I wanted to give an update on what’s working as I tried a few new things this year.

Canned cider: This is a thumbs up. The process is simple. I just brought it to 160 degrees for 30 seconds and decanted into jars that I pulled from a boiling water bath and topped with freshly sterilized caps. I know that conventional wisdom (and the USDA would call for a boiling water bath but, as the worst that is likely to happen is that my cider would turn, I’m willing to take the risk. I have found that the pasteurized cider has a lovely, fresh taste, unlike a boiled juice. The benefits are many. I like convenience of a juice that isn’t frozen and I save valuable freezer space. I was just about ready to plunk down the money for another energy hogging freezer just to accommodate my cider. This is a much better use of resources.

Dried squash: Mixed reviews. I love the ease of storing and using the dried squash but I had one batch that apparently had not dried enough. It tasted musty when rehydrated and I gave it to the chickens. Dried food needs to be really dry for storage.

Honey locust wine: This is a miss for me. It tastes just like the flowers which is way too sweet and floral for me. It still needs to age a bit but I’m thinking I may boil it down to syrup to use over ice cream.

Raspberry jelly: I hated the waste of juicing my raspberries and making jelly rather than jamming the whole berry but I hate getting pips in my teeth even more. This is decadent and indulgent and the chickens eat the pulp so I will do this again.

Bulk buying apples: Another hit. I used to always just glean my apples but the quality and availability are unpredictable. In a good year I’ll certainly still pick from abandoned orchards but it was a pure pleasure to have such beautiful apples for cider and sauce. There was no rot or damage to speak of and it saved me hours of labor. The bulk price was excellent and I canned dried, pressed and sauced over 600 pounds.

Bulk cranberries. I loved getting my cranberries this way. I used a lot in my apples sauce, made juice and sauce and I still have a bunch to blanch and dry for future breads.

Hard cheese: My first batch of cheddar fed the chickens (my birds eat well) but I had some at my permaculture meeting on Monday night and it was really good. I have a lot of extra milk and I’m giving it another try.

Did anyone catch that I messed up my days? Well I did and, given how much effort I’m putting into this, I’m not about to let that stand. The summer kitchen is coming along nicely but I can’t take any credit for it. Bruce is doing a great job. The floor is down and it’s just beautiful We ended up with fiberglass that looks like wood but will be much easier to clean and won’t crack in sub-zero temperatures like linoleum would. We ended up with a lot of stainless steel from the walls of a restaurant that has gone out of business. It will line the walls, cover a counter and be fabricated for a stove hood. I will use the kitchen when I want to keep the heat of canning out of the house and when I do marathon sessions that put the house kitchen out of commission for full days. I also hope to lend out the space and equipment to others who want to can but lack the basics. I can give lessons and shoot my videos out there. We’ll be using it for boiling sap, extracting honey, candle and soap making and it will give me a place to store some of my larger equipment. I getting too old to be carrying canners and dehydrators up and down the cellar stairs.

The cleaning and purging goes on. I did my books (oh the pain, the pain) but I managed to get enough space to put away the book haul I got from Storey after the MEN Fair. I’m starting my bedroom today. I need a better set-up for writing as I’m starting a new book and it’s one that requires a lot of research.

I’m off to Greenfield today to meet with the gentleman who is coordinating the reskilling class I’ll be teaching in the spring. I’m happy to tell him that I received my ServSafe certificate yesterday. I did well in the class and I learned a lot. I would put that on the list of things that worked well for me.

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