Honey Spiced Apple Butter

Apple butter is to me what Fall is made of. Apple harvesting and spices filling the house.

This apple butter is cooked in apple cider, to deepen the flavors and is lightly sweetened with honey.

Recipe adapted from Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.

Honey Spiced Apple Butter

Ingredients:

  • 6 pounds apples,  peeled, cored & sliced
  • 2 cusp apple cider
  • 1 cup raw honey
  • 1½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground cloves

Directions:

Add all the ingredients into a slow cooker (used a 6 quart Instant Pot with a glass lid). Cover and let cook on high for 6 hours, stirring every hour or so.

Mash up well, and test for thickness by mounding on a large metal spoon. If it is still too thin continue cooking but leave the lid off until as thick as you like.

Meanwhile, when the apple butter is nearly ready place 5 pint jars in a canning kettle. Fill jars up with water, and the kettle about halfway full. Bring to a boil.

Add the lids and rings to a small pot, bring to a simmer.

Sterilize a canning funnel, ladle and air bubble popper in the hot water in the kettle.

Drain the jars into the kettle, place warm jars on a clean kitchen towel.

Fill with hot butter, leaving a ¼” headspace.

Run the bubble popper in each jar.

Wipe the rims with a new damp paper towel.

Place a drained lid on each jar, then finger tighten the rings.

Place the jars into the kettle, lower the rack in. Make sure the jars are covered with water.

Bring to a boil, process for 10 minutes.

Remove the jars, let cool on a towel covered rack.

Remove rings, check that each lid is flat and sealed.

Mark contents on lid, use within a year.

Makes about 5 pints.

~Sarah

Instant Pot Lentil Soup

I’ll be honest….I have never had much of a love affair with lentils, no matter how many times I tried new ways to eat them. From long ago days of eating at the Hippy Hut™ (the local food co-op in college….hah!) to so many ways in our years eating vegan. I simply could not get past the mushy texture or the earthy smell. Outside of a few over priced bags of precooked (firm) lentils from upscale grocery stores, we just didn’t eat lentils.

Until I did them in our Instant Pot. And that changed everything. The texture is wonderful, and the aroma is inviting. Bonus? The soup is vegan/plant based friendly, though we liked ours with a sprinkle of grated Parmesan cheese on top.

Instant Pot Lentil Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp olive or avocado oil
  • 1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 5 large carrots, peeled and sliced into coins
  • 2 large celery stalks, sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1½ cups lentils, picked over and rinsed
  • 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 Tbsp dried parsley
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 4 cups lower sodium vegetable broth
  • 5-ounce bag spinach leaves, chopped
  • Parmesan cheese, if desired

Directions:

Turn Instant Pot to “Saute” and “more”, let heat up and add in oil, onion, carrot and celery. Saute for 5 minutes, then add in garlic, saute for another minute.

Add in the lentils, tomatoes, herbs and broth, stirring.

Put on lid, sealing properly.

Turn to “Pressure Cook” (Manual on some models), “High” and for 15 minutes time.

When done, use pressure release valve for a quick release. Open lid carefully, and add in spinach, stirring well. Let sit for a few minutes for spinach to wilt.

If desired, sprinkle a bit of Parmesan grated on each serving.

Serves 6 to 8, depending on appetite.

Notes:

All lentils should be picked and rinsed well before using. I measure, then pour them onto a rimmed baking sheet, to spread out. Take a few minutes to look them over, and remove any that are really wrinkled as well. Then put into a fine mesh strainer and rinse.

I am currently using a 6 quart Instant Pot Ultra. While we have an 8 quart, I found I often didn’t need it that big for our family of 5.

~Sarah

You’ll Have Those Days

….When nothing sounds better than to be living in a condo, surrounded by miles of pavement.

Sunday and Monday it rained about an inch in 36 hours. For the island, in the Olympic Rainshadow, that is a lot of water to deal with (it would be like 3″ of rain on the mainland). We had a huge mess out back by the shop area. While most of the gutters are buried and pour into the woods downhill, the lean to section had no gutters. It was boot sucking in some areas, as we trenched to get the pools moving downhill. Finally the water was moving, and we were able to breathe. We were fortunate, the water didn’t get high enough to get into the shop thankfully. The back of the shop, we have the gutters coming into a “Y” so they can be easily hooked into water tanks. Well, normal years we’d have had weeks to get the tanks into place. Not this year!

The other issue was we were waiting on our landshapers to come back and do the road up to the shop, and we thought we’d be OK with what we needed to do waiting a few weeks. Usually September is dryer. But not this year, it is one of the rainiest ones in history.

With a couple of days of sunny and dry weather, we got busy. The lean to section is now fully guttered. We just have to hook up temporary tubes to carry rain off. They will eventually be put into trenches.

I love living rural, love our land and homestead…but I won’t lie. When your foot sinks into mud quicksand and you fall on your hands and knees, then have to pry your leg out….it’s hard to feel love at that moment.

But then the sun came out and it helped me realize we’d get it all done. We’d be OK. And that concrete just doesn’t make my heart sing like trees do.

~Sarah

Lower Sugar Pepper Jelly

There is nothing quite like handcrafted pepper jelly, spread on a sandwich in winter. It adds so much depth. Using Pomona’s Pectin, and based off their recipe, you can make a lower sugar version quickly. Pomona’s Pectin can seem at first to be a bit harder to use, but after a few canning sessions you won’t ever want to go back to the other brands. More so, one box will often do 2 batches of canning, and it lasts forever in the pantry. This pectin has no preservatives, no added sugars and you don’t need 7 cups sugar to make a small batch of jelly! (Also, you can use honey to make jam with it.) No more need to buy super sweet $7 a jar pepper jelly in delis. And you know exactly what has gone into it.

Lower Sugar Pepper Jelly

Ingredients:

  • 1 large green bell pepper
  • 1 large red bell pepper
  • 2 to 4 Jalapeños
  • 2 2/3 cups apple cider vinegar (5% acidity)
  • 4 tsp calcium water*
  • 4 2/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 Tbsp Pomona’s Pectin

Directions:

Add 7 12-ounce mason canning into a water bath canner. Fill jars with water and the pot about halfway. Bring to a boil.

Add the bands and new lids to a small saucepan, cover with water. Bring to a simmer.

Wash the peppers. Remove seeds and discard. Finely chop all peppers. Measure 1 cup green bell, 1 cup red bell and 2/3 cup Jalapeños (How many you will need depends on size. Try to buy large ones.)

Add to a large non reactive stock pot (stainless steel is best). Add in apple cider vinegar.

Bring to a boil, cover and let simmer for 5 minutes.

Measure 1 cup of the sugar into a bowl. Thoroughly mix pectin powder into the cup of sugar. Set aside.

Add calcium water, and mix well

Add pectin-sugar mix, stirring vigorously for 1 to 2 minutes to dissolve the pectin.

Add remaining sugar once pectin is dissolved. Stir well and return to a full boil. Once the jam returns to a full boil, remove it from the heat.

Drain canning jars, place on a clean kitchen towel. Sterilize ladle.

Fill hot jars to ¼” of top. Wipe rims clean with a new damp paper towel. Place a drained lid on each jar, screw band on finger tight.

Place filled jars in canning pot, lower rack in. Make sure the jars are covered with water. Bring to a boil, and maintain boil 10 minutes (add 1 minute more for every 1,000 ft. above sea level).

Remove jars from water. Let jars cool on a clean kitchen towel. Remove bands and wash, check seals on jars; lids should be sucked down.

Consume within 1 year, once opened eat within 3 weeks. Jelly should sit for a few days/week before eating, as Pomona jelly/jam can take a bit longer to fully set up.

Note:

You can use whatever size mason jars you have on hand. I had about 5¼ cups jelly to can. Your amount may vary on how much your mixture cooks down while simmering. You may get more.

*To make the calcium water, follow the directions in the Pomona package. It is the smaller of the two packets in the box. It keep nearly forever once mixed with water in your refrigerator.

~Sarah

We Built A Shop And Learned So Much

When we bought our property in early 2018 it came with no garage nor shop. Well, we had it all planned out. We’d build a shop. I mean, how hard could that be? (Start laughing now….) We figured it would take time, but we didn’t expect it would take 17 months and 4 days from moving to using our shop. Lesson learned. Building small sheds is easy enough….but when working with raw land it will take time. What took the most time? First we had to decide on how we wanted the shop to like like. Then who to build it. We signed a contract end of summer of 2018 with a builder. Then we had to find local help to do the clearing, grading and getting the site ready. This took considerable time – and we got to experience “island time” first hand. The land shaping company we were recommended to use by the builder ghosted us. Twice. We found a different company that did the job – and showed up on time. But at that point we were 2 months behind schedule. They did a great job taking a site that was an overgrown forest full of dig pits, and shaping it into a usable slab.

So, with many photos to show how the land was shaped and built on, walk through with us on our adventure. Starting in April of 2019 to its completion in August of 2019.

The shop was built in an area that had been cleared long ago, then an ill managed forest regrew. It was mostly thin, tall Hemlocks in poor shape. The forest was choked, dim, and unhealthy.

One of the big issues we faced when we bought the land was finding “dig pits” in this area. Our only guess is they were taking top soil for jobs, as he was a contractor. At some point when the land was first developed he had planned to build a shop but never did. After that, he dig up holes making it nearly impossible to access the upper land. By this picture in April we had filled in the main hole in the “driveway” to the upper part. We had cut back the forest so we could get the tractor around it. There were multiple holes 6 feet deep and 20 to 40 feet long.

This was the access road from the other side (hole is in the distance). Typical over grown forest.

When our land shapers showed up, we had them clear 100 feet of land length wise.

This was drudgery work and involved many thin, and dead, trees coming down, and many, many root balls being dug up.

Clearing and root ball piles starting to show.

Nearly done with phase 1. We gave away a lot of the Hemlocks to people needing firewood.

We paid to have them run the slash fire, coming in as the most likely last commercial fire permit issued for the season before the burn ban started for the summer.

For a commercial slash fire there must be an excavator on site to tend to it. It’s the only feasible way to get rid of that many tree stumps. And while they had the fire going……

They cleared the flat area across the way. And they even let Walker drive the ancient bulldozer. He was over the moon about that!

We think this is where the previous owner wanted to have his shop built. It was mostly flat and had been cleared. However, he had left a massive burn pile in the center of old rotting trees. It was so old there was a 40 foot Alder tree growing in it! It didn’t add much to have this section cleared and flattened more, and we know we will either farm it, or do building on it.

The fire was left for a month to burn out. Yes. A month. This is how building takes so long. We knew it would eat up time though. Burning on the build site was the best choice, as it wasn’t near property lines, where we might have had neighbors complaining to the fire department.

Pano of the build site, with the fire in the center. The road up to the site was also rebuilt.

While all that was happening they created a decent driveway down by the house. When we moved in, the driveway was a tight lollypop loop that was hard to navigate. You couldn’t see through it, and UPS and similar had to often back and fill to make it around. This was after we had cut down all the trees and the crew was getting ready to haul out the extra soil. (They were also building the driveway to the upper then.)

The difference was huge. Suddenly you could park. You could drive. No tree stumps to hit. No scratching of paint….

Back to work, they were digging the fire pit open, a month later it was still burning inside.

Shaping, moving and more shaping.

Slowly you could see the building pad take shape.

Ecology blocks to finish the corner. But flat. Flat finally.

Pano of the road up to the building site.

Then it just sat. Done and waiting. Waiting on the builders. And it felt like it would never happen but in June supplies started showing up.

Then it started.

Day one. Poles in.

Day 2. Framing went up.

Day 3. Roof was built.

Day 4 the roof started going on.

From the woods.

Day 5 the sidewalls and insulation started going up, as did the siding.

Starting to take shape.

Side view.

Looking at the sides.

Concrete day.

The stoop and the boys.

Walker wrote his big.

Alistaire used a stick.

Concrete done. Then….to let it sit and cure, and dry out.

The view of the back. Not long after this, the gutters were installed. The back wall ones are tied in for later connecting to water tanks behind.

Then we had a lean to installed at the end. This allows for vehicle storage.

Finally the floors were dry…and the doors were installed at the end of August.

And then….17 months later, we had a shop. That is like nearly instant, no?

The road still needs to be finished, and the lean to needs gutters, and electric needs to be run…..but it’s close enough, and we can use it finally.

But I can’t say I want to build a house anytime soon after this…..

~Sarah