Thursday, September 10, 2015

Canning for Survival

The Revival

I've noticed that there are many young people who are interested in learning how to live off the land.  They are trying to eat healthier, less expensively and slow the pace of their lives down, similar in many ways to their great grandparents lifestyle.  In today's fast paced society, with an overload of communication, a bombardment of the mind and senses vying for every minute of your day, it is time to stop.  It is time to participate in the joy of real living.

Taking a walk without your smartphone, listening to nature, getting away from the hustle and bustle of the city to capture the beauty that exists all around will refresh anyone.  Being silent is an ominous thing that brings immense pleasure, once you give it a try.

Go outside, find an alpaca ranch or any type of farm online, call them and go for a visit.  See how they live, drink in the peace and joy of a simpler life, a simpler time.

Then, start something new outside.  If you don't have enough land to start a garden, join a community garden to dig in the earth and get back to nature.  Feel your inner child.  Play in the mud.  It is very therapeutic, especially with friends, children and other loved ones.

Then, watch the things you've planted grow.   It's quite an amazing process, to create something from nothing, to let your imagination manifest itself on the land.  

A garden keeps on giving if it's nurtured, just like people who are loved and guided well.  Then, low and behold the fruits of your labors are realized.  You have created an abundance of delicious, fresh and succulent foods.  Another adventure awaits;  the art of storing and preserving your well earned edibles has been passed down since time began.  

If you seek, you will find an expert who will be happy to share his or her wealth of knowledge and experience in food preservation.  Then, you can enjoy these wonders until the following year when the production starts all over, again.  All you need to do is, be willing to help them with their own harvest.  Gladys is my wonderful teacher.  Here she is in her canning kitchen.

We cut the green tops off the beets, then outside with a hose and powerful spray nozzle Gladys washed the beets to get all the dirt off before cooking.  Great idea, instead of doing this dirty job in the kitchen.  You only get these simple little tips from a veteran canner.

Next, snip off the stringy stuff and some of the tip.  Snip pretty close to the beet to take off the greens.  The greens are wonderful steamed along with their stalks (just a little salt and pepper).

Once snipped and rinsed, put them in a large pot, cover with water and cook till fork tender.

Simmering beets.

While the beets are simmering, sterilized the pint jars in the dishwasher.

Cover the jar lids with water and bring them to a boil.  This will soften the rubber around the edges.  After the water has come to a boil, turn off the burner and let them sit.

Combine the ingredients for pickled beets and bring to a boil, if these are the type you are making.  The recipe is in the Ball Canning Book or you can find one you like online.  Just look for pickled beet recipes.  This one includes apple cider vinegar, sugar, cinnamon sticks and pickling spices.

Carefully, cut and put the beet pieces in the sterile jars, leaving about 1/2 inch to the top.  After you pour the pickling juice over the beets, move a knife down the sides of the jar to release any air bubbles.  The liquid level will go down a bit, so you will need to add a little more fluid.  Remember, leave about 1/2 an inch to the top.

Clean the tops of the jars and put the lids on.  Screw the tops on tightly.  They are now ready to be put in the water bath.  Just cover them with water in a canning pot, bring them to a boil and let them remain covered for 25 minutes.  If you are using quart jars, the time is different.  For the non-acidic foods (non pickled), they must be canned in a pressure cooker or boiled for 3 hours.  Always, keep the water bath well over the tops of the jars.  See Ball canning books for times and preparation.

Now, for the green beans.  Choose beans that are juicy when you snap them open.  If the beans inside are large and not very juicy, do not can them (tough and not so good).  Cut them into 1 inch pieces.

Place the green beans in a large colander.  Rinse them thoroughly.

Use a jar funnel to keep the beans directed into the jars.  This also helps keep the top of the jars clean.  

Gladys always uses this type of salt for canning.

Put one teaspoon of salt in each jar of green beans.

Boil water in a kettle, then pour it into the jar with the beans.  Leave one inch at the top and remember to use the knife trick to release air bubbles.  Then, fill as needed, clean around tops, put on sterile lids, tighten and place in pressure cooker.

Please be sure to read your pressure cooker instructions carefully to do your canning.  Our recipe called for ten pounds of pressure for 20 minutes.  Yours may be different depending on the size of the cooker, the number of jars, etc.  Always handle pressure cooking with the greatest of care and safety.

Pressure cookers are tricky things.  Be safe.

Our tomatoes ready for the boiling water.  These do not require pressure cooking, as they are very acidic.  So, we just put a teaspoon of salt, covered with boiling water, put the lids on, then covered with a water bath in a regular canning pot.  Since these are quart jars, I think it was 35 minutes of boiling to preserve.

One more thing about canning, you want to listen for and see that all the lids pop.  As they cool they make a popping sound and the tops suck downward.  If this doesn't happen, they are not properly preserved.  So, after they are completely cooled put the ones that didn't pop in the refrigerator and eat them first.  Here are my beautiful canned tomatoes.  Great for all sorts of recipes.

Gladys taking the beets out of the pressure cooker.  Now, we just wait to hear the popping of all those jars.  What a sweet sound - food through the winter, healthier eating money saved.  One more tip:  Always heat home canned food to boiling before you eat it.  Just an extra precaution.

This is the book Gladys has used all her canning life.  They have new editions of the same book, so pick one up at your local garden store or online.  Happy preserving your fruits, vegetables and a very special way of life.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Surprises in the Garden

A New Game...

What the heck is this and where did it come from???   Well I figured it out.  I bought some green leafed plants from a store in Yelm that just said, Big Squash".  As the squash grew up, hah, they weren't kidding.  This baby was as big as a pumpkin.  I googled types of squash and found this to be a Hubbard Squash.  The insides are a beautiful bright orange color, as you can see.

This is what the Hubbard Squash looks like on the outside.  And, it's vine grows like something out of Jack in the Beanstalk, huge and sprawling.  So, you need a lot of room, but it's worth it.  Very yummy.

My next surprise was another squash I've never seen in any of the grocery stores. I looked it up on google, too.  This is one of the Delicata Squash.  It's good raw,  before the dark green stripes appear and is still a bit small ( larger than a zucchini from the store, though).  As it grows and gets bigger, the green stripes become darker.

Another major surprise to me, is that most people don't know beet greens are edible and a great source of iron.  I like mine steamed with a little salt and pepper.  Just cut them from the beets to cook.  Oh, and don't forget the red stalks, that's the best part.  I only picked a couple to eat right away.  

Next week, I'll harvest the rest of the beets to take to my friend Gladys's.  She has a canning kitchen in her basement.   There, we'll make and can pickled beets from our wonderful garden.  And of course, I'll be blogging about the experience as I'm a beginner and Gladys is an expert.  A couple of friends said they would like to learn, too.  So, I'll probably take them along........But, first I must ask Gladys if it's okay.  Extra helping hands are always welcome, however.

Find a friend like Gladys to help and to teach you some of the smart ways to eat healthier, save money and stop contributing to all the trash in the dumps.