Monday, August 24, 2009

Garden 2009 - Spring - Update III - A Borsch is a Borsch, Of Course, Of Course

We planted cabbage in our summer garden again this year. If you'll remember from our garden last year, we didn't have any cabbage heads to speak of; but this year the Lord has graciously blessed us with large, beautiful cabbage heads to eat fresh and preserve.

I can probably count the number of ounces of cabbage I've eaten in my life in single digits. I have nothing against cabbage in the least but just didn't grow up eating much of it. So I was stumped to find a good way to preserve all of this cabbage with which God had blessed us.

I surfed online a bit under canning cabbage and found a recipe that sounded pretty tasty to me. Fast forward several weeks, and I now have over 60 quarts of borsch in my root cellar! (NOTE: For you proper spellers, "borsch" is, indeed, an approved variant spelling of "borscht.") I had heard of borsch but had never eaten it to my recollection. I'm not certain if this recipe is an "official" borsch; but, regardless, it's tasty! Wow! All these years I've been missing out! This recipe calls for five pounds of tomatoes per batch, so we were very thankful when we discovered the local produce market was having a sale on tomatoes at about $.50 per pound.

I've listed the recipe below in case anybody is panicking like I was, wondering how to capture and preserve their garden cabbage crop. Or if you just have a "hankerin'" for borsch :D

Here is the official link to the recipe, but I made a few changes so I thought I would post it here also with a few personal notes in italics:

Yield: Eight pints (or four quarts) although I was generous with the ingredients and consistently got five quarts each time.
- 5 lbs. tomatoes (about 20 medium tomatoes)
- 8 cups coarsely shredded cabbage (I tried using a grater but realized coarsely chopping the cabbage works just as well and is much faster)
- 6 cups water
- 2 cups chopped onions (approx. 2 medium onions)
- 1 cup chopped apple (approx. 1 medium apple)
- 2 tablespoons instant beef bouillon (store-bought bouillon contains MSG, so on some of the batches I used pork stock from previous canning sessions of our pigs in place of the six cups of water, and added a little garlic and onion powder seasoning in place of the bouillon; and it worked fine)
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon pepper

1. Wash, peel, remove stem ends and cores, and quarter tomatoes. Use a small spoon to scrape out the excess seeds, if desired. (I didn't take the time to peel the tomatoes or scrape out any seeds, and it was fine)

2. In a four to six quart kettle or dutch oven combine all ingredients. Bring to a boil; boil uncovered five minutes.

3. Ladle hot soup into hot jars, leaving 1/2 inch head space.

4. Adjust the lids.

5. Process in canner at 10 pounds, 45 minutes for pints or 55 minutes for quarts. (Please look online for altitude instructions if you live 1,000 feet or more above sea level)

6. Makes eight pints (or four quarts) (As I stated before, I was generous with the ingredients and consistently got five quarts)

Here are the tomatoes we were blessed to be able to buy very inexpensively. A 20 lb. box yielded three to three and a half batches:

I cut up each tomato in half and then into quarters and placed them in the soup pot:

I coarsely chopped up the cabbage and placed it in with the tomatoes:

I was amazed at how many cups each head of cabbage yielded:

Here are all of the ingredients introducing themselves to each other and ready to be boiled:

The ingredients have now been boiled for five minutes and are ready to be ladled into the canning jars for processing:

MMMmmmmm, delicious Borsch all cooked, processed and ready to eat!

What a blessing to have been able to capture and preserve these abundant, direct provisions from God. Dave and I have had some borsch for supper a couple of times now. Dave said it doesn't smell that great but tastes delicious! It can stand on its own as a very tasty and nutritious soup, or meat may be added to make a wonderful stew. I added in some canned brisket meat recently along with some homemade bread, and it made a well-rounded supper for us. All thanks to God for granting us this food from our garden as a type of the spiritual food He gives us from His Word.


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A House - Update II - Foundation

We just wanted to catch you up on the progress of the house the Lord is granting that we be able to build right now.

I decided to use a pier and beam foundation, using 12 inch concrete piers.

And here is the first hole! I've found that below the surface is a layer of boulder rocks; and so I've been digging down to that point and leaving them so the piers will sit on the rock, hopefully creating a more firm foundation:

I cut rebar pieces and pounded them into the sides of the hole in eight places to help hold the pier in the ground against any lift that might occur:

And I tied them together with cross pieces so they act as a single piece in the concrete:

Here I tied in some vertical rebar pieces that would actually stick up into the pier:

And here is the base after the concrete pour:

For the pier part, I decided to use concrete tube forms. We're finding the height of each tube by using a water level, which is just clear, plastic tubing with water in it. One person takes one end to an already established pier, the other person the other end to a leveled, empty concrete tube in place on the concrete base. The person next to the unfilled concrete tube gets in place, and the person at the established pier moves the tube up and down until their water level is level with the top of the pier. Then, the other person marks the concrete tube where their water line is showing. We're doing this on four places on the tube, then marking a line all the way around the concrete tube and cutting it to size on that line. Also, we take each measurement from the same pier so that any error introduced only affects the new pier and doesn't compound from pier to pier:

Once the tube is cut to the proper height, it is re-leveled on the concrete base and held in place by a wood form and stakes pounded into the ground:

This is the bolt that is set in the concrete which will hold on the brace which holds the beam. I tied in a couple of small pieces of rebar at the bottom to a washer held on by a nut to better lock it into the concrete:

And here the bolt is ready to be set into the concrete using the plywood to hold it "suspended" in the concrete:

Here is the pier after the concrete pour with the bolt set into place:

I decided to do the first two front corner piers so I could run a string between them so as to be able to line up the whole row of piers:

And here is the first row completed!

This past first Wednesday of the month was our community work day, and the men helped us with our foundation work. We poured a pier and three new bases:

I decided to complete the other two corners so I could have straight lines for all of the other outside piers, and here is where we are now:

We are again grateful to God for the provisions, ability and community to work on the house.

-- David

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Storing Rain II - Update

In a previous blog post, we showed a tank (pond) expansion project we worked on. As I mentioned at the end of that post, it had rained enough at one time to fill it up quite a bit, but much of it leaked out the sides; and since then it hasn't had much water in it. In doing some other work to help fill the tank, I've built up a berm of dirt in a drainage area from our upper field, directing runoff water from it down toward our tank.

Well, recently, the Lord in His graces and mercies brought rain -- four to five inches in around a week time period. This really did a lot with filling up tanks in the area, including here on our land. For our tank, God filled it up to about one and a half feet from the top. Again though, some of it is leaking out, but not as much as before, it appears. Hopefully over time the sides will continue to seal up.

And so, following and including the one above are pictures of the gracious bounty of water God has provided:

We thank Him for His abundant provisions, the water here on the land, and the Water of Life in His Son, Christ Jesus.

-- David