Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Crabapple Jelly

I finally attempted my FIRST JELLY EVER over the weekend! I've always heard that crabapple jelly is delicious, even if the fruit it comes from isn't very tasty. My neighbor has a huge crabapple tree that is full of nearly ripe fruit, so I made dear hubby go ask them if I could have some. They told us to take as many as we want and the boys filled me up a box. I started with an apple box about 1/2 full (sorry I should have weighed them) and ended up with about 5 pints of finished jelly. After reading a few recipes and watching a youtube tutorial, this is what I did...

First, wash the fruit. I did not peel, core, or remove stems, because I would ONLY be using the juice(no pulp). Then put all the apples in a big pot and add just enough water to cover the apples. (Some will float, this is ok.) Bring water to boil, turn down to medium heat and simmer.

After simmering the whole apples for about 90 minutes, your apples should look like this...
(most peels will be floating and apples will pretty much be mush) Mmmm this makes your house smell so good too!

Now, remove the pan from heat. Using a jelly bag or flour sack towel (which is what I used since I don't have a jelly bag), strain the entire contents of the pot through a colander into another pot or large bowl. I set my colander on my pot, put my towel inside colander and spooned apples and liquid into the towel. Let the entire mixture drain into the pan for a few hours (I did this for about 2 hours). Do NOT squeeze or force juice through the towel or jelly bag. Doing so will make the juice cloudy instead of clear as some pulp will get through.
After letting the juice strain for a few hours, you will be left with peels, pulp, seeds and stems in the towel and clear wonderful juice in the pan! I had about 8 cups of juice after 2 hours. Crabapples have all the flavor of regular apples without the sweetness. They are very tart and bitter. You will need to add 3/4 to 1 C. of sugar per cup of juice. I added 6 C. sugar to my 8 C. juice. After adding the sugar, bring the juice to a boil, then simmer and stir frequently to avoid scorching. According to most of the directions I read, you don't need to add pectin, but mine wouldn't thicken up right. So I did end up using a box of pectin and it jellied perfectly. I recommend using the pectin. Skim the foam off frequently and just wait until the jelly starts to "jell', then it's time to bottle!
Now, many people wonder how to tell when it's thick enough? I used the plate method. I drop a spoonful of the cooking jelly onto a tea saucer, wait a minute or 2 and then check to see if it has a skin on the top and is the right consistency. You can also use a candy thermometer and let it reach 202 degrees (at sea level).  Or use a spoon and just wait till the jelly drips off of it like jelly and not like water.
Clean and sterilize your jars. I used 8 oz. jelly jars and 4 oz. jelly jars (these little ones will go in Christmas gift baskets). Fill your hot jars with the hot jelly leaving 1/4" headspace, wipe rims with a damp rag before sealing and process in boiling waterbath for 5 minutes (adding 1 minute for every 1000 ft. above sea level.) Remove jars and let cool. It takes at least 24 hours for jelly to set (it will look like syrup at first). Do not shake or move the bottles for 24 hours. Then store your jelly in a cool dry place!
Doesn't this jelly look delicious!?


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Green Clean

I've been working on some recipes for cleaning without chemicals. Some I have found on the internet and they work great. Others need a little tweaking and readjusting. Some I have been using for a long time and others are new. I'm trying really hard to green up my life and home. But I'm still having a little bit of an issue not using bleach. I love bleach. It just smells so clean and I know that it is killing nearly every flu/cold bug that it touches. So I'm still working on a disinfectant that doesn't involve my beloved bleach. This is what we use on a normal cleaning day in our "greener" home.

Window Cleaner...GOODBYE WINDEX!
2 T White Vinegar  + 1 Gal Water
I use newspaper or coffee filters instead of paper towels (less streaking and a little better on the environment) I'd love to find some kind of rag or towel that works on glass and can be washed and reused! But I haven't found one yet that works as well as newspaper. I'll keep looking though!

Hardwood Floor Cleaner
1/2 C. Vinegar + 1 Gal. Warm Water
Most of my home has hardwood floors. I've always used this mixture to mop them. It stinks like vinegar for a little while, but the smell goes away and I have beautiful, glossy, hardwood floors when I am finished!

Kitchen/Bathroom Counters
Dishsoap + Water
Baking Soda
Lemon Juice
Usually I just use dishsoap and water (like dishwater) to wipe up my kitchen counters, stove and sink. Sometimes if they are really dirty I sprinkle some baking soda and scrub with a wet dishrag. Lemon juice works pretty good on sticky/yucky stuff.  But I still use Bleach as my dsinfectant after chicken, eggs, meat, etc touch the counter tops.

Baking Soda + Water
Most of the time, I rinse out the shower and tile walls, Sprinkle baking soda, Scrub it down and Rinse again. If the tub is particularly grimy I will spray some vinegar, let it sit for a minute then scrub and rinse. Works really well!

I still use bleach!
I spray a mixture of 2 T bleach and a spray bottle full of warm water in and all around the toilet, then scrub/wipe clean. I also use this same spray on the floor around the toilet as I have all boys in my house and they tend to miss....A LOT!

2 T. Homemade Laundry Detergent (recipe can be found here)
per normal load. A little less for less dirty loads, a little more for whites and heavily soiled loads

I'm still looking for a good dishwasher detergent recipe that I like that doesn't leave film and junk on my dishes.... So for now, I'm still using commercial detergent. But we do use vinegar instead of jet-dry!