A Homemade Valentine: Cast Iron Skillet Peanut Brittle

peanut brittle done

I never really cared much for peanut brittle — that is, until an older gentleman introduced me to a recipe handed down to him long ago. Amazing!  Crispy and delicious, it melts in your mouth, with nothing sticking to your teeth. And, only 5 ingredients. Continue reading

Get Ready For Sugaring Season!

As a child, my favorite books were about pioneers and native Americans. I learned that Native Americans were the first to discover and produce maple syrup, and they taught the settlers how to do it. At the age of fourteen, I decided it was time to try it myself. Continue reading

Blue Ribbon Honey Bread

dave-ross-bread-baked

Making bread is one of the many hobbies that I enjoy. It began with a simple time-tested white bread recipe, but soon evolved into multiple experiments with various ingredients.  I’ve settled in on a favorite that I call ‘honey mixed grain bread.’ Continue reading

Sweet, Sweet Sorghum Makes The BEST Cookies Ever

Dave's stack of sorghum stalks, ready to be crushed.

Dave’s stack of sorghum stalks, ready to be crushed.

(Editor’s Note: Last year, Dave Ross tried his hand at growing sorghum, then pressing and cooking the juice into the delicious old-time syrup many people remember. Here are his adventures in sorghum farming!)

Sorghum. At last the project has reached completion. From mail-ordered seeds that arrived in May, to sorghum syrup in my jars on the counter, to molasses crinkle cookies. It was a fun, educational experience, but honestly, I probably won’t raise it again. Sorghum syrup can be purchased from a local Amishman for a good price per quart. Lehman’s also carries it year-round, and that makes the effort of raising, stripping, taking the stalks somewhere to get them squeezed, and cooking down the sweet juice into finished syrup, more costly than buying it locally. Still, there was value and fun in the experience, and I’m glad I did it. Continue reading

Sap’s Running in Amish Country!

Hello, friends. Dave here. We’re busy collecting and boiling maple sap these days. Have eighteen gallons of syrup finished, and a pretty good “run” today. Looks like the next few days may be decent. Went for a short drive today to see if my Amish neighbors are collecting sap too, and they are. We’ll post some pictures here with some explanations. Continue reading

How To Make Homemade Apple Butter

daverossapplebutterinkettle

When I was a boy we would occasionally make a meal out of apple butter on bread, doused with fresh, rich, Jersey milk. Not just a little bit of apple butter either. The bread was placed in a dish, and a big dollop of apple butter was spread on it, followed by the milk. It was quick and easy, and delicious too. Our apple butter was always store-bought though, and I wasn’t even aware that some people made their own.

That changed when we moved to Wayne County, and we learned that one of the families in our church made their own apple butter in a large copper kettle over a wood fire, and they shared some with us. For them, it was a tradition passed down from previous generations. Continue reading

Family Beekeeping: Make A Plan for Next Year

bees1daveross

Beekeeping is becoming very popular these days.  Part of the reason is that many people want to get back to the land, grow their own food, and be self sufficient.   Another reason is because the bees are dying, and people want to help.  We’ve all heard about it.  It’s called Colony Collapse Disorder.

The disappearance of bees is frightening because we depend on them for pollination.  It is interesting to note, however, that honey bees are not native to the United States.  They were imported from Europe by the early settlers.  Will we still have food if all the honey bees disappear?  Yes, but not nearly as much.  Honeybees have greatly enhanced our ability to raise large quantities of fruits, nuts, and field crops — so losing them hurts.

Small, well-tended apiaries seem to have a better chance of survival, so it is heartening that many folks are getting involved in this fascinating pursuit.  In fact, many people keep bees in urban settings — even putting hives on roofs of buildings to keep the bees’ flight paths above traffic and away from nearby people. Continue reading

The Amish Way

The old barn before rebuilding.

An old Amish barn before rebuilding.

A lot of folks idolize the Amish, and envy their way of life — even wishing there was some way they could live like that. It is a good life, but one that requires long hours of hard work, with many less conveniences than the rest of us enjoy. It is possible for any of us to live very simply, but the Amish lifestyle is so intertwined with faith and community, that to truly live like them would almost require joining them or a similar group. The Amish are devoted to a lifetime of living by the Bible and the obeying the rules of the church. Living in community and helping each other is one of the prime factors of their culture — both a blessing and a deep commitment to the group. Continue reading