Saturday, July 26, 2014

Apricot-Vanilla Bean Jam

I just made the best jam that I've ever tasted and wanted to get the recipe written down before I forgot what I did. To make it you will need:

  • 6 cups of diced apricots including the skins
  • Combine with 1 shredded Granny Smith apple and the zest of 1 lemon and the juice of the lemon. 
  • Add 1 whole vanilla bean 
  • 3 cups sugar
Stir thoroughly and allow to rest until very juicy. For my warm kitchen this took 2 hours.

Remove vanilla bean, rinse, split lengthwise and scrape seeds into fruit. Throw the split bean back in along with 3 pits. 

Cook over medium heat until it tests done, this doesn't take long.

Put into jam into jars adding 1 pit to each jar.

Allow 1/2" headspace and process for 10 minutes.

Yield: 3 pints

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Economics of Canning

I was talking to a friend this week and telling her that this year I'm doing a jar by jar analysis of what my home canned food costs. So far I haven't canned anything that I could have bought cheaper, matching quality for quality (and that's an important distinction.) I wrote this article four years ago for Farming Magazine and put it on my old blog, here it is again still as relevant as it was then.


It Pays To Can!

This is my most recent Farming Magazine artice, it will be in the Fall issue, enjoy!

Home Canning Saves Money
I was sharing our food philosophy recently when a man piped up and dogmatically stated that home canning is a nice hobby but “you’re never going to save money doing it!” He went on to say that he bought his canned goods by the case load from Save-A-Lot and $.40 a can was cheaper than any home canned goods could ever be (needless to say, he isn’t a Farming magazine reader :-)). So, does home canning really save money? Let’s look at the facts. A typical 600 square foot garden will yield, on average, one pound of vegetables per square foot. Seeds, plants, fertilizer and tools cost approximately $60 amortized over 5 years, using these figures brings the cost of raising vegetables to 10¢ per pound. Obviously if you buy direct from growers or at pick-your-own farms the price is somewhat higher. Canning jars purchased new cost about $8 per dozen, amortized over 20 years brings their cost to 3¢ per jar per year, add the cost of lids (which shouldn’t be reused) and the cost for jar, band and lid is 20¢. Figuring 2 pounds of vegetable in each quart jar brings the grand total to 40¢ per jar, so indeed, canning does “pay”.
Home Canning Assures Quality
Home preservation of food also assures that my family is eating the quality of food that is important to me. Pork raised in China, fed on human waste, at bargain basement prices from my local mega-mart food chain might seem like a thrifty purchase until you factor in the real cost. Some people don’t mind, but I do. Likewise, we raise or buy locally our own vegetables; what goes into my canning jars is naturally grown, non GMO wholesomeness. It hasn’t gobbled up fossil fuels by flying 2000 miles across the country before hitting my plate, in all probability it was picked only hours before we ate it or put it into jars to enjoy this Winter.
What About The Value Of My Time?
Farm wives of a generation or 2 ago didn’t view home canning as a separate, optional activity apart from their regular duties. It was taken for granted that if you wanted to eat in the winter then you worked to preserve the harvest in the summer. The old farm families never accounted for their time or what it was worth. Only today, the modern woman, city dwellers or those new to the homesteading way of life do that. It’s part of the city mentality (and Marxist “labor theory of value”) that they cannot get past the fact that their time is worth money. Back to the 40¢ canned vegetables that my friend buys, why doesn’t he factor in the time he spends in the car and the store plus the gas money he spent to get there? The true cost of the 40¢ can is the number we should really be using for an honest comparison. From all angles home preservation is the healthiest, most economical, environmentally friendly way you can feed your family!
The 13 jars of strawberry jam that we canned yesterday. I do all of my jam in bail lid jars, I only wish I had more! I have never, ever had a seal failure with bail lids, but I've certainly had plenty with regular lids. The lids today are made so cheaply (like everything else) compared to lids 20 years ago and I think that's why they fail so often. I want to try these lids.
I am canning lemonade concentrate today, it's on sale locally and will be a nice treat this winter.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Food In Jars

This has been a full week already of canning, the busy time is definitely upon us. I was looking through the Complete Book of Home Preserving to find a pickle recipe and instead stumbled up a recipe for Thai Hot & Sweet Dipping Sauce.

I made the recipe according to the directions and the results were OK, but could be so much better with some tweaking. I added orange juice concentrate and some ginger & horseradish and now it is superb! The kitchen smelled like a Chinese restaurant.  :)
Here is my version which I guess we'll call Spicy Orange Sauce:
3/4 cup minced garlic
1T salt
6 cups cider vinegar
6 cups sugar
a heaping 1/4 cup of hot pepper flakes
2T shredded ginger
2T prepared horseradish
2 12 ounce cans of orange juice concentrate (don't reconstitute)

Cook all together until sugar is dissolved, leave 1/2" headspace, can for 15 minutes. I added a jar to some chicken and threw it in the crockpot and then thickened the sauce after it was fully cooked. Mmm!

Next we made 2 batches of canned coleslaw. I actually think this tastes more like eggroll filling, but whatever, the children love it!
Combine: 3 cups vinegar
4 cups sugar
1t celery seed
1t mustard seed
4t salt and heat until sugar is dissolved. Let cool

In a big mixing bowl shred 1 lg head of cabbage (I prefer 1 small green & 1 small red)
1 cup shredded celery (or you can dice it)
1/2 cup shredded/diced onion
2 cups shredded carrots
Mix together and fill jars, don't pack them but don't underfill either, leave an inch headspace. Top with vinegar mixture, leave 1/2" headspace, remove bubbles & can for 10 minutes.

Lastly, I made a batch of blueberry jam with homemade pectin. I'll quickly cover how to make your own pectin. Take 5 Granny Smith apples and 2 lemons (for blueberry jam substitute 1 lime), quarter them but don't peel, place in pot with as little water as you can use to keep them from scorching. Cook until soft and run through Victorio Strainer. Add puree to your fruit & sugar and cook until done. The benefit of jam prepared this way, other than that it doesn't use nasty commercial pectin, is that should the jars come unsealed the jam won't mold. Sugar acts as a preservative. I know some people that don't even waterbath their jars, but I do for 10 minutes. Don't forget to add some vinegar to your canner to keep the white sediment off the jars!