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Ask Jackie Online
By Jackie Clay

October 5, 2006
Jackie Clay
Jackie Clay answers questions on any aspect of low-tech, self-reliant living.
Click Here to learn how to Ask Jackie a question.

Canning cream soups

Hi Jackie, I can a lot of things. I am wondering how to can broccoli soup without the milk in it to make like a concentrate to add milk. I also like to make cream of mushroom soup out of morels but it does not work out. Could you help with this?

Cindy Cassidy
Big Rapids, Michigan

I have never been happy with recipes for this type of soup concentrate (cream of whatever). Instead, I dry my broccoli, as it tastes much better than if it is canned and either dry or can my mushrooms in water. Then when I want to make a "creamed" soup, I simply mix 2 Tbsp margarine with 2 Tbsp flour in a saucepan, stirring until they are well mixed and melted. Then I add milk enough to make a creamy base and add my rehydrated broccoli, chopped mushrooms, chopped potatoes, onions, or whatever. This only takes a very few minutes. Sometimes I'll also add a tablespoon of chicken or beef soup stock powder for extra flavor, along with any spices I want. This way I can make my own creamed soup in less than 10 minutes, using my own ingredients, but not having it canned in the pantry.

The reason I haven't liked home-canned creamed soup bases is that they tend to clump and separate, making a product that’s hard to work with.

— Jackie

Canning butter

How do you can butter? Thanks.

Joelineg at telus.net

I have never canned butter. I've heard people have canned it by melting it and filling wide-mouthed pint jars with it, then processing it in a water bath canner for 30 minutes. You would have to watch out for grease on the jar rims, as any butter here would result in a failed seal.

— Jackie

Tomato puree & thickening the sauce

I have two questions:

How do you make tomato puree from scratch? We use it to thicken things, but I have not found a way to make it and can it ourselves.

The second question: How do you thicken spaghetti sauce? It seems like we cook for a long time but never get the thickness of the store-brand sauces. Don't get me wrong; I like the homemade sauce but when we tried to cook it for a long time, we end up getting a roasted or burnt taste.

Thanks for the information, and keep up the good work.

Donald Shifflett Jr
Bloomsburg, PA

To make tomato puree, wash, peel, and core your tomatoes. Quarter them, if necessary, and simmer them in a large kettle until they are well cooked. Run them through a food mill or sieve to remove the seeds. I use a Victorio food strainer, which relieves me of peeling, coring, and deseeding the tomatoes. You just run the garden-fresh tomatoes through it, the peels and seeds come out one chute, and the tomato puree comes out the other. Usually, tomato puree is not seasoned.

There are three ways to thicken tomato sauce products (puree, sauce, paste): You can gently cook them down in a heavy kettle, stirring nearly constantly as the product gets thicker. This process can take several hours if you are doing a large batch. Or you can set your kettle of tomato puree in the fridge overnight, then strain off the watery juice. This leaves you with much thicker puree. Or you can even run the fresh puree through a jelly bag. This also separates the juice from the thicker puree.

But, I have discovered a painless way of thickening my sauce. (I cheat wherever I can get away with it. I don't mind work, but will shortcut where it works.) I pour my raw puree in a large roasting pan and put it in my oven on low heat overnight, uncovered. In the morning, this puree requires very little cooking down and, to me, tastes better than when you remove the juice. You might like to give this a try.

To make the thicker paste, simply keep the puree in the roaster all day, stirring and checking it every hour or so; more often as it thickens. You are dehydrating it, actually. When it is fairly thick, put it on the stove to finish cooking it down, stirring constantly. Use a thick kettle, as a thin-bottom kettle will scorch this type of food very easily. Another trick I use is to take a round stove lid off my wood stove when I'm using my gas range in the hot summer months' canning. I put this lid on the gas burner and have had great luck with tomato sauces not sticking in rings on the bottom of my kettles.

— Jackie

Moldy apple butter

I canned some apple butter last year and have found white mold in my remaining jars.

How does this happen, and is it safe to skim the mold and then eat it?

Sherry
Norwood, Georgia

This happened because the apple butter was not hot enough when you put it in the jars. This is why most canning manuals now recommend processing your apple butter for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath. While your apple butter may be safe to eat, I would not advise it because, in addition to the mold that you can see, there could also be some bacteria present that you cannot see.

— Jackie

Canning water level

I am a newbie to canning, but really enjoy cooking, so I gave canning a whirl. I canned 6 quarts tomatoes using the raw-pack method and cooking them 50 minutes because I am in the mountains so needed to add 5 extra minutes to recipe. When I started off the water was at least 1 inch over the jars, but when finished it had dropped to about 1/8 inch below the top of jar rims. Do I need to be concerned about anything if the jars popped and look sealed? I don't want anyone to get food poisoning. Thanks for your help. I enjoyed your web site as it was very helpful.

Donna
DTipp19566 at aol.com

Your family won't get food poisoning from your canned tomatoes. While it IS advisable to keep your water level an inch or two above the tops of the jars, I would feel perfectly happy eating your tomatoes. As you indicated, they are all well sealed. Just check the seals on the jars before you eat them, as you would any home-canned food product. When the centers of the lids are indented and the food looks and smells fine, you can be quite certain that it is. Good eating!

— Jackie

Homemade Manwich sauce

I found your web site by accident. I was looking for canning recipes. I was wondering if you might have a recipe for sloppy joes made with fresh tomatoes to can. This all started the other night when we had Manwich for supper. I thought that surely some one could come up with a recipe for Manwich. I have a lot of tomatoes I got out of my garden and would like to put up something different this year besides juice and just tomatoes. Do you think you could help me out?

Janet Jerry
jmj719 at bellsouth.net

Of course, you can make your own "Manwich" tomato sauce. You might want to experiment with a small batch to see if you can get your recipe right, then keep the same proportions with a larger batch. As a starter, try this:

1 gallon peeled, cored, chopped ripe tomatoes
2 cups chopped celery
2 cups chopped onions
1 1/2 cups chopped sweet bell peppers
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup corn syrup
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbsp paprika
1 Tbsp salt
1/2 cup vinegar

Combine tomatoes and vegetables in a large kettle and cook down for about 30 minutes. Press through a food mill. Cook down until it is reduced to about half in volume. Add remaining ingredients and cook slowly until mixture is the consistency you want (about an hour). Stir more and more frequently as it thickens or it will scorch. Pour hot into hot jars. Process pints 20 minutes in a boiling water bath, quarts 35 minutes (unless you live at an altitude above 1,000 feet and must adjust your time to suit your altitude; consult your canning manual for directions).

You can also can spaghetti sauces, taco sauce, barbecue sauce, etc., to vary your canning from this year's garden. Enjoy!

— Jackie

Make brine in advance?

Can you make a big batch of brine and keep it in fridge, since I won't be getting a lot of cukes all at once.


Nancy Talent, Oregon

I don't think you'll be satisfied making a big batch of brine to keep in your fridge for your small batches of pickles. Better yet, just cut down the amounts in your recipe to fit the amount of cucumbers you have ready at one time. There's no reason you can't put up three pints of pickles at a time, instead of gallons. You'll be surprised at how quickly they all add up. The reason that a big batch of brine doesn't work so well is that it tends to pick up odors and tastes from the fridge, and the vinegar can evaporate slightly, varying the acidity or the water will do the same with a salt brine, making it more salty. Fresh brine is always better. You can, of course, keep a brine overnight to do a batch the next day. Trying to keep it many days just doesn't work well.

— Jackie




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