“Two wings lift a person up from earthy concerns: simplicity and purity. Simplicity should be in intention, purity in feelings. Simplicity reaches out after God, purity catches hold and tastes. ~ Thomas A’Kempis

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Apple Butter & Castile Soap

Yesterday I made Apple Butter, as we had a lot of Granny Smith apples ripe on our tree and Braeburn apples were only $1.00 a kilo at the supermarket this week (unheard of).
The History of Apple Butter and I: I first tried Apple Butter while visiting friends in America and instantly fell in love with its warm cinnamony flavor and as its not available to buy in New Zealand, I knew I would have to make it myself if I was ever going to experience that lovely flavor again. I made my first batch back in 2013 and still found a jar of it lurking in the back of my preserves pantry, so I opened it this morning and surprisingly it still smelt okay and even tasted apple butter-ish :). However I decided to throw it out, since it was now 4 years old !!!
I think from memory a friend gave me the original Apple Butter recipe I use, which I've tweaked a little bit. Last time I made it, I boiled it for longer and it was darker. When I was reseaching Apple Butter I discovered that in Wales (I think it's Wales, they make Black Butter. It's basically well cooked Apple Butter with a stick of licoriche stirred in at the end. So it must have a slight Anise flavour and be black - fun !!! Anyways, this time I only cooked the apple butter mixture for about 5 hours (as opposed to 8 hours last time !!!), and used my stick blender at the very end to make it extra extra  velvety smooth and creamy.

I even had to use my pestle and mortar and hand grind some cloves, as I couldn't
find the little box of ground cloves. I was surprised they yielded easily to my 
pestle with little effort.
 The pureed mixture.
 Beginning to cook the mixture further.
 After 3 hours...
 After 5 hours..
 Tad da.. Yield about 9 x jars of delicious apple butter

Here's my recipe:
* A P P L E   B U T T E R *

16 - 18 good size apples (peel, core, chop small)
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
3 cups apple juice
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt

1. In a large saucepan, cook the chopped apples and apple juice until the apples are soft. Stir in the sugars and spices, until sugar melts.
2. Place the mixture in batches in a food processor and blend until smooth.
3. Add the whole pureed mixture to a crock pot and cover with a lid. Cook on high for 3 hours with the lid on, stirring every now and then. When the time is up, remove the lid and continue to cook on high to allow excess liquid to evaporate and the mixture to reduce, by at least 1/3 rd and up till 1/2 if you want it extra thick. I just reduced by a 1/3 rd.
4. Using a stick blender, puree the mixture until its silky smooth.
5. Place clean sterilized jars to heat in the oven 100 C for about 15 minutes.
6. Ladle the mixture into jars one at a time. Wipe around the rim of the jar and dry. Place the clean seal & ring or lid on top and screw down firmly. 
7. Label, leave until complete;y cold and store in a cool dark cupboard. 
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C A S T I L E    S O A P 

M Y  C A S T I L E  S O A P  M A K I N G  P R O C E S S

 Trace is reached (leaves a trail)
 In the mold. I cut 8 bars (fat ones )

I've wanted to make a very pure Castile soap for a long time and don't know what was stopping me? So I finally got around to it a couple of days ago. I'd watched a YouTube video of a lady testing her bars of Castile Soap out and it got me hooked. She had bars ranging in age from 1 week - 18 months old..! The difference in lather was incredible. Castile soaps like all hand made soap create glycerin in the saponifying process, which makes them milder than commercial soap and perfect for people with sensitive skin. Castile (Pure Olive Oil) & Aleppo (Cooked Olive Oil & Laurel Berry Oil Soap) are the oldest known soaps, originating in the mediterranean regions. A Bastile Soap contains a combination of coconut oil and olive oil, but needs to have at least 75% Olive oil to be a true Bastile Soap.

Castile soap needs to be cured for quite a long time (from 6 months to a year), where it becomes very rock hard and mild. Even mild enough for babies delicate skin. I've never cured a soap for that long before, so I have no idea what will happen. As we are in Autumn (April) now, it won't even be ready to use until October !!! Lets hope it still smells fresh...that's the one thing I am concerned about, although many of my other soaps are still fine after that period of time.  I think thats why traditional Aleppo soap is cooked, as then all the water is gone from it and only pure soap remains. This probably helps it stay fresher longer too?

Anyway I am very very happy with the results of my Castile Soap. It has a silky smooth texture and smells divine. Initially I was going to leave it unscented, but in the end I went with an essential oil blend of Lavender, Rosemary & Litsea Cubeba. It smells only subtely of Rosemary, with more of the warm citrussy floral Litsea coming through..just lovely. I also stirred through some Calendula Petals. 

The next soap I would like to try is an Aleppo Soap, but as its very hard to source Laurel Berry Oil, and I don't think its even available within New Zealand, the only way I could get my hands on some would be to visit the Mediteranean myself :) or ask a friend to bring me some back. I know they sell it in Australia, but the shipping costs would make it one very expensive bar of soap !!

CASTILE SOAP - 100% Olive Oil. This soap can be used all over the face & body and as a mild shampoo. It is also excellent for shaving and leaves the skin thoroughly moisturized. It's even mild and gentle enough for babies delicate skin.

ALEPPO SOAP - Saponified Olive Oil (Sodium Olivate), Bay Laurel Oil, Water, Salt Laurel Berry Oil gives Aleppo its distinctive aroma and colour (greenish/brown) and is also a natural antibacterial ingredient, which helps to thoroughly cleanse the skin

BASTILE SOAP - 75% Olive Oil - 25% Coconut Oil.  

Here's a good link to a recipe for an Aleppo Soap, which I would love to try one day.

M Y   C A S T I L E  S O A P
(freshly cut after 48 hours) Creamy and pale already.
When its fully cured (6 months to a year), it will be whiter still and rock hard,
with a gentle lather and small creamy bubbles.

Watch this space, for an update in 6 months :)

Bye for now xoxo

Monday, 17 April 2017

Easter & Grandchildren

I've been planning on writing/posting this for a couple of weeks and soon some of the pictures will be out of date so I thought I'd just post all the pics and then write a little bit at the end.

~  E A S T E R   2 0 1 7  ~

 ..pretty miniature daffodils ...

 ~ afternoon snack..mmm, freshly baked bread

My usual lunch - a tuna salad

 ~ Tan Finger Slice - Caramel Gooey-ness ~
 . Granny Smith Apples just hanging out in the backyard :0) 
  Mock Orange Blossom ~ so fragrant 
  ~ Wild Rose - 
  Down the back garden, our son Louis put up a swing this summer. It swinga big and wide - All the grandies enjoy it !! 

Tomatoes are all withering away by the shed, but the Chrysanthemums are providing some pretty Autumn colour in the garden and something for me to pick to decorate the house. 
     ~beauty unfolding ~ 

 Pears - despite the leaf blight stuff, they taste lovely

  I took some photos of our sweet grandaughters..Lily Elizabeth, Poppy Mae & Kora Grace last week. just while they were running around outside at their house.
 ~ Sisters ~
 ~ Little Kora ~
 ~ Sweet Lil Poppy Mae ~

 The joys of childhood - running barefoot

I can't even believe its Easter already..it seemed just yesterday it was Christmas !!!! truly, this year is motoring along...zoom
but I must say I had a truly wonderful Easter :0)  It started off sunny on Good Friday and Bruce and I went on the Cross Walk. All the churches in our small town are invited to participate in the walk, taking turns carrying the heavy cross around a prescribed walk, that is pretty much the same every year. There's always only a few people from each church that come, but its about the only time in the year that we gather 'as one' united as Christians. At various points on the walk we stop, sing hymns, read scripture, pray etc. Its a lovely time of reflection, a little bit somber, but in a good way to pause and remember all that Christ went through and has done for us. After that lovely spiritual morning, we headed to Katies to catch up with family..and our oldest son Max who had come down for the weekend, with our grandson Flint. It was so great to see them again. I did miss out on the Sunday service and  lunch though (Roast Lamb cooked by my daughter Katie ), as I spent Sunday in bed, with a very bad migraine and an upset tummy.
Apart from that I still managed to enjoy plenty of family time, chocolate eggs and spicy hot x buns. Some years I've been so obsessed with watching my weight that I hardly dared enjoy the eating side of Easter, but I find now that I've crossed over into my 50 yrs...I'm kinder to me and just not as anxious about a whole lot of things that I once was.

Last weekend I was doing a little bit of weeding and just looking around the garden, reflecting on the changing seasons, leaves falling from the plum trees and apples waiting to be picked. I was digging out corn stalks and various plants that had finished offering up their gifts and now will go to nourish the compost heap...which is really more of a decaying mountain we just throw green waste onto lol. Every couple of years we dig into it and disperse it around, but its not a proper compost heap that's turned and fiddled with. Our lives seem too busy right now for all that. Every Spring I just buy new bags of compost and disperse that between the various garden beds.

What I have been doing, is lots of cleaning !! I just got to the point where I wanted a very clean house..like pulling out the couch from the wall and vacumning behind it kind of cleaning...along tops of curtains..windowsills, all that sort of thing. When I got very sick/burntout before Christmas...I really seemed to go through a sort of change in focus..in priorities..all sorts of things. One of things I wanted was a really clean, fresh house with flowers, more time to help my daughter with the grandchildren and less 'manic-ness' in my life. Life had got so busy I no longer baked bread, and more convenience foods were appearing..etc. But this year things are looking up. I am no longer working at the childrens daycare centre...(too physically demanding). I now help my daughter 2 days a week..which is wonderful. I'm back to baking bread and I just feel more on top of my life, rather than it on top of me. The worse thing was I was the one who had created the busy life monster. I made my life too busy..with fingers in too many pies, too many new projects and I was the only one who could change it..so I have :0) so far so good...thats all for now.

 I hope everyone had a lovely, blessed Easter too.

Friday, 24 March 2017

Vanilla Crumb Pie

Just recently I finished reading one of my Amish books. It was a Novella  'An Amish Second Christmas'  The last story in the book was about a mothers prize winning, secret recipe, which she hands down to her daughter. The recipe is 'Vanilla Crumb Pie' .The story made the pie sound so delicious I checked to see if they had included the recipe at the end of the book (as they often do), and they had ! So once I finished the story I decided to make it, and it was very good. I doubled the recipe and made two pies and invited family around to share it. Everyone loved it !

This pie was even nicer after it had been chilled overnight. The filling was set more and the crumb topping just a little bit softer. Recipe below is for one pie.

Vanilla Crumb Pie

1 x Pie crust

3/4 Cup light brown sugar
2 Tablespoons Flour
1/2 Cup light corn syrup
1 t cream of tartar
Pinh of salt
3 teaspoons Vanilla
2 eggs beaten
1 1/4 Cups Water

Crumb Topping:
3/4 Cup Flour
1/2 Cup light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon Cream of Tartar
1/2 teaspoon Baking Soda
Pinch of salt
90 grams of butter (3/4 stick)

1. Preheat oven to 350 C degrees. Lay the pastry in the pie dish and flute the edges.
2. In a large saucepan combine brown sugar, flour, corn syrup, cream of tartar, salt, vanilla and eggs. Slowly stir in water and cook over medium heat, stirring until mixture boils and rises. (I stirred it until it was thickened too.)Remove from heat.
3. In a medium bowl, mix crumb topping ingredients until crumbly. Pour cooled brown sugar mixture into the crust to 3/4 fill the dish There may be some mixture left over. 
Note: Their was for me, so if their is any extra pastry a mini pie could be made too.
4. Sprinkle the crumb topping evenly over the top. 
5. Bake for 40 minutes or until golden and set.

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A video about a lovely Amish family

                                                               'My love for the Amish'

For those that know me well, its common knowledge that I love the Amish/Plain people. I distinctly remember the very first time I stumbled upon a book about the Amish in a library about 25 years ago while looking for a book for a project one of my children was working on. When I saw this book titled 'Amish'  (in the children's section) and saw people on the cover wearing old fashioned/unusual clothing, I picked that book of the shelf so fast and my eyes just lit up. I couldn't wait to get it home and read every word. I presumed they were probably religious, but didn't know such people even existed and reading about their lives was a real revelation to my heart. I found it hard to believe that people still really lived and dressed like that today.

That initial interest spread to all past &present Plain Religous/Christian People/Communities - Mennonite, Shaker, Quaker, Old Order Brethren, Hutterite etc etc. although the Amish & Old Order Mennonite see to be my main obsession .  Now I have quite the library of fiction and non-fiction books about their lives. As far as I know, there are no Amish or Mennonite people living in New Zealand.

People often ask me "What is it that interests you about these people? " .To be honest, I can't give a simple answer, other than that they seem to give me a quiet feeling of peace, just knowing that it is possible to choose to live a life quite differently to the way of the world.

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