Here on our little hillside, in WV, we try to live a simple life. One where we can try to make the best decisions in regards to what we feed our family, and where we source our foods. We try to make green decision that are not only good for our family but for our community and planet as well. There is no place I would rather raise a family, than these WV hills! So I guess it is our responsibility to preserve them, and our heritage.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The Maple Syrup Experiment

We have been wanting to make our own maple syrup for years.  This year, we finally started the process.  We tapped a few trees and collected the syrup daily for a few weeks.  We boiled down what we had and perfected our process of cooking it off, straining it and storing it.  Next year we are going to work on making a sugar shack and running the lines to it.  We plan on running off much larger batches and possibly having some for commercial sales if all plans are successful.  

We tried many different methods for collection.  Metal and plastic jugs, from 1 gallon to 5 gallon.

 We boiled and boiled.  Boiled and Boiled.  Then we boiled some more.  We were checking out the evaporation rate and mapping out plans to stream line the process and make it more efficient.  Your Clear sap starts to turn darker as it boils down and the sugar content increases.

Our first batch after the first filtering.  

Of course we had to try out the final product with our homemade pancakes and local raised and processed whole hog sausage.  

The Final product was slightly over a half gallon of delicious Local Maple Syrup.  We have shared a few samples with family and friends, but we are hoarding a quart back for our Counties local fair, The Buckwheat Festival!  Come September the Buckwheat cake, Sausage and Maple syrup eating shall commence.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Strawberry Freezer Jam

Every year the local High School FFA does a fundraiser where they sell strawberries.  Every year, we support them.  I made a few rounds of Strawberry Freezer Jam this year.  We also ate some fresh berries, and I used the extra crushed berries to make strawberry syrup.  I ended up with a double batch of jam.  I will do more later in the year as our berries ripen.

I began by removing the stems and soaking the berries in water and a few drops of my doTerra Lemon oil.  I used a stainless steel bowl and used this as a pre-wash for the berries.  Lemon Oil can dissolve petrochemicals, since I know these berries are conventionally grown and not organic.  I am hoping that this oil/water rinse will help remove any petro based pesticides/herbicides/etc.  It is also a good cleaner in general and food safe.  I always use this oil when cleaning fruit.  I then rinsed the berries in cold water and proceeded to cleaning and cutting them up.

I added them to the food processor and pulsed until they were to my desired thickness.

Freezer jam is super sweet and we add twice as much sugar as berries.
I had 4 cups of crushed berries and 8 cups of sugar along with 2 tsp of lemon juice for my double batch.  Mix this well and let it sit for about 10 minutes while you prepare the pectin.

Mix 3/4 cup of water with each packet of pectin (or as directions indicate) into a sauce pan and bring to a rolling boil for 1 minute.  Mix into the berry/sugar mixture for 3 minutes or until well combined. Put into freezer safe containers and place on counter for 24 hours then add to freezer for long term storage.

Strawberry freezer Jam has always been a favorite in our house.  My Mammaw always made it, and my mom.  In fact they both still make multiple batches each year.  My Mammaw started mixing strawberry and blueberry and man is it good!!  Especially on homemade vanilla ice cream!!  

Friday, August 7, 2015

Chocolate Zucchini Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream Icing

Like most people who garden, we tend to always have an over abundance of zucchini.  I have tried some fabulous recipes including zucchini brownies, lemon zucchini bread, fritters, and baked zucchini sticks.  My little one has been asking for cupcakes the last few days and I did have an extra zucchini on the counter, I browsed for a few recipes and tweaked them just a little and made her chocolate cupcakes.  She helped me make them, but I am know she didn't realize that over 2 cups of healthy vegetables went in her dessert.  Mom Score!!  Also these cupcakes are beyond ridiculously moist.

Chocolate Zucchini Cupcakes

1/4 butter
1/4 coconut oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup milk
2 cups flour
1/2 cocoa powder
1/1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Someone had to taste them!?

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Fill cupcake liners about 3/4 full and bake for 20 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.  Move from pan to wire rack.  Allow to cool completely and add your choice of frosting/icing.  I chose a chocolate buttercream, but a peanut butter icing or even just a dusting of powdered sugar would be delicious.  Makes 18 cupcakes

Chocolate Buttercream Icing

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup coconut oil
3/4 cocoa powder
1 lb powdered sugar
1/3 cup melted milk chocolate
1 teaspoon vanilla
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon (then you can add more to reach desired thickness)

Cream butter and oil
add vanilla and pinch of salt
then add in powdered sugar and cocoa powder
and the milk to reach the thickness you like
I then keep mixing and add the 1/3 cup of melted milk chocolate until it blends in smooth and creamy.

The coconut oil does give it a hint of coconut flavor.  If you want to avoid this, you can substitute butter or shortening.  (Coconut oil cuts out the GMO's)

Friday, July 24, 2015

Local meats, you've tried them right??

So they other day I grabbed a package of store bought sausage out of the deep freezer.  We do not normally purchase these meats from the store, but I thought I would get rid of the pack that had been in there.  Our local high school has a meat processing class that makes the best sausage I have ever had.  We also have a local butcher whose meat is not far behind.  Neither of these processors raise the meat the butcher, but most is local.  As I opened the store bought kind, I realized I was going to end up frying two packs.  This meat was mushy.  I know it is ground pork, but it should not be mushy.  Then as I started frying it, I again realized why er do not purchase sausage or burger from the super markets, especially chain stores, the local markets as least have butchers on site.

Here is the comparison between the two.

Look at all the grease as it fries....

I ended up with a half a bowl of meat

crumbly greasy meat

and 3/4 a cup of grease

looks yummy huh??

Local butchered

A full bowl of meat and a 1/4 of grease (if that)

Guess which one I made sausage gravy and biscuits with?

Crumbly greasy store bought sausage

chunky, meaty, locally butchered meat

The difference in quality is obvious.  The store bought, mass produced stuff is nowhere near as healthy or tasty as the local options.  If you do not shop with your local butcher, or farmers markets, you really should give the local shops and farms a try.  It is better for you and the environment.  Buying local also helps support the local economy!  Check out your local meat sources today!!