How does your garden grow? If it is like mine, the weeds are growing fine. Most of the veggies have deserted these premises. I picked all my tomatoes the other day and got enough for just two quart jars of pasta sauce. I didn't even bother to get out my big cooker - just used a roasting pan and cooked it off in the oven.
That way, there was almost no stirring and the sauce cooked down nice and thick. That's an old-fashioned way to make apple butter, too, if one isn't cooking it outside. For small batches, the Crockpot Apple Butter recipe is good. Applesauce, too. Using a crockpot or roaster, a batch can be made using a smaller amount of apples, so there is no excuse to let any turn brown or rot. When I do a small batch of anything, I usually just "open kettle" it and can in sterilized jars. I know that is frowned on by the County Extension office and I don't use that method for large amounts of produce or for everything I can. If possible, I freeze vegetables and fruit instead of canning them, but my freezer space is limited.
A friend of ours had a very bountiful garden this year and brought me two big bags of peppers when he heard my peppers didn't do so well. They are beautiful. Putting them up jumps to the head of my "to do" list. I will be using the recipes I recently gave you to preserve them, plus a couple of others that are in my cookbook. We love them fried, with onions, to serve with Italian sausages so that is the first meal with them. Add some homemade Hot Mustard and we are happy.
This past week was Fair Week in Washington County. One thing I noticed was the large number of children running around by theirselves, no parent or other adult in sight. I know kids think they are older than they really are and think they are in no danger at a fair. Our community used to be a very safe place - no need to worry about kids running around or even house doors being locked. We are in a different situation these days. We read about small child and teenage abduction all the time and are thankful we live in this safe area, but we - and our kids - are not entirely safe. As these undesirables get pushed out of the bigger cities, they start thinking about an area where the residents have always been safe and are not as vigilant as they should be. Friends and neighbors, that is us. The teens don't like to be monitored or have to check in with an adult every so often, but that is vital for their safety in this day and age. Please, parents, be parents and increase your vigilance for your children. Make the rules they need to be safe and enforce them. You can be the "friends" stage when they are grown men and women. Nobody wants to have to live through the tragedy that harm to your child would be.
I had the crazy idea that I was going to get needed projects done by the end of summer (Labor Day Weekend). Well, Labor Day got here and I was still thinking about what to do first and turned somewhat defiant - I WAS NOT going to work on Labor Day! So, we head into fall and the "attic room" isn't turned into a spare bedroom or any space cleared for closets. There are books to be moved, clothes to sort through before winter and many, many items to be culled for disposal.
I am told that I have as many hours in a day as everyone else, but I just don't believe it. I am applying my "hundred years" rule to the push for more rapid movement to get these tasks finished. If it won't matter one hundred years from now, there is no rush to do it at the present.
The first thing I did this morning was to go out to my New Dawn rosebush and find a pretty pink rose, just starting to go from bud to full blooming flower. The New Dawn is a newer rose from the old Doctor Van Fleet that only bloomed in the spring. This rose is supposed to have some bloom all summer but is being a little stingy right now. Of course, the bush isn't very old and has had trouble with those who pruned it this year. The soft pink color and the wonderful rose scent reminds me of the Dr. Van Fleet rosebushes that grew so large and plentiful on this farm many years ago. Sort of brings back a feeling of "home" and "security" and "family". Guess I needed that this morning as I enjoyed that nice rose scent. Sometimes one just has to go to that Hidden Garden in one's mind to rejuvenate one's self and leave that "pity party" that sometimes creeps in.
Local peaches are about over, but the local apple crop is going strong. My grapes - what few I have - are ripening. I hope there is enough to make one batch of jelly - no need to even think about enough for a jug of wine. I am too busy to mess with it right now, anyway. If you get a chance, take your little ones out to a local apple orchard to pick apples. I love the picking, of any fruit, so much that I have a problem with stopping when I have what I can handle. The fall day in the orchard, with mom and dad and all the siblings, along with a picnic lunch, will be remembered throughout life. The memories will warm the soul on many a winter night - whether it is an actual winter night or a winter night of the soul or the winter night of disappointment. No one's life is always perfect and when those imperfect moments come, it is necessary to have those Hidden Garden memories to remind one that there can be better days ahead. Memories are the best legacy you can leave your children and grandchildren. Life isn't always so golden in those Golden Years as one gets older and memories can be a true treasure. Just be sure to weed the bad memories! They are over and done with and cannot be changed, so put them where they belong - in the forgotten past.
Enjoy each day of this fall season - it is a beautiful time of year. Be always thankful for family, friends, and those who protect us. Thankfulness isn't just for Thanksgiving Day but for every day. Go to the school activities with your children and grandchildren and be thankful that you can. Take care and God Bless!
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FRESH APPLE MUFFINS
1 cup flour
1/4 cup instant mashed potato granules
3 tablespoon sugar, divided
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tart cooking apple, peeled and finely diced
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 cup milk
1/4 cup butter or margarine, melted
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Combine flour, potato granules, two tablespoons sugar, baking powder, salt, and apple. Lightly beat egg together with milk and butter. Add to flour mixture and stir just until moistened. Spoon into well-greased muffin tins (or paper lined ones), filling no more than two-thirds full. Combine remaining 1 tablespoon sugar with cinnamon and sprinkle over muffins. Bake in preheated 425-degree oven for fifteen to twenty minute, or until golden brown.
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FRESH APPLE CAKE
1 cup cooking oil
2 cups sugar
3 eggs, well beaten
2 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups, peeled, chopped apples (I use Yellow Delicious)
1 cup ground or very finely chopped pecans
Combine oil and sugar. Beat in eggs. Sift dry ingredients and add to egg mixture. Fold in vanilla, apples and pecans. Bake in greased and floured 13x9-inch pan and bake in preheated 325-degree oven for 55 minutes. Cool and ice cake with Vanilla Cream Cheese Icing.
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VANILLA CREAM CHEESE ICING
1 pound box confectioners' sugar, sifted
1 eight ounce package cream cheese1/2 cup butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup chopped pecans
Have all ingredients at room temperature. In large mixer bowl, beat at low speed the sugar, cream cheese, and butter until smooth. Add vanilla, then stir in pecans.
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EASY CANNED GRAPE JUICE
Stem and wash ripe grapes. Let drain. Put 1-cup grapes in clean 1-quart canning jar. Add 1/2 cup sugar, then fill with warm water. Seal and process. Put jars into canner and add warm water to cover lids by about 1-inch. Bring water to a boil, then keep at simmering temperature for thirty minute - normal hot water bath method. Juice will be ready in about two weeks.
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CROCKPOT APPLE BUTTER
Five pounds tart cooking apples, peeled cored, and quartered
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup fresh apple juice or fresh cider
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
Combine all ingredients in a slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for eight to ten hours, or until the apples are very tender. Mash apples with a potato masher, food processor, or immersion blender. Return to crockpot and cook, uncovered, on low, for two more hours or until mixture is very thick. Stir occasionally to keep from sticking. Pour immediately into hot, sterilized jars and seal. This makes about 3 pints.
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1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon whole allspice
1 teaspoon whole cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick
2 quarts cider
Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and bring slowly to a boil. Cover and simmer twenty minutes. Strain before serving.
BASIC PICKLING SYRUP
1 cup vinegar
2 cups sugar
2 cups water
Cook until light syrup.