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HANDMADE GATHERINGS

 

A YEAR OF PIES!

 

HOMEMADE LIVING: HOME DAIRY

 

HOMEMADE LIVING: KEEPING BEES

 

HOMEMADE LIVING: CANNING & PRESERVING

 

HOMEMADE LIVING: KEEPING CHICKENS


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Monthly Archives: December 2012

Good Things Come In Jars

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When you’re an out and proud canner like I am, come the holidays, most of your nearest and dearest pretty much take it for granted they’ll be getting something tasty in a jar. And for good reason. From marmalades to fruit butters, pickles to jams, the provisions I’ve put up all through the growing season were intended for both our own pantry and for at-the-ready gift-giving. While I’d love to be able to give friends and family exquisite, original, hand-crafted, artisan gifts, sometimes finances just don’t allow. I’ve found home-canned goods are just as meaningful to give and just as happily received as store-bought goods while keeping my purse in the positive.

While  the simple, humble jar, unadorned and unfestooned, certainly has its place, I like to give mine an added bit of flair, especially this time of year. Some disks cut from note cards rest atop the lid (scrapbooking paper or fabric would be nice here, as well), while a bit of twine or ribbon embellish the screw band. Simple, yet lovely. Great for last-minute gift-giving that has a personal touch.

My Cardamom Apple Cider Butter is a much-loved favorite amongst my kith and kin. Since you’re all another type of family to me (of the digital kind!), I figured sharing it with you here today seemed like just the right thing. I was just at the market today and saw a wealth of apple varieties still available, so whipping up jars of this fruit butter is a great wintertime canning option.

Here’s wishing you and yours jar-upon-jar of delicious eats, this holiday season and anytime!

 

Cardamom Apple Cider Butter
While I’m an equal-opportunity spice lover, if forced to choose my favorite, I’d probably have to say cardamom. Its aromatic sweetness is beyond compare. Partnered here with apple cider, this apple butter would be just as good slathered onto hot buttered toast as it would be spooned onto slices of warm pound cake.
Yield: 6 half-pint jars.
(Recipe reprinted with permission from Homemade Living: Canning & Preserving with Ashley English: All You Need to Know to Make Jams, Jellies, Pickles, Chutneys & More © 2010 by Ashley English, Lark Crafts, an imprint of Sterling Publishing Co., Inc.)

You Will Need:
-5 pounds cooking apples, peeled, cored, and coarsely chopped (good choices include: Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Gravenstein, McIntosh, Newton, Pippin, or Winesap)
-1 ½ c. apple cider
-2 ½ c. granulated sugar
-3 tsp. ground cardamom
*Alternately, if you have access to cardamom pods, remove the seeds from 4 pods and grind until powdered in a coffee grinder or spice mill for a more intense cardamom flavor.

To Prepare:
1) Place apples and cider in a large stainless-steel pot. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and simmer for 25 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking. If additional liquid is necessary, add water in 2 Tbsp. increments. Remove from heat.
2) Next, either press the cooked apple mixture through a food mill or fine-meshed sieve, puree in a food processor once slightly cooled, or use an immersion blender and puree the mixture in the pot. If using food processor or blender, blend just until smooth, but not runny.
3) Once pureed, return to pot, add sugar and cardamom, and bring to a gentle boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 25-30 minutes until butter thickens and clings to a spoon. Stir often to prevent mixture from sticking. Remove from heat.
4) While butter cooks, sterilize 6 half-pint mason jars, lids, and screw rings. Fill a canner or large stockpot with water and set over medium-high heat. Bring just to boiling point. Place lids in a small saucepan, fill with water, bring to a boil, turn off heat, remove from stovetop, and set aside.
5) Place hot jars on top of a kitchen cloth on the counter. With the help of a canning funnel, pack butter into jars, reserving ¼ -inch headspace. Use a non-metallic spatula to remove any trapped air bubbles and wipe rims clean with a damp cloth. Place on lids and screw bands, tightening only until fingertip-tight.
6) Using a jar lifter, place jars in canner. Process 10 minutes in a boiling-water bath. Remember to adjust for altitude.

 

 

Weekend Review


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Happy Monday, friends. It’s a wet one here in the cove, as was yesterday. I love the comfort of rainy days, and all of the cuddling and snuggling and warm beverage-sipping and fireside-playing and cookie-making (I use India Tree natural food coloring for creating icing colors for sugar cookies) that they bring. With all the sadness that this past weekend presented, keeping things quiet and low-key and love-filled was exactly what felt in order over the weekend, and that’s just what we did.

Glenn is busy at the stove as I type this, whisking chocolate bits and milk and sugar into what promises to be another exquisite cup of hot chocolate (Huxley’s snack-time request today). Huxley has every book and wooden puzzle and block and toy spread out in his play area in the kitchen (or so it would seem to his perpetually-cleaning up mama!). There are sprigs of rosemary resting on the counter, destined for sachets, and beeswax and essential oils waiting, too, destined to become salve. The scents and sights our kitchen currently offers warms me to the bone.

The hot chocolate has me thinking about the post I did a few years back on the topic on Design Sponge. Looking back over some projects I’ve posted there, I saw that several of them are perfectly suited to gifting, crafting, and decorating this time of year and I wanted to share them here with you today:

*Hot chocolate gift basket.

*Bath salts, face mask & honey scrub.

*Chocolate peanut butter cups.

*All-natural holiday potpourri.

*Calendar gift bags.

Here’s hoping the week ahead is filled with health, happiness, and much, much love for you and yours.

 

 

What I’m Digging

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Happy Friday, friends! Hope all is well in your worlds today. We’re on the mend, it appears, after a short bought of stomach flu for the little guy. He seems just fine and dandy today, though, thankfully.

I’ve got a Small Measures post up on Design Sponge today. I’m chatting about making colored twine for decorating packages. Why would you DIY your twine, instead of purchasing it in a store or online? For several reasons-you can create a vast range of colors and color combinations at home that would cost a mint to buy, and crafting your own creates a personalized effect with character that you’d never be able to make with mechanically-created colored twine.

In other news, here’s a smattering of this’s and that’s that caught my attention this week:

*Sarah’s wreaths are serious knockouts.
*Locals-home milk delivery, in glass bottles to boot!
*Nicole’s genius winter pie idea-Kabocha squash.
*Real life hobbit houses.
*YES magazine is fantastic this month (and every month, really).
*Wouldn’t it be fun to make honeycomb-patterned biscuits or cookies?

*This permaculture design course in Belize looks incredible (and it’s run by an old friend of Glenn’s!).

I’m looking forward to a potluck and garland-making get-together at my friend Jess‘s house tomorrow afternoon (and she’s got a hot tub, to boot!). After that, we’re headed to my Mom’s place, for an overnight trip to Grandma’s (or “Gigi’s”, in our case), complete with a cookie-baking session slated for Sunday morning.

Wherever you go this weekend, whatever you do, and whomever you do it with, may it be grand!

*Each Friday, I post a photo of Huxley, because, truly, he’s what his Papa and I dig the most. He’s sitting in front of our wood stove’s hearth gate here. This post  from last December goes into a bit more detail about the gate. It’s worked like a charm since Glenn made it, and keeps this Mama from having extreme heart palpitations every time Huxley plays near the stove.

12 Days of Sweetness


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I’m not what you’d call a “religious” person. While I grew up in an evangelical christian household, these days I consider myself more spiritual in my approach to all things divine than ascribing to any one particular faith. And so, when it comes to celebrating the holidays, I like to mix it all up. Singing carols alongside burning (and baking) a yule log, exchanging presents right there with wassailing the apple trees.

And so, I love the idea of celebrating the 12 days of Christmas. When considering which specific 12 days to celebrate, I knew I could choose from those celebrated in the Christian tradition (December 25th to January 6th), or those that surround the solstice (December 20th-”Mother Night” to December 31st-”The  Night of the Oak King”). Instead, at least for this year, I thought I’d go with the literal 12 days proceeding Christmas, which begin today.

Inspired by an image viewed in a recent issue of Better Homes & Gardens, Glenn and I created the calendar you see here. Branches gathered from the yard were attached to each other with screws in a sort of cube. An eyelet screw was attached to the middle of the topmost branch for hanging the calendar on the wall, and stamped small muslin bags filled with either a square of chocolate or a lollipop were tied onto the branches.

Huxley had his first “taste” of the 12 days of Christmas today. Clearly it was well received, as he then proceeded to (tearily) request “just a little more chocolate” for the next 15 minutes. Here’s to 11 more days of sweetness!

 

Recent Acquisitions

If you’ve been reading this little blog of mine for any length of time, you know I’m the sort of gal that typically likes to make things herself. Which is to say, I’d rather gather my own eggs, extract my own honey, make my own floor cleaner, and simmer my own mug of chai than purchase them. Sometimes, though, something comes along that gives me pause, makes me take note, and, on occasion, decide to go ahead and pony up the cash for the other guy’s version.

When Jen and I were recently shooting the images for my Homemade Irish Cream post on Design Sponge, she asked for a sip. Apparently she liked it, as her nearly immediate reply after taking a taste was “Trade ya some lavender bath products for a bottle!” Since my beauty regimen is super simple (apply SkinFare, morning and evening, wash my face with warm water, etc.), I was initially a bit leery of what these products might deliver, in terms of both ingredients and quality.

Jen, however, knows her stuff. She’s got a great eye for natural skin care and a beautiful complexion to prove it. After we finished shooting, she opened up a sample bottle of lavender salve, I took a whiff, read the ingredient listing, put some on my hands, and knew I’d found a winner.

Ever since, each night just before bed, I rub a bit of salve onto my lips and across my hands. The scent is perfectly balanced, not too heady with lavender like some products can be, and not so subtle that you’re nearly pressing your face into the product to find even the faintest whiff. The texture is creamy and substantive, just what you want to protect hands, elbows, and any other exposed bits during the ravages of winter (and beyond).

Jen carries these products, from New Mexico-based spa Los Poblanos, in her fantastically curated shop of leather goods, jewelry, and apothecary items, Cisthene. Here’s a description of the spa, from her site:

Los Poblanos is a historic inn, spa and organic farm in New Mexico. Their unique spa products are made from lavender from their own fields on a 1932 Garland stove. Lavender is one of the most ancient, and trusted homeopathic treatments for stress relief, restful nights and easing headaches.

Formulated by Los Poblanos owner, Penny Rembe to heal her rough gardener’s hands, this salve is a “miracle cream” and has rightfully earned cult-like status among beauty editors. Use it on rough hands, elbows and knees – it also soothes burns and insect bites. Rub on temples to relieve headaches or under the nose for insomnia. Made with beeswax, jojba oil, shea butter and lavender oil.

Like I said, I’m typically the DIY type. Some things, though, are just better left to the professionals. This little discovery is one of them. I invite you to check out Los Poblanos’ lavender line. I’ve taken to calling it “Ms. Jen’s Cream with Nite-Nite Juice” to Huxley. He approves just as much as I do.