Thursday, August 11, 2011

T is for Tomatoes, Particularly Canned Diced Tomatoes with Garlic, Oregano and Basil

Since this blog is about food preservation and we are well into tomato season, I thought it would be a good time to look at what kind of tomatoes are good for canning. The answer to that depends on what exactly you are canning. In truth, you can use most any kind of tomato. In some cases, you will just have to work harder and may need more tomatoes, depending on what kind you use.
Canning Tomatoes
A number of brands are grown or sold under the auspicious name of “canning tomatoes.” But what makes a good canning tomato? The answer is different for different people but there are a few traits we can all agree on.
Taste is the key element. As you are going to eating these tomatoes in whatever you are canning for the next year, you better enjoy the flavor. This is subjective and will vary from person to person.
Meaty tomatoes are good for canning everything from whole or diced tomatoes and salsa to making sauces. Tomatoes are filled with a lot of water or juice as well as seeds. The seeds are not usually a problem to eat for most people but they can detract from the appearance of the finished product so most folks remove them. The juice and seeds inside a tomato increase its size and weight but for most preservation recipes are discarded. Meaty tomatoes end up provide more substance for your recipes.
For example, if your tomato sauce recipe calls for 20 lbs. of tomatoes and suggests a finished quantity of 7 pints, you may be disappointed with a juicer tomato. Your end quantity may be only 5 or 6 pints because of the loss of volume due to the seeds and juice. Meaty tomatoes like Rutgers, San Marzano, Roma and other Italian tomatoes are good choices.
High acid tomatoes are recommended by many websites for canning. This is because the acid in certain tomatoes is higher and does a better job of preventing bacteria growth. Many recipes will recommend that you add lemon juice or citric acid to your tomato canning recipes to ensure you are getting enough acid in the mix. Many people skip this step because they don’t want those flavors influencing the finished product. Personally I have done it both ways, with and without adding additional acid. I have not noticed a considerable difference in taste when added and I’ve never had a batch of canned tomato products go bad when I didn’t add it. You will have to make this determination for yourself.
Today’s recipe is for Diced Tomatoes with garlic oregano and basil. This combination has recently turned up at my grocery store and I simply love it. I wanted to make my own and experimented with getting the blend just right. Here is what I came up with:
Diced tomatoes are on the left, salsa on the right. Copyright Theresa Leschmann
Diced Tomatoes with Garlic, Oregano and Basil
12 cups cored peeled tomatoes
4tsp. basil
2 tsp. thyme
2 1/2 tsp. oregano
1 1/2 tsp. rosemary
1 tsp. garlic powder
Bottled lemon juice
Scald tomatoes to remove skins. Cut tomatoes into whatever size you like for diced tomatoes. Mine tend to be between ¼ inch and ½ inch chunks. Remove as much of the juice and seeds as possible. Place the diced tomatoes in a large saucepan, preferably stainless steel and add enough water to cover the tomatoes.  Bring them to a boil over medium heat. Stir gently throughout next five minutes.
Diced tomatoes in the pot. Copyright Theresa Leschmann
In a separate bowl, combine all the spices and set aside.
In hot, sterilized pint-sized jars, add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. Add 4 tsp. of the spice blend to each jar.  
Italian spice blend. Copyright Theresa Leschmann

Spoon hot tomatoes into jar, packing firmly. Fill jar with the hot liquid the tomatoes were boiled in, leaving ½ inch of head space at the top. Use a knife to slide around the inside of the jar to dislodge any air pockets. Cent the lids on top and screw down the rings until just finger tight. Process the jars in a boiling water bath for 40 minutes. Remove the canner lid and let the pot sit for five minutes before removing jars. Cool and label.  

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

S Is for Salsa

Copyright Theresa Leschmann
I didn’t get to do much with my vegetable garden this year. Between the torrential rains that flooded most of southern Illinois this spring and kept many gardeners at bay until almost summer to the unspeakable heat wave that has taken hold for almost the entire month of July, I just didn’t have the time to combat Mother Nature. Fortunately, I am surrounded by some wonderful farm stands and U-Picks.
This week I happened to stop at Poor Boy’s Market, I little vegetable stand that has been doing a steady business for a few years now. Their sign said “We will order canners for you”. That was exactly what I had stopped in to get. The lady working the stand told me canners were hard to get this this year because of the spring flooding. I braced myself for the sticker shock when I asked how much they were. “$10 for 25 lbs.” she replied. I almost fell over. I’ve paid a dollar a pound in years that were supposedly good! I immediately ordered 50 lbs. and set out to get the onions and jalapenos I would need to make salsa.
Not all of the tomatoes will be used in salsa but better than half will be. My family loves salsa. I make several different varieties but they all start out about the same.
15 lbs. tomatoes
3 cups diced onion
3 to 6 seeded and diced jalapenos, depending on how hot you like it.
4 cloves finely chopped garlic
2 12-ounce cans tomato paste to thicken it up a bit
2 cups bottled lemon juice
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons oregano
I omit any salt or sugar for health reasons but you can add it if you like. You can also change the lemon to lime juice and change the oregano to cilantro for a different taste.
My morning was gobbled up by errands but spent the afternoon scalding all 50 pounds of tomatoes and peeling off the skins. Fortunately, my boys helped. Next I cored and cut the tomatoes in half. I squeezed the tomatoes over a large bowl to remove as much of the water and seeds as possible. Then I chopped the tomatoes and set them in a strainer over another bowl to collect more of the tomato juice. The 15 lbs. of tomatoes comes out to about 3 quarts of diced tomatoes after all of this. I finished chopping the rest of the veggies and put the drained tomatoes and other ingredients in a pot to simmer for thirty minutes.
Meanwhile I started the water in the hot water bath canner, ran the jars and lids thru the quick wash in the dishwasher to clean them again and get them hot. When the salsa was ready, I sampled it of course before ladling it into the 7 pint jars. Lids in place, the jars went into the canner and processed for 20 minutes. At this minute, they are rest on a towel on the kitchen counter.
Seven pints won’t be nearly enough but it’s a nice start on the larder. The rest of the tomatoes are in some large Tupperware bowls with tight lids, all peeled and ready to go in the morning. Another batch of salsa or two and then some diced tomatoes with garlic, oregano and basil. Mmmmmm.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

“M” Is for Freezing Mulberries

Mulberries are one of Earth’s little treasures. Not only do they taste wonderful right of the tree but they are actually good for you. They are a good source of antioxidants, nature’s little workhorses that help protect body cells from the damaging effects of oxidation. They also provide anthocyanin, beta-carotene, calcium, carbohydrate, dietary fiber, fatty acids, iron, magnesium, malic Acid, phosphorus, potassium, protein, and resveratrol, Vitamin B, Vitamin C and Vitamin K.
Now that you know they taste good and they are good for you, you probably want to know what to do with them. Well, they can be used in any of your favorite recipes in place of other berries. Just substitute equal part mulberries for whatever your original recipe calls for and you’re in business.
I picked the first batch of mulberries today from the five year old tree in my back yard. It is the first time the tree has produced and I am pleased with the harvest. I got a little less than 1 quart of berries from the first picking and will return again over the coming days and weeks.

This first batch is going into the freezer. I like to have a variety of berries on hand throughout the year for different things. Mulberries can be frozen like any other berries.
A thought about the stems: When mulberries are picked, their tiny green stem comes with them. There is no way around that. Whether to leave them on or remove them is a matter of personal preference. The stems are edible and really have no taste. Removing them by hand often results in most of the berries being mashed. This isn’t a problem if you plan to make jam, jelly or something of that nature. If you want them in a pie or muffins though, you may want to remove the stems. Get a brand new pair of nail clippers and simply clip the stems off. It is time consuming but gets the job done while leaving the berries intact. It is my personal belief that the business of removing stems is one reason mulberries are not sold in the grocery stores. It is probably too expensive to pay someone to remove the stems.
Once you have resolved the stem issue, rinse the berries. Make a solution that is 1 quart tap water and 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar. The vinegar helps remove any impurities, including tiny insects that might be lurking in the berries. Repeat the process several times, rinsing with just water the last time. Let the berries rest in a colander for ten minutes to remove all the excess water.
Spread the mulberries on a baking sheet with a lip. The berries should be in a single layer and not resting on top of one another. Place the pan in the freezer on a level surface for about 10 to 12 hours. The berries will be frozen solid but will not be suck to one another. Putting all the fresh berries in a freezer bag and tossing them in the freezer will work but will result in one giant block of frozen berries. You would not be able to remove just a few at a time. By freezing them on the pan, you can then pour them into labeled freezer bags, seal and store for six months. When you need just 1 cup for a muffin recipe, simply open the bag and scoop out what you need. This method works for most berries.
Muffins, pancakes, coffee cakes, cobblers, crisps and crumbles are all wonderful with mulberries. I like to add them to my smoothie recipe too. That makes a wonderfully refreshing and healthy cold drink on a hot summer day.
If you want to know more about growing your own mulberry trees, see the posts on my Fruit, Nut and Ornamental Trees 101 blog: Growing Mulberry Trees and Mulberries Fruiting Now.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

“U” Is for U-Picks

U-Picks are usually family run farms that allow members of the general public to come in and pick their own fruits and vegetables for a fee. Many offer their wares, already picked by others, at a somewhat higher fee.
The benefits of getting your produce from a u-pick are many. There is the benefit of supporting a local farmer and helping your local economy, always a good thing in my book. Then there’s the benefit of seeing where the product was grown, being able to ask questions about how it was grown and the sheer pleasure of the hunt as you forage through the leaves searching for that perfect berry or apple.
You can pick your fruits and vegetables at the peak of ripeness, directly from the plant and rush home to can, freeze or dehydrate it. How much fresher can you get? Naturally, you should buy enough so that you can enjoy some fresh, too!
Another important benefit of u-picks is that you can get fruits and vegetables that you might not be able to grow on your own. A blueberry farm for example needs very acidic soil, something most plants don’t like. In order to grow enough blueberries, that would all ripen at the same time so that you could preserve enough for your family, you would need a large area of acidic soil. Depending on where you live, this is probably not practical. If it is, you probably can’t grow much of anything else. Buying from a u-pick lets you grow what you can and buy what you can’t. It’s the best of both worlds.
What kinds of products can you find? Mostly fruits like blueberries, strawberries and raspberries. Apples, peaches and pears are also common. Pumpkins and squash are common in the fall. Some areas are blessed with a wider assortment of choices. How do you find them? helps people find u-picks in their area. It is organized by state, then by county.
Take some time to get familiar with what’s available in your area, the season in which it will be ripe and available to pick and start planning your food preservation schedule now.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

J Is for Jerky

The beauty of jerky is you can use almost anything to make. Though I have not personally tried it with all of these, I understand it can be made with beef, venison, turkey, pork, chicken, salmon or rabbit. You can even use ground meats for making jerky. The options for flavoring it are just as varied. Common flavors are teriyaki, barbeque, mesquite and spicy.
Tips for Making Jerky
Trim all the fat off. Use only the lean portions of the meat. The fat will become rancid and ruin the jerky if left intact.
Slice the meat when it is still partially frozen in order to control the width of the slices more easily. Slices should be between ¼” to 3/8” thick. The thicker they are, the longer they will take to dry out.
You can use almost anything to marinate the meat. It depends on your personal tastes. Here are some common marinates to try:
Worcestershire Sauce
Soy Sauce
Teriyaki Sauce
Barbeque Sauce
Italian Dressing
To these you add your spices. We’ll get into recipes for specific flavors later on. For now, these are the basic spices you can use to make jerky: salt, pepper, garlic powder, sugar, onion powder, cloves, cinnamon, and curry. You name it and you can use it.
Let the meat soak in the marinade overnight, for at least 12 hours. Fish and chicken can soak for 4 to 6 hours. Remove the meat from the marinade and pat it dry with paper towels. Marinates don’t work well with ground meats. Instead, add the seasonings you want and use as is.

Follow the directions that came with your dehydrator for settings. I use between 150 and 175 degrees. Meat will reduce by about 30% when it is done. It should be dry but not brittle. Some cuts of meat are dry enough in six to eight hours, while ground meats can three or four days to complete. Keep checking on it and remove it when it has achieved the consistency you like. Store it in a Ziploc bag or some Tupperware and you’re all set!

K Is for Canning Your Own Ketchup

Time for a recipe/how-to. Ketchup is a staple in many households and I thought it would be a good place to start providing recipes and instructions. You may need to adjust the quantities if you want to make more or less, depending on your family’s usage but here’s how I make a batch.
Ingredients and Supplies
This method uses a boiling water canner. You will also need a 4-gallon stock pot or equivalent sized kettle, 1 large stock pot, 1 medium saucepan and a large bowl. Six or seven pint jars with lids and screw caps per batch.
·         24 lbs of ripe tomatoes
·         3 cups of onions , chopped
·         3/4 tsp of ground red pepper (cayenne or other zesty red pepper)
·         3 cups of cider vinegar
·         4 tsp of whole cloves
·         3 sticks cinnamon, crushed
·         1-1/2 tsp of whole allspice
·         3 tbsp of celery seeds
·         1-1/2 cups of sugar
·         1/4 cup of salt
Start a large pot of water to boil. Prepare a large bowl or pot filled ¾ of the way with cold water and ice cubes. This will be used to blanch the tomatoes. Blanching is a method of splitting and loosening the skins through the application of first hot water then cold. Skins can be tricky to remove and I have found that to make it easier, I use a paring knife to slice a small “X” on the blossom end of the tomato. You can do this while the water is heating. Once it comes to a good boil, drop the tomatoes in for 30 to 60 seconds. Quickly (and carefully) transfer the tomatoes to ice water. The heat loosens the skins and the cold stops the heating process so the tomatoes don’t actually cook.
Once the tomatoes have cooled enough for you to handle them, simply take hold of one of the sections where you carve the “X” and start peeling away the skins. Remove the cores, quarter the tomatoes and drop them into a 4-gallon stock pot or other large kettle. Add the pepper and onions, and then bring to a boil. Let it simmer for 20 minutes.
Combine spices in a spice bag and add to vinegar in the medium saucepan. Bring mixture to a boil; cover and turn off heat. Let both the tomatoes and the spice mixture rest for 20 minutes. Remove the spice bag from the saucepan and add the vinegar to the tomato mixture. Boil for 30 minutes. Next pour the tomato mixture through a food mill or sieve and return it to the pot. Add the sugar and salt (adjust these for your own dietary needs) and boil gently. You should keep stirring at this point. The mixture is done when the volume is either reduced by half or when the mixture rounds p on a spoon with separating.
Fill pint jars, leaving 1/8-inch headspace. Adjust lids and process in a boiling water canner for 15 minutes at 0-1000 foot altitudes, 20 minutes for 1001 to 6000 foot altitudes and 25 minutes over 6000 feet.
The time to complete a batch is three or more hours, depending on how long it takes to get the various pots of water to boil and how long it takes the tomato mixture to boil down.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

“I” Is for Inexperienced

You may be a little afraid to try food preservation at home, especially if you have no one on hand to walk you through the process.  We were all inexperienced at one point. It’s like learning to read. Once you learn the letters and the sounds they make, you can begin making words. It is the same with any new thing learned.

I recommend starting easy. Dehydrating foods is one of the simplest ways to preserve foods. Many foods required nothing more than slicing into small pieces and distributing on the drying trays. Sealing the finished goods in sealable plastic bags or in mason jars completes the task.

Freezing is also a simple process for many foods. Take blueberries for example. Pick through them to remove any damaged, spoiled or under-ripened berries. Spread them on a baking sheet in a single layer and place the tray in the freezer. Wait a few hours and pour the frozen fruits into freezer containers and seal. Label, date and you are done.

So don’t let your inexperience keep you from trying your hand at food preservation. Keep coming back and we will move through the foods and the seasons, learning the best ways to keep foods fresh and tasty.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

“H” Is for Huge

For the A to Z Blogging Challenge, my letter for today’s post is H. At first I was daunted by this but then it came to me. Preserving your own food stocks is huge, huge in many ways.
Huge Investment of Time
This is especially true if you grow much of your own food. Even if you buy the produce or meats, you are still investing a good deal of time in the selection, preparation, processing and storing of the food. While dehydrating foods takes very little time and freezing often even less, canning can take wole days or weekends to complete.
Huge Amounts of Love
You cannot be interested in food preservation without loving both the activity and those it serves. Many people love the idea of having done it themselves, being self-sufficient. Others are motivated by the fact that they know exactly what went into each container. They are satisfied knowing they are serving the freshest healthiest foods they possibly can to their families.
Huge Cost Savings
You buy supplies, for the most part, just once. Dehydrators, canning equipment, even bag sealers are bought once and used over and over. The only consumable items are the lids for the canning jars and freezer safe bags. And the food of course! Plus, by buying foods when they are in season instead of when you want them and they are out of season, you are saving money. Buying in bulk for processing large batches can save you even more.
Home food preservation is a huge world of opportunity to learn and grow while providing for your family.

“G” Is for Canning Green Beans

Green beans are a major vegetable stable at our house. They find their way into all kinds of things. They low calorie (44 per 1 cup), low-carb (5 gms net per serving) and a good source of vitamin C (20% USRDA). It’s also one of the vegetables everyone in our house enjoys. So green beans are something I can and freeze every year. Fortunately for me my garden supports bean crops well. I grow a lot of my own but still haven’t mastered growing enough so that I don’t have to buy more.
Canning provides longer shelf life than freezing when it comes to green beans. Frozen beans are good for up to 18 months while canned beans, if done properly are safe to use up to 5 years later. Jars should be stored where they will not experience wide swings in temperature. A cool, dark place is best.
For every half-pound to pound of green beans, you will need 1 quart or two pint jars and the appropriate lids and caps. One bushel of beans will usually yield 14 to 20 quart jars. Because green beans are low acid, they must be canned in a pressure cooker. You will need jar tongs, a funnel and some dish towels.
Prepping the Beans
Buy only fresh, crisp beans that are free of scars or imperfections. Minor imperfections can be trimmed away. Any type of green bean is suitable and is a matter of taster or availability. Trim both ends and cut beans to desired lengths. Common length choices are from 1 inch to 4 inches. Some people do several jars of each length to provide options for recipe selections later on. Rinse the beans in cool, clean water.
Prepping the Jars
Check all the jars for cracks and chips and discard any that are damaged. Only use new flat lids each time to ensure a good seal. Prying the lid off once it’s been used can cause warping or bending. However minute the bending might be, it can cause the lid to fail to seal properly if used again. You can reuse the screw caps so long as they are not rusted. Sterilize the jars and lids in either boiling water for ten minutes or in your dishwasher if it has a sterilize cycle. Keep the jars warm until ready to use.
Filling the Jars
Boil enough water to fill the number of jars you are processing. Most canners hold seven or eight jars. Fill the hot jars with the clean, cut beans. Gently press the beans down to firmly pack and leave 1 inch of space at the top of the jar. If you prefer, add ½ teaspoon of salt to each jar. This step can be omitted if you want to avoid additional sodium. Place funnel in jar and carefully pour boiling water I, maintaining the 1 inch space at the top of the jar.
Use a spatula to dislodge any air bubbles. Wipe off the jar with the towel and place the lid on top. Screw on the cap until just tight. Don’t tighten it all the way. Continue until all the jars are filled.
Processing the Beans
Start heating 3 to 4 inches of water in the pressure cooker while you are filling the jars to save time. Place the jars into the pressure cooker and secure the lid. Once the pressure has built to 11 pounds, start timing the beans. Process jars 20 minutes for pints and 25 minutes for quarts for young tender beans. If older beans, almost ready for shelling, were used, increase the time by 15 and 20 minutes respectively. . Let the canner cool down and make sure all the steam has escaped before trying to open the lid. Stem is very hot and can cause burns.
Use the tongs to remove hot jars from the pressure cooker. Set them on a towel on the counter and leave them for 24 hours. Then, check the lids to make sure the jars have a good seal. Wipe jars and apply label to glass or using a permanent marker, write the contents and date on the lid. Then store until ready to use.
Voila! You have canned green beans!
These articles may help you decide how many green beans and supplies you will need if you want to can a year’s supply for your family:

“F” Is for Food Planning

It is easy to get caught up in the excitement of spring. Whether you garden yourself or just look forward to buying fresh produce from the farm stands and grocery stores, we can become a little too enthusiastic about our wants and needs.
I remember one year, my mother and I had the canning fever in a big way. Peaches were available and the best tomatoes we’d seen all season. We wanted to can enough so that we would have supplies to get us through to next summer. We decided to spend a weekend canning the same time.
We bought bushels and bushels of both. We planned to just can the peaches but with the tomatoes, we wanted stewed tomatoes, tomato sauce, salsa, all kinds of things. After 2 days, we were hot, exhausted and nowhere near done. I sent mom home with the idea I would finish up over the next couple of days by myself. Needless to say, my plans didn’t go well. I threw out a couple of boxes of tomatoes that spoiled before I could get them processed.
The results were less than spectacular. I had run out of tomato products before January arrived and I was still eating peaches 3 years later. I learned a lot from that experience.
·         Only buy what you need. If you are the only family member who will eat canned peaches, one bushel is more than enough.
·         Break up the canning into manageable chunks. For us, in the case of tomatoes, we use quite a bit. I learned to buy enough for one end product at a time. I spend one weekend making salsa, another making tomato sauce and so on. It is much easier that way!
·         Plan what your family will need. If you plan to can so that you have enough to last a year, there are some steps you can go through to make sure you are canning the right amount. I wrote an article about it using green beans as an example but the process works well for anything.
It is easy to become carried away by things we are passionate about. I’ve learned that if I approach it with a cool head and calm heart, I can accomplish my goals of preserving healthy, tasty food for my family while still enjoying the process and not spending a fortune on it.
Articles about Food Planning:

“E” Is for Expectations

It is spring and I am planning my garden with all sorts of expectations about what it will bring. We purchased what many would call our hobby farm 11 years ago because we fell in love with the house. I have since fallen in love with the land.
Already awaiting our discovery were acres of wild blackberries, some grapevines, a couple of elderberry bushes and chokecherry trees as well as a pair of persimmons. Out in the woods we found black walnut and hickory nut trees. It was from this bountiful discovery that I decided to pursue food preservation. Why waste what God has so graciously supplied?
Each year I have attempted to add, with varying degrees of success, more to the landscape. Cherry, apple and English walnut trees have been added. Blueberry bushes, a mulberry tree and a strawberry patch have been added and a vegetable garden.
The garden has been a learning curve as far as figuring out what grows well here and what I can do to improve the soil and my harvest. Still, each year I approach spring with great expectations on all the tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and beans I will pick and then spends days canning, drying and freezing. Some sleep and dream of sugarplums, I dream of shelves filled glass jars bearing little white labels and shiny gold caps. Hopefully my expectations will be met and I’ll have extra food to share with friends and family!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

“D” Is for Dehydrating

Dehydrated bananas, cranberries and pineapples, photo copyright Theresa Leschmann
Dehydrating foods is the act of removing moisture from food in order to preserve it. Moisture together with exposure to air is what leads to food spoilage. People have been using drying techniques for hundreds of years. Today, as I struggle make my budget work and still serve wholesome, natural foods to my family; dehydrating has become part of my routine.
Dehydrating foods allows to grow my own foods or stock up on them when they are in season and preserve them for use later in the year when they are no longer abundantly available and therefore cost a small fortune at the grocery store. Take for instance blueberries. In June and July, you can get them everywhere, even indulge in a little agrotourism and visit a local U-Pick. By October, you can buy bags of frozen blueberries or pay upwards of $4/pint in the grocery store for fresh. Dehydrated blueberries will never reconstitute to their fresh state but you can still enjoy the flavor in numerous ways.
Dehydrated fruits can be used for baking, trial and snack mixes, even added to cold cereals. Dried vegetables are perfect for adding to soups stews, slow-cooked meals and roasts. Dried meats are often used as snacks, such as jerkies. There are endless possibilities
If you can provide low humidity and heat, you can dry food almost anywhere. Think about sun-dried tomatoes. These are dried in the sun, exposed to the warm air. Humid locates require different measures. Food drying can be done in the oven providing you can set the temperature to lower than 200 degrees. Many foods are dried at around 170 degrees. Too hot and you begin to cook the foods. There isn’t much air flow in the oven so you have to watch the process carefully, turning the food periodically.
If you have $30 o so, you can buy a simple dehydrator. You can sometimes find them at yard sales and second hand shops too. Older models simply plugged into the wall and started heating. Newer models come with temperature settings. Either will do just fine.
Aside from the oven or a dehydrator, the only other thing you need is containers. Zipper-type storage bags are good. I recommend the freezer type for long term storage. Plastic or glass containers are also good providing you can achieve an air-tight seal. Mason jars filled with dehydrated foods make a lovely display across a counter or on a pantry shelf, in my opinion.
For more information on dehydrating you can read this article on dehydrating. Now all you need to do is buy some food and get started.
I am taking part in the April A-to-Z Blogging Challenge. Be sure to check out my other blogs. You’ll find them listed on the side bar. You can also read the blogs of others taking part in the challenge by using the A to Z Challenge button on the side bar tool.

Monday, April 4, 2011

“C” is for Canning

I thought I’d talk a little today about canning and what it is. In the strict definition of the word, it is the process of preserving food by sealing it in cans or jars. The idea came to fruition when Napoleon conducted a contest for creating a method by which food could be preserved longer. He needed a way to better provide for his troops. The winning method is remarkably similar to the water-bath method still used today.
Canning Methods
There are two accepted and recommended ways of canning: the water bath and the pressure canner. The method used depends on the acidity of the food being canned. Most foods have a neutral pH or are only slightly acidic. A food with a PH of 4.6or lower is considered to be highly acidic while foods with a pH above 4.6 are considered low-acid at least in terms of canning.
Because the bacterial organisms that can cause spoilage in food can be easily destroyed by heat when high acid is present, these foods can be canned in boiling water or using the water bath method. Water must be held at 212 degrees (boiling) for a specified period of depending on the type of food in order to kill the bacteria. Foods recommended for this type of processing are fruits, fruit juices, jellies, jams, preserves, pickles and pickled products.
To safely preserve vegetables, red meat, poultry, fish and wild game, temperatures higher than 212 degrees are needed. Temperatures of 240 or higher are needed to destroy bacteria in these foods and can only be achieved by using a pressure canner.
Depending on the type of food canning you are canning, you will need a water bath canning pot with a jar rack or a pressure canner. You will need jars, usually pint or quart but there are also smaller and larger jars. Most come with either standard openings or “wide moth” openings. Wide mouth jars are easier to use if you are canning whole fruits or vegetables. Make sure you purchase lids and collars to fit the jars you have. While the jars and collars are reusable, the lids are not and should be replaced with each use.
You also need the following:
Jar tongs
Jar funnel
Once you have acquired the supplies, all you need is the food to go in them! Keep checking back as I will be posting recipes and tips for canning frequently.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Blueberries Can Be Dehydrated Too!

It won’t be long before blueberries are everywhere: the grocery store, the farm stands, even at the U-picks. In my neck of the woods, this tends to occur in June. By June, my mouth is watering for the taste of fresh blueberries.
My gang likes blueberries. When I say they like blueberries, I mean they LIKE blueberries. I can’t keep enough around. I can them, freeze them and even dehydrate them. Yes, dehydrate them.
Why would you want to dehydrate them? There are a number of reasons. Dehydrated blueberries can be stored in zipper-type plastic bags, mason jars or other tightly sealed containers, none of which take up freezer space. Most recipes for canning blueberries call for adding some amount of sugar. Dehydrated berries have nothing added.
Dehydrated blueberries are also versatile. You can use them in all sorts of recipes where you would use fresh berries. You can also eat them as is, add them to your own snack mixes or toss them in cereal. Directions for dehydrating blueberries are easy to follow and require only that you have a dehydrator and storage containers. Anything else you might need, you probably already own.
When you see blueberries on sale this summer, consider stocking up and dehydrating some for your winter use. You’ll be glad you did.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Welcome To Good as Grandma's

Remember the taste of your grandmother’s jellies or pickles? Remember seeing the rows of jars, each with their own handwritten label across the front, lining the shelves of her pantry? Don’t you wish you could go back to those days, when life was simpler and food tasted better? That’s where I hope to take you, on a journey to a better way of eating as I explore the world of preserving foods.

My own grandma, now long gone, spent countless hours in her kitchen summer after summer, putting up jars of food. Each week, as the season crept by, a new fruit or vegetable ripened and found its way into her pantry. I remember being a little girl and gazing at all the colorful jars she had prepared with such love and wondering why on earth she spent so much time canning foods. Years, later with my own family to feed and grocery store prices skyrocketing, I am certain I understand her motivation.

I, too, am a grandmother now. I have learned a great deal about canning, freezing and dehydrating foods but I know I have a great deal more to learn. This blog will hopefully help you provide healthier foods for your family, save you a little money and take cooking back to the old days when people grew, picked and preserved their own food for use later in the year. Even though we no longer grow all our own food ourselves, we can still lead a more self-sufficient life.

I plan to share my triumphs, my experiences – good and bad – and my disasters with you as I embark on a journey of preserving my family’s foods so they are as good as grandma’s. I hope you’ll decide to come along with me.

“A” is for Apples

I am engaging in a writing challenge that kicks off today known as the Blogging From A to Z April Challenge, which you can sign up for here. So today’s blog post is about apples and how to store them.

Apples won’t be ready to harvest for many months but now is a good time to start thinking about what you want to do with them when they are ready. Apples are one of the fruits that can be stored as is, for a long time. However, not everyone has the right environment or space to pull that off. They can be frozen, dehydrated or canned as well. It really depends on how you plan to use your apples and the space and equipment you have at your disposal.
Cold Storage

In years gone by, many homes had a root cellar, a place that saw no light and little change in the desired temperature of about 32 degrees. This is an ideal place to store apples, if you have access to such a place. Here are a few pointers before just tossing your apples in for the winter, though. You should always remove any fruit that has bruises, damage or shows signs of decay. Store the smaller apples of any variety you choose because the larger apples tend to break down first. Most apples freeze at 29 degrees or lower. Once they thaw, they will break down quickly so keeping the temperature constant at 30 to 32 degrees is ideal. The location needs to have a relative humidity of 90 to 95% otherwise the apples will dry out. Cellars and outbuildings that meet these conditions will work. You can also use Styrofoam coolers or pack them in hay or other materials to protect them from freezing. Most apples store for a minimum of 3 months and many will last for 6 months under the right circumstances.

Other Storage Considerations

Freezing, drying or canning all require processing time and some type of equipment. I will discuss these options under another post as it gets closer to harvest time. The thing you should be thinking about so you can start to shop for supplies you may not have is how you plan to use your apples. Does your family like applesauce? What about apple pie filling which can be used in a variety of ways. Would you eat more trail mix if you had dried apple bits to add to the mix? Your family’s tastes and needs will dictate the methods and the supplies you should be considering.

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