Wednesday, June 26, 2013

No One Ever Told Me Canning Would Be Addicting!

The more canning I do, the more ideas I have for new batches. The above picture is jars of apple butter I recently processed for this year's fair. Since the recipe didn't specify which type of apples to use, I made two batches, one with green apples and one with red. I've given some to my friends to taste test and tell me which they like better.

My two crockpots with each variety cooking.

For this apple butter recipe, it called for cooking the apple butter in the slow cooker for 6 hours. This seemed to bring out the flavors and I love how it turned out. In total, I made 12 jars (1/2 pints) of apple butter. 

Twelve jars of apple butter is too much for my family to go through, but luckily I've discovered that homemade jams or butters make great gifts. People appreciate receiving something that you put your time and effort into.  It's a simple gift, but one that can mean much more because you made it yourself. 

While the jars are beautiful in and of themselves, they are easy to dress up with a square of fabric and a ribbon. Tada!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Homemade Beauty: Exfoliating with Sugar

My mom was the one who passed along to me the trick to use sugar as a natural scrub for the face.  I only wish I'd started using it sooner. It's not only incredibly cheap (you can get 5 lbs. of sugar for around $1.99 usually--and you won't be going through that much sugar on your face for a long time), but I've also had great success with it.

From the time I was 10 to the time I was 20, I struggled with bad acne. In my twenties it tapered off dramatically, but I would still get occasional bad bouts. However, since I started using a sugar scrub to exfoliate, my acne has all but disappeared. Exfoliating your face lifts away the dead skin and other build up on your skin that would normally clog pours. And it goes beyond what just washing your face with a washcloth can do.

Using sugar as a scrub is incredibly simple. I dampen my face first.  Then I put a bit of sugar in my hand and get that a bit wet before rubbing it on my face very gently. Rubbing gently is the key, as the granules do the work for you and no force is needed. I rub for a few seconds and then rinse off the sugar. It leaves your face feeling incredibly smooth! 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Canning for the Fair

I've been busy preparing the for the fair, as this year I am making five entries--three of which are in the canning and preserving category. A few weeks ago I started by making strawberry jam.  

Washing the jars and canning utensils.

The gorgeous strawberries. I only bought two containers because I couldn't find them at the right sale price. I regret not watching the sales earlier in the year when it was the right season...

Mashing up the strawberries. I use a potato masher and it takes a lot of time and arm strength. I much prefer to have either my dad or brother do this part--but on this day they were no where to be found and it took me a while to get them to the right consistency for jam. 

Boiling the jars to sanitize them

The jam cooking on the stove top. It's a taken a few tries with strawberry jam to finally get to the point where I know when it hits the "gel" stage. 

Perfect looking jam! It's so exciting when everything goes right and the end product looks like it should. Especially when you know what it's like to fail and have jars full of air bubbles or leaking out the top. 

My end result was three jars of strawberry jam, which is a very small batch. I'm required to submit two to the judges (they will sample one jar and put the other one on display), and I have one for myself to taste test.