Sassy and Sweet - Life on the Farm

Tattler Re-Usable Canning Lids WINNER!

Thank you for all of your wonderful comments on the Tattler re-usable canning lid post. So nice to hear from so many of you!

I posted the salsa article and Tattler give-away info on my Sassy & Sweet Notes blog as well. To combine all of the comments received in both locations, I pasted everyone's name into a spreadsheet (removed a few duplicates that were posted), and went out to random.org to generate a number.

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The random number between 1-113 that was selected was #89.

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And I see on my commenter spreadsheet that #89 is Carol Dee! 

Carol Dee, please get in touch with me and I will assist with communications with Tattler to get some lids sent out to you.

SALSA!

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We've had quite a lot of ripe tomatoes harvested this week, and we haven't been able to keep up with the harvest just by having fresh tomatoes. So, I decided to make some SALSA! I wanted to make a recipe that included fresh cilantro, but couldn't get my hands on any. And I haven't come across any cilantro seed either, so I haven't been able to grow my own in the garden.

So... when I was at the grocery store I picked up a little packet of dehydrated salsa ingredients (dried peppers, onions, herbs and seasoning) and used the recipe on the back of the packet along with the fresh tomatoes. The recipe couldn't get any easier ... chopped tomatoes, the ingredients of the packet, and 1/2 cup vinegar. (If you don't have fresh tomatoes on hand, store-bought canned/diced tomatoes can be used.)  I chose to freeze one quart of the salsa to see if we like the result of it being frozen, and then canned the rest of it for longer shelf-life storage.

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(Photo from Tattler's website)
I recently got some reusable canning jar lids by Tattler and thought this would be a great time to try them out. I've been using regular metal canning jar lids for our canned goods, but don't like that metal lids are really just a "one time wonder" when it comes to using them for preserving. (I do reuse the metal lids that are in good condition to cap jars that aren't being canned/sealed.)

Something else that's concerning is that I've noticed that metal canning lids are not always available in local stores. There always seems to be a few boxes of jars available, but extra lids aren't always in stock. Last time I bought a box of 12 metal regular sized canning lids (at a big-box store) I paid $1.63, and a box of wide mouth sized lids was $2.27. Investing in some reusable lids seems like a smart thing for me to do.

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I like the fact that the Tattler lids are reusable again and again, that they're made with BPA-free materials, and that they're made in the US. I also like that they can be used in water-bath canners, pressure canners, and can even be used for vacuum-sealing!

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I don't usually have trouble getting jars to seal, but since this was my first time using the Tattler lids, I kind of expected to have at least one or two seals fail simply due to my inexperience in using them. But I was very pleasantly surprised that every jar sealed up tight as can be! Beautifully! I also used Tattler lids to seal up a couple quart jars of yellow zucchini relish, and they turned out great, too!

Overall I'm pleased with the lids and the results. I opened up one of the salsa jars to test the seal and the salsa, and was impressed with both! Time for me to order up a few more boxes of Tattler lids and seals!

Would you like to try Tattler lids, too? I've arranged for the nice folks at Tattler to send one lucky (randomly selected) winner a box of 12 regular, and a box of 12 wide mouth lids. What a deal!!  Leave me a note on this blog post and you'll be entered into the give-away (this drawing is being hosted at my Sassy & Sweet Notes blog too, if you'd rather comment there). I would like to know what your favorite preserved food is, and what you enjoy preserving for you and your family. I will randomly select one winner on Monday morning, June 27th.

Now, where did that bag of chips go...

As always, you are invited to read more about our life on the farm.

Farm Update

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I thought I would share a few tidbits from the farm, and catch you up on what's been going on. We've had a VERY busy spring, and keeping up on all the farm chores, our "regular day jobs", and every day routines leaves little time for anything else. But we love it, and welcome each new day. We've got five kittens on the farm, old enough now that they've started bravely exploring the area around the storage/feed shed they live under.
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Oddly enough, the females are the friendliest of the bunch. Usually, it's the boys. When they're old enough, they'll visit the vet for a little snippity snip, and come back to the farm and take up residence in the barn.

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The garden is growing, and just starting to produce edibles. We enjoyed our first picking of green beans on Friday, and we enjoyed our first zucchini on Saturday! We've got more zucchini ready for picking, as well as a patty pan squash, and a handful of beans. The cucumber vines are LOADED with flowers, but 99% of them seem to be male flowers. Hopefully the female flowers will be along soon. The tomatoes are doing well, and I'm starting to see a few hints of red!
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The rattlesnake pole beans planted around the hackberry limb tee-pee trellis we built have sprouted! I can't wait to see the trellis filled with bean vines!
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The Thumbelina Zinnias were the first flowers to bloom, and their bright cheery faces are a wonderful thing to see! I look forward to more zinnias, and lots of sunflowers, too!

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In other critter news, we are patiently waiting for our red Dexter cow, Lucy, to deliver her 2011 calf. Come on, Lucy! We're READY when you are!! Looks like she'd rather be out in the pasture with the herd, but we've got her in the barnyard where she can deliver her baby under our watchful eye.

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The other calves have all been weaned, and are enjoying the good life. Dexters for Sale, Dexters for Sale! 

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We've got a few new chicks on the farm, too! I snapped this photo yesterday afternoon while making rounds with the camera. Looks like a great way to travel, when your legs are short!

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The hens are enjoying daytime free-ranging. Lots and LOTS of bugs to eat! Lots and LOTS of yummy eggs to produce!

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We continue to count our blessings on the farm, and hope you and your families enjoyed this Memorial Day weekend.  June is upon us, and it looks like summer is here to stay for a while.

Homemade Yogurt: Easier Than I Thought!

A photo of Anna WightI *love* yogurt. Plain yogurt with a splash of vanilla and a sprinkle of cinnamon and maybe some nutmeg. Yummm! But GOOD yogurt is expensive. And, I like "good" yogurt. So in an attempt to save money and learn a new skill, I figured it was about time I learned how to make it at home using supplies I have on hand. I did some digging around online and found several sources that helped me come up with my current "experiment". I've added links I found helpful at the bottom of this post if you're interested in them.

I gathered up all of the ingredients, sterilized several quart jars, set out my enameled cast iron dutch oven, the canning kettle, several towels, a thermometer, and a heating pad (one that doesn't have auto-shutoff). To the dutch oven I added a half gallon of 2% organic milk and 1 cup of powdered milk, and heated the mixture on the stove top to 170*. I added a bit of honey and vanilla, and let it cool to 115*. Once at 115*, I added about a 1/3 cup (I probably should have added 1/4 cup more...) of Fage 0% Greek yogurt for the "starter".

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Once the starter yogurt was stirred in, I ladled the mixture into the sterile jars, and set them into the canning kettle which INSTEAD OF WATER had the warm heating pad in the center.
 

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I covered the jars and heating pad loosely with towels, inserted a thermometer, and watched. The heating pad did a GREAT job of keeping the heat in the canning kettle very consistent! By morning, I hoped to have some tasty homemade yogurt to enjoy.

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Morning rolled around, and I was pleased with the progress in the jars. The thermometer was still at an ideal temp, and the milk had taken on a a wonderful creamy yogurt texture that I couldn't wait to try! I popped the jars into the refrigerator to cool, and went about my morning routine.

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Lunch seemed like the perfect time to try the yogurt. Wow, was it ever good! Very creamy, silk-like texture that was perfect straight out of the jar! I'm convinced, this is a recipe I will be making again and again! Deeee-lish!

Do you make your own homemade yogurt? I'd love to hear how you do it!

 Links to check out:
(I have no affiliations with the authors of the information shared in these links, I just found them helpful)
1. Good Eats Video: Good Milk Gone Bad 
He only heats the milk/powdered milk mixture to 120*, then lets it cool to 115*. I will try this next time. That would take a lot less time.
2. YankeePrepper YouTube Video: How to Make Your Own Yogurt
3. Nourished Kitchen: Homemade Yogurt 

 As always, you are invited to read more about our life on the farm.
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Pressure Canning: Your Advice

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The weather outside is frightfully chilly, but like many, I've got gardening on the brain. Along with gardening comes thoughts of food storage. I don't own a pressure cooker, and wonder if it might be time to add one to the kitchen.

We have a glasstop stove, and not all pressure cookers are recommended on glass/smooth top cooking surfaces. Do you have any words of wisdom about pressure canning on a glasstop cook surface?

On the Farm Calendar Winner!

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Thanks to all who entered the drawing to win a free copy of our 2011 On the Farm calendar. We hope 2011 shapes up to be a successful year for us all; I'm looking forward to baby chickens, of course! *grin*

I entered each commenter's name into a mug and Alan pulled out one lucky winner ... big congrats to Nebraska Dave!! Get in touch with me Dave, and I'll get your choice of small or standard sized calendar out to you right away! We hope you enjoy spending your year with our calendar.

As always, you are invited to read more about our life on the farm.

Thanks for checking in!

2011 On the Farm Calendar

I love photography and am always finding fun things to photograph here on the farm. Last December I went through my photos and put together a special 2011 On the Farm calendar featuring various critters here on the farm, some images from the garden, and even some farm landscapes. The purpose of the calendar was not only for our own home use, but it also made wonderful gifts for the holidays, and we also hoped that sales of the calendar would bring in a little cash that we could put towards caring for the farm critters.

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I thought I would offer up a free calendar to one lucky Grit blog reader! If you would like to enter the drawing for an On the Farm calendar, simply leave a comment on this post and tell me what you most look forward to in the coming year. I'll randomly select one name from all comments on Friday, January 21st at 10am Central. The one lucky reader selected will be given their choice of a small, or standard sized, 2011 On the Farm calendar.

And well, if you don't win the drawing on Sunday, it's not too late to order up your own copy of On the Farm!

 

As always, you are invited to read more about our life on the farm.

Thanks for checking in, and happy weekend!