Saturday, July 14, 2012

Unset Jam... Runny Jelly...?

I may seem like a pro, but even my jams/jellies don't always turn out perfect. There are times when I get syrup when I was going for a lovely gel set. There is a way to save your hard work, and get that jelly to still set. Even after you've already sealed your jars.

The bad news is, you have to unseal the jars now. UGH!

So here's the secrets to the rescue...

First measure out your jam/jelly after you've opened the jars. You are going to want to do this in batches no more then 6 cups. Jam/Jelly was never meant to be done in large batches. Doubling a recipe is what may have caused the trouble in the first place.

Once you have your batch ready and standing by in a pot on the stove, turn the heat up to medium-high and get out a second pot to place on another burner.

Here you need the following for the new small pot:

1/4 cup of water per quart of unset jelly
2 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tsp of powdered pectin
1/4 cup of sugar

Heat the water to boiling w/ the lemon juice and pectin. After 45 seconds at a boil, add the sugar. Give that another 45 seconds to activate the pectin. Dip a spoon in and make sure the liquid is coating the spoon and creating a 'sheet' as it drips off. This is NOT a steady stream of liquid, but more like a curtain.

Now add it to your 'oops' batch of jelly and bring that to a rolling boil for one minute. Test this batch with the spoon method as well. If you need to give it another 30 seconds go for it!

That should do the trick, works for me everytime.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Gardening For Chickens

Freshly harvested Sunflower heads ready to be dried for storage.

When I plan out my garden each season, I plan it according to my family's needs, things I want to experiment with and what my chickens would like. Though I toss them a fresh tomato or strawberries while harvesting for my fridge, I also have to think about what I can preserve for them come the fall and winter months.

While the ideas spin around in my head I have to keep in mind foods that store well with little processing and are safe for the chickens to consume. Though potatoes store well, raw potatoes are not good for chickens. Rice works great, but I'd have to plant a lot to get a little and I'd have to cook it before I fed it them.

My favorite options end up being very simple. Sunflowers are easy to plant and plentiful. I get the added bonus of beautiful flowers in the garden that attract beneficial insects and birds through out the summer. They're easy to harvest because I just cut the head off the stock after they've bent over and started to brown. You can seed the seeds in the head of the sunflower becoming plump as it grows, so you'll know when its ready. You'll need to find a warm place with good ventilation to allow them to dry for a couple weeks before you can put them up. The only real trick is getting the heads before the birds devour all the seeds.

Another good one we like to do is corn. We plant so much that we allow some of the ears to dry right on the stock. We'll then shuck them clean when the kernels are hard and store them in the house until winter. You also have the option that corn on the cob freezes well. Simply shuck and clean the corn and store in the freezer in gallon storage bags. Thaw them completely before giving to your chickens. I don't have the space in my freezer to store extra food for the chickens like that, it's already super stocked for the winter for us.

There are LOTS of great options out there for your chickens to get their portion of your garden all year long. As you see, you can freeze, dry, cure or can almost anything you'd eat for them too. So clear a little plot in your garden for some great produce you can share with your feathered friends.