Thursday, October 24, 2019

White Pine Public Museum - Home of the Cave Bear

White Pine Public Museum in Ely is home of the cave bear. This cave bear is quite impressive, it's a short-faced cave bear, Arctodus simus.

A replica, based on a skeleton found in a cave in White Pine County, is on display in the museum. They recently redid its exhibit area, and the mural painted behind the bear is amazing. This huge bear skeleton is from the female. I learned recently at a lecture by paleontologist Blaine Schubert that only female short-faced cave bears have been found in caves, presumably because they were using them as dens. The much larger males have been found outside caves. Arctodus simus has been found all over North America. It went extinct about 11,000 years ago.

The White Pine Public Museum held a special event with Dennis Hone, one of the discoverers of the Short-faced cave bear from Labor of Love Cave. It was so interesting hearing from him about how the cave was found and what they did once they realized there were a lot of bones in it. I had the opportunity to go caving this past summer with the lead paleontologist, and he's still making cool discoveries in caves in eastern Nevada! Caves are such great time capsules, preserving all sorts of things for thousands and even millions of years.

With the new display, you can get up close and see just how big some of those bones are.

The museum celebrates the cave bear with t-shirts and glasses.

Afterwards there were lots of questions. 

And the kids measured themselves against a cave bear standing upright!

The White Pine Public Museum has lots of other cool exhibits, too, and is definitely worth a visit!
To learn more about Cave Bears, check out the wikipedia page, this National Geographic video, and this great page about cave paleontology.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Homemade Concord Grape Jelly - New Recipe

Our friend Sharla let us come pick some of her concord grapes. One year we made grape juice from concord grapes, but I wanted to try to make some concord grape jelly. The problem was I couldn't find a satisfying recipe on the Internet. Many of them advised squeezing the grapes out of their skins. I tried that for about 14 grapes and decided that was not going to work. Then I thought of a brilliant plan. Why not just blend the grapes? We removed them from the stems and put them int he blender.

They look kind of gross right out of the blender (about 5 seconds was all that was needed). They didn't really smell like grape juice. So it was time to put them in a pot on the stove.

After about 10 minutes of simmering, the grape mixture smelled wonderful! Now it was time to get the pulp and seeds out.

Some recipes said putting it in a big cheesecloth overnight would work. But I didn't want to wait that long. So I put a couple big spoonfuls into my trusty sieve and pressed it through. I also tried borrowing a juicer to see if this whole process could be sped up, but the juicer got so little juice out of the grapes that I went back to this process.

Now I had nice, pure grape juice. To make the jelly, I just needed a couple ingredients. I used Ball Low-No Sugar Pectin and some sugar. Specifically, about 4 cups juice, 2 cups sugar (much less than most jelly recipes, which have more sugar than juice), and 3 Tablespoons pectin.

I realize now I didn't quite get photos of all the steps, I guess my hands were too busy! Bring juice and sugar to boil, then add pectin, stir constantly as it comes to a full boil again, then pour into prepared jars (I like to sanitize them in the dishwasher, so then they are hot and ready to go with minimal work).

After the jelly is in the jars, it's time to can it. This summer I purchased a steam canner, and I absolutely love it. It's so much faster and easier to clean up than a water bath canner. Even the kids made apricot jam using it earlier in the summer--I wouldn't have let them get close to the big water bath canner and all that boiling water.

The end result is some delicious jelly! Here are just a few of the jars.

Basic Recipe:

Grape Concord Jelly
Makes about 5 or 6 8-ounce jars.

About 1 colander (12 cups) of concord grapes
2 cups sugar
3 Tbsp. Ball no or low-sugar pectin

1. Prepare canning jars, rings, lids. (I sanitize them in dishwasher and start it before I start making the jelly.)
2. Rinse grapes, then remove from stems.
3. Blend grapes for a few seconds in a blender.
4. Put grape mixture into medium pot on stove over medium heat for 10-15 minutes.
5. Strain grape mixture through sieve/chessecloth to get grape juice.
6. Put 4 cups grape juice and 2 cups sugar in pot on stove. Heat over medium heat.
7. When it comes to a roiling boil, add 3 Tablespoons Ball No-sugar/low sugar pectin. Stir for about a minute or so, until it comes to boil again.
8.  Ladle jelly into prepared jars (funnel recommended), leaving 1/4 room headspace. Apply lid and ring.
9. Can according to instructions. (For steam canner, I put water in bottom, put jars on metal riser, put on lid and then turn on. When the indicator on the top gets into the green zone, I set the timer for 20 minutes based on our elevation. When the time is done, I take the lid off and let everything cool.)
10. Enjoy!
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