Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Canning, Preserving and Harvesting

From left to right--TOP row: blueberry lemon jelly, applesauce, grape juice, salsa verde, strawberry jelly, raspberry jelly, grape jelly. Bottom row: apricot jam, pickles, peaches, salsa, pears, diced tomatoes. 

Sorry for the LONG post. Because this is essentially my only journal I write a lot of details. Skip over  the text to the fun pictures if you'd like. 

This is the first year that I really became addicted to canning. Canning has always been a little intimidating and daunting to me. I remember my mother canning a few times growing up in Colorado. And then again for a student service project while at BYU. I was determined to learn how once I lived somewhere that produced something that I could practice on. So when we moved into the Hart home in Provo that had grapevines, I had some neighbors who encouraged me. I started canning in 2009 with grape jelly. I had some success and not so successful times setting the jelly. And I was doing it alone, mainly without help of a mentor or Pinterest. But I figured it out. 

Then, when we moved to Grandma Knell's I knew we could start our own garden. A friend, Dara Jakins introduced us to her salsa and I decided to try it out. We grew the peppers, tomatoes and jalapenos ourselves. This was 2010 and we've been using the same recipe ever since. Each year making it thicker and adding more spicy peppers. We have it dialed in, I think. 

Between 2010 and now I canned a few other things like freezer strawberry jam and peaches Remember this? http://stoehrs.blogspot.com/2010/09/peaches.html

Fast forward to 2016. We haven't had a garden since 2010. Though I've made salsa each year, I haven't been able to use our own harvest. So, it was really exciting this year to be able to have a completely organic batch of salsa made of almost everything from our own garden. This year I was also able to teach Steph, Emily and Rose how to can too! I think it's more fun to do it with someone else and you can typically get more done with a group. Plus, I've learned so much from this process! I only recently (like two weeks ago) learned that you no longer have to boil/heat lids before sealing. I just read on the Ball/Kerr website that in 2015 they disproved that you need to do this. They did studies and discovered that the seal will still take if the lids are at room temp. I love this...one less step, time saving too. So yeah, still learning things. 

The only picture we took--canning applesauce. I was so impressed with these women. They drove up here and stuck it out for hours, while pregnant and nursing a baby and handling a toddler! Way to go! We also canned salsa (with just Emily) and peaches together. 

Emily preparing to be a mom by multi-tasking. Pregnant, holding a baby and canning at the same time, and in a dress (she was headed to a wedding that night)!
From July through now I have canned pretty much non-stop, it feels like. Particularly in September and October. I didn't Instagram many of these things because I didn't want to seem boastful. But I am going to here for documentation. Overall, I canned 13 different things. Froze countless green beans, marinara sauce, and zucchini from our garden! I also ground up a bunch of red chili's into powder. I've made fruit leather, dehydrated fruit, jellies, jams, sauces and many desserts and meals from our harvest or our neighbors bounty! 

Overall, after counting I learned that I canned 213 jars of stuff! 107 quarts, 60 pints and 46 smaller jars. This doesn't include the preserved foods. Or the other quarts of stuff helping others. Phew, no wonder I'm burned out. Last week was my last week to can, I told myself. Even though I was offered more free apples, grapes and have more tomatoes, I am DONE for the season! But it feels good to know that our food storage has a healthy supply of food and it's so pretty to look. That's my excuse for letting it sit on the counters for weeks.

Starting in July I canned jellies. Three of which I had never canned before including strawberry, raspberry and blueberry lemon jelly. The texture is a little goopy, so I feel I need to practice more with that. Our fruit trees are just babies still and we grew one apricot successfully. So when my friend Jessica Slade offered to let anyone pick apricots from her trees I drove up there and took a ton. I made two batches of apricot jam (one with Joc and my favorite, lavender). Then, this fall I made raspberry freezer jelly made with secret ingredients (green tomatoes and raspberry jello). 

grape jelly
I've taken notes on quantities, prices, yield, etc etc so that next year I know how much I will need for each batch. Plus, I like to keep track of cost. How much supplies, including the product, if necessary. Not only is canned food more healthy but can be more economical (though much more time consuming than running to the store). I've also learned to make things with pectin, without, or with low sugar. I've taken advice from older, experienced neighbors and friends. I get ideas from Pinterest too. But I mostly stick to the Ball guidebook. It's been tested and proven to be true. It's my main go-to source for recipes and instructions.

Below are a bunch of photos of the process!

First fruits

Pears for days from the Swenson's three trees next door. They just kept on coming. 

French pear tart with almond franginpane. Courtesy of neighbors pears. 
First time canning pears. It was difficult cutting around all the worms, bruises, etc. But again, canned pears are better than store bought canned pears! 

I am so sick of looking at cucumbers. I will change my mind when I have to buy them in the winter. 
First time canning pickles. Of course, I cut myself on the mandolin. I had to can these suckers three separate times because they just kept coming. That's the problem of planting 6 plants! 

Peaches. We had to buy these but they were tasty. Still ended up being $2/quart. Store bought is that price, on sale, and not nearly as tasty.

Grapes from Jessica's home garden. Wahoo! Filled a whole cooler full. And I only took about 25% of what she grew. 

Apples from Jessica's yard too. I canned about 4 of these boxes, half were from her yard. The other half from Carol Peterson's in my neighborhood. 

Colin, my helper, and his buddy George. 

Failed fruit leather. A little overcooked. Grape with some pears and banana added. Great flavors. And grateful that I scored a basic dehydrator at a garage sale in Colorado.  

For some reason we thought cutting off ends of beans was quicker than breaking them off. I think we were wrong. We were able to blanche and freezer, with our food saver, tons and tons of beans for the winter. We prefer frozen to canned.  

Overall, I feel so blessed for this abundance. For wonderful neighbors who are so willing to give of their time and services. I borrowed two juicers, a Victorio Strainer (a life save for making the applesauce), and an extra canner. Plus, an older lady from my ward, who is no longer canning, gave me four boxes of quart sized and pint sized jars. That saved me about $40 right there.

I hope I will be able to keep up this trend for many years to come. Especially as our fruit is ready to can. It just ended up being a habit. "What would I can this week?" It was exhausting at times and I ended up ordering take-out or pizza to feed the children for dinner as I was still canning or cleaning up from that day's project. And the kitchen, particularly the floors, sink and stove, were a constant mess. But it has been immensely fulfilling harvest this year! I look forward to eating our goods all year long!

Monday, October 17, 2016

14 years

Tyler and I have been married for 14 years today!

 In front of the new outdoor theater. We weren't able to see a show in this theater because we went to the Fall season. But we will next year. I love how much it reminds of the Old Globe in London.

We took our annual pilgrimage to Cedar City for the Shakespeare Festival. Friday afternoon we dropped Colin plus girls off to their favorite neighbors four doors down, the Smith's, until Samuel came home from school. Samuel has late start on Fridays and the girls have early out. Kind of annoying. Then around 6pm, Aunt Hannah came over. She made them spaghetti dinner, played a fun candy game and then they got to watch a movie. Then the girls got to sleep in the same bed with her. They were excited about that. Not sure how Hannah felt about Cecily kicking her all night, lol. Then, on Saturday, Hannah made them pumpkin pancakes while Samuel went to a young men/young women's service project. Hannah left after lunch. They went to the Smith's again until Micaela and her crew came and finished up the job. I always get anxious when we leave town, even for one night. Especially since we didn't leave a cell phone with Samuel who was in charge. But our friends and family helped out and we came back to happy and safe children! Yay! We are so grateful to these families and friends who helped us out!

We lucked out and got 4 free tickets this year to the festival!! Our friends won them on a radio show and couldn't use them so offered them to us! We saw Shakespeare's Julius Caesar and Neil Simon's The Odd Couple, a comedy. Both were excellent. We stayed at our usual location, however, the name was changed. It was Crystal Inn for the first 5 years and now it's a Ramada. We decided it's kinda ghetto and we're going to look at other options next year. The breakfast was fine. The property is more cleaned up but the beds and amenities kinda stink. One year we stayed at a B&B . Although I loved the proximity to the shows and walking distance to restaurants, we won't go that route again either.

We enjoyed delicious meals undistracted from our children. We went to our favorite Mexican hole in the wall place, La Casa Don Miguel. Then we went to Centro Pizza (sooo yummy) for lunch and The French Spot for dessert. It's this new little, street side hut type eatery, run by real French people. Tyler had a Creme brulee and I had chocolate mousse. Both were very delicious.

Saturday morning we attended a play seminar (each morning they offer a talk-back session on days previous shows) and an actor's seminar (when two actors come and we get to ask them questions!). I love to attend these, as I can relate to them and it brings me back to my college performance days. Sometimes I just really miss those times.

On our way we home we stopped at this Utah franchise restaurant called One Man Band Diner. I love diner's (and we had a coupon) so I was excited to finally try it. We pass it often when visiting my parents. Well, that location didn't honor our coupon so we continued north to the one in Lehi. I got my usual country fried steak and potatoes and they were delicious!  I hope one day I'll get to make my girls poodle skirts and be able to take them to places like that. I loved going to Gunther Toody's in Arvada as a girl.  I love the 1950's so I think that's why I love diner's, plus the food can just be so American. Love it.

So, that was our anniversary celebration! It was relaxing and memorable. I love that I still feel so comfortable with Tyler. We've certainly had our ups and downs, disagreements and moments of distress. But overall I feel blessed to be married to a good man.

Here are some previous blog posts with photos and videos that I've made over the years about Tyler or our anniversary!

http://stoehrs.blogspot.com/2012/11/tyler.html with a video I made him for Father's day in 2012.
 (except the video I made has copyright issues--I used a song that I don't have legal access to use, drat. So somehow I'll have to upload it some other way. You can still watch it...just without sound.

Samuel's 12th Birthday

I cannot believe we have a 12 year old! A pre-teen. A deacon! Not only because it ages Tyler and I but also because that means Samuel has been a part of our lives for 12 years. We love Samuel. 

Cecily and Sam having a zucchini club fight.

Samuel's birthday fell on a Friday. Luckily for him, there wasn't any school that day! That afternoon Steve and Lori came up and took us out to his favorite fast food restaurant, Taco Bell. Then that night we had our ward party. 
Tyler and I were asked, with another couple, to plan and execute, and it fell on Samuel's birthday. So, that afternoon Tyler and I were prepping for it while Samuel did his favorite thing....played video games. That night Steph, Emily, Shawn, Gma & Gpa Furber, Gma and Gpa Stoehr, Hannah and Rose came to the ward party. It was a success. We had 150 people attend. Even though we got rained out of the park we held it at church. Tyler and I made 80 pounds of smoked, pulled pork. The ward provided the rest. And I decorated with the help of some ward members that I recruited. It came together really nicely and without too much stress. I couldn't tell if I wasn't stressed because I had a minimal approach to the whole thing. Or did most of the prep the week of opposed to fretting over it for weeks (not that I wasn't preparing or thinking of it for the previous 3 that we knew about the assignment). Or because I am getting better at handling big projects like that. Not sure......Sadly, no pictures :(  Just imagine a western themed party with excellent food and company. Fun times. And we managed to embarrass Samuel by having the whole ward sing Happy Birthday to him. 

The next day was kinda chill. Steph helped me cut Colin's hair. Family showed up that afternoon. Then that gals--Steph, Emily, Lori, Gma F, Hannah, Jocelyn and I attended the Women's Conference at the Conference Center. That was really special as Jocelyn was able to see the prophets up close. And it was just a great conference! Then we came home to The Pi Pizza. Yum!! And Samuel got Papa Johns pizza because he and the kids don't like The Pi. 

We were able to host Gma and Gpa Furber this trip. 

This year was a special year as he received the Priesthood. Unfortunately, we did not get any photos on that special day. That Sunday all the family was able to come to our ward. It also happened to be our Primary Program. It was very sweet. Each of kids did an awesome job of speaking their parts. Although, Jocelyn and Samuel had memorized theirs their nerves got to them and they read part of it. Cecily had a complicated scripture to recite. They each sang well even if Cecily was a little bouncy in her choir seat chair. The last song, the primary song of the year, If I Listen with My Heart , that went along with the theme, "I know the Scriptures are true" was really touching. Especially since this was Samuel's last primary program ever. Sadly, Tyler chose to attend Music and the Spoken Word and missed the program. His attendance is borderline 80% so he ran the risk of not singing in General Conference the next weekend. One of those sacrifices we make for the choir. We opted to have Samuel set apart between the second and third hours. Our brand new bishop allowed us to have the ordination in his office, instead of in front of the whole priesthood, which made Samuel nervous. Plus, we had this huge crew of family it would have been kind of awkward. It was a very special blessing. I bawled through it. Tyler cried through it. He mentioned that Samuel was blessed with a big heart and that he's aware of other people's needs. He was blessed with this and it would magnify his priesthood power to bless others. I don't think Samuel understands the magnitude of what he was just given but it'll be exciting to see how, over time, he will. The bishop also mentioned to me that during his interview, he could tell that Samuel was saved for this day. A little scary yet very cool that he was prepared to be born and raised at this time. He's a special boy, er, young man. 

His favorite cake flavor--mint and chocolate. Each year he has some variation of this. This year I asked him to peruse Pinterest and tell me what he wanted. He liked this 3 layered chocolate cake with mint frosting, topped with rich ganache. At first I worried it would be a disaster because the cakes came out thin, a little sunken and fell apart as I took them out of the pans. Luckily, Hannah has cake decorating experience and she helped put it all together. Even to the point of making the cool frosting edging. It turned out to be very delicious and Samuel loved it!

Samuel opening his box of kleenex from Gma and Gpa Stoehr. Or was it??

He was happy with his $12 instead of a bunch of useful tissue.

Samuel in his kitchen bedroom in Paris.

In school Samuel took a test in one of his classes. He discovered that he's an extrovert. Not completely surprising as Tyler and I both consider ourselves more on the extroverted side. But now that I look back......while we lived in Paris (I'll throw in a picture for fun) it was just Samuel and I most of the day. And he struggled playing by himself. I had to be right there with him or actually engaged with him. Or he had to be stimulated by others....which kinda drove me nuts because it was just usually the two of us in this foreign country alone. But now it makes sense......he craves being with other people and is energized by them (even if it's online playing with friends). He'd hate it if I shared this but I am going to anyway because not many people read this...but he also talks to himself. That's how much he dislikes being alone, lol! When he is playing on the Ps4, the shower, etc, I can hear him having these play-by-play conversations or imagining stories. I love it. Just don't make fun of him for it :)

Even though this wasn't an official "friend birthday party" year I let him invite a few friends over. A week after his birthday, they had another 3 day weekend.  He wanted to just veg and play video games then watch his favorite movie "Warcraft" with them. However, a couple of the guys weren't as interested in these two major activities and I think he was a little let down by that. We should have kept it small to his closest friends. They ended up enjoying the chickens, played on the playground, nerf gun battles, and ate pizza and a bunch of junk food. He loved it.

Tyler took Samuel to his first priesthood session! They went to Culver's for ice cream afterwards to start a tradition (one that Tyler enjoyed as a kid).

Monday, October 3, 2016

It's been a long while

Tyler wanted me to post some pictures onto this blog. I told him I don't blog anymore. He asked , "Why not?" and I told him it was because it's easier to document our family through Instagram and/or Facebook. But some things I don't want to share on those platforms. And I can't write as much on those small posts. You cant get the whole picture, just small portion. Plus, I know grandparents and others don't follow social media as frequently as other family members and so they miss out.

So, it's my goal to post a little bit more.

Happenings in the last week or so.....going backwards.

Colin is my petite sous chef. He loves to help me when I am cooking or baking. Here he is wearing Tyler's old joy school apron. I love that my boys (and girls) have been able to wear this over the years. I think Lori made it and it's still in great shape!

General Conference.

One of my favorite weekends of the year. I get to be edified, nourished, inspired and moved to action. And our children get to feel and learn too. Levi came for the weekend. He had a mission reunion and so did his ride....his girlfriend Sarah. It was fun to have them visit for a bit. Fortunately, the kids weren't a huge distraction to them while watching. I warned Levi they might be but because I only make them watch one session per day the afternoon sessions were quiet. We fed them dinner on Sunday night and then they headed back up to Rexburg for school.

A new tradition started in April this year. Homemade conference cinnamon rolls. With it being Fall we've harvested the neighbors pears. I canned all that I wanted to and still have some leftover to eat fresh or bake with. My best friend Heather suggested (via Instragram) that I make gingered pear rolls. So I looked up the recipe on Pinterest and found a version with brown butter frosting from Our Best Bites. So delicious. I only made four of the rolls with the pears because I knew my picky eaters wouldn't like the added fruit.

I had been eyeing our neighbors three pear trees for weeks now. When family came out for Samuel's birthday Steve and Lori oo'd and ahh'd over the taste of the pears the Swenson's had already given us. But I could see they still had more on their trees. So I paid him a visit and asked if I could take more. They gladly let me take what I wanted because they were literally throwing pounds and pounds away (many full of worms). I gave the overripe ones to the chickens and took what had already dropped to the ground because the rest could not be reached with our ladders. They were a bit bruised and had worm holes but they still had great flavor. I hadn't planned to can them this year because I knew Tyler didn't like them and I didn't if the kids did. But both my father and Steve said they loved canned pears. So, I got over my fear of canning them (because they are more work than peaches and other things I've canned this year) and canned as many as I could. And I have discovered that my kids DO enjoy them.

 On Saturday morning I canned 18 quarts of pears while I listened and watched conference on the computer. I love that technology allows this tool for good. That anyone can watch it anywhere in the world. I found it hard to multi-task. It helped me to not fall asleep but I typically enjoy taking notes while I listen and I couldn't' do that with sticky, fruity fingers. However, it made canning those slimy fruits much more fun. 

September 30: Friday, mission reunion night, Tyler and I attended a mission reunion down in Orem at UVU. We all celebrated Korea having  missionaries for 60 years now.  Whoever organized it invited all those who had served there over the years. Tyler's mission president and wife, Br & Sr Bangerter were there. Along with several Elders and Sisters from his mission, including his MTC and field companion, Derek Nielson. Plus Elder Knight came from St George and a few others. It was fun to see them because many we hadn't seen in years. They all knew who I was because  they knew how close we were during the mission. And I knew many of them by name since Tyler wrote to me and sent photos of them during his mission. Then there was a cultural performance with a mask dance (which was kinda creepy and cool, especially because Tyler brought me home a mask and a mini mask display, per my request, and I had never seen them in use), singing and speaking. And we were surprised with having two of the Piano Guys (pictured below) perform. The one that plays the cello and another who plays guitar and other instruments both served in Korea and played some fun versions of the anthem along with Child of God sung in Korean. It was a fun night.