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This is the first in a series of “How To” videos covering an assortment of food preservation techniques.

In this video I walk through preparing and dehydrating beef steak strip jerky using a prepared cure/spice mix.

Please leave a comment with any questions, comments or suggestions.

Here’s the dehydrator I use- I’ve been using it multiple times per week since getting it and it works great!

I have since added an extra two trays, which expands the capacity by 50%. Well worth the investment…

Link to the dehydrator

Link to the extra trays

 

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First batch of blueberry jam

First batch of blueberry jam

I LOVE blueberry jam! For several years I’ve wanted to try making my own but never tried- until now. 

Every year when fresh blueberries are in season I’ll buy ten pounds of fresh Michigan blueberries.  In past years I’ve either eaten them fresh or froze them for the long-cold winter. 

This year is different.  Not only have I dehydrated them to make blueberry raisins, I made my first batch of blueberry jam. 

There are many great resources and recipes out there, but here’s the process I used. 

My recipe only uses two ingredients, blueberries and sugar (no pectin, no additives) 

The recipe- 

approx 4.5lbs of fresh blueberries (processed in a blender until smooth, it nets nine cups.  Its’ really more like a blueberry jelly when finished) 

6-cups pure cane sugar 

Preparation- 

1.) Boil canning jars (my batch netted approx six pints) 

2.) Sterilize lids in hot water (I heard you want them near a boil, but not to actually boil.  Mine were removed from heat when they were just about to start a rolling boil) 

3.) place several large spoons in the freezer to cool (I used three, so I could test and retest without having to wait for the spoon to re-cool)  

note- before I started filling the jars I added the funnel  and jar tongs into the jar pan boiling water- to help ensure they were sterile. 

The process- 

1. ) Sort, wash and blend blueberries until smooth (like a smoothie) 

2.) Combine blueberries and sugar in med/large pan and bring to slow rolling boil, stirring frequently.  Keep boiling and stirring until the mixture thickens and some remains on side of pan when you stop stirring.  I let mine boil for a long time (I’m guessing about 1/2hr to 1hr, but I didn’t time it). 

3.) Test the mixture- scoop a spoonful of mixture and hold over a plate (not over the heat).  Let it cool for a few seconds and turn the spoon vertical.  If the mixture drips off quickly, it’s not ready- if it slowly runs off as a clump, it’s ready. 

4.) Remove jars from hot water and set on towel 

5.) Ladle mixture into jars- leaving 1/2 inch headroom (I tried to fill them to the bottom of the lid threads) 

6.) Wipe top lip of jar and place sterile lid and lid ring (hand tighten) 

7.) Process in a water bath for 15 minutes (starting the timer after the water returns to a boil).  Be sure to have at least 1/2 inch of water above the top of the jars. 

8.) Remove from water and let cool.  The lids should pop on their own as the jars cool. 

9.) After cooled, wipe dry and label jars. 

10.) Enjoy 

11.) Share with friends and family (or not 😉 

If you have any questions or suggestions, please leave a comment.

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Here’s the weekly vlog update for 18 July 2010 …

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I finally shot a video update of the container garden and posted it on YouTube.

I’ve been adding new containers almost weekly and plan to continue through the growing season.

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It’s been a while since an update…

Strawberries and raspberries are ripening about a combined (small) handful per week.  Just enough for a nice snack every now and then.  The blueberries are growing but not producing, but I didn’t really expect anything this year.

The lettuce blend is doing great.  We’ve harvested salads for two about four times so far, and it’s ready for another two large salads.  Two rounds of hand-picking cabbage loopers, but the lettuce bounced back great.

Peppers and tomatoes are all blossoming and setting fruit like crazy!  The first sweet pepper is about the size of a baseball, this past week about five peppers and a dozen tomatoes are growing to about the size of a gobstopper.

So far so good…  More updates and photos coming soon.

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This spring, while acquiring seeds for the container garden, I was quickly reminded just how expensive  this undertaking was going to be.  Along with nearly everything else, it seems like seeds are either more expensive or the size of the packets are shrinking.

I settled for ‘mix’ packets for things like lettuces, hot and sweet peppers, and a few other packets of middle of the road or very popular varieties of tomatoes, okra, cucumbers, beans, etc.

There’s an affordable alternative to buying retail or from expensive mail order catalogs; Heirloom Seed Swap.

Heirloom Seed Swap is a free seed swap site for seed savers.  Heirloomseedswap.com is an online marketplace where, through free ads, people can offer, trade, give away, or sell surplus and/or saved seeds.  A true person-to-person exchange.

Heirloomseedswap.com was created by Johnny Max and the Queen of the Self Sufficient Homestead Podcast, one of my favorite podcasts.

The site has only been online for a couple of weeks, but is already beginning to take off.

The neat thing about heirloomseedswap.com is that it offers a truly free marketplace for individuals, where rare or hard to find plant varieties can be exchanged when they are available.  It’s not a catalog that only offers the same run-of-the-mill or ‘common’ varieties.

This is a wonderful resource that can benefit everyone in the gardening and homesteading communities.  I am looking forward to contributing by offering seeds for trade or free. 

I think this is a noble cause that Johnny Max and the Queen have undertaken and they should be commended for donating their time, energies, and money to get it up and running. 

I hope it succeeds, for the benefit of us all.

Thank you Johnny and Queen!

—-

http://heirloomseedswap.com

http://www.sshomestead.com

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This past week has been full of minor garden related activities and some lessons learned.

First, all of the berries have been planted  into their containers.  We currently have three different blueberry varieties, two raspberries, and one strawberry container.

Blueberries- For nearly all blueberries, it is critical to have multiple varieties for efficient pollination.  I thought I had this addressed last year when I planted my first two blueberries.  With the rabbit damage inflicted to last year’s growth, I am hopeful that I will get some flowering this year.  This will be critical for all.  If it doesn’t look good, I’ll probably add a fourth variety.

The three blueberry varieties we are growing are Blue Ray, Chippewa and Jersey (I think- I can’t find the tag). The Blue Ray and Jersey were purchased last summer as two year-old container starts.  The Chippewa was purchased this spring. 

Raspberries- Last year’s rescued start was overwintered in the kitchen window.  It looks like it made it!  This past week I transplanted it into a larger container with some good quality container mix.  With a few days outdoors it’s already added a couple of new leaves.   I don’t recall the type, but I suspect it’s Burgess’ Latham variety.  The new addition this year is the Rubus ‘Everbearing’.  This was already fully leafed out when I purchased it. 

Strawberries- The planter full of Quinalt strawberries is doing great!  The existing starter leaves are now healthy looking with strong stems.  Several of the bulbs have started sending out new leaves.  The survival rate was 8/10.

I bring all of these containers inside every night just to be safe.

Seed starter trays- update and lessons learned-  last weekend I put the tray of tomatos and peppers out to get some sun.  It was a nice sunny day, in the low 60’s F, but the wind chill must have been a bit cool for some of the tomatoes.  Within a couple of days, some of the Roma tomatoes started wilting.  I figure I shocked them by placing them outside too early.  Fortunately only one variety that had the issue.

I’ll be adding a temorary plastic greenhouse  to help transition the starts.

Old fridge germinator update-  Since the last update I’ve experienced a little milder and mushroom growth on some of the TP starters.  I’ve remedied this situation by leaving the door open a few inches, to allow some air circulation, and monitoring the moisture level (and watering accordingly).  This resolved the issues very quickly.

Compost bin- The compost bin is working, but is not rising in temperature yet.  I’ve been adding coffee grounds and veggie scraps almost daily.  I looked under it again and it has a ton of worms working away- climbing up through the large drain holes in the bottom.  I made the mistake of over-watering it one evening, resulting in a very bad odor.  To quickly remedy this I added some shredded newspaper and mixed the bin.  By morning the odor was gone.

So far, so good…   Lots to learn (and remember for next year).

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