Blackberry Cherry Jelly: 2017 Food In Jars Challenge for March

Sadly, I still have bronchitis. Slowly getting better, very slowly.  The challenge for this month was shrubs, a vinegar fruit drink, or jelly. I wanted to do the shrub, but the stupid illness made things difficult. I had never heard of them, but they sound intriguing. People who were making them kept talking about how yummy they are. I’m trying to imagine that from a vinegar drink. I hope to explore that in the future.

I ended up making jelly from store bought fruit juice. I really wanted plum, but I couldn’t find any plum juice. Blackberry Cherry sounded interesting, though. I used to do this a lot in high school. I have made jelly from fruit, too, but if I have fruit I prefer to make preserves and use the whole fruit.

Skimming the foam off the cooked jelly. I bought this skimmer back in high school probably in the early 1980s. It has served me very well.

With this jelly project I did it two ways. I did a cooked version and a no cook version using the instructions from the pectin box. I wasn’t planning on doing two batches. I was almost done with the cooked version before I realized I was following the instructions for the no cook version. Not following very well, obviously. I kept making assumptions.

I was looking for something simple because I still get winded if I’m on my feet too long.  I was all bummed. Doing a no cook freezer jelly would have been a new direction for me. I decided to go ahead and make another batch according to the instructions.

With the no cook I got four pints out of it. I only got two pints out of the cooked jelly. The juice was reduced quite a bit while I was trying to get it to a rolling boil. It was boiling enough to steam, but never getting up to the roll that you need for jelly. My Craigslist stove does not heat things very well. It is a hindrance to me with both canning and pressure cooking. I will shop for a more powerful stove one day.

I  learned a few things in this challenge…

  • I don’t have to can it

    This was the first time I made jelly without the intention of putting it in a water bath canner to seal. The batches are small enough I can just store it in the fridge. I just needed to replenish our supply. It was nice to take that step out even though I enjoy canning and seeing those jars on the shelf.

  • Freezer jam is a viable option

    I really glazed over those freezer jam recipes because I love canning so much. It was so simple to make. Just mix the juice and the sugar and let it sit a bit to dissolve. Then mix the pectin with some hot water and stir it in. The instructions said to boil the pectin, but I just poured boiling water from my electric kettle and dissolved it. I will say it hasn’t set yet, but the instructions said it make take up to a week to set. I’m not in a hurry, though.

  • Quit being cheap

    I was trying to save money getting the stove on craigslist, but I ended up with a tool that doesn’t work for me. I need the right tools for the job and sometimes those don’t come cheaply.  I need to give myself permission to spend some money.

  • Sometimes doing things simply is more of a challenge

    During this long bout of illness I’m learning how I need to let things go and quit making things so complicated. I couldn’t even do the simple freezer jam recipe without complicating it up. Being sick has made me realize how I need to work more at being simple and doing things with more simplicity.  Easier said than done for me.

I guess that’s it for now. Next month’s challenge is quick pickles. I’m not sure what direction I will go with that without cukes from the garden. We’ll see what happens.


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Salt Preserved Foods: 2017 Food In Jars Challenge for February

cliantro and mincer thescholarlyredneck

Cilantro and Herb Mincer

This month’s Food in Jars Challenge was to preserve food in salt. There were a lot of interesting ideas like preserving egg yolks, making a veggie soup base, herb salts, salt preserved lemons, and more. I’m a huge salt junkie. I have close to 15 kinds of salt in my house, so I was on board.

I had to rush last month’s marmalade challenge because of illness and travel. That illness developed into bronchitis and has been trying to morph into pneumonia, so I did not get to do all of the fun projects that my busy head concocted. I decided to keep it simple and go with the herbal salt project.

I had looked into this a while back. I ordered a huge bag of “sea” salt from my health food co-op just to keep as long term storage. When it came I realized it was plain refined salt. After researching I found that the only criteria to call something sea salt was that it came from a sea. Since even the land based salt beds were once seas then that pretty much means any salt.

I don’t really care for a salt that is 99% sodium so I tried to think of ways to use it up. I thought about making bath salts, salt scrubs,  flavor infused salts, etc. and giving them as gifts or selling them. I never settled on an idea because I have this problem where ideas keep coming and I load myself with so much information that I can’t put it all together.

This project was no exception. Maybe being sick has given me the edge because I am forced to simplify. I looked at three different methods of making an herbal salt. One from The Prairie Homestead involved mincing the herbs along with the salt then storing in a jar in the fridge. Another from How Sweet Eats called for drying in the microwave. This was quick, but involved standing over the microwave to monitor drying.

I settled on A Raisin and a Porpoise‘s version mostly because it was simple and the results were quick if I chose to use my dehydrator. My love for puns may have subconsciously influenced my decision, too. I just got the basic instructions from her although I want to try out her recipes later.

I went with cilantro salt. I just minced the cilantro and salt with my handy herb mincer and spread onto some parchment paper in my dehydrator. I surfed the web, got mad at some political stuff, watched some YouTube, took a nap, and boom, it was done.

Completed Cilantro Salt

I’m not sure if I used enough salt. Some pictures online were salt with a few flecks of cilantro. The taste is plenty salty though. I used Real Salt brand salt for this batch. I tried it on some raw veggies and it was good. I also tried it on some cheese and liked the added flavor. I would really like some other flavors mingled in like citrus, garlic, etc.

One thing I notice is that the color is still strong. I have air dried cilantro in the past and it didn’t dry well. The color and flavor really diminished. The color and flavor seem to be retained with the salt added.

What I really like about this method is that I can preserve leftover herbs in a short batch situation. I am from Alabama. In the Deep South there is not a strong focus on herbs and spices. If we’ve got salt, pepper, bacon grease or a piece of pork we are usually good to go. When my husband would grow herbs I often wouldn’t use them very much. I told him to just quit growing them even though I hated going to buy cilantro when I wanted salsa. Now I can grow herbs and preserve them to use later or experiment with some custom blends to give as gifts.  I’m looking forward to some more salt preserving experiments.


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Marmalade: 2017 Food In Jars Challenge for January

I recently signed up for an interesting year long challenge on It is a website about canning and canning jars. In the challenge we have a subject each month to explore and for January it is marmalade. I have never made marmalade, but I’ve been canning jelly, jam, and preserves since I was a kid. I was really excited and early on looked at an Alton Brown video to get a recipe and tips.

Well, as life would have it I spent the first part of January trying to keep up with life while suffering with a lower and an upper respiratory infection. I’m still not fully well. The second part of the month I was getting ready to go on a trip while still suffering from the infection.

I was really getting bummed because I was so looking forward to this challenge. Then one night in a moment of clarity amidst the stupor of my illness I thought “I could do this in the bread machine.”

Of course, my first thought would be that it would be cheating, but I gave myself permission to explore it. I realized that I have so much experience with regular jelly making and canning that doing it in the bread machine would actually be a new challenge, so I did it. The recipe I found was from someone outside the US so I also got to experiment with measuring by weight rather than by volume.

I used mandarin oranges because that was all I had. I used the whole fruit. I tried to slice it with my mandolin slicer, but mandarins are so soft it just smashed it. I ended up crushing the fruit by hand and then chopping the peel. I was concerned that since the mandarins are so small that the proportion of peel to fruit would make it bitter so I used a little less peel.

It ended up being pretty simple after that. I put the fruit and the sugar in the bread pan and set it on the jam setting. For my machine it was one hour and five minutes. The blogger whose recipe I followed said hers didn’t set the first time so she ran it a second time and it worked. The same was true for me. I’m not sure the reason.

It turned out kind of bitter, but it seems like others online said that was true for marmalade. I’ve only had commercial marmalade and that is really sweet. I never eat bitter stuff. An herbalist once told me that eating bitter things is important for our health. That’s the extent of my knowledge. Who knows if marmalade counts in that scenario.

All in all I liked the process. It was simple and great for a small batch situation. It only produced a pint, but there was plenty more room in the pan so I might try more next time. I think I will utilize this method again when I have some leftover fruit I need to use up or for when the garden fruit is not producing enough to warrant a big canning job. It’s nice and practical, but not as fun as making a full batch of jelly.

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Distractions, Elections, and Drawing Close to God

Satan’s biggest weapon right now is distraction. That is why this election is so difficult. I believe the struggles we have right now have less to do with politics than it does with the heart and will of our nation. I’m not saying elections don’t matter, but our calling as Christians is not a political one and as the old saying goes “You can’t legislate morality.”

The real problem is why are people jumping on the band wagons they are when families are falling apart, babies are killed by the thousands on a daily basis, porn is destroying hearts, souls, and relationships. There is so much going wrong and choosing the right candidate is not going to solve those problems.

I feel God calling me to step away from the political chaos. Partially because we’ve reached a point where no one is listening and no one’s mind is changed, but mostly because I am seeing it more as a distraction from what I should be doing.

A seminary professor once taught me that all of scripture and all of history show cycles of creation, destruction, and re-creation. We are clearly in the destruction phase. God seems to be saying to me that he did not gift me for this phase. My gifts are for what is to come. I’m spending my energies preparing my heart and listening to God’s direction. I’m trying to make my way through the distractions, turn from my own sins, and see the people God has called me to love more deeply.

The reality is that we can’t truly love like Christ to the masses. Each of us is called to be Christ to those around us. All of these concerns splashed across our screens each day, although valid, are, for the most part, keeping us looking at the distance and not the calling God has for us in our homes and communities.

Yes, the election is important, but God is sovereign. The person who is elected will be the person who God has allowed to be in that office. They may usher in more suffering, but that may be what is needed to heal an unfaithful nation. God calls us to put all of our selves into his hands including the worries and cares. All we can do is ask for his guidance on how to vote. When we ask for his will then whatever decision we choose will be guided by the Holy Spirit even if certainty never comes. God always honors our faithfulness to him.

No president is really going to heal our nation. That happens when the faithful give all to God and spread that to those around them. History shows that the greatest growth of faith happened in times of great persecution. That may be our future. I hope not, but my only hope and the only hope of the nation is for the faithful to draw closer to Christ in all things. All I can do is start with my own heart, listen, and act as God leads.

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Turning 50 and Pondering My Roots


Recently some hometown friends came to St. Louis and we shared some really amazing time together. We reminisced about our shared history—playing as kids, marching band, etc.  The conversations were also peppered with something more.

One friend reminded me how our parents had grown up together and how my dad had dated his aunt.  I was reminded that the grandparents of my other friend were some of my grandparent’s dearest friends and that my dad built his first race care in her grandfather’s shop.

It all blends so well with my recent thoughts about reaching a milestone age. Today I have reached the half century mark. It still doesn’t seem possible.

I am the youngest in my graduating class by two days.  We have been blessed with some wonderful reunions and I’m always reminded that we have one of the nicest classes to come out of our school. We started out together and many are still involved in each other’s daily lives. For most of us we first started hanging out in the church nursery every Sunday. For me it was the Linden Baptist crowd.

Then as we grew we still had church, but many of us also had our neighborhoods. Pinecrest was teeming with kids back then. We spent the days playing games like rock school, mother may I, red rover, kickball, croquet, and many others. We fashioned floor plans out of pine straw in the yard and played in our straw strewn houses. We sometimes got into trouble. It was clear who the troublemakers were. We still loved them and hung out with them.

All of these thoughts came flooding back to me suddenly one night and they made me thankful that I have something a lot of people don’t have. I have roots. My great grandfather Ed Adams moved to Myrtlewood around 100 years ago.  I feel a deep connection with Myrtlewood because of that history. I would go with Grandmother to visit relatives,  go to the cemetery, or  attend decoration Sunday. She would tell me stories of her life there.  I even have cousins, descendants of my grandmother’s siblings, who never grew up there but are choosing to put down some roots of their own in the communities of their Marengo County grandparents.

There’s power in history and power in home.  I have roots. Maybe that’s what’s missing in this transient world. In our efforts to get jobs and find our way we may have very well lost our roots in the shallow soil of progress. We’ve let the bad things in life and the mundane things overgrow our memories and choke out the good things.

I will be the first to admit that Linden, AL is not a perfect place. Many would go as far to say it has as much in common with Peyton Place as it does with Mayberry, but they are still my roots.  After all, isn’t the calling God gave us to love each other well despite their failings. I’ve got plenty of my own that’s for sure.

I shared history with a group of people whose parents shared history with mine. Our grandparents shared history. Our great grandparents shared history even though I know little about it.  God may never lead my life back there to live, but he gave me the gift of roots and for that I’m thankful.

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Compassion For Women Who Have Experienced Abortion


I woke up this morning grieving what women who have had abortions might be going through with all of these videos and talk about Planned Parenthood.

Many women really believed what they were told that it was just a mass of cells or a clump of tissue. Many may have known, but were told that the procedure was painless and humane. Different women will have different stories, reasons, and responses. The many stories of grief, anger and despair are real.

I am praying for the women who are dealing with the aftermath of abortion and who may have fresh wounds by what is being revealed. The travesty of what we are seeing is much to bear, but we can’t keep denying the reality of what is going on.

Those who hurt in secret may not feel they have anyone to talk to because they have really been forgotten in this debate. To make things worse, many have been judged by the very people who should be caring for them and offering them hope.

We must remember those who are suffering alone. If you are hurting because you had an abortion please know that healing can come. If you know someone who is hurting or who may be hiding their hurt then reach out to them.

There are plenty of people who are pointing out what is wrong about abortion. There are very few who are reaching out with compassion offering a message of healing, hope and forgiveness to those who are grieving. I know I haven’t been thinking about the silent sufferers. I am changing that today.
This website offers many resources to help those who are struggling and to help people who are reaching out to them. They have links to contact local groups which may have support groups, retreats, counseling and other help through Project Rachel and Project Joseph. Project Joseph provides support for men who are struggling because many of them are grieving more than people realize.


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Prepping: Faith vs. Fear

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A few months ago I wrote this post about whether or not prepping shows a lack of faith —

This past week a Facebook conversation led me to go deeper into this subject. I mentioned in passing that I was a prepper and received a response saying that Catholics shouldn’t be preppers and a lot of angst filled reasons why they were not buying into prepper fearmongering.

I don’t know this person. I was just commenting on a friend’s post, but it seems by what they said that there was a lot of anxiety around Y2K for them and they were determined to not get caught up in that again. It’s a wise thing to do because there is a lot of hype and extremism out there. I also think we need to guard against throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

I responded with the comment below. I think it is a balanced way to view prepping from a Christian perspective which as a calling and vocation with a focus on trusting God over trusting the work of our own hands and living in faith rather than anxiety about the future.

You are basing preparedness on an image from the media and of how a certain subset of preppers think. I see preparing as good stewardship. It is part of my vocation as wife, mother and keeper of my home.

I don’t prepare out of anxiety. I prepare by practicing skills that I may need, by keeping some extra food in storage, by preserving my harvest, by making plans for what I might do in an emergency, by thinking about how I’m going to help my neighbors, etc.

I don’t worry about gaps in my plan. I continue to be diligent and know that God will lead me to prepare as needed as Joseph did with storing the grain in Egypt and trust in faith as the Hebrews did with manna in the desert.

Preparing in itself is not a lack of trust in God. I see it as his leading me to have things in place when inevitable hard times hit. If prepping is producing anxiety you are doing it wrong. If you are placing your faith in your preps, you are also doing it wrong. God’s creatures gather food for the coming winter. All of humanity had to do it before we had mass produced food. It is a natural part of life.

In real life food is seasonal–by God’s design. You can buy tomatoes every day of the year in stores, but in the real world in places that have winter they are only here a couple of months out of the year. You get a whole new perspective on food and God’s providence when you start looking at things outside the modern system.

Prov 6:6-11 says…
“Go to the ant, you lazybones; consider its ways, and be wise.
Without having any chief or officer or ruler, it prepares its food in summer, and gathers its sustenance in harvest. How long will you lie there, O lazybones? When will you rise from your sleep?  A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest,  and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want, like an armed warrior.”

In my opinion most people who think prepping is a lack of faith are still putting their faith in the systems of this world, particularly in very vulnerable food delivery systems. I prepare because God calls me to. I have no fear, no anxiety, and no trust that these things I do and have will save me. I trust in his providence in all that I do whether it is preemptive or after the fact.


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A Story to Motivate Us All

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A friend posted this on Facebook and I just had to share. I may very well watch it every day until I start resolutions in January. It just goes to show that we can have hope when everyone else says we shouldn’t.


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How To Use Every Bit Of the Turkey

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Thanksgiving is a week away, so I wanted to share with you how I recently cooked two turkeys out of my freezer and was able to use every bit of both birds. I had purchased them last Christmas with the intention of canning them.  Here’s a blow-by-blow of how I used these particular birds. Hopefully it will help you get some ideas on how to get every last drop of goodness out of your leftovers or to take advantage of the great prices on turkeys this time of year.

Going full bird does works better with a pressure canner/cooker, but it is not necessary. Having a dog is helpful, too. The turkeys were about 10 pounds each.

Turkey Meat: I chose to pressure cook the turkeys in my pressure canner along with some peppercorn, onions, carrots, salt and Lawry’s seasoned salt. I intended to add celery, but I was out.  I cooked them separately, even though I have a large canner. Very yummy.

There is a lot of variation on how to pressure cook a turkey. The guideline I’m using right now is 15 pounds pressure for 4 minutes per pound. The meat falls of the bone easily. If you want the turkey more intact then cook at 3 minutes per pound. You may need to use less water to keep it intact. I haven’t experimented with that.

This is how I used the meat…

  • Made turkey salad with mayo, grapes, and walnuts.
  • Sliced some breast meat for sandwiches. I individually froze slices on trays and transferred them to zipper bags.
  • Canned the rest using a a dry pack method. Just put meat in jars with one inch headspace, fill jar halfway with water and can for 75 minutes at 10 pounds pressure for pints. Some people fill with broth, but I wanted to save that for other things. A pint is roughly a pound of turkey based on pre-cooked weight.

I was amazed at how good the canned turkey tasted. Next time I will skip slicing and freezing the turkey breast and just use the canned turkey for sandwiches.

Broth: I covered the turkey with water when cooking and the turkey released water as well. When cooking was done, the remaining liquid was ready to go as broth. I put it in the fridge overnight. The next day I removed the hardened fat and canned the broth. It can also be frozen. If  you roast your turkey, you will not get broth.

I pressure canned the broth and ended up with four quarts. I used 10 pounds pressure and cooked 20 minutes for pints or 25 minutes for quarts with one inch headspace.

Stock: I put the bones, neck and giblets of the turkey into my pressure canner, covered it in water and set it at 10 pounds pressure for one hour. I could have put veggies in it, but I didn’t bother this time.

I got 4-5 quarts of stock. I used most for a pot of soup. I put the rest in the fridge to add to recipes.  If stock is done well it will have a gelatinous consistency when cooled.  It can also be frozen in ice cube trays to be used as flavoring in everyday cooking. Canning stock is the same as canning broth above.
Schmalz/Turkey Fat: After the broth and stock had cooled I took the hardened fat, heated just enough to melt and strained it through a cloth. I put it in a mason jar in the fridge  to use for cooking and baking.

Bones: I didn’t even throw out the leftover bones. Pressure cooking will make the bones very soft where they just break away in your hand. I gently crushed them with my hands and fed them to my dog. If you don’t have a dog or don’t trust feeding cooked poultry bones to your animals, you can make bone meal.

Well, that’s the scoop. Turkeys are on sale this week so I will be buying some more and will keep this process going. What I love about this is that I can pull things out of the turkey that I would have normally paid extra for–broth, stock, fat, dog food. That’s a pretty substantial savings. I can also take advantage of seasonal prices and save even more.

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Does Preparedness Show a Lack of Faith?

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People seem to be jumping on the preparedness bandwagon these days. I just saw a rather long list of apocalypse-themed TV shows starting this fall. It is very interesting to watch how this trend is growing. There is much wisdom and much foolishness regarding how and why people are approaching preparedness. Some are building up things to keep them comfortable. Others are stockpiling years and years of food. A few are even shutting down their lives in the regular world and moving their families into isolation in the mountains or roaming the country in RVs. Most are not that extreme in their actions, but many are often guided by fear, anger and even arrogance.

When this topic comes up in discussions there is often someone who comments that practicing  preparedness comes from a lack of faith. On the surface, I think the above examples could be interpreted that way. However, when you look at it more closely it shows a lot of faith. It shows faith in food storage, guns, knowledge, gardens, farm animals, plans, buildings, etc.–temporal things that think we have some control over.

I’m not a super prepper. I have some food stores and some supplies. I work more on developing skills than on amassing huge amounts of supplies. For me prepping is not about being fearful or lacking faith. It is about preparing for a potential future. I consider this to be good stewardship. History and the Bible both teach us that hard times come. People go hungry through wars, famine, natural disasters, foolishness of men, and many other reasons.

Commonly it comes through the selfishness and sin of a culture. Look around and you will see that in our culture. These things don’t just change. People don’t wake up one day and decide they are going to live selfless, Godly lives. That kind of change only happens through hard times–through suffering. Our culture can not change without going through the fire.

It is because of this belief that I prepare. I prepare my mind with knowledge I need to provide for my family, I prepare my home to be safe and to house the things we may need, I prepare my hands to have skills I may need and I prepare my heart to be open to those who may need my help. I do this so that I can care for my family and help others without being greedy, fearful, or isolationist.

I see preparedness as part of my vocation as a wife and mother. I struggle greatly but keep trying to do my best to be the  keeper of my home. It is my responsibility to care for what is and what is to come with the understanding that all is built on a foundation of faith and trust in God–our ultimate caretaker. I strive to give my gifts to God and trust him to bring the increase. Sometimes I find myself living with the fear, anger, and arrogance, too. Those come from putting my faith in myself, the knowledge I have, or the work I have done.

Is practicing preparedness showing a lack of faith? I can only see it as an act of faith. We just have to guard our hearts and minds to make sure our faith is well placed.

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