plant, severing the roots. A plant’s mission in life is to reproduce. You’ll speed up ripening this way.

The garden is still producing well. Tomatoes, eggplant, tomatillos, squash, pumpkins, cucumbers, kale, cabbage – just about everything is still growing. It all has to be weeded, watered when we don’t have enough rain, picked, preserved or stored – you know how it goes with the garden. This morning I picked close to a half bushel of tomatillos for salsa verde. It’s also hunting season. I can’t put hunting in the freezer so move over berries and vegetables, the tomatillos are coming in. Tomatoes can also be frozen. I like having the warmth from the oven early in the morning on a chilly day as the tomatoes or tomatillos roast. An hour or two with the oven on replaces the small, hot, quick burning fire I usually build on a late fall morning.

  • Tip: When your pumpkins and winter squash start to get soft spots, clean them up and roast them first thing in the morning, then freeze the flesh. This is usually a mid-winter project when I start checking on vegetables stored in the root cellar.

Firewood is weighing heavily on my mind these days. It was delivered late so I’m rushing to get it split and stacked to dry. Best made plans and all, I couldn’t depend on someone when it came to firewood so I was stuck with making the best of a bad situation. It happens. I’m working on eight cords of beach, ash, maple, yellow birch and white birch. The hydraulic splitter makes the work a lot easier but it’s still not an easy job on a hot, late summer day.

  • Tip: Secure next year’s firewood supply now and ask that it be delivered in spring. We burn up to six cords a year. I buy eight cords a year which means we a year “off” now and then without the expense and work, and won’t run out of wood.

Pigs, ducks and chickens are growing out back. They’re turning grass, insects, weeds, food scraps and a few commercial pellets into meat that will feed my family. Portable fences and chicken tractors need to be moved daily. Two people moving fencing takes me a third of the time it takes when I have to do it alone. Ask for help.

When did the paint start peeling off the hen house? I swear it was fine yesterday. Or I was too busy to notice. I’m not sure it’s going to get painted before the snow flies. If there are a few extra dollars I might hire someone to do it for me. It would take someone who likes to paint less than a day to do it. It takes me more than a day to fumble through scraping and painting. We can’t always do it all. Remember when you first started to daydream of homesteading? It was so idyllic. You’d spend days outdoors in the beautiful weather doing your chores? The mosquitoes weren’t part of my daydream. Neither was heat rash. Rainy days would be spent inside, cooking and ready. Painting the hen house was not in my day dream.

  • Tip: Neighborhood kids are often willing to do some work if you pay fairly, and you might be surprised at how well they work. I pay by the job rather than the hour. I don’t want to pay for the time they spend taking selfies and texting.

Plan to use the oven early in the morning or later in the day to warm up the house. It can do its work while you’re doing something else.

  • Tip: The final muck out of stalls and pens doesn’t have to happen when the animals leave for slaughter. Give your attention to the work that must be done at time and get to the stalls, pens and the hen house before the ground freezes and you’ll be all set.

Do you have a time management tip to share? Please leave them in comments!