How To Light Your Home Without Electricity

The Dietz "Blizzard" lantern was designed in 1898 and earned its name by standing up to high winds. At Lehmans.com and our store in Kidron, Ohio.

The Dietz “Blizzard” lantern was designed in 1898 and earned its name by standing up to high winds. At Lehmans.com and our store in Kidron, Ohio.

Editor’s Note: This is article was originally published in December 2016.

For some, the thought of upcoming wintertime power outages comes with a sense of dread or even panic. But there has always been something nostalgic to me about the peace that comes when the noisy hum of household appliances falls quiet. The glowing ambiance of candles or oil lamps gently lighting a room takes me back to bygone days when life had a bit more quality and substance. Continue reading

Simple Tricks to Keep Apples and Pears Fresh In Freezer!

 

pear-and-apple-1318146-1279x846

Canning apples is wonderful, but sometimes you just have too many apples to get processed before they start to go bad. That’s when the freezer comes in awfully handy!

Step by Step Guide on How to Freeze Apples

  1. Fill a large bowl with cold water
  2. Sprinkle enough table salt in the water to cover the bottom of the bowl (this is done to keep the apples from turning brown while you are cutting the remainder of the apple)
  3. As you cut the apples or pears, drop them into the bowl of salt water
  4. Once bowl is full, strain fruit and drain water out of bowl. 
  5. Place fruit into Ziploc bags or freezer safe containers
  6. Place fruit into freezer

How I learned how to Freeze Apples

One of the great things about freezing apples is that you can thaw them for a pie, toss them with sugar and cinnamon for baked apples, or even save them to can when it’s more convenient.

There’s a trick to freezing apples, though. Do it wrong, and they’ll turn a completely unappetizing shade of brown.

In the past, I’ve tried following the recommendation of soaking apples in a bowl with lemon juice added to prevent the slices from turning brown as I processed them. But that never did really work well for me. They always seemed to turn brown no matter what I did.

Adding citric acid, or Fruit Fresh, can also prevent your chopped fruit from turning.

Ball Fruit Fresh

Fruit Fresh is another thing you can use to keep preserved fruit looking good. At Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio, or at Lehmans.com.

But I just hate to have to stop and run out to get just one thing.

I’d finally given up on trying to freeze fresh apples and pears, until one day when I happened to meet a woman who taught me her secret. My family had taken a day trip to the mountains, and we stopped at a quaint little Mom & Pop Diner for lunch. As I got my four children seated in the little booth, I smiled at the sweet elderly couple who sat at the table adjacent from us.

My husband was up at the front placing our order when the nice lady leaned over and said, “What beautiful children you have!” I thanked her, of course, and the ice was broken for a conversation to ensue.

I told her we were looking at some property for sale in the area, and she began telling me all about how much she loved the area and about her own home there. She shared that she had fruit trees…My ears perked up when she mentioned her trees, and I asked her if she canned her apples and pears.

She shook her head. “Oh no, I don’t do much canning anymore. I just freeze my fruit now. It’s much easier.” Curious, I asked how she managed to keep her fruit looking nice in the freezer. And to my delight, she shared the trick she’d learned from her mother growing up.

Ball Preserving and Pickling Salt

You can use Ball’s Preserving or Pickling Salt too! Rinse well. At Lehmans.com or Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio.

Before she starts cutting up her fruit, she gets a large bowl and fills it with ice cold water. Then, she sprinkles enough table salt in the bowl to cover the bottom (she doesn’t ever use any measurements).

As she cuts her apples or pears, she drops the slices into the bowl of salt water to keep them fresh as they wait for the rest of the batch to join them.

When the bowl is full, she strains off the fruit, rinses and drains it well, then packs it into Ziploc bags or freezer-safe containers to be stored in the freezer. I asked her if the fruit ever tastes salty, and she said it never did, you just have to rinse it well.

As I eagerly listened to her explaining her method, I could hardly wait to give it a try myself. Before we headed back home, I found some locally grown apples and pears, and determined to freeze them using her instructions.

And guess what? It worked beautifully!!

Freezer bag of frozen apples

My apples, frozen and gorgeous! It just takes table salt and a good rinse.

I couldn’t have been more excited. My fruit looked just as white and crisp as it did the moment I cut it. And it stayed that way for months, until I was ready to whip up my favorite fruit crisps.

If you’ve ever wondered how to freeze apples and pears… now you know! Like I said, canning fruit is a lovely thing to be able to do, and I highly recommend that everyone learn how.  But when you need a little change of pace, freezing is the way to go!

Editor’s Note: This post was first published in November 2013.

Beat Those Bean Beetles Naturally!

Beetle on bean plant

The dreaded Mexican Bean Beetle in its natural habitat.

How Do You Know You Have Mexican Bean Beetles?
Anyone who has grown green beans east of the Rockies has probably encountered the dreaded Mexican Bean Beetle.

It starts in mid-Spring, when you begin to notice holes in your bean leaves. It doesn’t look too bad, so you just keep an eye on it.

Before long you begin to find funny little yellow critters on the undersides of the leaves. With each day they get bigger, and fatter, and your bean leaves are looking more and more lacey. Continue reading

American Gardens: Southern Harvest Starts Up

Our Lazy Housewife beans! We're eating some fresh, putting some up. Thanks, Lehman's!

Our Lazy Housewife beans! We’re eating some fresh, putting some up. Thanks, Lehman’s!

The garden is doing great, and I’m starting to harvest lots of goodies!  Since I’m furthest south, I’m thinking the first American Gardener to harvest.

The Lazy Housewife beans have done really well, despite the June Bugs and Mexican Bean beetles (which I’ve had to really stay on top of this year). I love that the beans can be cooked as green beans, or canned (which I’ve done a lot of!), or you can let them get larger and dry out for shelling beans.  Continue reading

Cool Weather & Companion Planting: Give It A Try!

Broccoli seedlings in soil cubes. Make seed starters with a Soil Cube Tool

I can hardly believe it’s time to start preparing for my Spring garden! I’ll be getting my warm weather seedlings started indoors in the next few weeks, and I’ll direct sow most cool weather crops outdoors when the snow has thawed and melted away. My main objective right now is to get a jump start on the season by starting a few cool weather crops and herbs indoors in soil cubes.

This winter has been extra crazy for most of the US, so it’s a little harder for me to know exactly when it’ll be safe to plant and what to expect this year.  Worst case scenario, I’ll plant my cool weather crops in the raised beds, and cover them with old windows to create a cold frame if I fear them freezing. Continue reading

Those Grapes With The Funny Names Are Delicious

Yoder's Muscadine Grape Seed & Skin Extract

Yoder’s Muscadine Grape Seed & Skin Extract

When I first moved to the South and heard somebody talking about “Scuppernongs” and “Muscadines”, I immediately assumed the funny words I was hearing were the product of the foreign-to-me accent I still wasn’t accustomed to. What are they trying to say? I wondered. It wasn’t until much later, when I actually saw the words written somewhere, that I realized these were the actual names of a variety of grapes native to the Southeast US.

The weather’s been mild where we are, in the upper South, so we’re just finishing our Scuppernong and Muscadine harvest. They’re not hard to grow.

One of the first fruits we planted here on our homestead were Scuppernong grapes. We love them because they are particularly hardy, and grow well in our poor red clay soil. Scuppernongs are actually the “white grape” of the Muscadine family. Muscadines are typically a very deep shade of purple. Continue reading

Plan Now To Plant For Fall: Southwest, South, Southeast

The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener Book

Learn how to grow your own food all year long. No matter where you live or what season it is (even winter), you can enjoy fresh produce right from your garden with this helpful book.

One of our bloggers, Kendra, has the luck to live in a very temperate zone (according to the USDA Plant Hardiness map). She’s currently working on harvesting her summer garden, and planning/planting her fall garden. When Country Life asked about her fall garden plans, she sent back a great comprehensive answer! See what she’s doing–and if you’re in Zones 6b or warmer, you may find it works for you too!
 
CL: What are you planning for your fall garden?
 
This year I’m going to focus on planting root crops throughout my fall garden. Carrots, onions, garlic, potatoes, turnips, and radishes are on my list of things to plant. I’ll also probably throw in some spinach as well. My children have asked for more peas, so as soon as our cucumbers are finished with these last few cukes hanging on the vines, I’ll pull them out and replant more Purple Podded peas for them.
 
CL: Have you planted fall crops before, or is this your first time? (If you’ve done it before, feel free to explain in detail! If it’s your first time, what are your concerns?)
Usually my garden sits pretty bare through the winter. This year I’m hoping to make the most of our growing space. Our winters are very mild here, so hopefully I won’t have too much trouble with stuff freezing. We’ll see!
 
All you need to know! Click to find out more about Root Cellaring at Lehmans.com.

All you need to know! Click to find out more about Root Cellaring at Lehmans.com.

CL: How will you preserve the crops that can be harvested before cold weather?
Since we don’t have a root cellar yet, I’ll most likely can whatever we don’t eat fresh. I’d also like to try storing root crops straight in the ground and using them as needed throughout the cold months. I’m a little afraid they might rot, or bugs will get to them before I do. If I have enough of a harvest to experiment with, I’ll try mulching them with straw and seeing how they do. One of these days we’ll have a proper root cellar!!

 
Kendra’s promised to stay in touch, and let us know how the ground storage and mulching program works. Stay tuned for updates here!

Add Pop To Your Pickling With Fermented Dills

Click here to get this national bestseller at Lehmans.com.

Click here to get this national bestseller at Lehmans.com. It’s THE book to have if you’re into fermenting.

There seems to be a rapidly growing movement toward returning to traditional methods of preserving foods, such as canning, dehydrating, root cellaring, and even… fermenting.

Fermentation particularly seems to be an unfamiliar concept in our fast-paced culture today. Often times when Americans think of something being fermented, they equate it to being rotten or spoiled. We forget that sauerkraut, in fact, is a fermented food. And it’s highly nutritious for you, as are many fermented foods! Almost every culture around the world incorporates fermentation in their daily food preservation techniques. Americans are slowly beginning to re-learn this forgotten art. Continue reading

Easy How To: Freezing Whole Tomatoes

Find Martino's Roma Tomatoes and other heirloom varieties at Lehmans.com.

Find Martino’s Roma Tomatoes and other heirloom varieties at Lehmans.com.

I love tomatoes. They’re an absolute garden staple. There’s practically no end to what you can do with tomatoes: sauces, juices, pastes, salsas, ketchup, diced tomatoes, stuffed tomatoes, stewed tomatoes… I think they’re probably the most versatile food on the planet.

The problem with growing them yourself, though, is that tomatoes don’t come in all at once. It would be wonderful if you could wake up one morning, walk out into the garden, and have all of your tomatoes ripe and ready to be processed all at once. But unfortunately, that’s not the way it works. Instead, they come in a little here and a little there, ripening at their leisure. Continue reading