Friday, February 27, 2015

How to Can Lemon Juice ~ Citrus Series

Twas a dark and dreary day... But even the lack of light didn't threaten the resolve of the determined mother and daughter duo. They had planned to can lemon juice and were glad that they did. The final jars standing by the window were like a beam of sunshine, a beacon of light for all who passed by, proclaiming that a project was indeed completed! 

To begin, prepare your canning equipment (step-by-step canning procedures will be found here). Next, wash up your lemons making sure that they are all nice and firm. You will need a grocery bag filled with them in order to yield a batch of seven pint jars (sorry I don't have weight measurements to give you).

The next step is to cut your lemons in half and juice them. I used the citrus juicer attachment on our Bosch mixer but you can use whatever method you know to extract the juice (even some old fashioned squeezing!).

Finally, strain the juice through a sieve to remove any pulp and particles. Place the juice in a large pot and heat it to a low simmering boil.

Once that is accomplished, begin filling your sterilized jars (making sure to keep the juice "hot" but not boiling while doing so) and leave 1/4 inch headspace from the top of the jar. Process the hot jars (pint or quart) of lemon juice for 5 minutes in a boiling water bath canner.

{To learn how to can, visit here and the tutorial we used to can our lemon juice was found here.}

I think this lemon juice will come in handy! And how fun it was to line up the jars onto our pantry shelves! It is very enjoyable to do some preserving in the chilly winter months and these seasonal citrus projects are just perfect! You may also be interested in making traditional lemon marmalade, honey-lemon marmalade or even preparing your own lemon extract! Do you have an abundance of lemons right now? What have you been doing with them? Here is a list of our lemon inspired projects.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

20 Foods that Reduce Cancer Risk and Improve General Health

"As I am approaching my forties, health has begun to be a concern. My energy levels aren't what they used to be and different illnesses have introduced themselves in family and friends. In this new year, something I am working on is preventative health via diet and lifestyle. I am thinking on subtle changes that are realistic."

With this in mind, here are 20 foods that reduce cancer risk and improve general health for women. If we can begin with a few additions and/or replacements of these foods in our daily diet, we will be blessing our bodies (our temples). Remember, our goal is not to be a stick figure but to be healthy and strong, women of God!

I have gleaned this list from Shonda Parker in her book, Naturally Healthy Woman {though the ideas and thoughts in parentheses are my own}:

1. carrot juice

2. daikon radishes

3. milk {I am personally an advocate of whole, raw milk, preferably goat's milk. Also, when it comes to animal by-products, grass-fed animal products are optimal for health. Grain-fed animals are in a completely different category, are un-natural and not beneficial!}

4. tomato juice

5. broccosprouts {Honestly, I have no clue what these are but I am assuming that broccoli and brussel-sprouts would qualify as excellent too.}

6. grape juice

7. salmon, tuna, anchovies {wild is preferred}

8. cherries

9. orange juice {raw, fresh squeezed is best}

10. whole grains {start cutting out the white flour, white rice and white pasta, ideas shared here, basically, avoid processed foods}

11. butter is better {avoid margarine and fake spreads or consider unrefined, cold-pressed coconut oil, also butter made from grass fed animals is best such as the Kerrygold brand}

12. green tea {this is my afternoon pick me up instead of coffee, very easy to implement, try it!}

13. olive oil {extra virgin, cold-pressed is best}

14. garlic {here is a homemaking tip to make meal making with garlic easier!}

15. spinach

16. flaxseed {add this into your smoothies and/or sprinkle into your granola}

17. nuts and seeds: contains essential fatty acids that help lower breast cancer rates {this power bar recipe containing nuts and seeds is easy to make, tastes like a dessert and can be even eaten for breakfast with a glass of cold milk or for a satisfying snack}.

18. vitamin D {your clothesline will also give this to you or a daily walk for 15 minutes in the sun}

19. pure water {drinking a tall glass of water first thing in the morning is also beneficial, yes, before that cup of coffee ladies...}

20. Lastly, Shonda suggests that veggie burgers should replace "much of the red meat in a healthy woman's diet. Red meat*, particularly when well done, forms compounds that increase cancer rates among big meat-eaters." She suggests beef only "in moderation". {I will add that many veggie products contain soy which has its own set of health concerns, visit this article for information. Replacing some of your beef with high quality chicken and bean based foods would be a better alternative to soy products. Here is our favorite black bean burger recipe and our favorite meals to make with pinto beans.}

*Also, please note that I am not necessarily advocating a vegetarian diet, just a balanced, moderate one when it comes to red meat. Visit this article from Weston A. Price Foundation on Diet for Prevention of Women's Diseases which shares further information and reasons to keep grass-fed by-products and meats in your diet. When it comes to animal products, grass-fed animal products are optimal for health. Grain-fed animals are in a completely different category, are un-natural and are not beneficial to anyone.

My goal is to implement more of these foods in our diet this year. What foods have you been trying to incorporate into your daily menus and why? You may also like to visit our first post in this series, Five Steps to a Healthier Life {and a Pep Talk}.

"Health is not contained in a drug, a pill, an herbal medicine or a hormonal cream. Health is total, involving body, mind and spirit. A healthy woman wakes up in the morning looking forward to another day of serving God, praying to gird herself for the day's work, and listening to God's voice in His Word. She is a good steward of her body, taking care to eat nutritious foods and recommended supplements. She laughs at her children's delightful escapades, shares her thoughts with a friend, snuggles next to her husband while reading at night... Health is much more in the heart than in the broken toe..."
~Shonda Parker, Naturally Healthy Woman

Friday, February 20, 2015

How to Make a Calendula Cold and Flu Elixir or Oxymel {DIY}

"Please give these to your mother,
and tell her I like the medicine she sent me very much."
~ Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

Though this elixir tastes just like the over-the-counter cough medicine (and boasts great results), it isn't full of nasty laboratory chemicals! My husband was starting to feel those symptoms of sickness and the minute I noticed him getting congested, I brought out our bottle (some might of thought I was excited that he was sick just so I could finally try this recipe out!). I expected to continue to administer it to him the next day but he was already recovering by then! Whatever was in this concotion worked! Actually, I do know what is in it *smile* and I would love to share this recipe with you, my aspiring herbalists!

The neat part about this recipe is that it includes the bright and beautiful calendula. Most people think of this flower as an external healer but this recipe highlights its internal healing powers! According to the Herbal Academy of New England, it is "an antimicrobial to help the body resist pathogens such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Research has shown that calendula is effective against flu and herpes viruses (McIntyre, 1996). Calendula is also an effective lymphatic cleanser, reducing lymphatic congestion and infection and removing toxins from the lymph system."

{Note: Pregnant and/or nursing women should not take calendula internally though it is safe externally. See disclaimer below.}

To make this cold and flu elixir (and/or oxymel), add the following herbs to a clean, quart sized jar:
  • 1 c. fresh (or 2/3 c. dried) calendula flowers ~ I used fresh (how to identify calendula is here).
  • 1 c. fresh (or 2/3 c. dried) elderberries ~ I used dried.
  • 1/2 c. fresh (or 1/3 c. dried) rose hips ~ I used dried.
  • 2 tbsp. fresh (or 1 tbsp. dried) orange peel ~ I used dried.
  • 1 tbsp. fresh (or 1 tsp. dried) ginger ~ I used fresh.

To make an elixir: Add vodka (80-100 proof) into jar of herbs until it is ¾ of the way full. {If you are concerned about using and making alcohol based medicine (and understandably so!), visit here or simply try the oxymel recipe below}.

To make an oxymel: Add raw apple cider vinegar into jar of herbs until it is ¾ of the way full. If choosing to use the raw apple cider vinegar, keep in mind that the herbal medicine won't be as strong since vinegar doesn't extract the same amount of medicinal properties from the herbs as the alcohol does. 

Lastly (for both elixir and oxymel), fill the remaining of the jar with raw honey making sure to leave one inch from the top of the jar for "shake room". Screw on your jar lid.  If using a metal lidded jar, cover jar with plastic prior to screwing on lid so it doesn't corrode. Give your elixir/oxymel a nice shake and check to make sure the contents are still within the 1 inch mark. If not, add more honey.

Let your mixture steep in a cool, dark area for 4-6 weeks if using alcohol. If using raw apple cider vinegar, let it sit for 2-3 weeks. Give your jar a good shake every few days to infuse the herbs while also making sure that nothing (like the honey) gets stuck to the bottom. 

When the time is completed, place a fine strainer over a glass bowl. Line the strainer with a piece of clean lightweight cotton (like a flour sack towel). Pour the contents through, strain and label the glass jar with the name and date (you can use our clip art below if you like). Your elixir and/or oxymel is now ready to use!

Store your "Calendula Cold and Flu Elixir" in a cool, dark area like your pantry for at least one year. If you have made the oxymel version with the raw apple cider vinegar, that should last up to 6 months in your pantry (or perhaps longer in your fridge).

At the first signs of cold or flu in our home, we take one tablespoon every 2-3 hours until symptoms subside (I would reduce dosage in half for children). We have found that frequent doses are the key to effective treatment when using natural medicine. This would also be a wonderful prevention tonic to build up your immune system when those bugs are in the air. When some family members came off an international flight during the "Ebola scare", I gave this elixir to them immediately in the airport (and once more before bed) and no one ever got sick! And my prior experiences with international flights had always left someone with undesirable health.

This recipe was adapted from the Herbal Academy of New England. You will find a printable recipe on their website that you may want to include in your herbal {free "herbal" printable here}. I did change four things in the original recipe as follows:
  • First off, we offered the nonalcoholic version of making an oxymel with raw apple cider vinegar.  
  • Secondly, we didn't have the elderflowers so I prepared this recipe without them being that I at least had the powerful elderberries.
  • Third, we changed the medium from brandy to vodka. We don't keep a liquor cabinet in our home as we do not "drink". However, we do keep vodka on hand for making baking extracts and medicinal tinctures so that is what we used. The proof is the same so that it will not affect the preserving abilities of this elixir. If you are concerned about using and making alcohol based medicine (and understandably so!), visit here.
  • Lastly, we changed the title (poetic license if you please :).

Do you have any information, recipes or ideas for calendula usage? We are hosting a "calendula only" link up and we would love to glean from you. This post was a part of our Make Your Own Apothecary ~ Home Pharmacy Series. See our complete collection of Calendula DIY Recipes here!

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. While I do seek scientific confirmation of the safety and effectiveness of the herbs and remedies I use, remember that using remedies is a personal decision. Nothing I say on this blog is approved by the FDA or intended to diagnose, treat or prevent disease. All things on this blog are my opinion or the opinion of others. Also, if you have a medical condition, are taking pharmaceutical drugs, or are pregnant, please consult your physician prior to taking herbs.
The following posts have been shared thus far in our series:

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Pressure Canning Beans ~ Some Talk, Tips and Tutorials

"She went to the cupboard, looked thoughtfully at the contents of the shelves. A sack of beans caught her eye. Ah, that was the very thing."
~ Loula Grace Erdman, Excerpt from The Wide Horizon

My new favorite preserving adventures in the winter months are stock-piling my pantry shelves with a variety of beans. First off, it is very enjoyable to can foods in the chilly months (no sweat shop in your kitchen)! Second, home canned beans taste so much better in my opinion. Third, it is very convenient to have canned beans in the pantry (it is practically a meal in a jar)! And lastly, you can customize your beans to your preferences (such as pre-soaked for the stomach, size of jars and flavors). 

To begin, here are the tutorials I used and loved for learning how to pressure can and how to do beans specifically (both by The Prairie Homestead). With these excellent resources, my fear of pressure canning was finally removed and the fun began!
I also wanted to share some additional homemaking tips and ideas which I have learned along the way that may further benefit your bean canning adventures:

"Katie stood still, regarding those beans. Mama had always said that the excellent thing about beans was that they were so easy to cook. She wished now that she had learned the "so easy" way of cooking them."
~ Loula Grace Erdman, Excerpt from The Wide Horizon

Basic Pressure Canning Tips:
  • If you have hard water, add a couple "glugs" of vinegar to your pressure canner water so that your jars don't come out with white filmy residue.
  • There is no need to sterilize the lids or simmer them anymore. See this link for details.

"She started to slide the lid on the pan, then regarded it uncertainly. That looked like a mighty few beans. They wouldn't last for more than one meal... She went back to the sack, got out some more beans. She washed them, added them to the others. The pan was full to the top now and she felt better about the matter..."
~ Loula Grace Erdman, Excerpt from The Wide Horizon

Basic Canning Beans Tips:
  • A large 16 quart stock-pot is "just large enough" to prepare 14 quarts of beans for your pressure canner (if your pressure canner holds 14 quarts of course). I soak my beans in the 16 quart pot overnight, drain the water, rinse the beans and add fresh water to cover the beans by a few inches before bringing to a boil and ladling into my canning jars. 
  • To make 14 quarts of beans, you will need to count out and prepare approximately 20 cups of dry beans. I like to be on the more exact side so that I am not stuck with extra soaked beans at the end. If that does happen, you can freeze them and can them in the next session. Obviously, to make 7 quarts of beans, you would use half the amount of dry beans and so forth.
  • Use wide mouth jars when canning beans for convenience. It is easier to remove them. However, when necessary, I have used regular mouthed jars plenty of times.
  • Make sure your head space is proper (err on the side of less full) or you will have sticky jars with overflowed juice that may not seal. Pressure canned beans get really bubbly so I strongly suggest that you listen to the headspace requirement.
  • Also, I do something called fake canning (you are about to see how frugal I can be). If I know I am going to want to use a few jars of my beans during the upcoming week, I will place a "used" canning lid (which I mark with a star or something) so that we can eat the prepared beans that week without wasting a "new" canning lid. {This tip is for the ultra el-cheapos out there like myself.} This just allows me some instant cooked beans but they do need storing in the refrigerator.

"When they went into the room they were greeted by a spattering sound... Katie did not need her sister's shrill voice to warn her. She herself could see the beans, running over the top of the pan, on the stove. They were sticking to the hot stove lid--the smell was awful."
~ Loula Grace Erdman, Excerpt from The Wide Horizon

I like to prepare my pinto beans with a bit of flavor so I add 2 teaspoons of taco seasoning to the bottom of each quart jar prior to ladling the beans into the jar. This makes for a tasty and still versatile bean (if you like extra spicy, add an extra teaspoon). Here are fourteen ways that we like to eat our pinto beans! 

For our black beans, I pressure can them in only water. I don't add anything to these jars as it fits better with the recipes I use them for. Here are our favorite ways to eat black beans.

And lastly, I have been experimenting with white beans (butter beans being my favorite). I also can these without seasoning and use them for this Alfredo recipe. They can be tossed into an impromptu salad. I also puree them and add them into baked macaroni and cheese dishes for extra protein. Making white bean dips is something I am trying out but haven't yet to find the right recipe. Perhaps you have one you would like to share or do you have some bean canning tips?

"And, of course, the beans in the pan on the stove, keeping warm... Bert went to them, raised the lid. "Oh, beans--" he said. He lifted the lid of another pan. "Beans--too." In rapid succession, he lifted three lids... "Golly!" he exclaimed in amazement. "Golly -- if she hasn't gone and cooked three pans of beans!"
~ Loula Grace Erdman, Excerpt from The Wide Horizon