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

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
Knife
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.
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. 

RECIPES NOTES (OMISSIONS/ADDITIONS):


** 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)
Water

Quart canning jars, lids, and rings
Boiling water bath canner
Ladle
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.***


NOTES:

* 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 considered better.

* 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
juice from 4 oranges
juice from 3 lemons
2 1/4 teaspoons (1 packet) yeast
1/2 cup lukewarm water

Large, non-reactive pot with lid
Mixing spoon
Colander
Small bowl
Funnel (I used a new car oil funnel)
1 gallon glass jug
Balloon
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.

Mar 5, 2014

16 Ways to Use Home Canned Meat

Canning meat is one of the best uses of canning know-how. It allows you to purchase meat when it's at its most affordable, and then easily turn it into something that will last for years without spoiling. Plus, in my opinion, it actually improves the meat! (Because the canning process makes the meat super tender and moist.) Best of all - having canned meat on hand is super convenient and really speeds up meal-making.

But not very many people are used to eating canned meat, so it can seem like a very foreign, weird thing. The number one hurdle is the very idea of canned meat....so if you're unsure you want to can meat, I suggest you go out and purchase a container of high quality chicken meat. Open it and eat it. If you like chicken, you'll love it canned. Now go can your own! (Canned chicken tastes fabulous and is very easy to can, so I suggest that if you've never canned meat before, you start with chicken.)

The second hurdle is: How do you actually use canned meat? Let me count the ways:

Homemade pizza featuring home canned chicken and home canned bacon.
1. On homemade pizza. If you have canned chicken, try using Ranch dressing as the pizza sauce. Add cheese, canned chicken, and maybe some green onions. Canned bacon is also terrific on pizza.

2. In salads. Canned chicken is perfect for any type of salad - fresh green, pasta salad, egg salad, etc.

3. Warmed up in a skillet. Canned ham, pork, or beef is great this way. I usually serve it alongside eggs , toast, or pancakes.

4. As sandwich meat. You can warm it up if you like, or leave it cold. And it's so much healthier than nitrogen-laced deli meats!

5. In scrambled eggs or omelets. Since canned meats just need warming up (not cooking), they are perfect added to eggs as you cook them.

6. As part of a hash or scramble. Canned ham is my favorite choice here.
A scramble featuring home canned pork.

7. In casseroles.

8. In soup.

9. In enchiladas.

10. In stir-frys.

11. In chili. Canned ground beef, beef chunks, or pork chunks are ideal.

12. In pasta dishes.

13. In stew. It really speeds up the cooking, because the meat is already tender and cooked.

14. Meat pies. An easy meat pie is just beef stew put between a bottom and top pie crust, so either beef or pork chunks or ground beef work here.

15. Shepherd's pie. Try canned ground beef, beef chunks, pork chunks, or lamb chunks.

16. In a pot of beans. Canned bacon adds terrific flavor to beans.

17. Any way you'd use frozen, cooked meat. Except canned meat doesn't require thawing!


A Few Tips:

* Whenever possible, use the liquid from the jars - there's a lot of flavor there! So if you're making soup, for example, pour the liquid from the jar into the soup instead of just dumping it down the sink.

* Canned ground beef has a different texture from the ground beef you are used to. It is softer and more moist. So I recommend always heating it by itself in a skillet; the heat will remove some of the meat's moisture, making it more like freshly-browned ground beef.

* When cooking anything that takes more than just a few minutes to make, always add canned meat at the very end of cooking. If you don't, the meat may turn to mush because it's already so tender and well cooked. Really, you just need enough time for the meat to become heated through - perhaps five minutes before the rest of the dish is done.

Nov 5, 2013

Preserving Herbs in Salt - an Update

Last summer, I experimented with preserving basil in salt. This is a very old preservation technique - but one I'd never tried before. Basically, it consists of layering fresh basil (or other herbs) and ordinary salt in a jar, then storing it in the refrigerator. Basil is a particularly good way to determine if this method works, because it quickly becomes black and mushy if frozen or refrigerated.

This morning, I opened up the jar to see how the leaves were doing:

* Some leaves, I'd left only partially covered with salt. These have dried out, just as if I'd dehydrated them.




* The leaves that were completely buried in salt are well preserved. Their color is darker than fresh basil (khaki green as opposed to a brighter green), but they smell just like fresh. The leaves are moist, but not at all slimy.
I'm really pleased with the results!

For more ways to successful preserve basil (and other herbs), click here.

Sep 18, 2013

Canning Spiced Pear Butter

If you've never had fruit butter, you're really missing out. I am not a huge jam or jelly fan...but it's tough for me to turn down fruit butter. Each year, I make large batches of apple butter (using the recipe in the Ball Complete Book of Home Preservation). We eat quite a bit - and I give many jars away as gifts - to recipients who hope they'll get some next year, too. This year, I had extra pears, so I decided to try my hand at pear butter. Oh my, is it good!

(As an aside, pear butter isn't real butter, nor does it have butter in it. It's actually something like thick applesauce - but using pears. It's perfect for toast or muffins, or as a topping for ice cream, or for use in things like my oatmeal crumb bars. So why is it called pear butter? Probably because it's thicker and more spreadable than jam.)

HINT: If you don't want to can this recipe, you may also freeze it.

HINT #2: You may use this recipe to make pearsauce (like applesauce, but with pears). Just don't cook it down as thick as you would for pear butter.

Spiced Pear Butter Recipe

What You'll Need:

12 lbs. firm, ripe pears
4 tablespoons lemon juice
2 cups granulated sugar (if your pears are overripe, use sugar to taste)
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1. If you plan to can this recipe and are not an experienced canner, please review the water bath canning guidelines. Prepare jars, lids, and canner.

2. Peel, core, and coarsely chop the pears. (TIP: For quicker peeling, use a soft skin peeler.) Toss into a large, stainless steel pot.

3. Add the lemon juice, sugar, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves. Stir together and place over medium high heat.

4. Cook the pear mixture, stirring often, until pears are tender. Use an immersion blender to puree the mixture (or carefully transfer the slightly cooled mixture into a traditional blender and puree in batches, returning to the pot).

5. Reduce the heat to low and continue cooking until the pear butter is the desired thickness. It should mound easily on a spoon. WARNING: Stir frequently to prevent scorching and be sure to cook the pear butter on LOW. Whenever people complain they burn fruit butter, it's because they are cooking it too hot and not stirring it enough.

6. When the pear butter has reached the correct consistency, ladle some into a hot jelly jar, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Bubble, add lid and screwband, and place in canner. Repeat until all the jars are filled or all the pear butter is in jars.

7. Process in a hot water bath canner for 10 minutes.*

Makes about 13 8 oz. jars.

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

Sep 2, 2013

Keeping a Canning Diary

I began keeping a canning diary two years ago, and now I find it indispensable. In an inexpensive bound, blank book, I record what I've canned, how much produce (or meat) I used, and how much it cost. I always know exactly how much I canned last year, how many pounds to harvest or buy in order to make the same amount (or more or less, depending upon my family's current needs), and whether or not I'm getting a good deal, if I'm purchasing food to can.

Your canning diary needn't be fancy; mine certainly is not:

Easy! 

Aug 26, 2013

Canning Pickled Green Beans (Dilly Beans)

My husband and kids are huge pickle fans. They also love green beans. So pickled green beans (sometimes called dilled beans or dilly beans) are a natural in our home. There are many, many different recipes for dilly beans, but I like this one best because it's so easy.

For the beans, you can use traditional green beans, wax beans, or even yard long beans (either chopped up or wound around the jar.)

What You'll Need:

2 lbs. green beans
4 garlic cloves (peeled)
4 teaspoons dill seed or 8 sprigs fresh dill heads
4 teaspoons canning salt
2 1/2 cups white distilled vinegar
2 1/2 cups water

Pint jars, lids, and screwbands
Water bath canner
Ladle
Plastic spoon (or other non-metallic utensil with a long handle)
Large pot
Small pot
Paper towels or clean dishcloths

How to Do It:

1. Review the guidelines for water bath canning. Prepare jars and lids. Fill a large bowl or sanitary sink with ice water.

2. Fill a large pot with water and place over medium high heat; bring to a boil.

3. Add the green beans to the pot and begin immediately timing 3 minutes. When 3 minutes have passed, remove the green beans and plunge immediately into ice water.

4. Pour any remaining water out of the large pot; pour in the vinegar and 2 1/2 cups water. Place over medium high heat; do not allow to boil.

5. Once the beans are completely cool, take a single hot jar and to it add:
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 teaspoon dill seed (or 2 sprigs of fresh dill heads)
  • 1 teaspoon canning salt
6. Pack the jar with beans, being sure to leave 1/4 in. headspace. (If needed, trim the ends of the beans to make them fit. If there is room at the top of the jar, add chopped beans.)

7. Pour hot vinegar-water over the beans, maintaining a 1/4 in. headspace. Bubble. Wipe the rims of the jars with a damp cloth. Add a lid and a screwband and place in the canner.

8. Repeat steps 5-7 until all the green beans are used up (or all the jars are filled).

9. Process pint jars for 10 minutes in a water bath canner.**

Makes about 4 pints.

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

** Only pickled green beans may be processed in a water bath canner. If they are not pickled, green beans must, for safety's sake, be processed in a pressure canner.

Aug 16, 2013

The Best Tasting, Easiest Applesauce Ever

A few years ago, I posted instructions for making applesauce - an annual tradition at our house. But last year I discovered an even easier - and yes, more tasty and nutritious - way to make applesauce. I think it warrants it's own post.

Before I begin, I'd like to note that there are many different ways to make applesauce. Some people swear by a food mill, for example. I don't use one for applesauce because:

1) It removes most of the skin, and the skin adds a ton of nutrition and flavor.

2) It involves cooking the apples with their seeds. Apple seeds contain arsenic, and the idea of having that cook into the applesauce just doesn't appeal to me!

The method I now use is just as easy as using a food mill (maybe easier!), but doesn't have problems number one and two, above.

AND you don't need any special equipment. If you like your applesauce lumpy, an ordinary potato masher will do. If you like it nice and smooth, I recommend using an immersion blender; I bought a $25 Oster and have used it successfully for years. In fact, I like it so well, I got rid of my traditional blender. (Immersion blenders are stick like, and you put them directly in the pot you are using; this saves time - and cleanup.)

The Apples

I usually use free apples I find in public areas, the wilderness, or neighbor's yards. It's amazing how many people have old apple trees but don't have the time or desire to pick the apples. And they are usually thrilled if someone wants to come pick them; it saves them from cleaning up a big mess under their tree.

For applesauce, you really can use any type of apple. If they are scabby or wormy, that's fine! (That just proves they are organic!) If they are apples the wind has sent to the ground, that's fine! (In fact, windfall apples are traditionally what applesauce is made from.) If they are crab apples - even the type that taste awful to eat raw - that's fine! (My family's favorite applesauce is made with crab apples. One note, though: If the crab apples are so small you could eat them in one bite, they are a real pain to core. Instead, I'd use other apples for applesauce and can those tiny crab apples whole and spiced. Click here for other things to do with crab apples.)

Also, I do recommend organic apples. Yes, you can remove the peels of non-organic apples, but that's a pain, removes much of the nutrition, and frankly, doesn't remove all the pesticides. Especially since you'll be cooking down and concentrating the apples, you'll want them chemical free.

How to Make the Best Tasting, Easiest Applesauce Ever

You will need:
A cutting board and knife
A large pot
Potato masher (optional, but recommended)
A blender (optional, but recommended; an immersion blender makes the job really easy)
Sugar (optional)
Cinnamon (optional, but recommended)
Bottled lemon juice (optional, unless you plan to can the applesauce)
Boiling water bath canning equipment or freezer bags

1. Set up the cutting board and get out your knife. Have a handy place to put cores and bad sections of the apples; I use my counter top compost bin, but a large bowl works fine, too.

2. Wash a few apples at a time, then, one at a time, cut them in quarters. Slice off the cores on each quarter and cut away any bad spots. Toss the cores and bad spots into the compost bin or bowl. (Note: It's okay to give a little of these to the chickens, but their eggs will start tasting "off" if they eat too many fruit peels. I prefer to compost apple scraps.) For
large apples, it's a good idea to cut the quarters into smaller chunks.
Removing the cores.
(NOTE: One of my friends read this post and asked why I don't use an apple corer/slicer instead of a knife. I find that when using non-commercial apples - that is, apples that don't come from a grocery store - they are too irregular to work with this type of device. Crab apples are also too small for an apple corer/slicer. And if the apples are windfall or from a purely organic tree, you'll need to cut away bad parts, anyway. However, if YOU have consistently regular apples, an apple corer/slicer may be just the thing.)

3. Place the apple pieces into a measuring cup. When you have a total of 9 or 10 cups, toss them all into the large pot.

4. Add 3 cups of water to the pot and place over medium high heat. Bring to a boil and cook until the apples are tender.


5. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons of cinnamon. If you like, add sugar. (If you're using crab apples, you'll definitely want sugar. Use about 2 cups. For non-crab apples, I usually start with 1/2 cup of sugar, then add more to taste, if necessary.)
Cooking down the apples.
6. If you'll be canning the applesauce, add 4 tablespoons of bottled lemon juice. If you won't be canning the sauce, you may still want to add about 1 1/2 teaspoons of bottled or fresh lemon juice.

PLEASE NOTE: Lemon juice is not optional if you are canning applesauce! If you don't add bottled lemon juice, your jars may become a breeding ground for botulism.

7. Stir and keep cooking until the sauce is thickened a little. Remove from the stove and allow to cool slightly. (IMPORTANT NOTE: If you're canning the applesauce, don't let it get too thick; that can mean the applesauce doesn't get heated through during canning, which can lead to an unsafe product. The applesauce should be a bit runny. Add water, if you need to.)

8. If you like lumpy applesauce, carefully use the potato masher on the cooled mixture until you're happy with the consistency. Otherwise, use the immersion blender to make the sauce smooth. (If you use a traditional blender, add the apple mixture in batches.)
Pureeing the applesauce with a stick blender.
9. If the applesauce is the correct consistency, move on to step 10. Otherwise, you can thicken it by cooking it a bit more. (Do not add thickeners, like flour or cornstarch, if you'll be canning the applesauce. Neither is safe in home canned products. In fact, I don't recommend adding thickeners at all; they just aren't necessary. Cook the sauce to thicken it, or add a few more apples.)

10. If you want to freeze the applesauce, allow it to cool before spooning it into freezer bags or jars.

To can the applesauce, working one jar at a time, ladle into prepared jars, leaving 1/2 in. headspace. Bubble and add a lid and ring. Repeat until the jars are full, then process pint or quart jars for 20 minutes in a boiling water bath canner. * (If you aren't an advanced canner, please review the basic canning guidelines here.)

Makes about 5 pints.

NOTE: I usually double this recipe because I make large quantities of applesauce at this time of year, and a double batch fits my canner just about perfectly.
 * NOTE: If you live at a high altitude, read this important information about adjusting canning times.