Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Do As I Say...

First, for my records, there are 19 more pints of hamburger on the shelf.  Actually, 16 pints on the shelf and 3 pints in the freezer.  My pressure canner holds 16 pints and it is not worthwhile to run a second load of only 3 pints, so into the freezer they went.

Now about this "Do as I say, not as I do" thing.

I had 10 lbs. of apples to can.  I got set up to start the process and found my sugar bucket in the kitchen was empty.  So I went back to my closet pantry for another bucket of sugar.

Yep, you guessed it.  Five buckets.  All full of flour.  No sugar.

This from the person who preaches constantly about being prepared.  It was my own fault.  I didn't pay close enough attention.  I hang my head in shame.

So now what!  Well, I suppose I could just call a kid and ask them to bring me a bag of sugar.  I have four of them - kids, not bags of sugar.  I am sure that at least one of them would take pity on me and do a store run for me.

But then I got to thinking about it.  What if there was nobody to call.  Not everyone has family close by who are willing to help.  And what about the staying as independent as possible thing.  That is important to many of my vintage.  Just how independent is it if I call and whine over a bag of sugar.

So I decided to wait and add sugar to my next grocery order.  These apples will be made into apple crisp and fried apples and maybe, just maybe, an apple pie.

I need to do a little better at taking my own advice.  Do as I say and not as I do just doesn't cut it.

Friday, March 18, 2016

For My Records

I use this blog to sort of keep track of what I can and dehydrate so I can go back and check if I need to.  Sometimes I get busy and forget to write the totals down, so this method works for me.

So far I have 14 more quarts of cranberry juice and 56 half pints of coleslaw canned and waiting to go on the shelves.  Usually I can the slaw in pint jars, but have found that sometimes part of a pint goes to waste.   Half pint sized jars contain just enough for one meal for one person.

I'm taking a bit of a breather today - just puttering about with this and that.  The changes in weather patterns, going from 65 degrees one day to 35 degrees today, tend to slow down arthritic joints.  So there will be some reading and quite possibly some napping in between the usual household chores today.  Then tomorrow there is hamburger to can and the next day - spiced apple slices.

But for right now, I believe I will get back to the mystery I'm reading.  I am nearly to the end where I find out who-done-it.  :)

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Two Chocolate Chip Cookies...

and a cup of coffee can be considered, in some circles, breakfast.  Right?

Hit the ground running (OK.  I haven't run anywhere in a few years.  How about smartly stepping out.)  this morning, starting with a phone call from the lady who does the actual shopping for my grocery order.  Did I want 10 lbs. or 10 packages of pork chops.  That will be 10 lbs., thank you.  Ten packages at 3 - 4 lbs. each would put a bit of a dent in my budget.  I sure am glad they call me to verify anything questionable on my order.

My grocery order will be delivered sometime this afternoon.  It includes 12 lbs. of hamburger that is on sale.  I've thawed out another several pounds from my freezer, getting it ready to can.  My order also includes the ingredients for canned slaw/relish using the recipe from my last post.  There is a gallon of cranberries heating on the stove for juice, with another gallon waiting in the wings.  Son has been given the task of going to the store for more canning lids.  I forgot to order them.

So when I finish browning and chopping and mixing and stirring and filling jars and processing, I shall return to finish out the Canning Series.  Until then, there are lots of good reads in the sidebar.  This may take a while.  :)

Monday, March 14, 2016

Canning Series - Pickles and Relishes

I have a confession to make.  I can not make good dill pickles.  I have tried and tried over the years to no avail.  I even begged my Auntie Em's recipe.  My Auntie Em made the best dill pickles in God's whole creation.  Whenever I went to her house I would whine until she opened a jar of them.  Knowing how much I loved her dill pickles she even gave me a jar of them for Christmas one year.  With a big red bow on top.   But even using her recipe, mine were a total fail.  So now I use this.

Yep, that's Mrs. Wages Dill Pickle Mix.  Youngest Son and his kids had canned dill pickles a couple of years ago and shared them with me.  He is the one who told me about Mrs. Wages mixes.  I used it last summer when Oldest Son brought me some little cucumbers and dill from the Farmer's Market to make baby dills.  They are wonderful.  Just follow the directions on the package.  Easy.

But if you are feeling adventurous, here is my Auntie Em's dill pickle recipe.  I'm copying it exactly as she wrote it down for me.

Auntie Em's Dill Pickles (7 quarts)

8 cups water
4 cups cider vinegar
1 cup canning salt
2 heads dill per quart jar

Pack cukes and dill in jars.  Boil the brine - pour over cukes in jars - put on lids and rings.
Set jars in canner of hot water to jar rings.  Bring to boil.  Shut off heat and let stand in water until sealed.
You can put in some onion or garlic if you want to.

That's it.  Short and to the point.  Maybe you will have better luck than I did.

I do make really good Bread and Butter Sweet Pickles.  Mrs. Wages has as mix for those, too, but I haven't tried it yet.  Here is my Mom's recipe that I have used for many years.  I usually double the recipe for 7 - 8 quarts.

Mom's Bread and Butter Pickles

15 cups cucumbers, sliced 1/4 inch thick
3 onions, sliced thin
1/4 cup canning salt (NOT table salt)
4 cups cracked ice
2 1/2 cups cider vinegar
2 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
1 tablespoon mustard seeds

Combine cucumbers, onions, salt and ice in a large bowl.  Mix well.  Let stand 3 hours.  Rinse and drain well.
Combine vinegar, sugar, turmeric, celery seed and mustard seed in a large pot.  Add drained cucumbers.
Place pot on medium low heat.  Bring almost to a boil.  Remove from heat.
Ladle cukes and brine into jars.  Wipe jar rims and top with lids and rings.
Process 10 minutes in a Boiling Water Bath.

I maybe should have mentioned before that with a Boiling Water Bath, the time should start when the water begins to boil.

My Dad loved beet pickles, so when I was still at home we raised some beets in the garden to can as a vegetable, but always made sure to plant enough for beet pickles.  I may have to see if I can lay my hands on some beets this year because I get a craving for these pickles every now and then.

Beet Pickles
3-5 pint jars

Enough smallish beets to fill 3-5 pint jars.  (5 pints for me are not worth the bother, so I at least double the recipe and maybe more, depending on how many beets I have to work with.)
2 cups white sugar
2 cups water
2 cups vinegar
1 teaspoon whole cloves
1 teaspoon allspice
1 tablespoon cinnamon

Wash the beets well.  Leave the root and about one inch of stems on them.  Put them in a stock pot, add enough water to cover and boil until tender.  Drain the beets and let cool a bit.  Trim off the root and stems - the skins will slip right off.  Leave the beets whole or slice 1/4 inch thick - your choice.
Make the syrup of the sugar, water, vinegar and spices. Pour over cooked beets and simmer 15 minutes.
Pack into hot jars.
Process in a boiling water bath for 30 minutes.

There was a crab apple tree growing in the small orchard by the house I grew up in.  The fruit was wonderful.  As kids we ate crab apples until we couldn't any more and Mother always made some into jelly.  But she made sure there were enough to make several jars of crab apple pickles.  We weren't allowed to open those jars because they were just for special occasions or holidays or for when company was at our house for a meal.  But they were a treat worth waiting for.

Mom's Crab Apple Pickles

3 lbs. firm crab apples, with stems
2 cups cider vinegar
2 cups sugar
4 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick

Combine the vinegar, sugar, cloves and cinnamon in a pan big enough to hold the crab apples.  Bring to a boil over high heat and stir until the sugar dissolves, 2 to 3 minutes.
Reduce the heat to medium, add the fruit and cook until barely done, about 5 - 6 minutes.
Using a slotted spoon, pack crab apples in hot jars.
Ladle in hot syrup, leaving 1/4" headspace.  Seal and process in a boiling water bath for 40 minutes.

I don't make relish much any more and I'm afraid that the few recipes I used years ago have vanished.  I do can the following recipe every year.  It is good eaten as a relish and it can be drained and mixed with a little mayonnaise for a coleslaw.  The recipe says it may be canned or frozen, but I haven't tried freezing it.  I can it in pint jars and in half pints.  The half pints are just right for a meal for one.

Coleslaw to Can or Freeze
Makes 3 to 4 pints
Note:  I usually double and sometimes triple the recipe.

1 medium head cabbage
1 large carrot
1 green pepper
1 small onion
1 tsp. canning salt

1 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup water
2 cups sugar
1 tsp. celery seed
1 tsp. mustard seed

Shred the vegetables and mix together.  I don't have a food processor so I just chop them up in my blender.
Stir in the salt. Let stand 1 hour.
Drain water from vegetables.
Boil syrup ingredients together for 1 minute. Cool.
Mix the syrup with the vegetables. Pack into jars and process (half pints, pints and quarts) in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes, or put into freezer containers and freeze.

Cabbage is on sale this week for 9 cents a pound (5 pound limit) and I have ordered 5 pounds to make into this slaw.  I'm out of the half pint jars of it and I really like the stuff.  Hamburger is on sale this week at about half the normal price so I have ordered 12 pounds of that to can as well.  I wish the stores didn't put limits on the amount one can buy of some sale items, but there it is.  I may have to ask Son to stop at the store to get more hamburger.  Looks like toward the end of the week I will be writing less about canning and doing more of it instead.  That's a good thing for me!

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Canning Series - Meat

I like having jars of canned meat on my pantry shelves.  I usually can the meat plain and then add it to whatever meal I am cooking.  By doing it that way, I have many more options than if I canned meat seasoned for a particular dish.

I think I use more ground beef than any other canned meat.  When I first started canning ground beef, I browned it, packed it into pint jars, added either water or beef broth and pressure canned it.  I wasn't happy with the results.  It seemed to me to turn out sort of the consistency of dog food and didn't taste much better, either.

So I tried a different method and have been using it ever since.  I brown the hamburger, drain off the grease and pack it into pint jars but do not add any liquid.  I wipe the rims of the jars with a clean cloth or paper towel dipped in white vinegar.  The vinegar cuts any grease left on the rims that could cause the jars to fail to seal.  I add the lids and rings and process the pints for 75 minutes at 10 lbs. pressure.  The pressure amount is according to your altitude and is usually listed in the pressure canner instruction manual..

Hamburger canned this way turns out just like hamburger you would brown and use in any dish.  About one pound of meat will fit into a pint jar.   I have never tried canning hamburger in quart jars, but quart jars of any meat are processed for 90 minutes.

Beef, pork, venison and ham are all canned the same way.  If you want roasts, cut the meat into large chunks, packing 4 or 5 chunks in each pint jar.  Bigger pieces can be used in quart jars.  Some will sear the meat before packing into jars, but I just pack mine raw without any liquid.  It is a personal preference as to whether or not to add liquid - either way is good.  Process pints for 75 minutes and quarts for 90 minutes.  For use in dishes like beef stew or barbecue pork sandwiches or scalloped potatoes and ham, I cut the meat into about one inch cubes and then proceed the same way as for roasts.    Sometimes I will can a few half pint jars of meat cubes.  These are just the right size to use in sandwich spreads.

I have successfully canned meatballs.  I make up my favorite meatball recipe and form into about golf ball sized meatballs.  I lay them out on a cookie sheet and bake them until they are browned.  Then I pack them into pint jars.  Sometimes I will cover them with beef broth and sometimes I will dilute cream of mushroom soup in a ratio of one can of soup to one can of water, ladle the soup over the meatballs and process.  This way I have a choice of using plain meatballs in dishes like spaghetti and meatballs or using the soup covered ones for meatballs and gravy.

I can chicken a bit differently.  Sometimes I will fill wide mouth quart jars with chicken pieces like drumsticks or thighs, cover with water and process.  The wide mouth jars make it easier to remove the chicken pieces from the jars.  If I want large chunks of chicken breast, I will cut the chicken into pieces, pack them into jars and cover with water or broth.  When I want small pieces of chicken breast to use in stews or casseroles, I will bake the boneless, skinless chicken breasts until they are cooked through and then cut them into one inch pieces, pack them into jars and cover with water or broth.  Some will raw pack chicken, but I like the results better using a liquid.  I also can some smaller pieces in half pint jars for sandwich spreads.

At holiday time when turkey goes on sale I will buy several.  I get these ready to can two ways.

The first way is to roast the turkey same as for Thanksgiving dinner.  I have only one large roaster pan, so when one turkey is done I will roast another right away.  When both are fully cooked, I will take the meat from the bones and refrigerate it.  Then I take the bones and cook them down for broth.  After that, I cut up the turkey meat, pack it into jars, cover the meat with the broth and process.

The second method is to cut up the thawed turkeys as if I were cutting up a whole chicken.  The pieces go into stock pots and I add water to cover the meat.  I bring the water to a boil and then simmer the meat until it is cooked through.  I remove the meat from the bones, cut it up into small pieces and pack it into jars.  I strain the broth from simmering the turkey and ladle it over the meat and process.

I have also filled quart jars about half full of shredded turkey and added broth to within one inch of the jar rim.  This is canned for the same time and pressure.  This makes a really quick, easy and good tasting base for turkey soup.  Sometimes I will dump a quart of soup base into a kettle, add a pint of mixed vegetables, thicken the broth and serve it over biscuits or rice.

Bacon is a good thing to have canned.  There are videos on YouTube that have instructions for canning slices of bacon by first wrapping the slices in parchment paper.  I have not tried this as yet because bacon at my local stores is now over $5 for a pound.  Instead I can bacon bits.  I buy the boxes of bacon ends and pieces, cut the bacon into about one inch pieces and lightly brown the pieces in a frying pan.  After I drain off the grease (I save the grease for cooking.) I pack the bits into half pint jars and process for 75 minutes.  I use the bacon bits mixed in with scrambled eggs or sprinkled over a green salad or in one of those breakfast casseroles - anywhere I would use crumbled fried bacon.

Sausage is canned the same as ground beef.  I use it in any recipe that calls for sausage browned and crumbled.  Some say that the sage in sausage seasoning will turn bitter in the canning process, but I have not found that to be the case so far.  I usually buy Jimmy Dean rolls of sausage at Sams Club or when it is on sale at the grocery.

I'm adding a recipe here with the disclaimer that I have not yet tried it, but it sounds really good and when I have time, I think I will give it a go.  I like sweet/sour food and I think this would be good over rice.

Sweet and Sour Chicken

4.5 lbs chicken,boneless, skinless, thighs and breasts cut in bite sized pieces
2 large green peppers chopped
1 large red pepper chopped
2 onions chopped
3 20 oz cans pineapple chunks drained, reserve juice
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/4 cups white vinegar
6 tablespoons soy sauce
4 tablespoons ketchup
1 tsp ginger

Layer the chicken, onions, peppers and pineapple in quart jars.
Heat the brown sugar, vinegar, soy sauce, ketchup, ginger, and 3 cups of pineapple juice (add water if there is not enough) and bring to a light boil until the sugar is dissolved.
Pour liquid over the solids in the jar to the fill line.
Pressure can for 90 minutes at 10 lbs. pressure or according to your elevation.

If there is leftover sauce, it could be canned in a Boiling Water Bath for 10 minutes.  I think I would can it in half pint jars for use in other dishes.

And that's probably more information than you all needed about canning meats!

Thursday, March 10, 2016

You know how sometimes you get busy...

with one thing and other things are neglected?  Well, that's what has happened here in my little apartment.  I've been working on turning all those bags of cranberries in my freezer into juice and canning them.  And while in the middle of that, I ran out of quart canning jars.  I had some dry foods like rice and cornmeal and instant mashed potatoes stored in quart jars, so it became necessary to empty all that into freezer bags.  Now I have enough quart jars for a while, but I also have several boxes of rice and cornmeal and instant mashed potatoes in freezer bags that need a place to live, so it is necessary to rearrange my shelf full of dehydrated foods in order to make room to put away the stuff in bags.  It's a vicious circle, I tell you.

And then there is my kitchen.  I'm really not quite sure how so much cranberry pulp and cranberry juice wound up on my floor and on other surfaces, but there it is.  And my stove top has gone from slightly dirty to downright disgusting.  Something needs to be done about all of it.

So I am taking Thursday and Friday to see if I can't get things back in order.  I'm not as young as I once was, so it takes me longer to accomplish what I need to do, but it will be done.  I just can't stand a mess.

And I have decided that because I am usually busy with homemaker kinds of things during the week, I am taking the weekend to do something fun.  I haven't done anything crafty for a long time and I watched a couple of videos while waiting for the cranberries to cook down.  They were about an easy method of making scrapbook-type photo albums, which is something I want to try.  I have the supplies on hand so I think I will get them out and play.

I'll be back on Monday with more in the Canning series.  In the meantime, I wonder where I put my mop...

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Canning Series - Jam and Jelly

There is something about homemade jam or jelly that brings back memories of Mom in the kitchen in the summer.  We made all sorts of jams and jellies using strawberries and raspberries we raised in our garden, from the wild plums we gathered and from our apple trees.  I think the only flavor of jelly we bought was grape, and that was because we didn't have our own grape vines.

These days I make mostly jam from fruit bought in season, either at the grocery or the Farmers Market.  I use powdered Sure Jell in jam making.  Included in each box is a page of instructions for all the basic flavors, so I will not list all of those here.  I also don't make apple butter.  I probably would if I had my own apples, but it gets a bit spendy when I have to buy the apples.

I will mention that it is not a good idea to double jam recipes.  The last time I got in a hurry and tried that, I wound up with several jars of strawberry topping that was supposed to be strawberry jam.  Doubling the recipe causes the jam to fail to set up most times.

So here are some of the jams and jellies I make that are not the traditional flavors.

Apple Jam (Makes 8 half pint jars)

1 1/2 cups of water
5 cups of finely chopped apples (you can put it in the food processor)
1 Tbsp of butter (optional - to help keep down the foam)
1 box of pectin (or liquid pouch)
2 Tbsp of lemon juice
5 1/2 cups of sugar

Pour the water into a heavy saucepan, and add the butter, apples, pectin and lemon juice. Bring to a full rolling boil on high heat, stirring constantly. Quickly add the sugar and return to a full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down; then boil, stirring, for 2 minutes.
Remove from heat and skim off any foam.

If preparing jam for the pantry, ladle into one hot jar at a time, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Wipe jar rims with a clean, damp cloth. Attach lid. Fill and close remaining jars. Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

If preparing for freezer or refrigerator, ladle the jam into clean jars (or freezer containers, leaving 1/2-inch headspace); apply lids. Let stand for 12 to 24 hours at room temperature; freeze or refrigerate.

Frozen Orange Juice Jelly
Yield: 6 Half Pint jars.

2 (6 oz.) cans frozen orange juice concentrate
2 1/2 cups water
4 1/2 cups sugar
1 pkg powdered pectin

Thoroughly mix orange juice concentrate with water and powdered pectin in a large saucepan.
Stir constantly over high heat until it begins to boil.
Immediately add sugar and stir well.
Bring to a full, rolling boil and boil hard 1 minute, stirring constantly.
Remove from heat.
Skim, pour into jars.  Fill to within 1/2 inch of top.
Put on cap, screw band firmly tight.
Process in Boiling Water Bath 5 minutes.

Kool-Aid Jelly

1 package Kool-Aid, any flavor (no sugar added)
1 package Sure-Jell
3 cups granulated sugar
3 cups water

Mix water, Sure-Jell and Kool-Aid together.  Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.
Stir in sugar. Stir and bring to a full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down. Boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
Remove from heat. Quickly skim off foam with a large metal spoon. Pour into jelly jars.  Process in a Boiling Water Bath for 10 minutes.

Note:  I have made this using cherry, raspberry and black cherry flavored Kool-Aid.  All were good tasting.

Quick Grape Jelly  (Yield: about 5 half-pints.)

3 cups bottled grape juice
1 package powdered pectin
4 cups sugar

Combine grape juice and pectin in a large sauce pot.
Bring mixture to a rolling boil.
Stir in sugar and return to a rolling boil.
Boil hard for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
Remove from heat.
Skim foam if necessary.
Ladle hot jelly into hot jars, leaving 1/4th inch headspace.
Process 5 minutes in a boiling water canner.

I have not made this next one, but I am including the recipe just because it sounds really good and I plan to make some this summer.

Spiced Tomato Preserves  (Makes 5 half pints)      

3 c. prepared tomatoes (2 1/4 lb.)
1/4 c. lemon juice
4 1/2 c. sugar
1 box sure-jell fruit pectin
1 1/2 tsp. grated lemon rind
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. allspice
1/4 tsp. ground cloves

Scald, peel and chop tomatoes. Cover and simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Measure 3 cups into a 6 or 8 quart sauce pot. Add lemon juice, grated lemon rind, allspice, cinnamon and ground cloves to tomatoes. Add a bit of butter (about 1/2 tsp) here, if using, to reduce foam. Measure sugar and set aside.

Stir sure-jell fruit pectin into prepared tomatoes. (Sauce pot must be no more than 1/3 full to allow for a full rolling boil.) NOTE: The Sure-Jell folks suggest mixing the pectin with some of the sugar (like the odd 1/2 cup) to insure a better mix and adding that small amount of sugar/pectin mixture in at the beginning of the cooking process.

Bring to a full boil over high heat, stirring constantly. All at once stir in sugar. Stir and bring to a full rolling boil (a boil that cannot be stirred down). Then boil hard 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.

Skim off foam with large metal spoon. Immediately ladle into hot clean jars, leaving 1/4 inch space at top. With a damp cloth, wipe jar rims and threads clean.

Immediately cover jars with lids. Screw bands on firmly. Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

I'm also including the following recipe for chokecherry jelly, even though it has been more years than I care to remember since I have made it.  When I lived in northern Minnesota, the woods behind my house had an abundance of chokecherry trees that were loaded with the tiny cherries late in the summer.  It took lots and lots of chokecherries to make a batch of jelly, but the result was so worth the effort.

Chokecherry Jelly

Wash the fruit in cool running water.
Add water to cover the chokecherries.
Bring to a boil in a covered stainless steel or enamel kettle and then simmer for 15 minutes, or until soft.
Cool and strain through cheesecloth or a damp jelly bag.

Note:  When extracting juice from chokecherries, DO NOT crush the seeds. These seeds contain a cyanide-forming compound which can cause illness or death if eaten in large amounts.

Chokecherry Jelly Recipe

3 cups chokecherry juice
6 1/2 cups sugar
1 box pectin

Pour juice into large heavy saucepan. Add sugar and stir to mix. Place over high heat and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Stir in pectin. Bring to a full, rolling boil and boil hard for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Stir and skim off foam for 5 minutes. Pour jelly into hot, half-pint jars to 1/4 inch of top and seal with two-piece canning lids.  Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

Back when I was making chokecherry jelly, maybe 40 years ago, we never used canning lids for jam or jelly.  We poured the jam into jelly jars and let them cool.  Then we melted paraffin wax and poured a layer of the wax on top to seal the jars.  It worked, except once in a great while the wax would come loose from the inside wall of the jar and a thin layer of mold would form on top of the jam.  We just scraped the mold off and ate the jam anyway.  Nowdays there are those who would have an instant case of the vapors at the thought of such things.  I guess we were a lot tougher then, and a lot poorer, so we didn't waste a jar of jam just because of a bit of mold on top.  :)

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Canning Series - Fruit

Fruit doesn't need to be pressure canned.  It can be canned using the Boiling Water Bath method, which is placing jars of fruit in a pot, adding enough water to cover the jars by at least 1 inch, bringing the water to a boil and boiling it for the required time.  There should be a rack of some sort in the bottom of the pot to keep the jars from touching the bottom.  I use my pressure canner with the rack that came with it.  And I use the lid for it, but make sure it is set on top of the canner cattywampus so that it can not and does not slide all the way closed, thus building up unwanted pressure.  How do I know about the lid?  I'll tell you.

My Auntie Emily was cooking up a batch of vegetable soup prior to canning it, using the biggest pot she had, which was her pressure canner.   She set the lid on the canner while the soup was simmering, but didn't pay attention how she set it there.  The lid slipped down onto the rim of the canner and the pressure built up.  And BLAM!  She said she spent the rest of the day cleaning vegetable soup off the stove.  And the walls.  And the floor.  And the cupboards.  And the ceiling.  Luckily, she was out of the room when the lid blew off.  That is the one and only time I have ever known a lid to blow off a pressure canner and then it was only being used as a stock pot.  If I am going to be out of the kitchen while the water is boiling to can fruit, I will put my largest cookie sheet on top of the canner instead of using the lid.  Otherwise I use the lid set off center so it can't slip, but have learned to be careful and keep a close eye on it.

I'm not going to go into the basic canning of fruits.  I usually can peaches, pears, apricots and cherries if I can get them at a decent price.  All are canned in a simple sugar and water syrup or in plain water and are processed in a Boiling Water Bath.  The directions typically come with the canner instruction booklet and there are a ton of websites with tutorials.  One website I keep bookmarked is the "National Center for Home Food Preservation" which gives basic instructions.

I get cranberries in 25 lb. boxes from the Farmers Market.  The vendor that sells them always has absolutely beautiful berries.  Here are a couple of uses for them.

Cranberry Juice

4 quarts (4 pounds) cranberries
2-1/2 cups granulated sugar

Bring cranberries and 4 quarts water to a simmer in a large pot. Simmer 5 minutes, or until most berries burst.
Pour berries and juice into a colander or large strainer set over a large pot or bowl.  Let juice drip into the bowl.
When you have extracted as much juice as possible from the pulp, return pulp to the cooking pot with 2 quarts water.  Return to a boil and simmer 2 minutes.
Pour this pulp and juice again through the colander to extract remaining juice.   Combine both batches of juice.
At this point I will pour the juice through a colander lined with three layers of cheesecloth.  This gets rid of any remaining pulp.
Add sugar to suit your taste* and 1 more quart water. Heat to dissolve sugar completely, but do not boil.
Pour the juice into clean, hot jars, leaving 1/2-inch headspace.  Wipe the rims and add lids and rings.
Process in boiling water bath for 15 minutes.
Yields 6 to 7 quarts.
 *The original recipe called for 3-1/2 cups of sugar but I found that was too sweet for my taste.  2-1/2 cups is just right for me, but you might want to adjust the amount according to your own tastes.

Note:  My son usually gets 50 lbs. of berries at the Market.  That's a lot of berries!  So this year I measured them out into gallon freezer bags and froze them.  That way I could take out a couple of bags at a time.  I didn't thaw them but just poured them into a stock pot with the water and proceeded from there.  It wasn't so overwhelming to process the berries a little at a time.

Cranberry Sauce - Fresh or to Can
(Recipe can be doubled, tripled or more.)

1 cup water
1 cup sugar
3 cups cranberries (1 bag)

Bring water and sugar to a boil. Add cranberries, return to a boil. Turn down and simmer for 10 minutes.
Pour into jars. Remove air bubbles, wipe rims. Place lids on and can for 15 minutes in a boiling water bath canner.
This makes the kind of cranberry sauce that has pieces of cranberry in it.  I have never made the jellied kind.  I can these in half pint jars for my own use and in pint jars for when there are more people.


Applesauce is kind of a staple in my house.  I like it with a meal or when I just want a bit of a snack.  And I use it in cakes, cookies, muffins, etc.  Sometimes I get apples from the Farmers Market and sometimes they come from a small apple orchard nearby that sells "seconds."  The apples aren't pretty like the ones in the store.  They may be odd shaped or have a blemish or two on the skin, but they are delicious.

I have one of these handy, dandy apple peeler/corer/slicer gadgets.  Last I looked, they were about $20 at Fleet Farm.  They are worth every penny.

I just run the apples through the gadget and put them in a stock pot with a little bit of water to keep them from sticking to the bottom of the pot.  They are cooked over a medium low heat until the slices are soft.  I add sugar, either brown or white sugar to taste.  The last applesauce I made didn't need sugar at all.  I like applesauce that has chunks of apples in it.  Son likes the smooth applesauce, so I make both.  To make the applesauce smooth I just cool it down some and run it through the blender.  I can most of it in half pint jars.  That is a good amount for a meal for one and a good size for Son to take in his lunch.  I also can some in pint jars and it can be canned in quarts as well.  All three sized jars are processed in a Boiling Water Bath for 20 minutes.
Spiced applesauce can be made by adding allspice or cinnamon to taste along with the sugar.  I have also taken some of the cranberry pulp left in the cheesecloth from straining cranberry juice and added that to the applesauce for a different flavor.  Add the cranberry pulp and sugar to taste.

Strawberry Rhubarb Sauce

1-1/2 pounds rhubarb
4 cups strawberries
1 to 1-1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup water
2 teaspoons lemon juice

Thoroughly wash rhubarb and strawberries.  Cut rhubarb into 1-inch pieces, making 5 cups.
Remove hulls from strawberries; halve large berries.  In a large kettle or Dutch oven combine rhubarb, strawberries, sugar, water, and lemon juice.  Bring fruit to boiling; boil 1/2 minute.*
Pack hot fruit and syrup into hot jars, leaving 1/2-inch headspace.  Adjust lids.  Process in boiling water bath (half-pints and pints) 15 minutes.  Makes 7 half-pints.  Recipe can be doubled.

*This recipe says cook for 1/2 minute, but I cooked it a little longer until the rhubarb had cooked down just a bit and was completely tender.

Note:  Strawberry Rhubarb Sauce is good as a dessert sauce, but it is really good over vanilla ice cream.

And that is enough for today.  :)

Monday, March 7, 2016

Canning Series - Beans

I've lately been going through the recipes stored on my computer.  I am a recipe junkie, so there are lots of them.  But I need to get realistic about them, so I am discarding those that might sound wonderful but require extra shopping for ingredients that I ordinarily would not have in my pantry and those that are fiddly to make.  I don't do fiddly.

So I thought I might share some of the recipes I have used and found to be good, starting with the canning recipes.  Some of you are experienced home canners, but I find there are many who fear the process.  I think this fear comes from the horror stories about Grandma blowing up her pressure canner which resulted in needing a new roof put on the house.  I'm here to tell you that in the 55 years I have been canning food, I have never known anyone who blew up a pressure canner.  It is just a matter of following the instructions to the letter.  There are safety features built into pressure canners, like the rubber plug in the lid that will blow out should the pressure inside the canner reach unsafe levels, bringing the pressure down long before the lid blows off.  That's not to say there isn't a learning curve.  There is, but it isn't rocket science.  It is mostly common sense.

There are many reasons to home can.  If you are able to have a garden, canning is a good way to preserve the harvest.  Those who can't garden, like myself, can find good, locally grown food at Farmer's Markets, where I get most of the fruit and some of the vegetable I can.  I have also canned frozen vegetables from the grocery.  I buy them when they go on sale.  This makes sense for me.  It is easier for me to store vegetables in jars.  I can them in pint and half pint jars, so there is no waste.  Those with larger families can process vegetables in quart jars.  And my freezer space is then available for other things and I can stock up without worrying about freezer burn.

I have noticed that cans of pork and beans from the grocery have changed somewhat.  Some companies have kept the price the same but have made the cans smaller.  Others have reduced the amount of beans in the can but have added more sauce.  By canning my own, I get the taste of home baked pork and beans and I know just how much is in each jar.  Here are the recipes I have used with good results.

Pork and Beans to Can

2 qts. dried navy or other smaller beans
1 lb. ham, cut into about one inch pieces*
6 large onions, diced (3 onions were enough for me)
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 and then drain.  Cover beans with 6 quarts water in large stockpot. Bring to boil and then reduce heat.  Cover and simmer until skins begin to crack. Drain, reserving liquid. Pour beans into a very large baking dish.  I use a turkey roaster pan.  Add ham, and remaining ingredients and 8 cups reserved liquid. Ladle sauce over beans.  Cover and bake at 350 degrees for about 3 hours. During baking, add water or cooking liquid as needed.  You want them a bit watery. Pack hot beans and sauce into hot jars, leaving 1 inch of headspace.  De-bubble jars, wipe the rims with  damp paper towel or cloth and add lids and rings.  Process pints for 80 minutes and quarts for 95 minutes at 10 pounds pressure, or at the pressure recommended for your altitude.

*Some use pieces of fried bacon or salt pork.  Others may have found this satisfactory, but it has been my experience that bacon gets sort of limp and a bit slimy when canned with beans.  Ham adds flavor but retains its texture.

Easy Canned Pork and Beans

2 lbs. of dried Navy Beans

6 cups water
1 cup molasses
1 cup brown sugar
2 tsp.ground mustard
1 Tbsp. salt

Put dried beans in a large pot and cover well with water.  Bring to a boil and cook for 1 hour.  Keep water level deep enough to keep the beans covered. Turn off heat and let soak for 2 hours.  Drain and rinse the beans in a colander.  Divide the beans into canning jars filling the jars about 2/3 full of the beans.


Mix all ingredients together and heat well to dissolve the brown sugar.  Pour over the beans in the jars, leaving 1 inch head space below the jar rims.  Run a table knife or wooden spoon handle through the beans to get rid of any air bubbles and to distribute the sauce evenly.  Wipe the jar rims and add lids and rings.

Process in a pressure canner.  Pint jars are processed for 65 minutes. Quart jars are processed for 75 minutes.

This recipe will make about 20 pints of beans.

Canning Dry Beans
(This recipe from Jackie Clay at Backwoods Home Magazine)

"Dry beans are very handy, canned up, as you don’t have to soak them overnight or cook them for lengthy periods to eat them. All dry beans are canned the same way. I first boil my dry beans in plenty of water and let them sit for 2 hours. Then I pack them and process them as usual. This means heat the beans and liquid to boiling, then drain, saving liquid. Pack jars 3/4 full with hot beans, add small pieces of fried lean bacon or ham, if desired, then fill with hot cooking liquid, leaving 1 inch of headspace. Process pints for 75 minutes and quarts for 90 minutes. — Jackie"

I have used all three of these recipes with success.  Hope you find them helpful.