I had a large block of time on Thursday morning. I decided to use it to deal with some packages of beef soup bones that have been in my freezer for a while. Every fall, we get beef from a farmer friend of my sister. Every year, there are packages of beef soup bones. They were stacking up. I am determined to make room in my freezers and use things that have been there for a while.
I got out 5 packages marked “soup bones.” They had varying amounts of meat on them. Some were quite meaty, some were more bony. I got out my largest pot and one of my every-day large soup pots. The large pot stays in the garage, and I only use it when I have a lot of something to preserve. It makes my normal soup pot look like a dwarf pot:)
I then divided the bones, and filled both pots with water. I added salt and boiled, then simmered the broth for about 3-4 hours. A scum rose on top of the broth and bone mixture. I skimmed it off and fed it to the cats. In the meanwhile, I washed my jars.
I partially filled the empty jars with extremely hot water, to avoid breaking them. You do not ever want to put hot liquid into a cold jar. Then, I put the broth in the jars, put on the lids and screw tops, and put into my pressure canner. I pressured-canned the broth for 20 minutes at 11 pounds of pressure, following the directions in my brochure from the OSU Extension office. When done, according to directions, I cooled them on a towel on the counter.
My yield was 7 quarts, and 15 pints of broth. I also got a large bowl full of beef chunks that I froze for future meals. Now my freezer is a little emptier, and the broth is in a form where I can use it quickly and easily.
I was delighted when we were given 40 pounds of bananas. It was a whole box, and there were a lot of bananas in it. They were in excellent condition. They were even organic! What a blessing. There were also a few bunches in a bag that were not quite as nice, but could still be used. So, I think I had about 50 or more pounds to work with. Here’s what I did with them.
We have been eating bananas at every opportunity.
I took some bunches to share with my family.
I had the 4H dry some and they will use them at the next meeting.
I tried another recipe that was suggested on The Prudent Homemaker blog. I cut strips and sprinkled them with brown sugar, cinnamon and ginger and they are drying now.
Ja’Ana dipped some in chocolate and froze them for yummy snacks.
I froze quite a few gallon-sized bags. I cut the bananas, put them in the bags, then squirted a squirt of lemon juice in the bag and worked it around with my hands to prevent browning. We use those frozen chunks for smoothies, and they can also be used for baking, if desired. They just need to be defrosted and smashed.
Last, but not least, I made banana pudding. This was also a suggestion from The Prudent Homemaker Blog. I made a simple cornstarch vanilla pudding and added bananas. We ate some, but I put too many bananas in it and it broke down and became runny. So, I froze the rest for smoothies or milkshakes.
We still have 4-5 bunches left over for eating and further creativity. It took most of the day yesterday, but I’m delighted to say I’m fully stocked up on bananas right now. What a blessing!
On Monday morning, Rob loaded up the 18 turkeys he has been raising. Their time had come. With a pickup load of cages, he and Ja’Ana set off for the processing plant we use. It is 1-1/2 hours from our home. We use them because 1)They do an excellent job, 2)They are extremely reasonable in their pricing, 3)There aren’t many places around here that specialize in poultry.
It only took them about 1-1/2 hours to do the job. He had 5 cut up for us to grind into turkey burger, 1 cut in 1/2 (for the 2 single people on our gift list), and the rest left whole. Rob and Ja’Ana killed the wait time in a little diner, eating breakfast and visiting. It was good daddy-daughter time, for sure.
On the way home, they delivered turkeys to the relatives who were receiving them for Christmas. Last year, we did chickens and they were much appreciated. Ja’Ana wisely used the time to sell pies to all the relatives–she’s earning money for a retreat she wants to go on in January, and that is the fund-raiser to help with the cost of that. They picked Lovana up from work, and went to a friend’s house to borrow a meat grinder. It was a long day. They didn’t get home until around 6:30, where they got white bean chili or ham and beans from the crock pots. (I soaked too many navy beans, so made 2 things and will freeze the extra).
The 5 whole turkeys we are keeping, plus the 1 undelivered one went into the emptied chest freezer in the garage. The 5 cut-up ones went on ice in coolers until Tuesday morning.
On Tuesday morning, Rob cut the bones out of the breasts and thighs of the 5 turkeys. The drumsticks and wings were frozen in zip-top bags for future meals, 2 per package. The bones that were cut off, plus the necks and backs were frozen for broth making another day.
Then he ground it 2 times. We had 3 of these large Tupperware bowls full of the first grind. While he was grinding, he removed any tendons, stringy muscles, etc., whatever didn’t look like we wanted to eat it. He ground it twice to get those undesirable things out, and also to get a good mix between the light and dark meat.
During the second grind, Ja’Ana held the bags over the end of the grinder, and the finished burger was pushed into the bags by the machine. I wrote on the bags, twist-tied them, and generally ran back and forth, fetching and carrying things for Rob. I also took the finished bags, bones, meat pieces, etc. to the freezer and loaded it up. There was a pretty big mess to clean up afterwards.
When we were done, we had 32 approximately 1-pound packages (we did not weigh, but filled to a marked line on the bag) and Rob made 2 pans of meatloaf. We also have 5 whole turkeys, 10 drumsticks and 10 wings. I will get a lot of broth one of these days, and I will pressure can it into both pints and quarts. It was a very productive day and my 1 empty freezer is now full with the fruits of Rob’s labors.
Today, we decided to cut up 2 of the large sweetmeat squash and process them for the freezer. We have been blessed with so many this year and I want to get started using them. It takes quite a bit of time to cook, mash and freeze these large squash, to I like to put some into the freezer. Early this morning, Rob cut them up and scooped out the seeds. I baked them on cookie sheets lined with foil.
I baked them until they were soft at 350 degrees. It took between 1-1/2 hours and 2 hours to get them to a place where a fork would easily slide into them. I got 4 large cookie sheets full from the 2 squash and was able to fit them all into my double ovens. When we remodeled this house a few years back, I put in the double oven because we run a large 4H club and it makes the cooking classes go better. I’ve found so many ways to use both ovens during days like this, and also at holidays, that I’ve always been glad I made that choice.
I set them out on the counter to cool down while I took Patsy to an appointment. I intended to put the squash through the food mill when I returned, but Ja’Ana surprised me by getting quite a bit of it done before I came back. Her arm was tired by then, so Patsy took over. Grinding the food mill is pretty fun, but I was very happy to have the help with that part of the job on such a busy day.
The end result was about 10 quart-sized zip-top bags and a sizable bowl for using fresh. Some of the bags are stuffed as full as they could get for evenings when we want to use it as a vegetable for dinner and some have less in them for when I want to use it for cooking. For meals, my kids like it warmed up with a little brown sugar and cinnamon sprinkled on top. For cooking, I use it as pumpkin. It is less watery and stringy as many pumpkins I have grown and we love using it in pie, muffins, pumpkin custard, etc. I love having the frozen squash in my freezer to make my life easier on busy days!
Today, we purchased 5 baby Hampshire/York cross pigs from a lady on Craig’s list. They were $90 each, which is a good price around here. 1 is for our freezer, and the other 4 are for other people to buy. All but one are pre-sold. One year, Rob had a baby pig die from tetnus, which is rare, but from then on, he has always bought an extra one just in case. He has never had trouble selling the extra pork. The 4 pigs that are going to be purchased will bring in enough money to pay the expenses for the 5th pig, which we will keep. So, for his time, (which is substantial), we will have a “free” pig for our freezer.
Rob put clean straw into the pen, which has not been used for about 2 years. He checked the fences to make sure no holes had developed. Baby pigs are very small and can get out easily, even through the smallest opening. The little shed where he stores hog feed needed some work, too. He re-fastened the tin roof, which had blown part way off in a windstorm since the last time he raised pigs. Inside the little shed, half is an area where the dog can get in out of the elements. The other half holds the pig food. Rob removed all debris, trash, empty bags, etc. that had accumulated. He bought a ton of natural hog feed from the local feed store, where they mill their own. It is not organic food, which is wonderful, but raises the cost of the pigs to more than we can afford. It is natural, and very competitive in price to other, less attractive feed. He got a reduction in price because he bought a ton. If he can figure out a way to bring his own containers another time, he will save even more.
The pigs will be fed on a diet of natural pig feed, supplemented by vegetables and fruits. Sometimes Rob buys bread that is too old for the store to sell. He was able to get our van full for $20-$25, but that was a couple of years ago. It will be interesting to see if that deal is still available. Pigs are a wonderful way to raise meat in a few months because they grow quickly and taste wonderful. I’m already excited about getting some more pork into the freezer!
I have the ability to work more around my home from Thursday-Saturday each week due to my homeschool schedule and my part-time job of teaching piano lessons. This week I had the pleasure of sharing most of those days with a good friend who came to visit. She lives about 8 hours away from me and her visits are treasured.
We both love to can and preserve food. So, she picked green tomatoes from her garden, grabbed some jars, and drove over here to where gardens grow much better than where she lives, and we got to work. She spent the time when I was busy with the children visiting her relatives and friends who live around here and shopping for items she cannot get in her remote town.
We made salsa verde, zucchini relish and chow-chow, which is a mixed vegetable relish. I had quite a few green tomatoes, various peppers, cabbage, and onions from my garden. I was given lots of cauliflower last Tuesday, which is also an ingredient of chow-chow. We experimented with agave nectar instead of sugar because my friend is super-allergic to many things and she tolerates agave better than other sweeteners. The relish and the chow-chow both tasted good with that substitution.
I processed 30 quart bags of cauliflower Tuesday. A friend gave it to me. We saved out a bunch and used it for the chow-chow as well as having it for meals twice so far.
I walked on the treadmill most evenings.
I bought some netting and a ribbon for one daughter’s Halloween costume. She used it to make an overskirt to tie on over a fancy dress I made a few years ago and it fits no one at this time. It was pinned to make it work for this occasion. The youngest was a detective with a trench coat, notebook, and magnifying glass (for a while until she lost it). We didn’t want to spend much on costumes because, well, they are costumes!
I bought 50 pounds of red potatoes at Cash and Carry for a little under $10. That’s 20 cents/lb. I also chose to buy a gallon of gluten-free soy sauce for under $6. One little jar of the SanJ brand is about that much! I just keep filling my small bottle. We use it to make marinade as well, and it keeps for a long time. I got large bottles of salad dressing there as well along with a mega package of lettuce. We have still been eating tomatoes from the garden. I got 6 snap peas and put them into a stir-fry.
I started a new piano student.
We went to the library and checked out more books. More importantly, we returned our old ones before we got fines:)
All in all, it was a frugal week on many levels. Some weeks are about putting more food away when it is available. There will be many other weeks where I rack my brains figuring out what exactly to cook from all of this marvelous preserved food. It’s always a project, but it is so worth it to me. Being stocked up makes a tremendous difference.
If you had asked me during the summer if my husband was in danger of losing his job, I would have laughed and said, “no way after 18 -1/2 years.” But, sadly, it happened at the end of September. I’m thankful for all we have. It’s going to come in handy before this issue is resolved, I think! He and I are still praying, thinking and wondering what the next step is. Right now, we feel at peace with waiting until it comes clear to us. He has gone to many people for advice and we’ve been advised to treat this as a death and allow ourselves enough time to work through the process of grief and mourning. Because our personal lives as a family were so enmeshed with his job as a children’s and family pastor, it has tremendously affected the entire family. The children are mourning the loss of their friends and the only place they have ever gone to church. We are grieving the loss of helping people we have cared about and helped for so many years. Because it was the decision of a very small handful of people, people are upset. They are still calling, writing, and visiting to show their support, and to talk to Rob about things, as they have done for so many years. This will taper off as they start to process this and move on with their lives. It just takes time.
Grief and mourning are not a fun or popular time of life. None of us want to do it. I don’t want to do it. I hate that I’m bursting into tears at the drop of a hat! But, if we don’t, we won’t be able to come out on the other side as healthy, whole people. One prayer I frequently have prayed through this, and other extremely difficult situations, is that I will not turn into a bitter old woman. We are praying that God will help us handle the unfair way that this was done with grace. How we handle this will affect our children’s lives forever, as well as our own. So far, we know that our actions and words have been appropriate to the best of our ability. We want to be able to hold our heads high and not be ashamed of how we acted through this. It’s not easy, but we have a great God who can help us each and every day!
This week was fun! My friend visited from out of town for 3 nights and we canned up quite a few things from the last remains of my bountiful garden. It is looking pretty bedraggled by now, but we found a few items that we could still use. She brought a few green tomatoes and a few peppers from her garden as well. The recipe we used was from the Foods of the Pacific Northwest pamphlet, Salsa Recipes for Canning. One thing we decided to make was Green Tomato Salsa, or Salsa Verde. The recipe is also on the website for the National Center for Food Preservation. It is called Tomatillo Salsa, but I always use green tomatoes for it.
We made a triple batch. The onions I grew this year were very small. We had to peel a LOT of them! We both cried a couple of times while peeling and as we got a whiff of the aroma when we started to whirl them around in the food processor. The rest was easy. We just chopped everything up, measured it out into a big pot, and followed the directions in the recipe. Then we canned it up. We got about 22-24 jars of various sizes, but most were pints. They all sealed and the next day, after they were cool, we put half in my basement and packed half for her to take home. We had a wonderful time, visiting and canning and agreed: We both have a strange sense of what fun is–but we both love to can and got a lot of pleasure from each other’s company and the rows of jars gleaming on the counter when we were done!