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Canning 2.0

By now most folks know I can. As in I choose to create and preserve via mason jars food my family and I want to eat. I get to choose the specific ingredients, ratio, and flavor of what I make. This for me is an extension of my ‘freezer cooking’ it is investing time so I don’t have to later.

Having spent a good portion of last summer pickling, and canning high acidity food I exhausted the challenge. I extended my skill set and comfort level to where for some of my family their Christmas presents were things I chose to make back last August. I didn’t buy store salsa until March of this year, and this made me think what else can I control food wise in my home. I was asked today what made me want to do canning.

The short answer is this a) I’m a total food nerd, b) I love cooking large batches, and c) none of the other kids do it (at least in my circle). For me the next step was this…

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That is a pressure canner. This allows me to move certain foods that I used to freeze to something shelf stable. So while others might do something simple, like chicken broth I drive right in to something intermediate level.

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Baked beans!

I started to measure out the Ball Blue book sauce recipe then realized the best difference from pickling foods to pressure canning. I can change the recipe and ratios! I don’t have to worry about my acidity level. *squee* Changes are marked with a ^
Sauce:
3 large onions diced small in a food processor
^ 1 head garlic also through a food processor (we LOVE garlic you can add less)
2/3 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup molasses
2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon ground mustard
^ 1/3 cup cider vinegar
^ store bought ketchup to make 2 liquid cups sauce

This is for 2 lbs dried navy or in my case great northern beans. Following the Ball method of bean prep. (This is widely available on the web, and that research might do you good)

Ok so confessing my oddities here, I FINISH reading the Blue Book recipe and no way in hell am I baking this for 3 hours. So I sort of amalgamate recipes with Sbcanning.

I prepare the jars as usual, this means prepping more than the recipe calls for (be prepared it takes time to dishwasher jars).

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While the jars are getting ready, and the beans pre-cook, and I furiously scour the Internet for recipes to NOT have to actually bake the beans I start the sauce to simmer.

I feel confident enough to put 1 cup semi- pre- cooked beans and 1/2 cup sauce per pint. Then fill the rest with reserved liquid from the 2nd bean pre-cook (I’m serious do your homework this is not rocket science but it is important, and I don’t mean to be a complete how to) to get to 1 inch head space.

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Use tools to get air bubbles out.

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Add bacon, or if using salt pork omit or reduce salt.

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Wipe jar rims with vinegar because it cuts grease

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Admire jars

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Place in canner FOLLOWING DIRECTIONS OF THE CANNER. Mine says to add 3 quarts of water and start heating to boil. If you have hard water add a splash of vinegar.

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If you have a canner like mine, when you have a steady stream of steam drop the weight on it, and then have a heart attack when your loving husband knocks the weight and a huge scalding steam cloud escapes. Process 1 hour 20 min at 10 pounds. Oh yeah by the way the timer starts when the weight STARTS to rock.

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Finally let the canner sit and cool down. Go look at Lolcats, harass your cats, clean up your mess, then and only then do you even think of opening that canner. Then happy dance and celebrate. Then wash those gorgeous greasy jars, and take the bands off to store.

My final thoughts are this, there are no chemical preservatives (other than the ketchup ingredients) or artificial dyes. Oh yeah cost per pint without non-consumables? $0.95 with an 8 pint output. For a product I made, that can sit in my spare room without freezer burn, and hopefully tastes good.

Vanilla Strawberry Jam

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I’m amazed at how easy making jam was, and also how much better it tastes.

Strawberries were on sale, and I decided to see if I could make jam, and if it would really be better.

Well… I can, and oh my goodness is it better. There is a secret you see, butter. Yes butter, unsalted real butter. I found this out from The Pioneer Woman. I can’t comment on if it really cuts down on the foam. It adds a richness though, a mouthfeel that leaves regular jam tasting flat.

I smashed my fruit in the pot. I figured if I didn’t get it broken up enough there was always the stick blender. I had enough strawberry to make 2 batches using Ball Real Fruit Pectin the low sugar variety. I seeded 2 vanilla beans, and let the pods cook in the jelly. Removing them before canning.

This was a small experimental batch, and l will be on the lookout for strawberries on sale for sure. It’s so good a jar could be gone in a day.

Pickled Green Beans

Sometimes I am easily distracted, Ohhh look a shiny! Sometimes that distraction yields a wonderful idea. While I was grocery shopping this morning I went to peruse the prepared food section in the produce department at my local grocery store. I saw a roasted tomatillo salsa kit, and was all ohhhh I could make that…. Then as I sort of gazed to the side I saw a package of green beans. Haricot vert. Small, slender, gorgeous green beans. Instantly I HAD to make pickled green beans.

I had these once before at a friends birthday party as an appetizer or small plate at a restaurant. I loved them. I didn’t want to share. So, seeing this package of green beans I knew what my task of the day was. I was going to make my very own pickled green beans.

Mrs. Wheelbarrow provided a wonderful base recipe for me to work off of.

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Trimming the end off of 2 pounds of very slender green beans is a lot more work than you realize. I used scissors, next time I would use a knife.

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All trimmed. Finally.

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I found pint & half jars. They are taller and wide mouth, and would be awesome for pickling asparagus. However depending on your green beans they should fit in a pint wide mouth jar (you know this is my first time doing this, and my mistakes are ones you won’t have to repeat, see I took care of part of your learning curve)

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A jar packed with green beans, fresh garlic, and a jalapeno. I probably will not eat this jar that my husband might.

I ended up with four jars, but not enough vinegar brine. So I had to quickly make a back up batch, without garlic vinegar. I used the majority of this second brine for the jalapeƱo jar. I made a jar with dried dill weed and dried dill seed. I made a second jar with only dried dill seed. And the third jar had only dried celery seed. All of the jars had a fresh clothes of garlic in addition to the green beans and vinegar brine. I did this because I want to taste what the different ingredients result in. I don’t know what flavor I’m looking for I just know that I want pickled green beans. Experiment!

Recipe
Brine
1/4 cup of pickling salt
1 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 1/4 cup plain white vinegar
2 1/2 cups water

Sanitize jars and lids by running a normal cycle under dishwasher without detergent.

Pack the jars with the green beans standing up, and the flavors you want.

Pour the boiling brine into each of your jars. Process in a hot water bath for 15 to 20 minutes.

Now I challenge you to wait, give those beans a few days to meld. Don’t eat them, just let them marinate for Ohhh I don’t know I think I can wait a week.

Sweet relish

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I’m sure that you are all familiar with sweet relish it’s counterpart dill relish and is something that I’ve always kept in my refrigerator. It’s sort of like the mayonnaise versus mustard argument some people like sweet relish and some people like dill relish. For me it’s sweet relish.

I don’t really know how to explain entire thought process that got me to thinking ‘hey I’m getting make sweet relish’. It basically started with me googling recipes for something to do with the sweet banana peppers that I had ripe in my garden. The problem was I only had 2 sweet banana peppers, and 2 jalepenos that were ripe. Finally after an epic google session I went for sweet pickle relish with the garden peppers.

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That is the cast of characters. The orange looking pepper is one I left on the plant longer. I used the smaller jalepeno, both banana peppers, a sweet onion (a 1015 the Texas vidalia onion), the small gerkin sized pickling cucumbers, and some regular white onion and red bell pepper left over from making baked Spanish rice the other night.

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I used a small food processor to dice all the veggies up. The one I like the most is an attachment to my stick blender, and I like it because you can pick it up and shake it, while it’s running. You don’t want to make a veggie paste so stop at small dice. I had to work in batches.

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When dicing the peppers I decided to toss a couple cloves of garlic in. I love garlic. I don’t really have measurements of everything that was diced. I used what I had. This part is taste, what you have, and the amount and ratios are relative. Like heat? Add more peppers, or hotter peppers. Don’t want heat? Stick to bell and sweet banana peppers.

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Once everything is diced combine and add a few tablespoons canning salt. No you can’t substitute. Use canning salt. It is made to not discolor, and specifically for canning. You are adding the salt to draw as much liquid out of the vegetables as you can. I read several different opinions on how long to let the salted vegetables sit, mine ended up going into the refrigerator overnight because I used all of the vinegar in making my pickles. I’d say at least 2 hours.

Sweet Relish
This is the recipe that I followed for the cooking portion of making the relish. Below are the changes that I made.

-4 cups cucumbers, deseeded and chopped (I think I had maybe 2 cups)
-2 cups onions, chopped (I used one medium sweet onion and about a half of a white onion)
-1 cup green bell pepper, chopped
-1 cup red bell pepper, chopped (I used way less peppers. Just the -2 banana peppers, small jalepeno, and about half a red bell pepper)
-1/4 cup kosher salt (I put 3 tablespoons of salt on the veggies, none in the pickling brine)
-3 1/2 cups sugar (I used 1 1/4 cup)
-2 cups cider vinegar (2 1/2 cups )
-1 tablespoon celery seed (I only had about 1/2 teaspoon left after making pickles so I added about a tablespoon celery salt)
1 tablespoon mustard seeds (I used 2 teaspoons and threw in a little bit of carroway seeds on a whim)

Place the diced vegetables, vinegar, the mustard seeds, celery seed into a nonreactive pan and bring to a simmer for 10 minutes. And then carefully spoon into your jars, or use a wide mouth canning funnel. Once the jars are filled make sure that there is enough of the pickling brine to leave about a quarter inch worth of headspace in each jar. Process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes remove, allow to cool and make sure the jars sealed.

In case you’re wondering what you can use sweet relish on other than hotdogs? It is delicious in potato salad.

I’m kind of surprised that I had never thought to make my own sweet relish before, but I can tell you that for the amount of effort that was required for me to only make four jars that are a half pint each I will probably not purchase relish any at the store again. You also are not stuck using only apple cider vinegar. You could use garlic vinegar, plain white vinegar, red wine vinegar, or rice wine vinegar depending on the flavor you wanted. Just make sure that whatever vinegar you decide to use clearly states on the label that it is 5% acidity. It may seem that a lot of vinegar went in to the recipe but you can’t taste it. It’s there to create a food safe level of acidity to discourage your canned relish from going bad.

I think that I harped on the importance of food safety in canning enough in my garlic dill pickle post that I’m not going to re-iterate all of the things that I said there but the same principles and rules still apply. If something happens and your jar does not seal you have two options: one you can re-process the jar in the hot water bath for another 10 minutes, option two put it straight in your refrigerator and follow commonsense. If it looks moldy, smells funny, or you even think it’s not safe to eat don’t.

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Here’s a picture of three of the jars of relish that I made, the other one is in the refrigerator right now because I busted into it to add to the potato that I had made earlier in the weekend.

This stuff is addictive.

Garlic dill pickles

I made these yesterday, and wrote the post yesterday. I wanted to taste the pickles before posting. In case your wondering they are yummy.

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Here is an important thing to remember. I love pickles. LOVE. Big shouty capital letters love pickles. We regularly make fridge pickles. Basically fridge pickles are what happens when you follow the following procedure up until the point of the hot water bath. They are usually ready to eat within 3 to 5 hours of putting the lid on the jars.

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That is a bag of what is referred to as pickling cucumbers, or Kirby cucumbers. They are smaller, more bumpy, and quite honestly different than what is considered to be a salad cucumber. They have less noticeable seeds and a lower water content. I have also seen them referred to as salad cucumbers here in central Texas.

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These were purchased this morning at Barton Creek farmers market, it’s about 5 pounds of them separated into “large” medium and small size. Size terms in reference to pickling cucumbers is relative I personally would not purchase a pickling cucumber that is larger than 6 inches.

The small size pickling cucumbers which are very close to what it’s called a gerkin I used to try an experiment in making sweet relish. I’m going to post on that experiment later, but I will say I did the process in reverse order.

But, back to garlic dills

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Whenever I make pickles I’ve always made sliced pickles I’ve never really made spears. The reason for that is when making fridge pickles you want a thinly sliced cucumber that will pickle very quickly in the vinegar brine.

I start by slicing both ends off of the cucumber, come to find out later that is part of the reason I’ve had such success in making pickles. The end of the cucumber that was attached to the bush and has the blossom on it contains an enzyme that will cause the cucumber to make mushy pickles. Grape leaves inhibit this.

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When slicing the cucumbers I use a mandolin slicer with the wavy blade. In my own opinion this increases the surface area and and promotes quicker pickling especially in fridge pickles. For pickles that will be going through a hot water bath for proper canning I sliced them thicker then I would if I were simply making fridge pickles.

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The larger bowl is the sliced cucumbers that will be used in canning the pickle, the smaller bowl is the nub end of the cucumber that was no longer safe to slice on the mandolin.

Here is where I went wrong. In the future I would use those nubby ends to make relish. This time I used the ends
to make pickle chunks. If I had sliced the small cucumbers and saved the ends the way I did on the others I still would’ve had enough cucumbers for the relish recipe I’ll post later. That is the reason I’m posting about the pickles first and the relish later, don’t follow my mistakes.

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I harvested as much of the dill as I could while attempting to preserve the flowering head that are coming up on the plant.

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Take the sliced cucumbers and began to place them in the jars about halfway up in a clove of garlic and some of the fresh dill.

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These are the jars once they are packed. You want to get as many cucumbers in the jar as you can and then push them down, not to the point of bruising or squishing any of the cucumbers. But, you want to get as much airspace out of that jar as you can before you add the pickling solution.

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These are the packed jars with the pickling solution poured over the top.

At this point you’re probably saying awesome how do I do this?!
First take a second to visit a recipe at food in jars.

Copied and modified from Food In Jars post. The dashes are modifications, all pepper was omitted. I don’t like heat.

Garlic Dill Pickles

Makes approximately 8 pints (total yield varies depending on size of cucumbers)

-about 4 lbs pickling cucumbers, ends removed and sliced at least 3/16th inch thicko
– 3 cups apple cider vinegar
– 2 cups plain white vinegar (make sure of 5% acidity *
– 5 cups water
– 7 tablespoons pickling salt
16 (plus some) garlic cloves, peeled (2 per jar)**
– I used about 4 heads of fresh dill seed per jar. {1 teaspoon dill seed per jar (8 teaspoons total) if using store bought dill seed, if so don’t feel bad this is what I have used every other time I have made pickles, today I was lucky enough to have someone hand me fresh dill seed heads}
– 1 tablespoon celery seed
– 1 tablespoon mustard seed

Some housekeeping notes:

I use an 8 quart stainless steel stockpot for water bath canning. I use it because I found it at a Ross store for less than $20. Also, it won’t react with the vinegar.

I used pint widemouth jars for a these pickles. With one widemouth half pint jar for the remaining cucumber ends. I have worked in food service before and I understand the need for sterilization, and food sanitation. To sterilize the jars for canning purposes I use my dishwasher on a heat dry setting. I put the jars the lids and the band into the dishwasher for a full cycle. If you do not have a dishwasher boil everything for at the least 15 minutes. This is not a step that you can skimp on or halfway to do. If you have never looked up what botulism is please take a moment and do so now. It’s not funny and is not worth you slacking off that part of the canning process. If it seems like I am over stressing sterilization please understand that I work in a field where I encounter the aftermath of food borne illness on a regular basis.

After packing the cucumbers, and adding the pickling brine that has been brought to a boil make sure that the lid of the jars, the pink or red rubber seal is moistened before placing on top of the jars. This allows a good contact field before you loosely screw on the band.

(In case you’re wondering what I’m talking about when I say the band there is the glass jar there is the flat lid with a a rubber coating around the edge, and then the screwtop circular piece that circular piece is the band. I’m harping on these points because this post is aimed at someone who has never canned something to food storage specifications. If properly canned these pickles can sit on a shelf without refrigeration for a year or better. I recently ate some bread and butter pickles that I had canned two years ago.)

Place the sealed and loosely screwed jars into the hot water bath for exactly 10 minutes. If you purchase a basic canning kit that is available at Walmart it will come with a pair of jar grabbers, a jar funnel, and a headspace measuring tool. These are all very useful especially the jar grabber.

Once out of the hot water bath allow the jars to come to room temperature. Push in the center of the jar lid if you hear a popping noise stick that jar in the refrigerator immediately. That popping noise means the jar did not seal correctly in the hot water bath and is not safe to leave out at room temperature. You’re not always going to get hundred percent perfect seal rate when canning. In fact for me today that little half pint jar of pickles and did not seal, it is currently sitting in my fridge and is going to be what is known as fridge pickles.

If at this point you’re still reading and still intrigued please understand that this is not as daunting at the task as it seems. If you don’t have the materials to do the hot water bath you can put the jars of pickles in the refrigerator immediately after they have come to room temperature with the boiling vinegar brine. Those are fridge pickles I would say that they are safe to eat as long as they are not discolored, moldy, or smell funny. If you can’t tell that what you’re eating smells funny that my dear friend is Darwin in action.