Don’t Delay. Get Your Kids into the Kitchen

It is never to early to get your kids involved in the kitchen.

Start them off on a journey that can last them a life time. I give thanks for a grandmother that took the time to teach me how to cook and do canning. I learned things that have played out pretty well in my life. Mary Lynn’s mother and grandmother taught her all about putting veggies up so that her family would have good food during the winter. It wasn’t that long ago when people did not have the things available to us today. They could not run down and pick up dinner from a deli or a drive thru. They had to cook what was available in their home. If someone had hunted and came home with a turkey, or a deer, or even fished and brought home a big stringer full, that was what you ate. They did not make special things just because you didn’t like something.

I remember watching and asking all kinds of questions. I always got answers, no matter what I asked.

Don’t you think it is time for you to start cooking with your family? You don’t have to teach everything you do, just pick something they like and make it with them. Let them watch you make it. Maybe start with simple things and work your way up. Mary Lynn and I used to let our grandchildren set on a counter while we cooked something. We talked about what we were doing and explained what was happening. We let them smell spices and taste things so that they would get kitchen experience. After a couple of times, we let them help out with a recipe. They would hold the recipe card and tell us what was next. Then they did small jobs, such as stirring a pot. Don’t get excited if a little mess is made. It will always clean up. More than one time we had a spill or something poured out on the counter. Don’t make a them feel bad because of what happened. Remember, you spill things also. The only people who don’t spill and make a mess are the people who don’t cook. I laugh at those kinds of people. The only thing they make is reservations. Don’t let your kids grow up to be one of those kind of people.

I remember when Christopher made apple butter all by himself for the first time.              He started coring and cleaning the apples.

Then he cooked them down to a pulp that he put thru a food mill. Next he measured out the right amount to make the batch.


He measured and added the spices and sugar to the pulp. Stirring to make sure that everything was mixed before putting it in the crock pots.

After cooking and pouring into the jars, our next step is making labels for the jars.

Our labels had to pass the Department of Agriculture specifications. We had to have everything used in cooking on the labels and the print had to be a certain size. Chris did not make a special label for his apple butter; he just used our label. It was easier, and did not have to sent off for approval. This job looks easy, but that was not the case. Anybody that has printed labels of any type on a computer knows what I am talking about.

After printing, the labels have to be carefully centered on the jars. The jars had to look nice to sell. People don’t buy jars that look odd or different from the others.

Now the jars are ready for shows. They are ready for customers to buy. It was a great experience for us to see our grandson making and selling something that he had made the hard way. The only thing he did not do was climb the tree and pick the fruit. Luckily we had a big supply of apples to use from our banker. He has been a good friend for many years. Every year he brought over baskets and baskets of apples from his yard. After this type of work Mary Lynn took a box of apple butter that Chris had made and set it aside. She took one of the jars and without Chris knowing, entered it in the canning contest at the Georgia National Fair. We both have won many awards and ribbons at the fair, but we will never forget the first. We went down to Perry, Georgia to the fair and told Chris that we wanted to see how we did. He was excited because of getting a trip to the fair and the fair food that goes with the trip. He was looking forward to Corn Dogs and Onion Rings. He had no clue what we made the special trip for. We got to the canning display and started looking at who won awards and what we had won. They do a real nice job of setting things up with a sticker on the jars stating the awards. I found his jar and called him over. I told him to look and help me read the name on the jar that was a prize winner. Chris looked and read his name and saw it was First Place in Junior Canning. I thought he was going to faint. He started to yell for Mary Lynn. At the same time great big tears started to flow. Mary Lynn told him what she had done. He grabbed her in a monster hug. I think we all had tears about this time. The lady that was in charge of the canning division came over and asked if she could take a photo of Chris holding the jar. He was so excited he could hardly stand still. She reached in her pocket and pulled out a large award and told Chris that not only did he get a first place, he also got the Best in The Show Award.  We did eat fair food for dinner, but the corn dog and onion rings were not the big thing on the evenings agenda.

You may not ever have something like this, but you will get as much pride from watching your kids or grandkids learning to cook as we did.

Chris is a man now, but I’ll bet he would tell you all about that night just as if it was last night. It was a special moment for his life as well as ours.

So don’t delay. Get in the kitchen and start cooking with your kids or grandkids. You never know when you might be starting a life changing experience. My grandmother started me. Mary Lynn’s mother and grandmother started her. We started our grand kids. and Mary Lynn’s daughter has started our 4-year-old grandson in the kitchen.

This past Christmas we received a gift of Banana Bread that our grandson had made. It tasted awesome (how could it not). He wants to be on the Cooking Channel or on the Top Chefs show. He loves watching cooking shows on TV. At the age of 4 he has a miniature kitchen than he play cooks on all the time. I just hope I live to see what he does with his goals. I should mention that when he is not cooking, he is playing with Thomas the Train toys. Last night he called and had a train with 41 cars. He counted them for us on the phone.

I guess we are looking at an Engineer that has his own cooking show at the same time. Anything is possible.

Here is the recipe for Apple Butter that Chris used. This is the same recipe that we used for all our apple butters for The Austin House. It is a prize winner many times over.

Shopping list: Approximately 10 lbs. of Apples***,  1 Gal of Apple Cider or Water (to cook apples in), 1/4 Cup Cider Vinegar,  2 Tbls ground Cinnamon, 1 Tsp ground Allspice,        1/2 Tsp ground cloves, 6 Cups Cane Sugar.                                                                                ***Some of the best varieties we have used: Granny Smith, Detroit Red, Arkansas
Black,  and Rome.

Wash apples. Cut off blossom and stem end. Peel if desired (it is better with the peel left on). Bring apples to boil in water or cider to cover. Cook on medium to low heat until apples are soft (30 minutes to an hour depending on apples). Stir often to prevent sticking. Draw off liquid and save. Press apples thru a ricer or food sieve to remove seeds and peel that did not cook soft. If you have a food mill, use that in place of ricer or sieve. Measure 8 cups of apple pulp into a crock pot or heavy cooking pot. Add listed spices, sugar and vinegar. Add 1 cup of cooking liquid. Strain the remaining reserved liquid thru a jelly bag or muslin (this will be used to make apple cider jelly or liquid to cook more apples). If you use a crook pot cook on low setting overnight, or cook for 7-8 hours. Check consistency before last two hours.  If too watery remove the lid for the last 2 hours. If you are going to cook on the stove top, cook on low heat for 2-3 hours, stirring very often. When butter has finished cooking carefully pour into cleaned canning jars. Fill to within ¼ inch of top. Using a damp paper towel, clean jar tops. Place a sterile dome on top of jars (place in pan with boiling water, and then carefully remove). With dome in place screw on ring. Tighten finger tight, if you tighten too much it will not seal. Too loose and water will seep in.  Place jars in boiling water bath (use a rack or something else to keep jars from touching the bottom. Boil for 10 minutes for pint jars, 15 minutes for quarts jars with water at least 2 inches above top of jars. Carefully remove and let set undisturbed overnight. Check jars to see if they are sealed. If they are not, replace the dome and reprocess. Now you have wonderful apple butter for your family or for gifts.

If you would like a easier recipe here is a link to one of my first blogs on apple butter. It has a short cut method using unsweetened apple sauce.

What ever method you pick, let your kids help. It will make a big difference in the future.

Please let me know what you would like to make or any ideas you have for the next blog. Just drop me a note at

Don’t keep my blogs a secret, and pass the word on to your friends, neighbors and family members.  They just might make something and share with you.

Don’t forget, if someone asks you can you can it. Say Yes I Can, Can It!

About Pete Austin & The Austin House

My wife, Mary Lynn and I had a very sucessful canning business for over 15 years, called The Austin House Jams & Jellies. We had to close it due to pure health. I will be writing a blog about some of the recipes, and how to use them. Also some of the interesting, funny, weird things that have happened in our traveling with the business. If you follow me, you will see that I look at things just a little different than others. If you look at the header at the top of the page, you see that I am looking at things. Making sure eveything looks as good as possible.
This entry was posted in Apple, Apple Butter, Award Winning, Best of Show, Butters, Cooking, Food Preservation, Home Made, Kids in the Kitchen, No artifical ingredients, No preservatives, Old Fashioned and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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