I am not a gourmet cook. I am a plain cook. About once a week I fix meals that are favorites from my childhood - fried chicken, chicken and dumplings, beef slow roasted with potatoes, carrots and onions all in the same pot, pork chops stuffed with sage dressing, Swiss steak (assuming I can still afford round steak).
The rest of the time I cook because a body needs fuel. I have a lot of interests aside from cooking. I sew, quilt, crochet, scrapbook, read, etc. If I am in the middle of sewing together the pieces of a patchwork quilt, I don't want to take the time to cook a fancy meal. If my kitchen table is covered with scrapbooking paper, photographs, glue, scissors, paper punches, and all the other supplies I use to make scrapbook pages or mini scrapbook albums, I want to quickly satisfy my hunger and continue cutting and gluing and creating. You will never see photos of artfully arranged meals on this blog. That just doesn't happen in my world.
What does happen in my world is the opening of a jar, the dumping of the contents into a pot, the heating on the stove and the eating, all done with as little fuss and bother as possible. I know that I can't be the only person on the face of the earth who hasn't either the time or the inclination to spend hours cooking, so here are some of the meals in a jar that are a staple of my pantry shelves.
I buy turkey or chicken on sale. The birds are cut up into pieces to fit into my stew pots, covered with water and boiled until the meat is falling off the bone tender. Sometimes I will roast a turkey, have a meal or two and then use the rest for making soup, boiling the carcass to make broth. When the meat is cool enough to handle, it is removed from the bones and cut into approximately one-inch pieces. The jars are filled 1/3 full of meat pieces, adding cut up vegetables (potatoes, carrots, peas, green beans, celery - whatever you like) to within one inch of the top of the jar. Pour in broth to cover the vegetables. Remove the air bubbles, wipe the rims, add a lid and ring. Process in a pressure canner (meat and vegetables must be pressure canned), 75 minutes for pints and 90 minutes for quarts.
I think I use this soup more than any other. When I can it, I do not add salt or any other seasonings. Nor do I add onions. Instead I season the soup and add dehydrated onion when I heat it. It can be eaten just as a soup with crackers or cornbread. It can be thickened and spooned over biscuits as a stew. It can be heated with the addition of dumplings. Sometimes I toss in a little rice for turkey rice soup, or a little more rice for a turkey, vegetable and rice dish. There are lots of possibilities.
These are some of the other meals in a jar that I can on a regular basis:
Vegetable Beef Soup
Split Pea and Ham Soup
Ham and Bean Soup
Beef Stew Mix (The browned beef cubes and cut up vegetables are canned together. Seasonings and thickening are added when heating for a meal. This is especially good over biscuits.)
I suppose I could save time by just buying soup, stew and chili at the grocery store. But I would rather spend a few days canning these meals and have them ready in my pantry. I know what has gone into them and they taste so much better than commercially canned soups. I don't know if I save much money-wise, as I have to buy the ingredients. If I could have a garden, the savings would be far better. But to me, it is still worth it.
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