Sunday, December 17, 2017

Food Preservation

Mother’s Fall Garden

Dear Mothers,

Ya know in the old days, when the cool days of autumn would come, the old time Mothers would start gathering all of the odds and ends out of her garden before the late fall freeze came. Nothing was ever wasted.

She would take her basket of green tomatoes into the pantry and put them into paper sacks to wait for them to ripen. Then she would gather up all of the other leftover garden vegetables. Maybe there was a handful of green beans and a few overripe and too big cucumbers. She may have found a couple ears of corn someone forgot to pick. Maybe some small cabbages that grew after the first one was cut off. As she pulls the garden up, she finds some onions and peppers, too. And out of all of this, Mother made Piccalilli.

Mother would wash up all of her gleanings and then put them through her meat grinder. Then she made a relish with just the leftovers from her summer garden. After all of these vegetables went through the meat grinder, she would put them in a big pan of vinegar and sugar, spices and fresh herbs from her herb garden. She brought this mix just to a boil. Then she canned her creation in jars to store in the root cellar for winter meals. She put in herbs like garlic and ginger root and maybe some horseradish. Dill and marjoram. Mother takes the overripe cucumbers and scrapes all of the seeds out and uses just the good part for her relish. She looks in her spice cabinet and gets out the cinnamon and ground cloves and salt.

The old time families always ate a lot of relishes, especially in the winter. They had special relish plates or pickle dishes for their Piccalilli.


Pickles, Soap, and Blender Ketchup

Wow, it is actually cold this morning. We were in that horrid heat spell for so long and nearly roasted. And now, as I stand here, I am in some warm sweat pants and a long sleeved sweater. I am actually cold. I bet it got to almost 40 last night and, before that, it was days in over 90 degree heat. What a change in the weather!


Well, anyway, I must write about pickles. This year, I bought cucumber plants instead of seeds? And I shouldn’t have, as I wasn’t being careful or watching what I was buying. Anyway, I have ended up with those long skinny cukes in my garden? These are good to eat, as they have fewer seeds. But I made the bread and butter pickles with them last year and they ended up mushy. For pickling, you need the old fashioned cukes. Anyway, I will just change my recipe a bit, and I will be ok with the cukes I have. I usually bring my cukes to a boil in the syrup on the stove. But with these new cukes, you can’t get them that hot. So I will just put my sliced cukes in jars and then pour the syrup over them, and this will be fine. I have already made dill pickles this year and they were good and not mushy. So my pickles I will make today will be fine.

I am just getting a few cukes at a time and, today, I will make a few jars of bread and butter pickles. I will just take a big bowl and slice up the cukes. Also, you put in onions and green peppers. You cover these with salt water and let set for a few hours. Then I will rinse them off and drain them. Then I will take some jars and fill them with the cukes, onions, and peppers … then I will pour the syrup over them and then and put a ring and lid on. They will seal from the heated syrup. I won’t water bath can them as the pickles would go to mush. The old fashioned cukes wouldn’t, but the kind I have would.

Well, my syrup is like this. Put in a pan on the stove 2 cups of sugar and 2 cups of white vinegar. The spices are a tablespoon or 2 of mustard seed, a fourth teaspoon of turmeric. Just bring this to a boil and put this over the cukes you have in your jars. Push the pickles down so that the syrup covers the pickles. Seal them while they are hot and the lid will seal. Be sure to put a few glass canning jars and rings and lids on the stove in water to boil, to make sure they are sterile. And use these while they are hot to make sure your lids seal.

Also, I have made a lot of corn cob syrup in my day. If you are freezing corn on the cob, and you have a bunch of cobs left from cutting the corn off, just take all the naked cobs and put them in a big pan and boil them for a few hours. Then take the corn out of the pan and throw the cobs on your garden compost pile. Then measure your water you have left in the pan. If you have a quart of water, then throw in that much sugar … a quart. Then just stir it and boil it until it makes a syrup. We used this syrup on pancakes.

Any of this that I write is off the wall, I know, and I don’t use many recipes. So just ask questions about this stuff if ya wanna know something.

Also with this corn cob syrup, you could make jelly if you are rich enough to buy Sure Jell. It’s about the same recipe, but it’s like 3 cups of sugar and 3 pints of corn water and Sure Jell. Oh boy, me and my recipes! Sorrry!!! Well, whatever I used to make it like jelly, if it didn’t thicken up, I just told the kids it was pancake syrup. Whatever works. And if my jelly didn’t thicken at all and was watery? I used it to make bread. Well, it was plenty sugary and fruity, and the kids just ate it and went on about their business.

I wanted to also put down my soap recipe. Ok. Well, you know me and recipes.

Ya know, the old time mothers made soap in the fall, as that was hog butchering time. They used the lard from the hog to make soap. Back in my old days, someone had butchered a hog and gave me 5 pounds of lard. And usually, I made soap when someone gave me lard.


Ok, so for soap, I was such a rascal makin’ soap. You are supposed to dissolve the lye in the water and then carefully add the lard. But just to be funny, I added the dry lye to the lard just to see what would happen. And it didn’t make a smack of difference. So I decided to be less a rebel and add the lye to the water as I was supposed to. So here is my recipe.

It’s just 4 pounds of lard, 1 can of lye, and 3 quarts of water. Make sure the lard is at room temperature. Dissolve the lye in the water in an enamel water bath canner. Then carefully add the lard to the liquid. DON’T DO THIS WITH CHILDREN ABOUT. Just stir the soap, going in one direction … don’t beat it, Annie, or it will curdle. Don’t splash it all over the place … just be careful with it. Stir it until it gets to the consistency of honey. Then have some flat cardboard boxes lined with wax paper ready — or even some glass baking pans would work — to let the soap set up in.

Now, after the soap starts to get thick, then sort of score it. Just start to cut it in bars … just cut half way. You do this so it will be easier to cut once it dries up and gets hard. Let it all set for about a month before using it … it needs to season.

I used an aluminum pan once to make soap, and the lye started to eat a hole in my pan? So you have to use like an enamel pan to make the soap in. And my recipe makes a lot of soap. So the big enamel canners would do good for this. The enamel canners are the ones that are usually black or dark blue with the white speckles? And stir your soap with the fanny paddle? A wooden spoon … a long one? If you splash the soap on yourself, it’s ok … just wipe it off with a wet rag. I mean right away.

Once, I made this soap and made some of it into face soap. I added oatmeal to about half of it and used the other half for laundry soap. But, anyway, I put the oatmeal soap in a glass baking pan to harden up and, had I not caught Dan, he would have eaten a piece. He thought it was oatmeal bars. So make sure you keep this stuff up from the kids and the cats and dogs. My dog would never eat this, but my cat may.

After you make this soap, put it away in a cool safe place to dry and season. One time, I made this recipe and couldn’t get it to set up. I made it probably on the wrong side of the moon. (Aunt Toot shakes her head and rolls her eyes when I talk about making things by the moon.) But, anyway, I had a big cheap box of laundry detergent, and I threw that in until my soap thickened. Wow, that made the best laundry detergent one could imagine! And it lasted a long time … it was great. I would just take a bar and run it threw my blender to make sure it was good and dissolved in hot water. Then I would put it in the wringer washer.

This soap of mine can’t be used for laundry in cold water. You have to just use this for a hot wash. Like if you are using cloth diapers, this would work great. Make sure you get all the soap out of the diapers. If I wanted to get my whites really white? I would put bleach in my blender, dissolve the laundry soap in the bleach, and throw this in the washer. I am tellin’ ya, I got my white socks and underwear so white, we had to wear sunglasses to look at it. (Kidding)

I tried to use this soap on my dog when she had fleas, but it didn’t work. But the Kumbacha tea worked. You all should make that — it’s great! My dog is dead now but lived to be 15. My dog never lacked for tea, let me tell ya, and that dog was very clean, indeed.

Ok, to make goat milk soap, I just substitute a quart of goat milk for a quart of the water. So it was 1 quart of milk and 2 quarts of water, instead of 3 quarts of water. You can make herb soap out of this recipe. But be sure to dry the herbs first.

Now, you can buy lard at the store for cheap. I think around here, it isn’t even a buck a pound for fresh lard. You could make it with the white shortening, too. I knew a woman once who made her soap this way.


Well, I used to make this at the end of the garden season in the fall. I would can all my other tomatoes or freeze them. Then with the end of the garden tomatoes, I made ketchup. Actually, I would say it’s more like a relish? Jim eats it on everything, from fried potatoes to scrambled eggs to hot dogs to hamburgers … he loves this stuff.

Ok, ya just wash and core about 8 pounds of tomatoes. This would be about 16 regular sized tomatoes, more or less … it doesn’t matter. Also, cut up some onions (just a few) and green peppers. Just cut them up and make sure they are clean. You don’t have to peel tomatoes. Then blend them up using the white vinegar for the liquid. Just blend it all up. I keep part of the vinegar in the blender as I work, and so I have plenty of the liquid to keep on blending the tomatoes, onions, and peppers.

Once this is done, I put it on the stove to boil. Now, this will foam up. So scoop the foam off and throw this out to the garden. So after you have boiled this a bit and scooped most of the foam off, then add 3 cups of sugar, 3 tablespoons of salt, 1 tablespoon of mustard seed, and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon. You could add some ground cloves and allspice, but I don’t. I add some garlic and black pepper, and celery seed if I have it.

Anyway, I make all of this in a big turkey roaster. I make it, at the beginning, on top of the stove, then I bake it in the oven on a low temp all day until it thickens. Boy, does the house smell good with this stuff in the oven. I then can this ketchup and it makes about 5 pints. You could freeze it in plastic margarine containers.

Our tomatoes are just now turning red. So I will have a lot of them pretty soon. So I think I will make my ketchup early, as wild man will eat a lot more this way then any other way. I don’t make salsa, as Jim wont eat it.

I will make tomato sauce, too. I just blend the tomatoes with onions, peppers, and spices … garlic, etc. … salt, and a bit of sugar. I don’t put the liquid in my blender. I just squeeze some tomatoes in it, and then blend up the peppers and onions and the rest of the tomatoes in the liquid. I don’t add water. Well, then I just bake all of this for the day to make a sauce. If the tomatoes don’t thicken, just add a big can of tomato paste from the store. You can freeze all of this in freezer bags. You can make spaghetti sauce out of it, or BBQ sauce, or whatever you need. I use a lot of this for winter soups and stews. It’s handy to have for about anything we eat. And if you don’t have time to make the sauce now, just freeze the tomatoes and make the sauce later in the fall.

I have also pickled some of my green tomatoes with a dill pickle syrup. I always use all of my tomatoes for something. I feel rich if I have plenty of tomatoes.

Papa just brought in a big Hubbard squash out of my garden this morning. It came up as a volunteer, as I had thrown some out to the compost pile last fall. I got stuff out there that I am not even sure of myself. I thought I had pumpkin out there, but I dunno. Something is taking over on Papa’s lawn and I told him to let it grow, whatever it is. It has a lot of orange blossoms on it. No tellin’ what it is.

An Old time Kitchen

Well I am not up early. It’s 6:00 am. But thought I could write about pickles while I visit with Papa. You would be proud of me. I have a pickle recipe in front of me. But I have made enough bread and butter pickles in my day to not need a recipe anymore.

Ok, you need about 5 pounds of cucumbers and a few onions and green peppers. Just take a big pan and put cold water in it and slice the cukes up in it with the onions and peppers. You don’t have to peel the cukes. Just wash them good and slice the cukes with the peeling on them.

Put the cukes and onions and peppers in the pan and add salt to the water, a half cup of regular salt, or table salt. Stir the salt about so it is mixed up good. And make sure your pan is big enough so the water covers the cukes, etc. You can lay a dinner plate over the cukes to keep the veggies under water. They need to sit overnight.

Then the next day, just drain the cukes and put back in the drainer. While they are resting in your drainer, make up the syrup for the pickles. In a big pan on the stove, pour in 5 cups of sugar and 5 cups of vinegar. I use white or apple cider … it don’t matter. Ok, then add the spices. The spices are a tablespoon of celery seed, 2 tablespoons of mustard seed, half teaspoon of turmeric … 1 teaspoon of ginger. Stir all of this up good … then add your cukes. Bring all of this to a simmer and let it simmer a few minutes. Don’t boil.

Fill your washed and cleaned jars with the hot mixture. Then just seal them with a canning lid and ring … and you are done. Now, if the jar don’t seal, you need to use those pickles first. Just put them in the fridge and use them for the family.

Ok so I lied. I have a recipe here that is for 2 pounds of cukes and so I am trying to figure all this out to go like my recipe. Well, dang, I don’t use a recipe and have lost the original years ago. But you all won’t try this unless I say I am quoting from a recipe. But this is how I do it. I always use the 5 cups of vinegar for the 5 cups of sugar. Then my spices go like this. A teaspoon of turmeric about? … and I always use turmeric … ya need that for sure. And I always put in mustard seed, about 2 tablespoons. But the rest is inspiration. If I have some fresh garlic, I would hide some in there. I may add some black pepper. In one jar, I may add a hot pepper … or a head of dill. I put in whatever flips my trigger.

And I pickle whatever looks lonely on my table. I have used this recipe to pickle little green tomatoes, carrots, cauliflower, celery. I have pickled a lot of zucchini if my cucumbers didn’t do well. I just cut the zucchini up to look like pickles and the family didn’t know the difference. I have pickled watermelon rind just once and that was another recipe. It was pretty good, really.

I have made apple pie with zucchini when I ran out of apples. You can cut it up to look like apple slices and, if ya put enough brown sugar on it and apple pie spices, no one will catch ya. I have even made apple butter with zucchini. I have made jam with zucchini.

Jillr used to make pineapple slices with zucchini. She would take a big oversized zucchini, clean out the seeds, then slice it, and it looked like slices of pineapple. She had a sugar syrup she would make using a can of pineapple juice. Then she would put this in quart jars. Jill would get a bone from the store and cook it for a few days with onions, etc. and can up the broth.

The old time mothers during the Depression would send their child to the store and ask the butcher for a bone for the dog, but they had no dog. Then Mother would make a broth and feed her family soup for supper. Hey, ya do what ya gotta do to make it, huh? The butcher knew all those folks comin’ in askin’ for dog bones didn’t plan to give it to the dog. But he knew the family was hungry and had nothing to eat, and he respected their family pride. Mother did whatever it took to keep the family warm and fed and happy.

And ya know, if ya make jam or jelly and it don’t turn out, or set up, then pack it in your cupboard and use it for pancake syrup. Or you can use it in bread for a cup of the liquid. Or in muffins or whatever.

The old time mothers didn’t use recipes. They used what they had in the cupboard and nothing was wasted.

I use a pressure canner to can beans. Yet the old time mothers didn’t use anything but the water bath method to can their beans. For my tomatoes, I use what we have always called the “open kettle method.” I just have 2 pots on the stove. One is the tomatoes boiling and the other is the jars and canning lids and rings boiling. And then you work quickly to fill the jars while everything is boiling. Then you cap the jars and you are done. You have to work real fast and make sure the children aren’t around at the time … or they could get burned from splashing hot water. I am thankful to say I have never burned any of my children during canning time. But my kitchen is so small that there is no room in there for more than one person, anyway.

I have the Little Rose today, later this morning.

Jim used to help his mother can when he was a boy. She canned outside and it was Jim’s job to dig two fire pits and put bricks around them for the big washtubs to rest on. One washtub held the jars and the other one held the food to be canned. Mom Hultquist made all sorts of things in her washtubs. She made ketchup, pickles, and canned many vegetables for the winter. She made root beer for the neighbor children in her big washtubs. She canned her corn on the cob in big jars. She made many different kinds of pickles.

All the old timers made a barrel of sauerkraut for the winter to keep in the root cellar. But you can make sauerkraut in a few canning quart jars. Its easy — it just has to ferment. I am good at fermenting. (No snickering from the balcony, thank you so very much.)

In the fall, I make blender ketchup. Jim loves it and even puts it on his fried potatoes … it is so delicious!! I make it in the fall after all the other good tomatoes have been canned. My sister-in-law Kris used to let me come and glean the rest of her tomatoes she didn’t want in her garden after she had canned. And in the fall, I would take the less than perfect tomatoes and clean them up and make tomato sauce and ketchup. Kris had the big farm garden and often planted extra for me, plus I had my own town garden.

The old time Mothers would make piccalilli in the fall. Just before a frost, they would pick the last of the vegetables in their gardens. They may have a handful of beans, and some small green tomatoes, and some onions and dill. A few small peppers and a few cucumbers. Some little heads of cauliflowers, cabbage, or broccoli that grew back after the big heads were cut. But whatever it was, they picked it, as they wouldn’t waste anything. They would take these odds and ends into their kitchens and put it all through their steel grinders mixed with vinegar, sugar, fresh herbs and spices. And they made a pickle relish and canned it for their winter family tables.

Most old time families had pickles on the table for most every meal and snack. Also homemade breads and berry jams and home churned butter. And this was not so long ago. And we can do all of this now, if we need to, or if we just put our minds to it.

Mom Hultquist had to have all her canning done by Saturday, as she needed the washtubs for the Saturday night baths. Then Monday, she had to have them for wash day. She had 13 children and never lost one through any kind of neglect. That says a lot for her. Never had a miscarriage and raised her children right through the Depression era. What a woman.

Storing Potatoes, Peppers, etc.

About canning potatoes …

I just wouldn’t waste my canning jars on potatoes. You dig your potatoes up in the fall and they will last about 3 months. Then, around here, potatoes are cheap in the winter. I can buy them for like 3 bucks for 20 pounds. Since they are so cheap, I don’t even waste garden space on them.

Now, as far as storing your garden potatoes. Just put them in cardboard boxes or in baskets. You want to keep them dry and cool while in storage. I mean, don’t put them in deep boxes, but just like 5 deep or so. Then just check them when you grab some for a meal. If any are soft, then take them out and throw them on the compost pile. The old timers used to keep potatoes all fall and winter. But you have to check ’em and keep them dry and cool.

Then, Kelly, you said that you planted a lot of peppers. I love peppers, too, and plant a lot of them. Now, to store them, I just clean them and slice them and put them in freezer bags for the freezer. I have always been happy with the results. Peppers seem to freeze well. Of course, you can’t use them in salads or anything like that after frozen. But I use my peppers all fall and winter in chill and all kinds of soups and stews. A gallon freezer bag of peppers lasts me a long time. But I just eat raw peppers in season, during the summer.

One way I have dried the hot little red peppers? In the fall I just take the bush up by the roots and hang the whole bush up some place on a nail with the little red peppers still on it. And the little peppers will just dry on the bush. The big green peppers are too big to dry whole. But you can clean and slice these and thread them with a needle and thread and hang them up to dry.

And don’t be discouraged if one of the peppers you hung up rots. Just pull it off and throw it away. I have a lot of stuff that rots and I have to dump it. But you are learning to be a housewife. Be patient with yourself and see what works best for you. And, heck, if ya wanna can potatoes, then Go for it … more power to ya. But, to me, I would just save my jars for canning tomatoes.

I use more tomatoes than any other vegetable in our house. We love them and dump them in a lot of stuff, even macaroni and cheese. And if your family really loves peppers with tomatoes, then put a lot of the peppers in your tomatoes and they will all can up just fine. I put basil in my tomatoes, too, and sometimes onions.

Right now, I have a bucket of horseradish outside my back door to make relish with today. Papa dug it up to get it out of my garden space. But it will all grow back. I just take the roots and clean them like you would a carrot. Then I put it all in my blender in chunks and put white vinegar over it, and salt, and chop it all up, and put it in a jar and seal it. I will just make 2 quart jars. Just take the jars and put them in a pan of water with the canning lids and let them come to a boil. Then, after your relish is done, just put it quickly in the jar while it is very hot. Then the lid will seal on the jar, or it should. But the vinegar will keep it preserved.

I have tasted horseradish in a lot of mustards lately from the store. Or if we have gone out to eat, I have tasted it in coleslaw and potato salad and other salads. I think it must be a popular flavor lately. I like mine on sandwiches. But if can get away with it this summer, I will sneak it in some potato salad. Papa don’t like me messin’ with his potato salad. So I will have to carry a gun in my apron pocket on the day I put horseradish in Papa’s potato salad … Just kidding!! But Papa may actually like it and then he will shower me with kisses.

Also, my Jim loves my bread and butter pickles. So I will save my canning jars for them, too. Then we will buy some fresh corn and I will freeze some of that.

Strawberry Rhubarb Jam

This is so easy it’s embarrassing.

Just pick your rhubarb and cut the leaves off and wash the dirt off. Cut the stalks in about 1-inch pieces until you have 5 cups of rhubarb, then put the pieces in a big pan for the stove. Add to this pot 5 cups of sugar. Turn the pan on and let this cook.

Now, if ya stir it fast enough you won’t have to put any water in. But if ya wanna, you can add a fourth cup of water … it won’t hurt it. But the rhubarb will produce its own fruit along with the sugar as it cooks.

Well, anyway, let it cook until the rhubarb pieces are soft and tender, not mushy. Then, when it is all done, add a small package of strawberry Jello. The jam will thicken as it cools.

I used to just keep this jam in a big jar in the fridge for the children when they were young. They loved it and would eat it pretty fast. But it’s not hard to can it, either. Just get out about 4 pint glass jars and fill the jars while the jam is very hot. Work quickly as you fill the jars with hot jam. Then add the lids and the screw top bands and screw them on tight. Wipe the jars off good and let them set on the cupboard until they are cool and can be put away.

I wouldn’t do this with the baby around. No way! Our baby Rose is so quick, she would grab the jam off the cupboard. I never allowed my babies in the kitchen when i was canning anything. It’s too risky.

Also, I am so longing to can tomatoes this summer. Last night, I cud just smell those tomatoes cooking on my stove. I love to make ketchup and let it cook all day. Papa loves my homemade ketchup. I make it in the fall after the other canning is done. I am missing the smell of tomatoes cooking this year more than i ever have. My children loved this ketchup and ate a lot of it. But Papa ate it even more. He loved it on everything, even fried potatoes.

Well, I had better get busy.


My ketchup recipe is so fun to make, and I can’t wait to do it myself. We are waiting for our tomatoes to turn red.

You take, like, 8 pounds of tomatoes and a few onions and peppers, clean them up, cut the seeds out of the peppers. But just core the tomatoes and you can keep the skins on. Then have 3 cups of white vinegar ready. You need a blender for this. Just put some vinegar in your blender and start blending tomatoes, etc. and pouring it into a big roaster. Pour some in the roaster and leave some in the blender to keep blending until all of the vegetables are ground up.

Now add to the tomato mixture in the roaster:
3 cups of sugar
3 tablespoons of salt
1 and a half teaspoons of allspice
a fourth teaspoon of cloves
1 and a half teaspoons of cinnamon

Well, that’s how the recipe goes, anyway. I follow the recipe up to the spices, pretty much. But I add garlic and black coarsely ground pepper. If I had a mildly hot pepper, I may add that. Well, the recipe here says you can add a fourth teaspoon of hot pepper. But I will add fresh garlic, chives, basil and marjoram from my garden. I will put the herbs in when I am blending the tomatoes. But you don’t need all these herbs. Oh, I hate to follow recipes … it makes me crazy. Anway, you do need to have the right amount of vinegar and sugar and salt. But then I am on my own.

So, anyway, you take your blended mixture and put it in the oven and let it cook all day on a low temperature, uncovered … no lid. My recipe says 325 for 4 hours, or until it is reduced to half the liquid. But I think that is too high of a temperature. I would put it at about 300 for the day. You gotta check it often. And I leave mine in the oven after it is cooked down for the day. And then the next day, I put it in pint jars … it makes like about 5 pints. But I leave it to rest in the oven so that more liquid will evaporate and it will get thicker. You want it rich and thick.

It’s so much fun to make! On the day I make ketchup, I plan to stay home all day, of course. And imagine the Home Sweet Home smell of the house. I have had folks drop by when I am making this and they say, “What is that you are cooking in the oven? It smells so good.” Then I open my oven and show them and they ask all about it. Papa loves it, as his mom always made it at home. I am sure she didn’t have a blender. But she probably just peeled all the tomatoes and then cooked them and smashed them up with a potato masher, or she may have used her meat grinder for all the onions and peppers.

The old time Mothers chopped vegetables finely with just a sharp knife. The old Italian Mothers made a lot of spagetti sauce in the summer. They would cook down the tomatoes and spices all day in their big pots on the stove … can’t you just imagine the smell of the tomatoes and garlic and onions and peppers? The fresh garden herbs like basil and parsley. Well, anyway, after they cooked this down, they would put the sauce on big boards with sides? And they would put this in the sun and let it dry in big sheets. Then after these big slabs were dry? They would roll this dried sauce up and store it in vats of olive oil. Then in the winter they would hack off a piece of this and use it for spaghetti sauce. They would add water to it and cook it.

If I had a lot of fresh tomatoes, that would be fun to do. I would never do this with store tomatoes. All of that poison they spray with — and you can’t get that spray off — and then to preserve your sauce in poison? I don’t think so. But if you can grow your own fresh produce, you know it hasn’t been sprayed. I do not spray anything I grow. Because I have herbs that grow wild in my yard. And I have herbs that grow everywhere. Like unruly children, they get out of the garden and run all over like wild Indians. I like it like that.

A Winter Cupboard

It is a bit after 5:00 am. I have been up early, straightening up the house. I still have sprinkles of flour on the floor from yesterday’s baking. I will vacuum after Papa wakes up. I was too tired last night to clean up a lot. I was going to rest yesterday from having all my company, but my batch of bread kept growing. Papa had bought for me a nice big 10 pound bag of unbleached white flour… also whole wheat flour … he thought it would last me a while, anyway. But I used at least 8 pounds of flour yesterday making bread. Now he has to buy me some more.

It’s hard to gather and store stuff up with little babies. I mean, a lot of times to just get through the day is an accomplishment. I have read stories about mothers who worked in the garden with the baby wrapped in a basket under the shade of a nearby tree.

I had a little pallet that I laid down in my kitchen for the babies to lay on and watch me cook in my kitchen. My kitchen is very small … not big enough for a table. (Our house is over 100 years old.) But the main thing is to make sure you watch the children that they don’t get hurt. My kitchen is so private and away from the rest of the house, so when I was in there as a young mom, I wanted the baby close by, and yet out of harm’s way. So I made a wee bed for them at the opposite side of the kitchen as the stove and sink are, under a window. I had a little plastic tray-like deal with a mattress on it. And often David would lay there, take a nap and watch me cook. David (now grown and 23) was always really quiet, and the little bed worked for us.

Even a little porta crib would work like a play pen in the kitchen. We got one for Baby Rose, lately, at a garage sale for 15 bucks, and it was brand new. But if the babies get used to being put in the kitchen with you when you cook, they will almost look forward to it. They can see you from their little beds and that makes them happy. And our Baby Rose loves to play with pots and pans, more than toys. She is a bit more active than David ever was. But I put her in the high chair when I make supper. I mean, you all know what you can do and still keep baby safe.

And if you can’t can and freeze things for the winter this year, there is always next year. As my family grew up, then I, of course, had built in babysitters. But I know it’s hard if you have a houseful of little ones and you are trying to store food for the winter. But I am writing this to encourage large families to glean and store things now if they can. Make hay while the sun shines, ya know?

So, anyway, right after Jim was saved and I planned on having 3 more children, at least, I prayed for a freezer and I got a huge one. It was an old model and it was great. Anyway, I froze a lot of food because I was too busy to can.

Now, for tomatoes, I would just take my tomatoes, wash off the dirt and cut them in quarters, cut out any bad spots and the core, and put them in a sack and freeze them. I didn’t peel them. I use these tomatoes for soups and stews and chili. And when you put them in boiling soup, the peelings fall off and you can scoop them out with a ladle. Green peppers, you do the same way, but just slice them up and clean out the seeds. You don’t have to cook these tomatoes or peppers. Just cut them up and put them in a plastic bag and freeze them. No big deal!! And ya know if ya have a freezer full of tomatoes you have a lot.

I used to freeze a lot of fruits. For grapes, just clean them and freeze them in a sack. If ya have the time, just take them off the stems. But if ya don’t, just freeze them on the stems. But be sure to wash them good. Frozen, they are good in salads, still half frozen and cold. But once they thaw completely, they will be mushy. But we liked eating them as a snack.

Also, in the summer, I would freeze other fruits, too, as I was in a hurry. But then, as the winter went on, I would take the fruit out of the freezer and make jams out of it and put it in canning jars, when I had more time. But I rarely canned in the summer. I mostly froze stuff. I used to freeze a lot of rhubarb for winter desserts.

I did can pickles if I had the time. And if my cucumbers didn’t do well, then someone was sure to give me some zuchinni, and I made pickles with the zuchinni … ya can’t barely tell the difference.

I have even mixed zuchinni in with apples for an apple pie, if a girl is low on apples. Just cut the zuchinni up to look like the apples slices. Zuchinni will work for anything, practically. I have even ground it up and made jam out of it if I was short on some fruit. JillR used to make pineapple out of zuchinni. She sliced it up in rings and cut out the center and made a syrup out of pineapple juice and sugar and boiled it. The zuchinni tasted like pineapple and she made some nice salads with it.

But, ya know, around here someone will give you a zuchinni out of their garden. Everyone has too much zuchinni. But use the little ones for pickles and the big ones, just cut them up and put them in the freezer. They are sure to come in handy for something this winter. Zuchinni bread is so popular. But if ya don’t have time to grind it up in your blender, just put it in the freezer in chunks and grind it up just before you use it for the bread. Iit is so good in winter soups, too.

In the fall, I make a harvest vegetable soup. You can make your vegetable soup and serve it in a cut-in-half and cleaned out pumpkin. Bake the pumpkin half slightly and, while it is hot on the table, pour the soup in it. Then, when you serve the soup, gently scoop some of the pumpkin out and serve pieces in the soup. The pumpkin tastes about like zuchinni in a soup. My vegetable soup is just fried hamburger, drained, lots of vegetables, tomato soup and some water. Then herbs and spices … very simple.

You can also cut up a pumpkin in cubes, raw, and freeze this in plastic bags for winter soups. And, actually, for corn on the cob, you can freeze it still in the husk. But when you go to use it, let it set for about an hour, so it will thaw out. Then take the husk off and boil it as usual. You have to have really good corn for this, as you don’t want to freeze rotten corn.

Bananas can be frozen, too, in the skins, as is. I mean, if they are fresh. You could use these for banana bread for the winter baking.

At the end of the summer, I used to always make homemade ketchup in a roasting pan in the fall. I cooked it all day in the oven and oh, the house smelled so good. I just asked Papa if I should make some this year and he said, “Oh, I loved that!” Papa would put my ketchup on fried potatoes and on his scrambled eggs. Oh, its so good! It’s good on hamburgers and hot dogs, too.

And ya know, the old time housewives, at the end of the summer, would make piccalilli. Just before a freeze in the fall, the housewife would go out to her garden and pick all the left over vegetables, grind and pickle. The old time Mothers never wasted anything. And she would study her Old Farmers Almanac, look at the sky and pray, and she knew when the hard freeze was coming. And she would go out to her garden with her wooden clothes basket and gather left over produce. Maybe she would come away with a handful of green beans, a few green tomatoes … a cup of peas and and a few small ears of corn … some garlic. Some cabbage leaves and a few small broccoli heads or a bit of cauliflowe , a few cucumbers or zuchinni and onions and peppers. Just odds and ends.

Well, she would bring all of her little treasures in the house, wash them up and make piccalilli. She would get out her meat grinder and grind up all of her bits and pieces of produce. Then she would put it all in a big pot and made a vinegar-sugar syrup, with pickling spices, and cooked it. And this was called piccalilli. She would can this up to set on her family table for cold winter days to eat with hot meals.

For our family, I would often have a lot of green tomatoes just before a frost. I would store them in a paper sack, wrapped individually in newspaper, and they will turn red. I could make some of my tomatoes last until Thanksgiving or Christimas. But ya gotta watch them close as you could get one to turn rotten before the others, and then this would ruin all of them. If ya have a lot of green tomatoes left in the garden, you could use a cardboard box to put them in. But make sure to watch them close and wrap each one in newspaper.

I mean, however the Lord leads ya, just get your cupboards ready for winter. Now is the time to do it, as the fresh produce is so available.

A Winter Pantry

When I was raising my very large family, I was so busy in the summertime! It was always easy for me to feed the family in the summer months. My garden produced all the tomatoes I needed and other vegetables. Then, food is cheaper in the summer, also. But, boy, ya hit those winter months and it is hard to keep the cupboards full.

So far this summer, I have made raspberry jam and rhubarb jam so, now, that will probably be all the jam I will make, and that will last us until next year. My tomatoes aren’t ripe yet, so I haven’t done anything with them, but soon, when they start coming in, I will begin canning them. And Jim loves homemade ketchup and it is fun to make, so I will make some of that, probably about 6 pint jars. Papa puts this ketchup on fried potatoes and scrambled eggs. It’s also a good relish to use on hot dogs and hamburgers, or you can use it to flavor soups and stews.

My brother Scott always has a big garden in the summer, so at the end of the summer, he will invite me to come and pick some overly ripe tomatoes. With these, I will wash them and core them and grind them up in my blender and make tomato sauce. If it thickens up, fine, and if it don’t, fine. It tastes good in winter stews and chili, etc. Often, if I have green peppers and fresh onions, I will grind them up, too, with the tomatoes. But that is so easy to do and tomato sauce is used in so many recipes.

I may freeze some corn and some green beans, too. They are easy to do. Just blanch them and freeze them in your freezer. It’s easy to freeze produce. If my plums do well, I will pick them and just freeze them in ziplock bags. Then, in the winter, I will take portions out and stew them for Papa and me.

You can freeze most berries — just wash them and put them in a bag. You can just take them out frozen and put them in jello this winter. Also, some busy mothers like to freeze all of their fruits and berries and make all of their jams when they have time in the fall, instead of in the summer.

Garage sales are just full of canning jars right now. And the lids and rings don’t cost much; they should be new to make sure they seal.

If you know of a mother or grandmother close to you, just ask them about canning. I gleaned most of my knowlege about canning from the library and also Carla Emery’s book called The Old-Fashioned Recipe Book. It is written by a mother of 6 children who raises all of her own food and cans and dries it, or freezes it. I had gotten Carla’s book in about 1978. I just made myself sick, staying up at night reading it. I just loved it.

But ya know, she turned out like Cheryle from the Gentle Spirit Magazine. She really backslid. But Carla’s book is still so good. It was written when she was young and raising a family. She was a Christian when she wrote it and she had a wonderful spirit. I think she got kinda power hungry, though, and then gradually lost her family. But just about everything ya wanna know about food storage is in that book.

Lately, I have been baking and cooking a lot in the morning for Papa. It isn’t as hot as it usually is in Iowa in the summer. I made a lot of baking powder biscuits yesterday, and pancakes this morning from scratch. So I think this afternoon I am going to make the big biscuit mix again. Oh, no! I guess not. I don’t have a bag of flour. Tomorrow, I will get groceries and make it then.

Green Tomato Pickles

Well, today, I have to get into some serious organization concerning my green tomatoes. Papa picked all the green ones because it got close to freezing. They are in sacks. Some have turned red, but most of the green ones will rot before they turn red.

So today, I am going to get out my big pan and slice up the green tomatoes really thin and pickle them. I will add onion slices and some hot peppers and green peppers. I will just get all this sliced up and in my big pan on the stove. Then I will make a pickling syrup, just a few cups of vinegar and the same of sugar. Then I will put in spices, such as mustard seed, turmeric, celery seeds … probably some garlic and, of course, black pepper and salt. I will put in some fresh herbs from my garden, too … maybe basil and marjoram. If I had cabbage or broccoli left in the garden, I would put all of this in the pan, too.

All I do is put all the vegetables in, and then pour the vinegar mixture over the top, and then bring it to a boil. Then just shut it off and let the vegetables sit a few days on the stove, with a lid on it. (I dont use my cast iron pan for this, of course, as the vinegar would eat out the pan.) Then you could just can this relish, or just put it in the refrigerator in a big jar and have it this winter.

The old time mothers used to have a relish dish that they put on the table with relish to eat with the family meals. This relish I make … well, really pickles … would be good with grilled cheese sandwiches and home made winter soups.

Also, I have to get out there and dig up my horseradish in my garden. All you do with that is dig it up and scrape the roots until they are clean. Like washing and scraping a carrot? Then I put the roots in my blender and blend them up with white vinegar and salt. Then I put the mixture in a jar for the refrigerator. One jar will be enough for a year for us, so I wont can it. A nice sandwich spread is horseradish mixed with mayonnaise on a ham sandwich. Or you can add a bit of the horseradish to potato salad or coleslaw.

This year I had a lot of the little round red peppers. They were hot but not as hot as the skinny red ones. Anyway, I made hot pepper vinegar. Just take a pretty jar and fill it up with the hot peppers, and then pour boiling white vinegar over the peppers to cover them. I make this to use the vinegar, not to eat the peppers, as they are too hot. But I like the vinegar on salads. The vinegar will be ready to use in about a month.

Any of the herb vinegars are made the same way. I collect pretty bottles at garage sales to use for making herb vinegars. Some of the herbs would be too delicate to pour boiling vinegar over the top of. So for some of the herbs, I would just pour the room temperature vinegar over and set the bottles in a sunny window. Then the sun can steep them and warm them up and bring out their flavor. But they won’t be ready to use for at least a month or two. You are supposed to strain the herbs out, too, but I never do. I mean, after they have steeped for a few months.

You can use some of these herb vinegars mixed with water for a hair rinse. Like a fourth of a cup of herb vinegar to a quart of warm water. Put it on your hair after the soap is out. It’s good for dandruff and also nice to strip your hair of all the old conditioners and shampoos that have remained in your hair.

Woman’s Work

The Ball canning book is a good source of imformation. Also, for some of you that want to begin canning next year, I would go to the library and stock up on books about canning and read them this winter. Maybe make a notebook and write down notes and recipes. This would be a good winter project for many of you. Maybe you could do it with your daughters for homemaking in home school.

When I go to the library, I come home with stacks and stacks of books on homemaking. When Jim works in the afternoon, he likes to rest and eat his lunch and then watch tv for a while then go to work. He likes for me to be with him in the living room, not especially to talk to him but to just be there. So I read my books and get ideas of things I have to do after Papa leaves for work.

If you have tomatoes, but you won’t be canning this year, you can freeze them in freezer bags. Or just the ziplock bags. You just wash them and core them and cut them up into pieces, and put them in the freezer. You don’t have to cook them first. I used to do this when the children were young if the tomatoes were coming in too fast and I didn’t have time to can them. I would make up bags for the freezer with green peppers and tomatoes and onions. I would use these packages to put into boiling soups and stews and chili for the winter. You don’t even have to peel the tomatoes, as the skins float to the top of the soup, anyway. While it is cooking, just skim them off.

And many old time mothers would freeze their fruits, like grapes and berries and peaches, and make jams out of them in the fall when the other canning wasn’t taking up all of their time. This way, you can have more fun making your jams and jellies, and even make some for Christmas presents. You have more time to play and get fancy. But it’s easy to just have your fruits frozen and to just make your jam when the canning season isn’t in full swing, like it is now.

One year, I made a Christmas jam with frozen strawberries and store bought cranberries. You just cook the cranberries as it says to on the package and, at the end, put in a few cups of strawberries. Cranberries will thicken anything up, so you don’t have to use the surejell. But I usually make the rhubarb jam in the spring, before anything else is ready to can.

I am so looking forward to fall and winter. My aunt has given me so many old pieces of sewing that my grandmother made, and great grand mother made. So many doilies and embroidered dresser scarves. I want to just have time to look at them in the quietness of a winter’s evening. I want to look at every stitch and think of how much time all this sewing took. I will do some hand sewing, too.

These old time mothers were not out running to the store. They were at home, sewing and cooking and watching over their dear children. Their hands were busy and their hearts were happy.

“Happy willing hands make happy willing hearts.”

About Happy Housewifery

Happy Housewifery teaches wives and mothers how to make Godly homes and encourages them to love their husbands and children in trying and difficult circumstances.

Learn more »
Help & Support

Connie's Virtuous Sisters group is intended to draw in the hidden woman that is hurting and full of sorrow.

More Information »
Get in touch

If you have questions or concerns and would like to reach Connie, you can send her an email using our contact form.

Online contact form »