Updated: Jun 20, 2022
HONK!!!! HONK!!!! HONK!!!! It's such a beautiful sound...said no one ever. UNLESS it's the beautiful sound I'm referring to...the sound of geese, flying in their arrow head formation above the trees in the gray skies with the sun fading in the background. It's magical to me. One of the ways I like to describe my feelings about autumn and winter is visually through Terry Redlin paintings. Are you familiar with Terry Redlin? I don't know much about him as an artist, but I absolutely love his paintings. His work is how I envision our own cabin in the woods if we had one or little towns that I would want to live in. I like to think that someday it will be like this! When my son was very young, I actually painted a mural on one of his bedroom walls inspired by Terry Redlin paintings, cabin, lake, pine trees and all! It wasn't quite the mirror image of his work, however, it worked for a nine year old! Here's some Terry Redlin paintings to give you an idea of the images in my headspace this time of year.
Now do you see why I love being home so much? Or better yet, can you see why I want a cabin or cottage in the woods to get away to? Creating this ambiance makes me crave HOME. Candles burning, soft lighting from lamps, music going (for me, it's mostly classical music), the smell of wet leaves or hickory smoke...or both...
And you know what else is magical? FOOD! Honestly, when isn't food magical? In our house, we cook seasonally, trying to use seasonal vegetables in most of our dinners. But breakfasts and lunches also take on a different 'attitude' as well. I'm not sure why, but the smell of bacon in the fall and winter, or even oatmeal for that matter, is unreal! It's like your house in no longer a structure, but is now a part of the meal because it has taken on the scent of your cooking!
And, this is harvest season! I can't say that we have anything to harvest, but we have cherry tomatoes and jalapeños that are still producing! Bill was out there yesterday after work collecting which shocks us both!
Look at him getting in there collecting all the goods! These raised beds really paid off this year, that's for sure! Those tomato vines draped over so much that if he were to stretch them straight up, they would have CLEARLY been over 20 feet tall! They just kept going and we have never seen anything so healthy! Good dirt was the key that's all I can say!
And speaking of good dirt, remember our trip to Amishland in my last post? Well, while we were there, we did a little "harvesting" at one of the stores. Items in the store are homemade, locally made, locally grown, locally harvested and just plain delicious...oh and did I mention HUGE? As you walk into the store, they have BINS AND BINS of apples for you to pick and choose or buy in bulk. Bill is a lover of Honeycrisp so we bought a large bag for me to cut and freeze. I placed one next to our grocery store bought Honeycrisp for you to see! Seriously, you've heard the saying 'go big or go home'...well, EVERYTHING the amish grow or make is BIG!
They're MONSTROUS! And delicious! And now we can have some throughout the year because a friend of mine taught me how to get them freezer ready and it's super easy! All you have to is peel all your apples and cut them in medium size pieces. Fill your sink with water and add some table salt to the sink bowl.
I don't measure the salt but you can see it sitting at the bottom of the bowl above. Just mix it all around then add your cut apples to the water.
Let them soak for about 15 minutes, then remove the apples to a bowl without rinsing. The salt acts as a preservative, keeping them from turning brown, but doesn't make them taste different!
Then, after the water has dripped off, I went ahead and used my vacuum sealer to prepare the few bags of apples I was able to produce! Super easy! Funny how these bags don't look very big, but they are plenty big for an easy side dish of fried apples for dinner!
After freezing these, I was pretty upset we hadn't bought more apples because I had an urge to make homemade apple butter. Bill and I were introduced to apple butter growing up and our kids were introduced to it thanks to the many trips to Amishland so it's a favorite of everyone's! So, since I didn't have any apples left, I headed to the grocery store (farmer's market was closed!) and bought a variety of apples. I took to Pinterest to research a few different recipes, looking for a crock pot version and finding the ones with the spices I like. After all was said and done, I wrote down a combination of a few different recipes, taking measurements, ingredients, cooking times, and directions from different ones. And then I got started!
I started with 6 pounds of apples, peeled and cut into medium pieces (like my freezer apples) I placed the cut apples into a crock pot. Then I added all my spices and tossed the apples a little. Afterwards, I placed the lid on, turned the temp on high and let it go for two hours. Making apple butter takes a LOT of time, so the two hours was just the start.
At the two hour mark, I turned the temp to low and let it simmer for 6 more hours! This is a perfect stay at home project to do, especially on a rainy Sunday and you want your house to smell good.
When the apples had been cooking for a total of 8 hours, I pulled out my emulsion blender and blended it all up, removing the chunks, being careful to keep the blender IN the crockpot and not removing it as it was spinning because the contents was extremely HOT! You don't want to get splattered by this, that's for sure. Then I cranked the heat up again for the final two hours. You will notice the "juice/sauce" has started to evaporate and reduced to a thicker consistency.
After 10 hours, it should be a thicker. I bottled it up in jars that I save and recycle. Not to get off subject here, but does anyone else save glass jars like I do? The jars I save are normally from spaghetti sauce or something like that and come with great lids. Plus if I use them, say for pickles, and give them away, I feel no loss of money spent on mason jars, etc. Oh, and you can use a sharpie and write on them; it easily washes off. I love GLASS JARS! For those who enjoy canning and want a longer shelf life for the apple butter, this can easily be canned. I, on the other hand, don't can, but found that when I put the hot jars (with lids on) straight into the refrigerator after filling, the seal "popped"! The apple butter won't last that long though because we will go through it pretty fast this season AND of course I had to share a few jars with the kids!
How did my first attempt at making apple butter taste? Well, Bill took a little spoonful and his reaction was, "oh DAMN, that's good..." so I'm going with two thumbs up!👍🏼👍🏼
After the apples were taken care of I got to work on something I had been wanting to do for quite some time. You all probably know by now that I've tried to continuously educate myself (and our family) about clean living and continuously trying to learn about clean eating. The amount of information out there with these two topics is profound. Just when you're learning and diving deep into one thing, this little branch pops up and takes you on to something else. I swear, there is NEVER enough time to learn it all, but I hold steadfast and continue going at a pace that works, at least for me.
With that being said, it feels like label reading has become my second job. Actually, for Bill as well. I won't dive into it, but I sure do wish EVERYONE would read food labels. Our bodies are being poisoned (for lack of a better word) by our food industry and I'm blown away that it's taken me this long to see it. And the reason I know it's true is because I was FEELING it. (and still am) After discovering so many chemicals in our food, the reasons why they are in there, etc., my mind is blown. THEN, when our bodies can't handle the toxicity, we are forced to seek medical attention and given medication that does NOT cure the situation, but rather treats the symptoms and God only knows what else it has done to our already jacked up system. You are what you eat...truer words have never been said.
Bill and I had this discussion last night. He's a huge apple and peanut butter lover and has it everyday for lunch. I told him (after finding out from our nutrition response practitioner that his body was showing results of glyphosate which is the herbicide in Roundup) that it is imperative that he eats only organic apples and 'not just what's on sale' as well as continuing to eat only other organic fruits and vegetables. He said that he had a hard time believing that one apple a day was going to do that. My argument was this, "We all know that a can of Coke Cola is not good. Imagine having a can of Coke every day. I mean, it's only one can, right? But everyday...it adds up. Or even a piece of cake. It's one piece...now imagine one piece everyday...all that sugar you just had in one year from one slice of cake. That apple, being treated with some sort of herbicide/pesticide will start to accrue toxins in your body!" And here we all are thinking an apple a day will keep the doctor away...
And speaking of doctors and to get back to what I was 'cooking up in the kitchen', one of the things I've taken a huge interest in is herbal healing. You know, humans have been around for a long time, longer than western medicine. I mean, go back and look at history books (before they change them anyway lol) and seek out tribes or even doctors or witches in early centuries. Herbalists were sought out...for EVERYTHING from curing ailments to preventing conception. They were our first pharmacists! This skill/trade has been brushed aside so far and away, but fortunately there are still many who have studied, haven been taught by past generations, and who are willing to share their knowledge to help mankind.
I wish I had learned this sooner, been able to soak up more information when I was younger just to use it, teach it, document, and share it, BUT better late than never, right? So, I am starting off small lol and this month I made two home remedies that I've started to use. The first, most of you have probably heard of. Elderberry syrup. Packed with some good fighting juju, elderberry syrup is best taken as a "preventative" and/or at the onset of an infection. In slow man terms (my terms), it prevents infections from getting inside the cell so that's why it's important to take at the onset of an infection, so the spread is haulted. Making the syrup was pretty easy, simply made on the stove top. Outside of having the elderberries, which I picked up in Amishland, you probably have all the ingredients to make the syrup! And it tastes amazing! I felt like Mary Poppins when I took my first spoonful!
And here I am with my recycled glass jars again and the finished product! Actually, one is a plastic squeeze bottle lol. I even made labels with my Instagram/Etsy store name even though I won't be selling these types of products in my Etsy store. My herbal "concoctions" are for family use only, but I'm more than happy to share recipes!
The other remedy I made may not be as well known, but if you are a homesteader, farmer, or grew up with or around them, you probably have heard of it. It's called Fire Cider and when you hear what's in it, you'll understand the fire lol. This cider is taken when you start with congestion. Do yourself a favor and look up all the wonderful ingredients and what natural chemical compounds are in them; what they are packed with to help your body! Remember, man is always trying to outdo nature...because nature is so incredibly powerful.
Fire Cider is a mixture of some great everyday kitchen foods. I chose foods that our family can tolerate and/or enjoy which are onions, garlic, ginger, horseradish, and apple cider vinegar. However, the best part of this recipe is you can tailor it to your own taste. Lots of people add a variety of hot peppers, using the capsaicin the peppers produce as an added bonus to the effect. Our family does not take well to peppers so I eliminated those. This remedy is easy to create, but does take a good 2-4 weeks of sitting time for all the ingredients to ferment and combine. All you have to do is dice up an onion (eliminate if you are allergic to onions like my son!), peel a WHOLE garlic bulb-then SMASH and dice (it's very important to smash the garlic) , peel and grate/dice a few fingers of ginger, peel and dice some horseradish root and place it all in a mason jar and top with apple cider vinegar. Shake contents daily and store out of sunlight for 2-4 weeks. Then, strain ingredients into a bowl or large measuring cup and add 1/4 cup of raw honey. Mix well, bottle it up, and refrigerate. If and when you feel congested, take a "shot" of the Fire Cider. If it's too potent, add a shot to an 8oz glass of water.
Since it takes a few weeks to 'brew', I decided to start another jar since we are coming up on the "traditional" flu season. (again for lack of better words!) Unlike western medicine, herbs and homemade remedies such as these work differently. When we have sinus congestion, we just pop a sudafed or the like and expect the symptoms to start to dissipate. Herbs help with symptoms, but also with taking care of the problem! And they don't necessarily work like western medicine when it comes to time line. Fighting infections starts with good health. This helps the herbs work faster. Herbs are potent, but don't get their use confused with over the counter/prescription medicines.
I hope I inspired you to cook something up in your kitchen or better yet, research some natural home remedies! I'll be posting the recipes to all of these under my Recipe tab soon if you are interested in making any of them!