Ward House

Glorious raspberries

In my solitude, I have not been idol.  This evening, while Ronnie was bowling and the girls were out with friends, I went to pick raspberries with my neighbor, Pat; we each walked away with a bucket full.  Now I am back to IMG_1807 where I was a few days ago – what to do with all these raspberries.  Pat is going to use a freezer jam recipe.  I am conflicted on whether to make jam or syrup.

The recipe I decided to use is this one from Epicurious:

  • 4 cups (1 liter) granulated sugar
  • 4 cups (1 liter) raspberries

Now here I just used 2 cups of sugar to 4 cups of raspberries.  In the reviews, others found the 4 cups to be a bit much.

1. Place sugar in an ovenproof shallow pan and warm in a 250°F (120°C) oven for 15 minutes. (Warm sugar dissolves better.)

2. Place berries in a large stainless steel or enamel saucepan. Bring to a full boil over high heat, mashing berries with a potato masher as they heat. Boil hard for 1 minute, stirring constantly.

3. Add warm sugar, return to a boil, and boil until mixture will form a gel (see tips, below), about 5 minutes.

4. Ladle into sterilized jars and process as directed for Shorter Time Processing Procedure .

What I found most interesting is what is next. . . IMG_1808

To determine when the mixture will form a gel, use the spoon test: Dip a cool metal spoon into the hot fruit. Immediately lift it out and away from the steam and turn it horizontally. At the beginning of the cooking process, the liquid will drip off in light, syrupy drops. Try again a minute or two later — the drops will be heavier. The jam is done when the drops are very thick and two run together before falling off the spoon.

“The intensity of this jam is due to the fact that it has no added fruit pectin,” says Topp. Adding pectin helps the jam jell, but necessitates more sugar, which dilutes the natural flavor of the fruit. Making jam without added pectin requires more careful cooking (see notes about the spoon test, above), but the extra effort pays off in a deliciously old-fashioned, fruity product.

It was in the comments where someone said that raspberries have natural pectin – in the seeds. That is a claim I’ll need to research.  I’ll let you know how it turns out.

IMG_1813*UPDATE*  I believe this needs to boil longer and reduce down.  Mine is a syrup, which is fine ’cause that is what I was hoping for.  Using a sieve, some of the seeds were removed and, in hindsight, more will be removed next time.  No worries though – great stuff!

July 21, 2010 Posted by | Canning, recipes | , , , | 2 Comments

Red Clover

July is almost half over and I feel as if life has picked up the pace and I am being swept away.  A big bottle of cheap vodka and grand plans for herb tinctures is still a plain bottle of vodka and, well, no tinctures.  *sighs*  I am trying to catch up on blog reading and found Joyce Ann’s post about  making red clover syrup.  I have read other bloggers ‘speak’ of the benefits of red clover and, since is it growing in the side yard, thought I’d try my hand at it.  Joyce Ann is having issues with Blogger so the link to her recipe can be found here.  There are several recipes available on the link page (red clover lemonade, red clover rice, etc); this is the one I want to try:

Red clover blossom syrup

This syrup can be a great Christmas present as it is canned so one can make lots of it. RedClover

Ingredients The main ingredient is 1 quart of red clover blossoms.

Other ingredients are:
1 quart (4 cups) water
4 cups sugar
½ lemon or orange (organic if possible) chopped, peel and all
1 Tbsp beet juice or berry juice (Optional)
Remember: The citrus is optional. Using the citrus will give the syrup an orangey or lemony flavor. In case you want the pure red clover flavor instead, don’t use the citrus. Both ways still make for a fantastic treat.
1.) The blossoms and water are put in a pot
2.) They are then simmered gently for 15- 20 minutes and the heat subsequently turned off. Then cover and let sit overnight.
3.) The next day, strain and press liquid out of spent flowers.
4.) Sugar and sliced citrus are then added and heat slowly, stirring now and again for several hours or until reduced to thick syrup that looks like honey.
5.) One can add 1 Tbsp of beet juice or berry juice to help color the syrup as its brownish like maple syrup. (Optional)
6.) Can in ½ pint or 1 pint Jars.
This recipe makes a little more than 1 pint. One can triple or quadruple this and make more than one batch when they are in season to have enough for the whole year.

I am so excited!!

July 10, 2010 Posted by | Canning, herbs, recipes, self sufficiency | , , , | 2 Comments

A mini rant with some useful information at the end.

Something good happened in our community last night; the planning & zoning committee approved a request to rezone a parcel of land (from R2-B2) on which to build a Dollar General (see picture).  The family of the overpriced grocery store objected, along with a few of the affluent.  Keep in mind that out here, you can pay the inflated prices of the local grocery, drive 30 minutes South to the Walmart and Food Lion or continue driving to Roanoke to Kroger, Ukrops, etc.

Now keep in mind, both the location in question and I live on Route 220, which, before I81, was the main road to states north.  While I81 has taken most of the traffic, it has not re-routed all and 220 is popular for logging tractor trailers headed to the paper mill.  Dollar General was jacked on a request to build this business in a community north of here (Mitchelltown) and I am thankful they are pursuing a different location.

My original draft included more detail from the meeting and, well, I believe it would bore you; small town egos and illogic go a long way to creating an unsustainable community.  Yes,  I live in a logic vacuum; we are doomed to repeat the past.  I am going to fight where I can to save my little corner (you too, Pat) and sadly watch the rest slip away.  Wow, reading this now, it appears so tame; all the fire and brimstone are gone!  Guess I’ll save that for the Board of I-believe-I-am-god Stupervisors meeting (dang, it crept in anyway).

Ok, mini rant is over.

In other, more sensible news, I found this two-part series, from the American Preppers Network about lactofermentation: parts 1 and 2.  Some great information for those Nourishing Tradition’s fans (including me).

June 29, 2010 Posted by | Canning, Cooking, economy, politics, self sufficiency | , , , | Leave a comment

Socking it

As promised, I have pictures! The cuff still has a few hiccups and I cannot explain why other than this is a learning process. The heel went well and this picture was taken prior to my pulling it out – yes. I pulled out the heel and am redoing it now that I know what I am doing. *cough* What did I learn? At the end of each row you must either knit or purl, depending on the row. You cannot let that last stitch be a slip or it creates a fubar situation. Allow me to demonstrate. . .

This is what it looks like when you slip the last stitch; there should not be that one loop that kinda of runs through each row – this loop does not grow and becomes tight if you have enough rows completed. Thus my, you cannot end a row with a slip; either purl or knit. And this is why I am pulling the work out. If not corrected now, it will create a problem later on. Every row, on both sides, should look like this.

While I was creating, brainstorming, and unraveling, my oldest and her friend finished this pinata for a Spanish class project. This is for decorative purposes only and is not to hold candy and beaten to death with a bat by blindfolded children.
It basically says that our every action affects the earth.

This weekend included 9 pints of apple sauce along with pickling brussel sprouts and banana peppers. Tonite, since I am out of canning materials (namely fruits and veggies) looks like it will be an evening of soup making and knitting.

Oh, I had some beef fat that I had saved to boil down for the tallow (soap making) and I think it burned – smells HORRIBLE! I believe the cook stove was too hot. =/ Any tips/hints on how to boil this down into a usable form? What should it look like when it’s done? Is dark brown unusable? *bleck*

September 21, 2009 Posted by | Canning, Cooking, family, self sufficiency, wood cook stove | 6 Comments

Quietly canning

Yes, life has been quiet yet very busy at the Ward House. The quick and dirty:

  • I’ve been in a canning frenzy and have most of it done. Lost a pint of ketchup, though, to a quick drop and a fast stop. Not only did I loose several hours of work but also the jar and lid. *sigh*
  • Girls are doing very well in Volleyball (see article below). Katie missed some practice due to a growth spurt. This spurt occurred so quickly that her muscles were unable to lengthen quick enough to accommodate and she was unable to straighten her left leg. Lots of icing and two visits to the physical therapist have her back on track.
  • It’s wood cutting time.
  • Working on my sock… still on the cuff. One thing about Katie’s P.T. appointments is that I got alot of knitting done.
  • Work is still crazy. You know. The whole more-work-for-less-money thing.
  • An acquaintance and coworker passed away suddenly on Saturday. I’m still in shock over that.

That about sums it up. Today has been more stressful than usual and I broke down and bought a Mountain Dew to wash down some Cheetos. *shudder* So bad for me yet tastes soooo good!

September 14, 2009 Posted by | Canning, Cooking, volleyball | 4 Comments


I do not have much to say today; kind of worn out. Over the weekend I did a slew of canning and even made ketchup for the first time! And yes, the wood cook stove was used for the whole process. Ronnie bought another bushel of beans so looks like this weekend will involve more canning. I know there were be many sounds of gratitude come this winter; just not feeling it at the moment. =)

I will leave you with this. . .

September 9, 2009 Posted by | Canning | 2 Comments

Going to the County Fair!

I’ve never been to a county fair before so attending the Highland County Fair was exciting. We missed the farm animal shows (what is the other name for this) but were there for the truck/tractor pulls. It was an exciting day.

We did not leave for the fair early as we were waiting for all the kids to be up (they stayed up late the night before – slumber party) and while waiting, Ronnie and I went out to pick grapes and came back with a bowl full. I think, though, this is all we will get; last falls pruning made this years harvest smaller. Next years should be amazing.

I am thankful for the extra day off (Labor Day) for much cooking and canning:

  • (8) half pints of kiwi jam – the neighbor bought more than they could use so she brought it over. We love kiwi. =)
  • (7) quarts dill pickles
  • Quart of potato soup – this was eaten promptly; no canning.
  • (2) quarts potato salad for the cookout we attended this evening
  • Granola
  • biscuits
  • (1) pint ketchup

The brussel sprouts are ready and I believe some of these will be dilled. Mmm Mmm Good! Needless to say I am one whipped puppy. Not too whipped, though, to share in the saga of “One girl, four needles and one sock”. You can see in the work where I was distracted or had to lay it down mid needle. Some important tips:

  1. make sure your yarn is in a ball prior to starting.
  2. finish knitting a needle before putting down your work

Once the ‘neck’ is 8 inches I can begin the heel. Won’t that be fun.

Nite all!

September 7, 2009 Posted by | Canning, Cooking | 5 Comments

Canning failure

Until yesterday afternoon, I felt fairly confident in my canning abilities. In the last 3 years, I have had one jar break during canning and three quarts of beans not seal. Not bad odds for a novice canner, IMHO.

Saturday my friend, no-pictures-please Beth treated me to one of Maggies’ fabulous canning classes (birthday present) and in this class we made dill pickles. I learned so many new things during this class, including to check the rims of your jars to make sure there are no nicks (leads to an improper seal) and that I can use 2 grape leaves in place of alum to keep those pickles crisp. Beth and I had great fun and after the class, we visited one of the local wineries. Mmm, Mmm, Good!

So Sunday I was determined to finish canning the corn I had taken off the cob Friday. Friday was a successful corn canning day. Every jar sealed and the corn looks so pretty! I think I left my canning mojo at Maggies. Look at this corn – what happened? As far as I can tell, my process did not change: wood stove and canner are the same. Times were the same. ???? Can one of you expert canning gurus offer some suggestions? I’m thinking too hot? Though the canner should have indicated the heat was off, yes? Anything else?

I am very sad about the 7.5 quarts that are now useless. Well, I am guessing they are useless; all jars sealed and I have not opened one yet. *sighs* Could it just be discolored and not burnt?

August 31, 2009 Posted by | Canning, wood cook stove | 4 Comments