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

May 8, 2018

Freeze Dried vs. Dehydrated Food (What's the Difference Between Freeze Drying & Dehydrating?)

Freeze Dried Food vs. Dehydrated Food - what's the difference?This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information. Thank you for supporting this site!

At first blush, freeze-dried food and dehydrated food - or using a freeze dryer vs. using a dehydrator to preserve food -  may seem the same. So why would I buy a home freeze dryer when I already have not just one, but two dehydrators on our homestead?

Both methods of food preservation remove moisture from food, which then may be re-hydrated with ordinary water. I've even heard some people say that one method is just as good as the other. But there are several important differences between freeze driers and dehydrators.

How a Food Dehydrator Works

Dehydrating is an ancient practice. During biblical times, people made their food last longer by drying it in the sun. The Romans dried vegetables and fruit in “still houses,” which sped the process through fire. Today, most dehydrated food is made in an electric dehydrator, but the process is essentially the same: hot, dry air hits the food, removing much of its natural liquid, but not fully cooking it.
A home food dehydrator.
* Home dehydration removes about 80% (some sources say only 70%) of the liquid in food.

* Because of the affect of heat, around 60% of the food's nutritional value remains after dehydration. (Learn more about the nutritional value of dehydrated food here.)

How my plums went into the dehydrator...
...and how they came out of the dehydrator.
* Dehydrated food is shriveled and chewy. Once rehydrated (a process that's optional), the food is still quite different from fresh.

* With a few minor exceptions, only fruits and vegetables can be safely dehydrated. Low-fat meats may also be dehydrated, but without added preservatives, must be kept frozen.

* Home dehydrated food lasts a couple of years, under the right cool and dry conditions. Commercially dehydrated food often has preservatives, which can make it last up to 8 years. (In addition, commercial dehydrators remove more moisture from food, making it last longer in storage.)

* Home food dehydrators come at many price points, but the least expensive (yet still quality enough to do the job - click here for tips on choosing a good dehydrator) costs about $75.

How a Freeze Dryer Works

Freeze drying is a relatively modern technique, first reliably used during World War II to preserve medicine and blood plasma. Food is placed in a vacuum chamber, where the temperature is lowered to below freezing. Once the food reaches -40 degrees F., the machine raises the temperature until the ice (formerly liquid in the food) goes from a solid state to a gaseous state. (This is called "sublimation.") Finally, the machine removes the vaporized ice from the vacuum chamber. This process keeps the structure of the food intact. Despite what some internet sources claim, you cannot freeze dry food without a freeze drying machine.
A home freeze dryer.
* Home and commercial freeze drying removes 98 - 99% of the food's moisture.

* Freeze dried food retains about 97% of its nutritional value.

* Properly freeze dried food is not shriveled; it closely resembles fresh food.

* Freeze dried food is crisp. Once rehydrated (a process that's optional, unless we're talking about raw meat), it's very similar to fresh food. (In most cases, you're unlikely to know the food was ever freeze-dried.)
Strawberries fresh out of my home freeze dryer.
* Vegetables, fruit, meat, and some dairy can be freeze-dried. Only very fatty foods (like butter) do not freeze-dry well. Some surprising foods that can be freeze-dried include milk, cheese, and ice cream.

* Freeze dried food lasts 20 - 30 years.

* Only one manufacturer sells freeze dryers made for home use; a small unit costs just under $2,000.




Apr 26, 2018

Low Sugar Blackberry Jam (No Added Pectin, with a Seedless Option)

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

Lately, I've been trying to empty the freezer by freeze drying meats, stock, and veggies. (It's SO easy! I love this method of preservation!) But I had quite a few bags of blackberries in the freezer - wild blackberries we picked by the bucketfuls last summer. I'd set them aside for pies, crisps, and jam-making, simply by throwing them in a Ziplock bag and dumping them in the freezer. I didn't really want to freeze dry clumps of berries, so I decided I'd better use my canning kitchen as a canning kitchen (for the first time!) and whip up some jam.

But do you know how much stinkin' sugar is called for in traditional blackberry jam? Holy smokes! More sugar than berries! That just won't do, around here. I could have ordered some Pomona's Pectin (which allows you to customize the amount of sugar you use, unlike typical store bought pectin), but I wanted to can right away. I also could have used one of a myriad of "no sugar" blackberry jam recipes found online...but they aren't truly sugar free. They use juice or honey...which is still sugar. I also could have cooked the jam on the stove top and made freezer jam, using only enough sugar so my kids liked the jam. But I was trying to empty the freezer.

So I decided to make blackberry jam the old fashioned way. You see, blackberries contain natural, so adding pectin is unnecessary. However, in order to get no-added-pectin blackberry jam to gel, you gotta cook it down more than you would if you used store-bought pectin. This means your berries won't make as much jam...but I'd rather have fewer jars of jam that are low in sugar than more jars of jam and that have crazy amounts of sugar.

No Added Pectin, Low Sugar Blackberry Jam

Another bonus to making jam the old fashioned way is that you can double, triple, or otherwise expand the recipe without fear of the jam not setting!

2 cups crushed blackberries (wild or domestic)
Granulated cane sugar
2 teaspoons bottled lemon juice

1. Pour the blackberries in a heavy-bottomed pan. (Lightweight pans will scortch your jam.) Add sugar, to taste. (I used 1 scant cup of sugar. I recommend starting with less sugar than you think you need; then taste and add more sugar if needed.)

2. Place the pot over medium high heat and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved.

3. Stir in the lemon juice. (Because the lemon juice adds acidity, it makes mold and bacteria less likely to grow in the jam. Use bottled juice, which has a standard acidity, instead of fresh juice, which could be less acidic.)

4. Boil and stir and boil and stir and boil and stir until the jam is thickened. The best way to know when the jam is done is to use a good  thermometor.* When the jam reaches 220 degrees F. (at sea level; click here for temps at higher elevations), it's done. If you don't have a thermometor, all is not lost! Use the "sheet test" or the "freezer test," as described at The National Center for Home Food Preservation website.

5. Ladle jam into hot 4 or 8 oz. jelly jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace, and process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes. (If you live at a high altitude, read this important information about adjusting canning times.)  

FREEZER JAM OPTION: Don't want to break out the canner? Simply allow the jars to completely cool on your countertop, then pop them into the freezer.

TO MAKE THE JAM SEEDLESS: Before step 1, place a mesh strainer (like this) over a large bowl. Spoon the mashed blackberries into the strainer and press them through the mesh with the back of a wooden spoon. The seeds will remain in the strainer, while the berry pulp will plop into the bowl. Proceed with making the jam, beginning with step 1.


* Be sure your thermometor is accurate! My first batch would not come up to temp. Finally, I realized the jam was thicker than it should be...and that my thermometor simply wasn't accurate. Grrr! TO CHECK THE ACCURACY OF YOUR THERMOMETER: Bring some water to a rolling boil and take it's temperature (without allowing the thermometer to touch the bottom or sides of the pan). Wear an oven mitt so you don't burn yourself. Water boils at 212 degrees F. (sea level).

Related Posts:

https://proverbsthirtyonewoman.blogspot.com/2016/08/understanding-pectin.html#.WuDZAH8h0dg


https://proverbsthirtyonewoman.blogspot.com/2014/09/making-peach-jam-without-added-pectin.html#.WuDZsX8h0dh
https://proverbsthirtyonewoman.blogspot.com/2017/05/bumbleberry-mixed-berry-jam-with-no.html#.WuDZEn8h0dg
https://proverbsthirtyonewoman.blogspot.com/2017/09/low-sugar-no-pectin-apple-peel-and-core.html#.WuDZHn8h0dg


Apr 16, 2018

Why I Bought a Harvest Right Freeze Dryer

Why I Bought a Harvest Right Home Freeze Drying Machine
This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information. Thank you for supporting this site! 

Well, I did it. I pushed the button on a home freeze dryer. I can hardly believe it - but I feel great about the decision! Yes, it's a little bit of an investment, but I have some specific reasons for adding the machine to our homestead.

Why a Home Freeze Dryer?

First, let me briefly explain how freeze drying is different from dehydrating. Both processes zap moisture out of food, making it suitable for storage without refrigeration or freezing. But freeze-dried food is a superior process that allows food to last for 20 years or more. It also doesn't shrivel the food or change its texture. (I will explain in detail the differences between dehydrated and freeze dried food in a future post.)

One of the most common reasons consumers are willing to spend a chunk of cash on a home freeze dryer is that they believe the federal government when it says every citizen should keep at least 3 weeks of food in storage, in case of emergencies. Yes, you can do this with store bought canned food, home canned food, home dehydrated food, or store bought freeze-dried food. But home freeze drying has distinct advantages.

* Freeze dried food takes up very little space. The same amount of food that would require a large shelving unit if you used home canning jars, or an entire freezer if the food was frozen, fits in a small box if freeze-dried.

* You don't have to worry about freeze-dried food going past an expiration date. It's good for at least 20 - 25 years - and since most of us rotate the food in our pantry, we can feel assured the food isn't going to go bad on us.

* Freeze dried food is less susceptible to damage during an emergency. In an earthquake, canning jars break. During a power outage, food in a freezer goes bad. Flooding ruins dehydrated food. But freeze-dried food in sealed bags is unlikely to suffer much.

* Freeze drying retains more of the food's nutritional value than any other long-term preservation method - 95% of its nutrients remain intact. Dehydrating and canning can't boast that.
What the medium-size freeze dryer looks like set up on our homestead.

However, store bought freeze dried food is expensive! Cheap 1-serving meal packets are at least $5 each, and more decent-tasting single servings are upwards of $9-10 each.

And, typically, commercially freeze-dried food isn't very healthy. Look in a camping store, at Amazon, in the food storage sections of Walmart or Costco, or at a manufacturer's website...you'll see most freeze-dried food is packed with preservatives and other questionable ingredients, like soy. (Valley Food Storage offers the healthiest freeze dried food I've ever seen...and it's tasty, too! Read my review of their product here.)

My Reasons for Buying a Home Freeze Dryer

I've never been one to buy freeze dried food. I'm too frugal, and I always figured a combination of my home canned and homegrown food served my family well.

However, when I discovered I was diabetic and could reverse my blood sugar to normal by eating a keto diet, I had to question my former rationale. If for some reason I couldn't get food at the grocery store, what would I do? At first I thought: I'll just get sick...and if the situation lasts long enough, I'll die. I was okay with that...Then I considered what a burden this would be on my family. So what could I do to store a little keto food for emergencies?

I could dehydrate a few things. For example, I could home dehydrate jerky, low carb fruits, and low carb veggies. But homemade jerky without preservatives doesn't last long unless it's frozen...and frozen food is only good for maybe a year. And what if the power goes out and we lose all the food stored in the freezer? In addition, home dehydrated fruits and veggies only last a year or two. Plus, I'm personally not a big fan of dehydrated vegetables.

Our first batch came out wonderfully!
I could can some things. Meat is easy to can and lasts for as long as the seal on the jar stays good. I like canned meat, but if it was my main food source, I know I'd quickly tire of the texture and taste. I honestly don't like eating canned veggies. And what about my natural fats - the food that keeps me full and fueled? (On a keto diet, your body burns fat as fuel, instead of carbohydrates.) I'd have to trim all the fat off meat in order to can it safely - and it's not safe to can or dehydrate fatty things like dairy. Plus, they are predicting "the big earthquake" in my area. This could easily destroy all or most of my home canned food. (Click here for tips on protecting canning jars from earthquakes.)

I could buy freeze dried food, even though it's expensive. But trying to find keto-friendly options? Ugh! Pretty much impossible.

And yes, I'd still have my garden (barring a fire or flood or some other devastating problem) and in the future, we hope to have more animals that feed us. But what if it's a bad growing year? Or something destroys the crops? Or animals aren't producing the way we'd hoped? This kind of thing happens more often than most of us want to admit.

For me, the answer was purchasing a home freeze dryer. (Incidentally, only one company sells home-use freeze dryers: Harvest Right.) In it, I can preserve any vegetable, any meat, and many dairy products. In other words, I can create keto-friendly meals and foods in an easy to store package that's less susceptible to disasters. A win!





Other Uses for My Freeze Dryer

Once I made the decision to buy a home freeze dryer (a machine that, incidentally, cost about the same as the midline refrigerator we bought upon moving to our new homestead), I felt pretty excited. I realized that not only can I preserve food for my personal health, but I may end up doing more freeze-drying than other forms of food preservation. Here's why:

Our freeze dried green beans.
1. Freeze drying is a lot less work than canning. I love canning; I really do! But it's a lot of work to prep the food, heat it, put it in jars, monitor the canner, remove it from the canner, and get another batch going. With freeze-drying, you pop prepped food into the machine, check it once or twice, and then remove the food and seal it in a jar or bag. With canning, you have to be present through the entire process...and it can be exhausting. With freeze-drying, you can do other things while the machine is doing the work.

2. With my various health issues, I'm finding I'm way more fatigued than I wish I was. What if the fruit from our orchard is on, and I just don't have the energy to can it? Even without much energy, I can pop some fruit in the freeze dryer. I might even coach my kids to do the work - whereas there's no way they can safely can.

3. I love that freeze-dried food takes up so little storage space! I already mentioned this, but it's a big deal when you live in a small house like ours. I plan to put my home freeze-dried food into mylar bags with oxygen absorbers, then put those bags in plastic storage tubs to prevent the food from being crushed.

Our freeze dried cauliflower.
4. There's the possibility of using the freeze dryer to make money on the homestead. For example, I could freeze dry dog and cat treats and sell them. Or I could start a business drying bridal bouquets. Or I could dry other flowers to sell at craft fairs. I might even freeze dry and sell people food. (Check with your state's cottage food laws to see what is and is not allowed, and whether a licence is necessary.)

5. Freeze drying prevents food waste. It's true we don't often have leftovers around here. (Seriously, my kids need to get jobs to pay for the enormous amounts of food they eat! Ha!) But when I do have leftovers, I can pop them in the freeze dryer and know they won't spoil.

6. Freeze drying will be the bomb for medicinal herbs. Since freeze drying retains almost all the nutrients and properties of fresh food, I think it will be an outstanding choice for perserving the medicinal qualities of herbs.

How the First Batch Turned Out
Our freeze dried peaches.

Once our freeze dryer arrived and we set it up, I threw in a batch as soon as possible, wanting to immediately test the machine for any issues that might arise. On the off chance that the food didn't "turn out," I chose mostly pre-frozen food, which is cheap and already prepped. My first batch contained frozen green beans, frozen cauliflower, fresh strawberry slices, and (for my hubby) frozen peach slices.
Our freeze dried strawberries.

We were delighted with the end results! First, we tried everything without rehydrating it. The green beans and cauliflower were very good. (I think they'd be amazing properly seasoned and eaten without rehydrating - a tasty, healthy, crunchy snack!) And the peaches and (especially) the strawberries got gobbled up the same day.

We also rehydrated a portion of each food. Everything tasted fresh once we allow it to absorb some water. Amazing!

Expect More

I'm excited about the possibilities here, so as I learn the freeze-drying ropes, I intend to keep you up to date on my difficulties and successes. Keep an eye out for more freeze drying posts!


Mar 6, 2018

How to Dehydrate Zoodles & Other Vegetable Noodles

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

In case you haven't noticed, zoodles (a.k.a. zucchini "noodles") and other vegetable "noodles" are all the rage right now. Vegetable noodle makers (called spiralizers) are huge sellers on Amazon and big box stores, and you can even buy pre-cut vegetable noodles in the frozen food section of grocery stores. There's no doubt veggie noodles are easy to make and a healthier option than traditional noodles. But did you know you can preserve them for your pantry? Oh yeah.

First: How to Make Zoodles and Other Vegetable Noodles

Years ago, before I'd even heard of a zoodle, I exchanged traditional lasagna noodles for thinly sliced zucchini. All you need to make these is a sharp knife and a steady hand. (Slice 'em thin!) But for spaghetti-like "noodles," which is what most people mean when they talk about zoodles or veggie noodles, it's really best to use a vegetable spiralizer. There are about a gazillion of them on the market, but here's the one I have, and it works very well.
Making zoodles with a vegetable spiralizer.
Basically, you just stick washed veggies in the spiralizer and crank the machine. Out come spaghetti-like "noodles," leaving just the core of the veggie as waste. (But as homesteaders, we know this won't go to waste! It will go in the compost bin, or we'll give it to the chickens or pigs or dogs.) And ta-da! You have zoodles.

One word of caution, though. Zucchini is, unfortunately, one vegetable that can be GMO. If you wish to avoid that, you have a few options. You can either buy organic zucchini from the grocery store (legally, organic veggies can't be GMO), or you can buy from a trusted local farmer, or you can grow zucchini yourself. I recommend the later, because zucchini is super-easy to grow, and there are varieties that are appropriate even for the smallest garden spots.







In addition to hand cutting or using a vegetable spiralizer, you could use a julienne peeler to create your zoodles. However, peelers often make zoodles that are quite thin - and thin zoodles dehydrate into almost nothing, which means you may end up with mush when you rehydrate them.
Zoodles store well in a food storage container in the fridge.

Once you've made your zoodles, the next step is to either eat them fresh (read tips for cooking zoodles here) or store them. They store surprisingly well in a covered food container in the fridge. I've had them last more than a week this way. But for longer term storage, dehydration is your friend.

Dehydrating Zoodles & Other Vegetable Noodles

The trick to dehydrating zoodles effectively is to put them on your food dehydrator's trays in little "nests." This makes them easy to get on the trays, and easy to store, too. (If you've simply sliced zucchini into lasagna-noodle style strips, just lay them flat on your dehydrator's trays, making sure they don't touch.)
Zoodles dry best when formed into "nests."
I use a wide mouth canning jar ring to make nests.
To help determine how big the nests should be, I use a wide mouth canning jar ring as a sort of template. This ensures the finished product stores easily in a jar - and keeps me from making the nests so big they take forever to dry. I place the ring on the dehydrator tray, add some zoodles, then remove the ring. If you make the nests too tall, they may impede putting additional trays on your dehydrator. Also, be sure the nests don't touch, or they'll end up sticking together.







Set the dehydrator at 135 degrees F. and dry until the zoodles are entirely crisp. To test for doneness, break a zoodle. No moisture should come from the break.
Don't let the "nests" touch, or they will stick together.
To store the dehydrated zoodles, place them in a wide mouth canning jar and secure the lid. Store in a dry, dark location. Dried zoodles last at least a year in storage. If you live in a moist or humid area, I suggest adding a desiccant pack to each jar, to help prevent the zoodles from rehydrating while in storage. (Zucchini is particularly prone to this problem.)
Zoodles shrink considerably when dehydrated.
The zoodles are done when they are crisp.
Store dehydrated zoodles in an airtight jar.
To use the zoodles, you may toss them, dry, into soups, stews, or heated pasta sauce. There's no need to rehydrate with water, under these circumstances. If you want to add zoodles to, say, a stir-fry, you'll need to first soak them in a little water. Another option is to boil dried zoodles for about 3 minutes; some people feel this makes them more like traditional pasta. Or simply cover dried zoodles with boiling water, place a lid over the bowl, and let the zoodles sit for about 15 minutes, or until tender. In the three later cases, be sure to squeeze the rehydrated zoodles before adding them to the pan, or the end result may be quite watery.

Feb 28, 2018

How to Grow and Use Parsley for Food and Medicine

How to Grow and Use Parsley for Medicine and Food
This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information. Thank you for supporting this site! 

Flat leaf parsley (petroselinum crispum) is one of those herbs I used to omit from every recipe that called for it. I didn't figure it made much of a difference, flavor-wise - and most recipes only called for a small amount, yet I had to buy a large bunch at the store. I didn't want to waste food or money. But when we moved here, one of the herbs already growing on our homestead was a large clump of parsley...and I have to admit, it's one of the easiest-growing plants I've ever had. It comes back earlier than any other edible, is care-free, and produces abundantly. I'm not one to let such a blessing pass by, unused. So recently, I've been researching the best ways to use up a lot of parsley.


How to Use Fresh Parsley

First and foremost, I'm learning to use fresh parsley leaves. No longer do I omit parsley from recipes. In fact, I'm learning to add the herb to most of what I cook. Eggs for breakfast? I add a sprinkling of chopped parsley. Tuna or chicken salad for lunch? I stir in chopped parsley. Soup or stew or casserole or any type of meat for dinner? I add chopped parsley. Salad as a side? I include some parsley leaves.

And as I do this, I'm finding that parsley adds a freshness and brightness to each dish that was previously missing.
Remove the leaves from the stems when cooking with parsley. Courtesy of Kelley Boone.






There are also some dishes that feature parsley prominently. These include:

Parsley (English) Pesto
Parsley Butter
Parsley Salt (made the same way I make celery salt)
Chimichurri sauce
Cream of Parsley Soup
Parsley Salad
Tabbouleh 
"Green Goddess" Sauce
Fried Parsley
Gremolata

Parsley pesto. Courtesy of Katrin Gilger.

Preserving Parsley

I find the easiest way to preserve parsley is to dehydrate it. I simply remove the leaves from their stems, lay them in a single layer on an electric dehydrator tray (this is the current model of what I use) and dehydrate at 95 degrees F. until crisp. I store the dehydrated leaves whole, in an air tight jar in a dark, cool location. To use, I simply crush the leaves in my hand and sprinkle into whatever I'm cooking. (Crushing herbs before storing them ensures the loss much of their flavor and medicinal properties.)

Some people prefer to freeze parsley. I've done this by simply throwing whole leaves in a freezer bag, and then breaking off however much of the herb I want when I'm cooking. But you can also chop up parsley leaves and place clumps in an ice cube tray to freeze. Once fully frozen, transfer to a freezer bag. You may also mix the leaves with a little olive oil before freezing them in an ice cube tray.

Parsley roots are edible and medicinal.
Eating Parsley Root

The root of the parsley plant looks very much like a parsnip (or a tan carrot). I have yet to try it, but some people say it tastes like a mixture of celery, carrots, and turnips. The root is typically harvested in winter or early spring and is eaten much like other root vegetables. Remember, of course, that if you take the plant's root, you are effectively removing parsley from your garden - so if you want to keep growing the plant for its leaves, be sure to only remove the root in order to thin out a clump of parsley.

Here are some recipes to try:

Parsley Root Soup
Parsley Root Fries
Mashed Potatoes and Parsley Root
Roasted Root Vegetables
Parsley Root Stew





Parsley Medicine
Parsley root, seed, and leaf are medicinal.


Parsley is a pretty powerful little herb. It's packed with antioxidant flavonoids, phenolic compounds, folate, iron, calcium, potassium, and magnesium, as well as vitamins K, C, and A. Traditionally, it's considered a "bitter" herb, good for aiding in digestive issues. Herbalists use it to reduce inflammation, improve or prevent anemia, boost immunity, and treat kidney stones, bladder infections, bloating, gas, gout, acid reflux, constipation, and PMS. Parsley also has antibacterial and antifungal properties.

When used as medicine, parsley leaves are often brewed into a tea, or used as an essential oil. Parsley seeds are also used in traditional medicine, especially for normalizing menstruation and treating menstrual pain. (Never use garden seeds for medicine, as they are usually sprayed with chemicals.) Parsley roots are medicinal, too, and herbalists use them mostly in the form of a tincture.

How to Grow Parsley

Like most herbs, parsley is extremely easy to grow. However, the seeds are a wee bit tricky to germinate: First, soak the seeds overnight in warm water. Direct sow outdoors in the spring or sow indoors 6 - 12 weeks before the last spring frost.

Plant seedlings in containers or directly into the soil. The plant isn't picky about soil, but prefers it rich in nitrogen. Grow in full sun or part shade. If your winters are harsh, mulch the plant well or it will die when temperatures drop.

Harvest stems before the plant flowers in the late summer or fall, or the herb will probably take on a bitter flavor. To keep parsley from growing "leggy" always cut off stems at the base of the plant.







CAUTION: It's possible to be allergic to any plant, and parsley is no exception. Some people experience contact dermitis from touching parsley, while others experience an allergic reaction to eating it. One side effect of having an allergic reaction may be the sensation that parsley is very spicey. Parsley oil should never be used during pregnancy and those experiencing inflammatory kidney ailments should never consume parsley in large doses.


Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, nor should anything on this website (www.ProverbsThirtyOneWoman.blogspot.com) be considered medical advice. The FDA requires me to say that products mentioned, linked to, or displayed on this website are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The information on this web site is designed for general informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for qualified medical advice or care. There are no assurances of the information being fit or suited to your medical needs, and to the maximum extent allow by law disclaim any and all warranties and liabilities related to your use of any of the information obtained from the website. Your use of this website does not constitute a doctor-patient relationship. No information on this website should be considered complete, nor should it be used as a substitute for a visit to, consultation with, or the advice of a physician or other qualified health care provider.

Feb 22, 2018

Creating a Canning Kitchen

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

Since we moved to our mountaintop homestead in the summer of 2016, we've planned to create a canning kitchen - a place set aside just for preserving our homegrown food. The original structure on our homestead, which appears to date from the 1950s or 60s, seemed the logical choice. Until recent years, people had lived in it, so while it doesn't have a toilet (they used the woods instead), it does have electricity and plumbing. It already housed the washer and dryer, the dog-washing tub, and a wonderful old sink. All it really needed was a cook stove...plus, a lot of clean up.

Why I Want a Canning Kitchen

So why, you may ask, do I want a separate area just for canning and preserving? My reasons are many:

1. It prevents the house from getting uncomfortably hot during canning season. (Our house has great passive-solar properties, so we definitely don't need to warm things up in summer!)

2. It prevents my tiny kitchen from becoming more crowded. I simply don't have room to store all my canning tools and supplies inside the house - but there's plenty of room for all that in the canning kitchen.
The original structure on our homestead...which is now a canning kitchen.
3. Did I mention I have a tiny kitchen? I can can in it, but it's definitely tricky.

4. If I have a canning kitchen, my house kitchen need not be a constant mess during canning season.

My hubby worked hard to make this preserving kitchen happen, and I am grateful!


How We Did It
I wish I'd taken a proper "before" photo. This is a shot after the building was already largely cleaned up.

The first step to preparing the canning kitchen was to get a new roof on the building, since the old metal roof was leaking like crazy when we bought the place. Then we had to remove copious amounts of junk left behind by the previous owners. Sadly, most of it went to the dump because it was just too far gone to do anyone good.






Next, there was the question of the stove. For canning, an electric coil stove is best. I'd tried canning on our house's gas stove (fueled by propane) and it took forever to get the water to a boil...plus it ate up a lot of propane, and our tank is small. Last summer, my husband set up a turkey fryer burner on the porch. That was nice in that it kept the house cool, but it was extremely difficult to get the burner low enough in temp that liquid didn't siphon out of the jars while canning. Plus, I still had to warm liquids and cook any foods inside, bring jars inside and fill them, and then walk them outside to put in the canner. A bit of a pain.

The area I chose for my canning stovetop.

My hubby got pretty annoyed at me once or twice because I refused to buy used coil top stoves we saw in thrift stores. I just figured we weren't ready for them yet...and as it turned out, I think we ended up with something better: One of my husband's co-workers had a drop-in stovetop, which he gave us for free. Free is good!

The neat vintage sink already in the building.
Now we needed to figure out where I wanted the stove and how best to make a counter for it. I chose to have the stovetop near the already-existing sink, but with a little workspace in-between. (Eventually, my hubby will probably put a pot filler, like this one, directly over the stovetop, so I don't have to lug a canner full of water around.) And it just so happened there was a really solid old door sitting around among the junk in the building. My husband thought it would make a great counter, and he was right!

Door turned counter.
He built sturdy legs for the door-countertop (using materials we had on hand), and we thought initially we'd buy some laminate to finish the top. But ultimately my husband decided to sand the door down and give it coats of protective linseed oil. The result is totally gorgeous! It will require new applications of linseed every season, but we're okay with that. Cheap and beautiful is good!
The door was originally an ugly 1970s dark brown. But once sanded...

it is lovely!
Look at that gorgeous grain!
I love the original hole for the knob. Upcycling is cool!





Eventually, I hope to have closed cupboards beneath the counter, for storing kitchen towels and such.

Where my hubby's tools sit in this photo is my vintage work table.
But otherwise, it's a job completed! I have an old, broken rake (we found about a gazillion of them on the property) to hold utensils, an old school house chalkboard (nifty, though I'm not sure what I'll do with it), and a vintage 1950s laminate kitchen table to use as a workstation. I also have my dehydrators in the building, as well as my juicer, scales, and similar kitchen tools. And have I mentioned that the view is fantastic? I can't wait for preserving season to come!

A rustic utensil holder.
What a  view!

Jan 25, 2018

Avoiding Food Waste by Understanding Food Expiration Labels

What Food Expiration Dates Really Mean
Americans waste a lot of food. According to Forbes, enough to fill the Rose Bowl every day - a total of 30 - 40% of all our food. Even worse, much of that food is perfectly edible. And one of the biggest reasons we waste food is our great fear of food poisioning.

While it's obviously smart for consumers to use caution when eating food that could make them ill, we can prevent a lot of food waste simply by understanding the types of "expiration labels" found on food products. For example, the following labels tell consumers nothing about a food's safety:

"Sell by" 
"Best if Used By" 
"Best By"  
"Guaranteed Fresh By"

Instead, each of these labels indicates that after the printed date, the product may not be as fresh - still safe to eat, mind you, but not of as high in quality.

Canned foods often have a “Pack” date; this is designed for the manufacturer's use and has nothing to do with either safety or quality.

Only foods withExpires On” or “Expires By” dates are helpful in indicating safety. If something is eaten after the indicated date, it could potentially cause food poisoning. However, if the product is frozen before the expiration date, it may be consumed much later than the date indicated.

General Guidelines

Cook or freeze meat and seafood within 2 days of purchase. 

The USDA says eggs are safe for up to 5 weeks after their expiration date, if kept in their original box in a cool refrigerator. However, there is a simple test to determine whether eggs are safe to eat: Place them in a cup of water and see if they float. (See complete instructions here.)

If kept unopened, butter can last for months. But if you're not going to use it right away, it's a great idea to freeze it.

Milk is usually safe up to one week after the “sell by” date. If milk is reaching its expiration date and you won't be able to use it before it goes bad, freeze it.






If kept unopened, hard cheeses last for at least 4 weeks. Over time, they may taste more sharp. If cheese develops mold, cut off all the affected part and eat the rest. Grated cheese may be stored in the freezer and used for cooking. (Freezing changes the texture of cheese, so you wouldn't want to eat previously frozen cheese in, say, a sandwich.)

If you have vegetables that tend to go bad before you use them, consider whether they freeze well. For example, I used to have trouble with bell peppers and onions going bad. Now, I chop them up the day of grocery shopping (or the day after) and pop them into the freeze. Added bonus: This makes cooking meals faster! Not sure how to freeze veggies? Visit AllRecipes for tips.

Another option for vegetables or fruits that are about to go bad is to dehydrate them. Dehydration is easy and cost effective; learn how here.

Experts say baking powder should be replaced around every 6 months, but I find mine lasts much longer. To test if it needs replacing, mix 1 teaspoon of baking powder with ½ cup of hot water. It should bubble instantly. The same thing goes for baking soda; test it by dropping ¼ teaspoon into 2 teaspoons of vinegar. It should bubble right away.

Commercially canned foods often last up to 5 years, and home canned foods last virtually forever, as long as they remain sealed. The nutrients in the food will very gradually diminish. However, if canned goods are kept at a high or low temperatures, they will spoil rapidly. Keep them at 50 - 70 degrees F. Rust on cans or lids may indicate air can get to the food, which in turn means the food could be spoiled. Commercially canned high acid foods, like tomatoes or citrus, are more likely to spoil than low acid foods like canned pears. Toss any cans or jars that are bulging. Watch the video below for more tips on discerning whether home canned food is still safe to eat.



Still not sure about a food's expiration date? Check out EatByDate.com.


DISCLAIMER: This article is designed to offer friendly advice. I am not a doctor or scientist, nor an expert on foodborne illness. Please use common sense before eating anything and always err on the side of caution. I cannot be held liable if you eat a food mentioned in this article and become ill. Isn't it sad that I have to post a disclaimer?

A version of this post originally appeared in October of 2009.

Dec 28, 2017

Top 5 Most Popular Posts for 2017 - Plus Top Posts of All Time!

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

2017 is nearly at an end, which means it's time for reflection and maybe some new goals. This year has certainly been a life-changing one for me: Reversing my diabetes (and most of my other health complaints) through a keto diet; hubby no longer commuting 92 miles one direction in order to get to work; and my need to do more to help support my family financially. And one of the things I always do around this time of year is access this blog.

So let me ask: What are my readers (you!) needing from me? Please, let me know in the comments below!

Another way I learn what readers want is to look at this blog's most popular posts from the previous year, and for the entire life of the blog. (Did you know I've been writing this blog since 2009?! Holy smokes!)

Most Popular Posts from 2017


# 5. Catnip for Human Medicine 
This popular post was inspired by the catnip patch that came with our homestead - and which our cat (who also came with our homestead) adores. I was surprised to learn catnip is so beneficial for humans, especially for helping us relax. It also repels mosquitos better than DEET. Find out what else catnip is good for by clicking here.

http://proverbsthirtyonewoman.blogspot.com/2017/07/catnip-for-human-medicine.html#.WkVtLnlG0dh

# 4. How to Get Out from Under the Laundry Pile
A lot of you struggle to keep up with your family's laundry, and in this post, I give you my best tips for how I make laundry easy and stress-free. 

http://proverbsthirtyonewoman.blogspot.com/2017/11/how-to-get-out-from-under-laundry-pile.html#.WkVtZHlG0di

#3. Can I Use My Instant Pot Pressure Cooker for Canning?
The Instant Pot electric pressure cooker (buy it here) hit the world by storm in 2017, and my third most popular post definitely reflects that. In it, I dispell myths about using pressure cookers as pressure canners. Be sure to read it before you can!

http://proverbsthirtyonewoman.blogspot.com/2017/06/can-i-use-my-instant-pot-pressure.html#.WkVtnnlG0dh

#2. Cauliflower Chowder Recipe
Combine the Instant Pot and a keto recipe and you get my second most popular post from 2017. This is actually a revised version of a non-keto, non-Instant Pot recipe I posted in 2015. It's been a family favorite, so when I went keto, I was thrilled it was easy to make low carb. It's also easy to make in the Instant Pot (or slow cooker/crock pot, or the stove top). 


http://proverbsthirtyonewoman.blogspot.com/2017/03/cauliflower-chowder-recipe-low-carb.html#.WkVtx3lG0dh

 #1. 50 Low Carb and Keto Thanksgiving Recipes
When I started eating keto in December of 2016, I never dreamed that keto recipes would turn into the most popular posts on my blog! It's really a testament to this healthy diet, which truly works for treating type I and type II diabetes, cancer, Lyme disease, epilepsy, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, metabolic disorder, sleep disorders, pain, infertility (especially PCOS), multiple sclerosis, and other diseases - not to mention for losing weight, especially when the pyramid diet fails. (I've lost 45 lbs., my husband has lost 60 lbs.) Keto works, my friends!

http://proverbsthirtyonewoman.blogspot.com/2017/09/50-low-carb-and-keto-thanksgiving.html#.WkVt9XlG0dh






Most Popular Posts of All Time


#5.  Easy Refrigerator Pickled Beets
Here's a little secret: I hate pickled beets. But my family loves them - and, apparently, so do you! This post from 2014 continues to be among my most read. 

http://proverbsthirtyonewoman.blogspot.com/2014/08/easy-refrigerator-pickled-beets.html#.WkVuJ3lG0dg

#4. The Best Free Apron Patterns on the Net
I'm glad I'm not the only one who loves a good apron - or two, or three, or...Since 2011, this post has pointed ya'll to some pretty awesome, free patterns for my favorite kitchen accessory.

http://proverbsthirtyonewoman.blogspot.com/2011/05/the-best-free-apron-patterns-on-net.html#.WkVuX3lG0dh


#3. 6 Ways to Teach Kids the Books of the Bible
I'm so happy at least one God-centered post is popular on this blog! ;)

http://proverbsthirtyonewoman.blogspot.com/2011/06/6-ways-to-teach-kids-books-of-bible.html#.WkVuiHlG0dh


#2. How to EASILY Clean Ceilings & Walls - Even in a Greasy Kitchen!
It turns out, greasy kitchens are my specialty. I also specialize in finding "lazy girl" ways to clean. This post from 2014 combines both these "talents."

http://proverbsthirtyonewoman.blogspot.com/2014/09/how-to-easily-clean-ceilings-walls-even.html#.WkVurHlG0dh

#1. How to Train Chickens
This has been my most read post since 2012, which cracks me up! I'd have never thunk it. But I guess hubby and I are pretty good at getting our hens to cooperate and do the things we want them to.
http://proverbsthirtyonewoman.blogspot.com/2012/07/how-to-train-chickens-and-get-them-to.html#.WkVu1nlG0dh