Archive for the 'homesteading' Category

Meals In A Jar; Sloppy Joes

I have a 12 day Mule Deer hunt coming up next week. In preparation, I was trying to come up with self contained meals in mason jars, to save on my finite cooler space.

One of the first things I thought of was Sloppy Joes. But instead of just the sauce, like a can of Manwich, I wanted the meat in the recipe too.

I did some searching around and found a base recipe to work off of. I was originally given the recipe by a member of a canning group I belong to. But I also found the same recipe a couple of places online. So I’m not sure who get’s credit. Either way, I modified it slightly.

Ready To Go Sloppy Joes

2lbs Ground Beef
1 C Chopped Onion
3/4 C Chopped Green Bell Pepper
1 1/2 C Catsup/Ketchup (Use Heinz or Hunt, or make sure your brand has no thickeners added)
2 T Brown Sugar
2 T Apple Cider Vinegar
3 T Heinz Chili Sauce
3 t Worcestershire Sauce
2 t Yellow Mustard
1/4 C Water

Yield 3 Pints

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For complete transparency, know that I doubled my recipe, and also used 3lbs of beef and 1lb of chicken.

Start by adding your beef, onion, and green pepper to a hot skillet. If you chose to use chicken, add some olive oil to the pan first. If you double your recipe, this is easier to do in two batches

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Brown the ground beef and cook the onions to translucence. Depending on the fat content of your beef you may need to drain the fat off. Mine was lean enough that it didn’t need it.

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I prepped by putting my ketchup/catsup (that’s a whole different debate), Worcestershire Sauce, Chili Sauce, and Mustard in one bowl, and my brown sugar, cider and water in another. Stirring to dissolve the sugar.
When the beef and veggies are done, add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine.

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Bring everything to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes I took the lid off and found that it was a bit runnier than I’d like. I kept the lid off and stirred it until it reduced to a consistency I wanted. Fill your clean mason jars to a 1″ headspace.

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Top with your heated lids and finger tightened rings. Process at 11lbs for 75 minutes for pint, and 90 minutes for quarts. Remember, you can’t fit much more than a half a cup of meat onto one hamburger bun. That’s four servings per pint and eight servings per quart.

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I haven’t cracked these open yet, as my hunting trip is next week. I’ll definitely come back and update the bottom of this post with a review. But my eight-year-old son and I ate the little bit of leftovers that wouldn’t fill a seventh jar and so far we are both very happy with it. He has requested that I make them from scratch for dinner. Which really isn’t a bad idea since it too less than 30 min to make.

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The flavor was very comparable to a can of Manwitch sauce. Maybe a touch sweeter. Next time I will add less sugar and try to spice it up just a little bit more, maybe with some hot sauce. But we’ll see what it tastes like out of the jar.

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If you have ideas for self-contained meals that can be opened from a jar, heated, and served please share or link them in the comments.

Happy canning!

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Brandied Peaches and Fireball Whisky Peaches

I was offered to go in halfsies on a case of 40lbs of peaches. I didn’t really have time for 20lbs of peaches. But I’m a sucker for a deal. Plus, I was told these were really good peaches. So I agreed.

When they came in I was in the middle of my work week. During my work week all I do is work. So they had to wait. On Saturday my friend told me he fit them in his fridge since they were getting very ripe. I picked them up Saturday night, and put them in my fridge.

Sunday I got up, pulled them out and stared at them. Stared and stared. I broke out my Ball Blue Book, The Joy of Pickling, and Put ‘Em Up. I read recipes and browsed websites. What should I do with the peaches?

I’d seen other’s talking about brandied peaches before. I checked my liquor cabinet and pantry and found that I had everything I needed. And compared to jams, chutneys, barbecue sauces, etc, brandied peaches seemed a bit more quick and easy to get done.

This recipe is adapted from the book Put ‘Em Up.

Brandied Peaches
10lbs of Peaches
5 c Water
2 c Brandy
1 1/4 c Sugar
1/2 c Honey
2 Cinnamon Sticks
8 Cloves

Get a pot of water to a rolling boil. Fill another pot, large bowl, or sink with ice water. I prefer to vigorously scrub out my sink, and then use that. Add some Fruit Fresh or crushed Vitamin C tablets in to the water to prevent browning.

Put a few peaches at a time in the boiling water. The less ripe your peaches are, the longer they need to blanch. My peaches only took a minute. Don’t overfill your pot either. The peaches will cool the water down, and likely you’ll overcook the ones on the bottom.

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Pull the peaches out with a slotted spoon or a pair of tongues and move them to the ice water. For a small batch like 10lbs, blanch and cool the whole batch. If you’re processing hundreds of pounds (you should have a helper) work in batches.

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When you pull the peaches out the skins should slough right off. I find that the skins kinda get hung up on the very bottom point of the peach. I use the palm of my hand to rub the peach and break the skin off. Then I peel it off. Toss the peeled peaches back in the water.

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In a non-reactive pot combine 5 cups of water, 2 cups of Brandy, 1 1/4 cup sugar, 1/2 cup honey, cinnamon sticks, and 8 cloves. Heat to dissolve the sugar and honey. I was hoping to burn off some of the alcohol so I boiled it for a minute.

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Take out one peach at a time and cut in half lengthwise. Do this carefully. Once peeled, those little buggers are slippery. I used a cheap serrated steak knife that was sharp enough to cut the peaches, but not sharp enough to go through my hand.

Freestone vs Clingstone

Peaches come in two varieties; Freestone and Clingstone. The difference is whether the flesh of the fruit attaches itself to the pit, or not. Before I started canning I never paid much attention or even cared what variety my peaches were. But let me tell you, trying to cut and pit Clingstone peaches is a huge pain in the butt. You have to cut the pit out, or rip it (and the surrounding flesh) out of the fruit. What you are left with are not the perfect peach slices you expect, but a smattering a peach chunks. Generally I find that farmers markets, produce specialty stores, and produce managers know whether peaches are freestone or not. The easiest was to check is to cut the peach in half and try to take the pit out. Don’t be afraid to ask before committing to buying them.

The peaches I got were some of the best freestones I’ve ever had. I twisted several of them open to have the pit fall out with no effort at all. Put the peach halves back in the water.

Start packing your peach halves in clean jars. Not gonna lie. These guys did not pack well. I fit about 6 halves in each quart. If you chose to go with quarters or eighths you might have better luck. But I wanted the halves.

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Fill each jar with the brine to 3/4″ headspace. Try to keep the cloves and cinnamon out. Put a lid and ring on each jar and then swirl it around to release the pockets of air between the peaches. Some of my jars went down quite a bit.

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Top off with syrup to bring it back to the proper headspace.

Fireball Whisky Peaches variation

Now, the book had the proportions listed above. And the brine filled 6 quarts. But I had 20lbs and 11 quarts. Imperial to metric conversion messes with me sometimes. You buy a 750ml bottle of brandy, you feel like that’s quite a bit. You don’t realize it’s only 3 cups until you’re halfway through a double batch of brandied peaches and out of brandy. See where I’m going with this?

So for the second half I walked to my liquor cabinet and stared. What could I use? Brandy, Marsala, Rum, Scotch, Amaretto, Fireball Wisky, Vermo….. Wait a minute. Cinnamon Whisky? With peaches? That sounds….really good!! I grabbed the bottle and returned to the kitchen. For a Fireball variation omit one cup of brandy and add 1 cup of Fireball brand Cinnamon Whisky.

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Wipe the rims of the jars, put on lids and rings, and water bath process for 30 minutes.

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I wasn’t given any clear direction on this. But I’m guessing much like a pickle, these bad boys should sit for 21 days before opening. So that’s what I’m going to do.

I’m excited for them to be done though. I have thoughts of Warm Fireball Peaches on Vanilla Ice Cream, Brandied Peaches with a Pork Roast, or maybe a Peach Cobbler or Crumble made of a combination of the two. I’ll update the page when I break the seal on one.

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Let me know what your favorite canned peach variation is.

Happy Canning.

Come meet the girls

This will be a very brief post. But it covers some things. First, we moved!! We finally bought a house. Which means our homesteading dreams are coming true.

We bought a modest house on 9600 sq ft, with a huge front porch in a no HOA neighborhood. The front yard will (hopefully) soon be a garden and or hard.

But currently the most exciting thing is…we got chickens!! I bought a coop and supplies off Craigslist. 4 days later a friend (who also moved) offered me his bigger coop and existing flock, which I gladly took in.

The coop we bought is a 4x6x4.

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The coop we ended up inheriting is 4x8x8.

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We adopted two Leghorns and a Rhode Island Red. Then I bought a Black Star and a Columbian Wyandotte.

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Since the. We have added a 2nd Black Star and 2 Ameraucanas.

All the girls seem to be adapting okay. They are cooped at night but free ranged in the yard during the day.

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Look for more poultry related posts as our flock grows in weight and in numbers, as eggs get laid, and as I learn what the heck Ive gotten myself in to.

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Hot Italian Sausage In Tomato Sauce

Update: This recipe won a 1st place Blue Ribbon at the 2013 Arizona State Fair in the Canning Meat category.

Italian Sausage in Tomato Juice

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I’m trying to delve deeper in to the world of canning. To try more meats. And specifically, to can more things that are closer to ready to eat.

We were at the grocery store looking for pork to smoke (a whole different post) when I saw packages of hot Italian sausages on clearance for half price. In the past I would have frozen them. But I figure, why not put em in a jar?

The National Center For Home Preservation says to brown sausage and then process it in water, stock or tomato juice. My thought process was this: water would be a waste. Why remove all that flavor into water that would likely be drained out anyway. Stock sounded ok. But all I had was previously home canned smoked chicken stock. And that didn’t sound that great. So that left me with tomato juice, which I didn’t have. But what I did have was previously home canned tomatoes.

I figure hot italian sausage is destined to be in pasta sauce at some point in the future. So why not process it in tomatoes now? I grabbed a wide mouth quart of canned tomatoes off the shelf. The immersion blender fits right in the top, and in no time it was a quart of tomato puree. I put that in a pot with a pint of water to make my tomato juice.

I placed the sausages in a pan and browned them on both sides.

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Once they were brown I cut each sausage in to 5 pieces.

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Place the pieces in a quart jar. This took a little bit if engineering. But luckily years of playing Tetris paid off. Just make sure you’re filling voids in the jars where you see them. In total I cooked 6 pounds of sausages that ended up filling 4 quarts.

Heat the tomato juice to a boil and cover the sausage pieces with the juice. Leave a 1″ headspace.

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Use a plastic utensil to remove any air pockets or bubbles. Why plastic, you ask? Because metal can cause micro scratches and fissures in the glass. This can be the catalyst for thermal fractures in the future.

Top with lids and bands and place in a pressure canner at 11lbs for 75 min for pints or 90 min for quarts.

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Use this chart to adjust for altitude.

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Always turn off the heat and allow the pressure canner to cool by itself when the time is up.

The finished product looks like this. Not too bad. Sometimes canned meat looks like a lab specimen. This looks more like Spaghettios.

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I’m huge on making my own pasta sauce right now. Generally it’s 2 quarts of tomatoes, onion, garlic, carrots, zucchini, squash, peppers, wine, balsamic, and spices. In theory a jar of sausages can be added, without taking the time to defrost and brown the sausages, cook them through, and letting them simmer in the sauce. The flavor’s already in there.

Happy canning.

I pickled a peck of picked peppers.

Ok, so that title is a bit misleading. I actually pickled 3 pounds of store bought peppers. But this was a total win of a recipe. I’ll be keeping these on hand forever.

I wanted to make pickled peppers for a while. Only problem was, for what? My younger kids don’t like too much spice, and I’m not real keen on strong heat. I didn’t want to make jars and jars of stuff just to sit around.

What I wanted was something closer to “Hots.” A blend of sweet and spicy peppers packed in oil that is popular on sandwiches on the east coast.

I found yellow chile peppers at the grocery store. Didn’t know much about them, but they looked good. And I thought they’d look good in a jar. So I grabbed a couple pounds and brought them home.

On the way home I stopped by Cost Plus and found their Weck Jars on sale. So of course I grabbed 3 of them as well. I know the price is high. But I love them. Weck jars have a presence to them. They just look so amazing with food in them. The added benefit of food only touching glass is a bonus.

Pickled Pepper Brine
5 C White Vinegar
1 C Water
4 t Pickling Salt
2 T Sugar

Start by rinsing and hand washing all your peppers. Pretty easy step.

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Cut the top off each pepper and then slice lengthwise.

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Pack the pepper halves in to jars. I pushed them down to compress them, but not enough to break them. My childhood Tetris experience definitely helped me out.

Combine the brine ingredients and bring to a boil. Pour the hot brine over the peppers leaving 1/2″ headspace.

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Add your lids and rings, or in case of Weck jars, rubber bands and lids.

Process for 10 minutes in a water bath.

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Skip ahead 3 weeks. I always let my pickled foods sit for 21 days before opening. It can be murder seeing them every day. But it’s totally worth it.

The end result were peppers that have a mild heat like green chiles, the tang of vinegar, and the subtle sweetness that you get with sweet peppers. It’s like a blend of sweet and hot peppers, but only one pepper. I couldn’t be happier.

Tonight I chopped a couple up and used added them to a bowl of mild chili. But I can totally see these sliced on a sandwich, mixed in with ground beef as a burger or meatloaf, or on a pizza. As soon as stock runs low I’ll be making more.

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Cowboy Candy; Or How To Make Weapons Grade Pepper Spray At Home

When your passion is putting food in jars people tend to find out. Most of my friends know that I spend many weekends canning in the kitchen. They also know that I hate seeing food wasted and generally will try to find some way to preserve anything anyone drops off on my doorstep. This has its advantages and disadvantages. One of the nicer points is that generally I get volumes of free produce. The drawback however is dealing with my wife when she comes home to find approximately 300 pounds of lemons on the countertop.

This weekend I returned from a short trip back east to a message from a friend who told me that he had lemons and jalapenos waiting for me. Lemons are easy. Limoncello and preserved lemons, as well as candy lemons are an annual thing for me. But jalapeños I haven’t done yet. So I started thinking of creative ways that I could use my hot little friends.

After the success of Dilly Beans I decided its time for me to go back to canning roots and try some of the tried and true local gems that people have been making for ages. Forget innovation. Forget variation. Some things are good for a reason.

So here we go. Another recipe I’ve heard about for a while but had never tried is Cowboy Candy. Cowboy Candy is candied jalapeño peppers. Just like with the beans, people rave about these things. They talk about the stuff like it’s crack. Like once you start you’re gonna be fiending in your bedroom crying for another jar. Every recipe I’ve come across comes with the same warning. “Make more than you expect. You’ll go through faster than you think. Your friends will take your entire inventory.” If everyone is this wild about them they must be onto something.

They’re supposed to be amazing on burgers, with cheese and/or crackers, on top of meat as a glaze, as a condiment or straight out of the jar with a fork.

20121212-021224.jpgThe following recipe is found all over the Internet. I don’t even know who to give credit to at this point. Maybe it’s public domain by now? I found it the recipe I followed on a Facebook canning group. But you can find it, word for word, on several sites.

Cowboy Candy
3lbs Jalapeños
2 C Apple Cider Vinegar
6 Cups Sugar
1/2 t Turmeric
1/2 t Celery Seed
3 t Minced Garlic
1 t Cayenne Pepper

The peppers that my friend brought over were red and bit small. So I decided to pick up some larger green ones from the grocery store. Together I felt they made a nice mix, added some variety, and looked appropriate for the holiday season. I used 2 pounds of green and 1 pound of red peppers.

20121212-021606.jpg I’ve made many recipes with many hot peppers in them before and generally don’t wear gloves. However this time you’re going to be slicing at least 3 pounds of jalapeno peppers over the course of probably 20 minutes. It is well worth your time to wear a pair of latex or rubber gloves during this process. You will appreciate this when you need to rub your eye, scratch your nose, or God forbid, use the restroom.

Start by slicing off the very top of the pepper to remove the stem. Then slice the pepper into little 1/4 inch rounds.

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20121212-022325.jpgWhen you are finished set the peppers aside. In a large pot combine the apple cider vinegar, sugar, and spices. This is the one point where I deviated from the recipe. I read online that many people found this recipe to be very sweet and they reduced the sugar. I reduced the sugar by one cup. However, I doubled the recipe for the brine.

20121212-022404.jpg Bring the brine to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for five minutes. Then add the pepper slices and simmer for four minutes. You don’t want to be standing right over the pot while the stuff is boiling. The combination of vinegar and peppers coming up into your eyes and lungs is quite overwhelming. I had the fan on over the stove throughout. Use a slotted spoon to remove the peppers and place them into clean jars. Leave 1/4 inch headspace.

20121212-022628.jpgReturn the remaining brine to the heat. Boil it hard for six minutes. Then use a ladle to pour the brine over your peppers in the jars, again leaving headspace. Use a clean paper towel and a dab of white vinegar to clean the rims of the jars.
Process half pints for 10 minutes and pints for 15.

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It was suggested that the leftover brine makes an excellent marinade, addition to sauces, or a condiment in and of itself. I went ahead and jarred up what I had left and processed it alongside the peppers.

As with everything pickled these bad boys need to sit for a little while. The suggested time is three weeks. We’ll see how long these last in my pantry before the wife finds them.

I also plan on adding these to my repertoire of easy to make Christmas gifts. Although slicing the jalapenos took a little bit of time the actual process for cooking and preparing the cowboy candy was very easy.

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Do you have a favorite family recipe for pickled or candied produce?

Happy canning.

Of Cranberries and Apples

I waited and waited for cranberries to drop below $1 a bag. And my favorite low cost produce store sold out without ever reaching that price. So I finally folded and bought 15 bags at $1.50 a piece. I think this is the cheapest I’ll find them.

I had an initial game plan. Half would be Odessa’s, to make Odessa’s Cranberry Sauce. The other half was to be mine to make a sort of apple cranberry chutney I’ve been wanting to try.

Unfortunately (fortunately?) the Internet is an amazing pool of awesome information and ideas, and I stumbled across something I couldn’t resist. Pickled Cranberries.

And with those ideas stirring in my head I went in to the kitchen. 9 bags of cranberries for Odessa, two to pickle, and four for chutney. Or so I thought.

I should mention that this post won’t be very picture heavy, cause I was cooking my ass off tonight. Felt like everything on every burner needed my constant attention. And I was interrupted by two mishaps. One by my kid, and one my own doing.

Odessa started with her recipe first. It’s still my favorite cranberry sauce. And I could have two jars a month and be happy.

Cranberry Apple Chutney

24oz cranberries
20 apples, cored and rough chopped
9 cups sugar
4 lemons, zested and juiced
4 cups water.

This is a recipe that I found through Instagram, and then modified. The original recipe, as it was provided to me called for 8 cups of apples, 4 cups of cranberries, 6 cups of sugar, and one lemon. I based my math off of the amount of cranberries that I had left. But that was nearly 16 cups and I didn’t have it in me to add 24 cups of sugar to something.

I chose to go with Granny Smith and Fuji apples to stick with the red and green holiday theme.

20121128-014819.jpgFor what it’s worth, Fuji apples do not hold up to cooking, a little key point that I forgot. Opt for Lady Pink, Braeburn, Honey Crisp or other firm apple instead, if given the choice.

I used my handy dandy apple corer/slicer and cut the apples into 6 slices. Then I rough chopped the slices into pieces.

20121128-014748.jpgPut the water in a large pot, heat, and add the cranberries. I gave the berries about a five minute head start over the apples. As the cranberries start popping add your apples to the pot. Once the cranberries and apples start to cook and release more liquid add your sugar as well and stir thoroughly mix. Cook for approximately 10 to 15 minutes until the cranberries and apples begin to cook down. Then add your lemon zest and juice.

20121128-015454.jpg I tasted the chutney after originally having only added 6 cups of sugar. That still seemed a bit too tart. I added another 3 cups of sugar, bringing the total to nine, simmered, and taste it again. That seemed like a good amount.

Continue to cook for approximately 10 to 15 minutes until the mixture thickens.

20121128-015541.jpg Pour your cranberry chutney into clean mason jars, apply your lid and ring.

20121128-015644.jpg Process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes for pints.

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20121128-020016.jpg This ended up making 14 pints.

As I was looking around the web for cranberry recipes I came across an idea for pickled cranberries. Pickling is my most recent obsession. The author suggested adding a spoonful of pickled cranberries to club soda and gin, or tossing them in olive oil and topping a goat cheese and arugula salad with them. This sounded way too delicious to pass up.

Pickled Cranberries
24oz Cranberries
3 cups apple cider vinegar
3 cups sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
1 teaspoon allspice berries
1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/4 teaspoon juniper berries (I didn’t have these, and didn’t want to run out to the store. I’ll add them next time)

Place the allspice, clove, peppercorns, and juniper berries in cheesecloth and tie off.

Combine the vinegar, sugar, cinnamon sticks, and spice bundle in a pot and heat to a boil. Add the cranberries and cook for 5-10 minutes until the cranberries have popped. Bring the mixture back to a full boil.

Remove the spice bundle and cinnamon sticks and set aside. Ladle the cranberries into jars, and then add brine to the 1/2″ headspace. Cut the cinnamon sticks in half and add a piece to each jar.

Lids, rings, and 10 minutes in a water bath. As these are pickles, let them sit for a while before opening and enjoying.

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**Update**
The wife cracked a jar of the pickled cranberries today and made herself a cocktail of tonic water, gin, and some cranberries. Not long thereafter she texted “OMG these things are awesome.” I asked her to take a picture, and classy it up a bit so I could post it here. Ladies and gentlemen, my wife’s classy picture of her cocktail:

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Cranberry Pickled Apple Slices
It was at this point that I thought I was done. But I noticed that I had this gorgeous red tinted, cranberry scented brine left in the pot. I couldn’t bring myself to toss it out. I decided to be adventurous. I took two Fuji apples a d two Granny Smith apples and cored and sliced them. I returned the spice bundle to the brine and added the apple slices. My intent was just to cook them to the point of being soft. However at this very moment my three-year-old walked into the kitchen and told me that he had broken some glass. When I went to investigate I found that he had made his way into my canning pantry and was playing “how high can I build a tower of jelly jars.” Turns out the answer is seven. The tower had fallen and a jar if Strawberry Citrus Jam met its demise. In the time it took me to deal with and clean that, my apple over cooked. But, oh well, not the end of the world.

The apples were added to jars and covered with brine. Then processed for 10 minutes. I’ll probably warm them and use them to top vanilla ice cream. Or serve them as a side to pork chops.

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So there’s 4 things you can do with cranberries and apples. I’m definitely considering those pickled cranberries as Christmas gift idea #2. Show up to a holiday party with a couple jars of those bad boys, some vodka, gin, and mixers? You’ll be the hot of the party.

As I said earlier, I’m on a huge pickling kick right now. If you have a great recipe, or know of a must have pickling book, please share.

Happy canning.



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