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Archive for the ‘Food Preservation’ Category
Friday, June 19th, 2015
I remember you telling about a pig that spent the winter free and that it did very well. I wonder what kind of pigs you raise and do you think I could raise them without grain?
Well, Sandie, you remembered my story a bit wrong. There were two weaned pigs and they did escape and spend the summer and fall roaming 160 acres of fields and woods, eating all sorts of wild foods from roots and grasses to acorns in the fall. And they were very nice when we finally found and captured them. But they did not winter out “wild.” In Minnesota, they would never have wintered as food would have been nearly impossible for them to find. You can certainly let pigs roam free in a very large acreage to feed without grain as the old-timers did. But you can’t just fence a pig into an acre or two and expect him to do well with no grain; there’s just not enough food for him to choose and pick from. — Jackie
Canned pinto beans
I canned some pinto beans last fall and was going to use a jar and a few beans had some grayish spots on them. Almost like mold but the seal is perfect. Are they bad?
If your beans were processed correctly and the seal is still good, open a jar. If they smell okay, they will be fine to eat. As always, heat the beans to boiling temperature for 10-15 minutes before using. — Jackie
My son-in-law is in the Air Force, stationed in Japan. My granddaughters really want to grow strawberries, but they live in a high-rise apartment, and they get no direct sunlight, not even on their little balcony. Is there a way we can make their dreams come true? Is there a type of strawberry that will grow well under a grow light? Do you have any ideas on something else they might enjoy growing and eating?
Any vegetables and, of course, strawberries, can certainly be grown under grow lights or even four-foot regular shop lights, held only inches above the plants. (Think of all of those marijuana growers!) They could try easy-to-grow things like multi-colored lettuce, radishes, or even bush beans. There are a lot of possibilities so they should have fun! — Jackie
Monday, June 8th, 2015
My first attempt at drying celery proved disappointing. I used a brand new dehydrator (Presto). The process took twice as long as suggested: the pieces turned brownish and the rehydrated pieces were flavorless and texture resembled wet cardboard. What did I do wrong?
Branchville, South Carolina
I cut my celery into fairly thin slices, across the grain. Be sure to lay them out in a single layer, not touching each other. I don’t fill the whole dehydrator, just four trays as celery is quite “wet.” When the pieces are starting to dry, change the trays around making the top ones the bottom ones as the bottom ones often dry first. Once dehydrated, your celery should be crisp-dry and retain its color quite well. I also include the tops and leaves in the dehydrating as they make great additions to soups and casseroles. — Jackie
Jelly not setting up
Holly and I spent the day yesterday making pin cherry jelly. We just can’t seem to get it to set properly. I used the recommended amount of sugar (¾ cup sugar per cup of juice), lemon juice, and temp of 220 degrees. After overnight it still wasn’t set, I re-boiled it all and tried again and it still won’t gel. It is the consistency of syrup. Any ideas or thoughts?
Chris Shanahan & Holly Langevin
Did you use any pectin? You didn’t mention it and it is sometimes easy to forget. The jelly won’t set without it. I use a bulk powdered pectin, available online but you can run to the store and get some powdered Sure-Jel, which works well. — Jackie
Friday, May 29th, 2015
How do you can meat? I have never tried to do it, but my mom did it when I was very young.
Water Valley, Mississippi
Meat is very easy to can and it’s so useful, once in the pantry. I’d strongly suggest getting a copy of my book, Growing and Canning Your Own Food, for detailed instructions on canning all kinds of meat and meat based recipes.
To can meat, first gently brown it; it doesn’t need to be completely cooked as it will cook during processing. Cut the meat into convenient chunks or slices to fit easily into jars. Use the pan drippings to make a broth, mixing them with water. Pour this boiling broth over the meat, ending up with an inch of headspace (or room) at the top of the jar. Wipe the rim of the jar off to remove any particles or grease. Place a previously simmered, hot new lid on the jar and tighten the ring down firmly tight. In your pressure canner, pour two inches of water. Insert the rack to keep jars off the bottom of the canner. Fill canner with jars and clamp the lid on and turn on the heat. Leave the weight off or the petcock open so air and steam can exhaust. When the steam shoots out in a steady stream for 5 minutes or the time recommended by your canner’s manual, place weight on or shut petcock to build up pressure. Process pints at 10 pounds pressure for 75 minutes and quarts at 10 pounds pressure for 90 minutes in a pressure canner. When the time is up, turn off the heat and let the canner sit until the pressure has returned to zero and remained for about 5 minutes. Remove the lid and, using a jar lifter, lift out each jar and place on a folded towel in a draft-free spot to cool. When cool, check to make sure the centers of the lids are indented, which indicates that they are sealed. Remove the ring and wash the jar in warm, soapy water to remove any grease or minerals on the jar. Dry and store in your pantry. Do not put the rings back on, as they do nothing to ensure the seal and only trap moisture, resulting in rusty lids.
Again, I’d strongly recommend getting Growing and Canning for a whole lot more information. — Jackie
What process is best for canning lard? Some say to pressure can it; some say to heat it and pour into hot jars then add the lid and ring and let the cooling lard create a seal; some say to water bath it. I’m looking for a safe way to store it unrefrigerated.
I’ve always canned my lard by ladling the hot lard into hot jars, wiping the rim to remove any grease then adding a hot lid and screwing down the ring firmly tight.
I don’t feel it necessary to pressure can it (pressure canning can actually blow some liquid lard out under the lids, resulting in a bad seal). Water bathing would do nothing but ensure a seal. Any type of canning is unnecessary. The enemy of lard is air and once sealed, air cannot get to the lard to turn it rancid. The hot lard, hot jar method has worked for me for more than 50 years. — Jackie
Wednesday, May 27th, 2015
Shelf life of canned foods
I have recently cleaned and rearranged our pantry and found several store bought cans with the expiration date of 2013 and 2014, are they still good and how long can I keep store bought cans?
Like your home-canned foods, store-bought foods remain good until the can rusts out. I’ve found that the expiration date is a suggestion that makes people throw out “outdated” food. Don’t throw away perfectly good food and go buy more that is “fresh.” Use that food instead! — Jackie
Electronic pressure cooker
You are so on top of things that I have a question for you. You may have already addressed this question and if so, I apologize for asking it again. Have you used the new electronic pressure cooker? It’s called “The original Power Pressure Cooker XL.” Its website is: http://www.powerpressurecooker.com/. They advertise that it can be used for pressure canning. Since it is electric and electronic, I am a little bit skeptical.
A lot of pressure cookers are advertised as being able to be used as a canner, but I don’t think it’s a good idea. Get a canner for canning. I’ve gotten in the habit of either fixing quick meals from my “meals in a jar” in the pantry, which are already cooked and canned or else doing things the old-fashioned way using the oven or stove top. — Jackie
Wednesday, May 6th, 2015
Jar sizes in canner
I have a question concerning jars. Today I was putting up potatoes in qt. wide mouth jars. Ran short by one jar and used a regular size mouth jar in with the rest. Was this ok? Also had a pint & half size wide mouth one in there too. I processed as though all were wide mouth quarts. Was this ok?
You can certainly mix wide-mouth and regular-mouth quarts. And you can also add pints, pint and a half, or even-half pints in with your batch, if you want. I often stack quarts on the bottom and add pints or half-pints above the second rack. You must still process for the time required for the quarts which slightly overcooks the smaller jars. But I’ve never found that a problem and it sure lets me get a whole lot more done faster! — Jackie
I have an asparagus bed that is 4 years old. Last year was the first year that I harvested from it and I did that very sparingly. My question is now that it is growing well, should I be harvesting all of the spears that come up and how long should I do this? There are a few that are very spindly while most of them are pretty thick.
It’s normal for all asparagus to put out some thin spears. You can harvest spears this year without worrying. Harvest all of those over a pencil size. Leave the thin ones. As time goes on, you’ll see that you get fewer and fewer big spears — usually after about a month’s time. This signals the time to stop harvesting and let the ferns go on and grow all summer. At this point the plant is building up roots for next year. In the fall, you can add rotted manure along your rows, right up to the plants. This will protect the plants over winter and give them a good start next spring. Enjoy one of Spring’s best treats! I can hardly wait for ours to pop up. Only a day or two longer! — Jackie
Thursday, April 30th, 2015
Canning Chicken a la King
I made your Chicken a la King recipe yesterday and canned about 12 pints. I have a question though. The broth was about the consistency of milk prior to canning and after canning all the flour seemed to sink to the bottom. The flavor was good before canning. I used hard white wheat for the flour as who knows how many years my white flour has been around just in my pantry. Also, a couple of jars bubbled inside after they were cooled and washed. Do I need to watch those more closely? I may not have gotten it hot enough after adding the peppers prior to canning. I am starting tomatoes from seeds for the first time. Is it normal for the paste varieties to germinate more slowly than others?
Don’t worry about your canned Chicken a la King. When you heat it to use it, just stir it and the flour will again mix with the broth. Also don’t worry about the jars having bubbles. You just had a few air bubbles you missed releasing before canning them. As always, check the seals on the lids before using all jars to make sure they’ve stayed sealed during storage.
It’s not “normal” for paste tomatoes to germinate slower than others but it is normal for some varieties to germinate slower than others, regardless as to whether they’re paste tomatoes or not. Hang in there; they’ll probably pop up soon. — Jackie
Should “store bought” potting products become unavailable or just too darned expensive, could I mix compost, moo poo, and just plain dirt (sandy in Fl.) to fill starter pots? Should this mixture be heat sterilized before use? I can find “recipes” for mixing bags of this and that, but not for using on-hand “dirt.”
Long before “potting soil” and “seed starting soil” became commercially available, Mom and Grandma made their own and they had very green thumbs. Skip the moo poo. You don’t want too much nitrogen either in seed starter or potting soil. You can always fertilize later on if that’s necessary with manure tea. Mix half and half compost and plain garden soil. Then put in large pans like turkey roasters and bake in the oven at 250 degrees or so for half an hour. Warning: this stinks! I used to call it baking worms. Yuck. But it sterilizes the soil so you won’t end up with such problems as damping off, mold, or fungal diseases. Right now, I opt for not “baking worms” but I buy PRO-MIX bagged soils. But if it becomes unavailable or too expensive, you bet I’ll be back to the old way. — Jackie
Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015
What do you think about scrambling eggs with sausage, mushrooms and green and red peppers and canning them. Trying to get away from freezer and when I get my chickens and quit selling almonds then I will have lots of eggs and don’t like them pickled.
Dallas City, Illinois
Sorry, Nancy, but there’s just NO research that’s been done on canning eggs, other than pickling them and that’s minimal! Keep those hens producing. You can add a light during the fall and winter to keep ’em laying even, during darker days. Having a warmer coop also helps — no drafts and plenty of shavings for bedding. — Jackie
Canning cherry pie filling
I purchased several jars of tart cherries a couple years ago. I didn’t want them to spoil and the jars were still sealed and looked like when I purchased them. So I made cherry pie filling and recanned them in a boiling water bath for 30 minutes. After doing it, I wondered if that was the right thing to do?
Personally, I would have left them in the original jars. But if you used an approved recipe for your pie filling, you should be just fine. I say “an approved” recipe as some folks try to thicken their pie filling to can with flour or cornstarch, which aren’t approved anymore. — Jackie
Friday, April 17th, 2015
Canning beans, meat, and soup
I have a question about canning beans. How do you know when the beans are ready for canning and wouldn’t swell in the jar anymore? I canned kidney beans and pork and beans for the 1st time. The beans swelled. Should I soak them overnight? Then when I put them in the jar maybe stop at the shoulder of the jar with the beans then add fluid?
I also like to can meat. What does it mean to lightly brown? Do you not have any pink showing or is there a little pink showing and it will finish cooking while in the canner?
Also when you can soup such as beef vegetable, will it turn to mush while canning for 75 minutes? This is soup we ate a few meals of then want to save the rest. But you time the canner for the food item that has the longest canning time right? Even if it is cooked already?
Wild Rose, Wisconsin
Either rinse and hold beans overnight in a large pot of plenty of water or else add beans and water to large pot, bring to a boil, boil for 2 minutes, then let sit, covered, for two hours. This lets the beans swell to nearly full size. I never pack the beans up to 1 inch headspace but add about 2-3 inches of liquid over them to allow for more swelling during canning.
Lightly browning meat means to brown the outside lightly. There is still pink showing in the center and, yes, the meat fully cooks during the processing.
No, your vegetables don’t turn to mush. Campbell’s soup has veggies and beef, right? And it’s also processed. But if you fully cook the soup before canning, the vegetables do tend to get soft. So what I do is mix up the recipe, heat it to boiling, and then pack the jars without fully cooking the soup/stew. You can certainly can up leftover soup or stew but you could end up with softer veggies. They sure taste great though. And, yes, you do process the food for the length of time required for the food needing the longest processing time — usually meat.
Chili is one of our favorite meals in a jar. Like the soup, though, I soak my beans then add the sauce, meat, and spices, tasting as it heats and adding more spices, as needed. (The beans are still pretty firm so don’t eat them!).
Good luck stocking your pantry shelves with easy-to-fix meals! — Jackie
Planting sprouted potatoes
I have potatoes from my last year’s garden that I want to plant. Over the winter these potatoes have grown long sprouts, up to 12-18 inches long. Should I remove these sprouts before cutting the potato and planting?
While it’s better to have shorter sprouts on your potatoes, you certainly can plant those with long sprouts. Plant the sprouts down as deep as you do the “mother” potato, running lengthwise in the row so you can hill the plants later on. Leave space between the end of one sprout and the start of the next one so your potatoes will be further apart than the “recommended” 12 inches or so. If you remove the long sprouts it takes time and energy for the potato to make new ones which often results in a smaller crop, come fall, unless you have a long growing season. — Jackie
At your recommendation, 3 years ago I planted several Nanking Cherry bushes on our new TN farmstead. This year looks like I am going to have a bumper crop! I want to process them but they look like they could be a little tedious. Could I use my Victorio strainer and if so, what size sieve should I use? I was thinking maybe the one designed for grapes. Also any tips for hand pitting them?
I’ve never used my Victorio for this, so if you do, please let us know how that works. I make jam with them by heating the cherries until soft then cooling and hand-pressing them through a sieve, grating off the meat from the cherries. They do not pit well, either by hand or with a pitter as the cherries are fairly small and the pits fairly large. They are advertised as a pie cherry, but I wouldn’t want to be the pitter! I’m glad your Nankings are doing so well. You’ll love them! — Jackie