Canned So Far 2014

I took a picture of the foods I have canned so far this year.  Of course, this isn’t all of it because we have eaten some already – but it’s a good representation of what I have been canning.  I must tell you, I really enjoy canning and preserving food!  The cabinet is almost full, but that’s okay, because I can use the cabinet below it.

canning food

The top shelf holds the fruit – jellies, butter and such.  On the far left is some homemade pectin I canned – six 8 ounce jars – each jar equivalent to two 3 oz Certo liquid pectin packets, or one batch of jam/jelly/conserve.  Next to that is a small batch of plum butter I made this year in the crock pot. So good!  Then there is the blackberry/gooseberry jelly – I made one pint jar and eight 8 oz jars, but after gifting I have the pint jar and three 8 oz jars left. This is so good I need to stop giving it away!  Finally, are the cubed peaches.  I use these in yogurt, over oatmeal, ice cream, or cottage cheese, and even as a sweetener with flavor in tea.  Yum! The last jars are my extracts – lemon, vanilla and orange.

Home canning

The second shelf holds 8 jars of plum juice – I started out with 10 quart jars, but one didn’t seal so we used that right away and another has also been used.  Yum!  Soon I will be canning apple juice, so this shelf will be filled with deliciousness. 😀

Canning Juice

The last shelf holds the meats.  First is the beef in wine sauce (post coming soon).  I canned nine pint jars and we have used one. This is soooo good.  Next to the beef is the spaghetti sauce with meat in pint jars.  To tell you the truth, this really is better than anything you can buy at the store, and I know I’m not getting bottom of the barrel meat in my sauce! 😉  Next is the canned salmon.  I have made salmon patties and salmon chowder out of my canned salmon so far.  I just downloaded a Kindle book on salmon recipes – hopefully I can find a couple more that will be good using canned salmon. On the far right is chicken and chicken broth.  We have been eating some of these also and they are very useful, so I definitely need to make more soon. I only have two pints of chicken broth and two pints of the chicken left.Meats that have been Pressure Canned

The canned meats have turned my kitchen into a fast food restaurant.  In the case of the beef in wine sauce, once canned all you have to do is dump the whole jar, along with the juice, into a sauce pot, add some cornstarch to thicken the sauce and some quartered crimini mushrooms.  Meanwhile cook some pasta (any kind), and when the beef is thickened and heated through, poured over the pasta (or rice or mashed potatoes).  This is really delicious and it is actually the pasta that takes the longest to prepare!  Or, perhaps you would like to add sour cream instead of cornstarch, which makes a beef stroganoff type dish. Of course, the chicken is wonderful for chicken noodle soup.  I use one jar of the chicken broth and one of the chicken, add in some carrots, onions and celery, a little black pepper and some pasta – any kind of pasta. Let it simmer until the pasta is cooked and the carrots are almost tender (I don’t like mushy carrots 😉  ).  Done.  Delicious.

pressure canned beef in wine sauce

Canned Beef in Red Wine Sauce – after canning prepared with quartered crimini mushrooms and cornstarch as a thickener, over pasta.  Suggested Serving

I choose to can most of the meats in the pint jars because this is the perfect size for just my husband and I.  It’s also a more manageable size while canning and for storing. Besides, I can fit 18 pints versus 7 quarts into my pressure canner.

Is all this canned food enough?  Heck no!  If we had to rely on this cupboard of canned foods for our sustenance this winter, we would be mighty hungry.  Actually, most of my canning right now is a learning experience and for experimentation purposes.  I am learning what works for me and what doesn’t – which recipes will be my “go-to” ones and which recipes will be chucked.  Then I am compiling a cookbook of recipes that incorporate the canned food so we don’t end up eating the same thing over and over again.  Sometimes the recipes I find on Pinterest are major “fails”, but I like trying new things, so I will end up with some failures. Getting into the real nuts and bolts of canning and preserving our food will begin once we move up to our future homestead, because that is when we will begin to rely on what we have “put up”, rather than taking a trip to the grocery store every week.

For recipes of any of the canned foods in this post, just click on the tab on the header above titled “Preserving Food”.

Next?  Well, as I mentioned I canned some killer Beef in Wine the other day and will be writing a post on it soon.  I also have a bunch of green beans I will be canning this afternoon.  Then, I want to try my hand at canning potatoes.  Although we will have a root cellar, potatoes don’t always last through an entire winter.  Our apples will be ripening in another month or so, and I plan to make some apple pie filling, apple juice and applesauce.

One last thing – does anyone have a really, really good salsa recipe I can borrow that doesn’t use too much cilantro? ♥ ♥ ♥001

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Worm Farm Trouble!

First, let me say, ‘I love my worm farm’.

There.  I said it.  Not something you hear everyday, but for me, it’s true!  I have been getting about 2 quarts of wonderfully composted worm poop mixed with composted vegetable matter every month or so for about a year and a half now. And that doesn’t even account for all the worm compost tea!

Worm farm

This is the vermiculture kit my husband and I gave each other for Christmas.

If you would like to read previous articles about our worm farm, you can read about how we first set it up by clicking HERE, and then another article about how to make worm compost tea by clicking HERE.

VermicultureI kept the worm farm in my kitchen until just recently. “In the kitchen?” you gasp.  Well, yes, that’s the most convenient place to put it.  After all, it is so easy to gather up the apple core or tomato peel right off the cutting board, take a few steps, and plop it into the worm farm.  Believe me, it never smelled!  In fact, when I opened up the worm farm to feed my wriggly little pets, all I smelled was the scent of good soil right after a rain. Seriously!  Except for the time I put in a bit too much plum pulp at once. After a week it had a faint odor of plum wine! 😉

While the worm farm was in my house, the only problem was when I had a small fruit fly infestation.  George took care of that.  George was a daddy-long-leg spider who took up residence in the corner behind the worm farm.  I let him be,and after a couple of weeks his web was absolutely chock full of dead fruit flies.  Good ole’ George.  When the fruit flies were gone I took George outside and set him free.

Yes…    I did. 🙂

Fast forward to a couple of months ago.  We are putting our home on the market and having a worm farm in the kitchen was not something the Real Estate Agent wanted to explain to prospective buyers.  So out to the garage went the worm farm.

That’s when the trouble started.  The first month when I went to harvest my black gold worm poop, I noticed a few ants crawling around on the lid of the worm farm.  As I harvested the bottom most tray, I noticed a few more ants, so I decided to investigate.  In the third tray up – there it was – an ant nest!  Ugh!  There must have been a thousand ants and they were scurrying to grab all those little white eggs.  There were no worms on this level either – just ants and a lot of not decomposed vegetable matter.  Harruumph!

I had to dispose of the contents of the entire tray.  I didn’t want to spray any kind of insecticide because the residue could hurt the worms and ultimately the poison could get into my garden, so I just dumped it into our green waste bin – which was being picked up by our local garbage service the next day.  Then, I put each leg of the worm farm into a plastic cup and poured water in.  That should keep the ants out in the future.Apple Maggots in the Vermiculture Bin

When I decided to harvest some compost for one of my potted plants yesterday, I found another problem – a really icky one – maggots!  Big fat ones! After doing a bit of research on the internet, I found that they are apple maggots. They must have come off the scraps left over when I made my home made pectin.  They were so gross, squishing and munching around in the compost stuff – I could actually hear them!  Eeeewwwww…

The weird thing about it was that the worms were inhabiting the same trays as the maggots!  Apparently they don’t mind each other, but this made getting rid of the maggots a bit more of a chore.  Again, I didn’t want to hurt the worms but I had to somehow get rid of the maggots.  So, I got a pair of my husband’s needle nose pliers and picked them out one by one.trouble with the worm farm

Now – what to do with all those fat apple maggots?  I decided to treat my local feral chickens.  These are chickens that have lived beside the highway in our town for decades.  There used to be a ranch there (now long gone and turned into a shopping center surrounded by fast food restaurants) and over the years the chickens have learned how to fend for themselves.  They run through the parking lot of the grocery store, looking for handouts.  At the Carl’s Jr and Wendy’s restaurants next door, I am sure people throw them french fries and bits of their hamburger buns all the time.  I thought some nice fresh plump maggots would be a healthy alternative!Problems with the worm farm

When I first arrived the chickens were a bit cautious.  They are used to people feeding them, but they are also on the lookout for kids that try to chase them around.  I threw a couple of the maggots out of the plastic bag they were in and a rooster came running up to see what I had to offer.  Then a hen came.  Then another hen.

Nom Nom Nom 😀

Pretty soon I could see that the maggots were a hit!  I loved watching those chickens, chasing each other around with their prize (even though there were plenty more on the ground!), and can’t wait to move up to our future homestead so my husband and I can have some of our own.maggots in my vermiculture

I guess my lesson here is to observe my worm farm more often than once a month when I am harvesting the worm poop compost.  I did read that if I freeze all the vegetable matter I put in – especially fruits – then I shouldn’t have to worry about an infestation like this again.

Is it worth it?  You bet!  My houseplants haven’t looked better and the worm compost tea is like liquid gold for some of my outdoor potted plants!  Besides, I know several feral chickens got some needed protein and I received the joy of watching them!

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Canning Recipe Book

Lately I have been doing a lot of canning, which is strange for me since I don’t even have a garden growing this year.  But, what I do have are fruit trees and a husband who likes to fish for salmon, so I have been canning jellies, fruit juices and salmon.  I also canned some chicken, chicken broth and beef – when I found them on sale. All of these recipes can be found by clicking on the tab above ‘Preserving Food’.How to pressure can chicken A lot of my recipes come from the few cookbooks that I own, including my favorite The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.  But I also like to try recipes that I find online, such as this one for canning apple pie filling, and this one for canning crunchy dill pickles. The thought occurred to me the other day, as I was waiting for my internet service to come back up again:  What would happen if I couldn’t get on the internet anymore?  Sure, I would have all the recipes in my books, but the ones I find (and have found) on the internet would be lost.  You never know when something might happen to your computer, either!  Just a simple fan could put your desktop out of commission for a week or even two!  Or your laptop could be (heaven forbid) stolen! And then there is one of my favorite canning e-books that isn’t even in print – it’s on my Kindle. I decided to print out all of the recipes I find online that I would like to try.  Either I copy and paste them to a word document then print, or, if the website has the option, I just hit the print button for the recipe.  I started doing this about a week ago and now I am starting to accumulate a lot of recipes! I found an old binder that wasn’t being used and decided to use it as my canning recipe book.  To make the canning recipe book look nice, I covered it with some cute fabric I found in the discount bin of my fabric store. personal canning book This is easily done by just drawing the outline of the binder on the flip side of the fabric (some people call it the wrong side), fold the fabric to the inside of the binder and fold each side under just where it meets the metal spine that holds the rings.  Sew those folds first.  I used a decorative stitch because I’m still learning how to use my new machine.  Besides, it’s pretty!Personal canning binder Next, sew the top and bottom together.  Turn inside out and insert the binder. Easy, simple, done.  And it looks nice!How to cover a binder with cloth The local dollar store has sheet protectors – sixteen for $1 – so I bought a couple packages of those. They were necessary as I am a very messy cook! 🙂  I loaded up the binder clips with the sheet protectors and placed all of the recipes I have already accumulated into the binder.  Niiiicccceeee Hmmmmm… Something is missing. Dividers!  Back to the dollar store. Cloth binder cover Now I have a great place to slip all those recipes without them floating around in the ionosphere, where they invariably get lost!  And if the internet is down (again) or my computer is on the fritz (God have mercy), I will have the information I need at my fingertips. Cover a binder with cloth This turned out so cute I think I will make another one for all the pages I print out on making cheese, homemade taco sauce, soap, etc..  I think I will call it my homemaking binder! How do you keep all of your printed recipes and tutorials?  Do you worry that some day you may not able to retrieve them when needed?

 

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