Master Food Preserver Manual

I recently added a “resources” tab to my blog, to which I have been adding some of my favourite extension service publications, and products I love. In preparation for the upcoming preservation season, I had been thinking to myself, “how could I make this as useful and accessible to people as possible?” What I came up with was to provide you with all of the resources that are available in my Master Food Preserver notebook. When I started the MFP program last year, I got the notebook pictured below, which has a ton of different extension service publications complied into one handy (albeit giant) binder. So I wanted to make that virtually available to you in a well organized fashion, until I found out it is already available online! So exciting!! So if you are looking for basically all the publications that you need to safely prepare and preserve food safely at home click here. It’s all available free online on the OSU extension website – who knew! This is an amazing and FREE resource, check it out! The key was that it’s under faculty resources. All these publications are available online, but this is the first time I’ve seen them all organized together. Of course the tips for volunteers section isn’t important for you, but the rest of the chapters are nicely laid out and accessible. Enjoy, and happy preserving! 

20140429-211826.jpg

Do you refer to extension service publications? What’s your go-to source for recipes and instructions?

Gifts from the Kitchen

If you love food preservation as much as I do, you’ve probably given some food related gifts to family and friends in the past. Mostly I’ve given people things like jams, jellies and pickled goods I’ve made, and decorated cutely as below, but there are so many other gifts that we can give from the kitchen! So, with the holiday season coming up, the Master Food Preservers offered a class called “Gifts from the Kitchen” offering some inspiration and ideas for gifts for the various people in your lives. Teaching this class was a blast and people really had a good time so I wanted to share some of the ideas here that we talked about, and hopefully inspire you to get thinking about some gifts you might like to make in the next month. I thought I would get this post up today in honour of “cyber Monday”, so that maybe we can also be thinking of some homemade gifts on this massive shopping day. Maybe you could make something to accompany or replace a purchased gift, and I’ll offer a couple ideas here to pair a purchased gift with a homemade one.

IMG_1510

The most common gifts from the kitchen of course are canned goodies that you’ve made with love. I like to decorate them with little pieces of cloth, which are actually just quilting cloth squares or scraps from the craft store. Tie a cute ribbon around it and grab some cute tags, and presto gifto! However, when gifting preserved items there are a few other things you should remember. Of course always make sure you are following safe, tested recipes. If you want to play with things not tested that’s your own business, but always be safe when gifting items. It’s a nice touch to add an ingredient list and any information you think people may be interested in knowing, such as when the food was canned, how it was canned, whether it’s low sugar, things like that. It can be nice to put your initials on there or something too so people remember who it’s from (I know people trust my canned goods but maybe not everyone’s). If you want to give canned gifts but don’t have anything on hand, we talked about a few different things that you can still preserve now, which are pictured below. These include, pepper jellies, citrus jellies, jams or marmalade, cranberry jams or jellies (or check out the cranberry mustard I just posted), apple butters and applesauce. The green tomatoes are probably done for most of you now, but green tomato salsa is also an option if you still have some kicking around. There are also a number of other mustard recipes in the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving that look really intriguing and can be prepared at basically any time of year, so I plan to try out some more of those soon too. I think it would be really nice to give a couple different ones. The 4 oz jars get harder to find in some areas this time of year, but luckily they are still online here for about the same price.

IMG_4812 copy

Great! What else can we gift? Here is a sampling of some of the things we talked about or made in class, and I’ll talk in a bit more detail below about each of these. Here we have, from left to right, lime jelly and pepper jelly, a dry bean soup mix, a snowman of hot cocoa, flavoured vinegars and two different spice rubs in the front.

IMG_4791 copy

We had a number of stations where people got to make items to take home, and my station was hot cocoa. You had a couple options on how to arrange your cocoa into the jar, but if you search the internet there are a ton of other ways to do it too, and they are so cute and creative!

IMG_4731 copy

I did mine as a snowman (the guy on the left). I got this idea from my nana, who made them a number of years ago for Christmas gifts, but I made mine a little differently, using just one canning jar. All I did for mine was mix 1 part cocoa powder to 2 parts sugar, but you can also follow other recipes with dried milk in them as well. The one we did in class was 1/2 cup cocoa powder, 1/2 cup dried milk, 1/2 cup sugar, pinch of salt, 1/4 cup chocolate chips and 1/4 cup (or to fill the jar) mini marshmallows. Then, make a head out of marshmallows and decorate the jar with a scarf, face and hat made of cut out construction paper and a painted band and lid. Adorable. One of the girls in the class made this girl snowman who became buddies with mine.

IMG_4762 copy

Get creative and have fun with it! All I did was spray paint lids and bands black, draw on a face and glue on some buttons and a scarf and he turned out adorable.

IMG_4765 copy

Alternatively, you can make some cute layers in the jar or bag you put it in.

IMG_4740 copy

Another station that we did was a dried soup mix. Simply layer a variety of beans in a jar. We did equal parts kidney beans, white lima beans, black beans, garbanzo beans, pinto beans, great northern beans, small red beans, black eyed peas, barley, and then half as much of the split peas and lentils. To fit in one pint jar, you need 1/4 cup of each (about 1/8 for the lentils and split peas). We then also included a spice packet, and here’s an example of what it could contain: 1/4 cup minced dried onion, 2 tbsp dried celery (we dried our own to be even more homemade), 1 tbsp bouillon (vegetable, beef, or chicken), 2 tsp dried basil, 1 tsp dried oregano, 1 tsp ground red pepper, 1 bay leaf, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp black pepper.

IMG_4724

If giving a gift like this, it would also be nice to include some sort of recipe on how you would recommend preparing the soup. Including a recipe such as this one would work great. I prepared the spice packet to match the spices in this soup, but adjust this however you enjoy your bean soup, and share a family recipe or something. Additionally, a nice pairing to a gift like this could be your favourite cookbook. They turn out quite pretty when layered in the jars rather than blended.

IMG_4744 copy

Another station we did was preparing spice rubs. The one pictured is a steak rub adapted from Family Circle Magazine (November 2012). It contains 1 tbsp kosher salt, 2 tsp smoked paprika, 2 tsp dried oregano, 1.5 tsp dried minced onion, 1 tsp dried minced garlic, 1/2 tsp ground cumin, 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes.

IMG_4759

Simply stir all the ingredients together and package it in a cute way, such as in a little baggie or jar with a bow. Be sure to include the ingredient list, and perhaps a suggested usage. For example, Steak rub: rub 1 tsp spice mix onto both sides of a 1.5 pound steak and grill or broil as desired. A great idea for gifting this might be give it to someone who loves grilling, and include a book on grilling along with the homemade spice rubs.

IMG_4757 copy

Another rub that we did that is really delicious is a lemon cumin rub. It contained: 1/4 cup ground cumin, 2 tbsp grated lemon peel, 2 tbsp paprika, 2 tbsp ground cardamom, 1 tbsp ground cinnamon, 1 tbsp coarse ground black pepper, 1 tbsp cayenne pepper and 2 tbsp dried oregano. This rub is great on chicken. To prepare, dip meat in a mixture of 1 tbsp brown sugar to 2 tbsp water, then apply 1 tbsp of the rub. Let it stand in the fridge for 4-6 hours, then grill. If you are going to do spice rubs though, it can get a little spendy, so buying in bulk is always a great idea. Use home dried herbs too where you can for an added homemade touch. Some things you won’t have though, and they can be hard to find cheap (or at all) so I really like to get things from Mountain Rose Herbs. They have a huge herb selection and they also have bulk discounts if you are buying a ton. They also have some really fun salts and peppers which could also by themselves make fun gifts. Fill a few different 4 oz or 8 oz jars with a variety of different salts and peppers and decorate them for someone who loves to cook.

IMG_4797 copy

The final station was an apple crumble recipe from The Dehydrator Bible (which itself is a great gift). This is a great gift for a camper and includes 1/2 cup dried apple slices (dry your own at home in your dehydrator), 1 tbsp brown sugar, 1/4 tsp dried lemon zest (optional), 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/2 cup crumbled oatmeal cookie (or we used granola cereal). Place the oatmeal in one bag and the rest in another, and place in a foil tin for campfire baking. This one only stores well for a month or so, so keep that in mind. To include serving instructions, add a tag that says to serve you will add 3/4 cup of water to the apple mixture, and let stand for 15 minutes. Cook for about 10 minutes over the fire (or on the stove on low) and once apple reach the desired softness, add the cookie crumble and serve. 

IMG_4727 copy

All prepared in its tin.

IMG_4729 copy

Those are all the gifts from the kitchen that we made in class, but there are numerous other things that you could gift. One example I posted earlier was flavoured vinegar. A lovely pairing to this would be a salad dressing mixer. I have a very similar one to the one linked here (couldn’t find the exact one) and I love it. When I try and mix salad dressing by hand I often find I get too much oil onto my salad and not enough vinegar, so this is one of those silly toys I once bought myself. There are also some fun bottles with recipes on them, but I can’t vouch for the recipes so much because I always make my own with a lot less sugar. 

IMG_4798 copy

Another thing I did last year to give some of my favourite things (with a jar theme of course) was to give people my favourite teas in a ball jar. Pick up some different loose leaf teas from Mountain Rose Herbs, or your favourite local tea shop, and perhaps include a little tea ball with it. OK, that’s all I have for now, and I need to get to bed, so I hope you are feeling inspired! I just wanted to end with a couple of final thoughts for purchasable gifts for the culinarily (ya that’s not a word) inclined people in your life. I really enjoy The Flavor Bible, which is a book full of tons of inspiring flavor combinations. It’s not recipes, but basically a fun index of the best flavor combinations for every type of food out there. It’s inspired a number of great recipes for me and was a great birthday gift last year. Of course for the canners in your life I am always a fan of the classics for safe and tested recipes, which are also of course delicious and amazing: The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, or the smaller Ball Blue Book. Or the newly released (I just got it finally yay!) So Easy to Preserve. Last but not least, my second favourite way to preserve is dehydrating, so I would recommend both dehydrators and The Dehydrator Bible as excellent gifts. Happy gifting, thanks for reading, and enjoy your cyber Monday! Remember as always if you purchase something from one of my links I’ll receive a small amount of commission in return (see “About the Blogger” for more info), but as always I only link to products I love and truly recommend so I thank you in advance if you decide to invest in any of these items.

Flavoured Vinegar

Have you ever bought a flavoured vinegar from the grocery store? A delicious herb vinegar, or perhaps a fruity or berry vinegar? They are crazy expensive compared to buying a gallon jug of vinegar and making your own at home. Perhaps they aren’t even available in the grocery store you typically frequent. Even if this isn’t something you’d necessarily typically buy, I bet you would find many uses for them, and they make a lovely gift. Flavoured vinegars make delicious salad dressings, marinades and sauces and are a great use of excess herbs in the garden too. I just picked a ton of sage, dill, and rosemary because it got way out of hand in my garden and made an herb vinegar from it. It’s really quite nice! I wish I still had oregano and basil too! Flavoured vinegars are simply made from soaking fruit or herbs in vinegar until they reach the desired strength of flavour. The OSU extension publication on this topic is great, SP 50-736, and here I’ll show some pictures of the ones I’ve made so far – herb, strawberry and raspberry. Some of these things are off season, but you can still use frozen fruit, things that are still in season, like citrus and cranberries, garlic and peppers, or perhaps you grow herbs inside, still have some growing, or have some you dried or froze. The options are endless, so let’s get started!

Here are my strawberry and raspberry vinegars on the day I was straining them. Such a beautiful red colour!! Strawberry one is partially poured off to strain.

IMG_4704

For making flavoured vinegar, the easiest thing to use is just a quart or half gallon canning jar. Any glass or food grade plastic container will do though. Wash the jars and sterilize them by boiling for ten minutes. Select whatever type of vinegar you’d like to use and buy it in bulk by the gallon. I typically just use white vinegar, but white wine vinegar is very nice as well, or apple cider. Or go ahead and get crazy and mix vinegars together. I remember when we made them in Master Food Preserver class Janice saying that flavoured vinegars are awesome because there are basically no rules. It’s certainly much more true than canning. Keep things sanitized and clean but otherwise you can get creative.

For flavouring your vinegar, you’ll use herbs, fruits, or vegetables. For herbs you want a few sprigs of fresh herb per pint. Wash, pat dry, add to the jar and cover with vinegar. If using dried, use 3 tablespoons of herbs per pint of vinegar. For fruits you can use fresh or frozen and basically just fill your jar about 2/3 or so full with rinsed fruit and fill the jar to cover with vinegar. You want about a 1:1 ratio of fruit to the vinegar covering it. Feel free to add extra spices, and get creative. Vegetables, such as peppers, onions and garlic can also be used to flavour vinegar. Get creative and have fun. Basically fill your jar and let them sit.

IMG_4788 copy

Leave your vinegar alone for at least a couple of weeks. Three or four weeks is enough to achieve a nice flavour, but longer isn’t going to hurt anything. I made my strawberry one in May and didn’t get around to straining it until November. It’s dang delicious. Basically you can strain it whenever you taste it and are happy with the flavour. If it gets too strong, simply dilute it down with more of the vinegar you had used to make it in the first place.

When it’s time to strain, sterilize a jar of the same size that you have your vinegar in, place a funnel in the jar, and add a coffee filter or cheesecloth. Pour the vinegar into the filter.

IMG_4814 copy

It can take a while to strain so be patient and change the filter out a couple of times if you need to. Depending on what type vinegar you made, the filters may get clogged. Herb vinegars just with large leaves tend to drain fast but if you have some fruit that breaks apart it may take a little longer and clog up the filter. Just be patient and swap it for a new filter a couple of times.

IMG_4699 copy

A strainer and a coffee filter will also do just fine.

IMG_4705

Keep going until you get all the vinegar strained. Then store it in whatever cleaned and sanitized containers you would like to.

IMG_4713

These are the jars I’ve used to store my vinegar. The little ones are actually from tonic water and the large one is an old marinade jar. You can also just store them in canning jars of course. I would go for glass over plastic personally. To keep track of what I have, I love adding cute labels to things, and also when giving them as gifts. For these I’ve used the Avery 22922 labels which are 2×2 inches. I love them because you just download the template from their website and print whatever you want on the label. The round ones are Avery 22926. They’ll fit on a regular mouth jar, just barely so you have to be careful applying them, but they are awesome for wide mouth lids. They also sell 2 inch diameter ones rather than the 2.5 inch, Avery 22807. It’s always a good idea to label with all your ingredients as well. Label with your base vinegar, fruits, herbs, vegetables or spices added. This would be cute as a back label. It could also be nice, if giving this as a gift, to include a recipe for what you might use the vinegar for, such as a favourite salad dressing recipe.

IMG_4798 copy

They are also really cute stored in fancy jars. I think I might get a set of these ones. After straining them you can also add another sprig of herb for decoration if you so desire.

To maintain flavour and colour, you can add a small amount of sugar as well, but I don’t generally like to do that or feel it’s that necessary. Store in a cool dark place. You can keep it in the refrigerator if you want, but it is not necessary. You can also actually can it in a boiling water bath canner for 10 minutes, but it’s pretty shelf stable as is so that’s also not mandatory. But of course don’t use it if off flavours, colours or odours develop. Enjoy!

IMG_4768

 

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

Choice Salsa

In this year’s new edition of the salsa recipes for canning publication, PNW 395, our lovely extension friends added an awesome new recipe for those of us who love a little more choice in our lives – “choice salsa”! For this recipe, what you get to choose is the proportion of peppers to onions. Want a ton of peppers in your salsa? Or an equal mix of onions to peppers? Whatever your preference, you get to choose! Pretty great eh!?

IMG_4481[1]

Ingredients:
6 cups cored, peeled, chopped tomatoes
9 cups chopped onions or peppers (of any variety)
1.5 cups bottled lemon or lime juice
1 tablespoon canning or pickling salt

Here’s how we made it:
Blanch, peel and chop your tomatoes. My favourite way to deal with all the tomatoes is to core them, dip them in boiling water for 30 or so seconds, dip them in ice water, peel and chop them. Next chop up all the onions and peppers – you choose how much! But it has to total to 9 cups of onions and peppers, for 6 cups of tomatoes. This worked out really well for us because we made a big batch of Chile salsa, and then with the remaining tomatoes we made the choice salsa. It worked out well because I always have trouble buying the correct amount of peppers for a recipe. I grow my tomatoes, but buy the peppers and onions, so when I have 40 pounds of tomatoes, I have to figure out the right number of peppers to buy. This is HARD. So it worked super well that we used up all the rest of the peppers we had, then topped it off with the onions, since if you buy extra onions they store way better than peppers! So great! We ended up with a recipe fairly heavy on the peppers, but I think it turned out really well. I do find the lemon juice flavour to be quite strong though, so I think next time I might try half lemon, half lime.

IMG_4325 copy

Prepare the canner, jars and lids. This recipe yields about 6 pints. Mix all the ingredients in a large stainless steel pot. Remember, do not alter the ratios of anything. You get 6 cups of tomatoes, 9 cups peppers/onions, and 1.5 cups of lemon juice. No reducing the lemon or adding extra veggies OK! Adding other dry spices is ok though, so if you want cumin, oregano or something else, add that now too. Heat all the ingredients to a boil over medium high, stirring occasionally. Simmer for at least 3 minutes, then fill your hot jars, leaving a half inch head space. Process for 15 minutes in a boiling water bath canner (sea level), covered by at least 1-2 inches of boiling water.

IMG_4337 copy

After the 15 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, check seals, clean, label and store.

This salsa is a great one because it’s super chunky – here it is compared to my other favourite salsa. Chile salsa on the left, choice salsa on the right.

IMG_4494[1]

Pickling experiment – the results are in!

IMG_4009 copy

In case you missed it, a few weeks ago I wrote a post about two ways that you can keep your pickles good and crispy when making quick pickles. That post can be found here, and if you missed it just head over and read that, I pasted this entire post there as well. So, I know you’ve been on the edge of your seat wondering what the results of this experiment would show, so here they are. As a reminder, what I did was 5 different pickles. The pickles were all the same spices and brine, it was the processing that differed. The first 4 were all canned as slices, the fifth was canned whole and sliced for the taste test so people couldn’t tell which one was canned whole. I randomly assigned them to a number 1 though 5 for people to taste test.

1. Boiling water bath, no pickle crisp
2. Low temperature pasteurization, no pickle crisp
3. Low temperature pasteurization with pickle crisp
4. Boiling water bath with pickle crisp
5. Low temperature pasteurization with pickle crisp canned whole

For this taste test I had 17 people test the pickles and rate them from least to most crisp. I wasn’t entirely sure how to analyze the data from the taste test, but some of the results are pretty obvious and exciting. I am going to just give you a few summary statistics that I really think give a pretty clear answer, and I’ve also included all the ratings in case you are really that interested. First off, I wanted to show a picture of the four sliced ones, because even visually some of them looked more crisp, at least to me. Below the jars are in the order listed above, so the two ends were boiled, and the middle two were processed at low temperatures. Can you see a difference? This picture was taken 5 weeks after processing. I think that even visually the boiled ones look soggier. They are a different colour and more translucent.

IMG_4371

So how did it break out in terms of numbers? The first obvious result was that 16/17 people put sample 5 as the most crisp sample. So, by canning your pickles whole, with low temperature pasteurization, you get a very crunchy, firm product. Great! Now let’s ignore number 5 for a second since it had an additional variable of being canned whole. 10/17 people chose sample 1 as the softest, and 6/17 chose sample 4 as the softest. This totals to 16/17 people chosing one of the boiled ones as the soggiest. Additionally, of the sliced ones, 13/17 people selected sample 3 as the most crisp, which was the low temperature with pickle crisp sample. Now, I didn’t run any actual stats, but I feel pretty confident saying this: Low temperature pasteurization for the win!! There was not one person that had sample 1 (boiled, no pickle crisp) as anything other than the soggiest or second soggiest. I also thought it was really interesting that Janice, our canning teacher, rated them in the exact order that I would predict. From soggiest to crispest: boiled without pickle crisp, boiled with pickle crisp, low temperature without pickle crisp, low temperature with pickle crisp, low temp with pickle crisp canned whole. Pretty fun! So the method of processing, low temp versus boiling, was detectable by most people. Some people could detect a difference with the pickle crisp, but this result was not as ground breaking. I’d like to test it again, with more people and try doing a boiled one canned whole and a few other things, but I think for now it’s safe to say I will be canning the rest of my pickling cucs at low temps and using pickle crisp. They still turn out well if you don’t can them whole, even though most people picked that for ultimate crispness, but you can also fit less in a jar. So there ya have it! Go can some pickles at 180 F!!

In case you’re crazy like me, here’s everyone’s ratings (least to most crunchy/crisp):

1 4 2 3 5
4 1 2 3 5
4 1 3 2 5
1 2 4 5 3
2 1 3 4 5
1 2 4 3 5
1 2 4 3 5
4 1 2 3 5
4 1 2 3 5
1 2 4 3 5
4 1 2 3 5
1 3 2 4 5
1 4 2 3 5
1 4 2 3 5
1 4 2 3 5
4 1 2 3 5
1 2 4 3 5

Canning Crushed Tomatoes

Crushed tomatoes are probably my third favourite way to preserve tomatoes, after making salsa and tomato sauce. It is one way that I try to preserve them every year though, because crushed tomatoes can be used for such a wide array of dishes. I use a lot of the jars to make chili throughout the winter, and crushed tomatoes are also great for soups, stews, sauces, you name it!

IMG_4300

Two great publications to refer to for tomato products are this USDA guide, and and PNW 300. Keep in mind that you can both raw and hot pack tomatoes, and that there are guidelines for both hot water bath canning them, or for pressure canning them. Hot packing and pressure canning will of course require the shortest processing time, whereas cold or raw packing and hot water bath canning takes the longest. For example, if you raw pack whole or halved tomatoes, they need to be water bath canned for 85 minutes! So you may want to consider cracking out the pressure canner for whole packs, as the processing time is only 25 minutes. Nice to have options though, isn’t it? This time, I did a hot pack of crushed tomatoes. Typically, this is how I use tomatoes anyways, so it’s the way I most commonly preserve them. It’s a shorter processing time than packing them whole, and produces a very nice product.

Here’s how its done! First I cored and blanched them.

IMG_4294 copy

Then threw them in cold water to cool them off. Peel and cut the tomatoes in quarters. If you are doing a big batch, check out this post by Erica, from Northwest Edible Life, one of my very favourite blogs. She shows her strategy for blanching and peeling large batches of tomatoes.

IMG_4287 copy

Mash about a quart or so of the tomatoes in a large pot and bring them to a boil. You want enough in there and mashed that you fill your pot 2-3 inches deep. Once at a boil, continue to add quartered tomatoes slowly to the pot, stirring frequently. After you have a good layer of crushed ones, just stir the rest in without crushing them. Wait until it returns to a boil, add more, and so on until all the tomatoes are in the pot. You’ll need about a pound or pound and a quarter per pint, so if you are aiming for a full 7 quart batch, you’ll want at least 14 pounds. The PNW publication says 2.75 pounds per quart, which might be a little bit high, but in the ballpark of 15 -18 pounds should equal a canner load. Meanwhile, prepare your canner, jars and lids. I think it’s worth it to do a full batch since the processing time will be 45 minutes. If you do a whole pack and an 85 minute processing time you had better be doing a full load or you’re just silly.

IMG_4285 copy

Once all the tomatoes are added, maintain a boil for 5 minutes, then fill your hot jars. Make sure to acidify your tomatoes when filling the jars. This means adding either 1/2 tsp per quart of citric acid or 2 tbsp per quart of bottled lemon juice. I like to just add it to every jar first so that I don’t have a chance of forgetting. Remember that this is an important step because tomatoes are on the borderline of pH levels safe for hot water bath canning, so the extra touch of acid ensures that you will have a safe, botulism free product. Also as a note when filling jars. What I like to do is use a slotted spoon to get the crushed pieces that stayed more in tact, and fill jars first with those. But still make sure you have enough liquid in there so it’s still a good crushed tomato pack. Doing it this way I label my later jars as being more runny, and use them for purposes such as soup, and the others where I want more of a meaty product. If you have juice left over at the end, use this to make up some sauce or something. I threw my leftover juice in the freezer to use this weekend when I make a big batch of spaghetti sauce.

IMG_4298 copy

Place the jars in the hot water bath canner, covered by at least 2 inches of water, and bring to a full rolling boil. When processing for these long processing times, if your canner barely fits your jars you may need to add water part way through. Especially if you are doing 85 minutes, water will boil off. Bring some water to a boil on another burner and add it to your canner if too much water is boiling off. Alternatively, pressure can the tomatoes at 11 pounds of pressure (sea level) for 15 minutes (25 if doing a whole or half pack, or a raw pack). With venting for 10 minutes, bringing the canner up to pressure, and waiting for the pressure to return to zero, it probably doesn’t actually save a ton of time, but there still could be an argument made for pressure canning being easier. I think I will try to pressure can some whole ones shortly and let you know how it goes. After 45 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, check seals, label and store.

IMG_4304 copy

Sometimes you can get a little separation occurring in your jars like in the image below. This isn’t something you need to worry about though, it’s just because the tomatoes were boiling in the jar so the solids were pushed up to the top. Once the jar is completely cooled and you have checked the seal, give it a little shake and mix the liquids and solids back together.

IMG_4306 copy

After a little shake it looks perfect. Label, store and enjoy all winter long.

IMG_4308 copy

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.

IMG_2908

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.

IMG_2882 copy

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.

IMG_2890 copy

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

IMG_2892

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

IMG_2896 copy

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.

IMG_2903 copy

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