Welcome to the Wonderful World of Home Canning!

All American Pressure Canner 21 qtI recently purchased an All American Pressure Canner Cooker and all I can say is what a fantastic piece of kitchen equipment it is. It’s not my first pressure canner but it is certainly the best I have ever owned.

So I thought that it might be a nice idea to give you some ideas so that you can see how easy it is to home can and how it will save you money.

Canning is both a treasured American tradition and an excellent way to share your best homemade goodies with family and loved ones. Home canned vegetables are at least as good as store bought ones, and even better when you have grown them yourself or bought them fresh from a local farmer. Canned foods have a substantial advantage over frozen in that they require no expensive equipment to keep them—just a shelf in a cool, dark, dry place.

If you are a first-time canner you might feel frustrated while you’re getting the hang of it, but after a little experience you’ll find yourself doing it with confidence and skill. You will find few sights more pleasing than the rows of sauces, jams, vegetables, and other foodstuffs that you’ve produced!

Firstly – A Little History

Early in the Napoleonic Wars at the beginning of the 19th century, the French government offered a large cash prize to anyone who could invent an affordable way to preserve large amounts of food. In 1809, Nicolas Appert rose to the challenge after noticing that food cooking inside a properly sealed jar didn’t spoil. As a professional confectioner and brewer, he devised a way to seal food inside glass jars with near-perfect consistency.

Home canning emerged as an industry with the Mason jar, patented in 1858. Ever since then it’s been an American folkway to home can pickles, preserves, and other delicious foodstuffs for stocking pantries and sharing gardens with friends and neighbors.

Getting Started

Good planning is the secret to satisfying canning. Be prepared with all the utensils, ingredients, and information you’ll need before starting. Begin with more than enough time, so you don’t run the risk of cutting corners on processing times should any step go long.

Norpro Home Canning KitUse the following equipment, making sure that everything is clean:

  • Jars (Most processing times specify using pint or quart jars. Both are available with either a wide or regular mouth. Wide mouths are easier to fill, but cost slightly more than regular jars. Test all jars by running your finger around the lip. If there are any cracks or flaws, the jars are not up to canning standards and will not seal.)
  • Two part jar lids—a screwband and a one-use lid (Screwbands can be stored in a dry place and used again next year. Don’t reuse the domed lids, however, as the rubber inside is only good for one sealing.)
  • An inexpensive jar lifter for removing hot jars from a pressure canner
  • Hot pads
  • Canning funnel
  • Knives
  • Cutting boards
  • Kettle
  • Colander
  • For boiling water bath canning, a deep kettle with a lid and rack
  • A teapot for adding hot water as necessary
  • If pressure canning, a pressure canner and rack

Preparing Food and Jars for Canning

  1. Clean the food. If needed, cut it into uniform pieces. For raw-pack processing, set prepared food aside. For hot-pack processing, place food in a large saucepan, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Simmer 2 to 5 minutes.
  2. Sterilize clean jars by filling them with hot (not boiling) water and lowering them onto a rack in a water-filled pot. Make sure there’s at least one inch of water above the rims. Bring water to a boil and keep it there for ten minutes. Keep jars consistently hot throughout the process.
  3. Remove a jar, empty it, and fill it immediately with food. If using raw-pack method, pack it tightly. If using the hot pack method, fill the warm jar loosely.
  4. Add very hot water, syrup, or juice, according to the recipe, until it covers the food. Allow proper headroom.
  5. Remove air bubbles by inserting a non-metallic utensil and firmly pressing the food.
  6. Carefully wipe the jar rim with a clean towel to allow for a good seal.
  7. Apply the lid and secure it with the screw-ring.
  8. Repeat steps 3, 4, and 5 until all jars are filled. Reserve water used to sterilize the jars for the canning process.

Boiling Water Bath Canning

A boiling water bath is the cheapest and easiest method of canning for preserving high-acid foods. These include all fruits, all pickles, and those vegetables to which vinegar has been added, raising the acidity to a sufficient level. Warning: DO NOT use boiling water bath canning for other vegetables—they absolutely must be pressure canned. That said, here’s how to water bath can your high-acid foods:

  1. Lower your packed and prepared jars into simmering water with a jar lifter. The jars should stand on a rack placed at the bottom of the pot. Note that cold jars should be put into water that is warm but not yet hot; they will crack if exposed to a sudden change in temperature.
  2. Add enough water to cover the jars by 2 or 3 inches. Put on the pot lid, bring the water to a roiling boil, and then begin counting the processing time.
  3. When the recommended time is up, remove the pot from the heat and take out the jars with a lifter. Old jars should be treated with extra care, so leave them in the water until the boil has stopped. Be careful not to knock your jars together—they break easily when hot! Don’t cover the cooling jars.
  4. Leave the jars to sit until they have cooled thoroughly, then test the seal. Do this by pressing hard on the center of each lid. If the lid does not move downward or give, your seal is complete. (Any unsealed goods can be refrigerated and eaten within a day or two.)
  5. Store the jars in a cool, dry, dark place for no more than a year.

Canning Safety

Never taste even a bit of canned food that you suspect may be spoiled. Examine jars carefully to detect signs of spoilage, which may include:

  • Mold on the outside of the jar
  • Food leakage
  • Mold inside the lid
  • Darkly discolored food
  • Food that appears shriveled, spongy, slimy, or cloudy
  • Liquid that seems to bubble
  • An off odor
  • Contents that shoot out of the jar when opened

If you think that any of your unopened food has spoiled, detoxify the food and the jars before disposing of them. Do this by placing the unopened jar in a pot of boiling water for 30 minutes. If the jar has been opened, empty the contents into a saucepan, thin them with water, and boil for 30 minutes. Boil the empty jar in water separately, then recycle—do not reuse!

Finally, remember to wash your hands thoroughly with hot, soapy water immediately after handling any spoiled food or contaminated item.

Additional Tips for Successful Canning

  • Add butter to jelly, jam, and preserves to prevent foam from forming during the cooking process. If you leave the butter out, skim off the foam before ladling the cooked food into jars.
  • Measure all the sugar into a bowl before beginning the recipe. Many canning recipes call for a large volume of sugar to be added when a mixture is already boiling; measuring ahead simplifies this step and prevents mistakes.
  • Use a ruler to measure volume. Some recipes call for a mixture to be reduced by a certain amount. To ascertain this easily, insert a clean, wood ruler into the pan before cooking and measure how far up the mixture comes. Then cook as directed until it has reduced by the percentage specified. For example, if uncooked mixture measures 4 inches in pan and recipe says to reduce by half, cook it down to 2 inches.
  • Do not double the recipes. If you want to make more, cook successive batches.

Recipes

We suggest starting your home canning adventure with some basic fruit preserves—they’re some of the easiest, least technical, and most popular canned goods. Your early success will inspire you to keep learning!

Strawberry Jam

Ingredients

  • 5 cups crushed ripe strawberries
  • 4 cups sugar

Directions

Place strawberries and sugar in a heavy saucepan and slowly bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring often, until thickened, about 15 minutes. Ladle into hot, sterilized jars and seal. Makes 3 ½ cups.

Options: Add ¼ cup of lemon juice or your favorite liqueur, 2 teaspoons lemon or orange zest, or ¼ cup minced mint or tarragon.

Apple Jelly

Ingredients

  • 2 lemons
  • 3 cups water
  • 3 pounds cooking apples (about 12 medium)
  • 6 cups sugar

Directions

Cut lemons in two and slice thinly, removing pits.

Soak in water overnight.

Cook over moderate heat until peel is tender, about ten minutes. Peel and core apples, then cut into thin slices.

Combine apples, sugar, and lemons with their liquid. Bring to a boil while stirring. Reduce heat and cook until thick, about thirty minutes.

Ladle into hot, sterilized jars and seal. Makes 4 16-ounce jars.

Grape Jelly

Ingredients

  • 4 pounds grapes
  • 7 cups sugar
  • 3 ounces of liquid pectin

Directions

Sort, wash, and stem ripe grapes. Crush them in a pot or kettle, add ½ cup of water, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about ten minutes. Turn into a damp jelly bag and drain well; do not squeeze.

Hold the juice overnight in a cool place, then strain through 2 thicknesses of damp cheesecloth to remove the crystals that form.

Measure four cups of juice into a large kettle, add the sugar and mix well.

Bring quickly to a full boil that cannot be stirred down. Add the pouch of pectin, bring again to a full rolling boil and boil hard for one minute.

Remove from heat, quickly skim off the foam, and pour the jelly into hot ½ pint jars, leaving ¼ inch of headroom. Cap with a screwband lid.

Process 5 minutes in a boiling water bath, then cool upright and naturally.

Orange Spice Marmalade

Ingredients

  • 8 oranges
  • 2 lemons
  • Water as needed
  • 9 cups sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger

Directions

Cut lemons and oranges in half lengthwise, then into thin slices, removing pits as you go. Measure and add 1 ½ cups water for each cup of fruit. Soak overnight.

In the morning, bring fruit, spices, sugar, and water to a boil and cook for 20 minutes. Ladle marmalade into hot, sterilized jars and seal. Makes about 6 cups.


We invite you to read our review on the All American Pressure Canner/Cooker

Kitchen Blender Reviews – A How To Guide to Making Baby Food in Your Blender

How to Make Baby Food in Your Blender

Blenders are often used to make healthy smoothies, tasty shakes, and cool beverages. While you may use your blender on a regular basis, have you ever thought about using it to make food for your baby? With this handy kitchen appliance you can quickly and easily make homemade baby food that is healthy and tasty. Sure, you can buy baby food at the store, but you don’t always know what ingredients are being used or how nutritious the food really is. Instead of playing the guessing game when it comes to baby food quality, why not consider making it yourself? It’s fast, easy, and can be a healthier option than most of the baby foods available for purchase.

Making baby food in a blender can provide you and your baby with numerous benefits. One of the top benefits of choosing this route is being able to choose all the ingredients used in the food. You’ll know exactly what your baby is eating when you make the food yourself. Since you are choosing the ingredients, you can avoid things like added salt and processed sugars. Baby allergies are common today, but you can avoid this problem by avoiding ingredients that may lead to an allergic reaction. When you choose this route, you’ll even save money, which is another huge benefit for new parents.

Depending on the specific type of baby food you plan to make, the steps for making it in a blender can vary just a bit. However, the basic steps are usually quite similar. Here is a look at some easy steps to follow for making most baby foods.

Step 1# – Choose a Quality Blender

If you’re planning to make your own baby food, the first thing you need to do is choose a quality blender, if you don’t already have one. A common place to start your search is reading quality blender reviews online. The blender you choose will depend upon the amount of baby food you plan on making. If you plan on only making baby food from time to time and in small amounts, a small hand blender may be a great choice that is reasonably priced. However, if you plan on making baby food on a regular basis and in larger amounts, a full size kitchen blender will be the better choice. The larger blender will allow you to make larger amounts of food so you can store some for later use.

Step #2 – Purchase Quality Produce

The next step to take if you want to make baby food in your blender is to purchase quality produce. Look for fruits and vegetables that are fresh and use them quickly. Of course, frozen and canned fruits and vegetables can also be used if you are not able to buy it fresh. Some great fruits to try include pears, blueberries, apricots, peaches, bananas, apples, and plums. For produce, peas, sweet potatoes, potatoes, carrots, squash, and avocados all make great choices. Of course, you are not limited to these options. For ideas, take a look down the baby food isle.

Step #3 – Prepare Foods

Before you actually blend the food, it has to be prepared. Start out by washing fresh fruits and vegetables to eliminate any pesticides or germs that may be on the fruits. Buying organic is always best, but now always an option for some. Certain foods may need to be peeled or seeded. Some foods, such as soft fruits, may not need to be cooked. However, many vegetables and harder fruits may need to be cooked in some way before you blend them. Steaming, boiling, and baking are all methods of cooking that can work.

Step #4 – Blend Thoroughly

After the food is prepared, you are ready to actually blend the baby food. Place the food in the blender and put the lid on. Then start processing on the lowest setting, increasing the speed as you go until the food is well blended. For foods that do not have a lot of liquid in them, you may need to add water to get the consistency you are wanting. Always make sure the food is thoroughly blended to avoid chunks of food that may cause choking.

Step #5 – Storing the Food

While you’ll probably serve some of the baby food right away, any leftovers will need to be appropriately stored. You can store leftovers in several ways. If you plan to use the food within a couple days, simply store it in an airtight container in your refrigerator. If you don’t plan to use it right away, the food can be frozen. The easiest way to do this is to freeze in ice cube trays. Then, frozen cubes of food can be stored in freezer bags, labeled with the contents. Keep in mind that you should not store food that your baby has tried to eat already. Saliva can get into the food and make it more prone to bacteria growth. For this reason, only dish up the amount you think your baby will actually eat.

More Helpful Tips

As you are making baby food in your blender, make sure you avoid using additives when possible. Babies don’t need added sugar, salt, or any type of preservatives. The foods can be blended on their own and will have plenty of flavor. However, simple seasonings and herbs can be used to add extra flavor.

Another thing to remember is to only introduce a single food at a time when babies are just starting to eat solid foods. This is important because it can help you identify any food allergies if they occur. Learning which foods your baby can easily tolerate makes it easier to blend foods together at a later time, such as a nice blend of multiple fruits. You may even want to begin blending entire dinners up for your baby, such as stews and soups.

About the author: April Jones is the publisher of a blender review site. Check out the fantastic free to download blender cookbook at Kitchen Blender Reviews – with full color pictures of the recipes.

 

 

Blog of the Week – Chasing Tomatoes

I have been doing what I love best, perusing the internet looking for interesting blogs when  I came across ‘Notes from the Cookie Jar’.

This blog has lots of interesting information  – in fact it was the first post I came across entitled Parents Bullying Survival Guide, that led me to investigate further into the blog. Lots of really good reading about a variety of subjects.

This led me to another blog also owned by ‘Scattered Mom’, named ‘Chasing Tomatoes’.

And here I found recipes to truly whet the appetite.

The very first image of the Maple Ginger Glaze Salmon drew me in. Being a lover of Salmon,  I am always on the lookout for interesting sauces to try out with it. But the intriguing part of this recipe is not only the yummy sauce but the novelty of cooking the salmon on a cedar plank. Scattered Mom states that using a cedar plank to cook the salmon on is generally something you would do on a barbecue, however she has adapted the recipe so that you can cook it using the plank in the oven.

Another yummy recipe is the Banana Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Muffins these look and sound delicious. The food photos on  Chasing Tomatoes really invite you to get into the kitchen and start cooking.

We are always looking for healthy alternatives to eating and followed Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution shows plus his 30 minute meals program. Everything Jamie does is aimed at promoting healthy eating habits by using fresh produce.

Well Scattered Mom is part of the Jamie Oliver Food Revolution, rating a mention from Jamie Oliver on Twitter and a mention in his newsletter video for Food Revolution Fridays and Food Revolution Road Trip.

Believe me, you will find lots to interest you on both blogs. And you can join Jamie Oliver’s food revolution and set your family on the path to better health through healthy eating.


 

 

VAPO-SEAL™ 7 Ply Surgical Stainless Steel Waterless Cookware

A Guest Post provided by Discover Waterless Cooking

Vapo-SealTM 7 Ply  Stainless Steel Waterless CookwareWaterless cookware has been around since the 1950’s but not everyone has heard about this unique product. For many years it has only been sold on demonstrations at a very high price. Waterless and greaseless cooking is a much healthier cooking method than traditional cooking. Meals are quick and easy and the food is more flavorful.

Vapo-Seal brand is a top of the line high quality waterless cookware. The quality and performance of the Vapo-Seal surgical steel cookware is also comparable to All-Clad and other top of the line stainless steel brands but with added features and a lower price.

Vapo Seal 7 Ply ConstructionVapo-Seal is 7 ply. The inside and outside layers consist of stainless steel. Sandwiched between the stainless steel is aluminum and carbon steel which allows for fast even heat conduction that won’t burn easily. The T304 surgical steel cooking surface is non porous and resist corrosion and does not stick as easily as other types of stainless steel. It is also easy to clean and keeps its shine for a lifetime.

There are many unique features of this cookware. The most unique feature is the design of the lids. The lids are made to fit the pan so that all the heat and moisture is contained with a vapor/water seal. This feature allows you to cook with little to no water or grease and at a lower temperature setting. Cooking is fast and the food retains more of it’s vitamins, minerals and natural flavor. Another feature is the heat resistant handles. They don’t get hot to the touch and are oven safe to 350 degrees. This cookware is also compatible with induction ranges.

Vapo-Seal waterless cookware sets comes with a cookbook and instructions on how to cook water-less and greaseless and a bottle of stainless steel cleaner. It is dishwasher safe and comes with a lifetime guarantee.

A complete set of Vapo-Seal is priced under $400 compared with up to $2,500 for a demonstrated waterless cookware set. This makes Vapo-Seal an affordable choice with all the value and features of the higher priced brands.

Wanda’s Note: why not try the health benefits of waterless cookware for yourself. Cook low fat meats without the addition of grease and oil. Serve up tasty vegetables cooked with the minimum of moisture so that you retain all the flavor and goodness.

For more information about the benefits of waterless cooking using the Vapo-seal waterless Cookware visit Discover Waterless Cooking

Finding the Right Cookware

One of the most essential factors when finding the right cookware is to understand the importance of quality.

Cheap cookware, more often than not, proves to be a false economy. The cooking results themselves can suffer and the pots and pans are often easily scratched and marked. Cheaper trays and dishes are prone to cracking, leading you to buy a replacement quite quickly. So quality is very important, however with so many quality ranges available it`s hard to choose between them.

Before you even start looking for your new cookware you need to think about what you really want from your kitchen equipment. How many people do you cook for, just yourself, you and a partner, a family, perhaps even professional catering on a large scale? The answer to this will affect the size and amount of dishes, pots and pans you need. The size of your kitchen and cupboards should also be a factor in the size of cookware you purchase.

If you cook on an industrial scale then you need hard-wearing cookware, where function overrides beauty. For those who regularly entertain at home you will be looking for cookware that not only functions well in the kitchen but can also look good when laid on the dining table. This is particularly important for lasagne dishes, casserole dishes and roasting trays which are often placed mid centre on a table to be served there.

There are also a myriad of materials found throughout the cookware market range. Most people tend to cook with good old time tested metals- stainless steel, copper, aluminium or cast iron. Different metals have differing benefits, cast iron, for example is extremely durable and conducts heat well but is prone to rust and can be very heavy. Aluminium offers excellent heat conduction but can be damaged easily. Copper can react with acidic foods compromising on taste but it also offers great heat conduction. Stainless steel on the other hand is easy to maintain and doesn’t react with foods, but it isn’t the best heat conductor.

Ceramic cookware is very popular and can look great on a table. Ceramics often come in a range of colours which is great for fun loving chefs. Cooking a casserole in the oven and transporting it straight to the dining table is an increasingly popular way to eat.

Finding cookware requires a little bit of research and a lot of thought, including setting a realistic budget. But once you have worked out what it is you need from your cookware in terms of size and material, you can start looking at the different sets which are available. Whether you are looking for a set for the home or a good set of catering equipment, there are many terrific options. A good cookware range should feel natural to cook with and last a generation; and you`ll just know when it`s `the one`.