Ball FreshTech Canner – Not Just for Canning Anymore

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When Ball put out their FreshTech electric water bath canner this year, which I previously reviewed here, they also advertised it with some additional uses, beyond just using it as a canner. I thought I would probably just use it for canning, and those other uses were just a good marketing idea, but I’ve actually come to use it for quite a few other things so thought I’d share some of them with you in case you’ve been on the fence about buying one. Ball’s suggestions mostly revolve around making a big batch of something – which makes sense, a lot of us don’t have another pot this big, so it is good for a big batch of whatever you are making. It also comes with a steaming rack for steaming vegetables, but to me unless you are steaming a whole lot, using this giant pot maybe isn’t ideal. My ideas for it mostly revolve around the fact that it’s very easy to get the canner to stay at a set temperature. Unfortunately the dial doesn’t have temperatures on it, so if you want to know the exact temp you need a thermometer (this is the one I use most often), but it does maintain pretty much whatever temperature you are interested in. So here are some of my uses for it!

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BEER!

Now if you are a pro, making all grain beer and being all fancy like, you probably won’t agree with this one, but I think the canner is awesome for making beer. Why? Well if you are making beer from malt extracts and a smaller amount of specialty grains, usually what you do is first steep some grains at around 170 F, then add the extract and bring your wort to a boil. Using my electric stove top, I often find myself overshooting the steeping temperatures, but using the canner has been much easier. Why? Because of the way the canner burner pulses on and off to maintain the temperature. Additionally, I just left the canning rack in the canner, and set my grain bag full of grain on top of it so I didn’t have to worry about it touching the bottom and melting or burning. Once you get your wort to your steeping temperature, turn the heat down until you hear the burner turn off, then it will just come back on in short bursts necessary to maintain that temperature. Worked like a charm. Then you have two options when you are done steeping. Either boil the wort also in the canning pot, or if you want to use your larger brew pot simply put it under the spout of the canner, open the spout and sparge your grains. Either way works great! And many of the “mini-mash” recipes that I have followed actually only tell you to boil about 3 gallons of the wort and top it off at the end anyways, so this is a great option for those recipes and for beginners not ready to invest in more equipment. Last time we brewed, we actually made one batch in the brew pot we have, and one in the canner because there is very little active time involved it was great – two brews in the same amount of time as one!

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Mmmm wort.

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 Making Stock

After thanksgiving I froze the turkey carcass to make stock with, and decided to do it with the canner this year. I am quite happy with how it turned out! I was a little concerned with whether anything would burn to the bottom (which it didn’t at all) so to be safe I actually left the rack in the canner, filled it with my bones and bits of meat, carrots, onions, celery and spices, and covered with water. Similarly to the way I’ve made stock in the crock pot before, I actually didn’t boil a ton of the water off, but rather let it just cook on a hot but not boiling temperature. I made sure that there was a ton of water in there so there was no chance of it cooking all off, and left it cooking for a full 24 hours. Turned out super well!

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Pasteurizing milk

Another possible use for the canner is pasteurizing milk. Weck actually markets their canner as a “pasteurizer.” If you have access to raw milk, and want to pasteurize it at home, you could do a nice big batch in the canner. Again, the pro here of the canner is the same as many of the other uses – I find it much easier not to overshoot the temperature. Use your canner as a double boiler with your largest pot. For pasteurization,  you want to either heat to 145 F for 30 minutes (reference here) or to 165 F for 15 seconds (reference here). The canner is large enough that you could easily use it as a double boiler for most sizes of large pot. Pictured is my 4.5 quart pot, but my larger stock pot is the same diameter and fits nicely also if I wanted to do a larger batch.

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Mulled Wine (and other hot beverages)

This one was inspired by Ball’s suggestion of apple cider, but the canner can be used for mulled wine too. The thing I like again is that you can just leave it on low and it will keep the wine warm, and you don’t have to worry about having a burner on. Plus it has a spout for serving!

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Do you have the new Ball canner? What creative ways have you used it? Interested in purchasing one? – They have had a couple sales on amazon so keep your eyes peeled for after Christmas sales, or buy one for the canning junky in your life!

*this post contains affiliate links, please see the “About the Blogger” page for more information (Yes, if you buy the canner from amazon I will receive a small profit, but I would never recommend a product I don’t love just because of that!!)

 

Queso Fresco Cheese

Back in week 5 of my Master Food Preserver class posts I had mentioned that we learned how to make queso fresco cheese but never posted the full instructions, so here they are! This one pictured below had some added herbs. Mmm. These instructions come from PNW 539.

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The first important thing with cheese making is to sanitize all your equipment. Cheese won’t be boiled, so sanitize all your spoons, knifes, bowls and other equipment by boiling it or soaking it in a bleach water solution for 2 minutes (one tablespoon bleach per gallon of water). You should also use pasteurized milk to make your cheese. If you have raw milk you can home pasteurize it by heating it to 145 F for 30 minutes.

On to the making of the cheese. To make cheese you need a thermometer, and it needs to be correctly calibrated. You can check it by placing it in ice water to ensure it reads 32 F or 0 C.

Ingredients:
1/2 cup cold tap water
Junket Rennett tablet
One quart cultured buttermilk
Two quarts pasteurized milk
7 tsp white vinegar
1 3/4 tsp salt

First, place one Junket Rennett tablet into the half cup of cold water and let it dissolve.

Meanwhile, combine the buttermilk, milk, and vinegar and mix well. Heat to 90F and then remove the pan from the heat. Add the dissolved rennet and mix for about two minutes.

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Let it stand for 30 to 40 minutes, undisturbed, until the curd is firm. Once firm, cut the curd into one inch cubes. This seems a bit odd, like you are cutting a liquid, but just go with it. Run the knife through at inch ish intervals. Let stand five more minutes. Heat the curds and whey again, to 115 F. Resist the urge to stir, just hold the thermometer carefully in there and heat it slowly. Once at 115 F, remove from heat and let stand five more minutes.

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Pour the mixture through cheesecloth in a colander and allow it to drain for five minutes.

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Then form the curd into a ball and twist the cheesecloth as pictured to gently squeeze out the whey.

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Break the curds up in a bowl and add the salt. Mix, and let stand for five more minutes. Squeeze through cheesecloth once again. The herb cheese pictured at the top of this post was perhaps a little drier than queso fresco typically is, so don’t over squeeze the cheese if you want a moister cheese. Form the cheese in a bowl or other mold. Remove from the mold. Refrigerate for up to a week.

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Easy peasy right? Just some heating and waiting and squeezing. This is one of the easiest cheeses to make, so if you’re wanting to get your feet wet in cheese making this is a great place to start.

*this post contains affiliate links, please see the “About the Blogger” page for more information