Monday, November 30, 2015

Sunday - Rest. Monday - Work.

I am trying to adhere to the Biblical "Day of Rest."  So yesterday I did just that.  There was some reading and some napping and some messing about on the computer and some crocheting and movie watching in the evening.  The biggest thing I did was heat up leftovers for hot turkey sandwiches with mashed potatoes, dressing and gravy, shared with Oldest Son for supper.  It was a nice day.

Just because some of us are retired doesn't mean that every day is a day of rest.  I had the meat from my 21 lb. turkey, minus a couple of meals, in the fridge so I saved out enough for a few days worth of sandwiches and packaged up the rest.  I was able to wedge it into the freezer by doing a bit of restacking.

There were the bones and scraps from three turkeys waiting for me, so those have been cooking all morning.  When the pots cool down, I'll strain out the bones and bits of skin, pour the broth into my large stock pot and refrigerate it over night.  By morning the fat will have solidified on top of the broth and I can skim it off.  This I will save for frying as it adds some really good flavor to potatoes and other fried foods.  Using the fat this way means there is less cooking oil to buy.  I do the same with bacon grease.  The broth will be heated, ladled into jars and canned.

I have some broth and carrots, potatoes and onions simmering on the back burner.  Soon I will add pieces of leftover turkey gleaned from the bones and maybe a handful or two of rice to the mix.  It is turkey soup and cornbread for supper.  Snow is predicted here today and Oldest Son said soup would likely taste pretty good to him after a day of working outside in this weather.  Most times Son does his own cooking when he gets home from work, but now and then it is nice to have him come over to my apartment and share a meal.

Those who guess what the weather will be like on a daily basis are telling us we may get up to 6 inches of snow, starting this afternoon and continuing into tomorrow.  It isn't all that cold, the outdoor temperature sitting at 33 degrees this morning, which means the snow will more than likely be heavy and wet.  Power outages can be caused by that kind of snowfall.  My Kindle is charging just in case.  I have all the food and water I need and the propane space heater and the propane camp stove I bought this fall are both ready to go.  Yesterday Son got a few things at the grocery and he brought me a bag of Peanut Butter Cup minis and some other snacks.  I have plenty of coffee, chocolate and something to read.  You know, the important stuff.  I am ready.  :)

Friday, November 27, 2015


Yesterday was such a nice day, even though it started out not so great.  It started to lightly snow in the morning and made the first ten miles of our journey sort of exciting where the snow stuck to the road and made driving interesting.  Once reaching the freeway the roads were just wet and we arrived at Youngest Son's home on the other side of the city with no problems.  I am thankful that Oldest Son is a good driver and knows how to drive on slippery winter roads.

The turkey dinner with all the trimmings was a treat.  Oldest Daughter brought a corn/cornbread dish that was wonderful  I need to get that recipe.  Maddie Mae had made appetizers by wrapping dill pickles in slices of deli ham and cutting them crosswise.  They were pretty and delicious.  Boston had lined muffin tin cups with pie dough, filled them with apples and spices, added a lattice top and baked them into mini apple pies.  I took one home with me and enjoyed it as a bedtime snack.  I am pleased that my Grands helped in adding to the meal.  After pie with real whipped cream, we headed home, where a nap was necessary!  It was a good day with family.  I am thankful for them all.

Oldest Son and I will have two more turkey dinners this week.  The company Son works for gave each of the employees a turkey, and his is about 20 lbs.  I added a turkey to my grocery order that was on sale at 99 cents a pound.  The lady who does the shopping found the biggest one she could, at 21 lbs.  Neither Son nor I have freezer space for large turkeys, so Son will roast his later today and I will roast mine on Sunday.  Each of us will have leftovers enough to satisfy our appetites (Leftovers are one of the best thing about turkey dinners.) and both of us will be able to squeeze small packages of meat into our respective freezers for future use.

Youngest Son packaged up the scraps and carcass of our Thanksgiving turkey and sent it home with me, knowing that I would put it to good use.  I will wait until the other two turkeys have been cooked, take the remains of all three birds and make turkey broth to can and a batch of homemade turkey soup.  I am glad that I grew up with frugal parents who taught me to make use of everything, including turkey bones.

My grocery order included six bags of frozen hash browns.  I have dehydrated four bags already and the last two are drying now.  Roll breakfast sausage was also on sale and I ordered 12 one-pound rolls.  Three rolls will be made into patties and squeezed somewhere in the freezer.  Hopefully!  The rest I will brown, drain and can tomorrow to add to my food storage shelves.

One last note:  When I arrived at my Youngest Son's home yesterday, my youngest grandson was playing football in the front yard with his neighbor friend.  He wasn't the least bit embarrassed to come running to give his Grandma a hug.  His sisters were at the front door with more hugs.  And when my taller-than-me older grandson arrived, he too delivered a hug for Grandma.  And that, my friends, is what life is all about.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

An Early Happy Thanksgiving

Wednesday is a busy day.  I don't think I will be spending much time with my computer.  First off it is grocery delivery day and it takes time to get it all put away.  I am spending Thanksgiving with my kids and grands, and this year I am in charge of the pumpkin pie baking and I also have had a request to bring a batch of chocolate chip cookies.  As my freezer is full, the baking has to wait until Wednesday.  I don't mind.  It is fun to make goodies, especially for the grands.

I know that our world is in a turmoil.  There is so much insanity going on at the moment that sometimes it is hard to keep up with it all.  And I know how important it is to be informed.

But on Thanksgiving I want to concentrate on my family.  A good share of what I have to be thankful for will be gathered at my youngest son's home and I plan on enjoying every second of our time together.

I am thankful for all of you as well.  You read whatever silliness I decide to post and you comment, too.  I don't know if you realize how much that means to me.

So I am wishing all of you a safe and happy Thanksgiving Day.  God bless.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Using Canned Foods - Part 3

The last post in this series isn't so much about how to use home canned foods as it is about finding alternatives when you have no way to grow your own produce.  As you know if you visit here, I live in a downtown apartment, surrounded by asphalt and concrete.  After trying to use my windowsills, which are wide enough to hold pots for growing herbs, I find that there just doesn't seem to be enough direct sunlight for anything to grow well there.  I am planning to try next spring to plant a few vegetables and herbs in containers on the communal deck on the west side of the building, but even if I am successful, I won't be able to produce nearly enough for canning.  At best I will have fresh salad greens, tomatoes and maybe enough parsley and other herbs to dehydrate.  A community garden would be nice if one existed here.

The Farmer's Market is an excellent source for fresh produce.  I can get cabbage, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers and squash at reasonable prices and the quality, depending on the vendor, is very good.  My son has been going to the Market for several years and has learned which vendor sells the best produce for the least amount of money.  Even though there are several Farmer's Markets close by, he drives to the one in St. Paul, which is farther away but where he knows the vendors and knows the produce will be good.  It is worth going the extra mile.  Some other Markets have vendors who just buy produce for resale, but we know who raised the food we buy in St. Paul.  The difference between a store quality tomato and a locally grown tomato is more than obvious.

Sometimes the cost at the Market is prohibitive for canning purposes.  The prices for sweet corn, peas and green beans in my area are fine if I want these fresh for a meal or two, but are too spendy for canning.  I suppose I could just buy those vegetables in cans from the grocery, but I find that because I am mostly cooking for one person, often times a regular can of corn is too much and won't get used up unless I want to eat corn for several days.  And the prices for individual sized cans of vegetables are beyond outrageous, if you can even find them any more.  So for much of my vegetable canning, I wait for a sale on frozen vegetables and can those.  That way I am able to can them using half pint jars, which is just right for one or two meals for me.  I have successfully canned sweet corn, peas, peas and carrots, green beans and mixed vegetables using the frozen vegetables.  It is just a matter of pouring the frozen vegetables into a pot, adding water to cover and heating them until they are thawed and warm.  They can then be jarred and canned using instructions for timing for that particular vegetable.  And why would I bother canning vegetables that are already frozen?  Because there may come a time when water is scarce, and the water used in canning is enough to be able to heat the food on whatever heat source is available without burning it.  And because a freezer full of frozen vegetables is useless should the power be out for any length of time, causing the vegetables to thaw and go bad.  And because canned vegetables, as well as anything else that is home canned, is fully cooked and can be eaten right from the jar if necessary.

When canning tomatoes I have found that it takes too many of them to make my own tomato sauce or ketchup or barbecue sauce.  Same goes for tomato juice.  I can diced tomatoes in both pint and quart jars.  If I want tomato juice I just dump the contents of a jar into my blender and whirl it for a bit.  If seeds in juice is a problem, just pour the juice through a strainer. I use the canned tomatoes for any dish that calls for them.

I admit to buying tomato products like spaghetti sauce, ketchup, barbecue sauce and tomato sauce at the grocery.  And yes, I know about GMO foods, but when on a budget, you can't always be a purist when it comes to some foods.  I do try to avoid food products made in other countries that do not have strict food processing regulations.  Now and then I will find #10 cans of tomato products reasonably priced, and then I will re-can them in smaller jars.  I have successfully re-canned the above products, as well as mustard.

Another item I like to have on my shelves is beans.  I will make pork and beans to can.  I don't know if doing that is very cost effective, but I do love the taste of homemade pork and beans.  There are many recipes online, those made with a tomato sauce and those made with molasses.  I also keep a few jars of canned dry beans like Great Northern Beans on the shelf.  When canned, they are fully cooked and can be used for ham and beans or any other bean based dish, without having to soak the beans overnight or spend half the day cooking them.  Sometimes older dried beans will stay hard, no matter how long you cook them.  Canning them eliminates that problem.

I have experimented with canning foods that might not otherwise be considered when one is planning what to can.  The experiment of canning meat for Sloppy Joes was a dismal failure, as the taste of some of the ingredients completely changed in the process.  I use that up in casseroles or spaghetti sauce where the taste will be overpowered by other ingredients.  But the experiment in canning hamburger made into taco filling was successful.  I also tried canning diced celery, and although it softened up considerably, it is good for dishes where I want the taste of celery but don't necessarily need it to be crisp.  Don't be afraid to  experiment a bit, like with the taco filling,  Sometimes I wind up with something that is really handy to have on hand.

Other foods I can like fruit or jams and jellies or pickles require no explanation as to how to use them.

There are those who find it much easier to just buy their canned goods at the grocery.  There is nothing wrong with that.  Canning food requires time and there is work involved.  And there is the initial expense of a pressure canner, jars and lids.  Perhaps it has something to do with the way I was raised that makes home canning preferable to me.  Canning is something that my parents and grandparents did to insure their families would have plenty to eat over the long Minnesota winters.  It is something I have done most of my life, and I will admit to having a sense of satisfaction when I see all those full jars on the shelves.  Plus it is the best way for me to insure that my family will not go hungry during hard times.  That alone is worth it to me.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Using Canned Foods - Part 2

There are a few more meats that I regularly can.  One of those is hamburger, if I can find a good sale.  We are now paying $4.99 per pound for hamburger, with the leanest going for $5.49 per pound, so I haven't canned as much as I would like to this year.  I brown the hamburger, drain it, pack it into jars without adding liquid and can it.  I found that adding liquid to hamburger gave me a product that reminded me of canned dog food.  Canned without liquid, the meat is indistinguishable from hamburger freshly browned.

This meat can be used in any recipe that calls for browned hamburger.  I make Sloppy Joe sandwiches from it.  I add it to spaghetti sauce or to lasagna.  I use it in casseroles or in tacos or in gravy over mashed potatoes or rice.  The possibilities are endless.

Sometimes I will make up a meatball recipe, brown the meatballs on a cookie sheet in the oven, pack them into jars and can them.  I have used cream of mushroom soup diluted with an equal part of water and canned the meatballs covered with the soup to make meatballs and gravy.  The plain ones are good with spaghetti or just plain, and the ones in mushroom sauce are good over mashed potatoes or rice.

There are some who can bacon by rolling slices up in parchment paper, stuffing the package into wide mouth jars and canning it that way.  I haven't tried that method yet, but plan to soon.  I buy boxes of bacon ends and pieces, cut the meat into about one-inch dices, lightly brown it, pack it into half pint jars and can it.  Canned this way, these bacon bits have several uses.  I mix them with scrambled eggs or add them to omelets.  I have used them in scalloped potatoes.  I have mixed them into those hashbrown and egg breakfast casseroles and in other casseroles for bacon flavor.  They can be sprinkled on a green salad.  I'm sure there are many other uses for canned bacon bits that I haven't thought of.

When I find a sale on bulk breakfast sausage I get as much as I can.  This is canned just like hamburger.  The sausage is good in scrambled eggs, omelets and casseroles.  I have used it in spaghetti sauce and lasagna.  But my favorite way to use this is in biscuits and sausage gravy.

Sometimes I find a product that comes in a #10 can.  Cheese sauce is one of those foods.  I know that I could buy the ingredients and make my own, but the cost of a large can is way cheaper than investing in the separate ingredients.  I heat the cheese through, ladle it into half-pint jars and can it in a water bath canner for 90 minutes (per Jackie Clay's instructions).  I have tried canning regular cheese and found that it turns out with a rubbery texture that I don't care much for.  The cheese sauce turns out great.  I use this for mac and cheese, as a sauce over vegetables like asparagus, as a dipping sauce for nacho chips, in casseroles and poured over scrambled eggs or omelets.  I'm sure there are many other uses for this that I have yet to discover.

I mentioned earlier that I have canned potatoes, but I'm going over that again here.  Living alone, it is sometimes hard to use up a bag of potatoes before they start to sprout or turn soft.  A couple of years ago, Oldest Son got a good deal on potatoes at the Farmers Market and brought me 100 lbs. of them.  I dehydrated some, but most I canned.

Some were cut into larger chunks and those I use like you would any boiled potato for a meal.

Some I cut into about two-inch pieces and filled quart jars half full, adding similar sized chunks of carrots to fill the jars to the top.  Those I usually use with a roast of some kind, either in the oven or the crock pot.

Some I cut into about one-inch chunks, filling quart jars with 1/3 potatoes, 1/3 carrots and 1/3 peas.  These are handy for soups but I mainly use them in stews.

Some I diced them into about half-inch pieces.  These I use for fried potatoes and for potato salad.  I added chunks of onion to a few of the jars.  The onion turns soft during the canning process, but the flavor is still there and adds to the flavor of fried potatoes.

The last thing I want to talk about is soup.  I have found that having a variety of home canned soups on my shelves makes life easier at times when I am busy and need to refuel but don't want to spend time cooking, or on those rare occasions when those nasty little viruses invade my system and I need to eat but don't really feel well.  I can soup in both pint and quart jars.  A pint is just the right amount to fill a soup bowl, and a quart is good for a couple of meals for one person and is enough to feed two people.

Chicken/turkey vegetable soup:  I fill a jar about 1/3 full of diced chicken or turkey and top that with frozen mixed vegetables that have been thawed.  I add water to cover and add whatever seasonings I want when I heat the soup to eat.

The rest of the soups I make the same way as I would if I were cooking them for a meal, only in large quantities.  As with the chicken soup, I add seasonings when I heat them to eat.  I am better able to control the amount of salt that way and sometimes seasonings will become too strong or turn a little bitter in the canning process.  I usually have the following soups on my shelves along with the chicken vegetable soup:  ham and bean soup, split pea soup and vegetable soup.  If I want vegetable beef soup, I just add canned beef when heated.  Some have canned cream soups, but I have not tried those as yet.  And others also can homemade tomato soup, but I am not really fond of tomato soup, so I have not.

The other food I like to can is chili.  And this I season as I normally would, with good results.  I make a huge pot full and can it in both pint and quart jars.  As with any food that is either a combination of vegetables or contains meat, the processing time is the longest time recommended for one of the ingredients.  When that ingredient is meat, it is always 75 minutes for pints and 90 minutes for quarts.

And that is enough for this post.  I have one more coming that deals with the vegetables and other odds and ends.  Hope this helps.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Using Canned Foods - Part 1

Someone left a comment in an earlier post, asking me about my go-to recipes for using the foods I can.  I have been thinking about it and have come to the realization that I don't have recipes as such.  As a dedicated carnivore, my main meals usually have meat of some sort as the base, which is why I like to can as much meat as possible.  Unless I have company for a meal, I usually go with quick and easy.  Canned meat is fully cooked and as such lends itself to all sorts of applications.  The best I can do here is tell you what I can and how I use it.

I have more chicken breast on my shelves than any other kind of meat.  That is because it is one of the less expensive meats and local stores run sales fairly often.  And because I like it.  I usually cut the chicken into one-inch pieces to can.  Here is how I use it:

Often I will combine a jar of chicken with a jar of mixed vegetables and a jar of broth (or broth made  with chicken bouillon).  I add dehydrated onion and parsley and whatever seasonings sound good to me.  Heated, that makes a good soup.  Or I might make dumplings, either from scratch or using Bisquick, and drop those on top of the soup for Chicken and Dumplings.  Or I might make biscuits, thicken the soup to a gravy-like consistency for Chicken and Biscuits.

Sometimes I shred the chicken and heat it with barbecue sauce for hot chicken sandwiches.  Or I will take the shredded chicken, add some mayo, onion and pickle relish for cold sandwich spread.

Canned chicken can be used in any casserole recipe calling for cooked chicken.

I am not opposed to having a few convenience foods on my shelves.  I can get large bags of  Stove Top Stuffing at my grocery, and I divide that into meal sized portions to store.  I will make up a portion of the stuffing and stir in canned chicken.  That, served with a vegetable or salad and some cranberry sauce makes a good meal.

Sometimes I use the chicken cubes in a cold macaroni salad - kind of like a tuna salad only with chicken.

One of my favorites is to make a sweet and sour sauce with pineapple chunks, add the chicken cubes and serve it over rice.

If I get to Sam's Club, they carry fresh chicken breast for a reasonable price.  Those chicken breasts are huge - one piece is more than enough for two people.  I will cut that chicken into large chunks for canning.  To use it, I will often just empty a jar into a pan, top with barbecue sauce and heat it in the oven. That makes a good meal with a baked potato and a salad or with a plate of potato salad.  I  will also top the chicken with stuffing and bake it until it is heated through.  It is good that way with a vegetable and maybe some cranberry sauce.

Now and then, whole pork loin goes on sale, and I will buy as much as I can afford.  I always cut maybe half of one loin into boneless pork chops and freeze them.  The rest I cut up the same as the chicken breast for canning and use it pretty much the same way.  It is a nice change of taste from chicken, especially using it for pulled pork sandwiches.

I can some beef in large chunks to use like a beef roast.  A couple of years ago I canned chunks of potatoes and carrots together in quart jars.  I will dump the beef into a pan, surround it with the contents of a quart of potatoes and carrots, add thick slices of onion and bake it until it is heated through and the meat is slightly browned.  That makes a good roast beef Sunday dinner.

I use a lot of the smaller beef cubes for beef stew.  I had previously canned cubed potatoes, carrots and peas together in quart jars.  So I will combine the beef and vegetables, adding a pint of canned diced tomatoes and some dehydrated onion and maybe a bit of parsley along with some beef bouillon or beef soup starter for flavor.  Just a basic beef stew.  Sometimes I will serve it plain with homemade bread or sometimes I will have it over biscuits.

The small beef cubes are good used to make restaurant style hot beef sandwiches with mashed potatoes and gravy.

I recently canned the meat from six bone-in hams, cutting the meat and canning it the same as with the other meats.  The large chunks can be used the same as if I were making a traditional ham dinner.

The small chunks can be used the same as many of the chicken dishes.  I also use them to add to scalloped potatoes.

I think that is enough for this post.  I will do another about some of the other foods that I regularly can.  There are those who prefer to freeze meat and I do that, too, freezing enough for about a months worth of meals.  But should I lose power for whatever reason, the frozen meat runs the risk of going bad should it thaw.  There is also the problem of freezer burn.  I find that the home canned meats will last for years if kept in a fairly cool, dark place.  And for someone like me who lacks the patience and inclination to cook fancy meals, the canning solution works well.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Another Ramble

Things seem to be slowing down here in my little corner of the world.  Canning and dehydrating seasons are about finished.  I would like to dry some more frozen hash browns.  I just spread them out on the mesh lined dehydrator trays for drying.  No need to blanch and they keep forever.  To use them, I just soak enough for a meal in hot water for about 15 minutes and fry them up for a quick and easy addition to a meal.

It has been raining here for the last couple of days.  Not a steady rain, but more wave after wave moving through.  Luckily, we did not get the high winds that some in other parts of the country had to contend with.  Today is clear but cold - the temperature being 31 degrees about noontime.

The company that Oldest Son works for has ordered a new forklift for him to drive.  It comes with an enclosed cab that has heat and air conditioning.  Son stopped in last evening when he got home from work.  He surprised me with a treat of a box of Little Debbie Nutty Bars.  Life is worth living if one has a box of Little Debbie Nutty Bars.  :)  Anyway, he showed me his insulated gloves that were soaked clear through.  The roof on the forklift he now drives had kept him fairly dry and he was bundled up in several layers of heavy clothes.  But I think he will be really happy when the new forklift arrives.

Years ago I lived in northern Minnesota, near Bemidji.  That town has had statues of Paul Bunyan and Babe, the Blue Ox as a tourist attraction near the lakefront.  The Paul Bunyan statue is 18 feet tall and they have been there since about 1937.

Picture from the Bemidji C of C website.

There is a web cam there now and every once in a while I will go to their Chamber of Commerce website to watch the tourists taking pictures of themselves with the statues.  It is fun to watch the kids - they seem to have so much fun standing on Paul's foot or running underneath Babe.  I looked at it today and found that it was snowing heavily there.  Don't suppose it will take too long before the snow moves south and everything here will be covered in a blanket of white.

My family will get together on Thanksgiving at Youngest Son's home.  I always enjoy spending time with my family.  My contribution to Thanksgiving dinner is the pumpkin pies.  I may have to make some other treats for the kids.  It isn't often I get the chance to spoil my Grands.  I do have to be careful of the ingredients in whatever I make.  Maddie Mae has a peanut allergy, so peanut butter cookies are out of the question.  Maybe chocolate chip cookies.  I don't remember seeing so many kids with allergies when mine were young.  Maybe that's because so much food now is processed, where then most everything was made from scratch.

I'm off the get a couple of things done, like wash my kitchen floor (How one person can make such a mess of one floor, I will never know!) and put away the extra bottles of ketchup and cooking oil I bought for my food storage.  After a little supper it will be time to settle in with yarn and crochet hook.  Maybe I can find a good movie on Hulu to watch.  With all of the insanity going on in our world, sometimes it is nice just to sit back and enjoy a movie.  Even though I know that the terrorists are still flooding in and the perpetually offended are still causing more hate and discontent, and I know that the other shoe is apt to drop shortly, I still do rather love this quiet life for as long as it lasts.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Rain, Rain, Go Away

Doesn't look like it will any time soon.  By the time this band of rain that starts in south Texas and is working its way north through Minnesota has come and gone, I predict the building of at least one ark.  My sympathies today are with my sons - one of whom spends many of his days driving all over the metro area, checking on the properties his company services with lawn care and landscaping and the other who is, as I write, out in the rain, playing in the mud, either loading trucks with his forklift or moving pallets of soil and mulch from one place to another.  They don't complain.  They are employed.

I don't care what the skeptics say.  Anyone with even a hint of arthritis in various joints of the body will swear that rain equals pain.  Therefore, you will find me over in that recliner in the corner, coffee mug on the table next to me, Kindle in hand, covered toes to chin in my green, fuzzy blanket.  Most times I will work my way through it, but just for today I believe I will take the easier road and rest.  This aging thing is a bugger sometimes.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Carrots, Carrots and More Carrots

I started with 24 lbs. of carrots that were on sale for 99 cents per 2 lb. bag.  That's a really good price for my area.  If they were carrots I had grown myself or had bought at the Farmers Market, I would have just scrubbed them clean.  But commercially grown produce often has been treated with chemicals to prevent sprouting between field and market, so I peeled them.

Next the carrots were cut to fit my Vidalia food chopper.  For canning I often slice carrots, but the diced ones hold up better in soup, so I chopped them into 1/2 inch dices.  I ended up with 18 quarts of diced carrots.

These were going to be dehydrated.  You can dehydrate carrots without blanching, but they rehydrate faster if blanched for three minutes before drying.  And they hold their color better.

Dehydrated vegetables shrink down considerably, so I use plastic mesh inserts on my trays to prevent the small pieces from falling through.  I have 14 inserts, so I filled 14 trays, using 15 quarts of the diced carrots.  The other three quarts went into the freezer.  I set both dehydrators at 135 degrees.  I am not sure how long the drying process took.  The length of time depends a lot on humidity.  Vegetables dry faster on clear days than on rainy ones.  I started these early in the afternoon and just let them run all night.  They carrots were completely dried by noon the next day.  The 15 quarts of diced carrots dried down in volume to about 1 - 1/2 quarts.

There are several ways to store dehydrated vegetables.  Some use mylar bags with oxygen absorbers.  Others use canning jars and still others use Food Savers to remove the air in the bags and to seal them.  I have tried the Food Saver method, but often dehydrated food has sharp edges that can easily puncture the bags.  And canning jars take up too much shelf space.  I found that if I store the dried vegetables in freezer bags, sometime using double bags if there are a lot of sharp edges, that works just fine.  I am not recommending this method - just saying what I do.  Air and light are not the friend of dehydrated foods.  So I bought a bunch of those cardboard bankers boxes with the lids - the kind that can be found at most office supply stores.  If you have read previous posts here, you know that I whine a lot about my lack of storage space.  But I have one of those heavy duty plastic, snap together shelving units that fits nicely behind my bedroom door.  Each shelf holds 3 boxes.  I can fit 15 boxes on the shelves - 18 if I stack the top boxes two high.  Each is labeled with the contents, and that whole setup works well for me.  I have used dried vegetables that are 5 years old, with no difference in looks or taste from those recently dried.

If I want carrots as a vegetable for a meal, I will use my canned carrots.  But if I am making soup, which I do often in the fall and winter, I use the dried carrots.  I don't have a recipe.  I just put two or three quarts of water in the crock pot, some bouillon for flavor, a pint jar of whatever canned meat sounds good to me, and several handfuls of whatever vegetables I like.  The biggest problem is remembering that a large handful of carrots will rehydrate into at least a pint of carrots, so I need to use them sparingly.

I really like having the dried vegetables in my pantry.  They work so well for soups and stews and, if soaked in boiling water, most will rehydrate well enough for use as a side dish.  And it just gives me another option for food storage without taking up as much space as the canned vegetables do.  Works well for me.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

A Better Rant

I was working up a rant about the news of the day, when I came across this article by Alan B. West.  He says it much better than I can.  Read it.  It is worth the time.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Where's The Beef

Tuesday evening Oldest Son stopped at the store on his way home from work and bought a little over 25 pounds of beef roast that is on sale.  I spent the evening removing fat and gristle from the roasts, cutting them into about one inch cubes, bagging it up and storing it in the fridge.

Wednesday afternoon my grocery delivery included another 15 pounds of beef.  Cleaned and cut into cubes, that also went into the fridge.

Early this morning I started filling pint jars with beef cubes.  When canning raw meat I rarely use water or broth in the jars.  The meat makes its own juices during the canning process.  Some like to add salt at this point, but I don't.  I season the meat when I use it, and if I use bouillon as flavoring in a dish, that contains enough salt.

Because the meat is cold when I pack it into jars, I take time to get the canner up to pressure.  Too much heat applied too quickly can crack jars, so I will usually take 45 minutes to an hour to heat it up.  After venting the canner for ten minutes, the pints are processed at 10 lbs. pressure for 75 minutes.  Quarts would take 90 minutes.  (Canner pressure varies according to elevation.)

I wound up with 38 pints of cubed beef.

I really like having canned beef on my shelves.  It has so many uses.  I have canned quarts of potatoes, carrots and peas together and combined with the canned beef, a pint of tomatoes and a bit of dehydrated onion and seasonings, makes a wonderful beef stew.  Just needs to be thickened and ladled over biscuits.  I also use it in a gravy over rice, potatoes or noodles.  Made into a sandwich and served with mashed potatoes and gravy, it makes a really good restaurant style hot beef sandwich.  It can be added to home canned vegetable soup or mashed up with a little pickle, mayo and onion for a sandwich spread.  Or it can just be heated in the oven along with home canned potatoes and carrots for a quick meal.  The uses for home canned beef are limited only by one's imagination.

While the beef is processing, it is on to the carrots.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

A Comment on Comments

My last post brought several comments from readers.  I have been blessed with a readership who leave kind, encouraging and often funny comments.  I suppose that is due to the fact that I tend to shy away from political commentary, although I will confess to going on a bit of a rant now and then when I have read about something that is so incredibly stupid that I just have to write about it to keep my head from exploding.

This time the comments included some suggestions for future posts.  The suggestions were very good ones and I will be addressing those in posts just as soon as I deal with the canning and dehydrating coming up this week.  If you read my last post, you know that I have about 15 pounds of beef roast ordered.  Sometimes the grocery delivery service gets it right and sometimes...not so much.  Regardless, I know that Oldest Son is bringing me 25 pounds of beef either this evening or tomorrow.  As freezer space is minimal at best just now, I will be canning up the beef right away.

I also ordered 24 pounds of fresh carrots that are on sale at 99 cents per two pound package.  I have plenty of carrots canned, but need to add to my dehydrated stash, so that will also keep me busy for a day or so.  I thought that canning/dehydrating season was over for the year, but at the rate grocery prices are increasing, it seems foolish not to take advantage of good sales.

When I first started this blog in 2009, I was convinced that my only readers were maybe one or two of my kids.  And the grands who liked it when I wrote about them.   It still is amazing to me that others find my writings interesting.  I have been lucky in that the trolls have been very few.  For a time I was flooded with those badly worded comments telling me what a wonderful writer I am, that I have such an impressive blog with important information found nowhere else and always ended with an invitation to visit their website.  They didn't know who they were dealing with.  This granny didn't fall off the turnip truck just yesterday!  My "delete" button took care of the problem.

I appreciate very much all of you who take time to visit here and those who comment.  It is fun for me to see what you all have to say.  Thank you.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Brick Wall

Sometimes I hit a brick wall when it comes to finding interesting things to write about.  I look at all the other blogs I read...the ones who have homesteads and tell about all the things they are doing.  They are building greenhouses and outdoor kitchens and taking care of chickens and goats and pigs.  They have dogs and cats who do amusing things.  And then I look around at my three rooms and wonder what on earth can I find that is worth writing about.

And then after a lady I consider a blogging friend left a comment on another post, wondering if I was OK because I hadn't posted for a while, I got to thinking that I was just being silly.  I may not have the chickens or pets or outdoor kitchens, but I do more than just sit here and stare at the walls.  I once knew a woman a little older than me who spent her days in a recliner set three feet away from her TV.  Most  days she didn't bother to get dressed, but sat there in her robe and slippers - all day - every day.

Now I rather like my life that is pretty much free of drama.  A quiet life suits me.  But not that quiet!  The things that happen in my life may not be as exciting as the things that others write about, but I'll bet dollars to donuts (I wonder where that expression came from.) that there are others who have lifestyles like mine.  And just maybe they would like to know how someone in the same situation fills their days.  I know I have often wondered what the day to day lives of my grandmothers were like.  All I have to tell me are a very few letters written long ago.  At least when my grandchildren are old enough to wonder, they won't have to ask.

So with that in mind, I will tell you that evenings this week I have spent time crocheting granny squares for a rug to use in my bedroom.  I make granny squares because they are easy and require very little counting of stitches.  I have tried crocheting afghans or rugs that are made in rows, but I usually screw them up, either dropping stitches at the end of a row or winding up with too many stitches in a row.   When I make the squares to sew together, I can watch something interesting on YouTube at the same time.  This week it was episodes of Antiques Roadshow, United Kingdom version.  I love listening to the British talk.

This morning I got a phone call from Nicki, who is in Texas.  She is taking classes to become an Army Medic.  She told me all about what she is learning and about her schedule for completing the course.   What she wouldn't tell me is the date she will be home for Christmas.  She is planning to just walk in and surprise us, the stinker!  She is excited about her classes and very glad to be done with Basic.  She graduates from this training in March and then will find out where she will be stationed.  It was so good to hear her voice.

This afternoon Number One Son popped in, laptop in hand.  He can pick up WiFi in his apartment, but the signal is much stronger here, so he came to catch up on computer stuff.  I talked him into staying for supper of homemade chicken nuggets and squash.  It didn't take much persuasion on my part and I probably didn't need to use the bribe of a pan of brownies, but it was fun for me to make goodies for his lunch next week.

I made out my grocery order for next week.  The store has a sale on boneless beef roast, so I am ordering 15 lbs.  Son said he would stop at the store and get me another 25 lbs. of beef.  I know that $3.99 a lb. isn't cheap, but hamburger here is running about $5.00 a lb., so I decided to take advantage of the sale before the price went even higher.  I shop only the sales now, with just a few other items like milk and butter added.  I have reached my goal of having a years worth of food put back, and because I use from my pantry on a regular basis, I mostly just need to replace what I use from time to time.  That's a good feeling, knowing that my family will be able to eat when things get tough.

I am sort of wishing that the presidential election was to be held this month instead of a year from now.  Not that I think it will matter much who is elected, but that I am already tired of the posturing and the sniping at one another and the accompanying lies.  I am afraid that our country is already so far gone that it will take a miracle to bring it back where it needs to be.  It would be nice, though, if there were more emphasis on dealing with the problems we face and less on poll numbers.  Sigh.

Here in the North, fall is fading fast.  Temperatures are close to freezing at night - cool during daylight hours.  Not too long ago I heard a flock of geese, honking like mad, heading south.  The weather guessers here predict a cold, snowy winter, a warm winter, and all points in between.  Me... I don't care.  I can fort up and stay busy all winter if necessary.  Sounds like a plan.  :)