Monday, October 28, 2013

Using our Abundant Rose Hip Harvest

As I mentioned in "Providential Preparedness", this year the roses have produced fruit (rose hips) in abundant profusion.  They are everywhere - looking like small apples hanging from low-slung bushes.   Realizing that God doesn't provide unless there is a need, Sir Knight and I decided it would be wise to get rose hips while the gettin' was good.  We have spent the last few weeks transforming our rose hip harvest into many wonderful things - wine, jelly and dried hips (well, almost).

Our first order of business was wine making.  After picking pound after pound of rose hips, we lugged them home, plucked their stems, washed  and weighed them and prepared to make wine.  This is our first time making rose hip wine so I scoured the web for a recipe.  After looking over many, many recipes, I combined a couple of different ones and came up with one that looked good to us.

Our basic recipe is as follows:

Rose Hip Wine

4 pounds fresh rose hips
3 pounds sugar
1 gallon boiling water
1 tsp. black tea
1 tsp. wine yeast

Wanting more than 1 gallon of wine, we picked 19 pounds of rose hips.  We adjusted things here and there and this is the recipe we used:

19 pounds of rose hips
26 C sugar
4 1/2 gallons boiling water
4 tsp. pectic enzyme
1 pkg. wine yeast (Montrachet)

Sterilize (2) 5 gallon buckets and dived the rose hips between the two.

Add the sugar (divided between the two buckets) and the black tea (the black tea adds tannin - which naturally occurs in grape wine - and body to the wine.  Use 1 tsp. per gallon of wine for flower and grain wine).

At this point we also added the pectic enzyme.  The pectin enzyme is NOT required.  It does nothing to affect the taste, it serves only to keep the pectin (naturally present in rose hips) from congealing and making the wine cloudy.

Pour the boiling water (divided evenly between the two buckets) over the rose hips, sugar and tea.  Stir until the sugar has dissolved and gone into solution.

Cover tightly and allow to sit for 24 hours.

After the must (the wine liquid) has been allowed to sit for 24 hours, add the yeast (we split one package between our two buckets - 1 pkg. of wine yeast is good for about 5 gallons of wine).

Cover tightly for another 7 days, stirring once a day.

At the end of 7 days, strain the liquid through a strainer lined with cheesecloth into a demijohn or carboy.  Fit with an airlock and allow to ferment.

Rack (siphon) the wine after about 6 weeks into a clean demijohn, fix the airlock again and allow to ferment.  The wine will continue to "work" (bubble and ferment) for another 6 months or so.  If the fermenting appears to cease (there are no longer bubbles moving), rack again and see if it gets bubbly again.  If it does, allow to ferment some more.  It may take 2 or three rackings before it is ready to bottle.  When fermenting has ended, bottle and cork.  This wine (from what I have read) really needs to age for about two years - but then it is out of this world.  In two years, we will let you know what we think!

The "Must"

Straining into a demijohn

We found that it was easier to hold the rose hips back while straining

Straining through cheesecloth

The left-over rose hip sludge (this is why we strain through the cheesecloth)

This is the beginning of rose hip wine
While the wine was stewing in the buckets, we picked and cleaned more rose hips to turn into jelly and dry for tea.  After cleaning the rose hips, I measured them for jelly and spread the rest on newspaper lined cookie sheets to dry in the wood cookstove.  It has been warm here lately, so the cookstove has been shut down, barely boiling along.  It was cool enough that I put the rose hips in the cookstove oven to dry.  Occasionally I would pull the hips from the oven and roll them around on the cookie sheet so they would dry evenly.  They were looking wonderful!  And then I forgot about them and went to church.  By this time the weather had turned cooler and I had opened the drafts to get the cookstove roaring.  I remembered those rose hips in the middle of the worship service.  Needless to say, when we got home from church, there was not much left of my wonderful rose hips.  And so, I don't have any pictures to show you of perfectly dried rose hips.  I will, however, tell you what to do with the rose hips after they have been dried.

Rose hips spread on a cookie sheet, ready to dry

Drying in the wood cookstove

Dried Rose Hips

Dry the rose hips (whole), in something other than a hot wood cookstove.  A dehydrator works well, or a gas range with the pilot lit, should be fine.

After the rose hips are thoroughly dried, quickly whir them through a food processor (or coarsely chop them).

Shake the rose hips through a metal sieve (mesh) to remove all the little "hairs".

Store your coarsely ground dried rose hips in a jar and use at will.  A few teaspoons steeped in boiling water makes a lovely tea.

Back to the jelly.  I tried a new recipe this year and I think it turned out wonderfully.  Rose hip jelly has a slightly wild, sweet taste to it - not something to miss.

Rose Hip Jelly

8 C. Rose Hip liquid
2 tsp. lemon juice
3 box pectin (or 1 C bulk pectin) (for looser jelly could reduce to 2 boxes or 2/3 C bulk)
8 C sugar

To make the liquid:  Use 2 quarts of cleaned rose hips.  In a large pot, place the rose hips and enough water to cover well, plus a little extra.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.  Remove from the heat.

With the back of a spoon, gently press the rose hips against the side of the pot to release more juice.  Try not to cause the rose hips to burst (if they do, you'll just strain the seeds through cheesecloth).

Strain the juice through cheesecloth to measure 8 cups.  If you don't have 8 cups of liquid, use water to make up the balance.

To make the jelly:  Measure the rose hip liquid into a large pot, add the lemon juice and pectin.  Stir well.  Bring to a full, rolling boil, stirring constantly.  Stir in the sugar.  Continue to stir, return to a rolling boil and boil for 1 minute (timed from the beginning of the rolling boil).

Remove the pot from the heat.  Skim foam from the top and ladle jelly into jars.  Wipe thread and rims carefully, then top with prepared lids and rings.  Process in a water bath for 10 minutes.

Bring the rose hips to a boil

Gently pressing the hips with the back of a spoon

Straining through cheesecloth

I strained a second time - just to have clear jelly

Making jelly

Ready for the shelves!

So, there you have it - all of my rose hip recipes.  I hope you take time to gather the harvest and enjoy the abundant blessings of God.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Providential Preparedness

When Maid Elizabeth was in grade school we made our way through Noah Webster's Value of the Bible and Excellence of the Christian Religion - 1834.  It is a wonderful book that was designed to walk young children through the bible so they could understand this incredible world that God made specifically for humankind.  One section really struck me with its simple wisdom - truths that should be apparent, but aren't.  Mr. Webster contends that even the geographical makeup of our planet is providential.  His conclusions are summed up in these few paragraphs....

29.  Esculent grains - The different species of grain intended for the food of men, and fitted to grow in different climates.  Of these rice is one of the principal kinds.  It grows only in warm climates, and its qualities are peculiarly fitted for a wholesome diet in such climates, which tend to produce fevers of a bilious type.  Probably half of the human race subsist on rice.

30.  Wheat, rye and maiz - Next to rice in importance is wheat, which give us the finest flour and best bread.  This plant is fitted to grow in almost every habitable latitude.  Rye, though less valuable, constitutes a large portion of food in parts of the earth not fitted to produce rice or wheat.  Maiz or Indian corn, a native grain of America, supplies an abundance of nourishing food both for man and beast.  This grain is wonderfully fitted to grow in different climates.  In the warmer latitudes, where the summer is long, it rises to the height of seven or eight feet, and in colder climates, its height is not more than four or five feet.

31.  Plants of less general use - In distributing the materials of food, the Creator has given to every country such plants as the climate will bring to perfection.  Oats are fitted for cool climates, and in such climates, grow to a larger size than in warmer latitudes.  Certain varieties of turnips and potatoes grow to higher perfection in the cool climates of Sweden, Scotland and Nova Scotia, than in the warmer climates and richer soil  of more southern latitudes.  Such facts prove the benevolence, as well as the wisdom and power of the Creator.

What struck me was that God provided the grains that would be most beneficial to peoples in every part of the world according to their climates and their physical needs. He created everything to serve mankind before he even placed men on the earth. As I schooled Maid Elizabeth, I began to call this concept Providential Geography.  It seemed a fitting description.

7 Gallons of fermenting Apple Cider Vinegar
This fall, as my family and I have been busy gathering the harvest, we have noticed something unusual.  Every wild plant in our neck of the woods is producing heavily - abundantly.  Unusually so.  While we were out picking elderberries for wine and syrup (medicinal), we had to carefully pick our way through rose bushes heavily laden with rose hips.  The fruits were as large as small apples and so heavy on bush that they were drooping under the weight.  Ignoring the rose hips, we harvested elderberries in huge, juicy clumps.  Pounds and pounds of elderberries came home with us while we barely made a dent in the elderberry bushes.

A bowl full of elderberries

Divided into buckets to make wine

Elderberry must fermenting in a demijon
After we got home and were busily removing elderberries from their branches, I began to think of those fruit-laden rose bushes.  The more I thought about them, the more I began to realize how unusual such an abundant rose-hip harvest was.  It dawned on me that perhaps there was a reason for such an overflowing harvest.  Knowing that God prepared the earth to perfectly support mankind, it stood to reason that He also prepared the plants to produce abundantly in anticipation of hardship.

Cleaning rose hips

Washing the hips

Divided for wine making

Sugar and yeast added
Within days, Sir Knight, the children and I were back in the wild, picking pound after pound of rose hips.  The fruit practically fell from the bush and filled our baskets, begging to be turned into wonderful things to fill our shelves - and our bellies.  We made wine and jelly and syrup and dried and ground the rest of the hips to be made into rose hip tea at the first sign of a cold.

As we worked, I realized that we need to prepare as God provides.  This year we had an abundant berry, apple and pear harvest.  Honeysuckle, elderberries and rose hips grew in profusion.  As God provided, we prepared.

I don't know if this is going to be a hard year.  I won't prognosticate on the likelihood of famine or plague.  I will, however, prepare for the future with whatever the Lord provides.  I will practice Providential Preparedness, just like my brother Joseph.  And I will know that God has provided, in advance, for whatever my family needs - as long as I have the wisdom to see His providence.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Accountability in Charity

Recently our country witnessed a tiny glimpse into our possible, perhaps inevitable, future.  Our nation's premier welfare program, SNAP, or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (EBT Cards) experienced a glitch, causing the cards to be inaccessible for a few hours in certain parts of the country.  The pandemonium that ensued was epic.  People rioted (or threatened to riot), sobbed hysterically and proclaimed that their very lives were in danger, simply from not being able to access their assistance cards for mere hours - not days or months, mind you - but hours.  Responding to the outcry, Walmart corporately decided to allow SNAP recipients access to their "benefits", even though the glitch had not yet been resolved.  Within minutes of this proclamation, Walmart was overrun and shelves were stripped bare.  People were seen with two, four and five carts laden with food, paying for them with their now inactive EBT cards.

Finally, the glitch was fixed.  One woman, at the end of her $700 transaction, was discovered to have a .49 cent balance on her now restored EBT card.  .49 CENTS!  And yet, she had filled her cart with over $700 of government assistance approved groceries.  This woman knew she had only a .49 cent balance on her EBT card, but she chose to take advantage of a glitch in the system to steal $700.

And really, why would we expect anything different.  Every day, millions of people in our country take money they didn't earn and consume services they didn't pay for.  Our government, in their misguided attempt to provide a social safety net, has encouraged generations of Americans to become thieves.  We have taught people to freely take - no, demand - what they didn't earn.  We have taught them that they are incapable of providing for themselves short of voting for the politician that will provide them with the biggest "paycheck".  Our government has encouraged promiscuity, slothfulness and lying.  They have invested billions to ensure a compliant, dependent citizenry, all under the guise of helping the "underprivileged".

And how do the "underprivileged" return the favor?  They steal from the government (that's us, by the way) any and every chance they get.  And why not?  The government set the example by stealing money (they like to call it taxes) and spending it with absolutely no accountability.

When I heard of the Walmart raids, I thought of an Aesop Fable I had read to my children when they were little. It is called....

The Scorpion and the Frog

A scorpion and a frog meet on the bank of a stream and the scorpion asks the frog to carry it across on its back.  The frog asks, "How do I know you won't sting me?"   The scorpion says, "Because if I do, I will die too".

The frog is satisfied, and they set out, but in midstream, the scorpion stings the frog.  The frog feels the onset of paralysis and starts to sink, knowing they will both drown, but has just enough time to gasp, "why?"

Replies the scorpion "It is my nature...."

The folks that rushed to buy groceries that they knew they weren't "entitled" to were that scorpion.  They did it because that is their nature.  They are used to spending money that they didn't earn, so if they have the opportunity to do it on a larger scale, they most certainly will.

Years ago, Sir Knight and I had the opportunity to spend time with a troubled young couple.  They had two small children and a history of bad decisions.  Although living as husband and wife, they were not married and every disagreement or argument ended in one of them leaving, at least for a short while.  She had a history of drug abuse but was actively staying clean.  He was young and hotheaded and had no idea how to be a father or a husband.   For some reason, they found Sir Knight and I and our family fascinating. Every time we bumped into each other, they asked us questions.  Questions about parenting, relationships and what a family was supposed to look like.  Sir Knight and I became convinced that were supposed to minister to this couple in whatever small capacity we could.  It was messy.  Frequently we had crying children and hysterical parents on our doorstep.  I spent hours teaching the mother how to cook and how to love her children.  Sir Knight spent hours teaching the husband how to lead and how to serve. This couple disrupted our lives.  They required time and energy.  But they were put in our path and we believed that it was our duty to walk along side them.

One evening, the mother called in tears because she didn't have the money to buy her children diapers.  She couldn't afford to feed her baby.  If we could just help her make it to the end of the month, she would never ask us for anything, ever again.  After quickly discussing the situation with Sir Knight, I told her I would come to her house and help her shop.  Because we weren't made of money, I gathered up a stash of diapers I had tucked away, a bit of baby rice, a few other necessities, piled them into the truck and set off to pick her up.  Thankful as she was, she was certain I didn't need to accompany her to the grocery store.  I could just leave the $100 with her and she would take care of the shopping.

I told her that I couldn't do that.  It was my job to be a good steward over what God had provided for us and I would be remiss in my duty just to hand it over, with no questions asked.  I would go to the store with her and help her do her shopping.  Our shopping excursion was a real eye-opener.  This young mother had very expensive tastes.  She wanted the most expensive baby wipes, the most expensive boxed cereal and the most expensive pre-packaged meals available.   She wanted to buy a movie for herself (it would help her get her mind off her troubles) and a 12 pack of beer for her boyfriend (it really mellowed him out).  She wanted to spend my money on things my own family went without.

We did finally make it through our shopping trip.  The boxed cereal had been replaced with oatmeal, the pre-packaged meals with raw ingredients and the expensive baby wipes with their inexpensive counterparts.  We decided to forgo the movie and the beer and instead settled for another package of diapers and some tea that she could share with her husband.  It was not the charity she wanted but it was the charity she needed.

I believe in charity.  I believe that charity should be administered in person, one-on-one. I believe that charity is messy and complicated and that one size doesn't fit all.  I think that when you are on the receiving end of charity you don't get everything you want, but you will get everything you need.  I think that without accountability there is no such thing as charity, it is only legalized theft.  And I think legalized theft is soul destroying.

We have become a nation of scorpions and frogs.  I, for one, choose to be neither.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Apple Cinnamon Bouchons

Fall is in the air and the apples are heavy on the tree.  For our family, that means all kinds of wonderful apple delicacies.

This morning, the children where behaving as though their throats had been cut, so I set about making Bouchons for their breakfast.  Bouchons are nothing more than oddly shaped quick breads that can be baked in muffin pans quite nicely.  Bouchons are small in diameter and rather tall, requiring a special baking pan.  Not owning a bouchon mold, I just put my batter into a humble muffin tin and call it good.

This recipe just screams fall.  With apples, nutmeg and cinnamon how could you possibly go wrong?

Apple Cinnamon Bouchons
1 T butter, melted
1 large apple, diced
1 3/4 C flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. fresh ground nutmeg (can use powdered)
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 C oil
3/4 C sugar
1 large egg
3/4 C milk

1/4 C butter
1/3 C sugar
1 T cinnamon

Melt the butter in a medium skillet and add the diced apples.  Saute on medium heat until tender, about 5 minutes.

In a medium bowl, combine the oil, sugar, egg and milk stir until well blended.  Add the flour, baking powder, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon and stir only to combine.  Fold in the apples.

Pour into greased and floured bouchon molds (or muffin tins - I use papers with mine).  Bake at 350° for 15 to 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

For the topping:
Brown the butter over medium heat in a small saucepan until golden brown and fragrant. Combine the sugar and cinnamon in a separate bowl.

Remove the bouchons (muffins) from the pan while still hot.  Dip the top of the bouchon (muffin) in the butter, then into the sugar-cinnamon mixture.  Serve warm.

Sauteing the apples in butter

Stirring until just combined
Prepared muffin tin
Dipping the tops - Yum!

Enjoy and have a wonderful autumn!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Extreme Wildcrafting - The Hunt

Wildcrafting is nothing more than harvesting and preserving wild edibles, so it seems reasonable that hunting fits nicely into this category.  And hunting, along with our other wildcrafting endeavors, has proven to be a worthy occupation.

Deer and elk season is in full swing in our little neck of the woods, along with grouse, turkey and bear.  Miss Serenity, being quite an accomplished huntress, has been combing our woods for game with which to stock our larder.  She has harvested a number of grouse (which have mostly become appetizing luncheon dishes) and regularly sets up on her bear bait.  Last week deer season began, with a buck-only hunt until the first of November.  Serenity gained the permission of a corporate farming enterprise which operates directly to our west to hunt their vast holdings and commenced the hunt.  Two evenings Serenity checked out the lay of the land, rifle in hand.  She determined the travel pattern of the local deer and found the most likely location from which to take her shot.  The third evening, Serenity set out for the hunt, rifle, pack and radio in hand.  She took up residence in her previously scouted location, lay down prone with her rifle resting on a bipod and waited.  Soon she saw movement.  She tracked the migrating deer through her rifle scope, searching for the buck that she knew was with the group.  Finally her buck appeared.  Once he was within range (100 yards), Serenity whistled, aimed, set the first trigger, breathed out, squeezed the second trigger and sent her bullet downrange.  Down the buck went, Serenity's one and only round hitting his heart.

Miss Serenity and her buck
We love venison, so bagging a deer is a celebrated event in our home.  Serenity radioed and within minutes Sir Knight, Master Hand Grenade and I were in the field helping Serenity gut her kill.  Once home, the deer was hoisted and hung from the roof in our shed and Master Hand Grenade and Miss Serenity had him skinned in short order.

After hanging for two days Sir Knight, Serenity and Hand Grenade began the butchering process.  They set a table up outside (it was crisp and sunny) and went to work.  While they were butchering, Princess Dragon Snack and I readied the kitchen.  We washed canning jars, heated up the pressure canner and began cutting deer meat into stew meat and roasts.  We filled those jars quickly as the outside crew made short work of the entire deer carcass.  Within hours we had butchered and processed the entire deer.

The butchering process begins

Hand Grenade the Butcher

Jars are ready and lined up awaiting venison

Princess Dragon Snack doing her part

She really is handy with a knife

The finished product - truly fast food
We do can most of our venison, however, we save the tender backstraps and cut them into melt-in-your-mouth butterfly steaks.  After spending a day processing meat, we indulge in these special, once-a-year treats (with a few leftover for the freezer).  Butterfly steaks and raw fried potatoes - truly a hunter's delight.

Slicing the backstrap

Creating butterfly steaks

See how they fillet?

And now you know why they are called Butterfly's!


Raw fried potatoes

And dinner is served
Once the deer was processed, Master Hand Grenade and Miss Serenity went to work on the skull.  Miss Serenity wanted to keep the antlers attached to the skull and do a "European" mount with her antlers.  They filled an old stock pot with water, brought it to a boil on the barbecue (outside - it REALLY stinks!) and put the deer head into the water to boil off the skin and muscle.  It took a number of hours before the skin loosened enough to discard and many more hours before the skull could be picked clean.  Once the  skull was "clean", the kids took it out of the water and sprayed water through the cavities to clean the brain matter from the skull.  Yes, it was icky.  The skull, however, turned out beautifully.   After the skull had been thoroughly cleaned, Serenity scrubbed it with hot, soapy water and soaked it in a bowl of peroxide to whiten the skull.  The skull is now ready to be mounted and hung in a place of honor.

Boiling the skull

It takes awhile

Ready to be cleaned out

Hosing out the cavities

Getting every last little bit

Soaking in peroxide

Ready to be mounted!
Master Hand Grenade is now scouting for the perfect spot to harvest his trophy buck.  After tagging bucks, both of the kids are planning on putting in for a youth-only doe tag to be filled in November.  Our shelves will be brimming with venison!