Friday, October 24, 2014

Have your Applesauce and CAN it too!

Home made applesauce! I love the fall!

Anyone else remember cooking with Mom or maybe Grandma in the kitchen as a child? Of course. So many of us cook/bake BECAUSE we are trying to recreate or capture that feeling, that taste of comfort, of home, of a good meal enveloping us like a warm homey hug.
Too much? Sorry.
My Grandma Taylor in her kitchen. I get my knife skills from her.

Today I attempted my very first Canning Adventure.

Now, growing up we weren't rich. My parents had a HUGE garden and Mom had planted apple trees, peach, and you name it fruit trees in our back yard.  From potatoes to raspberries to apples, they could grow anything. And they did. And I remember Mom in the kitchen with clouds of steam wreathing around her as she prepared veggies to be canned; green & yellow beans, tomatoes, salsas, and others to be frozen until used; peas, carrots, parsnips, and beets. 

I have a smaller space (like, Teeny Tiny comes to mind)  to grow. Mostly I have a sauce garden; that is, tomatoes, basil, onions and other herbs. This year, the catnip grew remarkably well. The rest, not so much. But that's okay. Living where I live we have tons of awesome farmer's markets so we can stock up. So when Mr. J brought home a grocery bag full of Empire apples ... my first thought was ..."Um....okaaaaay" then "I AM GOING TO CONQUER THE WORLD OF CANNING!!!"
Then I realized I hadn't canned ANYTHING ever since I was 8 or so; and that watching my Mom was probably very different from actually doing it. 
(And probably for the best. I mean, there's a lot of boiling hot water involved. And I was a klutzy kid. Still am.)

 So of course, the first thing I did was Google search "Making your Own Applesauce" and I found a lot of good resources. I read up about all the preparing, and cleaning, and sanitizing.
I looked over lots of recipes, and referenced THIS awesome page A lot. If you've never canned or made apple sauce before; check out Pick Your Own.  Easy to follow, lots of photos. Plus there are links to other useful stuff and other great recipes on how to can pretty much anything.

I used the Crock Pot method; I peeled and cut up a lot of Empire apples. How much is a lot? A grocery bag full. I peeled them sitting outside in the afternoon sun, it was great. I felt wasteful throwing out the peels, so I sprinkled some with cinnamon & sugar and had a snack; the rest including the cores, I left out for the squirrels & birds. All gone this morning!
Hand peeling a bag of apples is a lot of work; and for the next step: I recommend  one of these babies: 

A metal apple-corer-slicer. Wow. Just wow.
If you don't have one, get one. Worth the $15 bucks!
Cut down on the slicing time and saved my wrists.

So I cut them all up and dumped them right into my slow cooker. I added a cup of brown sugar, a big dollop of cinnamon, some nutmeg and a dash of cloves. Also added about 3/4 cup of apple cider.
And that was that! Stirred it up a bit and left it on High for two hours. Just before bed I set it to LOW and left it overnight.

This morning, the house smelled amazing. And THIS was was I found:

Hard to get good light.
The apples had cooked down and were all amber and the SMELL was heavenly.
I used my potato masher to get the remaining bigger pieces. After tasting I did add 1/4 more brown sugar and a tad more cinnamon. But there was still something missing. It didn't taste "bright" enough, like you want applesauce to be. So I added the juice of half a lemon and 1/2 cup white sugar. Boom. Did the trick. I think that if you add a bit of lemon juice to the start of the recipe, it will turn out lighter as well. Have to try that next time.
Make sure you catch the seeds!! Don't leave them in your sauce.

So then you take your canning jars; I used the Bernardin 250ml ones.
Find them at Canadian Tire; $9.99 for 12
Fill them up with the hot applesauce. (Sounds like a good curse word HOT APPLESAUCE!)
Use one of these adjustable wide mouth funnels to help.
Also at Canadian Tire! Right beside the jars, actually.
Ladle your hot applesauce into the hot jars, and then back into the boiling water they go.
Make sure that when you put the lids on the jars there is no sauce or water on the lip of the jar. Also ensure that the lid on on properly. Screw on the outer ring and back into the tub. 
Be careful!! Use tongs, protect your arms with long sleeves/oven mitts.

As the website suggested; I let them boil for 15 minutes in the water.

Then I removed them, carefully with the tongs and using an oven mitt on my hand to protect from splashes.  I set them on my cutting board and they are now cooling on my shelf!!
I had a wee bit left over so into the fridge it goes; plus I froze a small ziploc baggie full, as I didn't have enough for more jars.
 The colour was rich and dark amber, and the taste was appley and cinnamoney and all things good in a jar. Yum. On yogurt, on toast, with cottage cheese, on pork chops....can't wait!

And that is that!! It seems intimidating, but honestly, it wasn't that hard!
No one was more surprised than I.

Recipe For My Version of Applesauce

Peel, Core & Slice desired number of apples. One grocery bag full = one large slow cooker full.
Set cooker to High. 

Into cooker add:
3/4 cup apple cider or apple juice, or water. 
 3/4 cup brown sugar
 4 tbsp cinnamon - Adjust for taste - I like a lot
1 tbsp nutmeg
1 tbsp cloves (powdered not whole)
Stir well, put lid on. Leave at HIGH for two hours, stir after one.
Set down to LOW and leave for 8-10 hours. (I left it on overnight)
Remove lid, stir. Use potato masher or hand blender to smooth it out.
Add juice of 1/2 lemon
Add 1/2 cup white granulated sugar (more to taste)
Add more cinnamon, nutmeg, etc to taste.
Stir, and bring up to HIGH heat.
In a large pot or Canner Pot, have water boiling and jars, lids, outer rings submerged for at least 10 mins.
Remove  all with tongs and insert funnel into mouth of jar.
Using a ladle add sauce into jar; leaving a clear 1/2 inch at top.
Make sure mouth of jar is clean & clear before adding lid, then add outer ring and re-submerge into boiling water.
For 250ML size jars; leave in for at least 15 mins in the boiling water.
Remove carefully with tongs & oven mitt.
Careful not to jostle or have the jars touching, place on cutting board and onto a safe draft free area to cool.

If any lid has popped up DO NOT STORE it. Either redo the entire process, or use immediately.

Again, for full reference & the science stuff;
 I suggest heading over to Pick Your Own for more information.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

One Day Wonderwoman Quilt

A very good friend of mine recently turned 40, and so of course, I knew exactly what to get her. 
Wonder Woman is a shared hero of ours, and when I found this Wonder Woman fabric in Lens Mills, (despite the crazy high price) I decided WHAT THE HECK you only turn 40 once!!!

I already had the perfect navy blue with white stars fabric kicking around, and added some bright red & gold cotton solids from my stash.

So here is the trick for making A Quilt in a Day.

1. Start early.
2. No one else around (cats don't count).  A luxury, I know.
3. Have a solid plan/pattern in mind, draw it out & have the math done.
4. Have your batting & backing ready to go.
5. Free Motion Quilt to finish it up and use purchased binding strips.

So I had the pattern already sketched out; a basic "Strip Quilt" design with varying widths of fabric.
I knew I was making a larger sized lap quilt,  and the width of the fabric 45" was perfect for this.

I cut strips using my handy dandy Olfa rotary cutter. I had just put on a new blade...let me tell ya. Ain't nuffin' like using a new blade to slice through fabric. Like buttah.

The strips measured out cut easily and I just draped the strips in the order I wanted them across my cutting table. I sewed them together in order and folded the quilt in my lap as I went.

Once sewed together iron the seams down.

All laid out in the familiar sandwich. I use spray baste 505 to baste layers.
Heading downstairs to put on the batting & backing. I recently have been going through all the blankets and flannel sheeting I have and whittling it down by using it for batting. Why not? 
It washes well and as we know already, it's cozy and warm. So I used a cozy fleece blanket for batting.
The backing is this amazing fabric I blogged about before; it is African Wax Print fabric and wow. Stunning colour (yes, I know it's B&W) and patterns; and the perfect neutral to even out any crazy front pattern.

I use painters' tape to tape down the backing layer on the floor. Then I add the batting, smooth out all wrinkles and baste them together with Spray Baste 505. I love this stuff. It works like a dream and even if you have to leave a project and come back days weeks later; it's still adhering.
 I digress.
Add the top layer by repeating process of laying, smoothing & spraying baste.
 I also use some pins on the edges, just in case. A few more in the middle and I'm all set to go back up and Quilt!

The Finish.

I love the scrunched up look.

I love to Free Motion Quilt (FMQ). Adjust your stitch length to a longer stitch, slow down your speed and put on your FMW foot.
Closed toe; I use the Janome cuz that's what machine I have.

Technically the Darning Foot; but well, it's my FMQ foot. I actually prefer the closed toe rather than the open toe; I found the open would sometimes catch on the thread pattern if you weren't careful. Learning, always learning!

I chose to do a "WW" loose pattern, big sweeping "W's". I used an off white thread and it nearly disappeared on the backing side.

A bright blue premade bias tape binding finished this one off, and a wash on the gentle cycle and air dry had this quilt all set, in less than 10 hours!

................. and of course, it's Muffin approved.

So there you have it. I started around 8am and finished snipping the threads around 8pm.
And it was given with lots of love, and I know it is appreciated & will be cherished for years to come....

Sphinx reclining gracefully on the Wonder Woman Quilt in its new home.
XOXOXO Kelly!! Happy Birfday!!!

Sunday, October 19, 2014


Nothing like coming home after a nice trip to really appreciate the things you have.

The Limeybirds always get their man.
I used to travel for a living, touring all over the US & Canada as a musical theatre performer - living out of hotels, motels, RVs and staying with friends. It was the best of times, it was....well, pretty awesome actually. :)

Ernest Hemingway's home in Key West

Jackson Sq in New Orleans

Sunset at Tarpon Lodge, Bokeelia, FL

My favourite mode of transportation when in Pine Island, FL

Beautiful art in the Museum of Art, St.Louis

My Happy Place, New York City

Loved the movie, LOVED the pizza even more! Mystic, CT

On the road again.....Ontario, Canada

CN Tower, Toronto, ON

Happiness is..... NYC

Home away from Home, Guilford, CT

Somewhere in the Blue Mountains, on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Stonewall Jackson's home.... I'm touching the stone wall.... get it?!

Another awesome place in Lexington, VA

Just out walkin', Empire State Building NYC

Needs no explanation!

But having a home that's not on wheels is really nice. It's also really nice to be in once place and be able to plan things!

This past week I was in Norwich, CT and then Boston, MA. I had a TON of fun...but now I have to buckle down and Git To Work. Ha. 

A few quilt orders have come in, and my fall teaching session begins Wednesday. House to clean and yard to prep for winter....always lots to do.

My Black Eyed Susans & Winston Churchill Fuschias

I did a few quilts for surprise gifts that are waiting to be blogged...and as well some "Outlander" inspired knitting..... but more later on that. Tonite is my weekend and it's my fav TV night...60 Minutes....Once Upon a Time, Homeland, and more stuff. Yay.

Have a great week...tell me......what've you been up to?

I shall leave you with some photos of Boston:
Walden Pond, Concord MA


A really great lunch at "The Top of the Hub"

Everywhere you look, old beautiful churches!

Boston Public Library!

And inside the library; a courtyard!

With a statue!

Yellow Italian Marble everywhere.....

Beautiful Lion Statues dedicated to the men who fought in the Civil War

City Park, Washington Statue

Splash of colour in the City Park