Worth the Effort or Waste of Time?

Let's start with the benefits of pumpkin....
  • AIDS VISION; a cup of cooked, mashed pumpkin contains more than 200% of the recommended daily of Vitamin A, carotenoids and beta-carotene.
  • LOW CALORIE; 3 grams per cup of pumpkin is only 49 fiber rich calories.
  • REDUCED CHOLESTEROL; Pumpkin Seeds are naturally rich in phytosterols which may help reduce LDL levels and tryptophan which has shown to improve moods.
  • REFUEL A TIRED BODY; one cup of cooked pumpkin has up to 564 milligrams of potassium.
  • VITAMIN C; upwards of 11 milligrams can be found in one cup of cooked pumpkin.

Benefits of Pumpkin

Wouldn't you agree that it IS worth the effort and time commitment?  I would.  Yes, you can buy a can of it at the store, even get the organic, I have.  However, if I have the opportunity and time to make my own, I always take that option.  I'd prefer the only processing of my puree to be my Kitchen stove and a glass jar and not a commercial processing facility.

Ok, enough of that, on to making your own puree:

You can use any pumpkin but I prefer "milk pumpkins" or also known as "sugar pumpkins".
They are lighter in color than what you normally see.

Give them a good scrubbing.

Cut open the pumpkin and scoop out the innards.
You can either compost or save the seeds and roast them.

Slice into chunks that will fit into your pot, cover with water and boil until soft.  Depending on how big your pumpkin is and how much fits in the pot, it can take up to 30 minutes or longer to soften.

Remove sections from the pot, BE CAREFUL, the pieces will be very hot, let them cool a few minutes.  Use a spoon to scrape the pulp from the skin (the skin goes in the compost too). 

This is the undrained pulp from one large pumpkin.

Using a colander, let the pulp drain until most of your water is out and give it a stir every now and then. This takes quite a while, up to 2 hours in most cases.

This is what drained from one of my pumpkins, nearly 7 cups of water!
As you can see, draining the pulp is important.

You're done!  It's probably taken all day BUT well worth the effort in my book.
What I see here is 9 pumpkin pies to be made any time I want!

A few tips:

I normally do this on a weekend.  I'll get everything cut up, boiled and draining started then go about my day, passing by every so often to give it a stir.

Any pumpkin works but Sugar Pumpkins have a nice taste which I prefer for recipes.

If you like your pies a little rustic like me, there's no need to do anything further after draining. If you like it smoother use either a potato masher, blender or immersion blender to achieve the desired consistency.

I use a mesh strainer and cheesecloth only because I find it easier to clean up.  Any small-holed strainer will do.

Store puree in the freezer in freezer-safe jars, BPA-free plastic containers or Ziploc Bags, removing as much air as possible.  I prefer the glass jars since they are reusable and easy to clean. When you're ready to defrost, put it back into a collander while you prepare your recipe.  A little more water will drain from being frozen.

You CANNOT safely can pumpkin puree either with a Pressure Canner or Water Bath Canning.  There is no safe way, other than freezing, for long term storage.

You CAN Pressure Can pumpkin chunks.

You can find my favorite Pumpkin Pie recipe here.  I've been making the same recipe for over 20 years and it's perfect every time.

If I were to buy 9 fresh pumpkin pies at a bakery, it would cost me $20 per pie.  Yep, 20 bucks!   

The pumpkin cost me $6 so that's 67 CENTS per pie plus another $2 for ingredients.  Total $2.67 for homemade, nutrient-rich pumpkin pie.

To me that's worth the effort.  Wondering if it's worth your time and effort?

Try it.  Compare a pie made with your fresh puree and another with canned.  I promise you'll be shocked at the taste.  And if not, well, you learned something new, you have a few jars of puree and a good story to tell.

Don't just carve your pumpkins . . . Eat them!

Pumpkin is one of my favorites and recipes that include fresh pumpkin are even better.  You can easily substitue fresh pumpkin for canned.  If you need to use canned, be sure you're getting JUST pumpkin with nothing added.  Using canned pumpkin with additives such as sugar, will change the taste of your recipe quite a bit.

Pumpkin Butter, like Apple Butter, is tops in our house.  We use it every day for PB&J sandwiches; that's Pumpkin Butter & Jelly!  Check out Oh She Glows simple recipe.

Pumpkin Pancakes, oh yeah, they're perfect for Breakfast, Lunch or Dinner in my book.  Mom, What's for Dinner recipe is flavorful and delicious.  If you don't have Buttermilk on hand, don't worry, Emeril's recipe is super simple to make and I use it all the time.

Pumpkin Turkey Chili sounded, well if I'm going to be honest, not so good.  I made this two weeks ago and I will attest to it's deliciousness.  Honestly, you really can't taste the pumpkin but you reap all the healthy benefits of it being in the recipe.

Pumpkin Risotto, put together in about 15 minutes, is the perfect compliment to the Chili. Southern Inlaw has an easy to follow recipe I think you'll really enjoy.

Pumpkin Pie finishes the meal with perfection.  Once you find your favorite, you won't stray, this is mine...
Click to Enlarge
Making fresh Pumpkin Puree is best from sugar pumpkins (or "milk" pumpkins as we call them here in Northern New Jersey).  They tend to be small, about the size of a smooshed medium watermelon and a light, creamy orange.  It's well worth the effort and typically you can get 2 or 3 pies from 1 pumpkin.

There are plenty of sites with instructions for making pumpkin puree; these are mine;  Scrub the whole sugar pumpkin before cutting, then cut into large slices.  Discard the stem. Bring a large pot to boil and cook until the rinds are soft.  Carefully remove the slices from the water, scrape off the pumpkin, discard the rind (be sure to compost it), and drain the pulp for an hour or so. Draining depends on how much you have.  You don't want to be able to squeeze out any water. It doesn't have to be bone dry, just as dry as you can get it. You're now ready to use the pulp in any recipe that calls for fresh or canned pumpkin.

If you love pumpkin as much as we do, check out our Pinterest Board, Healthy Pumpkin Recipes to find your favorite.

You might also enjoy our Apple Harvest board with over 650 pins of great Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner recipes, along with some adult crafts.  Let's face it, why should the kids have all the fun!

Wondering if all this is worth the trouble?  The answer is an emphatic YES!  The health benefits of pumpkin are quite amazing. Vitamin A, Fiber, Amino Acids and Potassium to name a few.  It's also easily available at most grocery stores, however, if you have the opportunity to make your own fresh puree, go for it, you won't be disappointed.

Apples: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly


The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, that describes our apple trees.  We don't treat the trees with any kind of chemical sprays, or even organic sprays; we let nature decide.  The outcome?  Many are Good, meaning no bruises, spots, pest issues.  Some are Bad, meaning those are picked and put in the woods for the many animals that frequent our yard.  And there's the Ugly.  Some are ugly and edible, others are ugly and put out back.  This year, our 3rd year living here, happened to produce mostly Good and we couldn't be happier.

Apples: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

My usual course of action this time of year is to make applesauce and freeze it.  However, since we now have our own apple trees and a bounty of fresh apples, I felt it was high time I learned canning. Off I went to Pinterest and found more than enough recipes to get started, too many actually which is why I wound up making a Pinterest Board dedicated to apples.

I started with Food.com's Best Apple Pie Jam recipe.  It seemed simple enough and it was, we turned out about a dozen jars.  For the novice canner like myself, I highly recommend this one.  It also happens to taste delicious. The only change I made was instead of packed brown sugar, I use Sucanat. I've been using it in place of commercial brown sugar for years as a healthier option.


My next day included Canning Apple Pie Filling from Little House Living.  I found it fairly easy to follow and wound up making 5 Quarts plus 8-1/2 pints for holiday gifts.  Win-win!

Apples: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

After the Apple Pie Filling, I decided to try Homemade Pancake Syrup from the apple peelings. Since I'm not one to waste anything, this sounded like a great idea.  Let me just say, this would be better suited to a more experienced canner.  I read the directions carefully, however, one key factor was missing; the proper time for boiling.

After my failed attempt, I decided to read thru ALL the reader comments and found that I was supposed to boil the liquid for just a minute or two.  Since this important fact was left out of the directions, and I didn't know any better, I boiled the liquid for over 30 minutes.  If I had to be honest, I'd say it was probably 45!  Needless to say, it went downhill from there.

To make a long story short, I boiled over the liquid onto my ceramic top electric oven.  Not pretty, and not pretty to clean up either.  The outcome? Candy Apple Topping.  We grabbed a few Good Apples, literally wiped on the topping, and enjoyed a treat for the afternoon.

Apples: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

My last attempt, using additional leftover apple peelings was Apple Scrap Jelly from Fireflies & Mudpies. I'm happy to say, this was a huge success.  We did 9-1/2 pint jars for holiday gifts and will continue to make this throughout the season.  Note:  This recipe calls for 9 cups of sugar, I reduced that to 6 cups and it was wonderful and not too sweet.

Apples: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

All in all, canning has been a good experience and considering we have several more bushels to pick, we'll be in the Kitchen for the next couple of weeks.

Apples: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

Need ideas for your apples?  Check out our APPLE HARVEST Pinterest Board.
Over 600 pins for Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner and (adult) Crafts.

Also, be sure to sign up for email updates and receive our mini-eBook
Canning Made Easy.


Our Pinterest Canning Board here
Our Apple Harvest Board here

Test jars for proper sealing here
Troubleshooting here

Questions about Water Bath Canning here

Questions about Pressure Canning here

Adjust for high altitudes here

National Center for Home Food Prep here

Thoughts from a newbie canner:
  1. It looks like alot in the pot, but it's not.
  2. I ran back to the store 3 times for jars.  Stock up ahead of time.
  3. Get the all the canning supplies recommended.  You'll use them all.  
  4. Always check the reader comments, it typically holds valuable information the writer omitted.
  5. If YOU are posting a recipe, read, read, read and read it again.  Make sure you have ALL necessary and pertinent information included.  Canning really is easy if you have the proper directions. 

It's Official . . . We're parents!

We are Official Chicken Parents

Well, chicken parents that is!  When we moved back home to New Jersey after 9 years in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, we were fortunate to find the perfect home (for us)!  The house had been vacant for about a year and the back yard almost completely overgrown.  Nevertheless, we could see potential for many great things.

The very back of the yard was so completely overgrown that we had no idea there was another shed hidden in the weeds (yes, the weeds were THAT high!) and two very large enclosures just below it. Picture 4' high chain link fence doubled up (making it 8' high), black fabric covering that 8 feet and supports against the outside perimeter of the fence.  There were two enclosures like this.  After more investigation, and talking with the neighbors, we discovered the previous owner's had raised animals on the property for over a decade.  We could then see why such extreme measures were taken to protect the animals from bear, coyote, turkey and fox which freely roam the area.  Unfortunately, it had been several years between their eliminating animals from the property, the year the property spent vacant and our coming along.  To say the fencing and shed were in disrepair would be an understatement, but again, there was potential!

Building the chicken coop
This is a recent picture of the 'hidden' shed, before renovation began.

The second fenced area couldn't be saved so that was removed, the remaining area will be used for a large garden that we hope to have next season.  For now, we put in a small garden near the house.

Expanding the garden
10x20 Garden
All that said, we immediately wanted to raise our own chickens now that we had the room.  That was 3 years ago.  You know the feeling, you have a great idea and basically know how to implement it. Then life sets in.  New job, new schools, family, chores. That left basically half of Saturday and all day Sunday for Barry and I to work around the property together.  Not to mention, we were so happy to be back home with family, we spent most of the first year visiting as much as possible.

Little by little we hacked away the weeds and scrap trees to reveal a large shed with 4 rooms. This would be great storage AND provide a place for chickens.  I really do wish there were pictures, you wouldn't believe the growth!

We were able to salvage the existing shed by reinforcing some walls and installing new flooring, all done with leftover wood.  The room on the end is small, about 4x12, perfect for nesting boxes and perches.  The boxes extend into the adjoining room for easy access without entering the coop.

Chicken Nesting Boxes
Nesting Boxes
Barry's next plan was to build an enclosed outdoor area where they would be protected from predators. This took nearly 3 months to complete. Remember, we only have a day and a half available each week to work on the project.  Figure in rainy days and other obligations and the time just flies.

Building a Chicken Coop
Teaching Colin how to use the drill
Building a Chicken Coop
That doorway leads to the nesting boxes
Building a Chicken Coop
He's got it!

Next came the walls, roof and floor.  The flooring is thick bluestone tiles left here by the previous owners. We purchased metal sheet roofing from Lowe's.

Building a Chicken Coop
Nearing the finish line

It's Official, We're Parents
Building a Chicken Coop
Left behind Bluestone tiles make the perfect floor

Building a Chicken Coop
Installing a metal roof - this was the easiest project

Building a Chicken Coop
Construction Complete!
All that was left to do was painting, a 2-day project that Tyler, our youngest, and I completed. Even Macy kept us company.

Building a Chicken Coop
Painting complete!

Building a Chicken Coop
Macy learned quickly not to step in the paint (again!)

We're fortunate to have quite a number of farms in the surrounding area, so finding chickens was easy.  Off we went, about 30 minutes down the road, to meet our new family members, it was pick up day at Brodhecker's Farm!

Picking Out Chickens for our Coop
The boys deciding which ones they wanted

Picking out chickens for our coop
Okay, that's ALOT of chickens!

Bringing the Chickens Home
Yep, he's carrying all 6 in one hand.

The Chickens are home
Oscar and Macy were also quite excited

Getting a closer look

It's been about a month now since that day.  The girls, now approaching 20 weeks, should start laying within the next month or so.  Or at least that's what we're hoping.

Chickens checking out the nesting boxes
Happy Girls

Morning in the Chicken Coop
We put an old fence inside the coop.  This allows the girls to
look outside whenever they want - usually there's at least 4 at a time on it

A few side notes to our story...

We read and read as much as we could about birds, care, coops, food.  You name it, we researched, read and pinned it all! You might also enjoy our Pinterest Board, All Things Chickens.

Our next project on the coop will be to give the girls a fenced area outside to forage.  We learned through reading and friends the best course of action would be to wait until they are regularly laying in their nesting boxes before expanding their territory.  This should ensure all eggs are laid in the boxes and not in random places outside.  Sounds good to me.

Building a Chicken Coop
There will be a 10x20 fenced outdoor area for the girls.
A small door will be put in the side wall here for access.
Now we anxiously await fresh eggs!

UPDATE!!  Just 2 days after posting, we got our first egg!!  Gee, perhaps I should have posted this sooner!

Our First Egg

Late Summer Edition: Buying from the Dying Shelf

 YES!  These are from the Dying Shelf purchased at 50% or more from the retail price.

In my earlier post, Buying from the Dying Shelf,  I showed you how we bought dying plants at our local plant store for a fraction of their retail pricing and how the plants have grown and prospered beautifully.  I found these Spider plants (3) in one pot for $5 (originally $10-$15 PER plant).

Fast forward to now, late Summer.  We once again took a look at the dying plants that were available. To our surprise, there was quite a selection, again at a fraction of the cost!

We purchased 2 Hydrangea, 2 Sage, 2 Cone and 2 Lavender plants.  Here's the breakdown:

Quite a savings isn't it?!  As you can see, the plants don't look so great right now but they have plenty of healthy new growth AND they are all perennials that will come back year after year. My advice is the same as it was for the indoor plants; look over the plant, see if there is new growth, it's free from mold and is at least 30-50% green.  

Buying from the Dying Shelf is a fantastic way to save AND have beautiful plants year and year!