Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Adoption Updates - closer and closer

There is not always anything new to report on the adoption homefront.  It would consist of telling you about the challenges of getting all the paperwork in order, which would be very boring.  However, today I feel like we hit a small milestone.  We received our initial homestudy draft, which we corrected with a couple small changes, and Vickie, our wonderful social worker, sent back word saying she was finished correcting everything.  She is waiting on one reference, then she can send our homestudy report to be approved by AWAA.  We began faxing documents that have been collected and notarized to our family coordinator, Emily, in Virginia.  She will review them and let us know of any changes to be made.  There are still some documents left to finish, but we are almost ready to apply to USCIS for fingerprints and have our dossier certified by our state.  So we are getting closer and closer to being DTE (Dossier to Ethiopia) - the date we can't wait to write beside our names!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Flowers

I love the simple look of flowers in a canning jar.  Sometimes I buy flowers from the store but I don't like to spend the money. Usually it's just weeds the children have picked that grace the jars in my home.  The best flowers are the ones that Jayde, Alana, or Easton pick with me in mind.  It doesn't matter what they look like.  They love seeing their "flowers" adorn the table, and so do I.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Pickles

I made 26 jars of pickles so far this season.  7 were dill and the rest were bread and butter pickles because the sweet ones are what most of my family prefers.  To can pickles, I use a water bath canner.  This is different from the pressure canner I used to make the jars of green beans.  Canning in a water bath canner is a much shorter process, but you can only use it for high acid foods like fruit, pickles, and tomatoes.  All veggies and meats must be canned in a pressure canner. 

To make dill pickles, a mixture is made of vinegar and spices on the stove and then poured into waiting jars of cucumbers.  The cucumbers that go into making sweet pickles are actually mixed in with vinegar and spices and boiled first on the stove, then ladled into jars.  Each recipe is different.  Here's a picture of the jars coming out of the canner after they have been processed.  Dill pickles are processed for 15 minutes, sweet pickles for 10. 


Finally, some jars of pickles we can eat this year.  We still have a few left from last year, too.  My mouth is watering.

Green Beans

Last year we canned an abundance of green beans.  Since I still have some of those full jars left over, we only canned 12 quarts of beans this year.  We froze 20 gallons of beans and 19 quarts.  With the jars that are left from last year, this will be enough to last us until next spring, when we start the process all over!  My children love green beans that have been frozen.  They like to eat them sauteed in olive oil or butter with some salt and pepper.  The beans are still a little crunchy this way. 

To freeze or can green beans, you must snap off the ends.  First, you hire child labor.  Or parental labor.  Or spousal labor.  Or friendly neighbor labor.  If you have no one to help you, you can do it yourself.  Though I pity you if you have picked 10 buckets of beans.


Then, you wash the beans and drain them.




Fill a stainless steel pot with 3/4 full with water and bring it to a boil.   I had two pots going at once to alternate them so the process would go faster.  When the water comes to a full boil, add green beans and blanch them for 3-4 minutes.


Drain the beans in a colander and immediately immerse them in an ice water bath.  I use a large stainless steel bowl (you can get one inexpensively at Ikea).  The ice water cools them quickly so the beans stop cooking and don't get too mushy.


After the beans are completely cooled, scoop them out (I use a hand-held small colander) and put them in freezer bags.  They should be put into the freezer as soon as possible.




The process of canning beans takes longer to explain in detail, so I'll give you a summary.  I use the raw pack method where the beans are not cooked before they are canned.  I put the beans into hot jars and fill the jars with boiling water, leaving one-inch headspace.  Then I put on the hot lid and screwband and tighten.  The jars are put into my canner.  Every canner is different, so you must check your canner's directions to be sure you are processing correctly.  My canner holds 6 quart jars at a time.  Each canning cycle takes me about 2 1/2 hours from start to finish including getting the beans into the jars, processing them, and cooling off the canner.  Here's a picture of my canner with jars of beans cooling inside:


Here are some finished jars of beans.  What satisfaction to look at your jars when they are finished as well as the bags stacked in the freezer and know it came from your garden.  It's so worth the time and effort!



While you are putting up your beans, you can cook some for dinner.  Yum!


2011 Garden Season - Take One

The spring gardening season has begun.  Our garden is approximately a quarter of an acre.  This season we have black-eyed peas, zipper peas, purple hull peas, yellow squash, butternut squash, pickling cucumbers, corn, green beans, okra, and tomatoes planted there.  We have herbs (cilantro, basil, rosemary, and oregano) and jalepenos planted on or near the front porch.  Last week our garden started "coming in", as I call it.  Three days last week were spent picking and putting up the green beans, squash, and cucumbers that came in.  My dad and Alan's dad helped pick and I was grateful to get the help!  They also took buckets of beans home to snap and wash them to help me get ready to put up.  I am a very blessed girl to have parents who like to assist with the garden.  Thank you all!

Here is a picture of some of the produce we picked.  There were many more buckets of green beans but some had been snapped already, and we gave away most of the squash.


In my next post I'll show how we put up the green beans.