Showing posts with label Canning and Preserving. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Canning and Preserving. Show all posts

Apr 9, 2015

Simple Pickled Asparagus

Asparagus is one of spring's most prized foods. But really good, fresh asparagus is also fleeting - gone with spring. You can freeze or pressure can asparagus, but for many of us, the flavor and texture are ruined by doing so. The one way to preserve asparagus that my whole family can agree on is through pickling.

There are about a gazillion recipes for pickled asparagus, some with ingredient lists a mile long. This recipe, though, is simple - as well as flexible. And, unlike some recipes, it doesn't cover up the flavor of asparagus.

In truth, all you really need for this recipe is the asparagus, vinegar, salt, water, and sugar. But that would make for pretty plain-tasting pickles. So I also use garlic, mustard seed, and dill seed - and, if I have some lemons on hand, a little lemon. Simple and delicious. But you should feel free to play with the spices; as long as you keep the correct ratio of water, vinegar, and salt, the recipe will remain safe.

Also, a note about the asparagus: Get the freshest you can find. Just picked from your yard, or picked the day before and purchased at a farmer's market is ideal. But, if you're like me and you don't have an asparagus patch (yet!), or can't buy just-picked asparagus, grocery store asparagus will do, especially if you follow the directions for chilling the asparagus ahead of time.

And, incidentally, pickled asparagus is one canning project that really can save you money. Store bought pickled asparagus is something of a luxury item. I've seen it sell for over $30 a jar! So grab your asparagus during a good sale (or grow it yourself), and you'll save your family some dough while also giving them a really yummy treat.

Simple Pickled Asparagus Recipe

7 lbs. fresh asparagus
1 2/3 cups distilled white vinegar (5% acidity)
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon canning or pickling salt
8 cups water
6 garlic cloves, peeled
1 lemon, peeled, sections divided into slices, and seeds pushed out
6 teaspoons mustard seed, divided
6 teaspoons dill seed, divided

1. Begin by reviewing the guidelines for using a boiling water bath canner.

2. Trim the tough ends off each asparagus spear. An easy way to do this is to flick the knife down onto the spear, steering well clear of your fingers and beginning at the cut end of the vegetable. If you're in a tough part of the asparagus, the knife won't cut all the way through. Keep flicking at intervals on the tough end of the veggie until the knife cuts through easily. Discard the tough ends into your compost bin, or freeze them to use for making stock.

3. Cut the asparagus so that it will easily fit into your canning jars and still leave 3/4 in. headspace. If you use pint and a half canning jars, you'll be able to can nice long spears. If you use pint jars, as I do, you will have to cut smaller spears and will have some pieces without spears on them. Save even the short ends for pickling. They may not be as elegant as the spears, but they are still tasty!

4. Place the asparagus pieces in a large bowl. Add 4 handfuls of ice and cover with cold water. Place in the refrigerator for 1 hour. In the meantime, prepare the canning jars and lids.

5. In a large, stainless steel pot, combine the vinegar, sugar, salt, and water. Place over medium high heat and stir until the sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil and boil gently for 5 minutes.

6. Using your hands, tongs, or a slotted spoon, transfer the chilled asparagus to the hot vinegar mixture. (Discard the ice water.) Allow the mixture to come to a boil and boil gently for 2 minutes to heat the asparagus through.

7. Work one hot jar at a time: Add 1 teaspoon mustard seed and 1 teaspoon dill seed to the jar. Using tongs, add hot asparagus to the jar. Spears may point either up or down, but not side-to-side. When jar is nearly packed, add 1 garlic clove and 1 slice of lemon. Add more asparagus spears until the jar is packed. Pour the hot vinegar mixture over the asparagus, leaving 1/2 in. headspace. Bubble jar, wipe rim, and add lid and screw band. Place in canner and move on to another jar.

8. Process jars in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes.*  Wait at least 2 weeks before eating.

* NOTE: If you live at a high altitude, read this important information about adjusting canning times.

Apr 1, 2015

Fermented Jerusalem Artichokes

My family loves Jerusalem artichokes - a lesser-known veggie that looks like the potato's ugly cousin. But my husband finds, as some people do, that they live up to their sometimes-heard nickname: Jerusalem fartichokes. Yes, it's true. Jerusalem artichokes are healthy and nutritious...but they cause gas in some people. There are ways around this; mainly, parboiling the vegetable before fully cooking it and making sure you only eat the vegetable after it's lived through a good, hard frost. The other, however, is through lacto-fermentation. (Not familiar with the health benefits of fermentation? Read this.)

Since my family loves the fermented sauerkraut I make, I'm becoming more confident about trying fermented foods. So when I bumped into this post over at A Gardener's Table, I knew I had to give fermented Jerusalem artichokes a try. I'm so glad I did. They are DEEliscious! We ate a ton of them (so yummy!), and my children and I had no issues with gas. My hubby wasn't sure if he could call these Jerusalem artichokes gas free...but trust me, he was not having issues like he normally does with this vegetable! Any flatulence was, in his wife's opinion, like any other day.

My recipe is slightly adapted from A Gardener's Table. Mainly, I used dried spices, because that's what I had on hand. Also, sadly my husband is not a fan of ginger, so I used a much smaller amount of this ingredient. But the truth is, even though I love this spice combo, you could use whatever spices you want - or no spices at all. To ferment this veggie, all you really need is the salt, sugar, and water brine.

Fermented Jerusalem Artichoke Recipe

1 1/2 lbs. of Jerusalem artichokes
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cumin
8 garlic cloves, chopped
2 teaspoons uniodized salt
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups filtered water (water with chlorine in it inhibits fermentation)

1. Begin by sanitizing everything you'll use, including the fermenting jar, whatever you'll use as a weight, the cutting board, knife, and any utensils. It's fine to just run them through the dishwasher.

2. Cut up the Jerusalem artichokes. I like them best when sliced in thinish circles, like a cucumber pickle. But you'll probably have to do some chunks, too, due to the vegetable's odd-ball shape. Just be sure the pieces are of about the same size, and no larger than 1/2 in.

3. In a bowl, combine the turmeric, nutmeg, cumin, and garlic. Add the prepared Jerusalem artichoke and toss until well coated. Pack into a glass jar with a 6 cup capacity. (I used a gallon sized canning jar.)

4. Measure out the water and add the salt and sugar. Stir until dissolved. Pour this brine over the Jerusalem artichokes.

5. Weigh down the Jerusalem artichokes. I used a jelly jar filled with marbles, but anything that easily fits into the jar and push down hard on the vegetable pieces should work fine. Press down firmly and try to pack the Jerusalem artichoke pieces down as much as possible. Leave the weight in place, and cover the jar with cheesecloth or a cotton dishtowel held in place with a rubber band or string. Leave the jar on the counter in a relatively warm (not hot or cold) place.
6. The following day, the brine should fully cover the vegetable pieces. All the pieces must be underwater, or they will rot instead of ferment. If necessary, make more brine (using the same ratio you used the day before) and add it to the jar.

7. Now it's a waiting game. I found the mixture didn't bubble or burp much. It turns out, some fermenting vegetables do this more than others. But do check at least once a day to be sure the veggies are submerged, that the mixture doesn't smell bad, or that mold isn't growing on it. I tasted the mixture after seven days, and it seemed just right. Depending upon the weather and the atmosphere in your kitchen it could take a little more or less time for the 'chokes to ferment. How do you know it's done? When it tastes good to you! When you're satisfied with the flavor, remove the cover and weight, put a lid on the jar, and transfer to the refrigerator.

Jan 14, 2015

Canning Baked Beans

Saving money is only one reason I can food at home. Another is better quality - and this baked beans recipe
falls into that category. My family loves this recipe (even my picky eater!), and canning it saves lots of time over making it from scratch on a meal-by-meal basis. To make the recipe more frugal, I encourage you to use homemade catsup and maple syrup, if you have either. Otherwise, try to get the more expensive ingredients (maple syrup, catsup, and molasses) on sale. And while I've given some notes on substitutions you may safely use, I recommend trying the recipe as is first.

How to Can Baked Beans

1 lb. Great Northern/Navy beans
1/2 cup chopped leeks (you can also use onions or onion scapes; the difference in flavor is only slight)
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 cup molasses (may be reduced, if desired)
1 1/2 teaspoons mustard powder
1 teaspoon kosher or canning salt
1 teaspoon pepper
2 cups catsup (if using store bought, I recommend Heinz, which doesn't have bad-for-you high fructose corn syrup in it)
1 cup real maple syrup (may be reduced; you can even omit the syrup and just use more brown sugar)
1/2 cup white vinegar (apple cider vinegar is fine, too, as long as it has 5% acidity)

If you are a novice canner, before you begin, be sure to review the guidelines for pressure canning.

1. Pour the beans into a large pot and cover with 8 cups of water. Cover with lid and place over medium high heat and bring to a boil. Boil for 2 minutes.
2. Turn off the heat and allow the covered pot to sit for 45 minutes.

3. Drain. Pour the beans back in the pot and cover with 8 cups of fresh water. Add the leeks and place over medium high heat. Bring to a boil. Boil for 15 minutes.
4. In the meantime, prepare jars and lids - then, the sauce: Pour 2 cups of water, the brown sugar, molasses, mustard powder, salt, pepper, catsup, syrup, and vinegar into a large saucepan. Place over medium heat and bring to a gentle boil. This mixture should not be thick, or it will make the recipe unsafe to can - don't overcook and thicken.
5. Working one jar at a time, fill a hot pint jar 3/4 full of the beans/leeks mixture, using a slotted spoon and draining as much cooking water from each spoonful as possible before adding the beans to the jar. Ladle enough of the molasses mixture over the beans to achieve 1 inch headspace. Bubble. Add lid and screw band, and place in canner of hot water. Repeat until all the jars are filled.

6. Process pint jars for 75 minutes in a pressure canner at 11 pounds of pressure.*
Makes about 8 pints. Recipe adapted from SB Canning.

* NOTE: If you live at a high altitude, read this important information about adjusting canning times.

Dec 31, 2014

Most Popular Posts - for 2014, and for all time!

The most popular post!
It's always fun for me to see which posts are most popular on this blog. (They are never - never! - the posts I imagine will most interest readers!) Oddly, what shows up as popular depends upon what source I look at; but studying stats from Blogger, Pinterest, and other top sources, it's easy to see which posts are all time favorites and favorites for the year. And since recent months have brought a great many more readers to Proverbs 31 Woman, I thought it would be fun to share these lists with you - especially since many of the posts are from years' past. It's a pretty eclectic list; enjoy!

(P.S. Want to see more popular posts from Proverbs 31 Woman? Check out the Pinterest page "Most Popular Posts at Proverbs 31 Woman.")

Top 5 Posts for 2014:

1. 52 Simple Sewing Projects for Kids

2. 10 Things I Learned During Our Tiny House Test Run

3. The Letter of the Week Series, especially Letter R

4. Free Art History Curriculum: Claude Monet

5. Walmart Savings Catcher: Hit or Miss?

Top 10 Most Popular Posts of All Time:

 1. How to Train Chickens  (it completely cracks me up that this is the most popular post among readers!)

2. 6 Ways to Teach Kids the Books of the Bible

3. Best Free Apron Patterns on the Net

4. How to Clean a REALLY Dirty Stove

5. Best Ideas for Upcycling Jeans

6. Canning Pickled Green Beans (Dilly Beans)

7. Harvesting and Making Your Own Chamomile Tea

8. How Much Money Can You Save Gardening & Homesteading

9. 52 Simple Sewing Projects for Kids

10. Easiest Fruits & Vegetables to Grow

Oct 13, 2014

How to Make Small Batch, Fermented Sauerkraut

Earlier this year, I read that fermented foods contain 100 times more probiotics (substances that stimulate the growth of microorganisms that have great health benefits once consumed) than probiotic supplements. I knew then I really needed to try my hand at making sauerkraut. The happy news is, making fermented sauerkraut is really, really easy. Even though fermented foods may seem strange and new to us today, the fact is that people have been making and eating fermented foods for thousands of years - and without a bunch of fancy gadgets!
I considered buying a fermenting crock for this project - but frankly, they are pricey. And no one in my family had ever eaten fermented sauerkraut before (the stuff you buy in the store is heated and canned, and therefore all the probiotics are dead). If it turned out no one would eat my sauerkraut, I didn't want to spend much money on it. So I decided to use what I already have on hand - canning (mason) jars. (Don't have canning jars? You can use any clean glass jar - for example, an empty mayo jar.) A bonus to using mason jars is that the kraut ferments more quickly - so you can have ready-to-eat food within just a few days.

The results were terrific. Everyone in my family - including the kids! - loved the sauerkraut. I'll definitely be making more.

What You Need to Make Small Batch, Fermented Sauerkraut

Cutting board
Large bowl
Wide mouth quart mason (canning) jar
8 oz. jelly jar
Marbles or clean pebbles
Cloth (I used cheesecloth, but a clean dishtowel or large fabric scrap works, too)
Rubber band or string

1 cabbage head, any type, approximately 3 lbs., hard outer leaves removed and set aside (If you buy your cabbage without the harder, outer leaves - which is common if you're shopping at a grocery store - that's fine.)
1 tablespoon canning or kosher salt

How to Make Small Batch Sauerkraut in a Mason Jar

1. Make sure everything you use - from the Mason jar to the cutting board - has just been cleaned in hot, soapy water. Or, you can run all your tools through the dishwasher.

2. Cut the cabbage head in half, then cut each half in half again. Cut away the core, then slice the quarters thinly. (You can use a mandolin or cabbage slicer for this job - but from experience I can tell you that mandolins with plastic spikes in the handle don't work well with cabbage; they simply don't hold the cabbage firmly enough to make using the mandolin safe.)

The cabbage after slicing.
3. Place the cabbage slices into a large bowl. Sprinkle the salt on top. Use your hands to massage and squeeze the cabbage. Within 5 - 10 minutes, the cabbage will look limp and there will be liquid in the bowl. The contents of the bowl should look something like coleslaw.
The massaged coleslaw will produce liquid in the bowl.
At this point, you may add seasonings, if you desire. I added 1 tablespoon of caraway seeds; next time I'll reduce that amount by about half. Other common sauerkraut seasonings include mustard seeds, bay leaves, and coriander. But remember, seasonings are totally optional.

4. Pack the cabbage into the mason jar. I found it was easiest to pick up about a tablespoon of sliced cabbage at a time, then drop it in the jar. Occasionally, press down firmly on the cabbage in the jar. You want to get as much as possible in there - without making the juices (or the cabbage) overflow the jar. My cabbage head was a bit larger (about 4 lbs.), so I had a little too much for one mason jar. If you have this problem, simply use an additional jar for the excess.
The sliced cabbage, packed in jars.
5. Pour the liquid in the bowl over the cabbage in the jar. Press down on the cabbage again.

6. If you have the harder, outer leaves of the cabbage, place part of one over the top of the sliced cabbage in the mason jar. This step is optional, but does help keep the sliced cabbage under the liquid in the jar - the key to getting fermented sauerkraut and not moldy cabbage.
Covering the sliced cabbage with a hard, outer cabbage leaf. (An optional step.)
7. Fill the jelly jar with marbles and place the jar inside the larger mason jar, on top of the cabbage. This jelly jar will weigh down the sliced cabbage, keeping it under the liquid in the mason jar.
Jelly jars filled with marbles or clean rocks keep the cabbage under the liquid.
8. Cover both jars with a cloth, secured in place with a rubber band or string. This keeps bugs, dust, and so forth, out of the sauerkraut.
Keep the jars covered.
9. For the next 24 hours, check on the sauerkraut occasionally and press down on the jelly jar. This helps release more liquid from the cabbage. I used a just-harvested cabbage, and had plenty of liquid in my jars. But if, after 24 hours, liquid does not cover the cabbage in the jar, make your own liquid: Dissolve 1 teaspoon of canning or kosher salt in 1 cup of warm water and add it to the mason jar. Again, keeping the cabbage under liquid makes sure it's fermenting, not rotting.

10. Ferment. When the sauerkraut is done is mostly a matter of personal taste. Because you're fermenting in a small jar, your kraut might be done in as little as three days. Mine took a little over a month before I was satisfied with it. (UPDATE 11-3-14: My second batch was ready in under a week. I'm not what changed; maybe just the weather! Or maybe I did a better job of massaging the salt into the cabbage.)
During fermenting, keep the sauerkraut out of direct sunlight and at a cool temperature - about 65 - 75 degrees F. Check the jar every day to ensure the cabbage is under the liquid. (If it's not, press down on the jelly jar until the liquid rises, or add more liquid, as in step 9.) It is normal - in fact, a sign that the cabbage is fermenting - to see bubbles in the jar and white scum on top of the cabbage. You should not see mold, however. (If you do, scoop it out right away and discard the cabbage that touched it. The rest of the kraut is fine.)

11. Refrigerate. When the sauerkraut tastes good to you, remove the jelly jar, put a lid on the mason jar, and refrigerate it. The sauerkraut will stay good in the refrigerator for at least a couple of months.

You can also make larger batches of sauerkraut - with more mason jars, or with a fermenting crock. Just be sure to keep the proportion of cabbage and salt the same.

What about Canning Sauerkraut? Kraut can be canned - but canning it kills all those good-for-you bugs. And since sauerkraut lasts a long time in the fridge (and since cabbage keeps for many months in the fridge or a cool location), I prefer not to can it.

Oct 6, 2014

Canning Salsa - a Recipe You Can SAFELY Adjust to Your Personal Tastes!

Homemade, canned salsa is not only good for you*, it adds kick to just about any meal. The trouble is, there are just a handful of tested, safe salsa recipes for canning. And you can't mess around with their ingredients....unless you want botulism, that is. The good news is I have an excellent salsa recipe designed for canning. My husband - a true salsa connoisseur - adores it. So much so, he won't eat grocery store salsa. This recipe also has a huge following online; it's the recipe most canners seem to prefer.

Funny thing is, you won't find it on the sites I usually recommend for canning recipes (Ball and the National Center for Home Food Preservation), and as far as I know, it's not in any book. That's because the inventor of this recipe, a woman known to most only as Annie, was just an ordinary canner like you and me. However, in her day, Extension Offices were willing and able to do limited testing on recipes that were brought to them. So Annie brought her delish salsa to her Extension Office and adjusted it until their labs proclaimed it safe for canning.

Happily, there are some changes you can make to the recipe. You can adjust it's hotness; you can omit certain ingredients. You can also eat it right after canning it, if you like a rather sweet salsa. Or, you can let it sit a month or more before eating it, so the flavor meld together. (That's my recommendation.)

Before you begin, though, it's a good idea to review the guidelines for boiling water bath canning. And please read through the entire recipe, including the notes at the bottom about substitutions or omissions. I do recommend trying the salsa as is first - it's uber yummy!

Canning Annie's Salsa

8 cups tomatoes, peeled, chopped, drained**
2 1/2 cups chopped onion (approximately 1/4" chop; about 1 1/2 average-sized onions)
1 1/2 cups chopped green bell pepper (approximately 1/4" chop; about 1 bell pepper)
3 - 5 jalapenos, chopped (I use 4) ***
6 garlic cloves, minced or diced fine
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
2 tablespoons canning salt
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/3 cup granulated sugar****
1 cup vinegar (must be 5% acidity; I use apple cider vinegar)*****
16 oz. (2 cups) tomato sauce
16 oz. (2 cups) tomato paste

1. Put all ingredients in a large, non-reactive pot and bring to a boil. Boil for 10 minutes.

2. Ladle into hot pint sized or smaller canning jars, leaving 1/2" headspace. Wipe jar rims. Add lids and screwbands.

3. Process in a boiling water bath canner for 15 minutes.******

Makes about 6 pints. I recommend allowing the canned salsa to sit for at least a month, for best flavor.

* Tomato salsa is low in calories, contains healthy spices, and is a good source of lycopenes, a type of antioxidant found in tomatoes - especially cooked tomatoes. 


** Any type of tomato is fine, except green tomatoes. This is a perfect use for damaged tomatoes from your garden. I collect them all summer, freezing them in a single layer, then transferring to a Ziplock bags once they are hard. To use, run the frozen tomatoes under warm tap water; the skins push off very easily. Allow the tomatoes to mostly - but not entirely - thaw before chopping. Be sure to cut and throw away any bad spots. (Having them a little frozen makes them much easier to chop.) Click here for more information on freezing tomatoes and for tips on what to do with tomato skins. To peel fresh (not frozen) tomatoes, click here for instructions.

*** Both green and red are fine. To make the salsa more spicy, you may decrease the sweet peppers and increase the jalapenos accordingly. Or use hotter peppers (like serranos or habaneros). Do not exceed a total of 1 3/4 cup of peppers total (sweet and jalapenos).

**** It's okay to decrease or even totally eliminate the sugar in this recipe.

***** If desired, you may substitute the vinegar with bottled lemon or lime juice; you may also use some bottled lemon/lime juice and some vinegar, but the total measurement of the combination must be 1 cup.

****** If you live at a high altitude, read this important information about adjusting canning times.

MORE CHANGES YOU MAY MAKE: The cumin, salt, pepper, and cilantro may be reduced or eliminated. You may also reduce or eliminate the tomato paste.

THANK YOU to the Master Canners at GardenWeb's Harvest Forum for introducing me to this recipe and all the safety guidelines associated with it.

Sep 24, 2014

The Super-Easy Way to Can Grape Juice

Recently, a friend gave me a box of grapes. They weren't the best for eating fresh because they had large seeds. But I knew I could make grape juice with them. And the method - brought to my attention by my mom-in-law - is so, so easy - and not at all messy.

The recipe comes from the 1984 Ball Blue Book. Yes, certain canning guidelines have changed since then. And it's true I could not find this method mentioned by any trusted source (like any of Ball's current publications or over at NCHFP). So, I have to say "can at your own risk," even though my mom-in-law has used this recipe many times.

What You'll Need:

Washed, firm, ripe, de-stemmed grapes, any type (for every quart of juice, you'll need 1 cup)
Granulated sugar (for every quart of juice, you'll need 1/2 cup)

Quart canning jars, lids, and rings
Boiling water bath canner
Funnel (optional, but helpful)
Large pot

How to Can Grape Juice the Super-Easy Way:

1. Review the guidelines for water bath canning.

2. Fill the pot with water and bring it to a boil.

3. Work one jar at a time, and make sure each jar is hot: Pour 1 cup of grapes into the jar, followed by 1/2 cup of sugar. (The sugar is not optional.) Fill the jar with boiling water, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe the rim of the jar, add the lid, and secure the screw band. Place jar in the canner, which must be filled with hot water.
Left: Grapes and sugar added. Right: Boiling water added.
4. Repeat until the canner is filled with jars, or until you run out of grapes.

5. Process jars for 10 minutes.*
Wait at least a month before opening a jar. To use, shake the jar, then strain the contents through some cheese cloth (or a sieve lined with coffee filters). It's okay if the sugar settles to the bottom of the jar; just shake before using. It's also okay if the grapes float - or if they do not. (Whether or not the grapes float depends upon the stage of ripeness of the fruit.)

* NOTE: If you live at a high altitude, read this important information about adjusting canning times.

Sep 15, 2014

Making Peach Jam Without Added Pectin

I've been wanting to try my hand at making jam without added, store bought pectin. Not because there is anything wrong with pectin (it's extracted from apples; you can even make your own), but because some people seem to prefer the flavor of no-pectin-added jam.

Of course, in order to jell up, all jam needs some pectin. But certain fruits (apricots, berries, peaches and apples) are naturally higher in pectin, so you don't need to add store bought or homemade pectin to them.

In the end, although this peach jam is delish, I can't say I think no-pectin-added jam is any better than the pectin-added variety. And it took a considerably longer to cook down and jell than any jams I've made with added pectin. Nonetheless, it's nice to know I can make pectin-free jam, if I want to.

How to Make Peach Jam without Added Pectin
(recipe from The Ball Blue Book, 1984)

8 cups of peeled, pitted, crushed peaches (I used about 8 large peaches)*
1/2 cup water
6 cups granulated sugar**
Crushed peaches.
First, you may wish to review the guidelines for canning using a boiling water bath canner.

1. Pour the prepared peaches and the water into a large, non-reactive pot. Gently heat for 10 minutes.

2. Stir in the sugar. Slowly bring to a boil, stirring often.

3. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook, stirring often to prevent scorching, until the jam jells. To test for jelling, place a saucer in the refrigerator. Once it's cold, spoon a small amount of the jam onto the saucer and place in the freezer. If the jam jells after a couple of minutes in the freezer, it's done.
Simmer down the jam.

The jam once it "jells."
4. Pour the jam into clean, hot jelly jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Process for 15 minutes in a boiling water bath canner.***


* To learn how to peel peaches the old fashioned way, click here. Or get yourself a soft fruit peeler; to my mind, that is the only way to go!

In addition, your job will be much easier if you buy freestone peaches. (Cling peaches are difficult to pit.)

** Sugar both helps the jam "jell" (or set), and helps preserve the finished product. You may adjust  the amount of sugar in this recipe, but it may not jell well, and it won't last as long in the cupboard.

*** If you live at a high altitude, read this important information about adjusting canning times.

May 26, 2014

How to Make Dandelion Wine - A Recipe for Making it the Easy Way!

Dandelion wine has been around for about as long as there have been dandelions and wine making - so it's no surprise there are about a gazillion ways to create dandelion wine. However, most recipes use very large quantities and call for removing all petals from the dandelion flowers. This recipe is different. Not only is the quantity small (about enough to fill a gallon jug), but it saves a ton of time because you don't need to remove the petals from the flowers. The process is also about as simple as you can get, making it a great choice for beginning wine makers.

A Few Notes on Making Easy Dandelion Wine:

* Be sure to collect dandelions you are 100% sure have not been exposed to chemicals (like weed killers).

* Collect only dandelion flowers. It's fine to keep the green leaves at the base of the petals, but don't include any stems.

* Choose only fully opened, fresh flowers. Avoid partially-opened blooms or blooms that are wilted or are turning brown.

* It's fine to freeze dandelion flowers until you have enough to make wine. However, measure the flowers before you freeze them, not after.

* It's okay to use ordinary bread yeast for this recipe, but wine or champagne yeast is much better. This reason for this is that baking yeast dies before it can fully eat up the sugar in this recipe. Wine or champagne yeast lives longer, and eats up more of the sugar.

* You'll need something to help you cap or cork your bottles. The easiest and cheapest is a bottle caper and caps, like this one.

To Make Dandelion Wine, You'll Need:

8 cups dandelion flowers
1 gallon boiling water
9 cups granulated sugar (you can experiment by using less)
juice from 4 oranges
juice from 3 lemons
2 1/4 teaspoons (1 packet) wine or champagne yeast
1/2 cup lukewarm water

Large, non-reactive pot with lid
Mixing spoon
Small bowl
Funnel (I used a new car oil funnel)
1 gallon glass jug
Fine mesh strainer
Wine or beer bottles with new corks or caps

How to Make Dandelion Wine, the Easy Way:

1. Pour the dandelion heads into a large, non-reactive pot. Pour 1 gallon of boiling water over the flowers. Cover with the pot lid and steep for two days.

After two days, it will look like this:
 2. Place a colander over a large bowl and strain the flower mixture. Reserve the liquid, but discard the dandelion flowers.

3. Clean the pot so that no trace of dandelions remains in it. Pour the liquid into the pot. Stir in the sugar and the citrus juice.
 4. In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast into the lukewarm water, stirring a couple of times to combine.

5. Pour the yeast mixture into the dandelion mixture and stir until sugar is completely dissolved.

6. Place the funnel in the jug and pour the liquid into it.
Cover the opening of the jug with a balloon, to prevent bugs, dust, etc. from getting into the wine. Store in a dark location until the mixture stops fermenting.
7. Keep an eye on the balloon for a few days. If it grows quite large, lift up part of the balloon end, releasing the gas. After about 5 weeks, the balloon will probably be only slightly inflated. Release the gas from it periodically; when the balloon stays deflated for one or two days, the wine is done fermenting and is ready to bottle. (Don't bottle before this time, or you risk having your bottles of wine explode!)

8. Strain through cheesecloth until you are satisfied with the clarity of the wine. Funnel into bottles and cork or cap. For best flavor, allow the wine to sit in a dark, cool location for at least 6 months. As the wine ages, it will become lighter in color.

I can't show you my dandelion wine all bottled up yet, because it is at the final stages of fermenting.  But once it's bottled and aged, it should look something like this:

For more information about harvesting and using dandelions for food, see these posts:
"Ah Sweet...Dandelions?"
"How to Make Dandelion Tea"
"Eating Dandelion Flowers"
"Making Dandelion Jelly"
"Teaching Children to Forage" (with dandelion cookie recipe) 
Dandelion Medicine

Want to learn more about eating and cooking with dandelions? Check out The Ultimate Dandelion Cookbook!

Apr 23, 2014

Top 10 Canning and Food Preservation Tricks

Recently, I was chatting with some other moms when I mentioned that I'd been emptying the freezer of tomatoes so I could can them. When I mentioned some of the tricks I use, they seemed surprised. "Why have I never heard of that before?? That would be so much easier!" one mom said. So with that in mind, here, my friends, are my very canning and food preservation tricks all in one location.

* Frozen tomatoes. Sometimes I just don't have time to can tomatoes in one huge bunch. Or maybe I don't have enough ripe tomatoes to bother canning them at that moment. So I freeze them. To freeze tomatoes, just lay them on a rimmed baking sheet and place them in the freezer. When they are hard, transfer them to a freezer bag. And no, once I've canned these tomatoes, I cannot tell they've been frozen.

* Easy to peel tomatoes. If you freeze tomatoes, they are SO easy to peel! While they are still frozen, place them under warm, running tap water. The peels push right off!
Turn tomato skins into tomato paste. It's quick and easy!

* Love those greens. Got green tomatoes? You can use them as is, but if you prefer, you can ripen them indoors

* Easy peasy tomato paste. Keep those tomato peels - and dehydrate them. Then grind them up and store them in an air tight container. When you need tomato paste, just mix equal parts ground skins and water. So much easier than cooking down tomato paste on the stove!

* Get a rocker. For your pressure canner, that is. A rocker guage not only means you don't need to have your pressure gauge checked every year (and yes, for safety, you really must do that if you don't have a rocker gauge), but I find it's easier to keep the pressure regulated on my canner if I use a rocker.

* Easier dried herbs. When dehydrating herbs with small leaves, keep them on the stem. Once the herb is thoroughly dehyrated, just run your fingers down the stem (starting at the cut end); the leaves come right off and into a jar you've placed beneath your hand.

* Use fruit peels. Most fruits should be peeled before canning. (That's because the peel can harbor more bad stuff that may lead to food poisoning.) But that doesn't mean you have to compost them. Instead, make fruit peel syrup or jelly.

* Don't peel it. When making applesauce, don't peel the apples! It's not necessary at all, and applesauce made with the peels has more nutrition. Plus it's quicker and way easier!

* Note it! Keep a canning diary that lists what you can, what it cost, and how much you put up. It makes
planning for upcoming years much easier.

* Why have two when you can have one? You really don't need two different canners. That's because you can use your pressure canner as a water bath canner! That is, as long as the pressure canner is big enough that at least two inches of water goes over the jars.