The Night Before the Killer Frost

apple harvestTwas the night before the killing frost,

and all thru the house,

not a creature was stirring,

because they were all outside frantically picking apples!

And jalapenos and tomatoes and green beans.

But mostly apples.

Red Delicious. Golden Delicious. Red Rome. Granny Smith.

It was a bumper crop – limb breaking actually.

We filled every box and bucket we could find.

And still we had apples.

We’ve been slowly picking apples for the last two months, picking a box or bag as needed. There are several bags in the freezer, several quarts of apple pie filling on the shelf, and many, many crisps and pies consumed.

I see many, many more pies and crisps in our future.

But not tonight.

Tonight I want a hot shower, and a big cup of tea.

And maybe some chocolate.

Aronia Berries

aronia berriesSo… have you tried the aronia berry?

About the size of a blueberry, it’s supposedly one of the most super of the super foods with even more antioxidants then the famed acai berry we hear so much about.

And it grows in the Midwest.

Who knew? We didn’t. At least until about a month ago when my sister mentioned them.

We did a little research and were quite impressed with their nutritional info.

But not so much their price – $10.99 a pound frozen! Ouch!

So when we met the aunt of a friend who happened to live 30 miles south of us – and had about an acre of the wonder berries – and invited us to come on down and pick some – we were pretty excited.

I could just imagine my super healthy family – able to leap off tall buildings, bend iron with our bare hands, and ward off every evil germ known to mankind.

And then we ate some.

Let’s just say that their common name is “choke berry” for a reason. Ugh.

aronia berries bushes

But we still picked four 5 gallon buckets full and brought them home. Then we spent four days removing every berry from the stem and freezing them in quart bags.

Talk about labor intensive.

But now what do we do with them?

Angel Girl threw a few in her smoothies and said they weren’t too bad – at least until the day she added too many and couldn’t even drink it.

I found a recipe for aronia berry pie on line and attempted one Saturday night. Sure looked pretty,  much better than it tasted.

And the texture was really weird. It sat on the counter untouched for days.

So now I have a freezer full of aronia berries that I can’t get in to my kids.

So much for super powers.

I’m afraid we shall remain mere mortals.

Auntie M’s Famous Spaghetti Sauce

spaghetti sauceWell… since my friend Sandy requested it, and it seems to be all I’m doing lately… I thought I’d take a minute between batches to post my famous spaghetti sauce recipe.

Okay, maybe it’s not so famous.

And I guess it’s not exactly mine – I got it from my sister-in-law Karen. But I have made it for years and served it often to family and guests.

I call it spaghetti sauce – but it’s really an all-purpose Italian sauce that we also use on pizza and in lasagna and cavatini.

It’s not hard – it just takes time!

First – get a bunch of tomatoes.   And I do mean a bunch! Then wash them and make them into puree.

My favorite way to do this is with my handy-dandy Victorio strainer. I purchased this amazing piece of equipment 20 years ago at an Amish store and love it! You can buy them on Amazon – and I highly recommend it! Mine paid for itself the first year and has saved me money (even made me money!) ever since.

If you don’t have a Victorio – you can also skin the tomatoes, blend them in a blender and push them through a sieve to remove the seeds.

Once you have the puree – you measure it, do the math to figure out how many batches you have and begin.

Auntie M’s famous Spaghetti Sauce

33 cups of tomato puree
1 whole onion (just cut it in half)
1 or 2 green peppers (just cut it in half and seed it)
6 bay leaves

Put the tomato puree in a large, heavy pot. Throw in the onion, pepper and bay leaves. (Don’t worry about fine chopping these – we’ll fish them out later!)

Bring to a boil over high heat, watching it carefully that it doesn’t boil over and stir it often.

Once it has boiled, cook for 2 hours, stirring frequently.

Meanwhile, make your “slurry”.

What’s a slurry you ask? It’s the short cut to making a rich, thick spaghetti sauce without cooking tomatoes on the stove for hours.

The secret – tomato paste.  I mix the tomato paste and the spices to make what we call the slurry. Then I add the cooked tomato sauce and mix it to bring everything to the perfect consistency!


9 – six ounce cans of tomato paste
1-1/2  tablespoons black pepper
1-1/2 tablespoons garlic powder
4- 1/2 tablespoons salt
1/2 up to 1 – 1/2 cups of sugar
3 tablespoons dried basil
5 tablespoons dried oregano leaves

In a very large bowl, mix together the tomato paste, pepper, garlic powder, salt, sugar, basil and oregano.

Carefully ladle the hot tomato sauce through a strainer (to fish out the well-cooked pepper and onions) into the slurry mixture.

Stir till combined.

Pack into sterilized jars and can in a boiling water bath for 35 minutes.

Makes 7 quarts.

Some hints –

I always double the recipe and put it in my heavy 18 quart stock pot. The heavier the stock pot the better. Flimsy light weight ones will cause scorching and frustration. Trust me – I learned this the hard way.

As for the sugar – you can add as much or as little as you wish.  I use 1/2 cup per batch which is just enough to take down the acidity of the tomatoes.

Home Canned Salsa

SalsaI didn’t even look in the garden before we left for the funeral last week.

In this case – ignorance might have been bliss at the time – but it did leave us with a lot of very ripe tomatoes waiting when we got back!

The really overripe ones went to our red wattle pigs,  Diesel and Ethel. So instead of making spaghetti sauce with them – I guess we made pork. 🙂

The rest we’re working up now.  Next up – another batch of Mendi’s salsa!

I love canning my own salsa!  It costs so little and I can control how much sugar goes into it.

This is the salsa we use to make our very favorite easy black bean soup!

Home Canned Salsa
recipe from my friend Mendi

5 pounds tomatoes
3 cup chopped onions
1 cup jalapeno peppers, diced (this is optional)
1 cup cider vinegar
3-1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 – 3/4 cup sugar (I used even less and nobody noticed!)
1 cup green pepper, chopped
2 teaspoon garlic

Peel and chop the tomatoes into chunks.

Mix all the other ingredients with the tomatoes in a large stock pot. Bring to a boil and cook until you get a desired thickness. (If I’m in a hurry – we have a thinner salsa. If I have time, we get a thick rich one.)

Make sure you use a heavy pot and stir often to avoid sticking and burning! (Ask me how I know this!)

Pour into sterilized pint jars, seal and process for 30 minutes  in a boiling water bath.

Remove from the canner and let cool for 24 hours on clean towels on your kitchen counter so that everybody who walks by with be impressed with your homemaking skills!

Enjoy all winter long when garden fresh tomatoes are but a distant memory!


It all started with an innocent question.

My husband called at lunch – as he always does – and as we were chatting about the mornings events  he mentioned that one of his buddies from work had some extra sweet corn.  Did I want some?

Of course I wanted some! Our first picking had been good – we enjoyed all the corn we could eat and had about 30 “fat” quarts in the freezer – but our second planting was stunted from the drought and our third planting was weeks away.

So we gathered some buckets and boxes and set the boys in to  meet their dad after work and pick us some corn.

I wasn’t expecting a lot – the guy told Jan they had been picking all week – but I was hoping for an all-you-can corn fest for supper and a few more bags in the freezer.

They brought home a Suburban full!

sweet corn

Boxes and boxes and boxes of sweet corn. Jan said they barely made a dent in the field.

They guys started husking right away and I got some water boiling.

We took a break for some supper – but by 6:30 we were back at it!

The next few hours are a blur.

Put corn in. Set the timer. Move the cooled corn to the table. Get fresh water. Cut some corn. Bag some corn. Clean some corn.Run out to grab more corn. Husk a few ears. Run in and take the corn out. Put corn in. Set the timer…

By 8:30 it was getting dark but the guys were still husking. They moved operations to the work shop. The table was covered with cooked ears but I sent Angel Girl out to help them finish.


By 9:30 the husking was finally done and all hands moved inside to help cut. My table was full of cooked ears, one counter was full of raw ears, and the other counter was covered with full freezer bags.

By 10:30 all four kids were cutting corn as fast as they could and listening to the 2nd Adventures in Odyssey CD. My feet stuck the floor in the kitchen from all the corn juice splattered.

By 11:30 the last of the corn went in to cook and the freezer was so full that I couldn’t find room for more.

By 12:30 the last ear was cut and the last of the freezer bags filled. The kids started cleaning themselves up and heading to bed while I looked at the disaster that once was my kitchen.

By 1:30 AM I had washed the dishes, scrubbed the counters and table, and was scrubbing my floor.

Finally tally – 58 fat quarts (a quart bag stuffed as full as it can be – usually between 5-6 cups), 4 exhausted kiddos, one trashed kitchen, and one wiped-out mom who kept shaking her head and saying, “What was I thinking?”

I know what I was thinking :

“Boy am I glad the kids are home to help!”

“Corn in the freezer is like gold in the bank!”

“This is sure gonna taste good come winter!”

“What a gift – all this corn for free! And I didn’t have to plant it, weed it, water it or try to keep the coons out!” 🙂


Do you remember my 5 boxes full of apples?

The kids and I spent 2 long afternoons turning them into applesauce.

apples in WaterThe first step was to wash every apple – we used a solution of Fit and water.  This was Buddy’s job and he did it well.

Apples cut

From there the apples went to the table where Dagmar and Angel Girl were waiting. They carefully cut each apple into quarters – removing any bad spots. Notice that the skin and cores are still present? We’ll take care of that soon – I promise.

When we had a pan full of apples, I added some water and put it on the stove to cook. Make sure you stir it occasionally or they will scorch! (Ask me how I know that! 😦 )

on the stove

Notice the back pan – it’s cooked down just right. The front pan is just starting. Oh dear – there’s a bruised spot the girls missed! Oops!

Hot Apples

These apples are cooked down and ready to be sauced. Notice how the skin has released and you can see already see sauce forming?
Apples Smushed

Now it’s time for the super- duper wonder machine! I LOVE my Victorio Strainer! One child scoops the hot apples in the top while another child spins the handle. The core, skins and seeds came out one side to be discarded (chicken food here!) and hot applesauce comes out the other.


We bought my Victorio 17 years ago and it paid for itself the very first year. It’s saved me money every year since.


Now come the fun part – tasting! If you think it’s sweet enough – go ahead and package it. If not – add the sweetening of your choice.

My whole crew gets involved in this step – everybody has a spoon and an opinion! (For the record – some of them never think it’s sweet enough!)
Done!!!!Once you have the desired taste, you can put the finished sauce in containers and freeze it – or put it in sterilized jars and give it 20 minutes in a boiling water bath canner.

We repeated the process until we had used up all the apples – and now have 100 quarts of perfectly sweetened applesauce sitting in the pantry waiting for a cold winter day.

And that’s a might good feeling!

I’ve linked this post up at Tempt My Tummy Tuesday At Blessed With Grace, Tuesdays at the Table at All the Small Stuff and Tasty Tuesday at Balancing Beauty and Bedlam.

How to Can Green Beans

We did it!

For the first time in 3 years we outsmarted the bunnies, overcame the weeds, and even avoided the bugs – and we finally have green beans. LOTS of green beans.

I dusted off my pressure canner and started in.

First you need to pick the beans.  This is a good job for the young-uns.
Green Beans 002

Young, tender beans work the best. Make sure you get the entire stem end when you pick, then the plant will produce more beans.

(Unless of course you are up to your eyebrows in green beans – in which case – don’t worry about it!)

Green Beans 008

Once the beans are harvested, it’s time to snap and sort them. This is another good job for the young’uns.  I put a towel or sheet down on the living room floor and let them watch a movie while they are snapping. It works so well – I actually have kids volunteer for this job!

We only snap the blossom end off – leaving the tail. It tastes great and saves time, so why take it off?

snapped green beans

When the beans are snapped and sorted (throw out any that have spots or marks, and any that are too big or too small), you need to wash them well.

Now you are ready to can.

Canning green beans

You will need clean canning jars (either pints or quarts), a jar funnel, a ladle, a jar lifter, salt, canning rings and your washed and snapped beans.

I should add here that it is important to only use real canning jars when pressure canning. Old mayo jars just aren’t strong enough to take the pressure.

canning flats

You will also need to put your canning flats in water and boil them slightly to soften the rubber.

All American canner

And of course – the most important piece of equipment is the canner. I love my All-American Pressure Cooker/Canner with the explosion proof top. After receiving a severe burn as a newlywed with a borrowed pressure canner, my husband bought me this canner and it has seen a lot of use!

Read your directions carefully before beginning. A pressure canner is a wonderful tool – but it can be dangerous!

I put mine on the stove with about a quart of water on the bottom.

Now we’re ready to fill those jars.

First I fill them with boiling water and let them sit for a minute to sterilize them.

Canning green beans

Then I pour the water out and use the canning funnel to fill the jars with beans. I add 1 teaspoon of salt to a quart jar or 1/2 teaspoon of salt for every pint.

Green Beans 047

Then I carefully ladle in boiling water, stopping 1/2 inch from the top of the jar (that’s called the head space).

canning green beans

This next step is very important! Take a clean damp cloth and wipe the very top of the jar. If there is anything on the jar, even a small grain of salt, the flat may not seal. Then carefully place one of the softened flats on the top of the jar.

canning green beans

Then I place a ring on the jar and tighten slightly. This jar is ready for the canner!

canning green beans

Using my jar lifter, I put the jar carefully in the canner and repeat the process until my canner is full.

Green Beans 060 Once the canner is full it is very important that you carefully read the instructions for your canner.

You will need to carefully put the top on and seal it.

pressure gauge All American canner

Watch the pressure gauge carefully. The beans need to be at 10 pounds of pressure.

Once you reach the 10 pound mark, set your timer for 20 minutes if they are in pints and 25 minutes if they are in quarts. Adjust the heat under the canner to maintain the correct pressure.

Watch that valve very carefully! If too much pressure builds up – the canner can blow!

After the time is up, turn the burner off under the canner and let it cool. DO NOT TOUCH THE LID!

Wait until the pressure gauge reads 0 pounds of pressure. Then release the lid according to directions and carefully remove the jars using the jar lifter.

Green Beans 072
I let them cool on a clean towel out of the way on my counter for at 24 hours without moving them.

To store, I just remove the ring, wipe down the jars and date them. Then they are carefully carried down to the cool, dry pantry were they will be appreciated and enjoyed all winter long!

Waste Not Want Not – Cherry Peach Jam

Jam Our cherry crop this year was dismal. We harvested a small amount of very small cherries – hardly enough to do anything with.

But I adore cherries and was not about to let them go to waste!

Dagmar came to the rescue – deciding to turn them into jam.

They were too small to pit – so she put them whole in a saucepan with some water and boiled them until the pits came out.

Then she measured out the juice that was left – but there wasn’t enough for a batch.  So she headed to the freezer and dug around until she found a package of frozen peaches.


She added the peaches to the cherries and viola! She had enough for a batch!

Great taste and no waste!

A real winner!

Cherry Peach Jam

1 pound tart red cherries
1 1/4 pound peaches
2 tablespoon lemon juice
1 – 13/4 ounce package fruit pectin
4 cups of sugar

Sort, wash and remove stems from the cherries. Pit and coursely chop them, measure 1 1/2 cups. (We used the juice and whatever cherry parts we could salvage from the pits.)

Peel, pit and coarsely chop the peaches, measure out 2 cups. (We used the frozen peaches from the freezer – we just thawed them and rough chopped them.)

In an 8-10 quart kettle or dutch oven combine the fruits and lemon juice. Add the powdered pectin and mix well.

Bring the mixture to a full rolling boil. Stir in sugar. Bring to  full rolling boil again, stirring constantly.

Boil hard, uncovered for one minute.

Remove from heat and quickly skim the foam from the top with a metal spoon. (This is harder than it looks – the fruit floats to the top as well and gets stuck in the spoon with the foam – just do your best. A little foam on top of your jam is not the end of the world!)

Pour at once into sterilized canning jars, seal and process for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath canner. Or put into freezer safe containers and freezer.

Makes 5 half-pints.

Dehydrating Onions

Here’s another great idea from Nana!


We grow several rows of onions in our garden. They are a “staple” for us and are used in so many recipes! We also like them raw in salads and on burgers.

In the fall we harvest the onions and then hang them up to dry. After they have dried awhile, we check them over. The firm ones are put in a box for over-the-winter use & stored on a shelf in our garage.

The softer ones we slice and dehydrate.

I make sure our clothes closet door is shut tight. The fragrance of onion #5 turns heads in church! But really compliments whatever we are cooking at home!
We have an electric Food Dehydrator which makes the process quite simple! But you can also use your oven. Spread them on a cookie sheet. Dry at 120 degrees for 24 to 30 hours until brittle. Stir occasionally during the day. (I would not leave the oven on overnight, but would leave the pans in the oven.)

Store them in a tightly covered container.

This year I discovered that I could grind the dried onions in my ever-faithful 15 year-old little Black & Decker coffee mill. It makes onion powder that can be sprinkled for flavor when you don’t want the chunks of onion or when you are practicing the “art of subterfuge“! Recycle an empty glass spice container and you’ll even have a “shaker” top for dispensing!

Until next time!


Mixed Fruit Jam

My Mom (otherwise known as Nana) is my guest blogger today and once again shows us that creativity in the kitchen is the key to frugal living…

Mixed Fruit Jelly

Snow flakes are flying past our window, but melting as they touch the ground. Papa & I decide that today would be a good day to defrost the freezer.

To be honest, the reason we defrost is to be able to get reacquainted with the contents! All summer and fall we bring in produce, pack it in freezer bags and stack it in the freezer.

It is a gold mine that needs to be “dug” out occasionally.

Today we found a small bag of raspberries (the last picking before frost), a small bag of cherries that did not fit in the quart bag after last picking, a container of strawberries from a year ago, and another last of the season bag of rhubarb! On the counter was a basket of home-grown pears that are getting ripe.

Now what do we do with them? How about jam!

We followed the directions in our box of Surejell using an average amount of sugar listed for the fruits we had in the pan. Delicious!

I wonder if that’s why you have “mixed fruit” jelly on the restaurant table? Could it be the last little bit of all the flavors mixed together?

Until next time,