Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Bits and Pieces

I moan and groan when it is hot and humid and I complain when it is too cold, so it is only right I mention the two perfectly fine days in a row here in the hinterlands of Minnesota.  Sunshine for those who are out and about and for those of us indoors, windows open with a lovely summer breeze flowing through my apartment.  Glorious!

As you know, my life is filled with drama and excitement.  OK. I lied.  There is very little going on here at present.  I am deciding what I need to can or dehydrate next and think I really need to do another batch of baked beans.  They are really good and the half pint jars are perfect for one person.  Duane hinted that more beans might be a good idea.  I sent a case of them home with him and I have a sneaking suspicion they won't last too long.

Has anyone noticed that grocery shelves, particularly the canned vegetable aisles, have been not nearly as full as they normally are?  I have a high school friend who is a Vietnam vet and retired cop, and who keeps me informed about news that I might miss.  I joke that he is plugged into the 'good old boy cop network,' but that may not be so much of a joke.  He knew about the Somali riot at the local amusement park last summer before I did.  He lives 100 miles away.  I live just a couple miles from the park.  Recently he emailed me about several people reporting signs hung on the canned veggie aisles of Walmart stores in various parts of the country, stating that due to the bad spring weather, Walmart was experiencing shortages of vegetables.  I don't get out to check on that myself and I have not heard of that happening in my area, but it is curious.  I know that some food shortages have been predicted due to the wet spring and the flooding that happened.  I do know that most grocery stores would, in an emergency situation, have their shelves emptied within three days.  I don't think I am willing to take a chance.  Personally, I will continue to add as much as possible to my food storage - just in case.

After taking stock, I find I am all out of home canned chili, so that is definitely on the list.  I think more half pint jars of meat for making sandwiches would be good as well.  I think it might be a good idea to dehydrate more potato slices before the price of potatoes goes up.

This morning I heard an awful racket in the street outside my building.  Turns out the city was removing half a dozen of the small trees that were planted along the boulevard.  They had died over the winter and are now mulch.  I hope the city replaces them.  They attracted the small birds that I like to listen to in the spring and summer.

Later in the afternoon I heard a strange sound outside my living room windows.  When I looked I saw a man at the window.  This was something new.  I live on the second floor of the building.  Seeing someone at my window is not an every day occurrence.  On closer inspection, I found he was on a ladder, painting the trim on the outside of my window.  I haven't been anywhere to buy curtains, but decided then and there to just make some.  I have several bed sheets of a cream color that I am sure contain enough fabric to cover all three windows.  The frugal (read 'cheap') part of me likes the notion of curtains without spending any money.  I come by the frugality honestly.  My parents, children of the Great Depression era, were the king and queen of 'making do.' 

That's enough blathering for now.  Hope your day was as nice as mine was, in spite of the racket and pseudo 'peeping tom."  :)

Keep on prepping!

Friday, July 19, 2019

Canning Beef Stew

Last week I made beef stew for supper one evening.  I opened jars of potatoes, carrots, beef and tomatoes to make it.  Duane came over to help me eat it, took some home with him and I ate off the leftovers for a couple of days.  I had several canning jars that needed to be washed.  If I had a dishwasher, I wouldn't mind so much, but my dishwasher consists of my two hands located at the ends of my arms.  I am not fond of washing jars.

About that time I got to wondering if it would work to can all the stew ingredients together in one jar.  I already can all sorts of soups, so why not stew.  With that in mind I ordered 8 lbs. of chuck roast, 10 lbs. of potatoes, 4 lbs of carrots, 4 lbs of onions and 2 bunches of celery.  So then I got to thinking that if I was going to can beef stew, why not can chicken stew, too.  So I added 6 lbs. of frozen chicken breast and 2 lbs. of frozen corn to the order.

My groceries were delivered early afternoon Thursday.  I peeled the potatoes and onions and washed the carrots and celery.  Then I sat at my kitchen table and cut everything into bite sized pieces.  The potatoes went into a bucket of water to keep them from turning black overnight and the rest went into the fridge in zip lock bags.  The beef and chicken were cut into bite sized pieces and the meat went into the fridge in zip lock bags as well.

This morning I got my jars and pressure canner ready and proceeded to layer the ingredients into quart jars.  Each jar got a cup each of potatoes and carrots, and half a cup each of celery and onions.  I topped off each jar with beef cubes, adding 1/2 teaspoon each of garlic powder and thyme and 3 tablespoons of crushed tomatoes along with two beef bouillon cubes per jar, then filled them with water..  I processed the quart jars of stew for 90 minutes.  To use the stew it just needs to be heated and thickened.  It might need a bit more liquid, depending on how you like it.

While the first seven jars were processing and when I had filled the next seven jars was when I realized I had screwed up.  I had not ordered nearly enough carrots.  Stew just doesn't taste right without carrots. 

I thought about either freezing or dehydrating the rest of the vegetables, but both require blanching.  Did I mention that today was the hottest day of the year so far with the temperature this afternoon at 96 degrees and a heat index of 110 degrees?  There was no way I was going to heat water on the stove for blanching.  The pressure canner was generating enough heat, but my apartment was staying tolerable.  I wanted to keep it that way.

So I started filling jars.  In addition to the 14 quarts of beef stew, I got 10 pints of cubed potatoes, 2 pints of carrots and 9 half pints each of celery and onions.  Tomorrow promises to be cooler - back in the mid 70's - so I will fill half pint jars of the rest of the beef and the 6 lbs. of chicken.  I have lots of beef and chicken canned in pint jars, so I thought perhaps the half pints would be nice to have on hand for sandwiches.

Things don't always go according to plan.  In my case, they often go awry.  Being flexible and refusing to panic are a big plus, no matter what the situation.  None of the food was wasted and I will can more beef stew and chicken stew another (cooler) day, keeping better track of the amounts of ingredients I will need.

Keep on prepping, even if you have to change course in the middle.  :)

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

I Was Gonna Rant Today

I started writing several times.  Lord knows, there is enough material out there to write about.

I could write about the lying, hateful stupidity of AOC and her squad.

I could write about the border crisis and why Congress doesn't fix it.

I could write about why illegal aliens who broke our laws when they set foot on our soil, should not be given free stuff.

I could write about the Rule of Law and why it applies only to you and me.

I could write about the growing violence and hatred across our country.

I could write about the Democratic presidential contenders ideas of free stuff for all, their willingness to grab our guns and their determination to turn my country into a Socialist state.

I could.

But I won't.

Because when it comes right down to it, what I really want is for them to take care of business and then go away and leave me alone to live my life in peace.

I don't think that is asking for too much.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

No More Plastic

I had ordered 4 bottles of ketchup in my last grocery order to use in making Barbecue sauce to can, knowing I had another 4 bottles in my closet pantry to add to them for the amount of sauce I wanted to can.  However, when I brought the ketchup from the pantry out into the light of day, I found it had turned a dark brown in color.  Granted, it was a year past it's 'best by' date.  But when I opened the bottles I found they had an off smell to them.  Into the trash they went.

The new plan for ketchup is to buy #10 cans of ketchup at Sam's Club and re-can it.  I have done this before with good results even several years after canning.  Apparently, storing food like ketchup or salad dressing in plastic bottles for long term isn't working, at least not for me.  After checking prices on Sam's website, I find it is very cost effective to buy the large cans as opposed to bottles at the grocery store.

Last post told you about canning baked beans.  I got 8 pints and 19 half pints from four 1 lb. bags of dry beans.  I haven't done an exact figuring of cost, but an educated guess tells me I would be surprised if I had used over $7 worth of ingredients total.  And considering an 8 ounce can of baked beans was costing me $1.38, I think it was well worth the time and effort.  A taste test told me I will can these again.

Unless something really ticks me off and I decide to write a rant, I likely will be AWOL until the end of this coming week.  It is hot.  It is humid.  I am doing small, quiet things right now because heat and humidity are not kind to me.  However, I am ordering ingredients to be delivered Thursday to can beef stew.  I'll tell you all about that when the stew is in the jars.

I whined so much last winter about the snow and cold that I don't dare complain about hot weather.  So I will make another batch of iced tea and patiently wait for fall.  :)

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Today We Are Canning Baked Beans

Many of you know that because of physical limitations, I use a grocery delivery service for my grocery shopping.  The service is geared toward Senior clients and I am very satisfied with it.  The service puts out a yearly catalog of grocery items that I use to put together my twice monthly orders and the catalog is extensive.  The only down side is that prices are not listed, which is understandable since the catalog is published yearly and prices change.  So when I looked over my receipt a few weeks ago and discovered that I had paid $1.38 for an 8 ounce can of baked beans, I decided it was time to can my own.

I have canned pork and beans before, using a method where you measure the dry beans into jars, add the sauce and pressure can.  That method worked, but the beans didn't turn out quite as tender as I would have liked.  So this time I am using Jackie Clay's (Backwoods Home Magazine) recipe.  There is more work involved than the first method, but I think the results will be more to my liking.

Here is the recipe I am using:

2 quarts. dried navy or other smaller beans
1 lb. thickly sliced bacon or salt pork (or ham)
6 large onions, diced
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
4 tsp. salt
4 tsp. dry mustard
1 1/3 cups molasses

Sort beans, rinse, then cover with 6 quarts fresh water; let stand overnight in a cool place. Drain. Cover beans with 6 quarts water in large stockpot. Bring to boil; reduce heat. Cover and simmer until skins begin to crack. Drain, reserving liquid. Pour beans into turkey roaster or other very large baking dish. Add bacon, ham, and remaining ingredients and 8 cups reserved liquid. Ladle sauce over beans and bake, covered, at 350 degrees for about 3 hours. Add water or cooking liquid to keep wet enough; you don’t want them dry but watery. Pack hot beans and sauce into hot jars, leaving 1 inch of headspace. Process pints for 80 minutes and quarts for 95 minutes at 10 pounds pressure.

I don't have any bacon or ham on hand so I will not be adding meat and I am adding fewer onions.   My roaster pan is too small (I am making 1 1/2 times the recipe) so I am using my electric roaster instead of the oven.

I am using some pint jars and some half pint jars.  The half pints are just right for a single serving.  I am using 4 - 16 oz. bags of dry beans.  I haven't done the math on all of the ingredients, but one bag of beans cost less than one 8 oz. can of prepared beans, so I don't think I can go wrong on the price.

The beans are now in the first stage of cooking.  I will do a follow up tomorrow to let you know how it all turns out.

There is nothing wrong with buying prepared pork and beans, but when living on a fixed income, it seems well worth the time and trouble to can my own.  That money will be better spent on items I can't preserve myself.

Keep on prepping.

Friday, July 5, 2019

Let's Can Hamburger and Sausage Patties

I have lots of hamburger and sausage canned up - all of it in the crumbled form.  But let's say that whatever is going to happen has happened, the stores are empty and my freezer is now just a place to store blankets.  Beans and rice have been consumed for the past three weeks and more than anything in the world I really, really want a cheeseburger.  What do I do?

I go to my shelves and grab a jar of hamburger patties that I canned.  And if I want a sausage patty with my eggs for breakfast, I have those in jars, too.

I got 4 lbs. of bulk sausage and 6 lbs. of hamburger with my grocery order this time.  I shaped all of it into patties, using a wide mouth jar ring to get them the right size and thickness.  To do this, turn the ring upside down on parchment paper, fill the ring with ground meat and press it down to fill the ring, skimming off any excess so the meat is level with the edge of the ring.  Turn the ring right side up and the patty will pop right out.

I put the patties, both hamburger and sausage, onto parchment lined cookie sheets and put them into a 375 degree oven, baking them just until they were somewhat browned on the outside and firm enough to handle.  They don't need to be completely cooked as they will cook in the pressure canner.  They can be fried in a frying pan or on a griddle, too.

I drained the patties on paper towels, blotting the tops of each with paper towels to sop up any excess grease.  Then they were packed into wide mouth pint jars.  The sausage didn't shrink much so only three patties fit into each jar - the hamburger was packed four per jar.  They could be packed into quart jars if desired.  I made up some beef bouillon and added that to each jar up to one inch from the top.  The jar rims were wiped clean, lids and rings added and into the pressure canner they went.  I still had room in the canner and I had made more broth than I needed, so I jarred up four pints of the broth and canned that, too.  I will have beef broth for the next time I can meat patties or it is good in soup.

The pints were processed for 75 minutes.  Quarts are processed for 90 minutes.

I had one jar that didn't seal.  I haven't eaten those hamburger patties yet, but I did check them to see how well they held together, and they were just fine.  When I go to use them, I think I will just put them in a frying pan with just a bit of fat and heat them through.  I don't season the hamburger but will add seasonings when I heat them up.

I will can up more of these meat patties.  In an SHTF situation, or even on a day when I really don't want to cook, I think these sausage and hamburger patties will come in really handy.

Let's Can Caramel

I love caramel.  It is good on ice cream.  It is good for dipping with apple slices.  It is good spread on cake.  It is good for lots of things.

Making caramel from scratch involves ingredients like heavy cream that I never have on hand.  So when I saw several videos of making caramel by boiling a can of sweetened condensed milk for three hours, I had to try it.  It worked.  The result was delicious.

Yesterday I opened 4 cans of sweetened condensed milk and filled 6 half pint jars.  I wiped the jar rims really well, added lids and rings and set them into a stock pot.  I poured in enough water to cover the jars by at least two inches, turned on the burner and brought the pot to a boil.  I turned the heat down a bit and let the jars cook at a slow boil for 3 hours, adding more water about half way through to keep the water level over the jars.

When the caramel was done and after it had cooled a little bit, I called Duane and said, "There be caramel." to which he replied. "I'll be right over."  We opened one jar for a taste test.  That jar is in the fridge and I hear it calling my name.  Duane made off with two jars.  Another jar went home with my nurse and two more are on the shelf.

I will be making more of this.  :)