Monday, October 12, 2009

Apple Juice

Jim's folks have owned an apple juice press for a lot of years. When our kids were little, we juiced nearly every year but the press has been idle for quite awhile now. This fall when we asked around if anyone wanted 'in' on juicing, we got some takers.

Here's Jim picking Spartans in the orchard of a guy he works with. He drove around with a pickup load of apples (about 840 pounds) for almost a week. Saturday he and Dawn picked Red Delicious apples, bringing home about 300 pounds. Breanne brought apples from her tree as well. We find we like a blend better than all one kind.

Today was juice pressing day. Quite cold, but thankfully very sunny and not windy. Here Hanna and Barbara run the grinder. The apples go in whole and are pushed against a spinning drum studded with nails using a wooden paddle.

Apple pulp comes out the bottom. See all the boxes of apples in the back of the truck awaiting their turn!

From there the pulp gets layered into the press itself, about 12 cups into each cloth, which is then folded, another set of slats put on top, repeated until all six of the cloths are loaded.

Then a small jack is placed in the press to squeeze the juice down into a bucket waiting to catch it. Here Breanne is running the jack.

Want to see the full scale?

Yes, the gang filled all three of those garbage cans (kept only for this purpose!) with fresh pressed apple juice. From here, it was divvied up for each family. Some have freezer space and poured the juice into empty pop bottles and milk jugs to freeze, leaving lots of space for expansion. And some of us are going to can the juice.

Is home-pressed juice worth doing? Well, it IS a lot of work. But here's one small person's opinion:

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Raspberry Vinegar

Although raspberry vinaigrette is all the rage these days, not a lot of people are familiar with the cool refreshing drink that is Raspberry Vinegar. This is something Jim's mom has made for years--and so have I. Our kids' friends refused to try it when they were young. They didn't want to drink vinegar! But when we called it Raspberry Punch, everyone loved it.

It's very simple to make, but you do need to have a good supply of fresh raspberries. During the season, I picked off berries and just kept adding them to the buckets living in the freezer until last week when Hanna came home for a week of canning.

The first thing you do is add one part of vinegar to six parts of raspberries. Just regular old vinegar does fine. Snap the lids back on the buckets and let this brew for 2-3 days. It's not's pickling!

Then it's time to strain out the pulp and seeds so the juice will be clear and sparkling.

But there's still a lot of juice in the berries, so we hang them in an old pillowcase overnight, catching the remainder of the juice in a large bowl.

In the morning, we measure out the juice into a large pot and add an EQUAL amount of sugar.

Heat this up enough so all the sugar is dissolved. Then pour into canning jars, snap on boiling hot lids and screw bands. Can for about 15 minutes in a boiling water bath.

How much does it make? Each gallon bucket (ice cream bucket) of berries makes about three quarts of juice concentrate. Our batch this week made 14 quarts.

How to serve? This is super-concentrated. Each one quart jar makes about two gallons of refreshing goodness. Or you can pour your glass about one-eighth full of concentrate, add some ice cubes, and top off the glass with cold water:

Nothing better on a hot summer day, so we're ready for next year!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Honey Extraction Day

Our mentor, Lew, came down this morning to walk us through our first honey extraction. The first order of business is getting the bees out of the supers that we wanted to extract honey from. Lew sprinkled a chemical on this board, then placed it on top of one of the hives. The idea is that the bees will go down the hive to get away from it. However, this requires a warm sunny day and we (quite thankfully, as the extracting shed was HOT) had a slightly cooler overcast day today and the chemical didn't heat enough to work.

This means that Lew fired up the leaf blower, tipped each super, and blasted the bees out of it. They weren't very happy, but they did as they were told.

We removed the ones with honey and got down to the supers with brood (home of the next generation of bees). These we left, of course!

Jim loaded the supers with honey onto the back of Lew's truck for the trip to his extracting shed.

Here the first order of business is to remove the capped comb from the outsides of each frame. Lew has a machine that does this. The knife that cuts it off is heated with steam. The capped comb (which has some honey still in it) drops to a stainless steel plate and drains into a heated vat. The honey sinks and the comb and other residue rises, so nothing is wasted.

From there the frames are placed in the extractor, basically a large centrifuge. Lew's holds something like 60 frames. (We've been given parts to build one that holds four at a time!)

It takes about fifteen minutes of spin time to extract the honey. Then Lew opens the valve at the bottom of the extractor tank, starts another little pump that sucks the honey up into the vat, where it runs through a filter before we filled our containers.

And here's the truck loaded with our empty supers (ready to be stored until next June) and the honey. Each of the small buckets holds seven pounds. A good day's work!

Is it delicious? You betcha. :D

Friday, August 28, 2009

Roasted Tomato Sauce

This is a very versatile sauce that I use in soups, pastas, or as a pizza base. I make mega-batches this time of year when roma tomatoes are ripe. I have 2 large broiler pans that came with my gas range, and alternate them through the oven--when it's really hot I do the roasting in my barbecue!

For each broiler pan, I use about:
15 ripe roma tomatoes (more if they're small!), washed, cut in half
1/2 a large onion, chunked
5 cloves of garlic, peeled
A good drizzle of olive oil
Salt and Pepper

Run your hands through it so everything is well coated with oil.

Then roast for 30-40 minutes at about 375. You want the edges to be browning a bit, and for the aroma of ROASTED veggies to come through. Give them a stir every 10-15 minutes.

Then I just scoop the mess into my blender and give it a whiz.

From there I pour the sauce into canning jars and process in hot water bath for 30 minutes. Or you could always freeze the sauce.


Tomatillos are a fun little fruit that is often used in Mexican cooking. They grow on a bush somewhat similar to a tomato, but they're not really that similar.

They are covered with a little husk and are ready to pick when the green husk begins to warm to a yellowish hue.

The husk peels off very easily, leaving a slightly sticky, smooth green pingpong ball sized fruit. They taste a wee bit sweet and a wee bit citrusy and are somewhat crisp.

I used a handful of them in this delicious salad, Tomato and Herb Salad with Fresh Chive Cheese. I happened to have some homemade lemon cheese on hand (with dill in it) so used that. I'd recommend feta if you don't make your own cheese. This is a great summer salad when the tomatoes and herbs are going strong. Mmm.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


No, not the movie. Though that was fun, wasn't it?

My daughter Hanna made mega batches of ratatouille last fall and froze them in ziploc bags. Her method (in winter) is to let a package thaw a bit, empty it into a casserole dish, add a couple of sausages (Mennonite farmer is good, or Italian), and put it in the oven for half an hour.

Here's the basic ingredient list:

Olive oil
Red/Yellow Peppers
Salt & Pepper
Red Pepper Flakes

Cook for about 20 minutes until nice and saucey. Cool, then freeze.

So I saute the vegetables in my wok in as much olive oil as it needs. The ratio of tomatoes to *other* that I've been doing is about half. I don't have any peppers in the garden (and am not overly fond of them cooked, anyway!) but I do have both zucchini and eggplant. I don't have red pepper flakes at the moment so added a couple shots of tobasco sauce.

Here's what it looks like while cooking down:

Saturday, August 1, 2009


This morning our beekeeping mentor, Lew, stopped by to visit 'his' bees. (The guy that never wears a bee suit!)

He says they're doing really well! He put his finger into one of the combs and let some liquid honey drip onto my finger. Oh. My. Word! Have you ever had honey THAT fresh? Delightful. Warm from the sun, gentle sweetness. Oh, wow. I can hardly wait to extract some of it and start using our very own honey!! (Our old honey, purchased from other local beekeepers, will probably land up in new batches of mead, lol!)

Here Jim and Lew are looking over the supers already in place.

Yup. They've been busy little bees!

In fact, they then placed our very last supers in place. This means we either need to buy more supers...or extract honey in the next week or so in order to reuse the ones we have. Yay!