Canned Pickled Hungarian Wax Peppers

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One of the veggies we are attempting to grow this year in our raised bed are Hungarian Wax Peppers. Despite starting our peppers early indoors and then transplanting them outside they just don’t seem to want to take off. The plants are just now producing a couple of flowers and we haven’t had a single pepper yet. Being the impatient sort I couldn’t resist picking up a couple of quarts of peppers to pickle and can at a local farm stand. I figured best case scenario we’ll have plenty of canned peppers and if our plants never produce, at least we’ll have some. I started with 3 quarts of peppers (approx. 13 peppers per quart) and ended up with 12 pints of finished canned pepper rings.

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Start by washing and draining the whole peppers and then slice them into either strips or rings. I prefer rings as they are more convenient to add to recipes without additional chopping.

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Next combine 1 cup white vinegar, 1/2 cup water and 1/2 teaspoon pickling salt per pint and bring to a boil. Then pack pepper slices or rings into sterilized, hot jars, add one clove of garlic per jar and cover with boiling vinegar mixture leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Make sure all air bubbles are removed and screw on lids and rings. Process pints for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath. Remove jars and let sit overnight before checking seals.

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Homemade Sauerkraut

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Making homemade sauerkraut is not only surprisingly easy but also incredibly cost effective. All you need is sea salt, cabbage and a container to keep your kraut in while it ferments.

I started with four heads of cabbage and ended up with two large pickle jars full of sauerkraut. I started by cutting each head into quarters and trimming out the cores. Then I shredded each wedge over a bowl.

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Next I tossed the shredded cabbage and salt together. You need to add 2% of the cabbage weight in salt to each batch. I worked with a pound of cabbage at a time to make sure the salt was well mixed in.

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Next add each batch of cabbage/salt mixture to your jar or crock and mash it well to squish out all the juice and eliminate any air bubbles. Continue adding the salted cabbage a pound at a time to your jar squishing in between each layer until your jar is almost full.

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The final step is to add a weight to keep the cabbage under the juice. I used a gallon size bag filled part way with water as mine. Now all that’s left to do is let it sit and ferment. Length of fermentation time varies, I just let it sit for a week and then check each day. Fermentation is complete when the sauerkraut has the amount of flavor desired. Once it is done fermenting you can either keep it in the fridge for several months or can it to store on a shelf for up to a year.

Retsel Little Ark Grain Mill Review

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We purchased our Retsel grain mill in February of 2013 after much research and deliberation. Since it was a decent investment we wanted a grain mill that would not only work well but would also last for years. After seeing several bad reviews about the grain mill itself and also about the company’s poor customer service we were skeptical but we decided to take a chance since we were able to get all of the features that we wanted and it was in our price range. We knew we wanted a mill that came with stones as well as steel burrs should we ever decide to grind more than just flours and cornmeal. We also wanted a flywheel should we decide to motorize the mill. Being made in the USA was also a big perk.

Since we paid via money order we were able to get 20% off of our order including the cost of shipping. Our mill arrived within 30 days of cleared payment as customer service stated it would and was very well packed. The only assembly required was attaching the flywheel and handle to the mill and bolting the whole thing to the countertop.

The first time we used the mill we were pleasantly surprised by how easy the wheel was to turn as some reviews had stated that the handle was rather hard to turn. Using a fingertip tight setting on the adjustment knob we are able to grind a cup of flour suitable for bread making in about 10 minutes.

All in all we are very happy we took a chance on Retsel as they make a very solid product we expect to have for years. We love our grain mill and would recommend a Little Ark to anyone looking for a good, sturdy hand powered grain mill made in the USA.

Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with any of the companies mentioned in this post, all products were purchased by me, all opinions are my own.

Homemade Whole Wheat Pita Bread

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This pita bread goes great with just about anything. The original recipe calls for only all purpose flour but I started making it with half whole wheat flour and half all purpose flour after we got our grain mill. Since then I’ve found that we actually prefer the whole wheat version to the original recipe, not to mention it’s much healthier. I usually make a double batch because we go through it so fast.

Whole Wheat Pita Bread

2 ¼ tsp. instant yeast
1 tbsp. honey
1 ¼ cups warm water (105˚-115˚ F), divided
3 cups flour (half whole wheat/half all purpose)
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp. salt
Cornmeal, for sprinkling

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the yeast, honey and ½ cup of the water.  Stir gently to blend.  Whisk ½ cup of the bread flour into the yeast mixture until smooth.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside until doubled in bulk and bubbly, about 45 minutes.
  2. Remove the plastic wrap and return the bowl to the mixer stand, fitted with the dough hook.  Add in the remaining ¾ cup of warm water, 2 ½ cups flour, olive oil and salt.  Knead on low speed until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes.  Transfer the ball of dough to a lightly oiled bowl, turning once to coat, and let rise in a warm draft-free place, about 1 hour, until doubled in bulk.
  3. Once the dough has risen, transfer to a lightly floured work surface, punch down the dough and divide into 8 equal pieces.  Form each piece into a ball.  Flatten one ball at a time into a disk, then stretch out into a 6½-7 inch circle.  Transfer the rounds to a baking sheet or other work surface lightly sprinkled with cornmeal.  Once all the rounds have been shaped, loosely cover with clean kitchen towels.  Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes, until slightly puffy.
  4. Cook each pita in a cast iron skillet over medium high heat turning once.

Raising Meat Rabbits: Our Setup So Far

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So it’s been a little over three months since we got our first New Zealand White rabbits.  We were able to find two 8 week old does and a 12 week old buck for $10 each via craigslist. Our plan is to get two more does in the near future for a total of 4 does and a buck.

Our beginning setup was a wood hutch that we got off of craigslist and refurbished (I use this term loosely: hubby-to-be basically replaced everything but the floor joists). The initial plan was to use this hutch until we could build two larger ones from scratch but it soon became apparent that wood hutches were not only pricey to build right but were hard to keep clean, not to mention the amount of chewing they would be subjected to. We decided in the long run that stacked cages were the way to go for the setup we wanted. We quickly came to the realization that purchasing said cages new was not in our budget and set about looking for used ones.

We were able to find seven 36″x30″ cages with stacking legs on craigslist for $150. The cages were nice and solid when we got them but in pretty rough cosmetic condition.

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We decided to replace all of the floors with new wire. Then we sanded, primed and painted the cages and legs with black Rustoleum paint. The last step was reassembling each stack of three and adding a wheeled base made of 2’x4’s. We also added sets of metal urine guards from Bass Equipment. Bottles, feeders and pans were all purchased at Tractor Supply.

The end result, while in our budget, certainly wasn’t cheap but it fits the space we have to work with and is easy to clean and maintain. We hope to make it work for several years with minimal maintenance.

Here’s the official before and after:

Cages Before and After

Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with any of the companies mentioned in this post, all products were purchased by me, all opinions are my own.

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Rendering Tallow

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If someone had told me just a year ago that I would be worrying about losing a finger while chopping up a huge chunk of beef fat I might have died laughing, but guess what I did just yesterday? Yep I rendered my own tallow. After seeing several blog posts addressing real food and cooking with tallow I decided to go for it. After securing a 5 lb chunk of suet from my local farm market I got to work.

The first thing I did was let the suet thaw for a couple of days in the fridge as it was frozen solid. Several people mentioned that the suet is easier to grind and work with if it’s partially frozen but I found that mine was quite solid so I chose to work with it chilled but not frozen.

Then I chopped it up into medium sized pieces with a knife and ground it in a food processor until it was the consistency of ground meat. Next I dumped all of the ground suet into a crock pot and cooked it on low. My suet only took about 3 hours to render but length of time varies based on the amount of tallow being rendered. You know it’s done when you have semi clear liquid with little hard bits floating on the top.

All that’s left to do at this point is too strain the tallow through a cheesecloth lined colander and pour it into a mason jar or other heat safe container to cool overnight. Once your tallow cools it will turn a milky white and be solid at room temperature. At this point you can either store it in the refrigerator for several months or freeze it for up to a year.

Homemade Strawberry Jam

Strawberry Jam

After seeing a post on strawberry jam by City Boy Hens I was inspired to can some of my own. I was pleasantly surprised by how quickly the whole process went. Within 2 hours I was able to can 8 pints of jam (in 2 batches per the recipe).

Start by trimming and washing your strawberries then make sure they are well drained.  I got 8 pints of jam from 5 pounds of strawberries.

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Then mash the berries in a large bowl. I only mashed mine lightly since I prefer a chunkier jam. The more you mash the smoother it will be.

Mash Berries

Next transfer berries to a large pot, add pectin and bring to a boil. Then add the sugar a cup at a time. Once all sugar is added return to a hard boil for 1 minute.

Add pectin & sugar

Next remove your jam from heat and stir for 5 minutes. This is supposed to help keep the jam from separating. After stirring is complete you can pour the jam into hot, sterilized jars and process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes.  After processing is complete remove jars carefully and let cool overnight.

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Lastly confirm all seals are good and store.

Link to recipe I used: http://cityboyhens.com/food/canning/strawberry-jam/