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

Oct 18, 2017

Protecting Canning Jars in an Earthquake

This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information. Thank you for supporting this site! 

I live in an area where the government keeps warning us to expect an earthquake. A really big earthquake. Having lived through the 6.9 Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989 (the one that interrupted the World Series), I take this pretty seriously. And one of my concerns is how to keep my home canned goods safe. After all, if the earthquake is big enough, those jars might contain the only food we could obtain for a while.

Let's face it; canning jars are far from earthquake proof. So what can we do to minimize the risk of loosing them during an earthquake? Here are some ideas I've come up with or seen implemented online.

* Secure shelves or cupboards to wall studs. This should keep them from toppling over during an earthquake.

* Line shelves with no-slip (or "grip") shelf liner to help prevent jars from sliding around during a quake.

* Secure cupboard doors with child locks. This will at least keep jars from flying out of them during an earthquake.

* Place boards across the front of open shelves. Don't just give shelves a lip, or place wood at the bottom of each shelf. In a bigger earthquake, that won't help at all. Instead, place the wood jut below the middle of the jars. (Make it look like this, not this.) Be sure the wood is on the sides of the shelves, too. I've seen some people use bungee cords instead of wood or metal, but unless those cords are really tight and not at all stretchy, they won't help at all.

* Place jars in boxes with foam or bubble wrap dividers. Sort the content so like items are grouped together, clearly label all sides of the boxes, and label the tops of jars, too. If this seems like a pain for everyday use, separate a percentage of your jars into boxes and keep the rest on the shelf.

How do you protect your canning jars from natural disasters?

Oct 11, 2017

How to Make Apple Cider With an Electric Juicer

How to Make Apple Cider with an Electric Juicer
This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information. Thank you for supporting this site! 


Many people saw my photos on Facebook and Instagram and wanted to know more about how I make apple cider (and apple juice) using an electric juicer. It really couldn't be easier! And I highly recommend the method. (But first: Let's clarify the apple juice vs. apple cider. Cider is just like apple juice, except it isn't strained - so bits of pulp remain in the liquid. Traditionally, apple cider is also left unpasteurized.)

Unfortunately, cider presses generally cost hundreds, and building one may take time, ingenuity, and money you don't have. It's possible to make apple juice by cooking the apples on the stove, as described by Ball, but it's pretty time consuming and heats up the house. But if you have an electric juicer? Quick and easy!

Now, juicers aren't always much cheaper than cider presses. I inherited mine from my brother, and it's a really nice piece of equipment. (It would cost about $350 to try to replace it.) But less expensive juicers work just fine, too - and there are plenty of them on the market. I'm sure you could even use a KitchenAid Mixer attachment. Also, juicers are a lot easier to find (used or new) than cider presses. And you're more likely to be able to borrow one.

How to Make Apple Cider with an Electric Juicer

1. Read the juicer manual thoroughly, since they don't all work the same. Mine has a handy dandy container for the apple pulp to go into, plus a pitcher for the juice. (Which is still packed somewhere, so this year, I used my batter bowl.) You basically plug the machine in, insert an apple or two, and turn it on.

My juicer set up.
2. In most cases, you do not need to prep the apples. I find making cider or juice is an excellent use for very small apples that are time consuming to cut up for other methods of preservation. Plus, small apples don't need chopping up in order to go into the juicer. My juicer manual recommends removing the apple's stems, which I do - but I don't fret if a little bit of the stem adheres to the apple. Also, you should never use bruised apples or apples that are beginning to go bad. Doing so will increase the risk of dangerous bacteria in the finished product. If you run across apples that are bruised, just cut the bruises away before juicing the rest of the fruit.

3. Insert one or two apples (depending upon your juicer), and use the presser to slowly press the apple through the juicer. Slower is better because the machine will get more juice from the fruit than if you push the apples through quickly. Repeat until you have as much juice as you desire.

Extracting apple juice.
4. If you're pressing a lot of apples, you may need to empty the pulp holder more than once. You might also want to clean the screen now and then, to make the machine more efficient.






5. When you're done, you will probably see a lot of gunk in the juice. My creates a stiff foam that sits on top of the liquid. I spoon off this foam and dump it into my compost bins. (It does not blend into the juice, even after stirring or shaking.)

When done juicing, there is a lot of stiff foam on top.
6. Cider, by definition, has bits of apple pulp in it. But my machine leaves a lot of pulp in, and my kids (who are the primary drinkers of the liquid) don't love it. So I strain my apple cider through a fine mesh sieve. The end product still has pulp in it - just not so much.

My juicer leaves a lot of pulp in the jars.

How to Make Apple Juice with an Electric Juicer

1. Follow steps 1 - 5.

2. Line a fine sieve with coffee filters or a double layer of cheesecloth. Strain the juice through it.

Straining the pulp away to make apple juice.
2 or 3 coffee filters (or a double layer of cheesecloth), combined with a fine sieve, do the trick.

How to Can Apple Cider or Apple Juice
I follow Ball's directions.

1. Pour the cider or juice into a large pot placed over high heat. Bring the liquid to 190 degrees F., or just a bit hotter. Do not allow the liquid to come to a boil. Keep the liquid at 190 degrees F. or hotter for 5 complete minutes, adjusting the stove temp as necessary. This kills off any bacteria in the liquid.

Pasteurize the juice or cider at 190 degrees F. for 5 minutes.
2. Ladle cider or juice into hot canning jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes. Any size canning jar may be used.

Jarring the cider.
The finished product!
Related Posts:

How to Preserve Apples: Canning, Freezing, Dehydrating, Root Cellaring
 What to do with Crab Apples

Low Sugar, No Pectin Apple Peel and Core Jelly

Picking Unripe Apples for Making Apple Pectin

Apple Skillet Cake Recipe

Apple Spice Bread Recipe 

Apple Butter Oatmeal Crumb Bars Recipe

Canning Apple Pie Jam

Freezing Apple Pie Filling

The Best Tasting, Easiest Applesauce Ever

Making Dried Apple Rings in the Warmer Drawer


Sep 26, 2017

Waste Not, Want Not...Making the Most of Orchard Fruit

Waste Not, Want Not Making the Most of Fruit in the Orchard
The black and white photo caught my eye because it featured two women standing next to a tall pyramid of canned food. Though I spotted the photo on the Internet*, it originally appeared in an early 1900s newspaper, and the caption said the mother and daughter team had canned hundreds of jars of fruit that year. The mother bragged, "We didn't waste a thing."

That photo was pretty awe-inspiring, and made me think about how previous generations prided themselves on their lack of waste, whereas all too often the current generation doesn't even realize how much it is wasting. Especially when it comes to food.

As a general rule, homesteaders are thrifty and resourceful, but amid the hot, seemingly-never-ending work of the harvest season, how often do we let food go to waste? On our homestead, my goal is to avoid food waste as much as possible, and to preserve as much of the harvest as I can for human consumption.

When we moved to our current homestead, there was already a small orchard in place. I quickly learned that while this was a true blessing, it could also be overwhelming. Today, I have a solid system in place to help me preserve the orchard's harvest each year.

Unripe Fruit 

The first batch of fruit homesteaders usually deal with is unripe. Maybe they've taken the time to thin their fruit trees (which typically results in larger single fruits); maybe the trees have naturally thinned themselves by dropping unripe fruit on the ground; or perhaps a storm has knocked young fruit off the trees.

If you're like me, you grew up being told unripe fruit was unfit to eat. My mother promised me tummy aches and digestive complaints if I broke this rule...but as it turns out, a lot of cultures eat unripe fruit. We can, too.

Preserved immature figs.
Unripe Figs: In the Greek and Turkish cultures, unripe figs are commonly eaten in a sugar syrup.

1. Cut off the stems of the figs and make a slit at the bottom of each fruit.

2. Place the fruit in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil. Cover and gently boil for 15 minutes. Remove the figs with a slotted spoon.

3. Wash the pot. Place the figs back in the pot and cover with water. Boil and strain them again. If the figs are soft but still keeping their shape, they are ready. If they aren't yet soft, boil and strain one more time.

4. Place the figs back in the pot and add water and granulated sugar to make a syrup. Traditionally, equal parts water and sugar are used, but you can make a lighter syrup, if you wish. Also add about 2 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice for every 1 1/2 lbs. of uncooked figs. If desired, add some strips of lemon peel, and about 6 whole cloves. Cover and bring to a boil, cooking until the liquid turns into a thin syrup. During this process, if some of the figs start to lose shape, remove them with a slotted spoon and set aside.

5. Cool the syrup and the figs. 6. Thoroughly wash some glass jars and fill them with the prepared figs, leaving about 1 inch headspace. Cover with the syrup. Place lids on the jars, refrigerate, and begin eating after a week's time.
Immature apple pectin.

Unripe Apples: Use immature apples to make your own pectin for jam-making or health. Click here for complete instructions. 

Immature Plums, Peaches, or Nectarines: Unripe plums are regularly eaten throughout Asia and the Middle East. How do they make them edible? By pickling them. In the Mediterranean, baby peaches, no bigger than olives, are also pickled and eaten. But peaches and nectarines don't need to be so small to make great pickles.

Basic Fruit Pickle Brine: Into a medium saucepan, pour 1/2 cup white vinegar, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, 2 teaspoons of kosher or canning salt, and 1 cup of water. Place over high heat and stir until the sugar and salt are completely dissolved and the liquid is clear. Cool completely, stirring once in a while. Place fruit in freshly washed glass jars, cover with brine, and refrigerate. Allow the pickles to sit a week or two before eating.






Other Unripe Fruits: Poaching makes unripe fruit more tender and enhances any sweetness while helping to remove bitterness. Poaching is best used on fruit that is fairly close to ripeness.

1. Cut the fruit in half and, if possible, remove the core or stone.

2. In a saucepan, add enough liquid to cover the fruit. You may use water, beer, wine, or a sugar syrup. If desired, add spices like cloves, cinnamon sticks, or ginger. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, bring the liquid to a simmer, and add the prepared fruit. Simmer until fruit is soft.

3. For particularly green fruit, allow the food to sit in the poaching liquid in the refrigerate overnight. In addition, fruit that is nearly ripe is salvageable by using it in baked goods. For example, chop not-quite-ripe peaches and add them to your favorite muffin or quick bread recipe.

Windfall applesauce.
Windfall Fruit 

When our fruit is ripe (or nearly so), but the wind or over-ripeness has made it fall to the ground, I don't leave it for the birds. (Letting fruit rot around trees encourages pests.) Every day, I look for windfall fruit; that way, very little of it ends up so mushy its only use is the compost pile. Don't be concerned if windfall fruit is bruised or has holes from birds or other critters.

To use windfall fruit, I cut away any bad parts and use the rest for pie, cobbler or crisp, jam, jelly, or (if you have apples or pears) applesauce or pearsauce. Sometimes I also put better quality windfall fruit into a bowl designated for food that should be eaten that same day.


Handling a Bumper Crop

If you have large amounts of ripe fruit, it pays to start preserving it right away. Set aside some for fresh eating, but then get right to work dehydrating, canning, or freezing the rest. Putting some fruit in freezer bags to turn into canned food later is a life saver. For this reason, I try to ensure the freezer has plenty of empty space before the orchard season begins. Most fruits freeze just fine whole; place them on a rimmed baking tray and pop them in the freezer. When they are hard, put them in freezer bags. But when I'm really pressed for time and I know I'm going to make jam with the fruit, I often just throw the fruit in a freezer bag and call it good.

Not sure how to preserve your fruit? The National Center for Home Food Preservation is a gold mine of information on how to can and freeze just about anything. And to learn how to dehydrate your fruit (or other foods), click here.

And, of course, it's always nice to share with friends and family. My husband's co-workers love the bags of apples my hubby brings them! You might even look into sharing your fruit with a local charity that feeds the hungry. Sadly, not all of them allow home grown food, and you'll want to be sure the organization has a good reputation for not letting produce spoil, too.

Waste Not, Want Not
Making fruit scrap syrup.


It used to be that when I cored or peeled any fruit, I just dumped those trimmings in the compost bin. There's nothing terrible about that. And there's nothing awful about feeding those trimmings to livestock, either. (Be careful feeding too much fruit peelings to chickens, however; it will make their eggs taste "off.") But I really try to use those peelings for human food, when I'm able.

One way to do that is to make fruit peel syrup. It's an easy process and makes a thin syrup perfect for pancakes, or even to use with savory dishes. (For example, peach syrup is a nice marinade for pork.) Here is complete information on how to do it.

You can also turn fruit skins, cores, and pits into jelly. Easiest of all is apple peel and core jelly, which requires no pectin and can be made low or no-sugar. See the recipe here. The process is very similar with other fruits, except you'll typically need to use pectin for them. For example, when I recently made pear jelly, I boiled the trimmings just like I do for apples, strained to make juice, but then followed the directions on a box of commercial pectin to make the jelly itself.

Peach Peeling and Pit Jelly

This recipe works for any fruit.

1. Place peach peels and pits in a large pot. Just barely cover with water. Simmer for 30 minutes. Allow the mixture to sit overnight.

2. Strain the mixture; compost the peels or feed them to your animals.

3. In a clean, large pot, mix together the resulting liquid and 1 box of powdered pectin. Bring to a full boil. Add 3 cups of granulated sugar. Stir and return to a full boil until the jelly reaches 221 degrees F.

4. Ladle into hot jelly jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes.

Apple vinegar in the works.
Fruit Scrap Vinegar

I also sometimes make vinegar from fruit scraps. It's very easy and results in some really tasty vinegar. Homemade vinegar should not be used for preserving, because there's no accurate way for you to ensure it has the correct acidity to safely preserve food. But you can use it in salad dressing, as a marinade, or in cooking.

1. Warm 1 quart of filtered, non-chlorinated water. Stir in 1/4 cup of granulated sugar or honey, stirring until completely dissolved.

2. Wash some glass jars and fill them about half full with coarsely chopped fruit scraps (peels, cores, bits of fruit - but not rotten or bruised parts). Pour the sugar water over them, leaving about 1/4 inch headspace. Cover with cheesecloth held in place with a rubber band and allow to sit at room temperature. Stir once a day with a freshly washed spoon.

3. After about a week, the liquid will appear dark. Strain, composting the fruit scraps or feeding them to animals. Pour the liquid into freshly washed jars, cover with cheesecloth, and allow to ferment 2 or 3 more weeks, or until you like the flavor. (When tasting the vinegar, use a freshly washed spoon and don't double dip.)

4. To store, place a plastic lid on the jar and keep in a cool, dark location, like the refrigerator. Is it

Is it Safe to Use Fruit Pits and Seeds?

Most people believe apple seeds and fruit pits contain cyanide (or, depending upon who you're talking to, arsenic). But according to Rodale's Organic Life, the Guardian newspaper, and other sources, there's nothing to worry about when using pits or cores to create food for your loved ones. The truth is, apples, apricots, plums, pears, peaches, and cherries do contain amygdalin, which breaks down into hydrogen cyanide when chewed. (There's no natural arsenic in any fruit.) However, according to Nordic Food Lab and other expert sources, cyanide isn't heat-stable. So when you cook pits and cores to make syrup or jelly, their toxicity disappears. In other words, there's no need to worry about making anyone sick. Furthermore, according to experts, even enthusiastic fruit eaters would have a hard time ingesting enough seeds/pits that their body could not naturally detoxify the fruit's toxicity.


* I have literally spent hours trying to find this photo again so I could share it with you. No luck!

Sep 5, 2017

Low Sugar, No Pectin Apple Peel and Core Jelly Recipe

There are few things I hate more than food waste. So when I realized I could make delicious human food from fruit scraps that, years ago, I would have thrown in the garbage, I was thrilled.

Years ago, I typed about turning fruit peels into yummy syrup, but I recently learned you can also use fruit peels and pits (or cores) to make jelly.

Since I've been making a lot of applesauce lately (see my super easy method here), I've been saving up apple cores in the fridge. Generally speaking, I don't peel our apples, but if you do, you can save up the peels, too. And with those cores and peels, you can make scrumptious jelly.

Even more good news? The recipe doesn't require pectin, so you can use as little sugar as you like!

If you are new to canning, please review basic canning procedure, here.



Low Sugar, No Pectin Apple Peel and Core Jelly

1. Place a bunch of apple peels and cores in a large pot. Cover, just barely, with water. Bring to a boil.
Cooking down the apple cores.
2. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently, until the cores and peels are mushy and the liquid is reduced by about half.

3. Strain through a fine sieve, reserving the liquid. (Use a stainless steel bowl to catch the liquid; ceramic or glass may break when the hot fluid touches them.) Toss the peels and cores to your livestock or throw them in the compost. Measure the liquid.
Straining the jelly.
4. Wash the pot. (You don't want any bits of apple debris in your jelly.) Pour the liquid into the pot.

5. Add granulated sugar. You can use as little or as much as you desire. My original, old-time recipe called for 1/2 cup granulated sugar for every cup of liquid, but I think that's quite a lot. I used about 3 1/2 cups of sugar for every 5 1/2 cups of liquid, and even that might have been more than was needed. So I recommend adding perhaps a half cup of sugar at a time, letting it dissolve, and tasting the mixture until you like the flavor.






6. If desired, you can also season the jelly. I used a little ground cinnamon and ground cloves. You could use cinnamon sticks and whole cloves, too, and just fish them out before jarring the jelly. Or try a little apple pie spice.

7. Add 1 tablespoon of bottled lemon juice for every cup of liquid. This keeps the jelly acidic enough to safely can. (If you want to freeze the jelly, you may omit the lemon juice or use freshly squeezed lemon juice.)

8. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring frequently. When the jelly reaches 221 degrees F., it's done. Remove it from the heat.

9. Ladle into hot jelly jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes. Or, allow the jelly to completely cool, ladle into freezer safe containers, and freeze.
Oh so yummy!
P.S. Worried about the poison in apple seeds? It is true apple seeds contain amygdalin, which breaks down into hydrogen cyanide when chewed. But according to Nordic Food Lab (and many other expert sources), when exposed to even a little bit of heat, cyanide is no longer toxic. In other words, his recipe won't harm anyone!



Aug 21, 2017

How to Dehydrate Just About Any Food - Easily!

dehydrating food, food preservation
This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information. Thank you for supporting this site!

Recently, I've received a few questions about dehydrating food: "How do you dehydrate such-and-such?" and "What dehydrating books do you recommend?" I was all set to send these reply with the easy way to dehydrate just about anything when I realized...I've never written such a post! How can that be?

I've been dehydrating since my children were toddlers and I experimented with using my oven's warming drawer to dehydrate apple slices. It's an invaluable way to preserve food, whether I'm squirreling away orchard fruit for the winter or I'm trying not to waste store bought food that will soon spoil. In fact, dehydrating is just about the easiest method of preservation, with very little hands-on time required and little monetary investment necessary.

And here's the deal: Dehydrating is so simple, there's really no need for a book on how to do it. Once you know the basic rules about dehydrating, there's not even any need to hop online to check how to dehydrate a specific food.

So let this post be your dehydrating "bible," if you will. Dehydrating with an electric dehydrator is really simple. And dehydrating other ways isn't hard, either.

What Foods Can Be Safely Dehydrated?

Fruits, vegetables, herbs, jerky, and seeds can all be safely dehydrated. Some people dehydrate meals (like soups) or non-jerky meats, but this is considered risky. In fact, when it comes to home dehydrating, it's easier to discuss what you shouldn't dry:

Fatty meats and dairy - All these tend to go rancid quickly because of their high fat content. A neat trick some people like to use is to dehydrate small drops of yogurt to use as snacks. This is fine - but those yogurt drops need refrigerating afterward. And yes, you can dehydrate lean meats without making them into jerky, but they aren't considered safe to store at room temperature.

Eggs - Considered by most experts unsafe to dehydrate due to salmonella (which is not killed during the dehydration process). I have dehydrated backyard fresh eggs before, but I can't recommend them from either a safety or a quality standpoint.

Nuts - You can dry these, but because they are fatty, their shelf life still isn't long. It's best to preserve nuts by freezing them.

Fish - You can dehydrate fish but it will only last 1-2 months.
Dehydrating plums.


How Long Does Dehydrated Food Last?

It depends upon the food, how dry you get it, and how well you store it, but generally speaking, home dehydrated foods last about a year.





What Kind of Dehydrator Should I Use?

Everyone raves about Excalibur dehydrators, but man are they expensive. And honestly, I don't think they are any better than my Nesco American Harvest Dehydrator, which is much more affordable (about $65). I purchased additional trays to make it more productive, and it's been going strong for years. (Actually, I love it so much, last year I bought an additional Nesco dehydrator!)

What every worthwhile home food dehydrator needs is:

* An adjustable thermostat, from 85 to 160 degrees F.
* Double wall construction.
* An enclosed heating element and a fan/blower. The heating element should not be at the base of the unit, because foods could drip onto it.
*  UL seal of approval.
* The ability to add trays.
Dehydrating yarrow.

You may also use a solar dehydrator, but these really only work in arid locations, or where you'll have low humidity and high temperatures for several days running. (If you want to try it without any upfront investment, try it the old school way: Lay a clean white sheet in a sunny area and lay the prepared food on top. Turn the food several times to speed the drying process.)

Other options include using a standard oven or using the warming drawer in an oven. Neither are ideal because very low temperatures cannot be achieved, which results in quality loss. Of the two, warming drawers are preferable.

For more on choosing a dehydrator, click here.

What Temperature to Use When Dehydrating

Herbs - 95 degrees F.
Seeds and Nuts - 105 degrees F.
Fruits - 135 degrees F.
Fruit leather - 140 degrees F.
Vegetables - 135 degrees F.
Jerky - 160 degrees F.


Dehydrating rose hips.
How to Dehydrate Just About Any Food

Herbs - For small-leaved herbs, place stems with leaves still on them onto dehydrator trays. For herbs with large leaves, remove the leaves from the stems and place in a single layer on dehydrator trays. Dry until crisp. Leaves dried on the stem are easily removed by running your fingers down the length of the stem, with a bowl beneath to catch the leaves as they fall.

Fruits - Most fruits should be sliced before dehydrating. The thinner the slice, the less time the food will take to dry. If desired, you may prevent discoloring by dipping the fruit in lemon water as you cut it up. (Use about 1 tablespoon of lemon juice to 1 cup of water.) Place juicy fruits, like plums, peaches, and apricots, skin side down on the dehydrator trays. (This will keep them from sticking to the trays - which can make them very difficult to remove.)

Dehydrate until you can tear a piece of fruit and no fluid seeps out. Fruit should still be pliable after being dehydrated. To prevent over-drying, test a thinner or smaller piece of fruit before you think it's dry. Allow it to cool and test for doneness.

A few fruits require an extra step; for example, berries with tough skins (like blueberries and cranberries), as well as grapes, need their skins broken before being dehydrated. An easy way to accomplish this is to freeze them in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Once hard, transfer the fruit to the trays of a food dehydrator. Another method is to plunge the berries into boiling water for about 15-30 seconds, until their skins crack, then plunge into cold water to stop the cooking process. You may also prick berry skins with a needle or similar implement.

Fruits with a rind, like watermelon or cantaloupe, should have their rinds removed before dehydrating.

Fruit Leathers - Fruit leathers are homemade fruit rolls. Puree fruit and, to prevent discoloration, stir in 1 teaspoons of lemon juice for each cup of puree. Pour into a fruit leather dehydrator tray and dehydrate. Leather is done when you can touch the center and see no indentation is left behind. Remove the leather while still warm, roll into a scroll, allow to cool, and wrap in plastic wrap. Freeze, if not using immediately.
Dehydrating zucchini.

Vegetables - Cut, if desired, and dehydrate until you can tear a piece and no liquid seeps out. Veggies should be brittle when dehydrated.

Most vegetables require blanching (drop into boiling water for 2 - 3 minutes, then dunk into ice water to stop the cooking process) to help preserve color, flavor, and nutrients. Many times, I leave off the blanching and just pop the veggie into the dehydrator; it's a matter of personal preference. The following veggies should never be blanched before drying: cucumber, eggplant, garlic, horseradish, mushrooms, onions, peppers, and winter and summer squash (including zucchini).

Jerky - Cut all fat off the meat and season as desired. Lay in a single layer on the dehydrator tray and dry until the meat cracks when you bend it. Homemade jerky should be stored in the refrigerator or freezer.

For information on using a jerky gun, click here. For info on making smoked jerky, click here.

IMPORTANT: Food should not touch on the dehydrator trays, or the pieces may stick together. Always check the food every few hours during the dehydration process. This ensures you don't over-dry anything. (Yes, you can over dry dehydrated food, making it tasteless and too tough.) Remove finished pieces as they are done, consolidating pieces that still need drying time. In addition, be sure to rotate dehydrator trays periodically.






How to Condition Dehydrated Food

Experts suggest "conditioning" your home dehydrated food before storing it long term. I honestly never do this and have never had a problem - but it does allow you to spot food that still has moisture in it.

Dehydrating pineapple.
To condition dehydrated food:

1. Allow the food to cool completely.

2. Place the dried food in a plastic or glass container with a loose-fitting cover.

3. Shake or stir the food every day for one or two weeks, looking for any signs of moisture.

4. If you find moisture, put the food back in the dehydrator, dry and allow to cool.

5. Once you're sure the food is dry, store in a glass jar with an air tight lid, a Ziplock bag with the air pushed out of it, or in a vacuum sealed bag. Store the container in a cool, dark environment. Be sure to label the food, including the date of preservation.
Dehydrating strawberries.


Aug 15, 2017

Blackberry Recipes (Recipes for Canning, Freezing, Drying, Fermenting, and Eating Right Now!)

Recipes for Canning, Freezing, Dehydrating, Fermenting, and Eating Right Now. Including Low Carb, Keto Recipes
We are having a bumper crop of blackberries this year! I've never seen either the thornless, domestic blackberries or the wild, invasive blackberries produce with such abundance. And while I already have enough berries in the freezer for one year, you can bet I'm taking advantage of this crazy good crop to preserve berries for years when the crop is meager. So...what can we do with all these blackberries? Oh, have I got ideas for you!

Freezing Blackberries

Freezing is the easiest preservation method to preserve blackberries for future use. The "right" way to do it is to lay the berries in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet, pop them in the freezer, and when they are good and hard, pour them into freezer safe containers. The way I actually do it, however, is to pour berries into freezer safe containers of the size that contain the amount of berries I want for particular jobs, like making a cobbler or pie. Yes, the berries stick together. But no, it doesn't matter because of the way I am using them.

Canning Blackberries

* Whole Blackberries in Syrup
* Blackberry Lemonade Concentrate
* Backberry Jelly (without added pectin)
* Blackberry Jam (with added pectin)
* Blackberry Jalapeno Pepper Jelly
* Blackberry Jam (with Pomona's Pectin)
* Razzleberry (blackberry and raspberry) Jam
* Lower Sugar Blackberry Jam 
* Blackberry Apple Jam
* Blackberry Rhubarb Lime Jam
* Bumbleberry (blackberry, strawberry, and blueberry) Jam
* Blackberry Pie or Cobbler Filling  (another version here)
* Blackberry Syrup
* Blackberry Applesauce






Fermenting Blackberries

* Blackberry Fermented Soda
* Fermented Whole Blackberries
* Blackberry wine 


Baking with Blackberries

* Blackberry Crumble Muffins
* Blackberry Apple pie
* Iron Skillet Blackberry Pie
* Blackberry Custard Pie 
* Blackberry Trifle
* Blackberry Turnovers
* Blackberry Cobbler
* Blackberry Cheesecake Squares
* Blackberry Oatmeal Cookies 
* Blackberry Cream Cheese Frosting 
* Blackberry Crumb Bars 
* Blackberry Bread 
* Blackberry Pound Cake 
* Blackberry Coffee Cake
* Blackberry Banana Bread
* Blackberry Cheesecake Brownies
* Blackberry Crisp
* Blackberry Oat Bars

Other Blackberry Recipes


* Blackberry Iced Tea
* Blackberry Cream Cheese Spread 
* Blackberry, Basil, and Ricotta Pizza 
* Blackberry Ice Cream (no churn) 
* Blackberry Sorbet
* Blackberry Frozen Yogurt
* Cream Cheese Blackberry Crepes 
* Blackberry Tarragon Salad Dressing 
* Balsamic Blackberry Vinaigrette
* Thai Blackberry Basil Chicken
* Blackberry Glazed Salmon
* Blackberry and Rosemary Pork Tenderloin
* Blackberry BBQ Sauce (another version here)






Low Carb/Keto/Diabetic Blackberry Recipes

* Low Carb Blackberry Cobbler
* Low Carb Blackberry Gelato 
* Low Carb Blackberry Ice Cream (no churn)
* Low Carb Blueberry Cream Cheese Crumble (substitute blackberries) 
* Low Carb Blackberry Coffee Cake 
* Keto Mixed Berry Cake Bars 
* Keto Blackberry Fat Bombs 
* No Sugar Added Blackberry Jam 
* Low Carb Berry Sauce 
* Low Carb/Keto Blackberry Cheesecakes 
* Low Carb Blackberry Custard Pie 

What About Dehydrating Blackberries?

I don't recommend it, because I believe it makes the seeds more pronounced. But if you'd like to try it, here are some directions.

You can also make blackberry leather (fruit roll ups).


A Word About Washing and Bugs

If the Internet is believable, a lot of people wash their berries before preserving or eating them. The trouble with this, though, is the flavor of the berries is greatly diminished after washing. If you're worried about surface bugs, just leave the berries in a container outside for an hour or so. Spiders and such will flee during that time. Hand pick any leaves or other debris off the berries. I don't get very picky about this. A few tiny pieces of leaves aren't going to hurt anyone!


Aug 1, 2017

How Long Do Home Canned Foods Last?

Recently, I've had a slew of questions about how long home canned foods last. Typically, the reader says something like: "I just found these peaches at the back of my pantry. I canned them in 1999. Are they still safe to eat? Or should I throw them away?"

Canning books and websites generally say that canned foods should be consumed within a year. But it's important to remember this is a "best by" date, not an expiration date. That is to say, after a year's time, the food will very gradually begin to lose nutrients and flavor, but it's still quite safe to eat. In fact, I've eaten home canned food that was more than a decade old and it didn't taste any different than food canned the day before I ate it. (A fun bit of trivia: The oldest known canned food that was opened and eaten was a 118 year old can of veal. No one died or go sick. Here's another fun story about very old canned food that was still safe to eat.)

Tips for Making Home Canned Food Last a Long Time

Of course, your canning methods make a huge difference in how safe your home canned food is, and how long it lasts on the shelf. Older methods (for example, putting hot jam into a jar, putting the lid on, then flipping it upside down in order to get the jar to seal) often lead to food that not only isn't as safe to eat, but also doesn't last nearly as long on the shelf. There are plenty of people who will deny this. ("But Grandma always did it this way...") Yet over and over again these same people complain they find spoiled jelly in their cupboard or that they have a "stomach bug" after eating their home canned food. (For the most up-to-date and safe canning methods, visit the National Center for Home Food Preservation website.)

How you store your home canned food also goes a long way toward making it last virtually forever. Keep jars in a relatively cool, dark location. Storing jars where they get hot (for example, near a furnace or in the attic), where they will be exposed to sunlight, or where they will get damp (like a basement), all contribute to a shorter shelf life.





Looking for Signs of Spoilage in Canned Food

Whether your canned food is decades old or just a day old, always inspect jars for signs of spoilage:

* Inspect the lid before opening. If it's bulging up at all, the food has spoiled and should be carefully disposed of. (Canning jar lids should always be concave, if properly sealed.) Another sign that the food has gone bad is if food is leaking from the lid.

* Pay attention as you open the lid. If it comes off with no effort, don't eat the food, because it did not have a strong seal and could be spoiled. Likewise, if the food explodes out of the jar when you open it, it's gone bad.

* Toss out any food that is bubbly, scummy or moldy, or has an unnatural or bad smell.


If canned food displays these signs of spoilage, do not taste the food! Throw it out. Because deadly botulism could be present, experts recommend putting the unopened jar in a plastic bag, sealing it off, and disposing of it in the garbage. If the jar is leaking, do the same, but be sure to clean any surfaces that have touched the jar (like a shelf or countertop) by wearing rubber gloves (botulism can get into your body through the skin) and sanitizing the area with 1 part unscented chlorine bleach to 5 parts water. Let the mixture stand on the surface for 30 minutes before rinsing. Dispose of the gloves and towels or sponge you used by putting them in a plastic bag, taping it closed, and putting it in the trash. Apply the bleach mixture again, let sit 30 minutes, and rinse. Again dispose of all cleaning materials, like gloves.



Related Posts:
http://proverbsthirtyonewoman.blogspot.com/2016/03/what-you-need-to-know-about-home.html#.WXouW1GQwdg

http://proverbsthirtyonewoman.blogspot.com/2016/12/pressure-canners-vs-pressure-cookers.html#.WXou_lGQwdg



http://proverbsthirtyonewoman.blogspot.com/2014/07/10-common-canning-myths-debunked.html#.WXovFVGQwdg


Jun 22, 2017

Can I Use My Instant Pot Pressure Cooker for Canning?

This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information. Thank you for supporting this site!


 Q: Can I use my Instant Pot or other pressure cooker for canning?

A: I see this question so often! The answer is absolutely, positively no. Oh yes, I do know there are pressure cooker manufacturers who claim otherwise, but they are putting your life at risk.

First, let's talk about the Instant Pot, which is a popular electric pressure cooker (I love mine! You can learn more about it here.). The manufacture has this to say about canning in the Instant Pot, emphasis mine:
"Instant Pot can be used for boiling-water canning. However, Instant Pot has not been tested for food safety in pressure canning by USDA. Due to the fact that programs in Instant Pot IP-CSG, IP-LUX and IP-DUO series are regulated by a pressure sensor instead of a thermometer, the elevation of your location may affect the actual cooking temperature. For now, we wouldn’t recommend using Instant Pot for pressure canning purpose. Please note this correction to our early inaccurate information."
They kind of talk around themselves, don't they? But basically they are saying you should not use the Instant Pot for canning because the temperature may not be high enough to kill dangerous bacteria in the food. I would add that with water bath canning the jars must be well under water and cannot touch the bottom of the pan. That means there simply isn't enough space in the Instant Pot for safely canning anything.





What about other types of pressure cookers? Quite simply, they are not designed for canning, and they cannot safely can food and make it shelf stable. The National Center for Home Food Preservation makes it clear that pressure cookers cannot hold enough water to safely bring the contents of canning jars to a temperature that kills harmful and deadly bacteria.

In addition to holding too little water, pressure cookers have less metal, which means the time it takes them to come to pressure is shorter than that of a pressure canner. The time it takes them to cool down is also shorter. That might seem like a good thing, but it actually means the food in the jars is heated for less time - and that means bacteria won't be fully killed during processing. "The food," The NCHFP says, "may end up underprocessed. Underprocessed..foods are unsafe and can result in foodborne illness, including botulism poisoning, if consumed."

My personal recommendations:

I love my Instant Pot (here's the model I have) for making dinner when I need my hands and focus free for other things. I also use it to hard boil eggs, cook dried beans, and so much more.

But I use my Presto pressure canner (here's the model I use and recommend) for pressure canning; I also use it as a water bath canner by simply not locking down the lid. (Learn more about that here.) I have also used it as a pressure cooker, but I don't anymore, for two main reasons: 1. It's really big, and therefore difficult to clean in the sink. This isn't an issue when it comes to canning, because the canner stays clean. But when I cook in it, I usually have to scrub it out. 2. Unlike an electric pressure cooker, like the Instant Pot, I have to monitor the Presto as it cooks food. That means it simply uses up more of my time.

For more information, see:

* What You Need to Know About Home Canning and Botulism
* Pressure Canning vs. Pressure Cookers
* Canning 101: Using a Boiling Water Bath Canner
* Canning 101: Using a Pressure Canner



Jun 12, 2017

Gearing Up for the Canning & Preserving Season

Gearing Up for the Canning and Preserving Season
This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information. Thank you for supporting this site!

 I think I'm almost set for the bustle of canning and preserving season. I can't wait to preserve the food growing on our homestead; the still-green blueberries taunt me, and the tiny baby apples are calling my name! And this year, I purchased a few inexpensive tools to help make preserving easier.
Use it for plums, not apples!

Apple Corer...For Plum Pits

A time saving addition to my canning and preserving tools is this apple corer. I won't be using it for apples; I tried that with a similar model last year, and it broke. Instead, I'll use this tool to quickly pit plums and prunes. Last year, my dad-in-law introduced me to this idea and loaned me a corer from his kitchen. It made pitting those plums so much faster! This winter, I carefully researched the sturdiest model I could find, and came up with this. (By the way, for actually coring and cutting apples, as well as peeling them if desired, I use something similar to this.)

A good cherry pitter is a must.
Sturdy Cherry Pitter

Another good addition to my arsenal is this cherry pitter. I have a plastic one in my utensil drawer, but this stainless steel version will hold up much better to the large amounts of cherries I hope to have on our trees this year.

A decent mandoline makes things much easier.
Mandoline Slicer

Last year, I also purchased a new mandoline. I had a plastic one for years and rarely used it; eventually, I gave it away. But now that I'm a dehydrating fiend, this baby comes in very handy. I like this model because it's affordable, but not flimsy, like so many mode sold today. But I'm prone to cutting myself if I'm using any sharp tool, so an important accessory are these cut resistant gloves.

One Time Use Canning Supplies

Naturally, I'm also gathering one time use canning supplies. I like to do this now, before I'm in the middle of canning, for a couple of reasons. One, canning lids and similar items often go on sale in the spring. Two, having everything I need on hand reduces stress and the need to go into town at the last minute because I have pounds of produce that need immediate canning. I've bought some lids, and also a few seasoning packets. I don't typically use those - homemade seasonings are better. But I do like to have a few on hand for making pickles.




The Heavy Hitters
I've loved my Nesco dehydrator for years.

And of course, I couldn't do any preserving without my heavy hitters on hand - my Nesco American Harvest dehydrators (I now have two, with added trays) and my Presto pressure canner, which I also use as a water bath canner. I still need to pick up an extra sealing ring for the canner; having a new one on hand is a must, because if I'm in the middle of canning and the ring stops working, the last thing I want to do is abandon everything and run to the store. Incidentally, years ago, I bought a rocker gauge for this canner so I wouldn't have to go to the Extension office every year and have the pressure regulator checked. (More on that here.)

My Presto pressure canner is high capacity.
And...The Preserving Kitchen

My other - rather large, ahem! - preserving investment comes in the form of beginning work on my preserving kitchen. Why would I want a separate kitchen just for preserving? Well, for one thing, my kitchen stove runs on a propane tank. I can't imagine how many times I'd have to refill that tank if I canned on it. For another, it's hard to boil water on my stove; I don't know if I could get a canner up to temperature. And finally, in the summer, canning inside makes the house so hot. Since our house has a lot of thermal windows in the combined kitchen and living area, and since the house is well insulated, this is a much bigger problem here than it was when we lived in a leaky 1950s house in the suburbs.

I could definitely just create an outdoor canning set up with propane burners, but...we have the original homestead building sitting near the house and it's already wired and plumbed. Right now, we use it for the washer and dryer - and we use the old tub inside it for washing the dog. But there's also an old farm sink with a drainboard in there...so all we really need is an electric stovetop. We plan to buy one used.
The original, old building on our homestead...and my future canning kitchen.



You can't see it here, but the old metal roof currently leaks like crazy.



A lovely vintage farm sink. It just needs a little cleaning!

And then there's just the tiny task of filling in all the holes and cracks in the un-insulated, wood plank walls. And putting a new roof on. And adjusting the foundation. But, the contractor who's putting on a new metal roof is supposed to come today, so maybe I'll be using the canning kitchen sometime this year. How exciting would that be?!