Gigi's Blog » Tales of the Mortician's Wife

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  • Welcome to the Gigi Blog!

    Blessed to be a mother to half a dozen girls & one boy. Wife of an undertaker.
    Photographer. Homeschooler. Daughter of the King. Chicken and goat raiser.
    Lover of Jesus and all things pink and vintage. ♥

Putting up Soups & Stews

 

 

 

As our sweet baby #8 is due in the fall, I got it into my nesting-inspired brain that perhaps canning some items ahead of time would be prudent.

Our baby is due in the beginning of October, which generally is a busy canning season for me. I know that even in September, it is going to be very full with the harvest of the garden, along with preserving what vegetables we have grown.

 

Therefore, putting up some soup and stews now, even though it may be out of season, might be a responsible idea. I am using up last year’s potatoes and onions, as well. If I can preserve a batch of soup or stew at least once a week or every other week (for sanity’s sake) for a majority of the summer, that would be fantastic. It is a big help to me to have jars of healthy food readily available on a whim’s notice – we use it for lunches, dinners, after church meals … it is just a blessing.

 

 

 

 

Below are the two recipes I have worked on for soups over the past two weeks. I know it is challenging to think ahead for cooler months as we are in the beautiful warmth of June – but when there is a bump growing out your front and your family is soon growing by “two feet”,  you realize there is no time like the present to work!

Of course, for my recipes, I double and triple everything. I do not think it would be worth it to go through all that effort of chopping and only end up 8 jars of stew.

Beef Vegetable Stew:

  • 4 to 5 lb beef stew meat, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 Tbsp oil
  • 12 cups cubed and peeled potatoes (about 12 medium)
  • 8 cups sliced carrots (about 16 small)
  • 3 cups chopped celery (about 5 stalks)
  • 3 cups chopped onion (about 4 small)
  • 1-1/2 Tbsp salt
  • a dash or two of Worchestire sauce
  • a mixture of tomato sauce, added to your liking if so desired
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • Water

 

You will need to cook your meat – I had some leftover beef frozen ready for soup so I simply used that and was able to skip the step of cooking the meat.

Next, you will create your broth. We all know how to create broth – or perhaps you have purchased your broth – in any case, add all your ingredients into the broth and simmer for about 1/2 an hour. You do not want to cook your vegetable for too long as they will continue to cook in the pressure canner.

Ladle your hot soup into clean mason jars. I was able to fill 14 one litre jars with this stew. Wipe the rims of your jars with paper towel or a very clean rag. Place new sealing lids on the jars and screw your rings on finger tight.
For my altitude, I pressure canned for 1 hr 30 minutes at 10 lbs of pressure. Make sure you follow the directions for your own pressure canner.

When it is time to serve your soup, simply reheat, add some barley and home baked bread. Yum – a delicious fall meal! You can even thicken your stew once you have warmed it, if you wish. (It is not advised to thicken soups for canning.)

The second soup I processed was Tomato beef Soup. We love this soup – especially with noodles added (only after being canned – never process noodles! But if you are reading this, I am assuming you already have some basic knowledge about pressure canning.)

 

This recipe is more loose – as in, I did not exactly measure. I can tell you I started with a big pot of broth, seasoned with bay leaves, basil, oregano, onions, garlic and parsley. You may adjust to your taste. Add salt and pepper as desired, as well.

The girls help cut up carrots and celery to add to the soup. The meat was already cooked so I simply added the cooked meat to each jar. This time, I did not add potatoes as it was in the previous stew.

Again, similar to the above recipe, simmer lightly on the stove for about 1/2 hour.
Fill your mason jars and wipe the rims clean with paper towel. I processed in the pressure canner for 1 hour 30 minutes at 10 lbs pressure.

A total of 38 jars was canned.

I’m not sure if this will help you if you plan on doing a canning day, but I thought I would share. Make sure you allow two days for something large like soups and stews. When I plan on doing a soup batch, I prep most of the vegetables the previous day and make the broth. The following day, everything is ready to go and I can just process the soups. Or I will cut up all the vegetables and process on batch in one day and will process the second batch the next day. It does take a lot of effort and time to get the work done, but again, it is truly worth it.  Of course, if you are home alone without children, you can probably process the entire batch in one day – but I know I am needed and stopped often for meals, etc. while in the middle of canning.

P.S. I have to say, I was tempted a few weeks ago to purchase the next size up pressure canner. I really felt my needs justified the reason to update. Our family has grown in size drastically since I first started pressure canning many years ago and our food needs have also increase. Thus, I was convinced I needed a new, bigger canner. However, my little canner has proven faithful through all these years. It is a much more cost friendly canner compared to the large option. In the end, I decided it was best to “make do with what I have”. I am grateful for this hard working canner! Best money spent ever, I think!

 

 

June 16, 2017 - 4:42 pm

Gigi - Regina, that sounds so wonderful! I would like to pressure can some meat for the fall, as well. Waiting for a sale from the local Mennonite store. 🙂
No, we are not going to find out the gender of the baby. And we are a little stuck on a girl name – we are still sticking with the “L” theme. I think I may have a boy name but not 100% sure.

June 16, 2017 - 3:38 pm

Regina Shea - Hi Gigi! This sounds and looks so delicious! I just learned how to pressure can a few months ago. I really love it Makes me wonder what took me so long to graduate from water bath to pressure canning! Right now I have pork going in the canner. I also thought about buying a larger canner. My canner wil only hold 4 quarts so I have to can smaller batches. After the pork is done, I have chicken to do. Tomorrow it will be bean soup to have on hand for the fall.
Are you going to find out what the baby is? Do you have names picked out?

Goslings & Ducklings

My apologies for my absence. We have been in the garden, making the most of this June sunshine,  working outside and … well, in the garden. With the expansion of our garden, we will be expecting even more produce this fall. What a blessing! We pray over the garden often and give it to God. I can plant and plant and plant but I cannot truly control the outcome. However,  I would rather be in the dirt, pulling weeds, than rushing to the grocery store this winter and buying produce from who knows where. {Think about it – it makes sense!}

 

We have many baby bunnies on our property – they are adorable to watch – but they are just like Peter Rabbit in my garden. My husband has been very kind and put up a fence around all the gardens to protect them from the cute little bunny visitors.

 

Our good friends gave us some ducklings when we visited their house last week- what a blessing! The Buff Orpingtons are good layers, but not good for meat. They are growing quickly and quite cute to watch.

 

 

 

 

 

We recently introduced some goslings to the barnyard, as well. Oh my, they are so cute!
They are some Chinese Geese and, I think, there is one Embden goose. We do have a full grown goose and gander already, but I look forward to having more geese for the future.

Who can resist the cuteness of a little duckling?

Or even still – a gosling?

 

 

I’m sitting on the back patio (our summer kitchen) waiting for the pressure canner to finish up over the propane cooker. I have been true to my decision to weekly pressure can some soups and meals for the winter months. Hopefully I can do a post about that lately as I have some good recipes to share …and I should do baby update, for sure … hopefully this week … perhaps if it rains a bit in the afternoon. 🙂

 

 

 

 

Delicious Rhubarb Ketchup

 

If your garden is bursting with those big leafy lovely stalks of rhubarb, here is a way to use one of Spring’s first wonderful vegetables.

 

 

Don’t judge this recipe by the title of it – it is so delicious, so scrumptious, your family will love it! We have used it on steaks and burgers, but it can go over anything in regards to your dinner. Use it as a sidedish for a meat, slather your chicken in it and bbq, use it as a dip with crackers and cream cheese … but, Abby says it is best on a good meaty burger!

 

 

So, here is the lovely Rhubarb Ketchup recipe, given to me by my friend, Jen. (Thank you, Jen! We love it!)
I made two double batches of this ketchup and have canned it for the Provision Room.

~Rhubarb Ketchup~

4 cups of fresh or frozen rhubarb
3 medium onions, chopped
1 can of diced tomatoes, undrained
1 cup of sugar
1 cup of brown sugar
1 cup of white vinegar
2 tsp. of salt
1 tsp. of cinnamon
1 Tbsp. of pickling spice (drop in in a cheesecloth of some version of a spice bag)

In a large saucepan, combine the first eight ingredients.
Place pickling spice in a cheesecloth bag and drop into the pot.
Cook for one hour or until thickened.
I let mine simmer slowly for quite a few hours on the wood cookstove,
as I did not have a high hot fire going.

Once it is thick enough for your liking, discard spice bag.
Ladle into clean mason jars (size of your choice) and process in the water bath the smaller jars for 15 minutes.
After allowing it to cool on your counter, make sure the lids have sealed.
Tuck away into your Provision Room or canning room for months to come of ways to spice up your dinner dishes.
(It will also make a great Father’s Day gift…)

 

 

 

Enjoy! xo

 

 

 

Shared with Strangers & Pilgrims

June 2, 2017 - 12:37 am

Rebecca - I am going to try this. Thank you for sharing the recipe!

May 31, 2017 - 6:07 am

Gigi - Yum! Yes, that sounds a bit like our rhubarb sauce we make.

May 31, 2017 - 6:06 am

Gigi - Mom, it’s more like a sauce, relish, etc. for a side dip of a meat, etc. Ketchup has such a low quality sound to it but it is good!

May 30, 2017 - 9:16 pm

Brenda (Gigi's Mom) - Yum!! We don’t eat much ketchup but look forward to having it on a burger at your place!! Love Mom xo

May 30, 2017 - 8:54 pm

Jan - I love relishes etc and am currently enjoying a caramelised onion relish which is wonderful on cold meats. However I would not waste rhubarb unless I had a paddock of it growing, nor would I make a relish from it. I am well aware it is classed as a vegetable but down here it is mostly used as a dessert. Rhubarb crumble, cooked and served hot with custard, or , my favourite, cold with thick cream. Wash well and cut into pieces a couple of centimetres long. Place in saucepan and cook very gently over a low heat. Be carefu;l as it catches easily. When soft , give it a stir and remove from heat. Carefully stir sugar into it, a bit ata time. Too much is as unpleasant as too little. The sugar will easily blend into the hot rhubarb.

Chicks, Rhubarb & Turkeys

 

 

Early this Saturday morning, Abby drove an hour away to pick up our little chicks. They will be raised for meat and eggs – they are a heritage breed, called Chantceler. We have moved away from the “traditional” meat bird for various reasons {mainly, wanting to be even healthier}. This breed, which originated in Canada, seems to fit all our needs – a good meaty bird, larger, can withstand traditional Ontario winters, and even lay eggs in the winter (we are hoping!).

We may eat half and keep half for the winter. We shall see.

 

 

 

 

There will be approximately 40 in total but the original hatch did not go as planned (when talking about animals, gardens, nature – we really need to rely on God – and whatever happens, happens), so we only have 20 chicks right now.

 

We are also raising a dozen turkeys – they are pretty cute as chicks.

Lacey found a favorite turkey and named him Noah. He pops his head up and down and strides along the cage faster and and peeps louder than the others. I asked her why his name is Noah – silly me, it’s because Noah’s ark landed in Turkey…


She asked that he be spared from eating.

 

 

I have two goose eggs under my friend’s broody hen – so I am praying they hatch! Wouldn’t it be fun to have some little goslings?


With perfect timing – or not so perfect timing – we also discovered a family of weasels or minks living in Abby’s work garage. This is bad news for someone raising any kind of small animal, especially chickens, ducks and turkeys. We have put out traps and poison but nothing has caught them yet. We are praying they do not start attacking the hens – it could only be a matter of time. They are vicious little creatures!

On another note, since our sweet baby #8 is due right in the midst of a big canning season, I have decided to plan ahead. All my soups and stews, I will try to can over the summer. I started canning some homemade chili this weekend, along with an Italian tomato chicken soup. If I can one type of soup or stew each week, we will have plenty for the Provision Room. This is a canning item I cannot skip as it makes such a difference in our busy days – just being able to pull out a jar of homemade soup during the cooler months and warm it up for the children for lunch or dinner is an amazing blessing.

Along with the recent batch of chili and soup, rhubarb was on the canning schedule.

Our neighbours down the road have a lovely, huge patch of rhubarb. They offered some to us so of course, I accepted! The girls helped chop up the stalks and we have made rhubarb ketchup, stewed rhubarb and vanilla rhubarb jam so far.

Would you care for the recipe of the Vanilla Rhubarb jam?

The original recipe is found here.

Vanilla Rhubarb Jam

  • 10 cups of chopped rhubarb
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 1 cup brewed Earl Grey tea
  • 1-2 teaspoons of vanilla
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1 packet of pectin
    (If you are unsure of using pectin, as I am, you may simply try a slow boil to reduce the jam further and skip the pectin addition altogether.
    Your jam may be a bit runnier, but that is okay, in my opinion.)

Combine the rhubarb, steeped tea and sugar and cook till boiling on the stovetop. Add the vanilla, lemon and allow it to bubble away gently for a few minutes (judge how long it will take, depending on how much liquid there is in your pot). When it has simmered away for roughly 10-15 minutes, add the pectin. Stir in gently and cook for another 5 or so minutes. Feel free to do a spoon test (pop a spoon in your freezer for a few minutes, remove and drop a bit of jam onto the cold spoon. Run your finger through the jam – if it stays and does not run, it is ready. If it runs back together, it will need a few more minutes to cook away).
Pour into jars of preferred size.
Wipe rims and ensure they are clean before putting on the new seal lids.
Process in the water bath canner for 10 minutes.

We had the stewed rhubarb sauce over pancakes this morning – it was so lovely! My husband was pleasantly surprised. This rhubarb sauce is scrumptious over vanilla ice cream, as well.

Here is the recipe for stewed rhubarb – which is SUPER easy to make:

Stewed Rhubarb Sauce

  • 6 cups chopped fresh rhubarb
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon

    To be honest, since this recipe is so simple, I did not even really measure – but I surely doubled the recipe portions to ensure we have enough later in the year. Cook your rhubarb and ingredients over a medium heat until it a stew-like texture. Transfer to canning jars of your choice. I water bathed it for 20 minutes.

Are you interested in the rhubarb ketchup recipe? It is bubbling away on the stove top right now and we will have it over steaks tonight. It smells so lovely … what have you done with your rhubarb?

 

 

 

 

 

May 30, 2017 - 8:46 pm

Gigi - We love rhubarb strawberry crisp! I plan on making rhubarb strawberry pie filling, as well. Love the idea of rhubarb in the water! Great thinking! I was thinking it would be perfect in kefir water.

May 30, 2017 - 5:54 pm

Rebecca - Thanks for all the rhubarb recipes! Since I live a lot further north than you do, my rhubarb plants aren’t quite ready for harvesting, but I will be ready now when they are! I usually make rhubarb strawberry jam and just freeze a bunch for rhubarb water (instead of lemons, just throw diced frozen rhubarb in the water! Makes it tart and pink!) and rhubarb strawberry crisp. Yum!

May 30, 2017 - 2:06 pm

Gigi - Thank you for your encouragement, Stacy! I do love an old fashioned life!

May 30, 2017 - 6:51 am

Stacy - I really enjoy your blog. I love the old fashion lifestyle you bring. Would love to see your home. It looks beautiful in pictures. Have a blessed week

May 29, 2017 - 5:45 pm

Gigi - That is so kind of you, Kim! I will always take rhubarb! 🙂 But I have a good supply down the road so if you need to share with someone else, then please, share the rhubarb love around. 🙂

May 28, 2017 - 8:24 am

Kim Robbins - Gillian, if you need anymore rhubarb, let me know I have tons!! I am trying your rhubarb jam recipe this week!!

May 27, 2017 - 11:45 pm

Tawnia - Perfect timing for these recipes! We just collected a huge batch of rhubarb while cutting back our own enormous patch! Now I just need some jars!

May 27, 2017 - 9:27 pm

Brenda (Gigi's Mom) - Gillian, I can attest to how delicious the vanilla rhubarb jam is!! Thank you for the jar and to confirm, It was DELIOUS! Regina, rhubarb is best gotten free, from nieghbours or friends! It is so epensive in the stores, I could never imagine buying it! Love ruhubarb!!!

May 26, 2017 - 3:22 pm

Gigi - Sure, I’m thinking the favorite turkey can stay for the winter – we shall see. 🙂
Yes, the ketchup is amazing! SO good! My friend shared her recipe and I will share the recipe on the blog. It tastes GREAT on steak or burgers.

May 26, 2017 - 11:55 am

Maike - I love rhubarb but I only know it prepared for deserts. Ketchup does sound quite strange. Have you had it before? What does the rhubarb give the ketchup, does it make it more sour or will the ketchup really taste like rhubarb? I would definately be interested in the recipe. Are you going to let the favorite chick stay alive?

May 26, 2017 - 5:32 am

Gigi - Surely some of your friends will give you some for free – then you can try it. It is so good! Don’t judge it by it’s sour taste because so much can be made from it. I hope to can strawberry rhubarb pie filling today. Yum!

May 25, 2017 - 9:07 pm

Regina Shea - Oh what cute turkey chicks. I’m embarrassed to say but I have never had rhubarb before. I’m 56 years old and never had it. It looks interesting but I worry if I bought some my family might not like it.

The Best Kind of School

 

A friend of my mom’s drove up to our home a few days ago … as she showed her around, introduced her to the animals, she looked around at the girls helping me plant the garden and jumping on the trampoline and promptly announced …

“You girls have the best kind of school.”

 

I thought about that for a moment and then dwelt on that comment later. The week has been so busy that I had felt we were skimping out on “school”. We have had little formal schooling this week – Bible memory, math, music, language, reading with a little bit of history sprinkled in there. It has been a very busy week of prepping and planting the three vegetable gardens, along with the flower beds that border the house.

I believe, as a homeschool mother, we often think school consists of physical books, actually crossing off pages of what we accomplished in school, seeing paper work accomplished. And while yes, that is so important and not to be skipped, there is another aspect to living a home-education lifestyle – one that you cannot nail down to a schedule, outline or plan … one that is organic and living and full of its own rhythms.  It was so refreshing to be reminded by an outsider that some of the best learning experiences are beyond the desk – or kitchen table. We all know this as homeschooling mothers -but I can get caught up in the official feeling of school and the amount of pages we can do a day in our Language Arts books.

This week, we have done our basics, but we have been outside from morning to sunset, working in the soil. The girls are running, squealing with dirt between their toes, jumping from piles of dirt to the another, showing me proudly how dirty their feet can become with the freshly cultivated dirt. They have had their hands and fingers deep in the warm soil, planting seeds, seedlings and plants, helping map out the garden and water the new tender baby plants. They have dreamed of their own little flower gardens and have asked for their “own bit of earth”.

Lacey had planted her calendula seedlings – with hopes the rabbits do not munch them down over night – the seedlings were started indoors back in the cold, Ontario mornings of April.

Today, Lyla is planting her little flower garden. She has been patiently waiting for her own little plot of earth – but as our vegetable garden keeps expanding, we needed her little section each time. Last night, her grandfather helped clear out a new spot just for her. I do hope her seeds and flowers grow. We even found a few websites that will send her free flower seeds in the mail. This just tickled her pink! She also wrote a business letter to a local seed company, explaining her age and desire to have a flower garden, and asked if they would send her a seed package in the mail. [I do hope they respond. I know it is easy to just purchase a seed package, but she was learning how to write a business letter so we thought this went hand in hand.]

 

Our 9 year old  Lucia is delighted a finding all the bugs and insects, worms and frogs as we work in the dirt. She has her own little praying mantis egg to hatch indoors, which we will release in the garden once the babies are hatched – and has even found an egg outdoors on our fence. Using her little bug book, she knew which kind of praying mantis each egg was without me looking it up.

Lovelyn, 6, planted her sunflower seeds and is hoping to plant more today. We will hope they grow nice and tall like beams of sunshine for her!

Leia, 5, planted her bean plants right near our patio so she can watch them grow. They are a climbing bean so we hope they grow nice and tall for her.

And the little ones are just enjoying the freedom of running around, playing in the dirty, soaking up the sun and being free. I have noticed a fair decrease of little squabbles while outside – I think everyone was just getting so cooped up being indoors for most of the winter. All this free time running around outside is doing everyone a favor.

 

“As for the baby, he is in bliss: divested of his garments, he kicks and crawls,
and clutches the grass, laughs soft baby laughter,
and takes in his little knowledge of shapes and properties in his own wonderful fashion…”

-Charlotte Mason, on outdoor nature time

 

 

 

 

 

With the help of my father and mother in law, and loving husband, we have expanded our vegetable garden – again. If any of you have seen The Long, Long Trailer with Lucille Balle, you will know what I am referring to when I name the garden the Long, Long Garden. Every year – sometimes even twice a year – we have expanded our garden as our family just keeps growing.

As we learn more about our food and nutrition, it also seems vastly important to be providing this food from our own hands and land. Yes, it is a work, but it is good work.
We are hoping to keep the weeds down with lots of mulch, delivered by a friend who has a tree business. We draw water from the well at the back of the property with a little gas pump and fill rain barrels, delivering the water on the golf cart to hand water the garden. I once thought this was too much work – there must be a more efficient way to water the garden – however, I have since visited a few Mennonite friends who have large, amazing gardens… they, too, water their gardens by hand, going up and down the rows with their watering cans each morning or evening. They also have to bring in their water from their source, as no water is available where the garden is planted. This was a bit encouraging to me. I will choose to see the beauty in this hand watering method – allowing the girls to help and enjoying the sounds of the morning, the birds, the wind in the trees and the calm before a busy day.  I also think this will be very healthy for the children, as well as for myself.

“He {the child} must live hours daily in the open air, and, as far as possible,
in the country; must look and touch and listen;
must be quick to note, consciously, every peculiarity of habit or structure,
in beast, bird, or insect; the manner of growth and fructification of every plant.
He must be accustomed to ask why––
Why does the wind blow? Why does the river flow? Why is a leaf-bud sticky?
And do not hurry to answer his questions for him;
let him think his difficulties out so far as his small experience will carry him.”

–Charlotte Mason
May 22, 2017 - 9:39 pm

Julianne - I love this! You have been such an inspiration to me as to getting my son outside! We live in Minnesota and also get our share of cold weather, but thanks to a post you wrote a few months back I’ve been encouraged to get outside as much as possible! (My little one is just a few days younger than your son) Now that the weather is warmer I love how he is content to spend hours outside just exploring and taking in nature. We are planning on homeschooling and I hope he, and any other little ones we are blessed with, grow up with a love of learning like your little ones are!

May 22, 2017 - 5:16 pm

Gigi - Inside in a special glass case! She is anxiously awaiting hatch day!

May 22, 2017 - 5:16 pm

Gigi - Sarah, love that you know what movie I am referring to… hee hee…

May 22, 2017 - 5:16 pm

Gigi - Hello, Anna! Welcome! I was born in Comox (if there is where you are) … and a piece of me remains there. I dream of a cottage on the ocean, but right now am enjoying Ontario life. I hope you find encouragement on your journey as a mother. Blessings!

May 22, 2017 - 3:40 pm

Anna - Great post! My neighbour Lyndy recommended your blog (she says you are friends), because I am trying to live a similar lifestyle, although I didn’t grow up doing all these wonderful things you have your children doing. I am a self-taught homesteader in the making and I want to raise my children like you are so beautifully raising yours. Right now I have only my first baby girl, but I have already considered homeschooling to give her experiences like these ones. I am a trained teacher and teach part time at a little private school on the ocean where the children plant a little veggie garden and live with the rhythms and seasons of nature. But I love that homeschooling offers so many opportunities for organic learning. And I believe children learn best when it happens naturally and doesn’t feel forced. Not to mention the many, many benefits to time spent learning outdoors.

Keep up the great work! Looks like your raising great kids.

Anna

May 20, 2017 - 1:12 pm

Sarah - This is such a lovely post! We too have begun planting our gardens. We live in an area where there are a couple large Mennonite communities. My mom and I visited two of their green houses yesterday to purchase plants. We had a wonderful time! Each year we try to expand our garden a bit. “The Long, Long Trailer” is one our favorite movies. : ) My husband and I watch at least once a year. Also, I love the picture of little Lavender and her kitten, so precious!

May 20, 2017 - 8:26 am

Brenda (Gigi's Mom) - Where did Lucia put the praying mantis eggs that I bought her? Is it inside or outside? We planted calendula also. Did you know the flower is edible? Lazarus looks like he wants to do gardening too. Mom xo