Chinese Plum Sauce

Canning Chinese Plum Sauce

The last of our Santa Rosa plums. It was a very good year!

Our Santa Rosa Plum tree outdid itself this year.  I have canned a batch of crockpot plum butter and we have 12 quarts of organic plum juice all put up and ready for the winter.  I love plum cobblers and we have had quite a few, but geeze louise, I shouldn’t be eating them every night!  I could, but I shouldn’t. :D

So, I searched my canning books and right there, in my handy dandy Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, was a recipe for Chinese Plum Sauce! Perfect. This is the stuff that you slather on a pork loin or ribs, and it makes that sweet, tangy, sticky crust.  MMmmm…

Then, I found a couple more recipes, almost the same, just tweaked a bit.  So, I decided to follow several recipes (the main ingredients were all the same) but tweak the spices just a bit to suit my taste.

Dearest Hubby went out and picked the last of the plums off the tree for me.

Thank God.

No really… I did thank God that the plums are finally done! This recipe takes 10 cups of pitted plums, so it was a winner when it came to using up a lot of them.

Bottling Chinese Plum Sauce

A little over 8 cups of finely chopped (in the food processor) Santa Rosa plums.

Of course, the first thing to do is wash the plums.  The recipe calls for ten cups of finely chopped pitted plums.  I ran mine through the food processor – after pitting of course!  It’s just faster this way and you don’t lose any of the juice that you might lose if you were to manually chop them up on a cutting board. Although I had much more than the ten cups of plums needed to start with, these were the last of the year and so several of them had worms inside or bird peckings, so I tossed those.  I ended up with just a little over nine cups, about 2/3 of a cup less than the recipe called for, but I went ahead with the sauce anyway!  Usually it isn’t good to change a tried and true and safe canning recipe, but I knew that with the amount of acid (1 cup of vinegar) that was added to the plums, the sauce would be more than safe.

Jarring Plum Sauce

First, all of the ingredients for the sauce, except the plums, were brought to a boil on the stove. This had a very, spicy, pungent, vinegar smell.

All of the ingredients were added to a large pot, brought to a boil, and then the plums were tossed in.  This was all allowed to boil for about 2 hours – until it was thick and syrupy.  The smell was amazing!  It was sweet and sour at the same time, but had just a little hint of a spicy, peppery scent also. While boiling down, the peppers and onions seemed to just melt into the sauce, so it became very smooth and appetizing looking. You can see in the picture below how it sticks to the side of the pot.  Well – fair warning – it sticks to the bottom of the pan, also!  For the first hour or so, stirring every 10 minutes seemed to be just fine.  But after a while, when the sauce is reducing and getting thick, you need to stir more often.  During the last 15 minutes or so, I actually stood over the pot and kept the sauce moving.  Constantly.

It was worth it.

Canning Plum Sauce

After about two hours, the sauce was thick and syrupy, and the smell was mouth-watering!

The recipe said it would make four pint jars, but I opted to use half-pint jars instead, so I ended up with eight half-pint jars.  I chose the smaller size because it seemed a bit more realistic in terms of using sauce. Especially since it’s just me and my hubby now.  The sauce can be kept in the refrigerator for a week or so, as long as you don’t contaminate it by dipping your  basting brush back into the jar after you have based the raw pork.  So, but by using the smaller jars I figured there would be less chance of waste.

When it comes to canning the sauce, although there are onions, garlic and peppers in the recipe, there is also a good amount of vinegar (1 cup), so this recipe is fine for the waterbath canner.  Even though I used smaller jars, I went ahead and left them in the waterbath canner for the full 20 minutes, as I figured it couldn’t hurt (it’s a sauce, no worries about it becoming mushy) and I would rather be more safe than sorry.

How to bottle Chinese Plum Sauce

This recipe made eight half-pints of delicious sauce .

As usual, I couldn’t wait to try some!  We had a pork loin roast just hanging out in the freezer, minding it’s own business – so the next morning I put it in the refrigerator in a bowl swimming in a jar of the plum sauce.  As the pork loin thawed, it was marinated with the plum sauce!  That evening, I grilled the pork loin “low and slow”, adding more sauce every time the loin was turned.  After almost an hour, this is what I ended up with:

Jarring Chinese Plum Sauce

Pork Loin Roast Grilled with Chinese Plum Sauce

It is so good!  The sauce coated the juicy pork loin with a sticky, carmelized sugar glaze that was out of this world good!  This recipe is a keeper!

Chinese Plum Sauce

Maybe next year I should make two batches of this wonderful sauce!

Now I wish I had more plums! :D


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Rendering Tallow

A few weeks ago I bought about 15 pounds of untrimmed tri-tip roasts.  My plan was to trim the fat off the meat and make Beef In Red Wine Sauce – which was fantastic! Now, what to do with all the fat trimmings?  Render it down into tallow!  I used to do this years ago, when I was learning a few homesteading skills.  My purpose for rendering the tallow at that time was to use it in deep fat frying. Unfortunately, that’s when we started hearing more and more about how bad it was to fry food in animal fats, so I stopped doing it. What a shame. Of course, the trend is sliding the other way, and now it apparently isn’t so bad after all! :) However, I hear that tallow also makes a wonderful soap, and since I have always wanted to learn how to make soap from scratch, my first step into soap making will be to render a nice batch of tallow!

Here we go!

How to render tallowI started out with a big bowl of fat that I had kept cold in the refrigerator, which makes it easier to work with. The first step is to cut most of the meat off the fat.  You don’t have to get every single piece, but I understand that too much meat left on the fat will give your tallow just a tad bit of an odor. If you are cooking with your tallow, this isn’t such a big deal, but since I want to make soap from this tallow, it was essential that I get most of the meat off.  Of course, I guess if I wanted meat scented soap…

Don’t laugh!  I hear bacon scented anything is the rage now! ;)

Once the fat is clean of the last bits of meat,How to render tallow to make soap you can either cut it up with a knife into small chunks, or use your food processor to get smaller chunks, or do as I did and grind the fat in a meat grinder.  For me, this was the easiest and quickest way.  Whichever method you choose to get small pieces of fat – keep your fat cold or even frozen!  If the fat gets warm, it is really hard to work with, as I’m sure you can imagine. Besides, the smaller your pieces of fat are, the faster it is rendered, which means the less energy you will use to render it!


As you can see, I started with 3 pounds, 5-3/4 ounces of ground beef fat.tallow for soap making Warning:  rendering tallow or lard can be a stinky enterprise!  If you want a sweet smelling house, render outside! :)  I love canning and cooking outside, so rendering the fat outside is fun for me anyway. How to render tallowPlace the pot over medium low heat – not too hot, but warm enough to melt the fat.  You also don’t want it bubbling so rapidly that it will make a terrible mess.  Trust me.  Keep it down to a happy simmer.  Once you start to see some fat separating, give it a good stir, then stir it about every 5 minutes or so. How to render beef fat The whole process takes about 30-40 minutes, depending on how big (or small) your fat pieces were to begin with and how much fat you are rendering.  What you want to see is that the pieces in the pot are starting to look crispy when you lift them out with a spoon, and the fat in the pot is an amber color. Pull the pan off the heat and let it sit for a few minutes while you prepare your jars.  I like to wash my jars out, fill them with water and pop them in the microwave for a few minutes.  I then take out the very hot jars (careful), pour out the boiling hot water and dry them quickly.  Not only does this sterilize the jars, but now I have hot jars to pour a hot liquid into!  Never pour a hot liquid into a cold jar or, worse, cold liquid into a hot jar!How to get pure beef fat Next, just pour the melted fat through a strainer into your jar or bowl.  Be very careful while doing this, because we are talking about molten lava  very hot melted fat at this point!how to render beef fat  Not a time to have kids and dogs running through the kitchen!  You can see that I got almost exactly one quart (four cups) of beef tallow.  Since I am going to use this tallow in soapmaking, I wanted to get out as many impurities as I could.  When you look at the bottom of your bowl or jar, you may see a thin layer of “sludge” at the bottom.  Since I didn’t want any sludge impurities in my soap, I poured about a cup of hot water into the hot fat, stirred it a bit, then let it set.  Since fat floats, and the impurities fall to the bottom due to gravity, once the fat solidifies all you have to do is lift it off the water and pour the water and impurities down the drain.  rendering beef fatWipe off the bottom of the now creamy white solidified pure tallow with a paper towel to get the water off, pop into a freezer bag, and throw it into your freezer.

Done! Getting pure beef tallow from fat

Perfect for soapmaking!

Now I need to find a good recipe to make soap.  Hmmm…. I’m thinking one with goat’s milk and/or olive oil would be fun to start with!  Do you have any good, easy (remember, I’m a first timer) soapmaking recipes you think I should start with?

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Canned Beef in Wine Sauce

My husband and I will be living in our travel trailer for the next two years while we build our new home, which is a good thing.  However, our trailer has a very small refrigerator/ freezer, which is a bad thing.  I would really prefer not to drive the 45 minute trip down the hill to the grocery store every few days, or even once a week, so canning and dehydrating our food has become a new priority for me.

If I use one jar of beef, one jar of chicken, one jar of fish and a jar of pork every week for dinner, this would cut down on the need to keep meat in the small freezer, freeing up space for other necessary items – like ice cream! :D  So far I have canned chicken (and chicken broth), salmon, spaghetti sauce with meat and beef cubes. You can find all of these recipes in the tab above under “Preserved Food”.  I found a recipe in my Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving  for Beef in Wine and thought I would try it!

The process was actually quite simple. I cut the beef into cubes and then browned it in some oil. The best part about pressure canning beef, is that you can use the cheapest cuts of beef because the prolonged cooking under pressure tenderizes the beef!Canned Beef in Red Wine SauceI browned it pretty good because in the original recipe calls for 1/2 teaspoon of “browning and seasoning sauce”, which I find to be unnecessary if you brown your meat good in the first place!  I deglazed the pan with the water and red wine called for in the recipe, so I could get all of the yummy-ness and flavor from the bottom of the pan.

Pressure Canning Beef in Wine Sauce

Next, the apples and carrots were grated, and the onion and garlic sliced and minced.  These were added to the stock pot along with the meat and deglazing liquid, a little bit of salt and a couple of bay leaves, as per the recipe. The whole mixture was allowed to simmer for about an hour on the stove.  Believe it or not, as the mixture was simmering, the grated apples pretty much melted away, into a nice, rich sauce!  It smelled absolutely awesome! The hot mixture was ladled into hot pint jars (perfect size for just the two of us) and processed in the Pressure Canner for 75 minutes.  Pressure Canning Red Wine and Beef

Remember to always process low acid foods in a pressure canner for the correct amount of time.  I have been doing all of my canning lately in my backyard, which is wonderful.  It doesn’t heat up my kitchen and it gives me a chance to sit back and enjoy nature while I babysit the canner! :D

As usual, I couldn’t wait to try it!  Oftentimes, if there is a jar that doesn’t seal, I will use that one right away.  With this batch, however, everything sealed, so I had to open a “good” jar. I dumped one jar into a sauce pan, added a couple of quartered crimini mushrooms and two teaspoons of cornstarch.  This mixture was allowed to simmer softly until the sauce was thickened and the meat was heated through.Pressure Canned Beef in Wine

You can eat this “as is” or pour the Beef in Red Wine Sauce over pasta, rice or even mashed potatoes.  I had previously purchased some pasta from our local Grocery Outlet that was labeled “non-GMO” and “Organic”.  It didn’t cost much more than the regular stuff I had been buying, but I found it interesting that neither of these pastas were made in the USA – one was made in Germany and the other in Romania.  In those countries they have food labeling laws, unlike ours, that lets the consumer know what they are eating.  I decided to use the one from Germany.  Believe it or not, it was the pasta that took the longest time to cook!  The beef in Red Wine sauce was bubbling away happily long before the pasta was al dente.

Canning Beef in Sauce

Man-O-Man was this good!  The beef was still in chunks, so it wasn’t mushy at all, which was a worry of mine.  The sauce was excellent!  Two teaspoons was all that was necessary to make it nice and thick but with lots of flavor.  I think next time I may add some  sour cream instead of the cornstarch, so it will be more like a stroganoff!  Of course, I could always add potatoes, carrots and celery for a stew, or as the base of a beef pot pie!  Lots of possibilities with this one.

This is the recipe I used, adapted from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving:

Recipe for Canned Beef in Red Wine Sauce

Beef in Red Wine - Pressure Canned

What I am finding, dear friends, is that canned foods such as this, are actually like fast food – it takes less than 15 minutes to have dinner on the table!  With the variety of ways to prepare it, I don’t think monotony or food ruts will be a problem.  What do you think?



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Dear Friends, We Aren’t Crazy!

Some people think we are as crazy as the Mad Hatter!

Some people think we are as crazy as the Mad Hatter!

Dear family and friends,

Some of you may not understand why we plan to grow our own wheat, or why I developed my 1-2-3 flour instead of just going to the store and buying flour. Others think we are crazy for wanting to raise our own chickens. The idea of aquaponics and growing our own trout may sound like sheer lunacy.  Building a concrete house with “earth tubes” and being “off-grid” seems like a fad to you. Organic gardening and preserving our harvest may be thought of as a waste of time.

broccoli and chicken ravioli

1-2-3 Flour
1 part acorn flour  (we have lots of oaks on our land)
2 parts almond flour (we have planted several nut trees on our land)
3 parts wheat flour (apparently growing wheat isn’t all that hard to do! )

Let me explain ourselves.

We don’t want to hurt the earth anymore. We want our grandchildren and their grandchildren to enjoy nature and good food and excellent health.  We don’t want to worry about chemicals in our vegetables, hormones in our meat, or corn DNA in our blood.

The beautiful spring-fed pond

Raising trout in a small pond is one of our dreams

Our plan to build a concrete house with a metal roof on five acres in the forest comes from our want need to be more self-reliant.  Once the homestead is up and running, we won’t have a mortgage, we won’t be buying electricity and we won’t be purchasing fruits or vegetables, chicken or eggs, honey or wheat.  We will grow/raise our own and preserve our harvest for the winter.  This is our retirement plan.

The last of the beets and carrots

A beautiful bounty from our garden. Next year’s garden will be bigger and better!

With this plan, it will free up our pension money and savings to enjoy our golden years. Without a mortgage or a large utility bill, we should have extra money for entertainment, goods and services. Seeing Old Faithful, the Grand Canyon and the Canadian Rockies is on our bucket list. We enjoy going to the theater (both movies and live plays) and attending  local festivals, such as the garlic festival in Gilroy and the asparagus festival in Stockton.

We don’t count on Social Security to last much longer (do you?) and under-funded pension plans are constantly in the news.  So, by meeting our own basic needs (food, shelter, water, warmth), we won’t be severely inconvenienced if Social Security or our pension system collapses.  You see, we are building our own form of social security!

We will buy or barter for grass fed beef and pork from someone else because raising large livestock is something we don’t chose to do. But, in the same breath, we also eat less beef and pork for our own health and the health of the planet.  And for those nay-sayers who claim that we can never be truly self-sufficient, I say We Agree! Absolute self-sufficiency is not our goal. We certainly don’t want to cobble our own shoes, weave our own fabric or forge metal to make our own car.  Our economy would collapse if there were no consumers of goods and services and that certainly isn’t our intent

We love camping in our travel trailer and can't wait to see Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon and the Atlantic Ocean.

We love camping in our travel trailer and can’t wait to see Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon and the Atlantic Ocean.

Are we “Preppers”?  Not really.  But we do want to be prepared for an uncertain future.

So, this will be our retirement: gardening, taking care of chickens, trout and bees, camping in Yosemite and Yellowstone, going to the theaters, and of course visiting with friends and family.  Is that so strange?



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