Winter Canning

It might seem like a good time to put up the pressure and water canners but indeed this is actually a wonderful time to catch up on winter canning.  We’ll be picking up meat from our friends after harvest in a few weeks and the freezer needs to get cleaned out.  I save the green parts of leeks, the outer layers of onion, carrot ends, kale ends, heading to the edge veggies and store them in large freezer bags.  When it is time to make broth I stick them all in a large pot.  In this batch I did all the mushrooms I had in the freezer waiting for fried mushrooms that never came about.  Onion, and garlic cloves joined the bunch of veggies and large sprigs of rosemary were added.  3 hours on low and the simmering broth smelled delightful.  Rosemary and mushroom broth will make a delicious broth in rich dishes.  The next batch I will be doing will be made with a chicken carcass and all the corn cobs saved in the freezer from summer.

Jpeg

The broth is strained  and poured into hot quart jars.  The rims wiped down, hot lids replaced, and the jars put into a pressure canner with three inches of water on the bottom.  10 pounds of pressure for 25 minutes for normal folks; we high altitude homesteaders just keep all the weights on at all times.  The 25 minutes starts when the top starts ticking.  Turn off the heat when the timer goes off. Do not open for a few more hours at least.  It is always nice to have broth at the ready and to know what is in it.

Jpeg

I also took the opportunity to re-can the peach jelly..ahem, syrup.  If you have been reading my blog for a long time you know that I never get it right the first time!  I have had amazing high altitude homesteading jelly makers give me every tip in the book.  I suppose my problem is not following directions, ever.  It generally works the second time…one more box of pectin, 1/4 cup of lemon juice, 1 more cup of sugar, let it boil for longer than it says…we’ll see if I am giving peach jelly or peach syrup this season!  It takes a few weeks to know if I succeeded.

It is always nice to bake bread while canning since you are stuck near the stove anyways.  The warmth of the kitchen heals chaos and settles the spirit.  The root cellar in the house we are buying has large shelving that I look forward to filling.

Jpeg

 

3 Jars of Pickles (canning a little at a time and a pickle recipe)

There is nothing saying that canning has to take all day.  Preparation, a zillion jars, boxes of veggies, apron donned, friends over.  You are every bit as efficient if you are able to can a few things at a time on a whim.

kiowa

Do you remember my interns from a few years back?  Ethan and Stephanie would bring in a bunch of green beans every day.  And then some more at night sometimes.  I often prefer canned green beans and we could only eat so many fresh.  Now, I was accustomed to ordering two bushels of green beans from a farmer family of mine.  In a two day whirlwind I would put up enough green beans for winter so what was I going to do with all of my beans?

I wanted to teach the young interns to can so we put up a few jars.  It didn’t take any time at all and then every day we just canned a few more and pretty soon the entire larder was filled with that exceptional summer of green beans and I never did have to order green beans to put up!

Jpeg

That summer changed my perception on canning.  If things are harvested today or are fresh right now and you are not going to eat them now, can them.  It all adds up.  Sunday I was perusing the farmers market tables taking in all the bounty and color (mind you the only thing in season in Colorado right now is asparagus and spinach, everything else got shipped in from California….) and saw the cutest, crispest looking little cucumbers.  I had never seen that particular varietal so I brought them home.  They just filled two 12 ounce jars and one pint jar.  That is three jars of pickles off my list of larder needs.

Jpeg

Easy Pickles

Holding jar at an angle place cucumbers around the edges and in the center, finagling the puzzle until they all fit snug and are ends up (doesn’t matter which end).  Or slice into 1/2 rounds and place in jars.  There should be one inch head space still.

Fill clean jar of cucumbers 1/2 way up with vinegar (I used my friend, HotRod’s homemade malt vinegar).

Add 1 teaspoon each of dried dill (dill isn’t in season yet), mustard seeds, celery seeds, and sea salt.

Add a smidge of hot red pepper flakes if you wish.  Maybe a clove of garlic.  A half teaspoon of sugar.  Your choice.  It’s fun to play with flavors.  It doesn’t change the recipe.

Fill to 1/2 inch headspace with water.  Run a damp wash rag over the rim and then replace lids.

Place in a canning or stew pot of hot water.  Water level has to cover jars.  You can put a towel between the jars to keep from clinking.  Bring to boil and boil 5 minutes plus 1 minute for every 1000 feet above sea level.  So, I did 11 or 12 minutes.  Remove from pot and let sit on counter overnight.  You will hear that lovely “click”, a favorite sound among homesteaders.  The pickles are done in a few months.  Label date and contents.

NOTE: Pour boiling water from a kettle into jars to rinse them out.  Put lids in a bowl and pour boiling water over them.  That is all you need to do.  The whole idea is to have clean, hot jars.  That does the trick.

Happy Canning!

Pressure Canner (homesteading necessity, chicken stock recipe, and buying only what you need)

We are slowly building our life and items we need back up.  We just purchase what we need as cash allows.  Last night we joyfully added to the cart a few imperative homesteading items.  A pressure canner (when the lid is off it’s a water bath canner), jars, stock pot, and canning gear.

First things first, chicken stock.  I am shocked at how much organic stock costs.  Here is my recipe for it should you need it from a prior blog post.

Click here for recipe

I am heading to my Great Aunt Donna’s for rhubarb this weekend.  And the hunt is on for everything I can get my hands on to can.  Rows of organic canned goods are amazing to have on hand any time of the year, goodness without listeria, E Coli, or whatever the heck else is in our food system.  Great, delicious, wonderful home grown food….oh, I am getting carried away.  Stock, that is where I was at…

My old pantry

Preserving Spring (freeze and pickle asparagus then make some dandelion jelly after eating the leaves!)

IMG_0967

One of the very first crops of spring is asparagus.  We enjoyed a few dishes of roasted asparagus and I preserved the rest for asparagus cravings in July…or December.  If one can find asparagus in the stores during those months I would highly question its origin, how old it is, and the flavor of really fresh asparagus isn’t going to be there, so what’s the point?  By preserving what is in season one can enjoy the flavors any time of year.  Here are a few ways to do so after you have enjoyed your fill of fresh.  Just snap the bottom woody part of each spear off by bending it until it cleanly breaks.

Freeze it!

Cut up asparagus into the sizes you desire.  I like one inch slices to put into frittatas or stir fries.  Have a pot of boiling water ready and one of ice water.  Throw the pieces into the boiling water, let it come up to boil again and a minute later remove the asparagus and place it in the cold water to stop the cooking.  Now, line it all onto a cookie sheet and place in freezer.  In thirty minutes transfer to a freezer bag.  This prevents the asparagus from sticking together in one swell lump.  Not ideal for retrieving a scant half a cup for cooking!

IMG_0968 IMG_0969

I also freeze whole spears.  Since these I will roast I do not want to blanch them.  I will eat them before they lose their flavor.  So, I freeze them on cookie sheets for thirty minutes then transfer into a freezer bag.

IMG_0970

Pickle it!

Place right sized spears in quart sized clean, warm canning jars.  In each jar add 2 cloves of garlic, 1 Tablespoon of dill (dried as fresh isn’t ready yet), 1 teaspoon of sea salt, 1/2 teaspoon of celery seed, and a 1/4 teaspoon of ground mustard.  These additions can be altered, removed, or things added to fit your taste.  They do not change the time processed!

IMG_0971

Now fill the jars half way with red wine vinegar (to learn how to make red wine vinegar click here) or apple cider vinegar and the rest of the way with water.  Leave a half inch head space on top.  Clean the rim and apply the lid.  Place in a large pot of boiling water so that the water covers the lid.  Boil for 20 minutes adding 1 minute per 1000 feet above sea level that one’s homestead is at.  I round up to seven.  So, I will boil the jars for 27 minutes.

Remove jars and let sit on counter overnight.  The jar should have sealed.  Label and place in pantry until July.

IMG_0074 IMG_0086

The other crop to preserve right now is dandelions.  The leaves can and should be eaten in salads, smoothies, soups, and with roasted veggies.  The flowers will become dandelion jelly today.  Click here to find out how!

Hurray for spring vegetables!

Canning Sweet Corn

I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to learn to can.  It seems that it skipped a generation and very few people my age even know how to can.  Folks think it is easier to buy food from the store.  I disagree.  How many hours does one have to work in order to buy food?  I would rather spend those hours in the garden or at the farmers market.  In just a few hours one can turn an entire bag of corn into several jars of delicious sweet corn, summer flavor locked in, to enjoy all winter.  It is a rather nice task with huge rewards.

SAM_0534

Not only do you know where your food is coming from, how it was raised, how long ago it was harvested, how big the footprint is, and if it is organic, but you also provide yourself food security.  Big snow storm?  No job?  Car broke down?  Can’t get to the store?  No problem.  The grocery store is in the basement.

IMG_0806

I am not growing enough to can yet.  Each stalk will produce 1-2 good ears of corn.  I got a big bag of corn from Miller Farms (they are not certified organic, but I know for a fact that they do not use pesticides, fertilizers, or any kind of herbicide.  They also use non-GMO corn) and went to work.

SAM_0524

1. Shuck a big bag of corn and cut corn off of cobs with a sharp knife.  Give cobs to chickens and ducks.  They love corn day!  Give the outer leaves to the goats.  They love them!  Save the corn silk in a paper bag for healing up urinary tract infections.  Just make into tea with a handful of cranberries and juniper berries and honey.

SAM_0522

2. Fill warm jars with corn to half an inch from the rim.  Add 1/2 a teaspoon of sea salt to pints, 1 teaspoon to quarts.  Fill jars to 1/2 an inch from rim with a kettle of hot water.  Wipe off rim and put on lid.

SAM_0523

3. Fill the pressure canner with three inches of water.  Put jars in canner.  Attach lid.  (Note: the new pressure canners are inexpensive and not our great-grandma’s pressure canners.  They do not blow up!  There is no fear using one!)  Turn on high and when the shaker starts shakin’ and it sounds like you ought to be belly dancing, then start timing.  55 minutes for pints, 85 minutes for quarts.  For high altitude canning, always use all the weights.  For the rest of the world use 10 lbs of pressure.

A burlap bag 2/3 full made 10 pints of corn and 3 quarts of corn.  I need thirty jars to get through winter (we love corn) so I’ll need another bag!

Pumpkin Eating

SAM_0794

I love pumpkins!  I feel like Linus from Charlie Brown about now.  I will wait in my pumpkin patch for the Great Pumpkin because I have the most sincerest pumpkin patch of all.  Here’s the interesting thing…it’s not Halloween.  The pumpkins are not supposed to be done yet!  With all the beautiful weather we have had this summer, everything is ready to be harvested!  I’ll be taking some pumpkins to the farmer’s market this week for sure.

I picked one that was for sure ready (vine died and it just practically fell off) and brought its beautiful orange self in the house holding it in the air like I had just won a trophy.  There are a few things I can do now….

IMG_0804

I can eat it for dinner.  Or I might want to can it for winter.  If I cannot wait then this is my favorite way to prepare it:

Slice it in half, take out the seeds (Roast them later or give them to the chickies.) and lay them face down on a cookie sheet.  Bake in the oven for 30 minutes at 350 degrees and then flip over.  A few pats of butter, a couple tablespoons of brown sugar, a teaspoon or so of pumpkin pie spice and maybe a few walnuts or pecans and back in the oven it goes to bake another 20 minutes.  Add a bit of heavy cream in each half and bake another 10 minutes until well done and tender.  Whallah.  Crust-less Pumpkin pie.

Or for later, bake 30 minutes on one side, 30 minutes on the other but don’t add any of the previously listed delicious ingredients.  Now stick in the fridge overnight to cool.  Scoop out flesh, put in food processor or Vitamix and puree.  Pour into pint jars leaving 1 inch head space.  Pour three inches of water into pressure canner and process jars at 10 lbs. of pressure (25 lbs. of pressure at high altitude, Colorado people!) for 65 minutes.  Now you will have jars of fresh pumpkin to put into coconut pumpkin soup, or delicious pumpkin pie, or anything else that calls for a can of pumpkin.

IMG_0843

I got one jar out of my medium sized pie pumpkin.  I better go out and harvest some more!