Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut is actually surprisingly easy to make, as it turns out. All you need is cabbage, pickling/canning salt, and a little bit of patience.

The first thing you need to do is prepare the cabbage. Wash it, remove the outer leaves, cut it in 4 and shred it. This can be done either by chopping it by hand, in a food processor, or with a mandolin.

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If you are doing it by hand it is a little harder to get nice even shreds, which is why I really liked using the mandolin for this purpose. Plus it gets to be a crazy cabbagey mess pretty fast.

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In clean and sterilized container, combine 5 pounds of cabbage with 3 tablespoons of salt. Sprinkle the salt evenly over the cabbage, and with clear hands mix it in well. Leave it until it starts to wilt, and release its juices. At the very least 15 minutes. Don’t reduce the salt in the recipe.

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Next you want to transfer it into the container you plan to ferment it in. In class, and when I made it at home later, we just used large mason jars. I think this is easier than a pickling crock, but it’s up to you. The crock is of course nice for a gigantic batch. Push the cabbage tightly into the jar or crock, getting it to release more liquids. It should release enough that you don’t need added brine, but if you do, top it off with a brine that is 4.5 teaspoons of salt for every 4 cups of water. Leave at least 4-5 inches of headspace in your pickling vessel.

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The thing that I liked about doing it in the jars was what we did next. We filled a plastic bag with the brine, and placed that in the top of the jar to hold the cabbage down. With the crock you need to weight it down with a plate or something, and it just seemed a little more difficult. The bag trick totally rocks. If you start to get a bit of scum, just remove the bag, wash it, clean out the scum, and put it back in. It seemed to me like you got a lot less though too with this bag method. Ball says you’ll have to skim it daily, and like this that is definitely not the case.

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Now comes the patience part. Fermenting your cabbage will take a few weeks, so now we wait, and let the magic happen! OK, it’s not magic, it’s science! Bacteria will get to work on that cabbage, making the lactic acid that give sauerkraut its tart flavour. It can take up to 6 weeks, so be patient. Keep it at room temperatures, about 70-75F (21-23C).

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The way that you know your sauerkraut is ready is that it will be sour when you taste it. Do not can it until it tastes sour, or it is not acidic enough, and not safe to can. As you can see below, when it’s done it is a little lighter in colour, and loses a bit of the green colour.

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So now that it’s done what do you do? Well you have a few options. It keeps for a few months just fine in the fridge, so that’s a good option, especially if you only made a small batch as I did at home. I did 4 cabbages and filled 3.5 quart jars to give you an idea of how much it compacts. You can also can it though, if you so desire. It can be raw or hot packed. For both, prepare the canner, jars and lids. For the raw pack, you pack the kraut into hot jars, remove air bubbles, leave a half inch headspace, and process pints for 20 minutes and quarts for 25 minutes in a boiling water bath canner. If you hot pack it, you bring it to a simmer with the brine over medium high (don’t boil), then fill the jars, again leaving a half inch head space and removing bubbles. For the hot pack though, you only need to process 10 minutes for pints and 15 for quarts, since you already warmed it up. For both of course process at a full rolling boil with the jars covered by at least 1-2 inches of water. After the processing time is done, turn off the heat, remove the canner lid, wait 5 minutes and remove the jars. I have no pictures, however, because I plan to just keep it in the fridge. So, there you have it – you can choose from three ways to store it, and it’s super easy to make. Now get out there and kraut!

Strawberry Fruit Leather

Lately in the field I have been eating basically peanut butter and jam sandwiches and granola bars, so I needed some new snacks to mix it up a bit. With strawberry season in full force, this strawberry fruit leather did just the trick. All I did for this leather was puree strawberries in a blender. No added sugar, no added nothing. You can certainly sweeten to taste with a bit of sugar or honey if you like, but I don’t really think it’s necessary.

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How to make it! First, wash, hull and puree the berries.

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Pour the puree onto the fruit leather trays. Unfortunately most dehydrators come with either none or one of the fruit leather trays. But they aren’t too expensive, so I bought 4 more.

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Deydrate the fruit leather at 135-140F. My manual says it should take 4 – 8 hours. I’ve done a couple batches now with 5 full trays and it took about 8 – 10 hours. The only real issue I had was a bit of cracking. Around the crack I had a bit of “case hardening,” which is when you get the outer layer drying, but the middle is still wet. I just kind of punctured it and smeared it into the crack. I think this could be avoided by not pouring such a quite thick layer of puree. Perhaps.

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Almost dry but a titch cracked.

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You can tell that it’s done when it is a bit tacky still and not yet brittle. Watch carefully when it is almost done so that you don’t over cook it. It will also be a little more brittle once it cools, so if it seems nearly done it might be, so cool it and check that it’s ready. Once it’s ready, tear it or cut it into pieces. Deeeelish.

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Store in a plastic bag or whatever you like at room temperature. It will keep quite a while, but I bet you will gobble it up pretty quickly.

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Master Food Preserver Class – Week 5

Tomatoes are one of my very favourite things to preserve, so I was pretty happy that week 5 of our Master Food Preserver class was devoted to tomatoes (and also cheese!). No, it’s not tomato season here in the PNW, but hey class has to cover everything before the season ramps up, so we got a little tease and now have to wait a few months before we can make all these recipes.

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Canning tomatoes is awesome and amazing and definitely something that you should do, but it’s an area where you definitely need to be following tested and trusted recipes for things like salsas and sauces. Tomatoes are acidic enough to hot water bath can, but they are on the borderline between low and high acid, so we must add a little extra acid when we can them. This is because some may not be quite acidic enough, and if they are not remember we have the potential for botulism growth. We also learned that there are a couple bacteria that are only really found on tomatoes, and these bacteria can reduce the acidity and create conditions that are ideal for botulism. Adding that extra acid eliminates these risks.

In class we canned crushed tomatoes. When filling the jars, you add a bit of extra acid to each jar. 1 tablespoon of lemon juice per pint or 1/4 teaspoon of citric acid. This ensures your tomatoes are definitely out of the pH range in which botulism can grow. It takes two extra seconds to do, so don’t skip it.

The hardest part of canning tomatoes is the peeling. I always can with a friend doing tomatoes because it’s a lot of work. But totally worth it. Look at those naked ‘maters!

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For the crushed tomatoes, we hot packed them. Here we are bringing them to a boil. Hot packing tomatoes is definitely the way to go, or else they have to process for 85 minutes!! That’s crazy talk!

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Crushed tomatoes!

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My favourite thing to do with tomatoes is to make salsa. We made three different salsas in class this week. Two tomato salsas and a tomatillo salsa. Salsa are delcious and amazing, but again, this is one area where you really need to follow a tested recipe, such as a recipe from Ball, So Easy to Preserve or from an extension service publication or the National Center for Home Food Preservation. The reason for this is that adding peppers and onions to the tomatoes to create salsa reduces the acidity, putting it into a range where botulism can definitely grow. Vinegar or lemon or lime juice must be added to compensate for these low-acid foods. But do you know exactly how much acid is needed for a cup of peppers or a cup of onions? No, so try out some of those tested recipes and find one you like. There really are a good number of options out there.

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The one that I helped make is actually this one that I posted last fall. It’s a great one if you like a salsa with a lot of peppers in it. I would recommend making about a million jars of this come tomato season. It’s that good. Although one alteration from the way I did it would be to make the recipe as written, then repeat rather than trying to bring twice as much to a boil. It just took forever to boil and I think holds together better if you get it boiling and into the jars faster. You live and you learn.

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OH MAN I JUST WANT TO EAT IT ALL RIGHT NOW!

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The second recipe was also an OSU extension recipe but it’s more similar to the other one from Ball I posted last year, found here. This one has proportionally more tomatoes than pepper and onions, and has a bit of added tomato paste. They are both delicious and which one you like better will just depend on your taste for salsa.

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Beautiful little fellows.

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Finally, we made a salsa verde using tomatillos. You could also make this with green tomatoes as I did last year with this recipe.

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Filling the jars.

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OK. Well now I am drooling and wishing tomatoes were ready…. but never mind let’s not wish the summer away. Let’s talk about some salsa and tomato rules.

– I already mentioned this, but always follow a tested recipe when canning salsa
– Never reduce the vinegar or lemon juice or add extra vegetables
– Altering spices is OK, like adding some cumin, cilantro or oregano to your taste
– You can swap peppers for different peppers, like if you want your salsa milder or hotter – just ensure you use the volume of total peppers called for in the recipe
– Don’t can overripe, spoiled tomatoes, or those from frost-killed vines. They have lower acidity so may not be safe to can
– Tomatillos and tomatoes are interchangeable in salsa recipes
– Use 5% acidity vinegar and bottled lemon or lime juice in salsa
– Equal amounts of lemon juice can be substituted for vinegar but not vice versa since the lemon juice is more acidic
– Don’t use thickeners in canned salsas, this can cause uneven heating and produce and unsafe product

Whew! OK that seems a bit overwhelming, but basically just be safe and smart making salsa. Follow a tested recipe, don’t be stupid, and you will enjoy many a delicious jar of salsa.

The last thing we did in class was learn to make soft cheese! Honestly, I thought it was a bit of a gross process, but maybe now that I’ve done it once it won’t be so bad next time. ha. And the cheese did taste pretty good. We made queso fresco. I’ll do a full post on it when I have a chance, but here are some pictures.

Milk and buttermilk

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The formation of the curd.

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The curd is setting up.

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Eww. Straining it.

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Squeezing out the whey.

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Ta-da!

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I think it was just the early stages and the smell that bothered me a bit. But it actually tasted surprisingly good. Have you ever made cheese? What’s your favourite kind to make?

 

 

Master Food Preserver Class – Week 4

Week 4 of Master Food Preserver class was all about pickling!

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What is pickling anyway? Well Janice, our awesome instructor, had a funny quote up on the board: “A pickle is a cucumber soured by a jarring experience.” HA! Well, I was entertained at least. But this is not entirely true; A pickle doesn’t need to be a cucumber, and it doesn’t always need to be jarred either! In fact, there wasn’t one cucumber in class, we did all sorts of other types of pickles instead. Pickling is basically the process of adding a high concentration of acid to a food to prevent the growth of microorganisms.

There are 4 basic types of pickles – you can pickle a lot more things than just cucumbers!
– Fresh pack or quick pickles
– Brined of fermented pickles
– Fruit pickles
– Relishes and Chutneys

Quick pickles are made when you combine the ingredients and immediately process, versus a fermented pickle that sits for a few weeks and ferments, producing its own acids. Fermentation in vegetables and fruits is the anaerobic breakdown of sugars into acid. In veggies, naturally present bacteria breaks down the sugars, and in fruits, it is yeast that converts the sugar first to alcohol, then to acid. The acid formed is lactic acid, as opposed to the acetic acid from vinegar which we use in quick pickles.

Relishes are seasoned sauces made from chopped fruits or veggies, and chutneys are fruit relishes with fruits and/or veggies and nuts. They are a sweet and sour blend of vinegar and spices.

The first thing we did in class was asparagus pickles. This is a fresh pack or quick pickle, because what we did was combine the asparagus with spices, water, vinegar and salt, put it into jars, and immediately process it in a boiling water bath canner.

Asparagus ready to be pickled.

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Mmmm. Now we wait a few weeks for them to absorb that vinegary deliciousness.

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We then split into four groups and each made a different pickled product. One group was in charge of this mango chutney.

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Chutneys are a little weird to me. I haven’t actually tried it yet, but I will let you know if I find an amazing use for my jar of this.

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All prepared and in the jars.

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Another group made this corn relish.

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I was on team beet pickle. If you know me you know I love me some beets.

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It looks like a bit of a murder scene when you cut up beets. Especially precooked ones.

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I would definitely recommend gloves, unless you love having red hands. It doesn’t really bother me, but it does stain quite nicely. Helps you understand the term “beet red” 😉

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I would not recommend doing this in half pints. This was simply so that the whole class got a jar to take home. Go pints or even quarts for sure. If you are looking for a recipe, I actually posted one a little while ago here.

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And finally, we pickled some onions.

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They made for a pretty attractive pickle.

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Pretty good haul! I never really used to be a big fan of pickles, but they sure are growing on me.

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OK now that you’ve enjoyed the picture show, we’ll finish with some pickling rules:
– Always use at least a 1:1 ratio of water to vinegar making quick pickles. It’s not safe to use less vinegar or more water. If it’s too tart for your taste, add a teeny bit of sugar
– Use vinegar with 5% acidity, there are some tricky brands out there that are only 4%
– When making fermented pickles, don’t reduce the salt. And if you want to can it, don’t do so until they have a sour flavour.
– Always use pickling/canning salt rather than regular table salt
– You can swap the type of vinegar, as long as it is 5% acidity. Some people prefer the milder flavour of cider vinegar, go for it!
– The spices can be changed to taste. Adding more garlic or dill to your pickles is a-ok. This is one thing that is not a safety issue.

The last thing we did on pickling day was make flavoured vinegar. And this is a nice way to end, because as Janice said – there are no rules. When you make flavoured vinegar, it’s basically safe to chuck in whatever you like. Buy some cheap white wine vinegar in bulk and flavour it yourself by filling a jar with whatever spices you like and cover with vinegar. We tried some delicious berry ones as well, and I am super excited to make some this summer for some delicious vinaigrette. These are fine stored at room temperature. Once they have steeped to your satisfaction, they can also be processed in a boiling water bath canner if you really want to.

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My white wine vinegar, full of herbs, and a chive flower.

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Victorian Barbecue Sauce

I’ve had a lot of rhubarb coming in lately, so I decided to go for something a little different this time, and whipped up some Victorian barbecue sauce from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. This is great on chicken, and I bet it would be nice on pork as well. It tastes surprisingly good and is quite easy to make. I am trying to get away from store bought braises and sauces for meat, and this is a delicious replacement; a nice combo of sweet and tart.

Ingredients:
8 cups chopped rhubarb
3.5 cups lightly packed brown sugar
1.5 cups chopped raisins
1/2 cup chopped onions
1/2 cup white vinegar
1 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp ground cinamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp salt

Here’s how we made it:

Chop up the rhubarb, onions, and raisins.

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Combine all the ingredients in a stainless steal pot.

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This turns to brown muck pretty fast! Bring to a boil over high heat. Stir frequently and reduce to a simmer. We cooked the sauce for about a half hour. You want it to be the consistency of a barbecue sauce. Not too thick though… spreadable.

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I ended up pureeing it because I forgot to chop the raisins. This dummie just through them in. It should kind of be a pureed consistency anyways since it’s a sauce, so just don’t forget to chop the raisins 😉 Meanwhile, prepare the canner, jars and lids. This makes about 4 pints.

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Fill the hot jars, leaving a half inch head space. I hate to say it, but it kind of looks like we were canning up diarrhea. Yep, I said it. Gross. But it tastes really good. Anyways, that was awkward. Wipe the rims, apply the lids, and tighten the bands finger tip tight. Place jars in canner, covered by at least 1-2 inches of water, bring to a full rolling boil and process for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes remove canner lid, wait 5 minutes, and remove the jars to a hot pad or towel. Listen to them ping! Cool 12-24 hours, wipe jars, label and store.

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Try this sauce on barbecued chicken. It’s really delicious.

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Strawberry Jam with Liquid Pectin

Yes, I did already post a strawberry jam recipe a few weeks ago, you didn’t hallucinate it, but we made strawberry jam again and had liquid pectin on hand, so I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to highlight the difference between using powdered and liquid pectin. Also if I’m going to make every recipe in Ball I need to make the liquid pectin ones too of course 😉

Ingredients:
4 cups crushed strawberries
7 cups sugar
4 tbsp lemon juice
1 pouch liquid pectin

How to make it:
Crush the berries and put them in a deep, stainless steel pot.

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Mix in the sugar and the lemon juice. This recipe has an absurd amount of sugar in my opinion and is too sweet, but liquid pectin doesn’t come in a low sugar version as far as I know. Yes, I’m posting a recipe I wouldn’t necessarily make again, I think it’s informative though. The sugar added here is the major difference when using liquid pectin. The sugar goes in at the beginning, then you bring the jam to a boil, then add the liquid pectin. With powdered pectin, the pectin goes in at the beginning and the sugar is added once you reach a boil. They are not always directly interchangeable, but you can often find a recipe for either, especially for berry jams. For example there is a lot more sugar in this recipe than the powdered pectin one I posted earlier, so you can’t just use the same recipe with a different pectin always.

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Bring to a full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down, and squeeze in the pectin.

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Boil hard for 1 minute, remove from heat, and skim the foam. Personally, I think that liquid pectin has it’s place, but this may not be it. The liquid pectin is great for jellies I think though, like the pepper jelly I posted recently. Adding the sugar at the beginning seems to cause this jam to get really foamy. Plus I like to reduce the sugar and use low sugar pectin with strawberries since they are so sweet already. But the full sugar makes a nice gift and could be good for later season, less sweet berries.

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Fill the hot jars, leaving a 1/4 inch head space. Wipe rims, apply lids, and tighten bands finger tip tight. Place the jars in the canner, covered by at least 1-2 inches of water. Bring to a full rolling boil and process for 10 minutes.

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After 10 minutes, turn off the heat, remove the canner lid, wait 5 minutes and remove the jars to a hot pad or towel. Cool 12-24 hours, remove bands, wipe clean, label and store.

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Master Food Preserver Class – Week 3

Week three of Master Food Preserver Class was all about preserving low acid foods. Which means pressure canning! A lot of people are scared of pressure canning, and there are a few things that I think you should have a healthy fear of  – like botulism, but done correctly there is no reason to be afraid of pressure canning. Your pressure canner is not going to explode or anything like that. Even if you accidentally over pressurized it, there is a little safety value that pops off. So ya, you could have a mess on your ceiling, but that’s also only if you really aren’t paying attention. So, I am here to give you some facts about canning, and hopefully dispel some of the pressure canning jitters.

A pressure canner is mandatory if you want to can anything with a pH of 4.6 or above. These low acid foods include any vegetables, meats and combo foods like soups. To toss in some pictures, here is my very first canning project – green beans!

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When picking a pressure canner, there are a couple things to consider. For one, to safely heat the food, a pressure canner must be large enough to hold 4 quart jars minimum. Most are designed for 7 quarts, and the taller ones can fit two layers of pints. The one below is mine, a 23-quart presto. There are two types of pressure canners: weighted gauge and dial guage (dial pictured below). Dial gauges need to be tested every year for accuracy, and the dial replaced if it is off by more than two psi. Usually they stay accurate a long time unless they are bumped, or dropped or something, but you definitely want to check it every year. Your local extension office should be able to do it for you! Dial gauge canners never need to be tested, but only do 5, 10 and 15 psi, so if you need to adjust for altitude, you have to use the 15psi weight. I prefer the dial gauge just because I am a very visual person and like to be able to see that I am at the correct pressure. Some weighted gauge ones also have a dial though. With the weighted gauge you just listen for it venting every 15-20 seconds.

OK, so why do we need pressure canners anyways? Why can’t we just hot water bath can everything? The answer to this is basically one bacteria – Clostridium botulinum, which is the bacteria that produces the botulism toxin, causing severe neurological illness. C. botulinum thrives at pH 4.6-7.0, which is why anything with a pH above 4.6 must be pressure canned (for extra safety most recipes are desgined with 4.2 as the goal). Ideal growing conditions for C. botulinum are anaerobic conditions (without air), moist conditions, around room temperature, with the pH 4.6-7. These are the exact conditions created in a canning jar. However, there is a way to kill C. botulinum, and that is by bringing it to a temperature of 240 F and holding it there for a set amount of time. This cannot be achieved in a boiling water bath – water boils at 212 F.

Other facts about pressure canning:
– When pressure canning (actually any canning) follow safe, approved recipes, like from Ball, So Easy to Preserve, or the National Center for Home Food Preservation website
– Canning times differ for different products due to their texture, density and pH
– Canning at sea level is at 11 psi. Always adjust for your altitude.
– If your canner ever drops below 11 psi while canning, return to pressure and start the time over
– Don’t skip the 10 minute vent time. This vents cold air from the canner to ensure proper processing.
– Pack the jars as listed in the recipe. For example, use appropriate head space. Also, for soups you need to fill half with solids (no more) and top off with liquid.
– Never try to force a canner to cool, just let it cool naturally at room temperature until the safety plug drops. At that point, remove the weight, wait 10 more minutes, then it can be emptied.

OK, and on too the fun pictures. We did beans in class (two types) and a spicy tomato veggie soup. So delish. I’ll update this post with links to the recipes once I post them.

White beans ready to be heated.

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Spooning the rehydrated beans into jars.

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Small red beans.

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With bacon!!

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Most pressure canned items need 1 or 1.5 inch head space. This is below the bottom of the threading by a good centimetre.

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Beans in syrup with bacon!

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My group worked on the spicy tomato soup. SO GOOD! I need to make a giant batch of this when tomato season hits!

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Half full of solids first, then you top off with liquid.

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Eating the leftovers.

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Sorry to taunt you with these pictures and not the full details, but the recipes are coming soon!

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Master Food Preserver Class – Week 2

I promised to post about master food preserver class each week, so here is what we learned in last Thursday’s class! I took 116 photos in class during week 2, and it didn’t feel like enough, so you know it must have been a good class! And of course it means this post will basically be a picture show. 😉 This week we covered freezing, fruit pie fillings and soft spreads. So I would like to start off with some fun facts that I learned in class that you may or may not already know.

Freezing
– The best way to freeze if you are going to do a bunch of stuff, is to turn your freezer extra cold (down to -10F) the day before so that things freeze quickly. Frozen goods should be kept at 0F or below, so once frozen return the temperature to 0.
– Vegetables should always be blanched before freezing to stop enzymes that would otherwise cause changes in colour, texture, flavour and nutritional value. Recommended blanching times vary by vegetable and range from 1-10 minutes

One thing we covered for freezing was freezing convenience foods. So we did just that, and will eat these food later in the class! YUM.

One convenience food we froze was a “meal in a bag”:
-1 chicken breast cooked and diced
– 2 cups blanched veggies (or frozen ones)
– 1 cup pasta cooked until almost done
– seasoning packet in a separate baggie (such as 2t chicken bouillon, 1/2t garlic powder, 1/2t onion powder, 1/2t paprika, 1t parsley, 2T parmesan cheese)

Freeze it all up in a baggie. When you want to eat it, dump it all in a wok, stir fry it up and … presto!

Chicken for the meal in a bag.

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Blanched veggies for the meal in a bag.

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Combine it all and freeze. A great idea if you have a free weekend day and freezer space!

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Another convenience food we froze was twice baked potatoes. nom nom nom.

Bake potatoes, halve, and remove innards to a large bowl.

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Mash and mix in milk, sour cream, garlic, salt, pepper and cheese.

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Refill, top with more cheese if desired, then freeze on a baking sheet. Once frozen, transfer to freezer containers. When you want to eat it, bake at 375F for 25-30 minutes.

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The last convenience food we did was cookies. Works with most cookie recipes.

Mix up the recipe.

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Mold into balls (and in this case dip in sugar – yum!)

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Freeze on a cookie sheet and then transfer to a freezer container. When you want to eat them bake without thawing at 400F for 10-15 minutes.

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Fruit pie filling (and juice hiding in back)

Most fruit pie filling recipes for canning call for clear jel. What is clear jel anyways? It’s a starch used for thickening, and is basically a modified corn starch. You shouldn’t used regular corn starch or other thickening agents in canning, because they are not specifically designed for canning like clear jel. Clear jel has been modified to make it more heat stable, so it can take the heat of the canning process. It is also stable in low pH, like the pH of fruits. It makes products more shelf stable, and doesn’t separate over time like other starches can. It can be reduced in recipes too if you don’t want quite as much. If you don’t like the starchy pie fillings though, don’t try and can a pie filling recipe without it. Either follow a recipe for canning fruit in syrup, and then drain the syrup to use it in pies, or freeze the fruit instead!

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Soft spreads

Fun fact. Do you know the difference between a jelly, jam, conserve, preserve and a marmalade?
Jam – made from crushed or chopped fruit
Jelly – made from fruit juice
Conserve – made with two or more fruits and nuts or raisins
Preserves – made with whole fruits, or large pieces, in a clear, slightly gelled syrup
Marmalade – made with soft fruit and citrus peel in a clear jel

In class we made the following soft spreads. Click the names to link to the full recipe posts.

Blueberry lime jam

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and all canned up.

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Jalapeno pepper jelly.

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Strawberry lemon marmalade.

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And strawberry rhubarb jam.

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So many delicious treats! And the day’s excellent haul.

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Master Food Preserver Class – Week 1

Week 1 of my Master Food Preserver class was pretty fun. We didn’t get to a ton of food preservation being the first week, but we did start sauerkraut and can up some apples. The major thing we got through was a lot of food safety, which makes sense for week 1. There honestly weren’t too many things that were news to me, but here are some interesting tidbits from the day that you may or may not be aware of.

“Danger zone” is not just a song. It’s also a range of temperatures which are optimal for bacterial growth, and therefore not optimal for food safety. 40-140 degrees Fahrenheit. Food shouldn’t remain in the danger zone for more than 2-3 hours or it can be unsafe. For me I think my biggest offence against this would be putting a really big pot of something in the fridge. It cools slowly enough that it can remain in the danger zone too long. Spreading food out in shallower dishes would help me to avoid remaining in the danger zone.

We also learned about foods that are more likely to be contaminated by bacteria (and should therefore be avoided by the young, sick, pregnant etc.) I knew almost all of these, but didn’t realize the sprouts were due to bacteria related reasons, and didn’t realize lunch meat was on the list.
– rare ground beef
– unpasteurized apple cider/juice
– uncooked hot dogs/ lunch meat
– alfalfa and bean sprouts
– lox (cold smoked fish)
-raw milk and raw cheese
– soft cheeses (feta, Brie, Camembert, Roquefort etc.)
– raw eggs

We also talked about basic canning equipment, a bit about the history of canning, and basic canning guidelines. But I could write about that for pages and pages, so I think I’ll work on this as a page of it’s own to eventually bring this blog to a full canning resource. In the meanwhile, refer to the USDA National Center for Home Food Preservation website http://nchfp.uga.edu/publications/publications_usda.html 🙂

Another fun fact – the cut-off for what is a low acid food is pH 4.6. Anything above this must always be pressure canned. This includes all meats, vegetables, soups and stocks. And I’ll do full pages on these things some day because they are super interesting and important concepts.

Now for the fun part, we started out by getting sauerkraut started. Full recipe to come once it is ready. Yup, I’m going to make you wait.

Shredding the lettuce with a mandolin.

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After letting it sit with salt, filling the jars.

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So pretty!

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We also canned apples. Honestly I wouldn’t normally can apple slices straight up, but it is a good way to learn the concept of canning sliced fruit.

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And we did a fun experiment. We canned the apples in something like 16 different liquids, and we’ll taste test them later. I think this is a great idea because I’d never want to test these myself and then open all 16 at once, but there are almost 20 of us, including instructors, so I think it’s a great idea. I’m going to suggest we do it with pickle recipes too on that week. We did water, light syrup, medium syrup, heavy syrup, extra heavy syrup, brown sugar, honey, agave, stevia, splenda, orange juice, cranberry juice, pineapple juice, grape juice, apple juice… there may be one more I’m forgetting. But yes – what a fun idea!

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Well that about sums up the highlights for the day. More next week, mostly about jams and jellies, fruit pie filling, and freezing. Fun fun!!