canning

All posts tagged canning

Can it!

Published July 31, 2018 by lynn k scott

Several years ago, I reacquainted myself with the soon-to-be lost art of canning food.  While I am definitely no expert, I’ve managed to can all sorts of food.

I have been a bit lax on canning while I’ve been dealing with my health, the time for resuming preserving food is at hand.  Over the last few days, I have made and canned vegetable broth and tomatoes.

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The vegetable broth is really a piece of cake.  I take the veggies I have, whether from storing them in the freezer or from the fridge, cut them up, put them in the crockpot, add some filtered water and cook on low for 10 hours.  Remove the veggies, drain the broth through a fine mesh sieve and some cheese cloth and then canning commences.  If you’re into composting the cooked veggies can be composted.

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The tomatoes, on the other hand, are one of the most tedious items to can (imho).  Yet, there are so many options for canning them.  For this particular canning, I chose to use remove the tomato peel by blanching the tomatoes in boiling water.  Then the tomatoes go into ice water to stop the cooking process.

After removing the skin, I rough chop the tomatoes and place in a blender and pulse it a few times.  I complete several batches of this and all the tomatoes are placed in a pot and brought up to temperature so then can be ladled into hot jars and canned.

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I have a pressure canner, which I can double as a water-bath canner.  At one point, I had both, but it took up a lot of space.  I will note that certain foods (normally acidic, jams, jellies) use a water bath while other foods require the use of a pressure canner (stocks, vegetables, meat, soups).

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With my change in diet and for the health of my family, I will work at diligently canning more foods to have on hand.  I typically only can what we eat within a year (typical shelf life of home-canned goods).  It’s a great way to use seasonal fruits and vegetables, while they are affordable.  I love opening a can of tomatoes in November that I canned in the summer.  You can still smell the vine.

 

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Whole not Jelly

Published November 23, 2015 by lynn k scott

Growing up, my mother always purchased Ocean Spray cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving.  Us kids had fun opening the can and watching this jelly mold fall out.  Then we got to slice it in perfect rings.  I never heard of “whole berry” cranberry sauce until I was a teenager and there was no way my mom was going to switch.

After moving to California and working in catering, I saw the other side of the cranberry.  The side where it wasn’t pureed and pour into a mold. Where the berry was allowed to “pop” and be in a more natural form.  This is when I fell in love with whole berry cranberry sauce.

Now some people can’t get over the tart tang of this sauce.  I LOVE tart and sour food, so it’s always been a favorite.  Years ago, I stopped buying canned cranberries.  I took the plunge and made my own.  I continue to make whole berry sauce to this day.

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Just a couple packages, rinsed off and put into a sugar water mixture over a flame causes these beautiful little berries to pop, pop, pop.  It doesn’t take too long until they are ready to can.  Now honestly, I don’t set out to make it look like I’m planning for Doomsday.  I just get carried away when it comes to canning.

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Now, not all of those jars are whole berry cranberry sauce.  Six of those jars are apple butter.  That’s how all this started.  I was just going to can my apple butter.  Then the packages of cranberries started calling out to me and the next thing I know, my “canning pot” is on the stove and I passed the part of no return.  This is what happens when I’m left alone for a couple hours.

A few moments ago, I opened a jar of the sauce to test it.  I always do this, esp. as I either sell or give away my canning creations.  The sauce came out perfectly (imo).  It’s not too jelled, has some liquid for the berries to hang out in and it will spoon out nicely onto the plate or a sandwich.

So there you have it.  I prefer whole berry cranberry sauce.  Which do you prefer, whole or jelly?

 

All Roads Lead to Roma…

Published July 17, 2015 by lynn k scott

Working in a farming community, I absolutely love that I can drive past any number of tomato fields and have my sense of smell bombarded with that “fresh off the vine” smell coming from the growing tomato plants.  I see the tomato trucks threatening to drop some of their precious cargo as it makes its way down the road.

I happen to work within minutes of my favorite produce stand.  Once I see the tomato trucks, I know I can start purchasing my cases of tomatoes; 20 pounds to be exact.  For the next couple of months, I will visit the produce market and pick up a case of tomatoes, every Friday afternoon.

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Every weekend, I will carve out some time to process and can my red bounty of Romas.  Once canned, they will line the top of my pantry.  Some jars will be made into marinara sauce, while others will simply be pureed and using in a multitude of culinary creations.

So what if my coworker calls me a freak (in jest, of course)?  Other coworkers will shake their head as I carry my case into my air conditioned office, waiting until the end of the day to be returned to the car so we can head home. They know how much I love being able to buy all these beauties at one time.  They just accept that canning is in my blood.

In my case, it’s safe to say…all roads to lead to Roma; tomatoes that is!

Canning Red Bell Peppers

Published May 17, 2015 by lynn k scott

I stopped by my favorite produce stand before leaving work for the weekend.  Red bell peppers were on sale and I thought they would be good to can.  After all, we’re just about into summer and I’m getting into full-swing when it comes to stocking the pantry with canned goods.

This would be my first attempt at canning bell peppers.  I know what the grocery stores charge for them and quite frankly, it’s a bit much and a luxury item for me to purchase.  However, I spent less than $5.00 on the peppers, so canning them would be a good investment of my time.

I plan on using the peppers in a pepper, for adding to pasta dishes or just to add to a sandwich or two.  After my initial canning session, I will need to pack the jars a bit fuller on the next go-round.  However, the process doesn’t take much time and it’s not too labor intensive.

Start out with firm peppers.  You don’t want soft or mushy peppers when canning them.  Next wash them.

The peppers need to be blistered in order to remove their skin.  There’s a variety of ways you can do this.  I chose to blister them in the broiler of my oven.  It was late when I started and I wasn’t pulling out the grill and starting the charcoal after 7:00 p.m.  Ideally, that would have been my first choice.  The broiler, however, was effective and did a very good job.

Some websites will tell you if you have a gas range, you can just char the peppers on the top of the stove.  What they omit is peppers fill with their own juice as you char them.  You’re just asking for a mess by using that method.

charred peppers  Once I removed the peppers from the broiler, I put them in a large pot and put the lid on them.  This way, they will steam from the residual heat and their skins become easier to remove.  I let the peppers sit about 20 minutes.  They will still be very warm when you attempt to peel them.

I like to remove the stem and seeds first before peeling.  This is where the liquid inside will come out.  Be careful, it will be hot, even after 20 minutes of letting the peppers sit.  Try to remove as many seeds as possible.  DO NOT wash the pepper!  You’ll strip away the flavor.

Then, I flatten the pepper and remove the skin in sections.  I find this is the easiest way to make sure you have removed all the skin.  When you attempt to remove the skin from the pepper, as a whole, it can be difficult to make sure you have removed it all.  Just a cautionary reminder.  If you are using hot peppers (jalapeno, serrano, chili), make sure to wear gloves when handling the peppers.

Once the skin is removed, I place it in a glass bowl, until I have finished removing the skin from all the peppers.

Peeled peppers

Now that all the peppers are in the bowl, I cut them into small sections before adding them to the hot canning jars.  The recipes I researched said to pack loosely.  I packed my peppers a bit too loose.  Next time, need to add a few more peppers to each jar.  Once the peppers are in the jar, I add boiling water to the jars, leaving a 1-inch head space, attach the lid and rings and process in a pressure canner for 35 minutes at 10 pounds of pressure.

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Vegetable Stock: In the Making

Published March 15, 2015 by lynn k scott

Veggie stock ingredients

This simple pile of vegetables and herbs will be transformed into vegetable stock, which I will then can and have on hand to use in making a variety of dishes.

Ever since I bought my pressure canner two years ago,  I stopped buying vegetable and chicken stock. While I primarily use vegetable stock in the majority of my dishes, I make homemade chicken stock throughout the year as well.  This 2015-03-15 08.41.27morning, I gathered my ingredients and put them all on the counter.  Armed with my favorite Hammerstahl chef’s knife, a vegetable peeler and a garbage bag ( for scraps, shavings, ends, etc.), I begin to prepping the vegetables for the pot.

Now, the Ball Canning Book I use has some really great recipes.  When I know I will be canning, I try to use only tested recipes.  I have tried several vegetable stock recipes over the last couple of years and this is just the best one for me.  Instead of just making one 7-quart recipe, I got out another stock pot, and am making 10.5 quarts.

The prepping takes about an hour, if you’re doing it yourself.  If you have helpers, you can cut that time by half, depending on their skill level in the kitchen.  I will point out, this is a great way to show kids how you can prepare store-bought items at home, have them be healthier and they can sample the ingredients that make up the stock.

Once on the stove, the veggies will cook, the water will fuse with the vegetables, and turn a yellow-brownish color. Depending on some of the ingredients used, that will determine the final stock color.  Red onions and red peppers will definitely add a depth of color that yellow onions and/or peppers won’t.  This particular recipe calls for bringing the mixture to a boil, reducing the heat to low and cook for two hours, covered.  After two hours, remove the lid(s) and simmer another two hours.  Then remove vegetables, strain through cheesecloth and begin the canning process.

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Since I use a local farm stand to purchase my ingredients, I always buy them just a day or two before I will make the stock. When canning, you want to use the freshest ingredients possible, to avoid bacteria growth.  Another benefit of making your own stock is that you can do so chemical and sodium-free. There are no added preservatives in this stock.

My canning season is starting.  I will typically can at least once a week now, depending what’s in season.  Having food allergies, intolerance, or whatever the term is these days, makes purchasing some prepared foods very difficult.  I enjoy making homemade dishes for my family, using homemade ingredients such as stocks and sauces.

The best part of this is the cost-savings.  Depending on the ingredients used, each 16-oz. jar (or pint) only costs me $0.50-$0.75 to make.  I always have a massive collection of canning jars on hand.  By mid-summer, I may need to purchase more, only because I am canning more and more every year.  I admit, canning can be labor intensive and even more so if you are the only cook.

When all is said and done, I am please with what my efforts yield.

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         Vegetable stock and tomato sauce.

Ya Don’t Say

Published March 6, 2015 by lynn k scott

Back in October, I was about half-way through some college courses I was taking.  I would come home from work, drop my daughter off, grab a cup of coffee and head to class.  I waited to eat until I came home.  There just wasn’t any time to eat before then.

One night, I grabbed some waffles and started heating them up.  Just my luck to be out of maple syrup.  I starting looking through my canning stash.  I had several jars of preserves.  Of course, I pick the unlabeled jar.  I open up the 4-oz. jar and start spreading the jam over the waffles.  I couldn’t for the life of me remember what flavor it was.

As I’m pondering what jam I was using, I said aloud (to myself), “I don’t know what this is”.  My precocious child peers around me, looks at the plate, then at me and says, “It’s waffles”.  I respond with, “ya don’t say”.  I realize I’m getting up there in age, but I think I still remember what waffles look like.  This child of mine truly cracks me up.

It turns out, the jam was plum preserves. They were fabulous on the waffles; highly recommend it!

Kitchen Hacks

Published February 20, 2015 by lynn k scott

Here are some kitchen hacks that I have learned or adopted over the years.  This is far an all-inclusive list, but I don’t think it’s too shabby.

  • If a recipe calls for half an onion, chop the entire onion.  I use a mandolin-type slicer.  It has 4 settings, two thin, two thick, slices or strips.  It takes me all of 5 minutes to peel and slice the onion and run my knife across the strips for a quick dice.  Then I store the leftover onion in a glass bowl (not a fan of storing in plastic).
  • For “minced” garlic – use a garlic press.  If a recipe calls for minced garlic and it’s just a small amount, it’s rather quick and no need to get out a knife and cutting board.
  • Garlic smell on your hands?  Pick up a metal soap.  They are relatively inexpensive (around $6.00-$20.00).  Simply wash your hands using the metal soap and in a few moments, the smell goes with it.
  • Uniformity is key.  A couple of years ago, I picked up a small cookie scoop.  I bake a lot during the holidays, and this $7.00 gadget was a life-saver.  Using the scoop made light work of rolling 4 dozen cookies.  It grabs the same amount each time.  There’s no wondering if you have too little or too much dough.  Not to mention, everything will bake evenly if they are all the same size.  I have even expanded using the scoop to making meatballs.  Perfectly sized and shaped.
  • Make your own hamburger patties.  This was a trick I learned from my dad, way back when.  We always bought Skippy peanut butter.  If you get the large container, save the lid when the peanut butter is all gone.  After you wash the lid, lay a piece of plastic wrap over it.  Then fill will hamburger meat until it’s flush with the lid.  Using the plastic wrap, lift out the patty.  Perfectly shaped and portioned hamburgers.  Not too thick and not too thin.
  • Boil that chicken.  This is a two for one deal.  I like to boil chicken quarters for recipes such as enchiladas or casseroles.  One of the best parts of shedding meat is it goes farther.  Our family is only 3 people, so I can normally get two meals out of 4 chicken quarters.  No instead of just boiling the chicken in water, let’s add a few things.  I typically will quarter an onion, peel and smash 3-5 cloves of garlic (depending on their size), rough chop a few carrots and celery stalks. 10-15 whole peppercorn and add it all to the pot.  Then add my chicken and finally the water. When the chicken is done, remove those and use how you intended.  Now, remove all the vegetables and pour the stock in a non-metal bowl. Let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate overnight.  Next morning, scrape off the fat.  Pour into mason jars and freeze (leave room for expansion as it freezes).  The other option is to can the stock, if you have a pressure canner (which I do).

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  • Learn to can.  Canning is making a comeback.  It’s not just for grandmas anymore.  I started out waterbath canning. Those would be your high acidic foods.  Tomato related recipes and fruit jams.  Even if you can for this reason alone, you will feel better about what you are eating and can preserve some of the in-season produce to enjoy all year long. If you’re adventurous, then pickup a pressure canner.  Remove the images of those exploding pressure cookers. These have come a long way.  You’ll be able to preserve vegetables, make stocks, store food preservative free and low sodium.  I personally can make 7 pints of vegetable stock for about $5.00, during the summer.  Try buying 14 cups of vegetable stock for $5.00, you’ll never be able to.  Left over Thanksgiving turkey.  Some carrots, celery and onions (which you have from making the stuffing), can be turned in to turkey soup.  When you’re ready to use it, either add some rice or pasta.  Simple meals and perfect for the upcoming winter.  I will say, canning isn’t the cheapest kitchen practice to get into, but there are deals to be had.  I invest the time because of food allergies and wanting to eat better and with minimal preservatives.
  • Mason jars are your friend.  Sounds strange, but I LOVE my mason jars.  My husband, he doesn’t share the same feelings.  In addition to using mason jars with my canning, I use them to store liquids, take milk to work, freezing broth, holding pens, organizing crafting supplies, etc.  There are these white, plastic lids you can buy.  They fit on standard mouth jars.  That means you can use the same lid on a 4 oz., half-pint, pint and quart jar.  Now that’s versatility.  Just because I have four dozen mason jars, at any given time, doesn’t mean I’m addicted to using them.  Ok, in my case, it does.  But that’s beside the point.  Mason jars are extremely useful in so many ways.

So there are my kitchen hacks.  I hope you find them interesting, if not useful.  I’m sure I’ll have another list of hacks for you soon.  I’d love to hear some of your hacks, if you’d like to share.

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