Posts Tagged 'Mason Jars'

Buhsketty Sauce; Or How To Get Your Kids To Eat A Weeks Worth Of Vegetables

Canning stuff is all fine and good. But what are you supposed to do with it? I’m trying to post more recipes that use home canned items to give you a better idea of options that are out there.

When we canned 200lbs of tomatoes last year we considered making pasta sauce. But, not knowing what we’d use or in what quantity, we decided to stick with stewed tomatoes that could be made in to Italian sauce or a variety of other things.

Over the last 9 months I’ve tried a variety if techniques and recipes. This is my favorite recipe for pasta sauce.

Pasta Sauce
2 quarts canned tomatoes
Olive Oil
Onion
Garlic
Vegetables Of Your Choice
Red Wine
Balsamic Vinegar
Oregano
Basil
Thyme

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I always start this recipe by raiding the fridge and pulling out all the vegetables that have been forgotten over the last two weeks. Bell peppers, sweet peppers, that little 1/4 of a head of cauliflower that’s starting to get rubbery, the one crook neck squash, and that pack of mushrooms you found on clearance. Pretty much anything you find is good. I always have, and always use, carrots. They add the perfect sweetness to the sauce.

This time I happened to find some panchetta that needed using up. You could also add bacon, Italian sausage, or fat back if you have that. If you don’t just add more olive oil to the pan instead.

Start by rendering out the fat of whatever meat you’re using.

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Chop the onion and garlic, and slice the carrot into thin rounds. Add them to the hot pan and cook until the onions are translucent and the carrots are slightly browned and softened.

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For this recipe I used pickled garlic that I made previously. Pickled garlic is great. It makes garlic last 6 times as long, preserves all the garlic flavor, but takes that acrid bite out of the cloves.

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Add the the vegetables in order of hardness. For instance, cauliflower, then zucchini, then peppers so everything cooks to the same consistency.

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Take your tomatoes and drain the clear liquid off of them. I’ve found that tomatoes really hold the liquid trapped in the jar so I move them around with a fork to release it all. If you canned them in a regular mouth jar screw a blender base on the top. If you use widemouth jars an immersion blender will fit right in the top.

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Blend until the tomatoes are pureed.

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Add the tomato sauce to the pan and bring to a boil. This time around I decided to add a jar of hot Italian sausages that I canned a couple of posts ago.

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Since they are already in tomato sauce I just added them right in.

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Add a healthy pinch of oregano, basil and thyme; 2 tablespoons to 1/2 cup of any red wine; and 2 tablespoons to 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar. I like my sauce on the more acidic side, and feel that balsamic adds some good depth to it overall, so I’m more heavy handed with it. Let the sauce simmer and reduce for a while.

While we are waiting let’s talk about spices. Have you seen Ball’s little shorty half pints? I glued some hobby magnets to their lids and use em as spice jars on my fridge.

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Ok, back to the sauce. The basic idea is to sauté the vegetables, puree the tomatoes, added herbs and acidity, and then simmer until it teaches the consistency you like. I prefer mine a little on the thicker side, so I let it reduce for a while.

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I like this recipe because it cleans out my veggie drawer. Ill add portabellos one week and sweet mini peppers the next. Ive also added kale or spinach to the mix. But my favorite part is that my kids gobble it all up. All of it. They love spaghetti. They love the sauce. And they don’t even care what’s in it.

If you have a pasta sauce that uses home canned ingredients, please share it.

Happy canning!

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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.

How the Local Government Forced Me To Be An Artist

So I wanted to share a bit of the process that I went through to come up with my designs.

I love Mason jars with every fiber of my being. I was really trying to sell my canned jams, jellies, pickles etc. However after about two months of investigating I found out that the local government was interested in charging me approximately $900-$1200 in application fees, inspection fees, that fee and this fee. Then I would need to rent commercial kitchen space by the hour, and not only do all my prep work and processing there, but purchase separate equipment (knife, cutting board, canner, etc) to keep there….which requires storage fees. This would run upwards of $300 a month. And I haven’t even purchased jars, fruit, sugar, and pectin yet. As a side business it was not feasible financially. The alternative? Give my recipes to a processor and pay them to make my stuff. Uh, no. Making it is 2/3 of the fun.

Needless to say I was pretty disappointed. A bunch of nanny government rules and fees preventing me from doing something so simple. Unfortunately the cottage food law here only covers cakes, cookies, and breads and doesn’t allow for jams and pickles like Texas’ does.

But I’m an idea man. And I’ve never let a little thing like bureaucracy stop me. So I decided I’d try my hand at selling mason jar related things. My community has several farmers markets and a monthly art walk downtown. My thought was maybe I can get a table and sell mason jar soap dispensers and “sippy cups.” But that wasnt really enough, and certainly wouldn’t suffice for an art walk.

I’ve never fancied myself a very artistic person, and generally anything that I draw turns out looking like an eight-year-old did it. So I thought maybe I could buy really cool mason jar art in Etsy (there’s a ton of amazing water colors!) and resell it. But the art walk folks don’t just want art whole sellers, they want artists. And, a lot of the printed stuff is of the 4 public domain jar designs floating around. Boring. So I had to think some more.

Now, I remembered carving in linoleum blocks way back in junior high school, and enjoying that very much. I thought if revisit that. I grabbed a lino block kit from Hobby Lobby and brought it home. After my family went to bed (I work shift work, they don’t) I grabbed a beer, a mason jar, my block and a pencil. I sat at the table and willed the jar on to the block. I’d sketch and erase, sketch and erase, over and over. Until finally I came up with this:

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Hmm, not horrible, I guess. So I grabbed the carving knife, and another beer, and 3 hours later I wound up with this:

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20130109-204101.jpgNot too shabby. I posted pics on Facebook and Instagram and got some decent feedback. So I thought I’d try some more.

The 2nd night I sketched out jars had stuff in them. I clicked around online for inspiration since shading and reflection are important, and yet confusing when you’re cutting in negative. I wound up with this (pencil in the left, Sharpie on the right):

20130109-204337.jpgThis took longer to carve out, since there was more detail. But eventually I got this:

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20130109-204522.jpg I like this one because no one, not even I, know what’s in the jar. I’ve heard people say “I love the olives.” Or “those cherries look good” Who knows? Maybe they’re just marbles.

But together the two stamps gave me hope that maybe I’m not destined for failure.

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Now, my goal was to make one a night for as long as I could. The third night I grabbed more beer, more music, and I sat down to another blank canvas. This time I wanted a larger quart jar, as realistic as I could get it. So I sketched, and erased, and sketched some more. I wound up here:

20130109-205020.jpgI’m pretty proud of that one. For a guy that can’t draw, paint, or take good photographs I was feeling pretty good. Due to the number if letters and fine detail this took me two days to draw and cut. But eventually the block and stamp were done.

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While I spent my night whittling away on blocks, I spent my day’s learning how to screenprint. I read a bunch of blogs online, talked to some friends with experience, and even borrowed a simple set up from a friend of mine. I also started setting up an Etsy store. I basically got everything on the website established except for items to sell, and did not make the store go live yet.

Over the next two days I printed my stamps on paper, scanned the image, printed it on a transparency, added one of my favorite canning phrases, and burned my own screens. Then I started printing.

I made towels:

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Bags and backpacks:

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And some shirts:

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I took some of my towels and bags down to a local antique store where I took pictures of them with a more appropriate setting. And with that I “opened my store.”

It’s the American dream, right? I think the best part for me is that I’m not dependent on the income. In fact, I’m likely to spend any money I make on more jars, more fruit, more sugar and pectin, and more things to screen print. That’s an important part for me. This has to stay fun. I don’t want to get to the point where I feel like this is something I have to do but rather something I want to do. So, we’ll see how it goes. I’ve had decent success so far and have filled a handful of orders.

Last night I took a break from screenprinting everything and picked up another block and pencil. I’ve already done three different types of jars and I wanted to mix it up. So I decided to add some still life around the jar. After a couple hours of sketching and cutting, I came up with this:

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I haven’t burned this image into a screen yet, and haven’t decided whether or not I will. Although a couple of my friends say that they really enjoy this one. I think cutting the woodblocks is at least half of the entertainment for me. Really it comes down to having 2 to 3 hours at night where I can just relax and wind down, knock back a couple beers, listen to some light music, and cut chunks out of blocks. And right now, that works for me.

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If you’re interested in anything here, the link to my shop is etsy.com/shop/MasonJarsMixingBowls

If you have any ideas for wood block cuts I’d love to hear them. And if you have anything to share, positive or negative, about the ones I’ve already done I’d love to hear that too.

Happy canning.

I’ve entered the screenprinting business. Here’s a link to my Mason Jar related Etsy Store MasonJarsMixingBowls

I’ve entered the screenprinting business. Here’s a link to my Mason Jar related Etsy Store MasonJarsMixingBowls

I promise my followers that I’m not going to spam you guys with a bunch of Etsy links from here on out.  But I’m kind of excited.  I decided to sketch some mason jar designs on linoleum blocks, carve them out, make stamps, turn those stamps in to silk screens, and then print some towels, shirts, bags, and things.  So, if you’re in to canning, pickling, mason jars, and cooking (which you are if you’re reading my blog) why not swing by to see if you see something you like.  Everything is crafted with the same amount of care that I put in to my canning.   I’m mason jar obsessed and this is just another part of the adventure.

Tomatillo Salsa Verde

I’m going start focusing on holiday gift ideas. Hopefully one post a week until the New Year. I already covered two ideas, Guinness Stout Beer Jelly and Curry Pickled Cauliflower, last year. That beer jelly is a huge hit with everyone that tries it. So if you need a quick and easy gift idea, start there.

But in the mean time I plan on trying some other easy gift ideas for you to use. This week will be Tomatillo Salsa Verde. This is great stuff. And versatile too. A half pint in the stocking is destined to be enjoyed with a bowl of chips and a cold beer. A pint for the hostess of your holiday party will be used as a green enchilada sauce. And that quart you give to your friend can be combined with a couple pounds of chicken and slow cooked to a great green chile chicken for burritos, tacos, or whatever.

Not only that, but this is a one pot dish that gets blended. So no precise chopping or huge mess afterward.

Tomatillo Salsa Verde

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Tomatillos
Onions
Jalapeños
Cilantro
Lemon juice
Garlic
Cumin
Salt/Pepper

We’ll talk ratios further down the line.

Tomatillos. What the hell are they? They are a fruit if the Nightshade family and fall under the category of “Who decided it was a good idea to eat this?” plants. Tomatillos are generally green, but you can also find yellow, red, and purple ones (though I haven’t). The fruit resembles a green tomato. But it’s very firm and covered in a thin husk that reminds me if a Japanese paper lantern. As the fruit grown is fills the husk and eventually breaks through. Tomatillos are sold in all stages of this process.

20121115-020923.jpgSometimes the fruit fills the husk, other times it doesn’t. And both are fine.

20121115-021009.jpgSometimes you will find a sticky coating between the fruit and the husk, similar in feel to partially dried hair spray. Don’t worry, it washes off easily.

Which brings me to the next step. The husks are not edible and must be removed. I like to kill two birds with one stone and remove the husk while washing the fruit. The running water helps separate the husk from the fruit and with a quick run the sticky residue is gone too. Invert the husk over the stem, twist, and remove.

20121115-021541.jpgThe inside looks like this.

20121115-021609.jpgFill a pot with water and drop your tomatillos in.

20121115-022020.jpgBring to a boil and cook for about 10 minutes. In the mean time prep the rest of your ingredients. Cut the stems off your jalapeños and split lengthwise.

20121115-022125.jpgUse a paring knife and cut the veins and seeds out. Here’s my theory on jalapeños and heat. If you want mild sauce remove all the veins and seeds. For hot, leave them all in. For a solid medium leave half. I cut them all out and then add about half back in.

20121115-022315.jpgChop your onion, cilantro and garlic as well. Again, we are puréeing this later, so precision is not a factor.

20121115-022810.jpgYour tomatillos will darken in color and become soft.

20121115-022459.jpgRemove and drain them. But reserve a cup or two of the boiling liquid.

I cook, can, bake, and process so much stuff that I don’t get burns on my fingers very easily anymore. If your fingers are more….sensitive, use tongs for this next step. Cut the tomatillos into quarters. This is what the inside if a tomatillo looks like.

20121115-023020.jpgToss the tomatillos in the pot with the onion, garlic, cilantro, and jalapeños. Add some of the boiling liquid to the pot. How much is up to you. Just enough to prevent anything from burning and sticking to the bottom.

20121115-023314.jpgAdd salt, pepper, cumin and lemon juice. Then turn the heat on. Bring the salsa to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Your salsa should liquefy, the onions become translucent and generally look like this.

20121115-023502.jpgUse an immersion blender, food processor, or blender and *carefully* blend until smooth.

20121115-023559.jpgFill your clean jars to the 1″ head space. Apply a clean lid and band, and hand tighten.

Process in a water bath canned for 20 minutes. And you’re done.

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20121115-024404.jpgRatios:
3lbs of tomatillos is approximately 6 cups. 1 lb of chopped onion is approximately 3 cups.

Every batch is 6 cups of tomatillos, 3 cups of onion, 3 jalapeños, 1/2 cup cilantro, 6 garlic cloves, 1/2 cup lemon juice, 2 teaspoons cumin, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. I made three times this much in one batch. This recipe is a bit heavy on the cumin, but I love the heat and flavor that it adds. Other options are a mix of lemon juice and vinegar for a sour bite, adding some lime juice, and adding or removing garlic. A single batch yields about 2-3 quarts.

This recipe involves little prep work, is prepared and processed in under one hour, and only involved a cutting board and large pot.

I added a quart of this to a crock pot with a couple pounds of chicken breasts. 6 hours later I had green chile chicken. I shredded the chicken with two forks. Then I rolled the chicken in several tortilla shells and placed them in a glass casserole dish. I topped it all off with more tomatillo salsa and shredded cheese. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes then broil to crisp the cheese. Boom, easy peasy green enchiladas.

Happy canning.

Canning Pumpkin and Winter Squash

One of the great things about holidays with specific foods is that they go on sale as soon as the holiday is over. That’s prime purchasing time for canners. With Halloween over and Thanksgiving rapidly approaching, retailers are desperate to unload their inventory of pumpkins. I even saw a post on line of a grocer that was giving then away to avoid filling their dumpsters.

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Canning Pumpkin or Winter Squash
Pumpkins or Squash
Water

I started by placing my pumpkin on its side and then smacking the stem causing it to break off at the base. Using a large knife, and keeping your fingers out of the way, slice the pumpkin in half along the stem.

20121114-103609.jpgUse a spoon and scrape out the seeds and membrane from inside.

20121114-103701.jpgCut each half in half again.

Pumpkin in a low acid vegetable and can not be water bath processed. It’s not possible. Don’t try it. It has to be processed in a pressure canner. And, you can not purée it like you buy in the store. It has to be cubed. Puréed pumpkin is too dense for the heat of a home canner to penetrate as deep as it needs to. So the bad news is you’ll need to have or buy a pressure canner bathe good news that pressure cookers are awesome and useful in many ways. Since you need a pressure cooker I’m going to include my method of peeling which includes a pressure cooker. There are other ways to do this (peeling, roasting, steaming) but I’m sticking to one method because it was so easy.

Place your grate/rack in the bottom of your pressure cooker. Add water to just barely touch the grate. Start layering your pumpkin quarters in the pot. I was able to fit 4 pie pumpkins (16 quarters) in my Presto 23qt at a time. Put your lid on and lock it. But don’t cap the vent. Turn your heat on high. As soon as steam comes out of the vent put your weight on. Set a timer for 10 minutes. Keep an eye in the pressure, but mine never crossed 12. After ten minutes remove the pot from the heat. (*NEVER DO THIS IF YOU ARE PROCESSING JARS*) Put your canner in the sink and slowly start running water over it. As it starts to cool you can j crease the water. This rapidly cools the pot and makes the pressure drop. Please be familiar with your pressure canner and how it works. Don’t deviate from the manufacturer’s guidelines. After the pressure drop to zero carefully remove the weight. If its done venting entirely, carefully remove the lid. Steam will escape. Be cautious.

Inside you will find perfectly cooked pumpkin.

20121114-105432.jpgI shouldn’t even have to say this, but the pumpkin is hot. Really hot. Really really hot. So use spatulas, tongs, spoons, and or pot holders to remove the segments. When you do, you’ll find that the skin sloughs right off the flesh.

20121114-105719.jpgThe flesh should be softened, but firm enough to hold its shape. The first batch I made I let go slightly long because I was nervous. The flesh got a bit over done and was very soft. Again, you don’t want purée, you want cubes. A bit under done is better than a bit over since you’ll be cooking it another 75 minutes shortly.

Using a large knife cut the pumpkin in to approximate 1″ cubes. I used a large knife to avoid having to hold the hot pumpkin with my other hand.

20121114-110240.jpgUse you ladle and funnel and fill your jars to the 1″ headspace. Then top with boiling water. A tea pot is great here, or just a large pot if boiling water.

20121114-110455.jpgYou can see which jar had the softer pumpkin and which had the firmer. As long as it doesn’t purée you’re fine. The water will carry the heat between the cubes.

20121114-110613.jpgClean lids, band, finger tight. Rinse out your pressure canned and add the required amount if water. Usually only a few inches. Add your jars and process according to the guidelines below:

20121114-111210.jpgAfter the proper time turn off the heat and walk away. Do not move, cool, or attempt to open the canner. Once the pressure drops to zero, remove the weight. Once the inside is ventilated remove the lid. Allow the jars to sit for another 5 minutes or so to acclimate to the cooler temp. This entire process removes the risk of syphoning.

Remove the jars and place on a towel or wood cutting board. I love pressure canned items because they continue to boil well after removal. You can see the bubbles here.

20121114-111553.jpgyour finished product will be slightly darker and more on the brown end of the burnt orange spectrum.

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20121114-111708.jpgsubstitute this pumpkin for any fresh or canned pumpkin recipes. I haven’t tried using it in pumpkin bread that calls for greatest fresh pumpkin yet, but I plan to. The first time I used it I found it holds a lot of water. Next time I’ll drain it in a colander before using.

Now you can enjoy pumpkin pie or cookies, bread or purée in March or any other time you feel like it.

Happy canning.

Dilly Beans. Because Eventually We All Have To.

Update: This recipe won a 1st place Blue Ribbon at the 2013 Arizona State Fair in the Pickles, Relishes, and Spiced Fruits category.

I’d heard about Dilly Beans when I first got into canning. But having had canned green beans, I couldn’t imagine the joy in eating soft, soggy, pickle flavored beans. And since I was teaching myself to can simply by reading as much as I could, I didn’t have the opportunity to ask things like “How do they stay crunchy?”

But being over 2 years in and head over heels for canning, I decided to go back and give them another shot. Instagram had a lot to do with it, because the canners I follow speak so highly of them. Especially in the context of being very spicy and in a Bloody Mary.

So I made a smaller batch last month. 2 quarts and 3 pints. Just something different to try out. The nicest part was how easy they were to make. Of course the downfall of pickling is that you really need to wait at least two to three weeks to taste the product. So I waited and waited. Last night the wife and I were enjoying some beers after dinner when I decided I couldn’t wait any longer. I cracked a jar and tried one.

Oh. My. God. Why haven’t I made these before? Crisp, crunchy, spicy, and packed with all the best parts if dill pickle flavor. I’m not even ashamed to admit that we consumed the pint jar in less than 20 minutes. Fine. We’re making more.

I found myself at my favorite produce store with green beans on sale. I ended up leaving with a bushel. Which, is just over 29 pounds of green beans.

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Dilly Beans
Green Beans
Fresh Dill
Garlic
Dry Chilis, Chili Flake, or Cayenne pepper
Pepper Corns
Vinegar
Water
Pickling Salt

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Lets talk about ratios. As you know, if you keep up with me, I don’t work in small quantities. When I can stuff I make cases at a time. Now I’m guessing you guys may not be up for making a bushel if green beans. So here’s your ratios. Every part of salt gets 10 parts water and 10 parts vinegar. For instance 2 1/2 cups water, 2 1/2 cups vinegar, 1/4 cup salt. Or, in my case, two batches of 10 cups each of vinegar and water and one cup salt.

When it comes to the seasoning I added the following to each quart jar:
One sprig dill, 2 garlic cloves, two dried chilies, 10-20 peppercorns. For the pints I added half as much. For this particular batch I went heavy on the chilis, adding up to six to each quart and substituting 1/4 t of Santa Fe Chili Powder to the pints. I expect those to by spicy. Very spicy.

But this is what’s great about recipes like this. Up the dill, reduce the garlic, omit the pepper your choice. Add more or less cayenne or pepper flake for a mild, medium, hot, or atomic bean. You can also use dill seed or dry dill if you choose. Though I love fresh dill for all my pickling. Mix the flavors up and enjoy the variety.

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Clean and prep your green beans. I cut a 1/4 inch of both ends. Because I had 30 pounds the entire family cut 1/4 inch of each end.

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I read a lot of recipes where people cut each bean the exact same length to perfectly fit the required headspace in a pint jar. And that’s pretty cool…for them. I might try that for my state fair entry next year. But I have 30lbs of beans to process. If you’re making pints be sure that none of your beans are too long. If you’re making quarts you needn’t worry.

I grab a handful of beans and try to get them all facing the same direction. Then I gentry drop them straight down into the jar.

20121114-004758.jpgThen I try to fit a 2nd handful next to the 1st. After that you grab beans one by one and try to jam them in there. I’ve read of people using chop sticks to move the beans in the jar around to fit more. Again, time vs payoff. I tried to fit as many beans in one jar as I could.

20121114-005007.jpgHeat your vinegar, water, and salt to a boil and stir to dissolve the salt. Add the pickling solution to each jar of beans leaving headspace. I like to use the very bottom of the threads as a guideline. Lid, ring, finger tight.

Process in a water bath canner for 5 minutes. Yes, 5 minutes. That’s not much time. That also means this is one time your jars must be sterilized prior to processing. I use a steamer basket insert to steam my jars on a separate burner prior to use. When you put the jars on the water to process, remember that time doesn’t start until the water starts to boil again. After 5 minutes remove and set on a towel, cutting board, etc.

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And now the hard part. Let them sit in your pantry for at least 21 days before opening. Let the flavors mellow. It’s totally worth it.

Dilly Beans are amazing out of the jar. They also rock in a Bloody Mary. I’d serve them with burgers or steak. Or on an antipasto platter at a dinner party. They’ve got great crunch, a good bite, and fantastic acidic flavor. Of you haven’t tried making them yet you should give it a chance.

Happy canning!

Back to Basics; Blackberries and Pears

Sometimes I feel like it get too wrapped up in coming up with great new flavors and combinations that I forget the simple joys of canning. I’m definitely guilty of making pear, plum, and ginger jam. I’ve thrown some black pepper in with strawberries. And I’ve made jelly out of things that don’t want to be jelly, like Guinness beer and apple cider.

So occasionally I need to step back and remember some of the simple reasons that I can in the first place. Like saving money, eating ingredients that I’m aware of, and spending time in the kitchen making things for my family.

This is one of those posts that goes out to the people who say “I’m brand new to canning, what should I do the first time?” I usually point people in the direction of jam, but simply canning fruit can be rewarding and very simple.

I’m also going to touch on siphoning and thermal fractures, because both of them happened to me tonight.

While I was out today I found pints of blackberries for $.25 apiece. I picked up three flats. Bartlett pears were on sale for $.69 a pound and while I haven’t paid to close attention to the price of pears, that did seem well below average. So I grabbed a huge bag of them as well.

Canning Blackberries

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Go through your blackberries, rinse them off, and pick out any that even have the slightest hint of mold. For most berries I use a cold pack method. Hot pack involves heating the food to cook it through before placing it into jars. Cold pack is just like it sounds, you place the raw food directly in the jar. Blackberries stand up to the heat fairly well, but no point in overcooking them since I don’t want them to turn into mush.

Place the berries in your jar leaving enough headspace.

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All fruit needs some kind of liquid to sit in. People use plain water (rarely), fruit juice, or syrup. I did not want to add commercial juice to my fruit so I opted to go with syrup as I usually do. You can make several different types of syrup from very light to heavy, all depending on what ratio of water to sugar you use. I make a light syrup which is approximately 2 cups of sugar in 7 cups of water.

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When you first add the sugar to the water it will be very visible in the bottom of the pan. Heat it over medium-high heat and begin to stir. As the water heats up the sugar will disappear. Continue to heat until bubble start to form. However do not bring it to a full roaring boil.

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Ladle the syrup over your fruit leaving 1 inch of headspace. You can see that the hot liquid is already beginning to leech some of the color out of the berries below the surface.

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Place a new lid and clean ring on top of your clean jars. I read recently on the county extension website that the USDA is no longer requiring sterilization before every batch. As long as the jars are cleaned and processed for the correct amount of time sterilization prior to filling them is not necessary. I have stopped boiling my jars for anything that I waterbath process. For the pressure cooker items were botulism is still a concern I think I’m paranoid enough that placing the jars in an inch of water and letting them steam for 20 minutes before I fill them gives me a bit of reassurance.

Place the filled jars in your waterbath canner and process for 20 minutes for pints and 25 minutes for quarts.

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Blackberries hold up fairly well to the canning process. My wife makes herself a fruit smoothie nearly daily. Instead of trying to keep fresh berries on hand all the time she’ll simply open a pint, spoon out what she wants for that day, and then place the rest in the refrigerator. They are also good as ice cream toppings. Additionally, you can take the contents of a quart jar add some flour and sugar and pour it directly into a pie tin to make yourself a fresh blackberry pie.

Canning Pears

When I made pear butter a couple of months ago I used Bartlet pears. I was so impressed with the flavor of those pears I wanted to preserve some. However I let the box sit around for too long and they became too soft to can on their own. When I found them on sale again I picked up a large bag so that I could save some for later.

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Start by peeling your pears and adding them to a large pot or bowl that contains water and either citric acid or lemon juice.

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Take each pear, cut the top off to remove the stem, and then slice in half lengthwise. Use either a teaspoon or a melon baller to remove the core.

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The next step is up to you. You could can half pears if you had widemouth quart jars handy. I preferred slices to fit more in each jar. I sliced each half into four quarters.

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As you slice the fruit return it to the same pot or a different one that has acidified water to preserve the color.

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Again you’ll want to decide what kind of syrup or juice to place your fruit into. I use the same light syrup. The USDA currently has no recipes that call for cold packing pears. This time we bring the simple syrup up to a boil and then place the fruit in the syrup and boil it for five minutes.

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Using your funnel and ladle fill the jars with pears and then fill with the syrup liquid that you boiled them in, up to a 1 inch headspace. Put on new lids and clean rings and process in a water bath canner for 20 minutes for pints and 25 minutes for quarts.

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The pears came out fantastic. I think they held their color really well. The important part here is that I will be enjoying blackberries and pears when everyone else is paying four dollars a pint and $2.99 a pound for them.

People can for so many different reasons. Nutrition, tradition, preparedness, necessity, taste, and cost savings. As much as I enjoy making extravagant jams and jellies to give away as gifts I enjoy the simple pleasure obtained from preserving low-cost produce to be enjoyed a later date.

A Word On Syphoning and Thermal Fractures.

There are several things that can happen to canners to interrupt their enjoyable evening. One of them is siphoning and abother is breakage.

What is siphoning? Simply put it’s the contents of the jar leaving the inside and going to the outside very quickly. It is due to a rapid change in temperature or pressure. I’m not sure why but I noticed that almost all of my jars of blackberries suffered from siphoning. As the timer went off I would remove them from the water bath and set them on the counter. Almost immediately dark purple and red liquid seeped from under the lid and spilled all over the counter. Siphoning is bad for many reasons.

First off I’ve had it occur previously during a pressure canner session when I returned to find 4 quarts filled with vegetables but no liquid. That’s bad folks. That time it was a result of me removing the pressure canner from the stove and trying to cool it rapidly with the use of water. I was very very new back then. But unfortunately the food was wasted anyway.

The other problem is that the escaping liquid can prevent a good seal on the lid. You guys all know that you have to listen for the pop and check the seal of the lid on the jar when it’s finished, right? If you do suffer from siphoning, but it is only a small amount of liquid, and your lid sets and seals you do not have to worry. Your biggest concern at that point will be washing off the exterior of the jar to prevent any mold growth on the outside.

So, how do you prevent siphoning? If you are using a pressure canner when the time is up simply turn off the burner and walk away. Don’t attempt to move the canner off of the stove to a cool burner or countertop. And definitely do not place it in the sink and run cold water over it the way you can to remove cooked foods quicker. Just let the temperature drop on its own.

If you are using a water bath canner when the time is up turn off the burner and wait two to four minutes. Allow the water to slowly stop boiling and the jars to acclimate to the lower temperature before removing them. Place the jars on a folded up kitchen towel rather than directly on the cold countertop. Allowing slower transitions between temperatures should prevent siphoning.

Speaking of rapid temperature changes have you ever seen thermal fractures? Jars break for one of two reasons. Thermal fractures or impact fractures. The first is caused by rapid temperature changes. Usually something too cold getting too hot too quickly. The second is caused by jars knocking into each other, implements knocking into jars, jars falling over, et cetera. Luckily they are easily distinguished and identified.

Impact fractures will run vertically up the side of the jar either in a straight line or lightning bolt pattern. Thermal fractures will run horizontally around the jar, and in my experience only at the very base. The fracture is extremely straight and clean almost leaving no sharp edges.

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Thermal fractures are caused by your jar heating up to rapidly. You started with cold jars and placed hot food inside of them, or your jars had hot food inside of them and you place them in a pot that was too hot, or you placed the jars directly onto the surface of the bottom of the pot without having any kind of insert to gain elevation. If you are sterilizing your jars before each batch this is generally not an issue. However if you are not, be sure to heat your jars up in the dishwasher or by using hot water before filling them. Always keep your jars off the bottom of the pot.

Luckily for me I found this one almost immediately after it happened because I took the lid off of the pot to check on the contents. I was able to salvage the ingredients, find a new jar, and continue on. Do notice that this is a Golden Harvest jar and not a Ball or Kerr brand. I believe Golden Harvest was Walmarts house brand there for a while. I’m not sure where this one came from as it was my only one. But I do trade my goods with other people and pick up jars at thrift stores and garage sales as I see them. I recommend sticking to the two major name brands to know that you’re getting quality jars.

Happy canning.

Personal Satisfaction

I’m not going to post a recipe or procedure today, since I already talked about how to can tomatoes. This post is more about me being happy with my own productivity. A little pat on the back, if you will.

Last year we processed 50 lbs of tomatoes. And the conclusion we came to was….that’s a great start. But we blew through them in a couple of months. So this time around my wife suggested we do way more. I’ve been calling Superstition Ranch, Sprouts, and Food City checking on tomato prices for 2 months. I tried to negotiate lower price for ordering large quantities, but the lowest I got was an offer for $.88/lb. Not worth it to me.

Finally last week Superstition Ranch said their Romas were $.59. I told the wife this might be the cheapest we find. She agreed, and we decided to bite the bullet and grab 100 pounds.

When we got to the store I received the greatest surprise.

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Salad Sized Tomatoes at $.25/lb. In case you’re wondering, this is what they look like.

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We came prepared to spend $60 anyway, so I asked the wife. “You wanna stick with a hundred pounds, or do you want to step up our game and do two hundred.” In her infinite wisdom she decided we should go for 200 pounds.

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That many tomatoes required more jars than I had on hand. After a quick stop for jars and citric acid we were home.

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Now that’s a beautiful sight!

We spent that first evening processing 100 lbs. Lets just say that it took a little longer than I remember. What slowed me down the most was the limitations of my canner. 7 quarts at a time, at 45 minutes per batch. By the time we went to bed on Sunday we were half way done.

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On Monday I had errands to run, dinner to make, and children the wrangle. I got through another 50 lbs. Tuesday I had to work, teaching a class all day. Wifey prepped 25 lbs and I processed them when I got home. But knowing I was working 17 hours on Wednesday I couldn’t stay up any later. That’s when the unthinkable happened….the wife suggested she prep and process the remaining 25 lbs on her own.

Canning has always been my thing. Generally she isn’t interested on any part except for enjoying the results. So I was really happy that she was interested and willing to try. I walked her through the important parts, citric acid, clean rims, finger tight rings, and full boil. On Wednesday she finished off the last 25 on her own, with zero failures or breaks.

I came home last night to see what 200 pounds of tomatoes look like in jars.

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Just over 70 quarts. About 3 lbs per jar. Seems that we can have just over a quart per week for the next year.

We use canned tomatoes in lots of stuff. All you need is an immersion blender and some herbs to make a quick spaghetti sauce. Rough chopping them creates a nice ragout. They go in Spanish rice, stew, soup, etc, etc.

3 days of work seems like a lot to some people. But knowing that we have plenty of tomatoes, at a price that can’t be beat, and knowing that each jar contains exactly 2 ingredients is worth the effort to me.

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Happy Canning!

And there were beans, lots of beans, lots of beans, lots of beans.

Reddit has a great canning community as does Intagram if you search #canning. I’ve been trying to network and talk with more canners to get recipe ideas, help, and enjoy some canning small talk. Instagram user Michca3 even got me interested in antique Ball jars and I picked up 3 this weekend.

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So if you’re in to canning be sure to check out those two resources if you haven’t already.

One of the things I was able to find was a recipe for Ranch Style Beans posted by Reddit user VicinSea (who is currently writing a canning/preserving book that I can’t wait to be published). I love the Apetite Pleasin’ Ranch Style Beans in the black can and wanted to duplicate them at home. The taste is not 100% the same, but this recipe seems to do a good job of replicating it.

Ranch Style Beans
(Ingredient Measurements Per Quart Jar)

1 1/2 cups Dry Pinto Beans
1/8 cup onion
1/4 cup tomato
1 clove garlic
1 t jalapeños
1 t green chiles
1/8 cup green pepper
1/4 t cinnamon
1 t honey
1 t salt
1/4 t pepper

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If you have never worked with beans before, you should know something. Measurements, by volume, of dried beans are different than beans that have been boiled. I counted the number of empty jars that I had available and measured that amount of dried beans into a pan. I wound up with almost twice as much as I needed. Just keep this in mind if you don’t have a large amount of empty jars on hand. I would estimate a half cup of dried beans per pint or one cup of dried beans per quart.

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Put your beans in a colander and sift through them with your fingers. You are looking for rocks, pebbles, twigs, or any beans that just don’t look right to you. Then rinse the beans off and run your fingers through them to get them all cleaned up.

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Put the beans in a large enough pot and cover with plenty of water. You’ll notice right away that some beans start floating. I tossed these out. Honestly, I don’t actually know if they are bad or not, but if 99% of the beans are sinking I don’t trust the 1% floating up there. I ran my fingers through them one more time to allow any floaters that were at the bottom to hit the surface, and then I skimmed them out. Place the pot on high heat and bring them to a boil. I let the water come to a full boil for about a minute and then I took the pot off the heat. Drain the beans and set aside.

Chop your pepper, onion, garlic, and tomato if you aren’t using canned.

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I cheated and bought canned chopped jalapenos and chopped green chilies. Also, the green chilies are my addition to the recipe. I really enjoy the mild bite that they add to dishes.

Place the measurement of beans in the bottom of each jar. Then start layering the other ingredients on top. I started with green pepper, then onion, then jalapenos, chilies, garlic, honey, Cinnamon, salt, pepper.

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I was making pints which made some of the measurements very interesting. Instead of estimating what a half a clove of garlic was, I just added a quarter teaspoon of garlic to each jar. By the time all the layers were in there it reminded me of a little Christmas tree like parfait.

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My wife has a little teapot that she uses to boil water for her tea before bedtime. It really comes in handy when I’m canning things. Add boiling water to each jar leaving 1 inch of headspace. Be aware that I had to add water to each jar, allow it to settle, and then top off each jar with a little bit more to get the proper headspace.

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I found out that my Presto 23 quart pressure cooker can hold 16 pints and 1 quart jar. It’s a beautiful sight.

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Process the beans at 10 pounds for 90 minutes.

I haven’t opened them yet because I want the flavored to mingle for a bit. Maybe I’ll try them this weekend. But, just from looks, they seem pretty dead on.

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As with anything that is pressure canned, reheat and boil for 10 minutes before serving.

Happy Canning!



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