Planning for Canning

One of the wonderful surprises I have had over the last few years pressure canning meat, fish and poultry, has been the convenience of using these foods when preparing breakfast, lunch or dinner.  At first I was nervous using a pressure canner, as we have all heard the stories about how they blew apart from too much pressure during grandma’s days.  I was also frightened that I would kill my family with the deadly botulism malady.

I am glad to report that I just don’t worry about those problems anymore.  I am very careful to follow each recipe from a reputable source exactly as written, I have become more familiar with my pressure canner, and follow every food precaution known with regard to cleanliness, temperature and cross contamination.

Because of this, I have been canning a lot of salmon, chicken and beef.  I bought a kindle book about canning beef called (of course) “I Can Can Beef”, written by Jennifer Shambrook, Ph.D. Her instructions are simple and direct and follow the Ball Canning Book almost exactly.  But the book goes much further into the subject, in that she lists quite a few recipes just for the canned meat.  I was so impressed with this book that I bought her other books, “I Can Can Chicken”, “I Can Can Beans” and “I Can Can Ground Beef”.

Pressure canned beefWhen I found Zaycon, the company from which I buy all my bacon, chicken and ground beef, I found that canning the meat was a very easy and convenient way to prepare what I had purchased.  Once the jars had been processed and the seals confirmed, I had shelf stable protein that did not need refrigeration or freezing!  Living off grid, this is a very important feature, as refrigerator and/or freezer space is oftentimes limited. If you haven’t heard about Zaycon, click on the Zaycon button on my sidebar!  If you order from them, I will receive a small “finder’s fee”, which will not increase your cost in any way.  It’s their way of saying “thank you” to me for spreading the word about their wonderful company.

You can see in the picture below some of the items I canned this past year on my working pantry shelf, which used to be the bottom bunk bed in our travel trailer.  I store the bulk of my canned goods in our cargo container, and go “shopping” there when I need to replenish the working pantry in my trailer.  As we build our new home and live part-time in the trailer, this is where I do most of our cooking.My Canning Pantry

Yes, I know.  As much as I talk about a self-sufficient lifestyle, I do have some store bought items on the shelf, also.  Guilty  😉

However, if anyone can find me a copy-cat recipe for Rice-A-Roni pilaf that actually tastes like the original… Please Share!  We love this as a side dish, but even better love adding the prepared mix to our chicken soup!  I also like making my own pasta, but unfortunately I don’t have enough space in my tiny RV kitchen to make batches of pasta, nor do I have the time while we are busy building our new home.

What I have found is that one pound of browned ground beef fills one pint jar, hence one 10 pound portion of ground beef will fill ten pint jars of processed ground beef, so one order of Zaycon ground beef (each order is 40 pounds) will fill 40 pint jars.  Since we use, on average, two pint jars of ground beef a week, one order will last us about 20 weeks. So, it would follow that if I want to can enough ground beef for a whole year, I would need about 2-1/2 to 3 full orders of ground beef from Zaycon.  Hmmm….  that probably won’t work for me right now.  First – I don’t have enough room in my small RV refrigerator to keep the second and third order of ground beef cold while I process the first batch. Second – My All American pressure canner holds only 19 pint jars at a time, so it would take two full batches in my canner to process almost the ground beef.  Since it takes at least 5 or 6 hours to heat, process and cool down my canner for each batch, it would take two days to get three batches of canning done. Whew! That would be a lot of work! However, I could process 38 pounds in one day – two full batches or one order of Zaycon ground beef – and that would almost get us through about half a year.

The same goes for the chicken.  Zaycon sells their chicken breast in 40 pound lots.  I usually can the chicken breast in chunks either by itself in pint jars, or with onions, celery, carrots and broth for a home-made chicken soup, in quart jars.  The chicken breast can be used in lots of Canned Chickendifferent recipes including stir fry, chicken enchiladas, Pad Thai, etc.  To the chicken soup I add noodles or the aforementioned Rice-A-Roni.  Seriously, if you know of a good copy-cat Rice-A-Roni pilaff recipe – Please let me know and I will be ever so grateful!  Ten pounds of chicken breast, cut into 1 x 1 inch chunks – raw pack – will make about 12 pint jars. When making soup, I don’t pack as much chicken into the quart jars so that there will be enough broth to cook the pasta or rice or other fresh vegetables when I am serving it, so ten pounds of chicken will usually make about 16 quart jars of soup for me.  We go through an average of 1 pint of chunk chicken and 1 quart of the chicken soup per week, so one 40 pound order of chicken breast works out to about 30 pints of chunk chicken and 20 quarts of soup per order.

As spring is quickly approaching I am starting to plan my vegetable garden, with an eye toward canning and/or freezing the produce to last at least one year.  That is my goal right now – one year.  I have read that one should actually have enough for two years, just in case of crop failure, or other disaster, but right now that would be just too overwhelming for me.  This has been quite a challenge for me, and I am still learning what works for me and what doesn’t. The problem is that I have to improve my gardening skills before I can be sure I will have enough food for a year.  😉

Last year I planted Kentucky Wonder beans and they did an amazing job.  Not only did we eat fresh green beans twice a week for a few months – July, August and September – I was also able to preserve 24 pint jars of green beans.  But it wasn’t enough.  I am already down to my last several jars of green beans and we still have at least three months before I can expect to get more from my garden.  So, I will have to plant more beans this year.

Bald faced hornets in my beans

I have trellised the bean plants to make it easier to reach the beans. So much easier (and safer) than a ladder.  Though these beans produced very well, I want more!

How many more?  Well, I figure if I want to have 3 dozen jars of beans, which would give us one jar per week during the non-producing months, I would have to plant half again as many beans as I did last year.  But if I wanted to have 4 dozen jars, I would need twice as many plants.  Therefore, I am going to plant twice as many plants because we really love

green beans pressure canned

I like to raw pack my green beans when I pressure can – it is so much easier and the final product isn’t much different that hot pack!

green beans.  We eat them plain as a side dish, cold in salads, thrown into stews and buried in casseroles.  In our family, the more the better!  Last year I planted cucumbers among the green beans, as well as the Chinese Red Noodle Beans.  While I love pickles, and the noodle beans were a fun experiment, I am going to use the entire side of the raised bed for green beans this year.

My black beans also did fairly well.  Out of the 9 plants that I had, I got about a quart of dried black beans.  The black beans shared the raised bed with the green beans, cucumbers and noodle beans, but were planted on the opposite side, which seemed to work well.  The black beans were a bush bean and didn’t interfere with the vining green beans.  The book “I Can Can Beef”, explains how you can fill up you canner with simple jars of either plain or chili beans.  Say, for example, you are canning 10 pints of ground beef.  My pressure canner holds 17 pints, so I have room for another 7 pints.  Why not fill those 7 pints with beans, which only takes minutes to do.  You will spend the same amount of energy processing the canner but have seven jars of delicious beans to add to your pantry!  I processed my black beans and got 9 pints of beans.  We need more than that, so I will also double the amount of black bean plants this year. Maybe triple!

These are the black turtle beans I grew last year. These are very tasty, can well, and as a bush bean doesn’t take too much real estate in the garden, but is well worth the effort.

My other garden vegetables I plan to grow and can include potatoes, carrots, beets and chili peppers.  You can see on the picture of my working pantry that I have four small jars of chopped peppers.  These worked out great when making chicken enchiladas, chili beans, meatloaf, etc., but sadly, those didn’t last long at all!

canned chili peppers

My fire roasted diced and canned chili peppers

The small size of the jars was perfect for adding to recipes, however, so I will continue canning peppers in that size, it’s just that I didn’t have enough. We had six Anaheim Chile plants last year.  Along with eating them fresh (mmmmmm… BBQ pepper poppers!) I want to have at least two dozen of these small jars for next year, so I will need to plant at least 12 Anaheim Chili plants this next year.  We also had two Ancho Poblano peppers that didn’t produce very well.  I wanted the Ancho Poblano because they would be great for Chili Relleno, but alas the plants just didn’t do as well as I had hoped.  So this year I will grow only Anaheim Chiles as my hot pepper.

My carrots?  They didn’t do well.  I ended up with little three inch long bunches of carrot flavored fuzzy roots.  I’m not sure what I did wrong, but I need to improve my carrot growing skills because I want to be able to can carrots also.  Not sure what happened to my potatoes this year, but they also suffered.  Alas, there is always another year!  🙂

These are the cherry tomatoes that I grew last summer. They were oh so good!

And the tomatoes?  I need more tomatoes.  The canning type to make sauces, pastes and chopped tomatoes.  Last year I grew both cherry tomatoes and paste tomatoes.  We ate the cherry tomatoes fresh and I canned the paste tomatoes.  I had two paste tomato plants and that wasn’t near enough to supply my pantry shelf.  This year I am going to grow two cherry tomatoes for fresh eating and probably a dozen paste tomato plants.  I will have to keep some space in my freezer for the tomatoes, because I like to throw them in a bag I have in the freezer and then process the tomatoes into sauce in one large batch, rather than several smaller batches. You can see that process HERE.  I haven’t tried making my own ketchup yet, but if I have enough tomatoes this year, making ketchup will be one of my new experiments.

It will be interesting to see how these changes in my garden will effect my canning this year.  Until we are able to move into our new home, canning will have to continue being done on my outdoor propane burner.  This presents a challenge, sometimes, because I have to plan my canning days around windy days, which can effect the flame of the outdoor burner, and therefore the canning process.

So, here’s to a new season of gardening, harvesting, canning and learning.  I hope my pantry will be still overflowing at this time next year.

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Canned Beef in Wine Sauce

My husband and I will be living in our travel trailer for the next two years while we build our new home, which is a good thing.  However, our trailer has a very small refrigerator/ freezer, which is a bad thing.  I would really prefer not to drive the 45 minute trip down the hill to the grocery store every few days, or even once a week, so canning and dehydrating our food has become a new priority for me.

If I use one jar of beef, one jar of chicken, one jar of fish and a jar of pork every week for dinner, this would cut down on the need to keep meat in the small freezer, freeing up space for other necessary items – like ice cream! 😀  So far I have canned chicken (and chicken broth), salmon, spaghetti sauce with meat and beef cubes. You can find all of these recipes in the tab above under “Preserved Food”.  I found a recipe in my Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving  for Beef in Wine and thought I would try it!

The process was actually quite simple. I cut the beef into cubes and then browned it in some oil. The best part about pressure canning beef, is that you can use the cheapest cuts of beef because the prolonged cooking under pressure tenderizes the beef!Canned Beef in Red Wine SauceI browned it pretty good because in the original recipe calls for 1/2 teaspoon of “browning and seasoning sauce”, which I find to be unnecessary if you brown your meat good in the first place!  I deglazed the pan with the water and red wine called for in the recipe, so I could get all of the yummy-ness and flavor from the bottom of the pan.

Pressure Canning Beef in Wine Sauce

Next, the apples and carrots were grated, and the onion and garlic sliced and minced.  These were added to the stock pot along with the meat and deglazing liquid, a little bit of salt and a couple of bay leaves, as per the recipe. The whole mixture was allowed to simmer for about an hour on the stove.  Believe it or not, as the mixture was simmering, the grated apples pretty much melted away, into a nice, rich sauce!  It smelled absolutely awesome! The hot mixture was ladled into hot pint jars (perfect size for just the two of us) and processed in the Pressure Canner for 75 minutes.  Pressure Canning Red Wine and Beef

Remember to always process low acid foods in a pressure canner for the correct amount of time.  I have been doing all of my canning lately in my backyard, which is wonderful.  It doesn’t heat up my kitchen and it gives me a chance to sit back and enjoy nature while I babysit the canner! 😀

As usual, I couldn’t wait to try it!  Oftentimes, if there is a jar that doesn’t seal, I will use that one right away.  With this batch, however, everything sealed, so I had to open a “good” jar. I dumped one jar into a sauce pan, added a couple of quartered crimini mushrooms and two teaspoons of cornstarch.  This mixture was allowed to simmer softly until the sauce was thickened and the meat was heated through.Pressure Canned Beef in Wine

You can eat this “as is” or pour the Beef in Red Wine Sauce over pasta, rice or even mashed potatoes.  I had previously purchased some pasta from our local Grocery Outlet that was labeled “non-GMO” and “Organic”.  It didn’t cost much more than the regular stuff I had been buying, but I found it interesting that neither of these pastas were made in the USA – one was made in Germany and the other in Romania.  In those countries they have food labeling laws, unlike ours, that lets the consumer know what they are eating.  I decided to use the one from Germany.  Believe it or not, it was the pasta that took the longest time to cook!  The beef in Red Wine sauce was bubbling away happily long before the pasta was al dente.

Canning Beef in Sauce

Man-O-Man was this good!  The beef was still in chunks, so it wasn’t mushy at all, which was a worry of mine.  The sauce was excellent!  Two teaspoons was all that was necessary to make it nice and thick but with lots of flavor.  I think next time I may add some  sour cream instead of the cornstarch, so it will be more like a stroganoff!  Of course, I could always add potatoes, carrots and celery for a stew, or as the base of a beef pot pie!  Lots of possibilities with this one.

This is the recipe I used, adapted from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving:

Recipe for Canned Beef in Red Wine Sauce

Beef in Red Wine - Pressure Canned

What I am finding, dear friends, is that canned foods such as this, are actually like fast food – it takes less than 15 minutes to have dinner on the table!  With the variety of ways to prepare it, I don’t think monotony or food ruts will be a problem.  What do you think?



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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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Canning Salmon

My husband, really, REALLY likes to fish – especially for salmon.  Which is a good thing, because we like to eat salmon.  Last fall, during early salmon season, he caught five nice ones! If the salmon are caught later in the season, they will be beat up, their scales start to fall off and they just look downright ugly.  Their flesh also has a bit of a muddy taste, so he goes out early and catches enough to get us through a year.  We also give a lot of salmon to my mother, who is very appreciative!  Ray likes to smoke some of the salmon and takes it to holiday dinners and parties with friends.  Yeah – we get asked to bring the smoked salmon quite often. 🙂  preserving pacific salmon

Usually we either fillet the fish or cut it into salmon steaks, then freeze.  The only problem with this is that I like to use my sucky machine (aka Food Saver) to vacuum pack all of the food I put into the freezer, but it is nearly impossible to vacuum pack a salmon steak.  Why?  Well, the bones in raw salmon are like sewing needles and they poke right through the plastic bags!  Unfortunately there have been a few times when I have realized this too late, and the salmon steak has been freezer burned beyond repair. 🙁

Nonetheless, when we move up to our future homestead, we won’t be able to rely on a freezer to preserve all of our food.  There isn’t a freezer big enough for that.  Our plan is to build a root cellar as soon as our home is done, which will house the majority of our fresh potatoes, carrots, onions, apples, pears, and squash.  But we also plan to dehydrate and can a large supply of our food.  That way we won’t have to travel to the grocery store but once or twice a month, and if some type of disaster strikes and we have to hunker down in place, we should have enough food on hand to survive at least six months… or more.

I have done some canning before.  This past summer I made some really delicious plum butter in my crockpot and canned that up.  A few months ago I took whole frozen tomatoes and turned them into a thick tomato sauce which I canned into pint jars.  When I was a young mother I even tried my hand at canning green beans.  I entered those into the county fair and won first prize!!!

But I have never canned any type of meat or fish.  I have always had a lot of (irrational) fears about it.  Oh, I know – people have been safely canning meat for decades.  I needed to put my fears aside and just do it!

I found a new rubber gasket and also the instruction manual for my old pressure canner online, which included all of the safety checks, and followed those exactly.  Three times.  🙂

I found a recipe on-line that was from an extension office in Alaska.  I figured, if anyone knew how to can salmon, people in Alaska would.  Right?  pressure canning salmon

These instructions said that frozen fish is perfectly acceptable to use and there is quite a bit of salmon still frozen in my freezer, including some who’s seals had failed (stupid bones!) that I had repacked into a zipper lock freezer bag, so they were still okay.

The process to can the salmon was very straightforward:  Place chunks of salmon into a clean jar (no need to sterilize the jar because the canner will do that anyway), add a little bit of salt, no need for liquid.  Wipe the rim of the jar clean, place the lid on top, screw on the band to just finger tight, put into the canner and process for an hour and a half. pressure canning pacific salmon

So far so good.  Then I had a little trouble:  I had watched several You Tube videos about how to can with a pressure canner.  They all said to wait for the steam to release from the vent for ten minutes  before you put the weighted gauge on top, and then start the processing time.  So, I turned on the heat and waited for the steam to come out.  All of the videos showed this huge plume of steam gushing out of the vent.  Every one.  I never saw this.  I could hear the water bubbling in the canner.  When I put my hand over the vent – ouch!  Yup, it was hot steam.  But I never saw that huge plume of steam – like in the videos.  I let it go on like this for almost an hour.  Then I realized that there must be steam coming out, I just couldn’t see it very well like on the videos!  I was afraid that at this point I was going to just boil and steam all of the water out of the canner!  So, since it was all an experiment anyway, I decided to go ahead and put on the weighted gauge.

Heaven’s to Betsy – you would have thought a band of senoritas with castanets were marching through my kitchen!  That weight gauge almost jiggled itself off the vent post!

Yup.  Obviously there was enough steam venting!

So, I started the timer, turned down the heat a bit so I could hear my husband’s voice over the clatter, clanging, jiggling of the weight on the vent, until the weight jiggled once about every 20 seconds – or 2-3 times a minute.  Then I stood there for an hour and fourty minutes, counting the jiggles every five minutes or so to make sure the pressure was still at the 10 pounds required for my altitude.

Candy Crush on my Kindle kept me company.  Just can’t pass level 165 – grrrrrrrr….. how to pressure can fish

Once the processing time was done, I turned off the stove but left the canner there, unopened, for several hours.  That evening I nudged the weighted gauge and when nothing much happened I opened up the canner..  I carefully lifted the jars up and out of the canner onto a dishtowel on my counter.  Well, it was canned salmon alright, but it sure didn’t look very pretty.  The salmon shrank up a bit, there was a white gooey looking substance (I assume salmon fat) and a thin layer of orange oil.  On the bright side, every one of the seals were tight.  Yay!

Now came the ultimate test – taste!  My favorite meal with canned salmon is to make salmon patties! So, a few days later I decided to give it a try.

canned salmon cakesWhen I opened a jar, the aroma of salmon was fairly strong, just as it is when I open a can of salmon that I have purchased at the store.  Good.  But, taking the fish out of the jar was another problem altogether.  Note to self:  in the future, use a wide mouth canning jar!

Next, I flaked the salmon in a bowl, added the rest of the ingredients (recipe to follow), shaped the salmon mixture into patties, and fried them up!  Yum!

Making salmon patties from home canned salmonMy recipe?  Well, I have always used a simple recipe passed down from my mother, but I tweak it and twist it to use what ingredients I have.  I start with one can of salmon (oops, I guess I should say pint jar now), two eggs, and lots of freshly ground pepper (no salt).  Those are the ingredients that never change. Then I add in bread crumbs or crushed saltine crackers or crushed potato chips (about 3/4 to 1 cup) – something to bind it all together. I have even used hash browns before, which is really good!  Sometimes I add a little bit of onion or lemon zest – or both!  It doesn’t matter.  Just mix it all together, form into patties about the size of a hamburger, and fry until a golden brown on one side, flip and fry to golden brown on the other side.  You can fry the salmon patties in oil, butter, lard – whatever floats your boat!

My next experiment will be canning beef.  I purchased an e-book on my kindle all about canning beef, and I can’t wait to try!  If you have ever canned beef, chicken or fish before and have any tips or tricks you would like to share, please share them in the comments below!  Or, if you have a blog post about canning beef, chicken or fish, you can certainly direct my readers to yours in the comment section also!

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