Saturday, December 15, 2012

Canning Mistakes

As I promised I will now let you in a few mistakes I learned during my last canning session. But first I will show you a picture of what all I canned. Below is 6 quarts of chicken stock, 12 pints of clementines, 4 pints of sweet and sour chicken, 3 pints of orange chicken and 3 pints of lemon chicken.

Now on to the mistakes!

Mistake number one:

Just because you can't go to sleep do not get up and try to do a big canning session after you have been awake for 20 hours straight! That mistake alone will cause you to make other mistakes.

Mistake number two:

Check, double check and then triple check to make sure you have everything you need to complete a canning recipe. I did check twice and never realized that I forgot to get out the ginger I needed for the stir fry recipes I was canning. Maybe if I had checked one more time I would have realized it but then again the fact that I didn't goes right back to mistake number one. By the time I got to the stir frys I had already been up for 24 hours straight. If I had been rested I would have been a lot more alert to what I was doing.

Mistake number three.

Save the easiest canning project for last. If I had done the stir frys first instead of the clementines maybe I would have been more alert and remembered the ginger.

Mistake number four and the last thank goodness:

Just because you find a canning recipe on the net you think you will like does not mean you will like it. Make a small amount first to see if you even like it. I got the orange chicken canning recipe off the net and after all is said and done I do not really care for it. She had put slices of fresh oranges in her jars so I did to and found that the bitter flavor of the pith was so strong that is over powered the taste of all the other ingredients. From now on I will remove the peeling and pith before adding the orange slices to the jars. As for leaving the ginger out that was not to big a problem. I drained the liquid from the jar into a sauce pan, added some ginger powder and a little cornstarch, heated till slightly thickened and the ginger flavor came through, then added the rest of the jar to heat. It came out fairly well except for the bitter taste of the orange pith.

Well there you go. There is the canning mistakes I made the other day. I hope by my sharing them with you it will help you have better luck with your canning then I did on my last session.

Happy Canning ya'll.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Another Big Shopping Trip

I had planned all along to take the $66 I had left from last Fridays shopping trip to go this week and pick up 4 hams that Meijer's had on sale for 77 cents a pound. Well I hit the jackpot when I was given and extra $200 to spend to my little hearts content. So I sat down and spent an hour going over sale ads and writing out a list of what all I wanted to get.

Then yesterday morning hubby and I sat off to some friends house where he stayed with the hubby and his wife went shopping for me. We spent 4 hours going to 5 different stores and had a blast shopping and talking as we went. Below is a couple of pics of some of what I bought. I couldn't get it all in just 2-3 pics.

This is not all of it. There is about another $100 worth I never got around to taking pics of. I did splurge a little on some donuts and cheese cake but that is not something I do very often. One thing I learned along time ago is that if I do not allow myself to splurge every once in awhile then I will go crazy one day and buy a lot of junk food. LOL

After I got done putting all this stuff away I took out the three chickens I had in my refrigerator, cut them up and packaged them in to meals for the freezer. I did the same with the big package of bacon I had in the refrigerator and one of the hams. There are now 50 meals worth of meat sitting in the freezer now and some meat that I canned early this morning and I do mean early. Couldn't sleep last night so got back up at 2 am after going to bed at 12:30 am and started canning.

Tomorrow I will show you what I canned and tell you about some mistakes you never want to make when canning. You may get a laugh out of one or two of them. :)

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Winter Wonderland

This morning we woke up to our first winter wonderland of the season. Thought some of you might like a look at it. Doesn't it look so pretty? It always does until you have to get out there and shovel it which I have to do later if I can. LOL

If I could have one wish I would wish that snow was only allowed to land on the grass and not on sidewalks and roads. Yeah like that will ever happen!! LOL

Any way hope you enjoy a couple of pics of our winter wonderland today. We got about 2-3 inches.

I hate that orange fence hubby put around the garden but it was the only thing he had to keep out our two stubborn pekingese who like to snitch the tomatoes and green peppers. I told him that it was not going to keep them out and he found out I was right. The little stinkers chew right through the fence and had a blast getting fat on the fresh garden goodness. Guess they wanted to eat healthier to. LOL

Beef Stew & Pot Roast

At the buy one get one free sale they had English roasts on sale for buy one get one free. I bought a total of four. Saved $17 doing so. I knew before I even bought that that I wanted to use them to can up beef stew and pot roast. Same for the red potatoes and carrots that I bought at the same sale.

As soon as all the food was put away that day and before started canning the oranges I cut all the roasts up into one inch chunks, removing as much fat and grisle as I could. I froze all of the meat in a gallon zip lock bag. Early Sunday morning I took the meat out of the freezer and placed it in the refrigerator to thaw in time for Monday morning. And on Sunday night I gathered all the canning equipment I would need to start canning early and peeled and cut the carrots so the next morning I could start in right after we had breakfast.

Right after breakfast I peeled the potatoes and cut them into chunks and placed them in water to keep them from turning black. Set all my ingredients and canning equipment I needed on the table and got the water heating. I browned half the meat in a tiny bit of oil and then placed it on a paper towel covered platter to drain.

I started with the meat, placing it in the jars then I added some drained potatoes and carrots to each jar. I added two teaspoons of beef soup base, a pinch of dried thyme, two tablespoons of V-8 juice to each jar, added boiling water and wipe the rims, added the two piece lids and placed the jars in the pressure canner. I processed them for 90 minutes at 10 pounds pressure which is what is called for in my area.

After the canner had cooled down I took the jars out of the canner and below is what they looked like.

When I go to use the beef stew I will drain the liquid out into a pan, add a little corn starch slurry to make a gravy then add the meat and veggies so they can heat through. Then  serve with homemade biscuits.

As for the pot roast it was a lot simpler to can. I boiled the meat until heated through. Placed the meat in the jars, added drained potatoes and carrots. Added the boiling beef water from meat, wiped the rims of the jars and added the two piece lids. Placed them in the pressure canner and processed for 90 minutes at 10 pounds pressure. I added no salt as my family prefers the sweetness the carrots give the meat over a salty taste. Also because I like to control the amount of salt that goes into our foods.
I did not add salt to the beef stew either because it will get all the salt it needs from the soup base and the V-8 juice.

Here is what the pot roast looked like when it was done.

I know they look similar in appearance but there it a difference which you can see below. And the taste will be quite different between the two. I got a total of 7 quarts of beef stew and 6 quarts of pot roast from the four roasts, 10 lbs of potatoes and 1 pound of carrots. Each jar will need at least 2 adults unless you have a big eater like my son then he will have to have a quart on his own. He is 6'4' and I swear he is always empty from the toes up at meal times. LOL

Oh and here is a picture so you can see the difference between the beef stew and the pot roast.

Hope you all are enjoying reading my canning adventures. I will be doing more later this week and will show you those when I am done. My next adventure will be using chicken.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Making the most of my food dollars

I was going to post this tomorrow but decided to go ahead and do it tonight because I have another canning project tomorrow and may not have much time for the computer.

I hate food waste. Every time I see one bite of food go into the trash I see money being thrown away. For years there was not to much I could do about some of the food that was wasted since I was working a full time job outside the home. Between work and travel time I was putting in 60-70 hours a week away from home either at work or on the road. Then back in 1994 I was hurt in a car  accident and was no longer able to do the work I had been doing for almost 17 years. And having teens at home eating when they wanted.

But all that changed when I could no longer work. I went back to the frugal ways I had learned as a child watching my grandma and my mom. My grandma could take little bits of this and little bits of that and make a mouth watering, belly warming meal that was also very filling. You never walked away from her table hungry unless it was your own fault because she was a great cook.

By watching my grandma I learned to always scrub vegetables before peeling instead of throwing the peelings away, save them up in the freezer until I had enough to make a big pot of vegetable stock which then was canned. She would save potato peeling, carrot peelings, celery tops, onion peelings and any other veggies she prepared for meals in freezer boxes in the freezer. When she had enough she would make a big pot of vegetable stock and then either can it as is or turn it into a big pot of soup which she would then can.

Lately I have been into canning more and more and in the last year have gotten into canning fresh citrus. I was heart broken every time I throwed all those peelings from oranges, grapefruit and lemons away until this last time when I had a light bulb go off in my head. Yeah that does happen to me every once in a great while. LOL

I decided this time I was going to try to dehydrate any citrus peelings from the fruit I canned this year. On Friday night when I peeled the oranges for canning I carefully peeled the peel off with a very sharp knife leaving most of the white pith still on the oranges. I put all the peelings in a bowl, covered then with lid and placed them in the refrigerator until yesterday morning. When I got up yesterday I took the peelings and laid them out in single layers on my Excalibur dehydrator. I filled up 8 trays. Set the temp for 135 degrees and plugged it in.

Don't they look so nice and pretty with their bright orange color?

This shows you just how little of the white pith I left on the peelings.

After drying for 6 hours I took them out of the dehydrator. They were nice and crisp but still had a lot of their orange color.

All eight trays dumped on to one tray.
After they all cooled I ran them a few at a time in the blender to grind them into orange zest for baking and cooking. After all the peeling were ground up I came out with almost a pint jar of orange zest. Seeing as a tiny bottle of zest in the store can be pretty pricey I think I came out on the better end of the deal for the little extra time I spent carefully peeling the oranges and running the dehydrator.
I was giving a bottle of vodka by my uncle when he moved in with us and since we don't drink I had put it up and forgot about it. I remembered I had it while I was peeling the oranges the other night so I pulled it out and pulled out three small canning jars. I put some of the fresh peelings into each jar and then pour in enough vodka to cover the peelings. So I shook it up a little and sat it in a cool dark place. I opened on today and smelled it. It already has a good orange smell so of course I had to take a taste. It does have a taste of orange but not as much as I want so am going to let it sit for a few more weeks before using it. I have a feeling this is going to come out tasting great!

Now if only I could find a use for all that white pith I threw away I would be very happy. Then there would have been no waste at all from my canning oranges. :)

Not bad from $9.98 of oranges is it. I got 4 quarts, 6 pints, one half pint of canned oranges, almost a pint of orange zest and a pint of orange extract for my money. Think I got my moneys worth on this deal?? I sure do!

Canning Oranges

Last Friday hubby and I went grocery shopping at our local store because they had a good buy one get one free deal on lots of items. One of the deals we picked up were 4 pound bags of oranges. We got 4 bags. I knew what I wanted to do with them. I wanted to can them up so during the summer months when oranges are more expensive I would be able to save by opening one of our jars instead of buying oranges at the more expensive prices and still give my family the vitamin C they need. Out of the four bags of oranges we bought I got a total of 4 quarts, 6 pints and one half pint of pretty and oh so yummy orange slices to store in my pantry for this summer. Don't they look pretty to you to?

Here is a close up on one of my pretty jars of golden sunshine.

The reason I used quart jars and the half pint jar is because I am running out of pints. When all my kids were still at home I canned everything in quart jars so I have many more of them then I do pints. Now with just the 3 of us at home I am starting to can more in pints but haven't gotten enough of them stocked up yet. Working on that as I can afford to.

To can the oranges all I did was to wash the oranges really good in a light soapy warm water then rinsed well. I wanted to make sure there was no chemicals left on them. Then I peeled the oranges, using a very sharp knife, keeping the outer peel as thin as possible for later use, leaving most of the white pith still on the oranges. After peeling off the outer layer I then peeled all the pith off the oranges. Then pulled the sections apart.

I made a light syrup from water and sugar. Keeping the syrup hot while I packed the sections into hot jars I filled the half the jars, wipe the rims, applied the 2 piece lids and placed the jars into the boiling water bath. Processed them for ten minutes then removed them. Finished filling up the rest of the jars and placed them in the hot water bath and processed them for ten minutes.

Now my jars of pretty golden sunshine are sitting so pretty on the shelf in my pantry waiting for this summer when we will be enjoying them as is or mixed in fruit salads. I just love oranges don't you?

Check back tomorrow and see what I had in store for all those peelings I saved from the oranges. :)

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Our Shopping Deals for Yesterday

This week our local store had a lot of good buy one get one free deals. I wanted to go to this sale but since I have been really sick this week hubby went with me so I could get in and out faster. I took time to make two lists and we divided the store in half. He took one half and I took the other. We met up at the check out lane to check out together. Here is a pic of hubby showing off our haul for this week. LOL

Please forgive the mess in the background. Hubby has been doing most of the kitchen duty this week and he doesn't always know where I keep things. But bless his heart he has been trying. :) Almost every thing on the table was a buy one get one free deal. Except for the meds (for me), his bag of popcorn, canning lids, milk, cheese, syrup, mustard, carrots and green peppers. Oh and the silver bag of coffee which is a restaurant blend that they had that was $4 cheaper then the same size can of Folgers.

Before we went shopping I spent a couple of hours going through the sale add and planning meals around what was on sale. All total for the 3 of us there is enough here for a month's worth of meals including using some things we all ready have in our pantry.

Because we do live on a limited monthly income I plan one big shopping trip a month to save on gas so I do not by just what I need for that month. I just plan a months worth of menus and then buy enough to make those meals but those meals may be cooked 2-3 months down the road. By doing this it has helped me keep my food bill down considerably each month. Some months I may spend as high as $200 and some months I may spend as little as a $100 and still have enough to feed all 3 of us 3 meals a day for the month. Not to bad considering the rising food costs lately.

Below is some close ups of what I bought. The English Roasts were buy one get one free and so where the pork steaks. The cheese sausage were in the markdown bin for $1.69 a package and they are normally $4.29 a package. They still have a week to go on the sale by date.

The oranges and two different kinds of potatoes were also buy one get one free.

The total it would have cost me was $197.64 if I had paid full price of each of the items. Actual cost for me was $131.15 saving me a total of $66.49. Not bad is it? Check back starting tomorrow and see what I have planned for some of the items we bought yesterday. Since I budgeted $200 for food costs this month I will be going to another store next week after Hubby's doctor appointment and seeing what more deals I can find to feel the pantry with. :)  Who knows! Maybe I will find some really good deals on baking stables.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Canning Blueberry Syrup

A couple of weeks ago I was given a 2 quart bag of frozen blueberries. I didn't need any more for pie filling since I canned a bunch of that back in June so I thought about just using them for pancakes and muffins. Then I realized I had enough blueberries in the freezer to last me a year for them. So the only other thing that came to mind was the fact that I love blueberry syrup on pancakes and waffles. I pulled out my every so handy canning book and low and behold there was a blueberry syrup recipe in there.

I have been sick for the last 4 days with strep throat and even if I didn't feel any better this morning when I got up I figured I need to do something no matter what it was so I decided to make the blueberry syrup. So I started pulling on what I need to make it.

Here is the start. A stainless steel pot, 2 quart measuring cup and 2 cups of water. First I measured the blueberries to make sure there was two quarts of them.

Yep there was! Then I poured the berries in to the pot, added the two cups water, placed them on the burner and brought them to a boil. As soon as they started to boil I reduced the heat to a simmer and let them simmer for 5 minutes. Then I crushed them with a potato masher.

Juice before straining
After straining.
After crushing them I strained them through a damp jelly bag. Washed to pot, put 4 cups water into the pot along with 3 cups of granulated sugar; boiled it to 230 degrees , added the blueberry juice and 1 tablespoon grated lemon peel. Boiled for 5 minutes. Stirred in 2 tablespoons lemon juice and ladled the syrup in to hot jars.
All ready for the two piece caps!
All nestled in their hot bath ready to be boiled for 15 minutes!
Here they are. All 10 lovely half pints of blueberry syrup! I see lots of pancakes and waffles in our future with some lovely blueberry syrup and butter on them. YUM!!
I would share but you all know how it is. Just can't let something this good go any where other than my tummy. LOL

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Canned Chili

 Of the 20 lbs of hamburger I bought this week I took 10 pounds and made chili to can. I used dried red beans which I cooked in the slow cooker before make the chili, onions, green peppers, chili powder, cumin, garlic, a little cocoa powder ( yep I said cocoa powder), canned diced tomatoes and tomato sauce. When the chili was done I took enough out of the pot for us to have for dinner that night and the rest went in to quarts jars and then into the pressure canner. I got 12 beautiful jars of chili (one of our favorite cold weather meals) plus one meal from the 10 pounds of hamburger and 4 pounds of dried red beans.  We eat chili at least 3 times a month. :)

The cocoa powder may sound funny in chili but it just adds this special little touch to chili. You don't add a lot. I added 2 tablespoons to the big pot I made. So really that is not much. :)

Here is my 12 lovely quarts of chili all ready to go back in the box and in to the pantry. These will come in really handy when hubby or son needs to cook a meal. :)

Because hubby and I are both disabled ( he is in worse shape than I am ) I try to keep quite a few fast, easy fix meals on hand for times when I am really busy or not feeling well enough to put a meal together from scratch. We do not eat out much so these jars meals up a lot. Even on the budget since I only can things that I grow myself or can buy at a really good price.

But I have more reasons why I can. I remember eating all the delicious foods my grandma canned all the time and seeing all those pretty jars lined up so nice and neat in her pantry. There never was a time you could go into the pantry and not find some thing good to eat. Since my grandma is gone now I can always open a jar of my own home canned foods and the memories of her and all that food come flooding back. Sweet memories that I never want to forget. :)

Canning Hamburger

Our local store had ground  hamburger on sale this week for $1.99 a pound so I bought 20 pounds to can. I used less than 10 pounds which I fried along with some fresh chopped onions, salt and pepper. When the hamburger was cooked I drained it all through a mesh strainer and then rinse it with hot water to remove as much grease as I could. Packed the meat into jars, covered with some beef broth, wipe the rims, added lids and rings and processed in a pressure canner for 1 hour and 15 minutes. It came out great. I had used some of the hamburger from the 10 pounds to fix hubby and I hamburgers that day for lunch so I only got 8 -12 oz jars and 8 pints of hamburger canned up. These will come in handy for busy days when I want a fast fix meal. I can open one of these and make spaghetti, sloppy joe's, lasanga, home made hamburger helper, quick pot of hamburger soup or any other dish that uses precooked hamburger in it. I love have fast fix meals on hand and an extra bounus is that hubby or son can put together a nice meal if I am sick with just a little help from me. :)

BTW one jar is missing because it didn't seal so its sitting in the ref. for tomorrow's dinner. Waste not want not my grandma always taught me! :)