Archive Page 3

Dilly Beans. Because Eventually We All Have To.

Update: This recipe won a 1st place Blue Ribbon at the 2013 Arizona State Fair in the Pickles, Relishes, and Spiced Fruits category.

I’d heard about Dilly Beans when I first got into canning. But having had canned green beans, I couldn’t imagine the joy in eating soft, soggy, pickle flavored beans. And since I was teaching myself to can simply by reading as much as I could, I didn’t have the opportunity to ask things like “How do they stay crunchy?”

But being over 2 years in and head over heels for canning, I decided to go back and give them another shot. Instagram had a lot to do with it, because the canners I follow speak so highly of them. Especially in the context of being very spicy and in a Bloody Mary.

So I made a smaller batch last month. 2 quarts and 3 pints. Just something different to try out. The nicest part was how easy they were to make. Of course the downfall of pickling is that you really need to wait at least two to three weeks to taste the product. So I waited and waited. Last night the wife and I were enjoying some beers after dinner when I decided I couldn’t wait any longer. I cracked a jar and tried one.

Oh. My. God. Why haven’t I made these before? Crisp, crunchy, spicy, and packed with all the best parts if dill pickle flavor. I’m not even ashamed to admit that we consumed the pint jar in less than 20 minutes. Fine. We’re making more.

I found myself at my favorite produce store with green beans on sale. I ended up leaving with a bushel. Which, is just over 29 pounds of green beans.

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Dilly Beans
Green Beans
Fresh Dill
Garlic
Dry Chilis, Chili Flake, or Cayenne pepper
Pepper Corns
Vinegar
Water
Pickling Salt

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Lets talk about ratios. As you know, if you keep up with me, I don’t work in small quantities. When I can stuff I make cases at a time. Now I’m guessing you guys may not be up for making a bushel if green beans. So here’s your ratios. Every part of salt gets 10 parts water and 10 parts vinegar. For instance 2 1/2 cups water, 2 1/2 cups vinegar, 1/4 cup salt. Or, in my case, two batches of 10 cups each of vinegar and water and one cup salt.

When it comes to the seasoning I added the following to each quart jar:
One sprig dill, 2 garlic cloves, two dried chilies, 10-20 peppercorns. For the pints I added half as much. For this particular batch I went heavy on the chilis, adding up to six to each quart and substituting 1/4 t of Santa Fe Chili Powder to the pints. I expect those to by spicy. Very spicy.

But this is what’s great about recipes like this. Up the dill, reduce the garlic, omit the pepper your choice. Add more or less cayenne or pepper flake for a mild, medium, hot, or atomic bean. You can also use dill seed or dry dill if you choose. Though I love fresh dill for all my pickling. Mix the flavors up and enjoy the variety.

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Clean and prep your green beans. I cut a 1/4 inch of both ends. Because I had 30 pounds the entire family cut 1/4 inch of each end.

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I read a lot of recipes where people cut each bean the exact same length to perfectly fit the required headspace in a pint jar. And that’s pretty cool…for them. I might try that for my state fair entry next year. But I have 30lbs of beans to process. If you’re making pints be sure that none of your beans are too long. If you’re making quarts you needn’t worry.

I grab a handful of beans and try to get them all facing the same direction. Then I gentry drop them straight down into the jar.

20121114-004758.jpgThen I try to fit a 2nd handful next to the 1st. After that you grab beans one by one and try to jam them in there. I’ve read of people using chop sticks to move the beans in the jar around to fit more. Again, time vs payoff. I tried to fit as many beans in one jar as I could.

20121114-005007.jpgHeat your vinegar, water, and salt to a boil and stir to dissolve the salt. Add the pickling solution to each jar of beans leaving headspace. I like to use the very bottom of the threads as a guideline. Lid, ring, finger tight.

Process in a water bath canner for 5 minutes. Yes, 5 minutes. That’s not much time. That also means this is one time your jars must be sterilized prior to processing. I use a steamer basket insert to steam my jars on a separate burner prior to use. When you put the jars on the water to process, remember that time doesn’t start until the water starts to boil again. After 5 minutes remove and set on a towel, cutting board, etc.

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And now the hard part. Let them sit in your pantry for at least 21 days before opening. Let the flavors mellow. It’s totally worth it.

Dilly Beans are amazing out of the jar. They also rock in a Bloody Mary. I’d serve them with burgers or steak. Or on an antipasto platter at a dinner party. They’ve got great crunch, a good bite, and fantastic acidic flavor. Of you haven’t tried making them yet you should give it a chance.

Happy canning!

Pumpkin Everything!

Is there any doubt that this is the best time if the year for flavors? Every part of the last 3 months is fantastic. Cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, clove, pumpkin, pecans, peppermint, yams, caramel, cranberries, pears, apples, and raisins.

I even decided to spend a couple bucks on supplies and throw together an autumn wreath for our door, a first for me.

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Back to the matter at hand. As a result of cooking up two and canning six pumpkin I had a huge bowl of pumpkin guts and seeds. I knew I wanted to keep the seeds. But the idea of spending an hour picking those slimy buggers out was not appealing. As I started taking the seeds out I tossed then in a bowl if water to rinse them off. That’s when I noticed that the seeds all floated.

So I filled a stock pot half way with water. I grabbed a large handful of pumpkin guts, held them under water loosely, and vigorously moved my hand. Similar to the agitation of a washing machine. And sure enough, all the seeds popped to the top.

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You can see that some of the pumpkin is floating as well. But those chunks were easy to grab and pull out. Most of the really stringy stuff sent to the bottom. Then I just used a slotted spoon to skim the very surface to grab the seeds out.

I’m sure I’m not the first person in history to figure this out. But it was a first time for me. And it definitely made things much easier. I was able to remove the seeds from eight pumpkins in less than 10 minutes.

I decided to make four varieties if roasted pumpkin seeds.

The procedure for each is the same.

Rinse the seeds off to remove all of the pumpkin.

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Place the seeds in a bowl and drizzle with approximately 1 to 2 teaspoons of olive oil. Use a spoon to gently toss the seeds to coat them with oil. Then sprinkle on whatever topping you’re using as you continue to stir.

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Spread out in a single layer on a cookie sheet and roast at 350° for 30 minutes. Use a spatula to move the seeds around once or twice during roasting to ensure that they are all evenly cooked. Cool and enjoy.

Pumpkin Pie Seeds
1 1/2 c pumpkin seeds
2t olive oil
2T sugar
1t cinnamon
1/2t nutmeg
1/2t allspice
1/4t ginger

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Old Bay Pumpkin Seeds
1 1/2 c pumpkin seeds
2t olive oil
1T Old Bay Seasoning

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Cocoa Cayenne Pumpkin Seeds
1 1/2 c pumpkin seeds
2t olive oil
2T sugar
2t cocoa powder
1/2t cayenne pepper

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Spicy Curry Pumpkin Seeds
1 1/2 c pumpkin seeds
2t olive oil
1t curry powder
1t kosher salt

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Pumpkins stuffed with sausage

My wife has got to be the biggest fan of squash in the world. We’ve always got at least 3 varieties on the counter and she eats it twice a week. When the little pie/baking pumpkins came out she started looking for a savory way to serve them.

Stuffed Pumpkins with Sausage

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2 pie pumpkins
6 Italian sausages
1 leek
2 medium apples
1 jar canned mushrooms (or 2 lbs fresh)
2 cups roughly chopped kale
1/4 C sherry
Salt, pepper, garlic powder, marjoram

Drop your sausages in a pan of water and boil to cook through.

Clean your pumpkins. Then cut a hole around them, the same way you would if you were going to carve it. The use a spoon to scrape out the seeds and punkin’ guts. But be sure to save them for roasting later.

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Drop 1/4t marjoram and salt and 1/8t pepper and garlic powder in to the cavity.

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Put the lid back on and shake to distribute. Photos now include real shaking action!

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Set the pumpkins aside. Chop your apple and leek in to 1/2″ pieces.

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Sautéed the apple and leek in some olive oil until they begin to become translucent. If you are using fresh mushrooms add them at the beginning to cook down. If you are using home or commercially canned add then after to prevent over cooking.

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Add sherry to the pan and cook until the liquid reduces. Chop your sausages in to pieces and toss it in the mix. Cook everything until its heated throughout and the flavors have mingled. Salt and pepper to taste (most sausages are already pretty salty).

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Open your pumpkins and stuff with the filling. Or, fill with the stuffing. Your choice.

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Put those bad boys in a roasting pan and spray with olive oil. Or, if you need to, just drizzle and rub them all over. Pop em in the oven for one hour.

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After an hour the skin is nice and dark.

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Carefully (they’re hot) remove the top and add 1 cup of kale to the pumpkin. Replace the lid and let it sit for 5 minutes. This is a great time to set the table. By the time you’re ready to eat the kale should be perfectly steamed.

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To serve we removed the lid, and then cut the pumpkin into 6 pieces. We tossed the stuffing together to mix in the kale. Then served one slice of pumpkin with stuffing on it.

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I found the pumpkin to be slightly under seasoned so I upped the salt in this recipe. My only complaint was that it didn’t feel like a whole meal (despite containing meat, veggies, and starch). Next time I’d serve it as a side to roast chicken with Brussels sprouts or something in the side. The flavors, however, were fantastic. Definitely a fall side dish to make again.

Back to Basics; Blackberries and Pears

Sometimes I feel like it get too wrapped up in coming up with great new flavors and combinations that I forget the simple joys of canning. I’m definitely guilty of making pear, plum, and ginger jam. I’ve thrown some black pepper in with strawberries. And I’ve made jelly out of things that don’t want to be jelly, like Guinness beer and apple cider.

So occasionally I need to step back and remember some of the simple reasons that I can in the first place. Like saving money, eating ingredients that I’m aware of, and spending time in the kitchen making things for my family.

This is one of those posts that goes out to the people who say “I’m brand new to canning, what should I do the first time?” I usually point people in the direction of jam, but simply canning fruit can be rewarding and very simple.

I’m also going to touch on siphoning and thermal fractures, because both of them happened to me tonight.

While I was out today I found pints of blackberries for $.25 apiece. I picked up three flats. Bartlett pears were on sale for $.69 a pound and while I haven’t paid to close attention to the price of pears, that did seem well below average. So I grabbed a huge bag of them as well.

Canning Blackberries

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Go through your blackberries, rinse them off, and pick out any that even have the slightest hint of mold. For most berries I use a cold pack method. Hot pack involves heating the food to cook it through before placing it into jars. Cold pack is just like it sounds, you place the raw food directly in the jar. Blackberries stand up to the heat fairly well, but no point in overcooking them since I don’t want them to turn into mush.

Place the berries in your jar leaving enough headspace.

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All fruit needs some kind of liquid to sit in. People use plain water (rarely), fruit juice, or syrup. I did not want to add commercial juice to my fruit so I opted to go with syrup as I usually do. You can make several different types of syrup from very light to heavy, all depending on what ratio of water to sugar you use. I make a light syrup which is approximately 2 cups of sugar in 7 cups of water.

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When you first add the sugar to the water it will be very visible in the bottom of the pan. Heat it over medium-high heat and begin to stir. As the water heats up the sugar will disappear. Continue to heat until bubble start to form. However do not bring it to a full roaring boil.

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Ladle the syrup over your fruit leaving 1 inch of headspace. You can see that the hot liquid is already beginning to leech some of the color out of the berries below the surface.

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Place a new lid and clean ring on top of your clean jars. I read recently on the county extension website that the USDA is no longer requiring sterilization before every batch. As long as the jars are cleaned and processed for the correct amount of time sterilization prior to filling them is not necessary. I have stopped boiling my jars for anything that I waterbath process. For the pressure cooker items were botulism is still a concern I think I’m paranoid enough that placing the jars in an inch of water and letting them steam for 20 minutes before I fill them gives me a bit of reassurance.

Place the filled jars in your waterbath canner and process for 20 minutes for pints and 25 minutes for quarts.

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Blackberries hold up fairly well to the canning process. My wife makes herself a fruit smoothie nearly daily. Instead of trying to keep fresh berries on hand all the time she’ll simply open a pint, spoon out what she wants for that day, and then place the rest in the refrigerator. They are also good as ice cream toppings. Additionally, you can take the contents of a quart jar add some flour and sugar and pour it directly into a pie tin to make yourself a fresh blackberry pie.

Canning Pears

When I made pear butter a couple of months ago I used Bartlet pears. I was so impressed with the flavor of those pears I wanted to preserve some. However I let the box sit around for too long and they became too soft to can on their own. When I found them on sale again I picked up a large bag so that I could save some for later.

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Start by peeling your pears and adding them to a large pot or bowl that contains water and either citric acid or lemon juice.

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Take each pear, cut the top off to remove the stem, and then slice in half lengthwise. Use either a teaspoon or a melon baller to remove the core.

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The next step is up to you. You could can half pears if you had widemouth quart jars handy. I preferred slices to fit more in each jar. I sliced each half into four quarters.

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As you slice the fruit return it to the same pot or a different one that has acidified water to preserve the color.

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Again you’ll want to decide what kind of syrup or juice to place your fruit into. I use the same light syrup. The USDA currently has no recipes that call for cold packing pears. This time we bring the simple syrup up to a boil and then place the fruit in the syrup and boil it for five minutes.

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Using your funnel and ladle fill the jars with pears and then fill with the syrup liquid that you boiled them in, up to a 1 inch headspace. Put on new lids and clean rings and process in a water bath canner for 20 minutes for pints and 25 minutes for quarts.

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The pears came out fantastic. I think they held their color really well. The important part here is that I will be enjoying blackberries and pears when everyone else is paying four dollars a pint and $2.99 a pound for them.

People can for so many different reasons. Nutrition, tradition, preparedness, necessity, taste, and cost savings. As much as I enjoy making extravagant jams and jellies to give away as gifts I enjoy the simple pleasure obtained from preserving low-cost produce to be enjoyed a later date.

A Word On Syphoning and Thermal Fractures.

There are several things that can happen to canners to interrupt their enjoyable evening. One of them is siphoning and abother is breakage.

What is siphoning? Simply put it’s the contents of the jar leaving the inside and going to the outside very quickly. It is due to a rapid change in temperature or pressure. I’m not sure why but I noticed that almost all of my jars of blackberries suffered from siphoning. As the timer went off I would remove them from the water bath and set them on the counter. Almost immediately dark purple and red liquid seeped from under the lid and spilled all over the counter. Siphoning is bad for many reasons.

First off I’ve had it occur previously during a pressure canner session when I returned to find 4 quarts filled with vegetables but no liquid. That’s bad folks. That time it was a result of me removing the pressure canner from the stove and trying to cool it rapidly with the use of water. I was very very new back then. But unfortunately the food was wasted anyway.

The other problem is that the escaping liquid can prevent a good seal on the lid. You guys all know that you have to listen for the pop and check the seal of the lid on the jar when it’s finished, right? If you do suffer from siphoning, but it is only a small amount of liquid, and your lid sets and seals you do not have to worry. Your biggest concern at that point will be washing off the exterior of the jar to prevent any mold growth on the outside.

So, how do you prevent siphoning? If you are using a pressure canner when the time is up simply turn off the burner and walk away. Don’t attempt to move the canner off of the stove to a cool burner or countertop. And definitely do not place it in the sink and run cold water over it the way you can to remove cooked foods quicker. Just let the temperature drop on its own.

If you are using a water bath canner when the time is up turn off the burner and wait two to four minutes. Allow the water to slowly stop boiling and the jars to acclimate to the lower temperature before removing them. Place the jars on a folded up kitchen towel rather than directly on the cold countertop. Allowing slower transitions between temperatures should prevent siphoning.

Speaking of rapid temperature changes have you ever seen thermal fractures? Jars break for one of two reasons. Thermal fractures or impact fractures. The first is caused by rapid temperature changes. Usually something too cold getting too hot too quickly. The second is caused by jars knocking into each other, implements knocking into jars, jars falling over, et cetera. Luckily they are easily distinguished and identified.

Impact fractures will run vertically up the side of the jar either in a straight line or lightning bolt pattern. Thermal fractures will run horizontally around the jar, and in my experience only at the very base. The fracture is extremely straight and clean almost leaving no sharp edges.

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Thermal fractures are caused by your jar heating up to rapidly. You started with cold jars and placed hot food inside of them, or your jars had hot food inside of them and you place them in a pot that was too hot, or you placed the jars directly onto the surface of the bottom of the pot without having any kind of insert to gain elevation. If you are sterilizing your jars before each batch this is generally not an issue. However if you are not, be sure to heat your jars up in the dishwasher or by using hot water before filling them. Always keep your jars off the bottom of the pot.

Luckily for me I found this one almost immediately after it happened because I took the lid off of the pot to check on the contents. I was able to salvage the ingredients, find a new jar, and continue on. Do notice that this is a Golden Harvest jar and not a Ball or Kerr brand. I believe Golden Harvest was Walmarts house brand there for a while. I’m not sure where this one came from as it was my only one. But I do trade my goods with other people and pick up jars at thrift stores and garage sales as I see them. I recommend sticking to the two major name brands to know that you’re getting quality jars.

Happy canning.

Thyme Rubbed Pork Chops

I’ve decided to start using WordPress as my primary search engine for food and recipe ideas. Last week I was in charge if dinner and in the mood for a simple pork recipe. I found what I was looking for over at Because I Am Uniquely And Wonderfully Made. I tweaked the recipe just slightly, but its so simple. I love it.

Thyme Rubbed Pork Chops
Pork Chops
Olive Oil
Dried Thyme
Garlic Powder
Salt Pepper
Paprika
Balsamic Vinegar

I’m leaving measurements out here because I eyeballed it.

I started at the butcher counter at my grocery store. Their chops looked like carpaccio, they were so thin. I had the butcher cut me six 1″-1 1/4″ chops.

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I arranged the chops in a baking dish. Then drizzled with a liberal about of olive oil. I gave them all little pork chop massages to cover both sides with oil. Then I mixed together what was probably about 2T thyme, 1T garlic, 1t paprika, 2t salt, and 1t pepper. I mixed the spices together and then shook the mixture over the chops, turning them to cover both sides.

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The chops got baked at 350 for just over a half hour. I kept an eye on their color and then took the internal temp.

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Right when you serve them drizzle them with a teaspoon of balsamic vinegar.

They came out perfect. Tender, moist, and flavorful.

I ended up serving them with home made black eyed peas (with pork fat), a jar of pickled red cabbage and a jar of pear sauce (both of which I canned myself earlier in the year), and some cornbread (from mix. Forgive me).

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This is definitely a recipe I’ll make again.

Personal Satisfaction

I’m not going to post a recipe or procedure today, since I already talked about how to can tomatoes. This post is more about me being happy with my own productivity. A little pat on the back, if you will.

Last year we processed 50 lbs of tomatoes. And the conclusion we came to was….that’s a great start. But we blew through them in a couple of months. So this time around my wife suggested we do way more. I’ve been calling Superstition Ranch, Sprouts, and Food City checking on tomato prices for 2 months. I tried to negotiate lower price for ordering large quantities, but the lowest I got was an offer for $.88/lb. Not worth it to me.

Finally last week Superstition Ranch said their Romas were $.59. I told the wife this might be the cheapest we find. She agreed, and we decided to bite the bullet and grab 100 pounds.

When we got to the store I received the greatest surprise.

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Salad Sized Tomatoes at $.25/lb. In case you’re wondering, this is what they look like.

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We came prepared to spend $60 anyway, so I asked the wife. “You wanna stick with a hundred pounds, or do you want to step up our game and do two hundred.” In her infinite wisdom she decided we should go for 200 pounds.

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That many tomatoes required more jars than I had on hand. After a quick stop for jars and citric acid we were home.

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Now that’s a beautiful sight!

We spent that first evening processing 100 lbs. Lets just say that it took a little longer than I remember. What slowed me down the most was the limitations of my canner. 7 quarts at a time, at 45 minutes per batch. By the time we went to bed on Sunday we were half way done.

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On Monday I had errands to run, dinner to make, and children the wrangle. I got through another 50 lbs. Tuesday I had to work, teaching a class all day. Wifey prepped 25 lbs and I processed them when I got home. But knowing I was working 17 hours on Wednesday I couldn’t stay up any later. That’s when the unthinkable happened….the wife suggested she prep and process the remaining 25 lbs on her own.

Canning has always been my thing. Generally she isn’t interested on any part except for enjoying the results. So I was really happy that she was interested and willing to try. I walked her through the important parts, citric acid, clean rims, finger tight rings, and full boil. On Wednesday she finished off the last 25 on her own, with zero failures or breaks.

I came home last night to see what 200 pounds of tomatoes look like in jars.

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Just over 70 quarts. About 3 lbs per jar. Seems that we can have just over a quart per week for the next year.

We use canned tomatoes in lots of stuff. All you need is an immersion blender and some herbs to make a quick spaghetti sauce. Rough chopping them creates a nice ragout. They go in Spanish rice, stew, soup, etc, etc.

3 days of work seems like a lot to some people. But knowing that we have plenty of tomatoes, at a price that can’t be beat, and knowing that each jar contains exactly 2 ingredients is worth the effort to me.

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Happy Canning!

And there were beans, lots of beans, lots of beans, lots of beans.

Reddit has a great canning community as does Intagram if you search #canning. I’ve been trying to network and talk with more canners to get recipe ideas, help, and enjoy some canning small talk. Instagram user Michca3 even got me interested in antique Ball jars and I picked up 3 this weekend.

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So if you’re in to canning be sure to check out those two resources if you haven’t already.

One of the things I was able to find was a recipe for Ranch Style Beans posted by Reddit user VicinSea (who is currently writing a canning/preserving book that I can’t wait to be published). I love the Apetite Pleasin’ Ranch Style Beans in the black can and wanted to duplicate them at home. The taste is not 100% the same, but this recipe seems to do a good job of replicating it.

Ranch Style Beans
(Ingredient Measurements Per Quart Jar)

1 1/2 cups Dry Pinto Beans
1/8 cup onion
1/4 cup tomato
1 clove garlic
1 t jalapeños
1 t green chiles
1/8 cup green pepper
1/4 t cinnamon
1 t honey
1 t salt
1/4 t pepper

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If you have never worked with beans before, you should know something. Measurements, by volume, of dried beans are different than beans that have been boiled. I counted the number of empty jars that I had available and measured that amount of dried beans into a pan. I wound up with almost twice as much as I needed. Just keep this in mind if you don’t have a large amount of empty jars on hand. I would estimate a half cup of dried beans per pint or one cup of dried beans per quart.

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Put your beans in a colander and sift through them with your fingers. You are looking for rocks, pebbles, twigs, or any beans that just don’t look right to you. Then rinse the beans off and run your fingers through them to get them all cleaned up.

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Put the beans in a large enough pot and cover with plenty of water. You’ll notice right away that some beans start floating. I tossed these out. Honestly, I don’t actually know if they are bad or not, but if 99% of the beans are sinking I don’t trust the 1% floating up there. I ran my fingers through them one more time to allow any floaters that were at the bottom to hit the surface, and then I skimmed them out. Place the pot on high heat and bring them to a boil. I let the water come to a full boil for about a minute and then I took the pot off the heat. Drain the beans and set aside.

Chop your pepper, onion, garlic, and tomato if you aren’t using canned.

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I cheated and bought canned chopped jalapenos and chopped green chilies. Also, the green chilies are my addition to the recipe. I really enjoy the mild bite that they add to dishes.

Place the measurement of beans in the bottom of each jar. Then start layering the other ingredients on top. I started with green pepper, then onion, then jalapenos, chilies, garlic, honey, Cinnamon, salt, pepper.

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I was making pints which made some of the measurements very interesting. Instead of estimating what a half a clove of garlic was, I just added a quarter teaspoon of garlic to each jar. By the time all the layers were in there it reminded me of a little Christmas tree like parfait.

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My wife has a little teapot that she uses to boil water for her tea before bedtime. It really comes in handy when I’m canning things. Add boiling water to each jar leaving 1 inch of headspace. Be aware that I had to add water to each jar, allow it to settle, and then top off each jar with a little bit more to get the proper headspace.

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I found out that my Presto 23 quart pressure cooker can hold 16 pints and 1 quart jar. It’s a beautiful sight.

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Process the beans at 10 pounds for 90 minutes.

I haven’t opened them yet because I want the flavored to mingle for a bit. Maybe I’ll try them this weekend. But, just from looks, they seem pretty dead on.

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As with anything that is pressure canned, reheat and boil for 10 minutes before serving.

Happy Canning!

Beets The Heck Out Of Store Bought

My wife loves beets. It’s a fact. She loves them steamed, roasted, grilled, raw, and pickled. On salads, with vegetables, as a side. It doesn’t matter. The woman loves beets. And that’s how a lot of my canning adventures start. Trying to impress the woman that loves me unconditionally.

I found myself at an Asian grocer tonight trying to find the ingredients for pickled ginger. And while I was wandering through aisles of various dehydrated fish products, candy made from vegetables, and exotic sauces I found a big display of Beets; 69 Cents/Lb. Now I don’t know if that is a great price, but it definitely seemed like a fair price. I picked up about 8 pounds of beets, a bag of pearl onions, a gallon of pickling vinegar, and a white onion.

The only thing I’ve done previously is dice and roast beets with other root vegetables. So I was not sure just how easy this task was going to be. Everything turned out better than expected.

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Pickled Beets
8lbs Beets
1 Bag Pearl Onions
1/2 White Onion
2 Cinnamon Sticks
12 Cloves
12 Allspice Berries
4 Cups Vinegar
2 Cups Water
2 Cups Sugar
1 1/2 t Salt

If your beets come with the greens attached just trim them above the bulb. The idea is to trim them, but not to cut in to the beet.

Cover the beets in water and bring to a boil.

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Boil the beets for approximately 45 minutes. Mine were the size of baseballs, and 45 minutes was perfect.

While the beets are boiling heat a medium pan of water to boil. Then drop in your pearl onions and boil for 3 minutes. Place the onions in an ice bath to cool.

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Remove the onions one at a time and cut off the root end. Then squeeze the flower end and the onion pops right out. If part of the center of the onion pops out just push it back in.

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Repeat until all your onions are liberated.

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When your beets are cooked drain them and place them in an ice bath. Be careful when removing them. The skin of the beets sloughs off very easily now and it’s a bit like trying to grab a wet bar of soap. The next step involves a slippery beet and a sharp knife so be careful. Cut off the root end and the leaf end.

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Then remove the skin. This is seriously so easy. Way easier than peaches. And even easier than tomatoes. I just passed the beet back and forth in my hands working it in circles. Almost like a pitcher does with a baseball.

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To make it even easier I did it under running water. This washed the peels away and also prevented my hands from looking like I spent the day with Ed Gein. Now tomato skins come off easily. But I’m always afraid of damaging the tomato. The beets however are hard and solid which made this part so easy.

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Cut your beet however you like. I’ve seen slices, cubes, chunks, crinkle cut caterpillar looking pieces. Whatever. Just try to keep the pieces uniform in size. I decided to cut the beet in half and then slice the halves in to 1/4 inch slices.

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I rinsed my hands repeatedly through this process and avoided looking like a MASH surgeon. The extremely rich and dark color of the beet is amazing to me. I was trying to imagine what purpose it serves in nature. An attractant to pollinators? A pesticide? I have no idea. If you know, please share. I just know I love the color.

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Mix your vinegar, water, sugar, and salt in a large pot over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Place your clove, allspice, and cinnamon in cheesecloth and add it to the pot. Then increase heat to a boil. Slice your half onion in to strips. Add the white onion and pearl onions to the beets and add them to the pickling liquid.

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Allow it all to return to a boil and them simmer for 5 minutes. You know the part about clean hot jars, funnels, labels , rings, and lids by now, right? Fill your jars with the beets, packing it down, and adding pickling liquid, if needed, to the 1/2″ headspace. Use your little canning tool to remove air bubbles.

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Wipe the rims, place the lids, and finger tighten the bands. Process in a water bath canner for 30 minutes (pints or quarts). If I hadn’t mentioned it before, adding a splash if vinegar to your water bath eliminates the white hard water stains on your jars. 30 minutes later, you’ve got the beets, you’ve got the beets. Yeah! You’ve got the beets!

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I haven’t tried these yet. I’m a firm believer that pickled need to sit for a while to become better. I’ll give the 1st jar at least a month before opening. But I’ll report back.

Happy Canning.

Everything is better in pears.

I’ve been eyeing a pear butter recipe for a couple months now. This is the recipe that I saw over at r/canning on Reddit. The user that posted the recipe said that he subbed brown sugar for half of the white sugar. Having made more than my fair share of apple butter in the past I wanted to try my hand at this pear butter.

When I saw that Bountiful Baskets was offering 38lbs of pears for 24 dollars I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. First off I wanted to commend Bountiful Baskets on their selection of fruit. When I got the car home Saturday morning the pears were all that beautiful yellow green, some with pink hues. I don’t know what variety they were, but the box was marked Rogue Valley Farms (which I looked up and found to be in Washington State). The pears were all firm, which concerned me at first, thinking that they weren’t ripe. However when I sliced off a piece I was amazed; Firm but juicy, extremely flavorful, and with what I can only describe as pure pear flavor. Sometimes ripe pears can be soft and overly juicy, making them delicious but messy. These were not the case. I probably had a half dozen that first day.

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By the time I got back to the case on Tuesday the pears were very ripe. My bad for leaving them confined in that box for 3 days. But luckily my intent was to make pear butter and not just can them outright. Two of them felt like water balloons with the skins barely holding, but those were my only loss.

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If you read my blog, and haven’t figured it out yet, you NEED a KitchenAid stand mixer. I could not make it without my KitchenAid, my AllClad 8qt pot, and my Presto 23qt pressure cooker. Those are 3 must-haves in my kitchen. The fruit and vegetable strainer (food mill) attachment saves me hours of manual labor. If you didn’t know, the skins and cores of pears and apples contain a substantial amount of pectin. We like pectin. Pectin makes is happy. People who peel and core their fruit prior to cooking are tossing away fruit pulp and pectin that would improve their recipe. So if you’re really getting into canning buy yourself a heavy bottom stainless steel pot to cook the fruit, a KitchenAid with attachment to macerate the fruit, and a nice big heavy canner to preserve the fruit. All three are lifetime investments.

On a tiny side note, I was complaining that I needed a larger stock pot to cool larger quantities. My wife made the mistake of letting me go to the store by myself. And I returned with this.

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About $1000 worth of AllClad (though with some good bargaining I paid 2/3 of that). My point is I love my wife….and quality cookware will last a lifetime and make kitchen time more enjoyable.

Spiced Brown Sugar Pear Butter

Pears
Lemon Juice
Water
Chopped Ginger
Star Anise
Lemon Zest
Cardamom
Nutmeg
Sugar
Brown Sugar

Ok, back from my tangent. Start by pulling the stems out of the pears. If they are ripe they’ll slide right out. That is the only part we won’t be using. Cut the pears into quarters lengthwise and the rough chop the quarters into 3-5 pieces depending on the size if the pear. Put the chopped pears in a large pot with lemon juice and water. Add the star anise and the ginger.

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Heat to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until the pears are soft. If your pears are firm this could take 20-30 minutes. Mine were soft in about 10 minutes. Remove the star anise which may be in pieces now.

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Run the pears through your food mill/vegetable stained/chinoiserie to create pear sauce. I noticed that the fiber of the pears was clogging up the mill after a while and the expressed matter contained a lot of pulp. So I added about a half cup of the liquid from the pot, mixed them up, and ran them through a 2nd time. That seemed to do the trick. The remnants should be dry and solid and consist mainly of skins and seeds. Like this:

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Return your sauce to the pot. Add the nutmeg, lemon zest, and cardamom.

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Then stir in your sugar and brown sugar. Make sure to break up any clumps of sugar. I used an immersion blender to mix it up and to get a smoother texture on the pear.

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This is the part where we talk about patience and taste. You’ll notice the original recipe called for 5-6 pounds of pears, 2 cups of water, 1 cup of sugar per 2 cups of pear sauce, and a half teaspoon of each of the spices. Starting with 38 pounds I didn’t weigh out 5-6 pounds. I simply estimated l, dividing my crate into 6. I followed that recipe for my first batch. And I found it to be to watery, under seasoned, and so sickeningly sweet that I couldn’t eat it. I don’t know if it was my variety of pears, but I basically got diabetes when I tasted it. I couldn’t imagine how much sweeter it would get with reduction. So I added at least 1/3 of the volume again of pear sauce. I also upped the seasoning. The original recipe also said to cook for 45 minutes to 2 hours. My apple butter cooks 8-10 hours and I think it’s worth it.

Luckily I had 38 pounds of pears that turned in to over 16 quarts if pear sauce to play with. Heres half of my total.

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So here’s what I finally came up with that I liked.

16 cups pear sauce
1 cup lemon juice
1 cup water
2 T chopped ginger root
3-4 whole star anise
1 1/2 C sugar
1 1/2 C brown sugar
1 heaping t cardamom
1 heaping t nutmeg
Zest of one medium lemon

Heat your mixture to a boil and the. Reduce to medium. You want a good steady boil to reduce it down. Stir it regularly. And be careful. Mine was boiling and popping several inches into the air. I got some pretty painful burns on my fingers.

Please be patient. I have yet to try a fruit butter recipe that finished quickly that is good. I let both batches go just over 3 hours. And I only stopped because I was exhausted and had to get up in another 3 hours to see the kids off the school. The butter should be a deep rich color and bubble like lava rather than boil.

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The mixture reduced in volume by about a third. The lack of sugar made for a runnier product. I tasted it at least a dozen times and couldn’t see myself adding any more sugar. The pears themselves were so sweet that it would have ruined it. To try to firm it up some I added one package of pectin. Not sure if it helped, but it made me feel better. I also ran the immersion blender through it again to get a smooth texture.

When your butter gets to a texture you’re happy with follow the regular sterilize the jars, fill the jars, close the jars procedure.

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Process for 10 minutes for half pints.

I wound up with 49 half pints of pear butter and 6 pints of pear sauce (the left overs that weren’t enough for their own batch of butter). Not a bad haul.

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The flavor is fantastic. Lighter than apple butter, but still very flavorful. The anise comes through nicely and is a great alternative to clove. I’ve had it on wheat bread and dinner rolls so far and have no complaints. It is a bit runnier than my apple butter, but not so much that it drips off the bread. It sets up more in the fridge. And again I wouldn’t trade a firm set for an overly sweet product.

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All in all I really like this recipe. I’d love to try it again with a variety of different pears. I definitely agree with OP in the fact that pears need more delicate accompaniments than apples. I think their spice choices were spot on, though I would increase the amounts.

My favorite part of finding recipes is trying them and making changes to make them my own. If you try this and make some changes that you enjoy please let me know about them.

Happy canning.

Roast Chicken with Root Vegetables

As the wife left for the gym she told me to make dinner, using the whole chicken that was in the fridge. As I pulled the chicken from the refrigerator I opened up the vegetable drawer to figure out what else we might have with it. I found a parsnip, three beets, a bag of carrots, some fennel and a bag of potatoes. Seemed like it was going to be chicken and root vegetables for dinner. I decided to throw together a recipe based loosely on portions of the recipe that I use for my Thanksgiving turkey, recipes that I had previously used for roast chicken, as well as some recipes that my wife uses for side dishes. It was very successful so I thought I would share it.

Roast Chicken With Root Vegetables
1 Whole Chicken
1 Parsnip
3 Beets
5 Carrots
1 Head Fennel
5-10 small potatoes
Rosemary
Garlic
Thyme
Olive Oil
Salt And Pepper

I go from the chicken to seasonings to vegetables and back throughout this recipe. I also washed my hands about 12 times. Remember not to cross contaminate.

Oven to 475.

Rinse the chicken, remove the neck and gibblets, and pat dry with a paper towel.

Salt and pepper the cavity. Crush 4 cloves of garlic with the edge of your knife. Throw the garlic in the cavity along with 2-3 sprigs of thyme and rosemary. I found myself short of fresh thyme, so I used dried but in the future I’d use fresh.

Drizzle olive oil on the bird and rub to coat. Like a little chicken back rub. Season the exterior liberally with kosher salt and black pepper. And I do mean liberally. My bird looked as sparkly as a Liberace costume when I was done.

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Now we’re going to get all trussed up with no where to go. Have you ever trussed a chicken? It’s not difficult if you can tie shoes.

Put the chicken breast side up, legs pointed toward you. Grab a length of butcher’s twine. I usually go for about 2-3 feet so I don’t end up short. Hold the ends up to find the halfway point. Put the center of the twine under what I would call the shoulders of the bird and run it up on top of the wings.

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Bring the twine over the legs against the rib cage. Under the end of the rib cage cross the twine and cinch it up. (taking this picture was not easy)

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Move the legs in tight, cross the twine again, and wrap it around the legs just behind the knuckles. I pull the twine tight, cross it, and wrap the legs again. Tie a bow, tuck the wing tips under the body, and you’re done.

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Set the chicken aside and get ready to prep vegetables. I do it in this order because it gives the chicken more time to get to room temperature, which provides for more even cooking.

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I peeled the parsnip and beets, but everything else was just washed. Chopping vegetables is easy. My end goal was just to have approximately 1″ pieces. Put all the vegetables in a baking dish. Drizzle with oil, salt, and pepper and then toss by hand.
The beet stains on the parsnips reminded me a bit of bananas in strawberry syrup.

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Place the chicken right on top of the vegetables.

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Throw it in the oven and set a timer for 25 minutes. This makes the skin fabulously crispy. Then drop the heat to 400 and set the time for another 45 minutes. The deepest part of the thigh should be 160 degrees.

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Cut and remove the twine before serving.

Just a note. The beets either steamed or leeched into the bird, causing the fluid in the cavity to look exactly like blood. It freaked me out. The chicken appeared done, the temp was right, and the fluids coming from the joints were clear. It took me a minute to figure out what had happened.

The end result was chicken skin so deliciously salty and crispy that I would have eaten it like a bag of chips given the opportunity, meat that was moist and flavorful, and a variety of vegetables that were cooked perfectly and paired great with the chicken. I served it with Odessa’s Cranberry Sauce that you can find in its own post from last year. And the whole meal was fantastic.

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