Saturday, July 30, 2011

Like a rocket, baby!

It may surprise you to read this, but recently, I did something totally crazy!  Well, crazy for me anyway.  I built a ROCKET STOVE!  Sounds cool, doesn't it?  It is cool, and I'm totally excited about it.  I must confess that I didn't do it alone, though.  My church women's group (The Relief Society of The Church of Jesus Christ of latter-day Saints) along with some very helpful husbands made it all possible.

The whole point of a rocket stove is to have a way to cook with very little fuel should you find yourself without power and a regular means of cooking.  Of course, I had to try it out, and my little punks were right in the middle of it!

 So here is the rocket stove with the fire going!
It only takes a few sticks to make a lot of heat.

 Our water is heating up, and we are excited
to cook up some mac n cheese!

 Let's hear it for boiling water:  Ooooh!  Ahhhh!

 In goes the macaroni.
(Or "mac-a-moi-ya" as one of my punks used to call it!

 Then we drained the macaroni and made the cheese sauce.
I know, the excitement is almost too much!

Believe it or not, they were very excited
 that we made lunch outside, on our rocket stove. 
Yeah, I'm a cool mom.

 Say "cheese!"

Or just take a big ol' bite!
Atleast I know we can live on mac n cheese if necessary!

Friday, July 29, 2011


While blueberry season has come and gone in the South, maybe it's not so for you.  I completely enjoyed picking and "putting up" blueberries this year.  Much more so than last year. 

Last year, we went every other day to a little (and I mean LITTLE by comparison... you'll see what I mean in a minute) patch of bushes that belonged to a friend of a friend and picked for 10 or 15 minutes.  Our rewards were a cup or two, if we were lucky, of berries at a time.  I am not complaining.  Just telling it like it is.  :0)

This year some sweet friends gave us about 3 gallons that we didn't even have to pick!  Then another friend said I could come on a certain day and pick all I'd like!  (This is where the story gets interesting!)

So my little boys and I headed out eagerly to pick some blueberries.  We were excited.  It was early, but not as early as it should have been.  I got lost on the way to my friend's house.  (Yes, some of you are laughing, others just rolling your eyes.  What can I say?  It's what I do.)  So, when we finally started picking it was about 9:00 and just shy of MELTING temperature outside.  It was over cast, which in the West would mean cool.  In the South it just means more sweaty.  Anyway, back to the picking of the blueberries.  My little boys started picking enthusiastically and worked like busy little bees for an entire 10 minutes!  Then they were hot and it was all over.  They went to play with their little friend who lives there and I was on my own.  Now, these people, the owners of this blue berry patch, are quite serious about their blue berries.  I say this because it took me 3 hours to pick all the berries.  AND, that was only one patch on their property!  I can only dream of one day living in the same place long enough to own fruit bearing plants!

So, hot, sticky and tired and happy as heck to have about 3 gallons of blue berries, I gathered my little helpers against their wills and headed home.  I poured out all the berries onto towels to allow them to sweeten before I put them up.

A couple of days later, I made blueberry syrup.  (I have a fabulous recipe for blueberry crisp, but that's another post!)

Start by blending 2 quarts blueberries.

Aren't they pretty?!

Here they are ready for the blender ride.

 I love how they are half blended and half not!

 Almost finished.  This whole process took less than 30 seconds.
Good thing my camera is FAST!

All blended and ready for step two!

Combine blueberries with 2 cups water and lemon peel in sauce pot. Simmer 5 minutes.

Oh, I love it all simmer-y!
 Now, "they" tell you to strain this liquid through cheese cloth. I didn't.  Not just because I am a rebel, but because I like how it looks with the bits of blueberry peel. I think it's pretty and adds texture. Whatever. Do what you want. ;0)

Don't forget to get your jars ready.  Wash them, with the lids and rings.  Fill them with boiling hot water (I just put them in the clean sink) and let them set. 

Boil the lids for at least 2 minutes to soften the rubber.

Then you combine 4 cups sugar and 4 cups of H2O in another pan and boil to 260 degrees.

Add the blueberry juice to sugar syrup. Boil 1 minute. Stir in 2 TBS lemon juice.

NOTE:  Be careful.  This hot, bubbly mixture is crazy
and unpredictable!  It will splatter you and anything
else it wants.  Seriously, I have blue spots on my ceiling. 
Just sayin'.
Here is my water bath canner. 
My water is getting hot so it won't take so long
to get to a boil once I add the jars of syrup.

Now, carefully ladle the HOT syrup into your jars.

Wipe the rims with a damp cloth and put on the lids and rings. 
All of this stuff is HOT!
Place the jars on the rack in your water bath canner.
Cover completely with water, plus an inch or two.
Process 10 minutes.  This means start your time once
the water has begun to boil.

Here they are all finished.
Aren't they pretty? 
Now, wait for that satisfying *PING*
and you know they are sealed!

Now, I will post the actual recipe for you without
my helpful (or sarcastic, you decide) comments.

Blueberry Syrup

2 quarts blueberries
6 cups water, divided
1 TBS grated lemon peel
3 cups sugar
2 TBS lemon juice

Crush blue berries. Combine blueberries, 2 cups water and lemon peel in a medium saucepot. Simmer 5 minutes. Strain through a damp jelly bag or several layers of cheesecloth. Combine sugar and 4 cups of water in a medium saucepot; boil to 260 degrees (adjust for altitude). Add blueberry juice to sugar syrup. Boil 1 minutes. Stir in lemon juice. Ladle hot syrup into hot jars, leaving ¼ inch headspace. Adjust two-piece caps. Process 10 minutes in a boiling water canner. Yield: about 3 pints.

*Recipe from Ball Blue Book of Canning.  You really should go buy one.