Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Canning Mushrooms

Hello friends!  Does this post find you squeezing every last ounce out of summer or has school started back for your little ones?  We have started back, but boy, it has been a struggle to get back into the swing of things and get everything done!  It doesn't help that I still have canning on the brain!  Add to it the fact that we have been wrapped up in shopping for RVs this week, and it makes for a very unproductive school week.  :(  Thank goodness we are good at doubling up on official lessons and learning through life's situations!

Today, I wanted to share with you the mushrooms I canned the other day.  It was a very quick and easy canning project that started with needing mushrooms for a homemade pizza.  I love canned mushrooms on my pizza, but when I looked at the price for a jar in the store I realized I could make a whole lot more of my own for about the same price.

I started with two pounds of sliced mushrooms.  Into two quarts of water, I added two heaping tablespoons of Better Than Bouillon Beef Base.  (I would love to have used my own beef stock, but I haven't gotten around to making any.  Soon, though!  That is a big project I hope to tackle soon!)  I brought that to a boil, put my mushrooms in, and boiled the mushrooms for five minutes.  Then, I packed the mushrooms into hot half-pint jars.  The jars were sealed with two piece lids and processed at 10lbs pressure for 45 minutes. Make sure to use the correct pressure for your area.  **Always follow the USDA's canning guidelines for safe canning. 

Here is the finished product!

Have you canned anything yet?  You are always welcomed to share in the comments!

Until we meet again, may you be blessed!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Boiled Peanuts

Oh, my stars!  I feel like I have boiled peanuts coming out my ears, y'all!  I started my peanuts with soaking two nights ago, and the last ones are on the stove cooking now with chili powder and ground cumin. Yum!  I have 21 quarts and 11 pints done.  I am not sure what I will end up with from those on the stove.  I will be putting those in the freezer because I am pooped!

Nothing says summer and fall more loudly to me than sitting down with a bowl of hot boiled peanuts in a cool house and popping those shells between my teeth.  Oh, what fond memories this brings back.  My stepfather used to LOVE cooking peanuts every year.  When I smell them I can remember the texture and color of the sofa fabric against my skin.  I can still hear my mama quietly complaining that the salt was eating away at her pot while I sat on a stool at the counter.  That kitchen, that home, all those memories...yep, boiled peanuts are one thing that easily take me back there.  Oh, how I would love to spend just a few more minutes there to be thankful for the things I took for granted, to morn what was lost, to be happy for what was gained, just to be. Goodness, I loved my parents.  I wish I could go back and try even more to prove that to them!  That home will forever be my childhood home.

Well, life has a way of moving us on, and I recently learned that boiled peanuts can be canned.  I knew I had to do them!  There is nothing hard about doing them, but they are very time consuming.  I am sure I will appreciate my efforts this fall when I am munching on my peanuts while watching my Georgia Dawgs playing football!

To make the peanuts, I first soaked my peanuts for one hour in cold water in my sink two times.  The next time, I left the peanuts to soak overnight.  Next, I put the peanuts in a large pot and covered them with water.  They were left to come up to a boil while I prepared the jars, lids, and brine.

Everything ready to go!

Next, I used a funnel to fill my jars with the peanuts.  I shake my jars when I am almost done filling and add more nuts if needed.

Next, I dipped a measuring cup into the brine and poured the brine into the jar to the lower rim of the jar.

The rim was then wiped clean, and the jar was sealed with a two piece lid.

As each jar was finished, it was placed back into the simmering water in the canner.  The process was repeated until the canner was full.

Once the canner was full, I processed quarts for 50 minutes at 10 pounds pressure and pints for 45 minutes at 10 pounds pressure.

Don't stop, don't go too fast!  Don't stop, don't go too fast!  Don't stop, don't go too fast!  :)  Don't make my mistake and let your sleeve catch the regulator, knocking it askew.  That is not pleasant. :)

Once the pressure was released from the canner, I removed the jars from the canner to finish cooling.

The jars should remain untouched for 24 hours.

All done!

1/2 bushel raw peanuts
2 gallons water
2 cups salt
Any seasonings you would like to add to taste, optional

In a deep sink or a very large pots such as a water bath canner, soak peanuts for one hour and drain that water.  Run more water and drain.  Run more water and soak overnight.  I do my soaking in the evenings. This method of soaking and rinsing helps to ensure that your peanuts are as clean as possible before going into the jars. In the morning, prepare all materials and jars.  (With half a bushel, my peanuts made 16 quarts and 1 pint plus what I threw in the crock pot.)  Drain the peanuts and put them in a large pot.  Cover them with water and place on the stove.  Bring them to a boil and them turn them down to simmer for at least 15 minutes.  (They will not be done at this point.)  While waiting on the peanuts to come to a boil, mix the salt and water in a large stock pot.  Set it on stove and bring just to a boil, then turn down to simmer. (I actually did mine in two batches: 1gal. water & 1 cup water) Place rings and lids for the jars in warm water.  I also put my jars in my canner to simmer in hot water while I wait.  This way, my jars are hot when I am ready to fill them. When the peanuts have simmered for at least fifteen minutes, fill jars to within one inch of the top of the jar.  Pour hot brine over the peanuts to the lower rim of the jar.  Run a flat, plastic spatula between the peanuts and jar to release any trapped air bubbles.  Seal the jars with two piece lids.  Process pints for 45 minutes at 10 pounds pressure or quarts for 50 minutes at 10 pounds pressure.  Be sure to check for proper pressure in your area.  **When canning, always make sure to follow USDA guidelines for safe canning.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Peach and Cherry Jam

Whew!  I am cutting it close with this post to get it done tonight!  I have been in a canning marathon today.  From 1/4 bushel of raw peanuts, I have canned 16-1/2 quarts boiled peanuts and cooked a crock pot full.  One bushel of cream peas has been blanched and divided into 11-1/2 pints in the freezer.  The last of my peaches have been peeled, sliced, and divided into 5-1/2 pints that went into the freezer also.  The box of tomatoes and other 1/4 bushel of peanuts will simply have to wait until tomorrow!

As promised yesterday, I want to share my Peach and Cherry Jam with you.

4-1/2 c. peaches
1 c. chopped cherries
6 T pectin
4-1/2 c. sugar
2 T lemon juice

Combine fruit and lemon juice in a large sauce pan.  Gradually stir in pectin.  Bring mixture to a rolling boil that can't be stirred down.  Next add all the sugar at one time.  Stir continuously and bring back to a rolling boil.  Once it starts boiling, time for one minute.  Remove from heat.  Fill hot, sterilized jelly jars.  Seal jars with two piece lids.  Process in water bath for 10 minutes.  Remove jars from bath onto a towel or cooling rack.  Do not touch for 24 hours.  Store in a cool, dark place.  Refrigerate and consume any jelly that did not seal.  Yields 6 half pints

**Please follow all canning safety guidelines according to the USDA to ensure safety of all canned food.

What have you been canning?  I would really love to hear!

Until we meet again, may you be blessed!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

I'm Canning Now!

Good evening again, friends!  Yesterday you read my slightly over-dramatic telling of my first experience with pressure canning a big ole pot of nothing.  Well, the story itself may have been a little dramatic, but the fear was completely real.  You know from the story that I did go on to actually can four jars of the meat I bought on sale for that very purpose.

It turned out so beautifully, I really wanted to share with you what I did.  It seems like a lot of work and steps, but really, it was very quick and easy.

I started with three pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breasts and a small beef roast.  The roast was small, it was on sale, and I never dreamed this first experiment would be a success, so I threw the package away before I took the time to notice what it actually was.  :)  Sorry about that!  For both types of meat, I cubed them up, doing my best to get the chunks as uniform as I could.

**When canning, make sure you follow all safe canning procedures as outlined by the USDA to ensure the safety of the food.**

For the chicken, I put it in the stock pot and threw in some Orrington Farms Chicken Broth Base & Seasoning.  If you have followed my blog for very long, you know that I am terrible about not measuring.  If I had to guess, I would say I had about 8 cups of water and 2-3 Tablespoons of the seasoning.  I went easy on the seasoning since I have heard flavors become stronger when pressure canning.  I let that cook some, but not all the way through.  Pressure canning finishes the cooking process.  Some people even prefer to raw pack. For my first time, though, I went right by the book.  ;)  While this was heating, I had another pot of clean water heating to a boil to use to pack my jars.  I'll get to that in a minute, though.

For the beef, I cooked it in another unmeasured broth.  :(  Guessed measurements would be six cups water, 1 tablespoon Better Than Bouillon Beef Base, 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce, and 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder.  I had intended to just heat it through, but you know how it goes, the phone rang, and I got a little distracted, letting the meat get a little more done than heated through.  No worries, I knew it didn't make a terrible difference.

If I could do this over, I would have skimmed the top of this broth.  Newbie

Once the meats were done, it was time to get the meat in the hot jars that had been simmering in the canner while the meat cooked.

For the beef, I covered a hot jar with my nifty little funnel and used a slotted spoon to put the meat in my jars.  (I did one jar at a time to keep everything hot.)

I used the end of my spatula to go between the meat and the jar, pulling the meat to the center of the jar to remove as much of the large air pockets as I could.  After doing this, I was actually able to add a few more pieces of meat.  Then, I used a cup to scoop up some of the cooking liquid and pour in the jar to the lower rim.

Again, I used the spatula to go between the glass and meat, pulling the meat toward the center of the jar several times as I worked my way around the jar to remove any air bubbles.

Looks crazy, I know, but a girl does what girl must do.
Next, I wiped the top rim of the jar clean.

Yes, I know.  I make terrible messes in the kitchen.  Oh, well, it cleans.  :)
Finally, the jar was sealed with a two piece lid and put back in the simmering, uncovered canner while I continued filling other jars.

The chicken was basically the same process.  I used a slotted spoon to spoon the drained chicken pieces in to the hot jars, using the same methods to ensure a good pack.  Once the jar was packed nicely, I sprinkled 1 teaspoon of the chicken broth base and seasoning over the top of the packed chicken.

I then poured clean, boiling water into the jar to fill to the lower rim of the jar.

The jars rim was cleaned and sealed with a two piece lid and placed in the open, simmering canner until all the jars were done.

Once the jars were done, the jars were processed in the canner for 75 minutes at 10 pounds of pressure.
Make sure you use proper canning elevation guidelines for your area!  Easy peasy!

It was so quick and easy, I actually got up yesterday morning and canned more chicken and dry packed ground beef.  So, so easy!  I can't believe I haven't done this before now!

Last night, I made peach and cherry jelly.  I will have to share that with you in the next post!  :)  Watch out world!  I'm canning now!  What have you been canning?  I would love to hear!

Until we meet again, may you be blessed!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Canning Bug Fever

Oh, goodness gracious, y'all!  I have been bitten by the canning bug, and I don't know the cure for canning fever!  Perhaps I don't want the itch to stop! I am having the best time!

I just want you to be very aware, though!  If you get bitten, you could end up looking like this!  This picture is so ugly, it makes me laugh every single time I look at it!

I have been sitting here thinking back to what in the world ever made me want to start canning- I mean really canning, as in pressure canning.  I have been doing simple things that I can water bath like jams, fruit, tomatoes, and pickled things, but for some reason I woke up one day and just HAD to learn how to pressure can.  Looking back, I think it had to do something with Mari.  Oh, Mari!  Yes... Mari....She just had to go and mention I could can some of the meat from my hogs.  That was the bug that bit.  Then there was Barbara Ann.  She and her daughter-in-law, Lisa, just had to come and show me how to make all sorts of yummy things with tomatoes.  That's when the itch started.  And Donna???  Shame on her!  She and her mom had to go and show me peaches!  Ca-pow!!!  Just like that, my mind exploded into a whirlwind of ideas, but so many of them required a pressure canner!  Such naughty ladies!  Whatever will I do with them??? :) :) :)  I guess I will just have to love them even more!

In all seriousness, I really did have a whirlwind of ideas floating around in my head, and I really did need a pressure canner.  I was SO afraid of it, though.  I would get up my nerve, go to the store to get it, and lose my nerve.  There the canner would stay on the shelf until I did the same thing several more times.  Finally, I just told myself I was being plain silly.  I went and made myself buy it and several cases of jars, and a couple packs of meat on clearance.  There were to be no excuses not to do it and learn.

I went home and watched instruction video after instruction video on youtube.  I read the instructions over and over again.  I couldn't sleep that night, I was so anxious over canning.  I got up the next morning after a few hours of sleep and decided to take the canner to my sister's bakery so I wouldn't have to do it alone. Wouldn't you know she was terribly busy, and I couldn't do it there?  Back home I went with the unused canner.  It was time for back up, so my alter ego, as they say on The Incredibles, had to step in.  It was City Girl on the Farm's turn to take over.  {If you follow me on Facebook, you know that I grew up in the city and didn't learn many skills I need when my husband has to be out of town for long stretches of time.  I created the City Girl Saga just to make the scary things like learning to get squealing baby piglets back into a pen full of upset pigs and learning to operate the lawn mower and canner more light-hearted and interesting. I don't really have a split personality, lol!  (You can breathe a sigh of relief now!)}

Anyway, back to the story.  I, City Girl, walked in the house with the canner determined to get the job done even if it killed me.  Believe me, I thought it would for a while, but I made myself believe I was prepared to just do it!
I look ready, right???  Haha!  We took these at the bakery before I left.  :)
I shook as I put water in that big old pan knowing/not knowing what was to come.  I sent the children to the back of the house to play and told them not to come out until I called them.  Still shaking, I put the lid on and turned on the eye.  I felt so weak and trembly!  It made so many horrible, scary noises as it heated up!  The steam vented for 10 minutes just like the directions said.  Then it was time to put the regulator on top.  I nearly jumped out of my skin when I dropped that thing on the stem!  I was sick at my stomach by now.  I just didn't think I could do it.  I wanted to turn the eye off so badly, but I knew if I did I would just eventually have to do it all over again.  Onward I went.  That crazy regulator eventually started rocking, and I knew for sure my short breaths meant I was going to hit the floor!  Why in the world do the temperature knobs have to be on the back of the stove way behind that canner?  Don't people know I don't want to reach over that thing???  I darted between the stove and behind my kitchen island for several minutes!  Good grief, I got a workout trying to get that regulator slow and steady enough!  Eventually, the regulator slowed and reached a nice, gentle rock.  I was just like a baby.  That gentle rocking calmed me too.  Eventually, I stopped trembling and could breathe normally.  The sickness left.  After about twenty-minutes of the regulator gently rocking, I knew City Girl had prevailed.  I removed the canner from they eye, let it decompress, removed the regulator, and took the lid off the canner to reveal the fruits of all my stress and labor:

It was just a big ole pot of nothin' except water!  Isn't that the best looking water in the bottom of the pot that you have ever seen?  :D  I was so proud of that water!  Mari's husband, Nathan, thought it was very funny.  I haven't seen either of them since they found out I canned a big pot of nothing.  I bet I am going to catch it when I see them!  :)  That's alright.  What fun is life without a little jabbing?

You will be pleased to know that I turned around and canned four cans of meat after I canned the pot of nothing.  It turned out so pretty!  I will share it with you in the next post!  In the meantime, face your fears head on!  If I can manage not to destroy my home and self and not absolutely die from fear of learning to use it, I PROMISE you can too!

Until we meet again, may you be blessed!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Just Peachy

Never in my life would I ever have dreamed I would develop a love for canning.  I mean, isn't that something laborious that Granny used to do?  Well, I certainly don't view it that way anymore!  I am finding it to be a very satisfying creative outlet.  This creative outlet, though, provides so much satisfaction on so many levels. The hours spent in this creative process are repaid over and over throughout the year as each jar of love is opened and consumed by family and friends around the table.  For me, each time I open a jar, I remember back to the day it was processed and remember the events of the day or the time shared with friends while working on canning.

Canning, however, is still very new to me, and I am finding I need lots of help and guidance.  Last week, two sweet, precious friends from church came to my home to help me can tomatoes.  Yesterday, I went to the home of another friend I consider my sister of the heart, and we canned peaches with the guidance of her sweet mother.  I feel so privileged to be adopted into the heritage, and to be able to learn from such special ladies who have taken me under their wing to teach me so many things. (Canning peaches and tomatoes are just the most recent projects.  They have also taught me how to cream and can fresh corn and how to freeze my bushels of peas.  There are other posts about those days on the blog.)  There is so much joy found in sitting around with a group of friends and working on projects such as these.  It sure makes the work a lot easier and faster!

We did a total of forty-seven quarts of peaches yesterday, and I brought home another box of peaches to do today.

After learning how my friends in our area can peaches, I felt brave enough to try it on my own.  I know I didn't follow all the rules perfectly, so please don't use me as your guide for canning!  I encourage you to read and follow all safety guidelines.  The Ball Blue Book of Canning is a great place to start.

There has been a lot of interest in the Cinnamon Vanilla Peaches I did today, so I thought I should write a post about them.

To start, I washed and peeled my peaches.  Before slicing them (The Ball canning book recommends canning halves.), I poured 3-1/2 quarts of unsweetened apple juice into a large stock pot.  To it, I added two cinnamon sticks, and 1-1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract.  I let that simmer while I sliced my peaches.

Once my peaches were sliced, I added the slices to clean, hot jars with a stick of cinnamon.  I packed the slices as tightly as I could without mashing the slices into baby food.  :)  My jars had just gone through the dishwasher and were still hot, so I just removed one jar at a time as I worked.  Once the slices and cinnamon were packed in, I poured the very warm "cider" over the peaches to the lower rim of the jar and fitted and sealed the jar with the two piece lids. 

These are several jars waiting for their bath.  ;)  Once that last jar is packed and filled, I highly recommend grabbing a mug for yourself and drinking any leftover cider!  Ah!  It whispers the promise of fall!

Once the jars were placed in the water bath, I let the water come back up to a boil.  Once the water started to boil, I set the timer so that the jars would process twenty minutes.  The safe method is to have one or two inches of water over the jars.

Once the time is up, carefully remove the jars to a protected spot and let them sit undisturbed for twenty-four hours.  Then, remove the rings, rinse the jars, and store in a cool dry place until you are ready to open a jar and relive the memories!

Cinnamon Vanilla Cider Syrup 
3-1/2 quarts unsweetened apple juice
2 cinnamon sticks
1-1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine the ingredients in a large stock pot.  Let the ingredients get hot, but not boiling, and reduce heat to low.  Simmer on low until ready to use.  

All ingredients can be adjusted to taste.  Some of my peaches were not as ripe as I would have liked, so I worried they might turn out too tart with the unsweetened apple juice.  As badly as I didn't want to, I ended up adding in 2/3 cup of sugar in hopes of not having tart peaches this winter.  :)

I ended up with 10 quarts.
I hope you have a chance to try them!  If you do, I would love to know what you think!  Feel free to share your creative canning ideas, too!

Until we meet again, may you be blessed!