Hi all. New to the group (but not A|N). I was wondering if anyone here cans or otherwise preserves their own food.  I do, and and am always looking for tips, suggestions, hints, recipes, etc. on food preservation. I'm fortunate to live in a rural area where, in the summertime, the fruits and vegetables are abundant. In addition (as an omnivore), I also make and can my own stock and vegetable broth . In fact, I'm the only person I know of that has a supply of canned pork stock - I cobbled together the recipe and used the same process for making and canning chicken and beef stock. I have a very large - actually massive - 41 quart pressure canner which, if you do large batches, saves a lot of time. Anyway, hints, tips, suggestions, or recipes are appreciated. 

Thanks

Pat

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Welcome, Pat, to a great group. Cooking with homemade stock and broth makes a big difference in tastes of foods. I like making rice using homemade stock. I haven't canned very much in the past, but freeze a lot. I plan to do more pickling in the future because it tastes so good, stores well, and has high nutrition if done correctly. My old time favorite is sauerkraut made in a crock, which I haven't done for years. This year I will clean out those old crocks and start the fermentation. I will start with a celebration of seeds by planting cabbage seeds in anticipation of fermenting them in the fall. 

Got Cabbage? Make Sauerkraut!

"sauerkraut is a live-culture “probiotic” food. Fresh sauerkraut contains lactobacilli, beneficial bacteria that improve the functioning of the digestive tract. Probiotic foods such as sauerkraut and yogurt are often recommended for people taking antibiotics, which kill both the beneficial and harmful bacteria in the body. Live-culture foods can help restore the beneficial bacteria."

Sauerkraut:

"During the American Civil War, the physician John Jay Terrell (1829–1922)[22][23] was able to successfully reduce the death rate among prisoners of war from disease; he attributed this to the practice of feeding his patients raw sauerkraut.[24]"

Good to know that sauerkraut is pro-biotic Joan.

Joan, you discovered one my primary uses for homemade stock - curried rice pilaf with onions, celery, golden raisins, and Madras curry powder. And, of course, soups. Got a great recipe for Mexican Posole using the homemade pork stock and hominy.

Now, I could be mistaken here, but didn't that same Civil War physician use sauerkraut to treat gangrene? I think I heard or read somewhere that the nature of the food draws out or helps kill the bacteria causing infection.

But, you're correct about home canned food tasting so much better. I'm down to my last 2 pints of green beans. Ohh, the humanity!

Pat, there is a lot for me to learn about preserving foot too.  I freeze rhubarb and strawberries.  That works pretty well for pies and cobblers.  Also frees strawberries, cherries, for smoothies.  Peaches and apricots take more effort to freeze, otherwise they turn black.  I dip them in boiling water briefly - a minute - then ice water.  That makes the peel slip off easily.  Then I follow the directions on the fruit preserving stuff - "Fruit Fresh" - and I follow the label to freeze the fruit.  

We had a discussion in the gardening group about sauerkraut, which led to starting this new food group.  From that I'll post what i've been doing.  I've made 4 batches, I like it a lot.  Copied from that discussion below........

Here is another site with good instructions and a nice picture of how it looks when made from purple cabbage.  Very pretty.

 

Sauerkraut is amazingly easy. It uses the principle of lactic acid bacteria fermentaton. The bacteria are ubiquitous, and in the case of sauerkraut, live on the leaves in the fields. What makes the fermentation work is, the lactic acid bacteria thrive in high concentrations of salt that prevent the growth of harmful bacteria. They also thrive at cooler temperatures than many harmful bacteria. Salt also draws the juices out of the shredded cabbage leaves, which gives the lactic acid bacteria something to feed on. So they grow, proliferate, and make lactic acid, which tastes tart and serves as a preservative. Same as in yogurt.

The only ingredients are cabbage and salt. Noniodized salt - the iodine is apparently toxic to lactic acid bacteria.

Here is a detailed recipe and procedure. What I'm using is half-gallon mason jars and experimenting with how to keep the top sealed from air but still allowing release of fermentation gas.

5 pounds cabbage
3 tablespoons coarse sea salt.

Reserve a couple of cabbage leaves to cover the kraut.

I rinsed off the outside of the cabbage but that's all.  You don't want to wash off the beneficial bacteria.


Chop the cabbage into thin slivers.  I don't like the cabbage core so I fed that to the chickens.


Put it into a large bowl.


Add the salt and mix.


Pound the cabbage with a wooden spoon. Some people use their hands an knead it. That disrupts the cell walls in the cabbage so the juices can ooze out.  I did both spoon and hands.


Let it sit an hour. That lets the juices ooze some more and become brine.


Transfer into the jars. Pack firmly. I used chopsticks to transder into jar and packed using wooden spoon.
Cover with some cabbage leaves.  

Then use a contraption that allows escape of gas and expansion of juices, and prevents air from getting back in.  The one I got was via Amazon, called "Perfect Pickler" but i think there are cheaper ways.  It's overpriced.   I saw one site that recommended partially filling a plastic bag with water, and sitting that on the top of the kraut.  So I'm trying that too.   A lot of people use a small jar or a plate, and put a can of food on top to cover it.  Some people just fill the jars to the top, make sure it's packed fairly tightly, and screw on lids, then keep the jars on a plate to catch overflow and open the lids now and then to release pressure.

Keep in cool place for days to weeks.  The longer it sits the more sour it gets.  Joan can probably say a lot more about it than I can.  She is much much more expert than I am.

This sounds more complicated than it is.  Ning told me he grew up with saurkraut made from whole, unsliced cabbages packed into gigantic crocks and kept in the root cellar.

Some people want to sterilize the jar in boiling water.  That doesn't make sense to me, if we are using unwashed cabbage and kneading it with our bare hands.  I think it should  just be clean.

For the second batch, I mixed in a little sauerkraut from the first batch, and poured on a little of the brine, to jump start it.   That is not necessary but it looked like it was fermenting faster.

This is very tasty.  It  is not like grocery sauerkraut.  It is crunchy, crisp, and very tasty.

Damn Daniel. This sounds fantastic! I've never made sauerkraut before, but it's now on my "to do list" this coming late spring. Where I live, cabbage comes in season about the end of May. Hope you don't mind, but I've cut and pasted your recipe to my hard drive. As I said, it's something for me to look forward to do this spring.

We don't have fresh cherries where I live, though I love cherries and use the dried ones in my homemade granola. Like I suggested to Spud, forget the Fruit Fresh. It's nothing more than ascorbic acid, and you can buy it cheaper at a health food store. 

Pat - this is better than how I describe it.  Katz is a big guru of fermented foods.  I'm reading one of his books now.

My most loved subject in college was "Food and Industrial Fermentation". I started to apprentice with the professor of that course at UI Urbana, but then he dropped a lit cigarette into his composting toilet, resulting in explosion that sent him into the hospital where he had a heart attack and died. I am not making this up. That led me headlong into microbiology, which took me down a long and tortuous path to many adventures. And I still like making yogurt, bread, and now learning sauerkraut and fermented pickles.

P.S. Thank you for the recipe. I'm looking forward to trying it.

p.s.  thank you back on the ascorbic acid issue.  I was thinking that but never looked into it.  Nice and tart, too.

Daniel, this is incredible. I had never even thought of fermentation. You actually opened me up to a whole new way of putting up food that I had never considered.

I suppose the reason why I never gave this process a passing glance is that I can't stand pickled cucumbers. It's psychological, and goes back to when I was about 5 years of age and had the mumps on both sides of my head. My older brothers thought it would be great fun to take the brine from my grandmother's pickling crock and pour it down my throat while I was asleep. I resembled a cat hanging from the ceiling with a pack of rabid pit bulls below it. To this day, the one and only herb I tend to avoid is dill.

Nevertheless, I do like sauerkraut. I'm going to give this try.

By the way, was the professor at the U of I ever nominated for a Darwin Award?

The culinary arts simply glow in this august company of friends! From falafel to pears! Now, that is variety of the finest order. 

Joan you are right.  I'm loving this.

PORK STOCK

I have an incredibly large canner/pressure cooker (10 gallon capacity), so cut down and divide the ingredients as needed. This recipe makes about 36 pint jars worth of stock. As with canning anything, follow the manufacturer's directions on use of a pressure canner/cooker. And, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND using the USDA's guidelines for canning and storing food. 

Ingredients

20 lbs of pork bones (I use neck bones)
Vegetable oil
8 large onions
16 carrots
32 whole peppercorns
1 large bunch of celery
1 whole bulb of garlic
2 large bunches of fresh thyme
8 Bay Leaves
4 1/2 gallons of water

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Lightly coat neck bones with vegetable oil, and roast for about 40 minutes.

While bones are roasting, cut onions into quarters, leaving the paper skin on (you're going to strain it out later).  Clean carrots (you don’t have to peel them, just scrub them), and cut them up into 1 inch chunks. Same with the celery as the carrots. Slice the bulb of garlic in half, horizontal to the root and top. Put all of this, along with the peppercorns, thyme and water into the pressure canner, and turn the heat on. Once the pork bones are roasted, put them into the canner as well; making sure to add the drippings from the pan.

Bring to a boil. Once this starts boiling, you will see a foam form on top of the liquid. Skim this off and discard. Put lid on pressure canner and seal it. Adjust settings for 15 lbs of pressure. If you are using a weighted gauge, it will start rattling when it hits the proper pressure. If a dial gauge, keep an eye on it. Mine has both. When it comes to 15 lbs, adjust the heat down so the weighted gauge jiggles about once every 15 to 30 seconds.  Cook for 1 hour and 15 minutes, then turn off the heat completely.

Let this cool completely – and I mean COMPLETELY!!! Once under pressure – even at 5 lbs, this thing is a bomb waiting to off. You should treat it as such. Remember the Boston Marathon – that bomb was made from a pressure canner. I’m not being flippant, but rather trying to impress safety. It may take an hour or two (or possibly more) to cool, so be patient.

Once cooled completely, take the weighted gauge off. If there is even a hint of steam coming from the vent, leave it alone. With the dial gauge, make sure the needle is at the exact same mark it was initially at room temperature.

Once it is cooled, remove the lid. Take a strainer and start fishing everything out. The bones should literally crumble between your fingers. Once all the ingredients (except the liquid) have been removed to the garbage can, take that same strainer and line it with a couple of layers of cheesecloth.  Strain the liquid through the cheesecloth lined strainer into a large stock pot.

Storing

We now go from a potential bomb, to a potential visit to your local emergency room brought to you by your friend Mr. Botulism. That is, if you’re not careful in how you store this. 

Cool this stuff as quickly as possible, if you’re going to keep it in the refrigerator and use within a week.  Also, cool as quickly as possible if you’re going to freeze it. My suggestion is once it is strained into a large stock pot, put the pot in a bath of ice water and stir the contents. You want to drop the temperature to something below 40 degrees as quickly as possible.  You won’t be able to get it to 40 degrees in the sink, but get it to at least room temperature before you put it in the refrigerator.

Once it is cooled down, and you want to use it right away, it should keep in the refrigerator for a week. You can also freeze it for about up to six months.  Either way, once cooled, put in the refrigerator overnight (24 hours is better), where the fat can settle to the top and congeal.  Before you store it, get rid of the fat.

Canning – Being an atheist, I do not subscribe to the theory that cleanliness is next to godliness. Cleanliness is, however, miles and miles away from the emergency room, which is exactly where you want to be. Cleanliness in the canning process, approaching sterility, is what you’re going for here. The size of the batch I make will take about 36 pints to can.  Here’s the way I do it.

Once you’ve got the stock properly cooled and in the refrigerator, wash the canning jars and rings thoroughly (do not wash the separate lids). Check for nicks, chips, and cracks. If any appear, throw the jar away (or use it to sprout an avocado seed). I wash these by hand, and add about a tablespoon of bleach to the rinse water.  Put the jars and lids back in the now cleaned pressure canner with 2 or three quarts of water in the bottom.  Seal the canner and turn the heat on, having adjusted for 5 lbs of pressure. Once it reaches pressure, adjust the heat as before, and let it go for 15 minutes.  Then turn off the heat and allow the pressure canner to cool. You can leave the pressure canner, with the jars inside, sealed overnight.  If you leave the weighted gauge on, nothing will get in. Once I turn the heat off on the jars, I generally go to bed.

The following morning, after myriad gulps of coffee, time to can. Open the pressure canner and put the jars, upside down, on a clean towel. Set everything up in work stations so that this goes quickly. In a two quart pot, put the lids you will need and cover them with water. Bring to simmer, but do not boil them.

Fill the jars with the stock to 1 inch below the rim. Wipe the rim of the jar with a clean towel, or paper towel. Place the lid on, and then screw the ring down on the jar. DO NOT OVER TIGHTEN THE RING! If you do it won’t seal. Screw the ring on to where it is next to the lid, and just snug it up.

Put the jars in to the pressure canner. Once the bottom is filled, put in enough hot water to come half way up the jars. Once the pressure canner is filled, seal it, set it for 15 lbs of pressure, and turn on the heat. Once it reaches pressure, I generally let it cook for 45 minutes to an hour. The USDA recommends 15 minutes for pints and 25 minutes for quarts. My reasoning for going so long is this. Once a pressure canner gets to 15 lbs of pressure, the internal temperature is around 250 degrees. I don’t care what, if any, kind of bacteria may still be lurking in this stuff. Freddy Kruger of the movie Nightmare On Elm Street won’t survive that kind of heat and pressure, let alone any food born bacteria. After 45 minutes, this stuff and anything inside the pressure canner, is sterile.

Once again, let the pressure canner cool completely. Safety first, boys and girls. Once cooled, you can either let it continue to cool to where the jars are at room temperature inside of it, or remove the jars and put them on a clean counter top, and cool there. Use a jar gripper that comes with a canning supply kit to remove them from the pressure canner. Whatever you do, don’t go poking your finger at the lid to see if it’s sealed. You’ll hear a popping noise from each individual jar as its seals while cooling down. Leave it alone! If you start poking around at the lids, you will invariably foul up the sealing process and ruin all the hard work you just put into this. Occasionally, there will be a couple of jars that don’t seal. If that’s the case, put them in the refrigerator, and use them within a week.

Clean and label the jars, including the date. Put in a cool, dry place. I’ve had some stored for a little over a year, and they’re fine. However, if you open it, and there’s a funky smell, down the drain it goes.

Makes a great gravy, liquid base for soups, or making rice. Enjoy!

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