exploring, preserving: past, present


Making Lip Balm…First Time Success! #Recipe included.

I’m branching way out of my comfort zone tonight, but it wasn’t as far (or as difficult) as I had anticipated.  I made lip balm. Really, *really* easy! All recognizable ingredients, none of the butenes or other chemicals companies add to make it “shiny” or “pretty”.

Here you see all I used…except the honey and beeswax

I used a recipe from Frugally Sustainable (click here for their recipe), but I reduced it because at first I didn’t want to make a lot of it (didn’t know if I’d like the recipe), and as I was making it I realized I only had enough sweet almond oil for about half of their recipe.  All in all, it worked out in the end. My adjusted recipe is at the end of this post.

L’Occitane Shea Butter

There are only a few places in my city that sell pure shea butter. I lucked out and found organic fairly traded stuff from L’Occitane (this stuff in its pure form is great for psoriasis, shingles, cracked heels…).

Sweet almond oil and vanilla oil

I’m still looking around for better sources for the essential oils I know I want to collect for more recipes (like shampoo bars, soap, and … more lip balm!). A craft store sold these tiny vials for way too much money, but since this was my first attempt I splurged instead of waiting to find bigger jars from a better and cheaper source.

kitchen scale

This is my brand new kitchen scale. I love it. It measures to 5 pounds maximum, and that’s all I’ll need for the recipes I want to try. And it only set me back 20 bucks! (I picked it up at a big box store from their kitchen section.)

Charcoal-filtered Beeswax

BeeMaid Honey (Manitoba) has a warehouse in my city, and an outlet store where you can pick up raw and filtered beeswax, raw honey, wicks, molds, jars, beekeeping supplies–it’s awesome! I bought 8 pounds of filtered beeswax. The lipbalm recipe requires only an ounce or so, and I plan to use the beeswax for candlemaking and other recipes too. (Yes, more blog posts!)

local BeeMaid unpasteurized honey

This Manitoba honey is so yummy on buttered toast in the morning…mmm. I’m hoping it will make the lipbalm be just as yummy (grin).

A few pictures of the lipbalm-making process now follow, and this took only five minutes from start (measuring) to middle (melting and mixing) to finish (cooled product):

Sweet almond oil, beeswax, and shea butter melting together.

After stirring in vanilla oil and honey to the melted mixture, contents are poured into containers.

Cooled lipbalm–I made two 35mL containers.

Notice that the container on the left looks like it has two layers? That’s probably some of the honey that settled on the bottom. To avoid that, I should have been stirring madly while pouring the mixture into the containers before cooling.  (Stirring is not necessary while cooling.)

With the amount of ingredients I had at hand, and with my desire not to go overboard with my first attempt, I made two 35mL containers. (The containers are actually single serving salad dressing containers!)

So, here’s my adjusted-for-size as well as adjusted-for-ingredient-availability recipe:

Honey and Vanilla Oil Lipbalm

1 tbsp (1/2 oz.) sweet almond oil

1 tbsp (1/2 oz.) shea butter

2 tsp (1/3 oz.) filtered beeswax (raw beeswax is okay, it will just colour the balm beige)

3/4 tsp (0.7 oz.) raw unpasteurized honey

1/4 tsp vanilla oil

Melt sweet almond oil, shea butter, and beeswax in pot over low heat. (This will happen quickly with such a small recipe!)

Remove pot from heat. Stir in vanilla oil and honey. To ensure the honey does not settle into its own layer but instead is incorporated into the entire mixture, it is important to stir “madly” at this point! I recommend stirring while pouring the contents into whatever container(s) you are using too.

Once mixture is poured into container(s), let sit on counter to cool (uncovered). Seal container(s) when cool. Enjoy!


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#Saskatoon #Pie

Hands-down, this is my favourite pie…both growing up and now as an adult. Saskatoons are given a tart lift with a couple of tablespoons of lemon juice in this recipe–yummy!

Saskatoon Pie…before baking!

This recipe is used regularly at our home–freezing fresh saskatoons in July lets me make jam and pie later on in the year, but I also freeze some premade pies for quick defrosting and warming up in the oven in winter months. Best served warm out of the oven, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream!

Pie Crust

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour, sifted

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup lard or butter, chilled and cut into cubes

1/2 cup cold water

In bowl, combine flour and salt. Mix lard or butter in until mixture becomes crumbly. Slowly stir in cold water, enough until contents of the bowl form a ball. Note that depending on the humidity and temperature of your kitchen when you make this, you may not use all the water…or you might need just a bit more!

Refrigerate dough for a couple of hours or overnight. (Actually, if you’re really impatient, you could roll the dough right after making it. It’s just going to stick to your roller more because it’s not chilled.)

Roll dough out to fit pie plate. Recipe should make two  9 inch rounds.

Saskatoon Pie Filling

5 cups saskatoons–can be fresh or frozen

2 tbsp flour

2 tbsp tapioca starch (if you don’t have this, you can just add more flour, but tapioca starch helps juices jell better)

3/4 cup white sugar

2 tbsp lemon juice

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Combine all filling ingredients in large bowl. Make sure all saskatoons are coated thoroughly. Pour filling onto pre-made 9inch pie dough in pie plate. Put second 9inch pie dough round on top, pressing edges of both rounds together to seal. Using sharp knife, cut design into top of dough to allow pie to vent while baking.

Bake at 425 degrees for fifteen minutes. Then, reduce temperature to 375 and bake another thirty minutes until crust is brown.

Oh the decadence of syrupy good saskatoon pie!

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Beautiful Bread and Butter #Pickles, or 4 Hours of My #Canning Life

bread and butter pickles

My recipe for bread and butter pickles comes from my mother. That recipe stems from a now unlocateable newspaper clipping, and years of adjusting the recipe to family’s tastebuds.  At the end of this post, I will share the recipe with you.

To me, there’s almost nothing more pretty than a perfectly canned pint of bread and butter pickles. This is another preserved item that I simply did not like at all growing up–something about all those onions–and now I just love the taste, texture, colour…everything about it. It’s a recipe that is much more time-consuming than dills, however, because of all the slicing.

Slicing can become dangerous if you’re not careful. I have a wonderful, very sharp, mandoline for slicing the cucumbers and onions. My husband is impressed with how perfectly uniform the slices are (hey, that’s what a mandoline does!).

This is approximately 4 pounds of cucumbers sliced with 3 large sweet spanish onions.

The slicing is what took up an hour of my time. It took about half an hour for me to staunch the bleeding from my thumb, which I nicked on the mandoline while loading it into the dishwasher (sigh). When discussing this injury with my mother yesterday, she proudly proclaimed that this was the first year she had not injured herself while making bread and butter pickles. Oh, the sacrifices we make while canning and preserving!

Because my dominant hand’s thumb was now bandaged and slowing me down, what would have normally taken only an hour or so more than doubled, as I packed 14 pints for processing.

Waiting for processing…mmm!

The turmeric spice is what adds the gorgeous colour to the pickles after they are processed. Lovely as well as flavourful!

I will share the recipe with you in this post–it’s a favourite of my family’s and I hope you will try it and tell me what you think!

Bread and Butter Pickles  (makes 7 pints)

4 pounds cucumbers

3 large sweet onions (Spanish or Vidalia work nicely)

1/2 cup salt (can be adjusted to less if on lower salt diet)

1 quart (1200 mL) pickling vinegar

3 cups sugar (can be adjusted to less if on low sugar diet)

2 tsp mustard seed

2 tsp celery seed (I have sometimes substituted fennel seed, adds similar flavour)

2 tsp ginger (fresh grated is best!)

1 tsp turmeric

Wash, then soak cucumbers in cold water for 4 hours (if coming straight from the garden or storage shed). Alternatively, chill cucumbers in fridge in preparation for slicing. All you really want is cold cucumbers to prevent losing too much juice while slicing.

Slice cucumbers without peeling them. Slice onions after peeling and stemming them.

Prepare jars in your water bath, or sterilize jars and keep them hot in the dishwasher. Keep lids on low simmer while waiting for processing.

Prepare brine by heating vinegar, salt, sugar, mustard seed, celery (or fennel) seed, ginger, and turmeric to dissolve salt and sugar and activate spices. Typically, canning recipes ask for spices to be in cheesecloth bag, but I mix them all in and strain them out later. Save what you strain so you can put a bit of the spices into the top of each jar you process!

Tightly pack jars with sliced cucumbers and onions. Put one teaspoon of strained spice mixture in each jar. Pour hot brine into jars, leaving approximately 1 cm head space. Use rubber spatula or wooden utensil to remove air trapped between slices, and add more brine if necessary to adjust head space. Seal jars finger tight.

Process in lidded, boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Remove lid, let sit for 5 minutes, then remove. If you remember my past posts about troubleshooting tips, you’ll flip those jars upside down on paper or cardboard (something where leaks are easily noticeable). Leave upside down undisturbed for 12-24 hours. If leaks develop, retighten and reseal. Reprocessing is not necessary if contents are still hot as vacuum will still form in cooling process.