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Thursday, September 17

canned banana peppers...handed-down, tried & true

The last few days I have been in a tizzy. Webster's Dictionary is spot on when it says a tizzy is: 

"a highly excited and distracted state of mind"

Yep, that about sums it up. 

In a frenzy.

In a panic.

Riddled with guilt.

And why? Because with canning season here and the garden overflowing, I couldn't find my grandmother's recipe for pickled banana peppers...it wasn't in the spot it's "always" in. Anxiousness set in...this was her handwritten recipe, what could I have done with it? The last time I made it was for our County Fair, but I was sure I didn't take it with me to the fairgrounds.

I looked through my cookbooks...had I tucked it away? I looked through kitchen drawers...was it with other loose recipes? I called my mom...she tried to recall it from memory, but wasn't sure, and she didn't have a copy.

Feeling defeated, I decided I had to go through cookbooks again, this time not looking for the recipe card, but looking at cookbooks I had helped write. Once upon a time I was a Cookbook Editor, and surely somewhere in those dozens of books I had written, I had included her recipe. 

I sat on the floor, and began all over again. Finally I pulled my very first cookbook off the shelf, and there it was: Maymie's Canned Peppers. I was thrilled...while I still need to find that heartfelt, original recipe, I at least HAD the recipe. And so today, the canning began!

I'll share it with you, but remember, this is an old recipe...probably 80 years-old if not older. I don't claim to be an expert at perfecting the pickling salt/water/vinegar ratios, I just know that this recipe has been enjoyed for generations and it has worked just fine.

You'll also see she listed just brine ingredients. Today I picked as many peppers as I could, doubled the brine, and had some left over. I can't give you an exact count or weight of peppers...for me, that's the beauty of this old-fashioned recipe.

My grandparents in 1918

Maymie's Canned Peppers

Banana Peppers; hot or sweet

1 cup pickling and canning salt

9 cups water

1 cup distilled white vinegar

1 garlic clove, peeled, per jar

1 Tablespoon Wesson Oil, per jar

Prepare peppers...if leaving whole, cut two slits in each pepper, or you can slice peppers into rings discarding the stems. 

Prepare a boiling water bath and sterilize jars, lids and rings. If you have never done this before, please read the step-by-step instructions shared by the National Center for Home Food Preservation by linking HERE.

To create the brine, combine salt, water, and vinegar in a stockpot; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, stir, and simmer until salt is dissolved. Set aside, but keep to a low simmer.

Add one garlic clove to the bottom of each sterilized jar; then pack peppers tightly into jars. Slowly pour hot brine over peppers leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Add Wesson oil to each jar.

Use a small non-metallic spatula or plastic knife inside the jar between the peppers and the side of the jar to remove air bubbles. Wipe jar rims, apply lids and rings.

Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. 

When I first went to look at Mae, my 1950 Hotpoint stove, the lady selling her asked if I canned...I'll be happy to tell her that today Mae and I canned for the first time and tomorrow we'll be canning tomatoes.

If you try them, I hope you enjoy these banana peppers...salty, with a hint of garlic and oil.  I'm oh-so grateful to have jars lining my pantry again! 

Sunday, September 13

happenings on the farm...

I admit it...I am finicky when it comes to the seasons. Going through a store or receiving a catalog and seeing Halloween candy in July or Christmas decorations in August just makes me crazy...I will stop, look, and then roll my eyes.

Times like those always bring to mind the quote by Jeffrey R. Holland:

"Nature has its rhythms and its harmonies.
We would do well to fit ourselves as best we can with those cycles
rather than frantically throwing ourselves against them.
be calm, be patient, be happy with the season you are in."

Well, with that being said, I broke all my own rules a couple of weeks ago. The weather had been so hot and humid and we'd been cleaning out barns and the basement and well, I snapped. I needed Fall, so out came the pumpkin-vanilla candles and pumpkin-scented hand soaps. I just couldn't help it...I was NOT happy with the season I was in!

Ahhh, never underestimate the power of fragrance...sure, it may still be hot & humid outside as harvest and canning season begins, but somehow the scent of pumpkin and vanilla help me remember that soon sweater weather, colorful leaves, and the sound of a crackling fire are all just around the corner. Ahhh... 

And so, for us it's harvest-time, I'll take you on a little walk about the farm for a peek at what's happening in our part of the Midwest...

just-picked radishes and carrots...

sage I'll dry for Thanksgiving stuffing, peppers for canning...

flowers still bursting with cheery blooms... 

tomatoes for sauces and busy bees in pumpkin blooms.

                             And somehow...our daughter turned, gulp, 20! 


Thanks to the pandemic, we celebrated in style at home...silly style, including a candy-filled pinata, musical twirling birthday candles, and a family glow-stick selfie!

And lastly, for anyone wondering about Bailey, no worries, she's fitting in just fine!

Who rescued who?


Saturday, September 5

oven-roasted tomato sauce recipe...tried & true!

The temperature this morning was 48 degrees...ahhh, absolutely perfect to me. And because we are in the heart of tomato season, and with cooler temperatures predicted, it's a good weekend for canning garden veggies!

Just in case you're thinking the same thing, I'm re-posting the recipe...

SO easy!

SO delicious!

1 - quarter as many tomatoes as will fit a 13"x9" pan.
      (no need to core or peel, just slice off the stem end.)

2 - add garlic to taste

3 - drizzle with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt & pepper; stir to coat tomatoes.

4 - place baking pan into a 400-degree oven for 45 minutes.

5 - Cool tomatoes slightly, spoon into a blender and puree. 

6 - Add 3 T.  Italian seasoning, or fresh herbs to taste 
     (oregano, garlic chives, rosemary, basil, French tarragon); blend to combine.

7 - Add a peeled, quartered onion, and a pinch of sugar; if desired.
     Blend until smooth.

8 - Spoon into freezer containers; freeze.

That's it!

You're done!

I'll also be making canned peppers...will share that recipe with you soon.

Sunday, August 23

4 farmhouse fallacies...(don't you love alliteration?!)

Like so many of you, our days on the farm are full...trimming, mowing, tilling, watering, harvesting, only to fall in bed at night "bone tired" as the saying goes. And the next morning we get up and do it all again. During summertime especially, I am grateful Sunday is set aside as a day of rest...it's much needed.

A couple of weeks ago, while I was working in the garden, it dawned on me that I had some myths to debunk. "Wisdom" that was shared with me that I've found, well, just isn't so wise after all.

1-don't mulch with hay...it's full of seeds and your garden will be full of weeds.

NOT true! We always seem to have some hay at the bottom of our stacks that turns a bit moldy. While definitely not good for the goats, it's perfect for mulching garden plants. I pull apart the flakes and put them around all my plants. Not only does it do a terrific job of keeping the weeds at bay, it does NOT sprout seeds and cause new weeds.

2 - potatoes that have sprouted in your kitchen will not grow in your garden.

Hog Wash...each spring I have potato sprouts that I plant in the garden, and each year we dig up oodles of potatoes. They will grow and they're delicious!

3 - don't plant volunteers that have survived over winter, they won't produce in your garden.

Each spring, before tilling the garden, I stumble upon a volunteer or two...this year it was pumpkins and gourds, tenacious little seeds that survived and then thrived. Won't produce? Look at this photo!

4 - Now, while not a garden myth, this may be one of the most important myths to expose of all.

Pit bull dog breeds are bad.

Now, hear me out...because I was wary of them at one point. Yes...stories in the news do carry powerful influence. 

Several weeks ago we discovered a dog sleeping in our barn. At the sight of us, she would run as fast and as far as she could to get away. And yet, each morning we'd find her back in the hay, curled up. We began looking on lost animal websites and in the paper thinking surely someone had lost their family pet. But in the backs of our minds, we knew...it's happened before; we live in a spot that's just right for dropping off dogs unseen.

Weeks went by as we tried to gain her trust. The running away slowed and in time, she began to trust us, but would still hang her head and flinch at unexpected noises. Slowly, we did gain her trust...and I'm here to tell you, she is the sweetest dog and we've named her Bailey. 

While most likely a mix, she has the main markings of an American Staffordshire Terrier. She is stocky and muscular with wide-set, dark round eyes. People will say, oh she's related to Pit Bulls; however Pit Bull isn't a breed, it's a catch-all for several breeds descended from Bulldogs.

There are a lot of stigmas that surround theses dogs and they face a lot of discrimination. The Bulldog breeds were originally bred as working dogs, while, sadly, in later years because of their strength and muscular build, were bred to fight. They are not inherently aggressive, but gentle, intelligent, and affectionate. All dogs are products of their environment as well as genetics. 

Because we don't know her background, we're still getting to know Bailey...as we would do with any dog breed. But when I see her soaking up the sunshine peacefully alongside the barn cats and watch her snuggle up to each of us for affection, I think a gem has found her way to our home.



Sunday, July 19

the dog days are here...

Today's expected high temperature is 96 degrees...for me, that is too hot, at least 25 degrees too hot. I am a fall & winter kind of gal, loving every minute of sweater-weather from autumn's crunch of leaves to the silent beauty of a snowfall.

And yet, here we are in the hot, hazy, humid days of summer; The Dog Days of Summer as they're called. A quick look at The Farmers' Almanac tells me why they have this name...called the Dog Star, Sirius rises and sets with the Sun from July 3 to August 11. It's said the ancient Romans believed Sirius gave off heat, making the summer weather even hotter...and so they called the 20 days before and after its alignment with the Sun,  "dies caniculares", or dog days.

Today is filled with the whirring of locusts and the distant sound of doves calling...farm lore says that doves calling means rain will come, and with fingers crossed, we're hoping so. 

Summertime days begin early, before the sun is high...the garden and flowers are watered, animals get buckets of cool water along with breakfast, bird baths are filled, and any weeding, tilling, or harvesting is done before the sun creeps over the tall maples.

Now, if you ask my family, they will tell you I am a broken record, with my favorite 3 words this time of year being...


But really, it's only the heat and humidity that make me cranky. I can sometimes be found splashing my face at the outdoor faucet or, on particularly hot days, putting my entire head under it...how's that saying go, "Farm hair, don't care!"  Whatever it takes to cool off and get the job done.

I love summertime flowers...

I love  the garden...

I love the look of rain in the distance over the cornfield, and the fireworks at sunset...

I can't do anything to change the heat of summer, but with the blessings of smiling goats and tag-a-long cats, it's not so bad. 

And really, is there any better time to make homemade ice cream? Hmmm, guess what we'll be doing tomorrow!

Thursday, June 18

flowers, rainbows & homemade bread

This week the sun has been shining, temperatures have been fall-like, and there's been a brisk breeze from the North...absolutely perfect in my mind. Days like these are never long enough, and they can lift the spirits and lighten the heart.

My daughter and I spent several nights in our camper Maizy, and although we didn't leave our own 10 acres, it was memories in the making...we laughed, watched Netflix or our favorite British shows on Acorn, scattered several little lanterns for glowing light, and had a sweet cat curled up at our feet.

Flowers have started to bloom on the farm and it makes me happy to see all the cheery colors...

iris and perennial geranium...

baptista and peony...

and even more springtime color as we spotted a pretty rainbow on a trip to a nearby town!

I've been trying sooo many new bread recipes from my MaryJane's Farm Wild Bread book...find it here, you have to have one!  

Worried about running out of yeast? Worry no more, these breads are made with a starter capturing the wild yeast in the air around us. There are step-by-step instructions so we can't go wrong, and there's even a Wild Bread chatroom for questions.

Sandwich and Epi Breads

Fougasse and French Breads

Flatbread and Batter Bread

So here we are, almost to the official start of summer, taking in everything around us, and keeping mindful that time is fleeting.

Make sure to enjoy every minute...plan a backyard Mid-Summer's Eve party for your family, hang a sheet and have movie night outside, pitch a tent and make s'mores, fly kites, stargaze, play favorite games like hide & seek, Red Rover, or flashlight tag.

Ahhh, the joys of June!

Thursday, May 28

almost June?!

How can it be almost June?

Time flies, they say, when you're having fun. And while this spring has been filled with ups & downs, we're thankful to have been together during the stay-at-home rules. 

I am so grateful for kids that enjoy being together, I LOVE the sound of laughter that rattles this old house, I love movie marathons, I love camping out in the family room watching British comedies and mysteries, I love Uno Attack, and I love Mario Kart races.

We've spent many sunny days doing yardwork, and while I'd really like to get the garden in...the tiller just went in for repairs. As did the mower...just when the grass is sprouting non-stop. And so it goes...planting and mowing will have to wait just a little bit longer.

In the meantime, it's a blessing to enjoy what's around us...

flowers blooming, 

flags flying, 

corn growing,

cats napping.

And this year, for the first time, we have Baltimore Orioles...such a pretty surprise! 

Oriole, Orange, Bird, Wildlife, Nature, Avian, Feathers
source (I couldn't get a picture quickly enough!)

I've been working on sprucing up the milkhouse...prepping to turn it into a farmers' market spot. If you've read about it in earlier posts, you know I was set to go 40's retro...colors like tomato soup red and turquoise, bright, cheery colors with a little musica in the background. 

But lately I've been thinking, as fun as that is, and I do love 40's music, it is, after all, a milkhouse. On a farm. Hmmm, maybe more prim and cozy is what it needs. I've been repairing the masonry, after all a milkhouse built in 1950 needs a little love, and as I work on it, I've found I don't want to smooth it all out...make it "perfect."  Isn't there enough striving for perfection as it is...why not enjoy all its little quirks, rough surfaces, chippy paint, and uneven floor. After all, the floor is purposefully uneven...there's a drain...it's a milkhouse!

So after chatting with friends, I'm thinking up another logo...it can still be Maizy & Mae, but at Sweet Meadow Dairy. I already have these signs tucked away that could be put inside...hmmm, what do you think?

Let me know your thoughts!

And so before we know it, it will be June...the earth is ready for summer. It's time for twinkling fireflies, strawberries, making bubbles (6 cups hot water, 1/2 cup corn syrup, 1 cup clear dishwashing liquid) and flying kites.

Create a fairy garden, or tuck a secret garden in a corner of the yard...it's all about magic. Remember June 21 is the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year, so enjoy it! Picnic in your back yard, sleep under the stars, play tag or hide & seek, light sparklers, hang a sheet at nightfall and show a movie.

Sweet memories in the making...

Monday, May 25

Memorial Day...

When we ponder that vast throng who have died honorably
defending home and hearth,
we contemplate those immortal words,
"Greater love hath no man than this,
that a man lay down his life for his friends."

The feelings of heartfelt gratitude for the supreme sacrifice made by so many cannot be confined to a Memorial Day,
a military parade, or a decorated grave.

-Thomas S. Monson

Wednesday, April 29

a vintage stove named Mae...

It's a cloudy Wednesday here on the farm...the kind of day that's good for old movies, favorite books, and an afternoon nap. My son will say this is his favorite kind of day, and I absolutely agree. It just seems like we take things a bit slower and enjoy them more.

So today's post is to introduce you to Mae...a 1950  Hotpoint stove. And I'm guessing you're probably thinking two things:

1- Who names their stove?

2- Sure vintage is cute, but is she practical, can she cook?

So, here's a little story of a stove named Mae.

A month ago, while going through a baking frenzy (who isn't these days?) and right in the middle of the kids' favorite Charlie Brownies, I noticed the heating element in our oven looked like a sparkler and a hot glow was traveling around the element. I turned the oven off. The traveling glow and sparks continued. So off went the breaker and I unplugged the stove. It stopped, and the oven stayed hot enough to finish baking the Charlie Brownies...a high priority. 

Now, I'd be less than honest if I didn't say that a little part of my heart skipped for joy...I've been wanting a double oven for some time now. If I'm going to be baking for my little farm market, two ovens are definitely better than one. So I began researching double ovens: which ones were rated the best and were any of those in stock locally? 

Then I had a brainstorm, being a devoted Susan Branch fan (read her blog...it's LOVELY) I began thinking, what about a vintage double oven?  Hmmm, I remembered she has one she loves, so I went back to her post about it...a 1956 O'Keefe and Merritt, "still going after almost sixty years in service."

And so I hopped online and began searching within a 50 mile radius. In no time at all I came across a 1950 Hotpoint for sale in "working condition" right here in my hometown. Come on, what are the chances?

Yep, she was cute, but that isn't enough...the bottom line would be, did she work?  So I decided to drop Susan Branch a note asking about her vintage oven, and she was kind enough to reply, even suggesting a shop that carried replacement parts if I would ever need them.

Okay...it's less than 15 minutes away, how can I not go? I set up a time to stop by and take a look. The kind family I talked with were the new owners of the house, and so an inspector had just given the oven a once-over...it all worked. At 39-inches wide she would just barely fit in my kitchen, but it didn't matter...she was coming home with me. Before we left, the homeowner asked me if I canned...I had a feeling she was hoping the stove was going to a good home. Yes, I told her...before I know it we'll be making jams, jellies, and canned tomato sauce.

Between the brawn of both my husband and son, she was up the steps, through the mudroom, and in place in no time at all.

I LOVE THIS STOVE. Two ovens, two broilers, and four burners that have in the last month baked endless batches of cookies, brownies, bread, along with Easter dinner and any other meal we could think of.

I LOVE how she's a pushbutton and the buttons change colors depending on the temperature...they're called "Talking Buttons"


Evidently she was quite the rage when these advertisements debuted!

  Amazon.com: Hotpoint Pushbutton Cooking Stove Kitchen 1950 Vintage Antique Advertisement: Prints: Posters & Prints

I LOVE that she has really deep pull out drawers that fit my extra pots, pans, and tea kettles. This is something that new double ovens don't have.

I LOVE that the repairman who just worked on our dryer took a look at her and said, "They don't make 'em like that anymore," and assured me he knew of a source for parts and that he could make repairs if I needed them. 

And her name? Well, my friend Lisa said anything vintage needs a name. And she's right, we named our camper, why not name a stove? I settled in and tried to get creative. Our camper is named Maizy, a name that's special because it's what my grandmother always called me...hmmm, her middle name was Mae. Why not Mae? 

I also needed a name for my little farm market, how about Maizy & Mae?  It felt like the perfect combination of my baking done in our vintage oven.

And so there you are...the story of Mae. A stove that is not only sweet to look at, but yes, so practical. And when I cook with her, I can't help but think that she's been bringing families together for 70 years...a very long time indeed. 

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