Â Â Hi everyone! Man, am I sorry to have just dropped off the radar like that, and make you wait for the next post for so long. Please forgive me! We had company for my husband’s birthday, and then Valentine’s day and things just kept happening to keep me from posting. Thanks for sticking with me through it all. 🙂 I hope this posts finds you excited about all the things you can do with your kitchen in shaving off money from your grocery bill.
The extra time off has given me a couple days to think about ways to promote canning in general. Seriously, folks, if you have any reservations, you really should do some research on it. So far it looks like the prediction is that canning is becoming popular again (whooo-hooo—on the front of the wave—FINALLY), and that all the necessities for canning are going to be more widely available than ever before.
I wanted to give you a couple tips on coming up with those necessities before we get into the nitty gritty of pressure canning, which will take up a good long post.
I am all about cheap, within reason. Dont rush out and purchase everything full price if you can help it. Jars can be found all over the place for MUCH less than what you would pay retail in a store. I was on Craigslist the other day and found numerous listings for jars for not that much—40 jars for $10, various sizes of jars for 25 cents each. I even found a lady who had used them in her wedding for decoration and was willing to sell the whole batch of 100 jars for $30. Now, when you are going to head into the store and pay around $8-$10 for regular quart jars in a case of 12, those are some pretty good deals. Put an ad in FreeCycle and see if you can come up with some. Look for smooth jars that have no cracks or chips in the tops, or you wont have very good results with seals on your food, thereby losing all your hard work. I check at the beginning of every canning time by putting the jars over steam with a lid on the pot. It will reveal if there are any cracks in your jar. Cracked jars get recycled. But the nicks in jar tops are easy to feel with your fingers. I save those and store all my dehydrated food in them as the quality if not affected by a chip (but more on that next post). Thrift stores often have some in back or shoved in their kitchen appliance section if you ask, although some places seem to think every jar is an antique find and charge through the nose for it. Ask for them for gifts from family for birthdays or such. My mom had a ball purchasing jars for my brother a couple years ago, so you never know until you ask. Often you can find them, as well as canning supplies, at garage sales ( same as dehydrators, hint hint!). Dont just run out and buy all new stuff and cost yourself a fortune. See if you can get them for cheaper or free, first. 🙂 Just a frugal tip from a lady who cans about 700 or more jars a year of food for her family. 🙂
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Ok, lets get into the heart of today’s post and talk about our next step in canning…
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Pressure Canning.
Â Â Now, I am going to warn you. Once you even breathe the idea to family members that you are thinking about pressure canning you will hear every horrible story that they can concoct about someone getting their head , arms, nose, curlers, etc, blown off because they chose to use a pressure canner and didn’t do it right. It’s like when you are pregnant and for some reason everyone feels absolutely compelled to tell you about the worst birth stories they have ever heard.
Same thing with pressure canning. So far it seems everyone who has never personally done pressure canning has heard of someone’s aunt’s-cousin’s-boyfriend’s-dog’s-relative who tried to pressure can something at home (insert the word beans, corn, hotdogs, you name it right here) and ended up losing their life while trying to be frugal at home.
So I am here to tell you just one thing.Â What I want to tell you is that pressure canning, just like running an oven, sawing wood, jumping off the diving board…well, they all come with do’s and dont’s, right? For your safety, follow the directions. And each pressure canner is different, so while Mabel down the street may only put one small cup of water in her pressure canner and puts up a gazillion beautiful jars a year of homemade beef stew, your pressure canner may require one quart or more of water to put up the same amount of stuff. That is why your canner comes with an instruction booklet.
Â Â And folks, in pressure canning, if you don’t like to read directions, you are better off buying your canned goods from the store. Or getting over that bad habit.
Pressure canners work by creating a sealed chamber in which pressure rises, thereby creating high temps from steam that kill any bacteria in low-acid foods, and the pressure is what seals the jar lids to keep it sanitary. They have a short learning curve, but once you get on the bandwagon and realize all the things you can put away from sales, meals, and gardening, you will never look back.
Today’s canners also have very high safety standards, much more than in past years, and it is rare to hear of someone getting hurt if they follow the directions. I cant personally think of any, actually, off the top of my head, that have occurred in the last ten years or so. However, that being said, it is something to be careful with, and as a home with small kids, they are not allowed to be around while I am pressure canning. Or water bath canning. I don’t want to be the mom whose kids got hurt and ended up being a poster story for “don’t try this at home”. I use my noggin, err on the side of caution, and I hope you do the same.
When you walk through the grocery aisle, and look at all the canned foods, most can be canned at home. Some examples would be: corn, peas, green beans, potatoes, beef stew, chicken soup, shredded meat, ground beef, etc. I could go on and on. And most of them canned at home are so much better for you than what you get in the store because YOU are in control of the ingredients, how it is processed, and where the food comes from in the first place. Yesterday I had to break down and open up a can of store-bought creamed corn to make into cornbread for my family, and wouldnt you know it, I picked the can that some nasty bug had fallen into while it was being processed. Thank goodness I caught it before I dumped it into the batch of mixed batter. I think that has happened twice to me in the 20 years I have been cooking. Still, it grossed me out to the max. And we had cornbread without creamed corn. (Probably always will after that experience). Anyhow…..those things happen, rarely, even with home canned food, but it was your hands, your kitchen that it came from, and thereby, the control of it was in your dept.
Â Â I pressure can with a 23 Quart Presto canner that my hubby purchased for me as a birthday present about 3 years ago. I was nervous to use it (think back to all those stories and then imagine living in canning country and how many MORE I heard.), and my mother going on and on about someone’s aunt she knew as a kid who blew her head off while canning beans really scared me for a while. (are you STILL thinking about curlers? Sheesh!)
However, after reading the directions, and trying a run the first time with just water in my jars, I learned quickly how it worked, and have been happily canning since. Last year I put up over 100 jars just of soups, stocks and meats with my pressure canner, (which is not counting the low-acid veggies I put up) and since my surgery on January 11th I am sad to say I have not yet been able to do anything so far this year. I know I will be well enough in a couple weeks to break that baby back out and start canning up some chicken and turkey that we got on sale right around the holidays. We are down to one jar, and that is sad stuff around here!!
I like pressure canning because the possibilities are endless. You can not can dairy products as they curdle (so they say), eggs, anything that is thickened with flour or cornstarch, or a few other things, but most things can be canned. If you love having food on your shelf that is beautiful as well as tasty, I would encourage you to check out layered soups. I started pressure canning with stock for my pantry and just went from there. I definitely think layered soups are gorgeous on the shelf, and make it that much more fun to eat!
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â You need the same items for canning as we talked about in the last post here, but you will also need a pressure canner.
Like last post I am going to show you a couple videos that will illuminate the process of pressure canning for you rather than trying to tell you all about it more than I have.
Â Â I just wanted to say this is a nice basic tutorial on pressure canning, but when I got my pressure canner, it recommended NOT putting vaseline on my gasket, so I haven’t. She answers most basic questions, and I applaud her for making this video, and saving all of us who would like to teach other how to do this, a lot of time and pictures!
I have a list a mile long of the things I want to make for our pantry as soon as I am feeling well enough. Does Candy Apple Jelly sound good to you? Me too! And we are coming up on St Patty’s day soon, which means that cabbage is going to be at rock-bottom prices. That means its time for the Estey family to pull together and make up some sauerkraut for the rest of the year!! Both of those things I mentioned are waterbath canned, but I will be pulling out that pressure canner for making up some more stews, soups and stocks for our cupboards, or even swedish meatballs!!
Â Â Rather than posting a bunch of my recipes on here today, I am going to send you off to some of the sites that have given me more than enough ideas to go off of for my inspiration and canning passion. Have fun and post what you are planning on doing next for your canning adventure!
Â Â Â A couple dont’s I just wanted to highlight if you are going to start pressure canning.
Â Â DON’T buy the cheap Better Homes and Garden jars that you find in sections at certain Walmarts. Stick with names long in the canning world, such as Ball, or Kerr (same company, different names). BHG jars have a history of breaking under pressure canning and you dont want that. They seem to be fine with water bath canning, so use them there if you already have some.
Second, and this is a big one, DON’T get impatient while waiting for your foods to process. Anything with meat in it takes 75 minutes for pints and 90 minutes for quarts to process properly, depending on your altitude (check your instruction manual). So if you made more than enough for one canner full, don’t try tricks some people will espouse as safe on their websites! Those are tricks such as releasing the pressure quickly by manipulating the weight, or putting the canner under cold water to cool it quicker. I don’t care if someone’s Grandma did that their whole life and wow, look that she is still alive. Neither is safe. You can get burned, or at the worst, more than your curlers blown off your head. 🙂 Anything worth doing takes time, effort, and hard work ethic. Do it right the first time, and you will find yourself amazed at how wonderful and tasty your food is. Another, much smaller don’t is that if you are going to use herbs in your food prep for canning, know that they can float to the top while your jars are in the canner processing and affect the seal by coming between the seal and the rim of the jar. Same with liquid fat from your meats. I put whole herbs in, sprigs actually, with my soups to avoid that, and I wipe the rim of my jars with a cloth that has been dipped in vinegar before sealing with the lid and processing. I have had the best success with that.
Our next post we are going to be talking about another form of food preservation that is just as important, and far more ancient than canning. I love my dehydrator, and I love even more the versatility of it and how it saves SO MUCH of my garden for me every year. Check back soon!