Using Home Canned Salmon

I recently canned some salmon that had been sitting in the freezer for about six months.  pressure canning pacific salmonLearning how to can beef, chicken, pork and fish with a pressure canner has been on my list for a while now. To see how I canned the salmon, click here.   Although we will be able to keep a lot of food in our freezer while living on our future homestead, I would prefer to use the freezer mainly for vegetables.  Why?  Because I like frozen corn much better than canned corn.  Ditto with green beans.  Have you ever canned zucchini?  It isn’t pretty – think mushy.  But if you freeze it either in thin slices or shredded, you can make zucchini bread or zucchini muffins even in the dead of winter.

But – you need to eat what you can to make it worthwhile!  Sure, I was proud of the fact that I actually canned my own salmon, but the only thing I have ever made with canned salmon before has been salmonMaking salmon patties from home canned salmon patties!  However, if we had salmon patties every week, we would get mighty tired of them!  So I went on a search for some other recipe using canned salmon. My first thought was to find something like a tuna casserole, but since I don’t like tuna casserole, I skipped over those recipes. I might look into one of those later.  Then I found this one for Salmon Chowder and then another one from Whole Foods, which also sounded really good.  Since hubby and I both love Clam Chowder, I thought I would give it a go using both recipes as a guide!

So, If you know me, you can expect that I tweaked these recipes together into one and omitted or added some ingredients.

How to make Salmon Chowder

Bacon cooking in butter. MMMMmmmmm….. bacon…♥♥♥

I started out frying the bacon with the butter.  After the bacon was browned, I took it out of the pan to save for later.  I added the onion to the pan and let that saute for a few minutes until it was translucent.  Then I added three tablespoons of flour and stirred, stirred, stirred. This quickly made a fairly thick rue, and I let that bubble for a minute or two while I stirred.  Next, I added four cups of chicken broth, a little salt and some pepper.  I wish I had only added three cups of the broth, but the potatoes needed to cook in the broth/rue mixture and I needed another cup of the broth to cover the potatoes.  Add the potatoes. After about 15 minutes the potatoes were getting tender, so I added the flaked and chunked salmon, along with the corn that was thawed.  I brought this up to a boil, turned down to a simmer and let it bubble away for about 5 minutes.  After the 5 minutes I added 2 cups of half and half.

Canned Salmon Chowder

The salmon flakes up pretty well. I left some chunks also, but I removed the skin.

That’s it!  The Salmon Chowder was absolutely delicious!  It wasn’t too salmony (if you know what I mean) nor did it have too many potatoes.  The broth was a bit thin, though. I crumbled the bacon on top of each bowl and served with fresh from the oven french bread.

Here is what I will do next time.  Cook potatoes separately until almost tender (maybe 10 minutes) before I add them into the chicken broth/rue mixture – that way I will only have to use 3 cups of the chicken broth.  Also, I will add time.  I didn’t add any the first time simply because I didn’t have any!  Also, I only had one cup of the frozen salmon and potato chowdercorn and I think it could have had a lot more, may be two cups.  This was the last of the frozen corn I grew in my garden last summer and froze. It was still delicious! Oh – and onion – a bit more onion! I need to trust recipes more because I only added 1/2 of an onion instead of the whole onion as suggested in the first recipe. Next time I will add the whole onion!

As you can see, I omitted the carrot and dill that the recipe from Whole Foods suggested.  I’m not a huge fan of dill unless it is a dill pickle, and I just don’t think carrots belong in a chowder.  I may be wrong, but it’s my chowder.  You have my permission to put carrots and dill in yours!

Salmon Chowder Recipe

Here is a jar of my home canned salmon. It isn’t very pretty, but it sure is good! However, it is almost impossible to get out of the jar!

Another thing I have learned from canning the salmon and then using it in a couple of recipes, is that I need to can it in smaller wide mouth jars!  The salmon chunks would be much easier to get out that way, and the smaller jars would also be just the right size for hubby and I.  This salmon chowder recipe made enough to fill the bellies of at least four adults, and the salmon patties I made previously made four very large patties.  So, using the smaller jelly jar size to can the salmon would make the perfect proportion for one meal for my hubby and I.  I might still can some in pints, just in case we have company.

recipe for chowder using salmon

This was so good! As hubby says “that’s a keeper!”

If anyone has another recipe that uses canned salmon – speak up please!  If you have a post about it, please include a link in the comments.  If you just have a recipe, you could type that into the comments as well!  If you have a recipe similar to tuna casserole….   well, ummmmm.. ♥♥ 🙂 ♥♥  no thanks.

The site for our future home!

The site for our future home! We are working on the plans right now!

As you may know, our plans are to move up to our future homestead, grow and raise most of our food, build our home off the grid using solar and wind power, and live as simply and happily as possible.  That is why I am learning how to can, freeze, dehydrate, ferment and store food.  I am trying to learn as much as I can about sustainable and organic gardening along with permaculture techniques.  I have been doing research about heirloom vegetables and heritage chicken breeds.  I am convinced that the trick is to learn as much as possible before we move up to our future homestead, because once we move up there, we plan to hit the ground running!



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DIY Vegetable Rennet

I have been doing a lot of research lately in cheese making – specifically cheese making without the use of commercial rennet.

Why?  Two reasons:  1.  In my quest for self-sufficiency, and since I will not be slaughtering a baby cow, goat or sheep anytime soon (traditional rennet is made from the stomach of a calf, kid or lamb), I need to find an alternative way to make cheese. We love cheese.  2.  Did you know that much of the rennet used commercially today is microbial – made from genetically modified bacteria which produce chymosin (the active enzyme in rennet)!  Oh no, GMO!

Why do we need rennet for cheese making?  Rennet is an enzyme that coagulates warmed milk, making the curds.  Of course, any warm milk over time will coagulate on it’s own, but that’s when it has already turned sour.  Rennet coagulates milk when it is still sweet.  You can make a soft cheese using acid (vinegar or lemon juice), but the rennet coagulates the milk faster and produces a firmer curd.

I have discovered that it is, indeed, fairly easy to make rennet yourself from several different plants.  Apparently there are a lot of plants and plant parts that can be used to curdle your milk, including:  purple thistle, stinging nettle, melon, fig, and safflower.  However, since I have both purple thistle and nettle available to me, my investigation concentrated on just these two rennet substitutes.    purple thistle

In my last post I included a picture of a purple thistle that is growing on our future homestead.  I did a bit of research and it looks like this may be a Bull Thistle, or cirsium vulgare, and that the Bull Thistle can, indeed, be considered for cheese making!  Yes!  Also, the purple thistle head from an artichoke works – and we planted artichokes this year!  But, purple thistle rennet can only be used with goat’s or sheep’s milk.  It makes Cow’s milk bitter – especially if aged.

I also found out that stinging nettle can also be used in place of rennet, but the nettle can be used in cow’s milk, as it has a different enzyme reaction than the thistle does, although it may still develop an off flavor if aged.  Nettle rennet can be used to make a semi-hard cheese like feta or gouda.

Instructions for making vegetable rennet from purple thistle

1.  Pick the thistle flower head when it has turned brown, but harvest it before the plant produces the thistle down, in which case it is too late.

2.  Dry the flower heads well, pick off the stamens (the purple threads) and store them in a clean, dry jar with a tight lid.

3.  When ready to make rennet, grind up the dried stamens with either a mortar and pestle or a coffee grinder until you have 5 tablespoons of powder.

4.  Add warm water (not too hot, you don’t want to destroy the enzymes) to the pulverized stamens and let sit for about 10 minutes. The water will turn a murky brown.

5.  Strain off the liquid.  This is now thistle flower rennet.

6.  The rennet can now be added to warmed milk to curdle it and begin the cheese making process.


Instructions for making vegetable rennet from salted nettle

1.  Use nettles before they go to seed. Once seeds have formed, they are too mature.

2.  Fill a large saucepan big enought to hold about 2 pounds of nettles for 4 cups of water.  Bring to light boil and simmer for about 30 minutes.

3.  Add 1 heaping tablespoon of salt and stir to dissolve. This helps to draw out the enzyme locked in the nettle leaves.

4.  Strain plant material from the liquid.  This is now nettle rennet.  Use 1 cup of nettle rennet liquid to about 1 gallon of milk.

When using the nettle rennet, the amount of salt used in further cheese making (after curds have formed) should be reduced because of the amount of salt added during extraction of the rennet.

Now I can’t wait to get my purple thistle to bloom so I can make my own vegetable rennet! Next year I hope to have some artichokes (I think our plants were too young this year) and I will try making cheese with some of the chokes I let flower.  In future posts I’ll let you know how it all turns out!

You should check out the following sites for more information – it’s where I got most of mine!

 eHow;  Joy of Cheesemaking;  Punk Domestics;  Monica Wilde

If you make your own cheese using vegetable rennet and have a post about it, please let me know!  I would love to add a link to your post in the list above!

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Soda Can Heater

Have any of you seen the You-Tube videos on soda can heaters, or the how-to instructions to make one in the Mother Earth News Magazine?  We did, and since we will try just about anything, we decided to make one.

When we told people what we were doing, of course most of them thought we were crazy (not the first time) and had just come up with another hair-brained idea.  But when we told them to go to You-Tube and search for soda can heaters, they would come back later and say things like “sheesh, it just might work” or “wow, that’s really interesting”.  But most people still thought we were crazy.    😉

It took a while to gather up enough soda cans to use.  You know how easy it is to crush the can in your hand once that last drop of soda slides down your throat, kind of like stating “all done” in a more adult way?  Well, we had to break ourselves of that habit because you really need to use non-crushed soda cans for this project.  Once we had gathered enough cans (thanks Barry and Stephen for donating to our cause) we were able to begin the planning stages of our heater.  By this time we had watched at least four hundred and seventy one videos (not exaggerating – well, maybe a little) on soda can heaters and were therefore mildly confused as to which method we would use, so we decided to wing it and devise our own hybrid heater.  So….. off to the local box store to buy some Plexiglas.  We figured that the size of the Plexiglas would be what dictates the size of the box we would build and then fit the soda cans into it.  Unfortunately, we didn’t listen to one of the instructional videos as well as we should have, which states that the Plexiglas can actually MELT in one of these heaters!

So, we built a box from 1 x 4’s with backing to fit to the Plexiglas and lined the entire box (except for the front) with some extra Styrofoam we had laying around.  The soda cans were fitted into the box and we found they fit almost perfect.  Ray drilled holes in the bottom of each can (not easy to do) with corresponding holes drilled into the bottom of the box and through the bottom Styrofoam, and also into the top of the box.  Next, we glued the cans together bottom to top, bottom to top.  This is also easier said than done.  The glue we thought would work didn’t stick as well as we had hoped, so we spent an extra day re-gluing the cans into stacks of nine .  Then the stacks of cans were painted black.  A word of caution here – that paint stinks – especially when the heater is working!  Perhaps we should have used some kind of high temp paint instead of the cheap flat black, but since this was just an experiment, we figure we can learn from our mistakes.  The Styrofoam was wrapped in aluminum foil and then the can stacks were glued into place.  Ray temporarily placed the Plexiglas covering over the front and – voila – we were in business!

  • The Box The Box This is the box built out of 1 x 4's, using a piece of cement board we had laying around for the back. The box was sized to fit a piece of plexiglas over the top.
  • Drilling Holes into Cans Drilling Holes into Cans This wasn't easy to do, but Ray discovered that if he put the can in one of those squishy can holders, the vice would hold the can in place without squishing it.
  • Holes Holes Holes corresponding to the can holes were drilled into the bottom of the box for the cold air to come in, and then more holes were drilled into the top of the box for the hot air to go out.
  • Gluing the cans together Gluing the cans together Not an easy task. We found the grooves in the back of the truck worked well to corral the cans into a straight line. It would probably be a good idea in the future to do more research into what glue would work best for aluminumum, not only for keeping them together, but also for the off-gassing.
  • Styrofoam covered with foil Styrofoam covered with foil We covered the Styrofoam with aluminum foil as a reflective surface and to also help seal it. Not sure it was necessary, but it did make the whole thing look a lot nicer. 😉
  • Trial fitting Trial fitting When all the pieces and parts were pretty much done, we did a trial fitting - just to make sure! Luckily everything fit together pretty well!
  • Painting Cans Painting Cans Probably the easiest job - one we should have thought more about, however. Once the heater was installed, the smell of the paint for the first few days was ghastly! For future reference, we will probably use the high temperature spray paint.
  • Our Version Our Version So this is what the whole thing looked like when we were finished. Not bad, huh?
  • Installed Installed Ray attached aluminum ducting to the top of the box to route the air into one pipe, wrapped it with foam insulation, and then installed it into the kitchen window of our trailer. It works ! It doesn't heat the whole trailer toasty hot as it's a bit too small. It may work better if we attached a solar run fan on it. Happily our pipes don't freeze anymore!


Our first testing came on a cold but sunny January day.  As you can see from the results in the pictures, the inside temperature got up to 160 degrees before our thermostat conked out!  Holy cannoli, this thing really works.

  • Testing the heater Testing the heater Now it was time to see if this thing works! We had an indoor/outdoor thermometer, so we placed the indoor part behind the heater in the shade, as you can see, and put the outdoor part on top of the heater where the holes let the heat out. We did the test on a cold yet sunny January day.
  • 10:38 10:38 We didn't get the first picture soon enough! Within three minutes the temperature inside the heater had already risen to 71 degrees! You can see that the outdoor temp was 45 degrees and the time was 10:38.
  • 10:41 10:41 Three minutes later and now the temperature is 104! That's the temperature of my hot tub! The outside temp is now 47.
  • 10:45 10:45 Sheesh - One hundred thirty two degrees!
  • 10:48 10:48 Another three minutes, another fourty degrees! Wow, this thing is crazy! You can see the outside temp is also going up a little, now 49 degrees. We suppose that was because of the reflective heat from the concrete and the can heater.
  • 10:52 10:52 Wow. A full one hundred and five degrees HIGHER than the outside temperature! How's that for making heat from the sun!
  • 10:53 10:53 This was the last shot we got because the next minute the thermometer went kaput! Too hot! Wow, we can't wait to tweak our design just a bit having learned from our lessons and make a larger, more efficient one. We may even build a permanent one of these for our house! After all, it's free heat!

We can’t wait to make another bigger, better and prettier one!


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Too Much Time On My Hands
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