Canning and Preserving
Canning and Preserving
Rhonda Jean over at Down to Earth has invited us to another of her “The Biggest Kitchen Table”. I just love this idea. It’s exactly what women do when they have a bit of extra time, stop in to see friends and yes around here it’s usually at the kitchen table.
Here I would say 99% of visiting friends happens right here at the table with coffee and fresh made bread or desserts. If it’s just women the conversation always starts with a catch up on everyone’s family what they have been doing, talk about the animals, then the garden, maybe sewing but conversation ALWAYS turns to caring for our families and canning and preserving is part of that.
I used to can alot but several years ago we decided not to grow a garden and purchase/swap all our produce. While this keeps us in fresh veggies while it’s in season, I never gathered the amounts needed to preserve any of it. This sent me to the grocery store to purchase canned/frozen veggies while on sale and stock them in my pantry.
We also don’t have any fruit trees here, they are on our list of things to do but it just hasn’t happened yet. I was thinking wow we have been here 6 years now and there is still so much to do. Building a homestead from scratch truly does take a life time of work.
This is the year I am growing a garden again and preserve my own veggies. With the prices at the grocery and farmers markets and the quality of food these days from the grocery stores, I would rather grow my own and know the food I am feeding my family is fresh, safe and cost efficient. And I do miss some of the recipes like my own salsa, piccalilli, relish and apple butter. Last summer it was the tomatoes we were afraid to eat, then the lettuce and now peanut butter.
I’m not sure I can tell you any thing new about canning, I do mine the same way everyone else does. But I would like to share some of my recipes with you. I would also say use a recipe and processing directions you know and trust. There are many on the internet and I some times question the processing times on some of the bigger recipe sites. I do however trust a recipe I pull from any number of my favorite blogs.
Bread & Butter Pickles
In a large bowl add:
18 sliced cucumbers, all sliced the same thickness about the width of your knife and 1/2 cup salt, toss well and soal overnight. In morning drain and rinse well.
slice about 3 onions, more if you want
In a large pot add:
5 cups sugar ( for “sugar free” use 1 1/2 cup Splenda)
5 cups white vinegar
1 tsp. tumeric
1 Tbl. mustard seed
1 tsp. celery seed
1/2 tsp. whole cloves
Boil together for 5-10 minutes, then add cukes and sliced onion. Boil 5-6 minutes for crisp pickles. stir frequently.
Put into hot sterile jars leaving 1/2″ head space seal the same way you would jelly. Process in hot wate bath for 10 minutes.
Mock Raspberry Jam
5 cups blended green tomatoes, use a food processor or blender
5 cups sugar
6 oz. box raspberry jello, don’t add the water.
Wash and core tomatoes. Grind in blender or food processor. Drain thoroughly. In a large sauce pot combine tomatoes with sugar. Bring to boil over medium heat and boil rapidly, stirring frequently for 15 minutes. Remove from heat. Add Jell-o and stir until dissolved. Pour into hot sterile glass jars and seal.
This really does taste like the real thing, seeds and all. Or pour into freezer safe containers and freeze leaving a generous 1″ head space.
I sterilize my jars by running them through the dishwasher and holding them there hot until I am ready for them. I take out 8-10 at a time.
The USDA is now advising jams and jellies to be water bath processed. I wasn’t taught this way and have never done so. But use your own best judgement.
I took some time earlier this winter to rewrite and organize the recipes I plan on using this coming season. I put them all into my 3 ring binder. Another great idea my friend did was to laminate her’s so when she used them by the stove she could wipe them off good as new. This idea isn’t for me I don’t like the plastic and I know they will be spilled on the very reason I rewrote them and saved my original in the recipe box.
I would like to talk about jars for a bit. I have noticed here in the US, every time I turn around the USDA has changed their recommendations again, some items that were ok for water bath they are now saying to pressure can. They are sticking to their advise to use new seals and jars and don’t seem to have much good to say about any foreign made jars.
I have been looking at the Wreck jars and think they will work just fine. Home makers have been happily using them for a long time.In fact although a bit pricey I plan on purchasing some for my own use. I also have been looking at the working glass jars, (there is a sale on them at this site right now) they have a rubber seal to use once you open the jar for storage. I can’t seem to figure out how they are using them for canning and long term storage. Seems at some point there was some sort of sealing cover? Does any one know or use them?
I have always used the ball wire bale jars with rubber rings, even though the USFDA says they are not safe to use any longer. I think it’s because the manufactures decided they needed to boost their profits and convinced the USFDA the new screw ring was the way to go of the future. Even thought the new metal lids of Ball & Kerr have Bisphenol A in them. That’s my personal opinion, but what do I know.
Does our USFDA know more than say France compared to their canning practice and advise? I don’t think so, in fact I don’t trust much of what they do have to say these days, this agency was designed to safeguard our food here in the US. Well most of the time when I pick a product off the shelf my mind thinks is this really safe to be eating, is it full of salmonella, or genetically altered ingredients?
I see blogs from outside the US reusing lids with no problem. I personally don’t see any problem with this as long as you check the seal is right and the jar has indeed sealed well before storing it away.
I can tell you from my own experience as a child and even doing my own canning, and helping my neighbors do their canning, We have and do reuse jars and lids. Spaghetti sauce and mayo jars back when they were glass worked very well for me. I have never had a problem and I think in 20+ years I have had a single jar of jam not seal reusing a seal, and this was my own fault, i only quickly checked the rim of the jar for any nicks, and sure enough this one had the smallest of a nick right in the top edge. I would like to say that I only reuse the jar lids twice (that’s 3 times total 1st by the company who manufactured the food in the jar and 2 more times by me.) Then the jars are retired to store food items not canned or other items.. Like dried beans, rice, sewing supplies, what ever.
My thought about retiring the jar is that in today’s manufacturing they are designed for single use, the glass is thinner, the metal caps are thinner and the rubber coating that seals the lids to the jars is also getting thinner all the time.
At some point my fears will out weigh the cost savings on reusing these new jars and, I won’t be able to find them. More and more products are being packaged in plastic now. I will seak out replacements in the way of the old bail top jars. A good source around here is yard sales, craigs list, freecycle and our recycling center. Also there won’t be all that many new jars coming into the house unless my friends save them for me, but they too aren’t buying food from the grocery in jars. They are canning their own, or buying cans.
When I first started water bath canning I didn’t have a fancy canner. I simply used the largest pot I had and placed a round cake rack on the bottom to keep my jars off the bottom of the pot so they wouldn’t bang and break. I bet you could use a kitchen towel and have it work just as well. Make sure the water covers your jars be at least 1″.
Today I do have a nice water bath canner, in fact I have 2 with the racks inside to hold the jars, sitting down cellar just waiting for the seasons to change for their chance to be used.
You really know your life is simple when you look forward to again hearing the familiar sound of bubbling water in the canner. All this thinking and talking about canning sure is a tease and sets in the cabin fever even more. It isn’t even time yet to start the seeds for the garden yet to grow….while others are gearing up for the harvest time I sit her looking out the window at many more months of snow….and think it’s great it reached 36f today and didn’t snow. :)
It’s going to be great seeing all the other new recipes that will be posted and maybe even pick up a few new tips along the way, there will be new folks at the table with great knowledge…