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Showing posts sorted by date for query canning meat. Sort by relevance Show all posts

Feb 8, 2019

Weekend Links

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

In which I share my favorite posts from this blog's Facebook page.

"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. "
James 1:17
* We finally got our share of the snow! Oh, it's nothing compared to what some of you are getting, but four inches of snow is a BIG DEAL where I live! My kids love it, of course, but I confess I'm having the best time watching the animals react. Our two male cats keep trying to come inside. (And yes, they have plenty of warm, cozy places to stay that are not our house.) Our female cat, ever the huntress, just sees it as a grand opportunity to find new prey. Our youngest hens have never seen snow before and they keep hopping around the snowy part of the chicken run. The older ladies hardly seem to notice the snow. And the rooster? He'd rather stay in the hen house all day. Most fun is the dog. He loves snow! He goes outside and plays all day and when he gets tired, he sits in the snow to rest. No way, no how is he coming in until we make him!

* Thank you to everyone who picked up a copy of The Ultimate Dandelion Medicine Book! It was #1 in Herbal Medicine and Alternative Medicine and #7 in Health on Amazon and has all 5-star reviews. Now I'm hoping you will all GO LEAVE A REVIEW! Hahaha! But reviews make all the difference in Amazon helping new readers find books! By the way, I also started a Facebook group that's entirely devoted to using dandelions as food and medicine. Join us!

* While the kittens were recovering from their spay and neuter, they lived in my canning kitchen. And since they got into and on everything, it was too unsanitary to use for food preservation. Now they are healed and living outside, so I fired up my canner and freeze dryer. First, I tackled some meat in the freezer. Around Christmastime, I bought ham and turkey for 99 cents a pound - about as cheap as they get around here. I cooked the ham and we ate two meals off it, then I made ham stock and canned it, along with some ham meat. Then my husband smoked the turkey, we ate two meals off it, I canned stock from the bones, and I freeze dried the rest of the meat. When reconstituted, it tastes just like it would fresh out of the smoker!

The turkey before freeze drying...
and the turkey after freeze drying.

I also had about 80 eggs from our hens in the fridge, so I decided to try freeze drying them. I whipped the eggs to combine the yolks and whites and popped them into the machine. Now they are shelf stable for over 20 years and can be used to cook scrambled eggs, or for baking. I love my freeze dryer! (Learn more about it here.)
Eggs going into the freeze dryer...
and eggs coming out of the freeze dryer.
* I recently finished this novel, Between Two Shores, by one of my favorite modern novelists, Jocelyn Green. It's a straight historical (not a romance) and I LOVED it! Totally refreshing and so moving, too. I highly recommend it.

* Recall on peaches, nectarines, and plums. 

* Tyson chicken nugget recall.

* Are measles making a come-back where you live? Do you know the signs and symptoms of measles? 

* This will be controversial, but it's worth reading. Why getting the measles vaccine may help prevent other childhood diseases.

* The beauty of God's creation is highlighted in these microscopic images of seeds.

* Love pickles? Then you probably should try dehydrated pickle chips!

* How to make garden fertilizer with comfrey "tea." 

* 6 fruit crops you can propagate from cuttings.

Oldies But Goodies:

* Foraging for Chickweed

* Why & How to Prune Blueberries for a Better Harvest
* Why I Don't Watch HGTV (and Maybe You Shouldn't Either)

Nov 16, 2018

Weekend Links & Updates

A bear footprint I recently discovered on the homestead. This is just a baby!
In which I share my favorite posts from this blog's Facebook page.

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


I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength."

Phillipians 4:12-13


November is a significant month. Not only do we have Thanksgiving coming up (click here for my Thanksgiving posts), but it's also when we note two other important-to-me events: World Diabetes Day and Prematurity Awareness month.

Did you know my first child was born during my second trimester? She was supposed to be a Thanksgiving baby, but instead was born in early August. You can read all about that journey here, but here's the short version: We don't know why she was premature, but several times we came very close to losing her. (Prematurity is the leading cause of death in infants.) She spent four months in the NICU, and then many more months in physical and feeding therapy. (Yes, many preemies have to be coached to eat!) I hope and pray you never experience being the parent of a preemie, but I also hope and pray you will heartily support those who are. Trouble is, most people can't even fathom what that's like to live through and have NO IDEA what to do to help. So years ago, I wrote this short little piece on helping parents of preemies. I hope you'll read it.

Diabetes is also worthy of your attention. Experts say 8.1 million people have it and don't know it. Unfortunately, I'm convinced I was one of them. To learn some of the less common symptoms of diabetes, please read this post: 11 Ways We Should Have Known I Had Diabetes. I also hope that instead of following the American Diabetes Association's advice on how to treat your pre-diabetes or diabetes, you'll take a hard look at the facts and realize that way of eating only progresses the disease...which, by the way, ends in painful complications that often lead to dismemberment or death. (Diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death among American adults.)  Fortunately, my doctor told me to eat keto, which put my blood sugar back into the normal range. Many thousands of type 2 diabetics have also reversed their blood sugars to normal by eating this way, and type 1s use it to lower their need for insulin injections. For more information, please read Dr. Bernstein's Diabetes Solution (written by a type 1 doctor) and my post How I Reversed My Diabetes.

My diabetic journey has been a little more complicated than some people's...perhaps because I went undiagnosed for many years. Just recently, for example, caffeine began spiking my blood sugar. Though this is a real and true bummer, I also know that no food or drink is worth the horrible consequences of high blood sugar. It is SO DOABLE to treat your diabetes with food!

* On a lighter note, I suddenly realized I haven't introduced you to our new barn kittens: Neko and Holly. They are the sweetest things ever. Best part? Our 100 lb. English shepherd adores them...and they adore him!

   Asparagus recall due to Listeria. 
* Asparagus recall due to Listeria.

* Duncan Hines cake mix recall due to salmonella. 

* Free Thanksgiving Mad Libs printable.

* This is SO good! 9 Hard Truths to Fuel a Godly Marriage.

* Code word prevents child abduction in Arizona. 

* There's an awful lot of hype out there about tumeric. Here is a more rational article about what it might do for your health.

* An easy way to grow salad greens all year long...even without a garden.

* I'm seeing a lot of questions about canning game right now, but it's the same as canning any other meat. Treat deer and de-fatted bear like beef and rabbit like chicken. Here are all the details. 

* A GMO potato creator warns against GMOs.

* I taught my firstborn cursive using the Cursive First curriculum. But while I felt my second child was finally ready to learn cursive this year, we really didn't have the money to spend on curriculum. So I've been using the totally FREE cursive worksheets over at Kidzone. I think they are just as good!

* Sunshine helps kill germs, scientists say.

Oldies But Goodies:

* DIY Pumpkin Puree
* How to Roast Pumpkin and Squash Seeds
* Garden Like a Pilgrim
* What We Can Learn from the Pilgrims
* 20 Ways to Save Money this Christmas

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'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!

Learn more about Harvest Right freeze dryers here. 

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Jul 1, 2017

Weekend Links

Still waiting for the contractor to start re-roofing my canning kitchen!

In which I share my favorite posts from this blog's Facebook page.

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

"Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God,  the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint."

Isaiah 40:28-31

* I just returned from an out of state trip to visit my Dad, and am busy trying to catch up on homesteading, home keeping, and blogging chores. Forgive me if I take a little time to catch up!

* It's official! Duck eggs do NOT raise my blood sugar the way chicken eggs do...and they don't seem to upset my tummy, either. So now my 11 year old daughter is saying: "Does that mean I can get some pet ducks now???"

* Once, you could walk onto our front porch, easily look into the bathroom window, and see a person sitting on the toilet! Bad layout. But this inexpensive window cling easily took care of the problem...and it looks pretty, too! I recommend it.

* No one likes to look like a city slicker when they live in a rural area. But for months, the kids and I have been looking for tadpoles to scoop into fish tanks so we can watch them turn into frogs. A couple of weeks ago, we were excited when we saw some in the greenhouse water tank. I'm glad we didn't put them in tanks in the house, though, because my hubby later informed me they aren't tadpoles...they are mosquito larvae. He thought it was cute that I didn't know this...

* Recall on dog raw hides.

* Recall of almond butter due to possible listeria.

* Respecting Your Husband the Proverbs 31 Way.

* Some interesting insights into what makes teens rebel.

* Lately I've noticed Netflix has some questionable titles readily available to anyone browsing their offerings. Even just the "covers" for the shows are not something I want my kids to see. If you're concerned about this, too, Our Good Life has instructions on how to block Netflix shows so your kids can't find them.* Here's a fun, free summer activity for kids: Playing Bible detectives!

* Did you know I have a free children's chapter book all about time traveling to the days of the dinosaurs in order to learn about creationism? It's action-packed and fun, and perfect for summer reading! 

* More fun ideas for summer fun.

* With wild berries beginning to come on, now is a great time to start foraging! Even city dwellers can forage.

* Tick bites can lead to  meat allergies. It's true!

* These look good! Crispy Green Bean Chips.

* I recently joined a Facebook canning group...and oh my goodness! People get tossed out for mentioning botulism or suggesting a certain canning practice isn't safe. The things these people are doing are shocking. There's a lot of "My granny did it and she didn't die." Um, yeah, that's like saying "I drive home drunk every night and I've never gotten into an accident." There are many reasons Granny didn't die - mainly because she boiled the heck out of her canned food before she ate it. She also stored it in a fridge-like setting (a cellar or something similar). And she took for granted that spring time (as the last of the canned food was consumed) was a time of sickness, not realizing her home canned foods were making her ill. Please. No food you want to home can is worth making someone ill or killing them. Period. Learn more here.

* In my day, I've used a lot of manure. In the garden, that is. But by far my favorite is rabbit manure. I love it because you don't have to wait for it to age before using it, and because it makes plants grow abundantly! Don't have your own rabbits? Sometimes you can find rabbit owners who are willing to give away or sell their bunnies' pellets. Here's more on using rabbit manure in the garden.

Oldies But Goodies:

* Preserving Herbs with Salt
* Tips for Keeping the House Cool in Summer
* An EASY Way to Make Your Own Butter
* Crock Pot Sloppy Joes
* Easy Refrigerator Pickled Beets

Feb 11, 2017

Weekend Links & Updates

In which I share my favorite posts from this blog's Facebook page.

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

"Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you."

Deuteronomy 31:6

It's been very windy. Our large, main living windows often flex in the wind. A little scary! So sometimes I put tape across them...just in case.

* Happily, my blood sugar is now regularly in the 80s and 90s - normal. And I've lost 18 lbs. since going on this super-low carb keto diet right before Christmas. Yay!

* Another pet food recall.

* Have you seen Ball's new spiral canning jars? Pretty! I think they'd be great for gifts.

* Do You Truly Cherish Your Husband?

* Dealing with Sibling Fighting and Rudeness. 

* The Link Between Gut Bacteria and Your Child's Behavior Just Got Stronger.

* How to Adopt for (Almost) Free.

* How to prepare a home inventory, in case of fire or other disaster.

* Want to make your own natural cleaning products? Here's a great resource for getting started.

* Spring is nearly here, and with spring, come nettles - a natural, free superfood. 

* How tending a garden is good for your health. 

* How to prune blueberries for a larger harvest.  

* Have you seen the crazy news story about feeding cattle Skittles? It's true! And they've been doing it for years. Poor qualify feed = poor quality meat. 

* First GMO apple going on sale.

Oldies But Goodies

* How to tell if old seeds are still good.

* How to lead your children to Christ - with a free lesson plan.

* Keeping your marriage spark on Valentine's Day and every day.

* Make your own seasoning mixes to save money and eat more healthy.

Oct 14, 2016

Weekend Links & Updates

This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information. Thank you for supporting this site!
Spider webs are an amazing part of God's creative design!

In which I share my favorite posts from this blog's Facebook page.

"Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge till the storms of destruction pass by."

Psalm 57:1
* We are expecting a hurricane to hit us this Saturday. Hurricane! I had no idea we got them here! Apparently, large ones don't come often, but they do come. They are comparing the one expected this weekend to another that hit in the 1960s and destroyed buildings all over town. We are a little concerned, because we have a lot of windows, but no way to cover them. But the previous owners of our house said it was built above and beyond the hurricane code; let's hope they were truthful.

In preparation, I picked the remaining apples off the tree and harvested any figs that were ripe or close to it (I can't stand to see food go to waste), and tried to remove as many light things (like lawn chairs) from the yard as possible. I do still have potted plants out. We have extra water, plus firewood, food, and paper plates and plastic utensils (so we don't have to boil water to wash dishes if the power goes out).

Last night, was a strong storm with rain and wind. We could see our windows flexing. The puppy, who sleeps in a sheltered area in a large crate outside, barked so much last night, we had to get up in the wee hours and move him to an outbuilding. He's afraid of the wind. (He needs to get over that because we live in a windy area!) Tonight, maybe, we'll bring his crate in. The bunny can come in, too...but not the chickens!

I'm reading there have been tornadoes in nearby areas today - again, rare, but they do happen here sometimes.

Please pray for the safety of everyone in our area. This is not Florida; we aren't used to this type of weather and most people are completely unprepared. We need God's protection.

* Several recalls: Blue Bunny ice cream, Nestle Drumstick ice cream, and Lunchables.

* A report that Similac formula may contain maggots.

* I've written before  about the fact that our ancestors, who sometimes canned veggies in a water bath canner (which is now known as a good way to poison someone) may have gotten away with it because they boiled canned veggies before serving them. But here's a great article that explains some other reasons past generations may have (or may not have!) gotten away with unsafe canning procedures.

* Intestinal diversity protects against asthma. Fermented foods are your friend!

* Fire cider is easy to make, and many people swear by it's ability to keeps colds and flu at bay!

Christmas Countdown

This week, I didn't post any gift ideas, but here are a few I mentioned on Facebook the week previous that didn't make it into last weeks' Weekend Links. See last weeks' suggestions here. See part one of the Christmas Countdown here and click here for part two.

Christmas Countdown Gift #16: Family Games. Yes, kids enjoy games. But when the whole family plays, games take on a whole new, important place! Board and card games are an easy way for families to spend quality time together, building relationships. Here are some of my family's favorites.

Christmas Countdown Gift #17: Food Saver. They really do make food last longer in the freezer - or if it's dehydrated. Truly a must if your recipient preserves food or shops sales to get more affordable meat and produce. We have this exact model and love it!

Mar 22, 2016

What You Need to Know about Home Canning and Botulism

Recently, Rene from Faith, Farm, and Family Table typed to me: "I want so badly to can meat but I am terrified of poisoning my family...I know you just have to follow the process of pressure cooking, but is there any other major things I should know?" Rene's fear of pressure canning in general or canning meat in particular is incredibly widespread...but, like many fears we have, are easily dashed aside when hit with a good dose of facts.

Water Bath vs. Pressure Canning
The difference is important!

First, let's define some important terms, so we're all on the same page.

A water bath canner is a large pot with a loose lid. In fact, you can use any large pot for water bath canning, as long as it has a lid and a rack on the bottom that prevents the jars from touching the bottom of the pan.

A pressure canner is also a large pot, but it must be made for the specific purpose of home canning. It's lid fits tightly and has a pressure relief valve and a gauge that helps canners monitor the pressure inside the pot. It is not the same thing as a pressure cooker. (Although some pressure canners may also be used as pressure cookers, no pressure cooker can safely be used as a pressure canner.)

Okay, now that' out of the way, let's talk about not killing your family through home canning.

The Big Fear: Botulism

Botulism is a bacterium that's everywhere in our environment. It loves lows low-acid, oxygen-free, high-moisture environments and it can't be killed by boiling, freezing, drying, most household cleaners, or even by radiation. It's nasty stuff. As Erica Strauss of Northwest Edible Life has pointed out, just a single pint jar of pure botulism would kill everyone on the planet. No wonder home canners are afraid of it.

Thankfully, botulism poisoning is very rare. In the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) receive about 145 reported cases of botulism poisoning yearly. Only 15% of these cases are associated with food. However, among those cases 38%, are from improperly home canned vegetables.

What Kills Botulism

There are two ways to ensure your home canned food does not kill somebody (or make them ill). The first involves the acidity level of the food, and the second has to do with heating the food.

Botulism hates a high-acid environment. That means if your canned food is high enough in acidity, botulism can't make you sick. Foods that are safe to water bath can must have a high acidity level - 4.6 or higher. Anything below that level of acidity must be pressure canned, or indeed, it might make someone very, very sick.

(As an aside, the most common excuse for water bath canning low acid foods, like vegetables, is "But my grandmother did it and we're all still alive!" That's rather like saying, "But I drive home drunk every night and I haven't gotten into an accident yet!" And, in fact, many people who can this way do get sick off their home canned food. Not all food poisoning is botulism, after all, and most food poisoning is mistakenly thought a "24 hour stomach bug.")

So, to be clear, jams, fruits, and fruit juices are high acid and generally safe to water bath can. (But always check The National Center for Home Food Preservation (NCHFP) to be doubly sure.) Vegetables, meats, and legumes are low-acid and must be pressure canned. An exception is pickled vegetables, which (because of high levels of acidic vinegar) are water bath canned.

So why does pressure canning work with low-acid foods? Because it gets the temperature of the food up to 240 degrees F. (much hotter than in water bath canning), and botulism can't live at that temperature. Even then, however, that temperature must be kept for a certain length of time for the spores to completely die off.

The Easy Way to Prevent Botulism

Hopefully, now you can see why approved recipes - recipes that have been tested in a lab - are vital to safe home canning. Most home canners have no reliable way to test the acidity of the food they are canning, nor do they have a way to know they've cooked food long enough to kill botulism. 

When we hear about home canners giving themselves or others botulism, they've always made egregious choices. For example, in 2013, a Washington man nearly died of botulism after consuming elk meat he'd processed in a pressure cooker (not a pressure canner - first problem) for a far shorter time than he should have (second problem). When the lids started coming off his jars while in his pantry, instead of throwing the meat away, he ate it (fourth problem). Oy! In 1997, an Illinois man came near death after eating home canned pickled eggs. That's right; there is no approved home canning recipe for eggs of any type. And in 2015, someone poisoned everyone at their church picnic (killing one) by serving improperly home canned potatoes. Many news reports hint that the potatoes were canned in a water bath canner, instead of a pressure canner.

Never change a canning recipe in any way, and your home canned foods will be perfectly safe.

As you become more experienced, you will find you can change the spices in recipes like stew, or create your own soup using NCHFP's guidelines. But never change what type of canner you use, or how long the processing time is, or can anything that the NCHFP says shouldn't be canned. (That includes all dairy, eggs, anything with flour, and anything so dense it can't be heated through - like pureed pumpkin or very thick applesauce.)

So how easy is that? Just use approved recipes from a source like Ball or NCHFP. Easy peasy!

Just in Case...

If you simply follow tested recipes, it's highly unlikely you'll ever get food poisoning from your home canned foods. However, there are a few other guidelines you should bear in mind:

* Never store your home canned food with the rings on. Sometimes jar lids unseal. If you leave the ring on the jar, it may reseal; bacteria will enter the jar, and you'll never know the food is contaminated. If you leave the ring off the jar, however, it will not when you discover the open jar in your pantry, you will throw the whole thing away, rather than eat it.

* Don't stack anything (other jars, commercially canned food, etc.) on top of jars. Again, this can make lids open and reseal, just like keeping the rings on does.

* Store your home canned food in place where temperatures don't fluctuate and it is neither hot nor cold. (If you're comfortable, so are your jars of home canned food.)

* Pay attention when you open a jar of home canned food. If the seal isn't tight, don't eat the food in the jar.

* If you find a jar with a bulging lid, it is contaminated; don't eat it.

* If you open a jar and liquid or foam squirts out, the contents aren't safe to eat.

* Smell the food while it's still in the jar. If it smells off in any way, do not eat it.

* If there is any mold in the jar, toss the jar.

* If you do suspect any home canned food is spoiled, place the jar and food in a plastic bag, seal it, and dispose of it in the trash. Wipe up any spills with diluted bleach (1/4 cup bleach to 2 cups of water, according to the CDC).

Knowledge is power, my friends. And home canning isn't difficult. It is perfectly safe to use a pressure canner. Just use a trusted recipe!

Jan 19, 2016

Backyard Homestead Kitchen Know-How: A Book Review

Backyard Homestead Kitchen Know How a Book ReviewWhen I first saw Andrea Chesman's The Backyard Homestead Book of Kitchen Know-How, I was skeptical. Was this really a book I'd find useful? After all, I regularly cook from scratch using backyard fresh ingredients, and I'm well versed in food preservation. Happily, however, Chesman's book completely exceeds my expectations.

The first three-quarters of this book were what I found the most useful. Here, Chesman gives tips on outfitting the homestead kitchen for "field-to-table" cooking; gives basic (though excellent) guidelines on how best to harvest, store, and cook fresh vegetables and vegetables; gives advice on dealing with a dried bean or grain harvests; looks at a few ways to make your own sweeteners (honey, maple syrup, and apple cider syrup); discusses how best to deal with eggs, various homestead birds, and rabbits; explains how to handle fresh milk; and explores the hands on aspects of  other homestead meats (beef, lamb, goat, and pig).

I love the author's advice on explaining to a butcher what cuts of meat you want; this is a process that can be completely overwhelming if you've never done it before. Chesman also offers interesting details on how to make boiled cider and cider syrup - something I'd never even heard of, but which is a viable alternative to syrup and molasses for those with apple trees. She also answered some of my questions about fertilized chicken eggs: Are they edible? Are they gross? And her information on handling a bird carcass in the kitchen, including how to freeze it (she favors the spatchcock method) and what to do with other edible parts (like hearts and livers, not to mention feet), is excellent. I also appreciate the details on how to properly render lard and tallow. And why is it I never thought to render chicken fat? Chesman claims it's a wonderful for cooking.

The author also covers preservation techniques, including dehydration, pickling and fermenting, cold storage (cellar or fridge), freezing (which she seems to favor), and canning. Oddly, Chesman admits she doesn't do much pressure canning; she prefers frozen vegetables and can't imagine what to do with canned meat. In fact, she claims the USDA recommends boiling canned meat before using it - something I've never read in any canning book or reliable canning site (like The National Center for Home Food Preservation). She does, however, put to rest botulism fears. (As long as you follow the basic rules, you are fine.)

There's also a section on what to make with homestead milk. Here, the author focuses on some of the easier items, like butter and creme fraiche, yogurt, ricotta, and mozzarella. Next is a section on charcuterie - or processing meats like bacon at home. I think she offers an excellent beginner's guide here, making homemade corned beef, ham, and sausage seem totally do-able.

The last quarter of the book is all recipes. I find this the least helpful section of the book, since most of the recipes I'm really attracted to (from scratch cream-of-anything soup, sourdough starter, no knead bread, making whipped cream from fresh milk, kimchi, homemade liquid pectin, etc.) are found in other sections of the book. In addition, I found some of the recipe choices odd. For example, the author mentions repeatedly that lard is a fantastic choice for pie crusts - yet there is no recipe for one anywhere in the book. Instead, she chooses to include a butter-based crust recipe.

Yet while there are some things I wish the author had mentioned (growing stevia or sugar beets, for example) or gone into more depth about (what are the best ways to use rendered fats?), the fact is, an author can only cover so much in a single volume. Yes, Chesman is opinionated (in her mind carrots are great for grilling but parsnips aren't), but I don't mind this. Her opinions come from years of experience cooking on the homestead. I may not agree with every little point she makes - but the fact is, they are just little points. Overall, Kitchen Know-How is an excellent reference and one I recommend for every homesteader or field-to-table cook.

Related Posts:
The Backyard Homestead book review
The Backyard Homestead Guide to Raising Farm Animals book review