Simplicity by Choice

Off-Grid Living & Self-Reliance

Hate is a Choice August 21, 2014

Filed under: faith,simplicity — ourprairiehome @ 12:08 am
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Karma has a warped sense of humor sometimes. Nothing shows it more than my own life. Picture this – a couple where one is a very conservative Libertarian and the other has the attitude of “live and let live” and doesn’t like politics. Such is my life. It is a very interesting one for sure. I am totally besotted with my husband and have a lot of respect for his devotion to the things he believes in.

I am blessed to be married to a man who always lets me know how much he cherishes me. I am surrounded by his love daily and am confident in our relationship. This man also has a love for debating politics. Thankfully, he doesn’t try to debate with me. He knows it is a losing battle because I refuse to argue or debate a topic. I simply state how I feel and let it go. That is one reason why it is good that he has friends and social networking that feed his love for debate. As for me, if there were a “live and let live” party to vote for, I would be right there. Unfortunately, there isn’t.

Here is the base for my attitudes on life. Each day, we choose how we are going to live. We choose our attitudes towards others as well. If you have someone in your life that you have negative feelings towards, you choose each morning when you awaken to continue having those feelings. You have full control over your emotions and your mindset. No one can make you hate them. You do that by making a decision to follow that path. If you are holding on to anger or a hurt from the past, that too is a choice that you make each day. No one has the power over you to cause you to feel one way or another. Only you have that power.

To say, “I hate that person because they are hateful to me” is something that can cause a lot of damage. Yes, someone may indeed be hateful to you in actions or words, but how you choose to respond to them is where you have control. Just because someone acts hateful towards you doesn’t mean automatically that you will be hateful back. If you choose to be hateful in return, you are doing it as revenge.

A child runs through a house, breaking a house rule, and accidentally breaks a vase. When the parent asks how the vase is broke, the child says, “I don’t know.” In that scenario, the child lies to cover up a mistake they made. Lying about it doesn’t make the situation any better. In fact, the lying makes things worse when the child is caught in that lie. How is our reacting to one wrong behavior by someone else any different? Has there ever been a time when returning hate with hate has ever brought about a good result?

We see it in the world every day. One ethnic group or a nation being hateful towards another. Each time one acts out either verbally or with actions in a negative way towards the other party, they try to “one up” on each other. It is a case of constantly escalating actions of hate. “You did this to me, so I am going to do this to you,” is a constant refrain between those involved.

Imagine what would happen if people started taking full responsibility of their attitudes and behavior. If they felt compassion for the pain they have caused the other party instead of rejoicing in it? Imagine the changes that could be brought about if we simply became more aware of how our choices affected those around us?

Seeking revenge or answering hate with hate is a selfish concept. You are thinking more about yourself and not those around you. In the scriptures, we are shown an example of acceptance through the life of Christ. If churches are teaching correctly that we should look upon the life of Christ as an example of how we should treat one another, how can we justify revenge seeking? Where in the scriptures did Christ ever seek to harm another through words or deeds? Even when he was tortured and crucified, he never cast blame or cursed those who were against him. He prayed for God to forgive them for what they had done. Even in his greatest suffering, Christ showed compassion. How can we call ourselves Christians (followers of Christ) if we allow hate in our lives?

It is easy to argue this with, “Well, in a perfect world people would be more compassionate.” Or the idea that, “Other nations don’t follow that and we have to fight back to avoid being taken over.” Those are excuses. It is easy to hide behind that type of thinking. So many have accepted that excuse that is has become a truth to them. It is not a truth. It is an excuse to allow yourself to return hate with hate. Some even return it with such flourish that they are proud of their actions. Consider for yourself, at the end of the day, has anything good come from it? In acting out in a negative fashion, have you shown the love of Christ to another?

We don’t have to agree with the actions of those who are hateful. But we also don’t need to be emulating their behavior. By answering hate with hate, we are saying that this is the acceptable way to deal with such actions. How can we teach compassion to our children if we are talking in negative manner about others? How can we expect our children to show compassion if we are not setting the example before them?

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbors and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends the rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward with you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you only greet your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even the pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:43-48 (NIV translation)

“But I tell you who hear me, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you., and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” Luke 6:27-36 (NIV)

“Love must be sincere. Hate that which is evil, cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you, bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil with evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live in peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written, ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. On the contrary; if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:9-21 (NIV)

 

Crochet Week August 17, 2014

Filed under: Crafting,simplicity — ourprairiehome @ 4:00 pm
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Looks like I will be getting a week of crochet time this week.  Last Friday, I ended up going to the ER for back pain.  I found out that I had sprained the lumbar region.  With that, the Dr told me to rest and do absolutely no lifting for at least the next week.  Uh, doesn’t he realize my lifestyle?  Yeah, I guess he did.  When we talked about the lifestyle, he got a very serious look on his face and set about putting on the restrictions.

With that diagnosis and restrictions, I stopped at the store on the way home to buy a bit more yarn.  I figured that the crocheting will help keep me busy enough to help fight the temptation to ignore the restrictions.  That is the hardest part of this.  I have always been so active that being forced to rest is a tough thing.  Over the weekend it has been easy.  My husband keeps me from doing too much.  When he is at work however, it will be way too tempting to do the chores that need doing each day.

That is one reason why I am so grateful for the chance to crochet.  If my hands are busy, I will behave and do as the Dr. said.  If nothing else, I will be able to work on the swap and some Christmas gifts.

 

Home Canning: Vegetable Soup August 13, 2014

One of the easiest soups to home can is a basic vegetable soup.  It is also a great opportunity to cover one of the important truths of home canning.  Even though a soup or sauce may contain tomatoes, the amount of citric acid in the tomatoes is not enough to allow you to safely process the soups through a waterbath method.  Put simply, if you ever add any other ingredient to the tomatoes, such as vegetables or meat, then it MUST be processed by pressure canning.

Right now, gardens are in full swing.  In some areas, the gardens might be nearing the end of the harvest season.  It is a great time to use up the odds and ends of your harvest to make a hearty soup to stock in your pantry.   For me, there is no real recipe for the vegetable soup.  It is  made using whatever vegetables that I happen to have on hand.  Common vegetables that I put in are carrots, green beans, peas, onion, and zucchini or yellow squash.  I have also added things like leeks, bell peppers, corn, tomatoes, and spinach.    Typically, the tomatoes that I use are the pear shaped ones since they are meatier and less juicy.  These tomatoes just seem to hold up and stay in nice sized chunks much better than the large slicing tomatoes.  This is a personal preference however.  You can use any type of tomato that you have on hand.

As with most of my canning recipes, I really don’t measure very much.  This vegetable soup is no exception.  I start by rinsing off the fresh vegetables and then cutting them into bite size pieces if necessary.  I mix all the vegetables being used in a large bowl or stock pot until they are well blended.  Cover with water if needed to prevent anything from browning before use.

If I am adding meat to the soup, I will brown some bite size chunks of stew meat.  I have a natural aversion to putting raw meat into a canning jar.  I know that some have no problem with this, but I feel that the extra time taken to brown the meat ahead of time is worth the safety of the finished product.  I am able to process the jars without worrying that the meat might not be fully cooked by the time the processing is completed.  As I brown the meat, I add any seasonings such as chopped onions and bell peppers.  I like these to be at least halfway cooked before processing as it really enhances the flavors.  I never add salt to the meat while it is cooking.  Instead, I add salt to the jars before sealing.  A basic amount that I always follow is 1/2 tsp of canning salt in each pint or 1 tsp of canning salt in each quart jar.  This is an amount we always have used.

When I am ready to fill the jars, I place about a 1/2 cup of the meat into each quart jar.  Next, I add enough vegetables to fill the jar to a 1/2 inch below the rim.   Lastly, I add enough tomato juice or broth to fill the jar to 1/2″ below the rim.  Wipe off the jar rim, and add the lid and ring.  I process the jars in a pressure canner for the time required for the meat.   In processing anything, whether by pressure canning or waterbath method, always check to see what the processing time is for the various ingredients.  In this case the vegetables vs the meat.  ALWAYS use the processing time for the ingredient that takes the longest.  In this recipe, the meat processing time is longer than what you would use for the vegetables alone. For those wanting a recipe, here is one of my favorites.

Vegetable Soup

12 large tomatoes, cored and diced
6 medium sized potatoes, peeled and diced
12 carrots, peeled and sliced
4 cups of whole kernel corn
4 cups of green peas
2 cups of green beans, cut into 1.5″ pieces
4 medium zucchini, sliced
2 cups of green lima beans
6 stalks of celery sliced
2 onions, chopped
2 quarts of tomato juice
Salt & Pepper, to taste

In a large stock pot, mix all ingredients together.  Cook over a medium heat until heated through.  Season to taste.  Ladle the soup into hot jars, leaving 1 inch headspace below the jar rim.  Add additional tomato juice or water if needed.

***According to the Ball Blue Book of canning (2009 edition), this type of meatless soup should be processed by pressure canner.  55 minutes for pint jars and 1 hour, 25 minutes for quart jars.  Please check your canning book or resources for the proper pressure level to use for your elevation. This recipe will make about 9 quarts or 18 pints of soup.

When I make a soup like this, I will often fill the canner (7 quarts) and continue cooking on the stove the remainder for our evening meal.  This is especially a favorite in the winter when I can make the soup for canning in the morning.  While the canner is processing on the propane stove, I can let the remainder of the soup simmer on the wood stove all day.

One nice thing about this recipe is that you can customize it using vegetables that your family enjoys.  Many times, I will make a vegetable soup without meat so that on days when we want a meatless meal, we have this available.  I home can meat separately so that I can add it to any recipe later on.  If you choose to add meat to this recipe, the processing times will have to be lengthened to the proper amount for meats.   Again, according to the Ball Blue Book, 2009 edition, the processing times for diced chicken and beef that has been precooked are  1 hr 5 minutes for pints or 1 hr 30 minutes for quarts.

 

Facing My Fears

Filed under: faith — ourprairiehome @ 2:37 am
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I have been wanting to write this post for a while, but for some reason the timing just didn’t seem right. I needed to take a couple of months to really process what this one special weekend meant for me.

Over the Memorial Day weekend, our family was blessed to attend the Crosswalk Youth Camp, which our church sponsors. This was the first year that Little Miss would be old enough to attend the Jr. Camp. My husband and I each helped at the camp. Hubby was given kitchen duty each morning and I helped out in the Mini camp (daycare) for the little ones too young for camp. The Mini Camp gave me an opportunity to serve at the camp while still having Pookie with me. I loved the Mini Camp as it provided a means for some of the volunteers with young children to participate in the camp staffing opportunities.

The camp theme was “Faith Factor” based upon the popular show, Fear Factor. Each day, the youth were given opportunities to face some of their fears. The main message for them was that in the midst of times when you are in fear, your faith in the Lord can carry you through.

One example of a fear that our Little Miss faced was that of snakes. The Jr. Campers were able to take part in a class about snakes. The handler brought a few of the snakes he worked with and taught the kids about each of the snake breeds he had with him. The kids were then given an opportunity to come up and have their pictures taken with a snake. Each who did this was given the option of touching or holding the snake. I loved how the handler was very in tune with his snakes and switched them out to avoid the snakes getting too stressed. He wanted them calm for the kids. Our Little Miss didn’t want to touch the snake, but after a bit of reassurance from our pastor, Mike Rasmussen, she was very brave and had her picture taken touching the snake. This was a huge step for her that I am very proud that she took. Just 2 years before, our son-in-law had killed a nearly 6 foot long copperhead snake out near our barn. He then showed it to Little Miss and our grandson. That really scared her. At the time we did need the kids to have a touch of trepidation about snakes since they kept wanting to play around the firewood pile and the taller vegetation around the perimeter of the yard they play in. At 8 years old, she was now needing to learn that snakes are not fearsome creatures, but you do need to have a healthy dose of respect for them. This opportunity at Jr. Camp gave her just that.

While at camp, it was fun to visit with other staff at the camp as well as get to know some of the youth. Going there, you may have ideas of how you want to serve. You quickly realize that as you serve the youth, you are receiving much in return. My own spirit was nourished through talks that I had with a few of the youth. It is so encouraging to see how the Lord is touching their lives.

It wasn’t only the youth at camp who were challenged. I went through my own personal challenges with a fear I have had for 9 years. I had let this fear have too much control over my life and though I was shaking throughout the moments I challenged myself, I got past it. It is something that may be a small thing to many, but for me was a huge step towards taking control back over that aspect of my life. The fear? Walking in the dark alone and without benefit of a flashlight.

As I child, I had always held a fascination for the moon and stars. I loved times when I could be outdoors at night and simply bask in the beauty of the night sky. This love for the night was the basis for a nickname, Luna, which I was given years ago. One night, nine years ago, that would change. My love and enjoyment of the night would be turned into something entirely different. I was assaulted and raped twice at knife point in one night by a man I barely knew. After that night, I never saw the peace of beauty of the night again. It was something to be feared and avoided. If I went to a store and darkness came, I had someone escort me to my car. At home, I always parked my car as close to the front door as possible. I got good as faking it when it came to others knowing just how scared I really was. What others didn’t know was that I often had to fight the panic attacks that came upon me each time I had to step out into the dark.

During this time, I have felt robbed of something I had enjoyed. You can physically recover from just about anything. But to recover from fear takes longer. To learn to feel peace and beauty around you in the night is very difficult. Even though we live a very rural life, far from any big city, I never felt truly safe at night. The years that my husband was on the truck and working away from home for weeks at a time were the hardest. I had trouble sleeping. Often, I would awaken to a sound of a small animal walking outside of my bedroom window. It could be something as harmless as an armadillo walking through the grass. I would lay in bed, my heart pounding so hard it felt like it would burst through my chest. My breathing would be rapid and I seemed to be ultra-sensitive to the sounds in the night. It would take a long time for me to calm enough to be able to go back to sleep again. Most of the time, that sleep was anything but restful.

At camp though, I had opportunity to talk to our pastor for a few minutes after an evening chapel service. It was very dark and Joe had already gone to the men’s staff dorm with Pookie early that evening. I talked to Pastor Mike about my fear of the dark and how it came to be. He had offered to give me a ride to the women’s staff dorm in the golf cart, but I turned him down. While I thoroughly appreciated the offer, I knew deep down to my very soul that the time had come to face my fear. I let him know that I needed to do this on my own.

I had no flashlight with me but the path to the dorm was lit in most of the areas. Only a few places were darkened from the trees blocking the light from the security lights along the way. As I walked the path to the dorm, I was shaking and my stomach was nauseated. As I walked along the pathway, my thoughts kept going the song, “Whom Shall I Fear,” by Chris Tomlin. The following portion is what spoke to me loudest and gave me strength in my steps as I walked that night.

My strength is in Your name
For You alone can save
You will deliver me
Yours is the victory
Whom shall I fear?
Whom shall I fear?

And nothing formed against me shall stand
You hold the whole world in Your hands
I’m holding on to Your promises
You are faithful
You are faithful

I know who goes before me
I know who stands behind
The God of angel armies is always by my side
The One who reigns forever
He is a friend of mine
The God of angel armies is always by my side.

I made it to the dorm safely. No flashlight, no escort to walk me to the dorm. I did it on my own, with my faith in the Lord’s protection with me.

The next day, I spoke to the Pastor Mike again. I explained a little more about how much had been taken away when I gained that fear. The loss of my joy in the night. Taking that step to walk back to the dorm had given me a piece of that joy back again. As he mentioned to me, the camp setting was a safe environment in which I could face that fear. I know that it is not like walking a city street late at night alone. But it did help me.

Where we live, I would be foolish to just go out walking at night, especially in warm months. Too many wildlife considerations to keep in mind. It feels good though to not have that unsettling feeling of fear overwhelming me though. It is such a gift and blessing that the Lord gave me that night as I walked to the dorm. He gave me back something that I thought had been lost for all time. He gave me back the beauty of His creation, the night. Most importantly, He gave me peace in the night, which I have been without for far too long.

In the months since camp, I am still edging my way into regaining that love of the night. A couple evenings ago was the night of the super moon and meteor shower. At 2am, when it was supposed to be the best viewing, I went outside alone and spent time just watching the night sky. It was like seeing an old dear friend again after a long separation. I felt no fear. For the very first time in 9 years, I felt completely at peace with the night. What a gift and blessing to have that again. That piece of my that has been missing for so long is now back in place. I feel more whole in that regard than I have in far too long. I feel like Luna again. She was sorely missed.

 

Home Canning: Tomato Soup

Filed under: food preservation,home canning,pantry building — ourprairiehome @ 2:32 am
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When my husband was truck driving for long haul companies, we found out quickly that home canning meals for him to take on the truck was a huge savings to our monthly budget. It was also far more healthy for him than the fast foods found at truck stops. One of his favorite soups is a Tomato Soup that I make.

This recipe is very easy to follow. The only ingredient in the soup which you may not regularly stock in your pantry is the tomato juice. The jars of soup are processed by waterbath, though you can do it in a pressure canner if desired. The resulting soup is slightly thick like the cans of condensed tomato soup you buy at the market. Depending on your personal preference, you can eat the soup as it is or thin it a bit with water or milk.

Before starting the recipe, prepare your jars. Make sure they are clean and ready to go. Always inspect the jar rims before each canning session to make sure there are no flaws that could prevent a good seal. It is also a good time to take your flat lids and set them to simmer in hot water. This will help to insure a good seal when the jars are processed.

Tomato Soup for canning
*Makes about 11 pints of soup

1 cup butter (I don’t recommend substituting with margarine)
8 tsp. Salt
3 Tbsp, finely minced fresh onion
4 bottles of tomato juice
1 ½ cups flour
1 ½ cups sugar
1 tsp. Pepper

In a large stock pot, melt the butter. Stir in the sugar and heat until dissolved. Add flour, making a rue, by stirring until blended into a smooth consistency. If necessary, add a bit of the tomato juice to aid in making the rue. Once the flour mixture is smooth, start stirring in the remaining tomato juice. Add the salt, pepper, and onion. Mix well. Cook one minute, stirring constantly to blend the seasonings into the mixture.

Carefully ladle the soup into clean, sterile jars. Wipe the rims with a clean cloth to remove any soup that may be on the rim. Add the flat lids and attach the rings to hold the lids in place while processing.

I process the jars by waterbath method. To do this, you place the jars in your waterbath canner, using the rack that came with your canner, and cover the jars completely with water so they are fully submerged. Bring the water to a boil. Once the water begins to boil, start timing the processing. I process pint jars for 1 hour and quart jars for 1 ½ hours.

Please note: Whenever you are canning, always try to match the temperature of the water in your canner to the temperature of the jars going into it. If you add hot jars to cold water, or vise versa, the jar can break. Learned this myself when I got into a hurry one day. The bottle of the jar broke cleanly off the jars and I lost all the food in that jar. What a waste!

I have used a pressure canner to process this soup. In those situations, I process pints for 25 minutes and quarts for 35 minutes under the pressure level for our elevation.

 

Canning for Convenience July 29, 2014

I have been being asked if I would be posting more about home canning.  It has been on my mind to do so, but life happens and I haven’t made any new entries on canning.  I am wanting to change that.  It is as much of a help to me to have my recipes on here as it (hopefully) is to those who try them out.

Before I get started, I want to state that this will likely become a series of entries.  Sort of like the ones you see on other blogs, such as the “Throw Back Thursday” type posts.  In this case, it will be all about canning.  There are a few things that I want to state about home canning.  First, ALWAYS check the instructions for your own canner before trying any of these recipes.  I will purposely be leaving the exact canning instructions out of the recipes.  To state that I process a canner load at 10 lbs of pressure may be accurate for those living at the same elevation as I do.  For those who live at an elevation that needs 5 lbs or 15 lbs of pressure, it would be a problem if you used my pressure levels.  To give the time amounts would also be wrong for me to do.  One of the best and most current resources that I have used is the National Center for Home Food Preservation which teaches in detail how to home can, dry, freeze, and pickle just about anything.  It also has great information for those new to home food preservation, including basic information on how to use home canners.  I strongly recommend that you print the pressure and time charts for each type of food or recipe that you will be home canning.  This will make a quick reference for you to follow later on.

In starting from the basics, you will need a few items to do home canning.  The first is your canner.  For fruits and tomatoes, you will need a waterbath canner.  This is a very large kettle with a wire rack inside.  It is deep enough to allow you to fully submerge quart size jars under water.  In this canner, jars are processed through boiling them for the amount of time listed in the instructions from the above website.    Foods processed in a waterbath canner are high acid foods.  Tomatoes and some fruits contain citric acid naturally.  Others require that you add citric acid to prevent browning.  This acid level is enough to allow you to safely process the foods by boiling the jars.  These are the ONLY foods that are processed by waterbath method.

pressure canner is required for low acid foods such as vegetables and meat.  These foods must reach a very high internal temperature in order to kill off any natural bacteria that can become harmful during storage.  A pressure canner is a large, deep kettle with a locking lid.  Some have a gauge to help you regulate the pressure, others have a weighted gauge.  I use a weighted gauge style and find it far easier to work with.  Modern pressure canners have a venting system that helps to prevent accidents.  On mine, there is a vent that pops up once the pressure is above 10 lbs.  which is the amount needed for our elevation.  As a safety measure, there is also a small rubber plug in the lid that will completely pop out should the pressure become dangerously high.  I have never had that one pop out.  I find that once my canner has reached just enough pressure to make the vent lift up, I turn down the heat just enough to keep that vent slightly open.  This allows me to be certain that the pressure in the canner is high enough without worry that it will over pressurize.

The next thing you need are your canning jars.  I have to admit that I am a jar snob.  I only buy Ball or Kerr brands.  Ball was one of the oldest canning jar manufacturers and have been around for ages.  Kerr eventually bought the Ball company and now makes both brands.  I have tried lesser known brands and every time have had a percentage of the jars break in the pressure canner.  That jar breakage causes not only the loss of the money used for buying the jars, but the food as well.

I am developing a routine with the jars that I use.  Food items, such as when I can up homemade stews, meat, or other chunky and large items always are done up in wide mouth jars.  This is for two reasons.  First, the food is easier to remove later on than it is with the regular mouth size jars.  Secondly, in the case of canning meats, if there is any grease from the meat, the wide mouth are much easier to clean thoroughly.

Regular mouth size jars are used for liquid items, such as tomato soup, juices, and small vegetables.  Cut up green beans, shelled peas, and baby carrots are some examples of the small vegetables I use the regular mouth jars for.  I use this method for all the foods that I home can.  Gradually, I will be using only the wide mouth jars in all my canning.  This will make it easier all around.

Some tools that are extremely useful and that I highly recommend are the following.  A jar lifter is used for lifting the hot jars out of the canner.  They look like a large pair of tongs that have a rubber coating on the portion that grips the jar neck.  Of all the tools, this in one of two that I couldn’t do without.  The second tool is a canning jar funnel.  This funnel has a large bowl with the funnel portion being just small enough to fit inside the regular mouth jars.  Using this, you are able to fill the jars with messy food items without getting food residue on the jar rims.  It makes filling the jars faster and easier as well.  The third item that I use each time I home can would be my kitchen timer.  With kids in the home, I cannot trust myself to use a clock to track the processing times.  I get interrupted or distracted way too often.  It is just good practice to have a timer for canning anyways.  The last items are ones that many use on a consistent basis, but I don’t personally use.  One is the magnetic flat lid wand which is used to lift the flat lids from a pan of hot water,  The other is a similar product, a little rack that you stand the flat lids in while they are being heated in a pan of water.  This process is important in that it helps to insure a good seal on the jars.  I just use a pair of metal tongs to lift the lids.  It is what I grew up seeing done and seems to work just fine for me.

When you buy a case of new canning jars, they always come with the rings and flat lids.  I always keep at least 4-6 boxes of replacement flat lids on hand in the pantry.  There are times when a new lid will fail during processing and you will need a replacement lid before you can re-process the jar.  Reusing the flat lids are a good way to risk the jars not sealing properly.  The last thing you want to risk is a jar lid popping open while on the pantry shelf and food spoiling.

Before you start canning, you need to take a hard look at how your family eats.  While there are a lot of yummy recipes out there to tempt you, the mainstay of your canning should reflect your family’s typical diet.  For example, in the cold months our family eats a lot of homemade soups and stews.  These are eaten on nearly a daily basis in the coldest months especially.  So, when I do the home canning, I will be sure to stock our shelves with a good supply of these types of meals.  I began by looking at what our favorite stews and soups were.  Then, whenever I made them, I would make a double or triple size batch.  As we sat eating dinner, the canner would be processing the extras for stocking the pantry.

Another great use for the canner was when my husband was a truck driver and away from home for up to 8 weeks at a time.  I would home can meals in pint size jars for him to take on the truck with him.  Using a cooker powered by the 12 volt plug in the truck, he was able to cook the food for his meals.  One pint size jar gave him a good sized serving.  Doing this saved us a fortune in food expenses on the road.  When we first began doing this, he was spending $600 a month on his meals and drinks on the road.  When he took a month’s supply of meals on the truck with him, he only spent $150 a month on drinks and snacks.  That was an instant $450 savings each month!  Not to mention that he ate far more healthy meals that way.

One of my favorite meals to home can is beef stew.  It is SO easy to do that it doesn’t take long to have a nice supply of it on hand in your pantry.  I like making this when I find a good sale on stew meat.  I buy a large package of the meat then cut it into bite sized pieces.  In a large roasting pan, I place enough vegetables for one meal and all of the meat.  I oven roast the stew as I normally would in preparing a meal.  About a half hour before the stew is done roasting, I start preparing my jars but filling them 2/3 full of the same mixture of vegetables as I am cooking with the meat.  These vegetables are placed into the canning jars while they are raw to prevent them from being over cooked once the jars are processed.  Potatoes, for example, would completely turn to mush if they were roasted before canning.  If I get the jars ready too soon, I fill them with water to prevent the vegetables from browning if necessary.  Once the stew is done, I remove the cooked vegetables and just enough meat for that night’s meal.  The remaining meat is divided up between the prepared jars. (NOTE: if you out water in any of the jars, the should be drained off before adding the meat.)  I then divide up the broth from the roasting process between the jars as well.  If necessary, I will add some beef broth to top off the jars.  The jars should be filled to 1/2″ from the rim.  Wipe off the rims to make sure there is no juice or drippings from the meat on the rims.  Any residue can prevent the lid from getting a proper seal.  Next, add the ring to the jar to hold the lid in place during processing.  Load up your pressure canner and then process the jars while enjoying your dinner.  By the time you are done eating and dinner dishes are being cleared away, the canner will be done processing in most cases.

I don’t have a specific recipe for making this.  My beef stew is different each time I make it, depending on what vegetables I have on hand at the moment.  Use you own favorite recipe.  If you have a recipe that your family enjoys that comes from a favorite cookbook, use it.  Just double the recipe for a canner of pint jars or triple the recipe if using quart jars.

In future posts, I will be sharing some recipes that our family enjoys.  I hope that this series will be one that will bless you in your efforts in building your pantry with healthy wholesome meals for your family.

 

Momma’s Day Out July 27, 2014

Filed under: family — ourprairiehome @ 7:11 pm
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I am a very blessed woman.  Yesterday, my beloved husband told me to go and have a day to myself.  He understand the demands that being a stay-at-home can be.  Between tending the home, caring for the children, homeschooling, and the daily therapies for our son, I can get worn out.  While he worked as a long-haul truck driver, I had little to no breaks from the home responsibilities.  I really needed this break.  It isn’t a selfish need.  Everyone knows that you need a way to center yourself in order to be effective in your tasks as a spouse, parent, and just in dealing with daily life.

A dear friend, Christee, recently reminded me that I needed to carve out a time of day that is totally all about recharging myself.  Without it, I have been getting drained physically and emotionally.  and have been constantly exhausted.  After yesterday, I feel rejuvenated again.

I did something totally frivolous, but something that I have thought about for a long time.  I had my hair cut.  They took 14″ off the length.  That alone has been a blessing.  The long hair was always having to be put up do to the heat of summer.  It felt so good to get the hair dealt with.  It is still shoulder length, but the bulk of it is now gone.

Next, I went and did the little bit of shopping for supplies that I needed to take care of.  We didn’t have too much to get, but this eliminates my husband from having to stop after work.

My favorite part of the day was going to the library.  I spend time on the computer looking up more information about the communication system that our son is going to be taught.  Afterwards, I looked up new patterns to crochet for gifts and winter wear.

I came home to find the kids already in bed sleeping.  Daddy had wore them out playing outdoors all day.  The day was a fun break for them as well.  While getting a few things done, they still spent time playing on the slip & slide and other outdoor games.  Daddy had time alone with the kids which they sorely needed as well.

 

 

 
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