Sauerkraut Making – Webisode 2

Tracy completes her method of preparing homemade sauerkraut. We started the recipe in installment one of this two-part webisode. Click this link to see part one.

A Thought About Thanksgiving

“Now, I don’t want you to bring anything….”

What to bring?

That’s what mom said this morning when we were discussing what I would bring to Virginia for Thanksgiving. Now, we both know I’m going to bring something. I can’t not bring anything. It’s not how I was raised. You never come empty-handed – anywhere – especially to a family gathering. And not because you’d be looked down upon, made fun of, or, goodness forbid, not invited back, but because it’s an extension of your heart.


It’s such a good feeling showing up with an armload of covered dishes that you’ve created – be it casseroles (done that) desserts (had to make three trips back to the car one year) or a fresh turkey (you don’t even want to know what the bird last year dressed out at). This year, I didn’t have much time in the kitchen in the days leading up to Turkey Day, so I was afraid I wouldn’t have much to give.

“Don’t bring anything” (i.e. – ‘I’m your mother and I know you’ve been terribly busy lately so please don’t go to any trouble. I’ve got everything covered this year’). Okay, Momma….

To all on this happy occasion: Have a loving and lovely Thanksgiving!

Blog Post About Our Apple Butter Webisode

I hadn’t made apple butter for years before this Fall (and I LOVE apple butter!).

I remember slaving over my first batch when the children were very little. The hours at the stove…the slow, slow simmer…the aroma that filled the house…the toddlers who turned their noses up at the texture! That’s right: neither of them liked it. At all. Of course, I found this out AFTER the batch was finished. Needless to say,  the apple butter page in the Ball Blue Book went unused for years (I can tell because that particular page is clean—as in no stains/spills/rings or other  canning “footprints” that divulge years of use).

This was the year I broke out the cinnamon and gave it another shot—for the kids!  I am sure in years past, I made a small batch here or there but can’t really recall. I’m happy to report: they both love it. Well, now they love it.

Maybe a few more years down the road when that apple butter page has earned its stains, spills, and rings, I’ll forget about the years I didn’t turn to it. On second thought, I probably won’t. It’s a sweet memory, nonetheless.

Making Apple Butter

Pull up a chair in Tracy’s kitchen as she shares her recipe for preparing and preserving apple butter.

Visiting a Community Fair – Webisode 2

Tracy Toth, our host, continues our day at the fair. We learn more of “all things Ag” at the Oley Valley Community Fair in part two of our two-part webisode.

Blog Post About Our ‘Visiting a Community Fair’ Webisode

Six years ago we were hurriedly looking at properties in the area and happened to be with a real estate agent driving right by the Oley Community Fair, which was in full swing.

Parked cars filled every available street spot while large fields and temporary lots accommodated the overflow.

I said something to the agent like, ‘wow, look; a county fair!’  She said that it wasn’t—that it was the “community fair.” That, although it’s open for the public to attend, only residents whose townships join the ag-rich Oley Valley could participate in the contests/judging.

Canning Competition Entries

And, oh, what a level of participation! From the numerous volunteer committee heads and organizers who work year-round for the three-day culmination, to the local fire department, to the thousands who turn out, the excitement and anticipation seems to increase with each year’s festivities.

My friends and I will joke with one another about the “blue ribbons” but, kidding aside, it’s not about that at all. It’s about the celebration of a lifestyle and a heritage that we strive to keep alive. It’s a  three-day celebration of a well-connected community… connected with each other and connected to this valley.

Best Display of Jellies

Best Display of Pickles

This is probably a good time to thank Evelyn (again); she was our real estate agent who suggested we might be happy here.

Visiting a Community Fair – Webisode 1

Join our host, Tracy Toth, as she introduces us to a communal celebration of “all things Ag” at the Community Fair in part one of this two-part webisode.

What to do with 20 pounds of grapes?

I’ll tell you:  make one and a half quarts of grape juice and two batches of grape jelly, that’s what.

I don’t know what kept me from making jelly years ago. When I first started canning, I was drawn toward the jams because it was just a matter of squishing everything up and adding sugar and pectin. I was so proud! But, then, came the turned-up noses of two toddlers to the texture of the fruit and jelly—who knew?  The following year, I relented and began making jelly. WHAT A SNAP?! Why was I intimidated? What was I thinking? 

Jelly is now my preferred route of fruit preservation. I usually drip the mashed fruit overnight to collect the juice and then make the jelly, first-thing, the next morning. However, it seemed the grapes were pouring their juice through the jelly bag yesterday so I was able to make it the same day… make two batches… and collect more than a quart of juice.

And there are four times as many grapes left on the vines!

A Second Batch

When you can fruits or veggies, you hope for the best…the best quality, the best “seal,” the best (and prettiest) presentation or “pack.”

Sometimes, everything comes together on the very first go-round – like the Ball recipe for Spirited Cherries I attempted for the first time yesterday.

So very delicious…and simple…and pretty…that I just had to do a second batch immediately! These will be a perfect addition to a main course or dessert, especially in the winter when you seek out those bolder flavors.

Yesterday, I was bemoaning the fact I did not have a cherry pitter. De-stoning 18 cups of cherries “by hand” with my trusty paring knife was tedious, yet it resulted in a much prettier presentation!

Blog Post About our Blueberry Conserve Webisode

When I began canning, years ago, I was amazed to find preserving fruits and veggies wasn’t just “pickles and jellies.” In the years since then, I’ve collected and used many recipes stretching from marmalades to desserts!

The conserve is so versatile, one can use it as a spread on your toast in the morning or a topping on your cheesecake after dinner (or, like I prefer, with a little chevre). There are usually a few different flavors “going on” in the jar, regardless of the fruit you’ve used for the conserve.

The deep blue of the blueberry doesn’t allow us to see the lemon and orange rings that are part of the recipe – which is a shame because that makes for a lovely presentation. I’ll get over that though….I have to; there’s only one jar left!

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