Basically, if you can cook it, you can 'can' it too. Why settle for just green beans when you can have green beans and mushrooms. How does Red Cabbage & Apples sound, yum....with bacon too! We don't just mean homemade Spaghetti and meat balls. Corn beef & Cabbage anyone? Spanish Rice? Potato, Leek, & Mushroom soup? Carrots with Ginger & Almonds? MMMM....Boston Baked Beans anyone? Got your attention yet? How about Clam Chowder? That did it, you're dreaming now aren't you! These are just a few that we do as part of our normal canning season. Dinner in a Kerr or Ball jar is far better than dinner from a box. We would much rather go to the pantry instead of the store when we want canned mushrooms.
Ok, for those of you who haven't jumped on the pressure canning band wagon........let's go over some basic things first........
Pressure Canners - does size matter...
8 quart canner - we can fit 5 wide mouth pints or 6 regular wide pints into it. That's right, you can't pressure can quart jars in the 8 quart canner. We use it for small canning projects, like side dishes - green beans, carrots, etc.
12 quart canner - we can fit 10 regular pints, 8 wide mouth pints, OR 7 quarts OR a combination of 7 pints & quarts. We use this canner mainly for our quart canning, such as complete meal for two. Most big batches of soups, chili, stew, etc. will fill around 7 quarts.
22 quart canner - this is our dream canner. Though we can only fit 7 quart jars in it, we can fit up to 16 wide mouth pints or 20 regular pints. Saves lots of time when we start canning our garden or when we were canning some donated fish for the local soup kitchen.
All Canners are the same, right?
Gauge less Pressure Canners.....
You actually use the gadget itself to tell the canner how many pounds of pressure you need. Add the amount of water you need depending on the size of the canner. (2 quarts for our 8 quart canner; 2 1/2 quarts-3 quarts for our 22 quart canner). Add your jars, twist the lid secure. Turn on the heat to high and wait for the steam to come out of the vent tube. You need to let steam escape the Vent Tube for about 10 minutes, letting pressure build in the canner, than place the gadget on the Vent Tube (at the required 5, 10, or 15 pounds of pressure that your recipe calls for). All of them have an emergency safety release, or what they call a overpressure plug. This plug will pop, releasing all the pressure before it causes the canner to cause injury.
After the length of time you need for that recipe, you just turn off the canner and let it sit and cool for 30 minutes. After that time you can take the pressure control off the canner and open the lid. Remove the jars so they can cool completely. Replace the water and then you just start your next batch!
NOTE: It's ok if your canner pressure is higher than the recipe requires. But always make sure you don't build up to much pressure. With this canner, if you hear the pressure control wobble/giggle it's because you're getting far too much pressure in the canner! You can open the pressure control a little to let out steam until the pressure goes down to the safe zone.
Like the other type, you maintain the canner for the length of time needed to safely can the food. It also needs to be turned off at the end of time needed, allowed to cool for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes you open the pressure control for 10 minutes. Than you can open the canner and remove your jars to the counter to finish cooling. Replace the water and start another batch!
Been there, done that, so what?
There are some very simple points to make it fun feeding your family fantastic!
1. Green Leafy Vegies - lightly blanch them before you can them. You can get more green goodness in a pint by just blanching your greens.
2. Juice - don't be shy with flavor. Add fresh squeezed orange juice to your beet greens, yummy.
3. Mixing and Matching - if you want to combine thing, say green beans and mushrooms, use the longest time required. Green beans take 30 minutes (pint) and mushrooms take 45 minutes (pint). Simply process for the 45 minutes.
4. Meat & More - meat is the main stay for many meals, but it can be very expensive for many. By canning meat, you can make your money stretch and keep it safe to eat. But honestly, can meat cooked, really. Canning raw meat doesn't look lovely, nor does it have the flavor of cooked meat. Besides the drippings from the cooked meat will add tons of flavor to your favorite meal. Beans, need to be part way cooked before you can them. The canning process is never long enough to finish the cooking process and no one wants crunchy Baked Beans. You can even can most beans that are fully cooked if used in a complete meal. Fish & Seafood - Pints, that is the most important thing to know. Always can fish or seafood in pints.
5. Meals in Minutes - You can 'can' more than stew. So things need to be prepared or slightly cooked before you can them. There are advantages here. You want creamy soup? Add fully cooked potatoes, along with partially cooked potatoes. This gives your soup creamy thickness and still leaves potato chunks to make your meal filling. Beans? Add lentils to your dish, you'll have a thick bean soup with creamy fullness as the lentils make the base.
Don't add milk or sour cream to your meals, add the milk or sour cream when you heat up your dish.
Noodles don't work well in pressure canning. Besides, homemade noodles fresh is far better for your homemade goodness.
Rice. We have canned rice dishes. But if you use rice, expect one or two jars not to last on your shelf, even though many will. About 5%-10% of our rice dishes have been tossed because the lid popped on the shelf. But we still enjoy Red Beans & Rice, Spanish Rice, and more throughout the year! We don't lose enough to discourage us.
Ok, so either you haven't started yet or you are still new at it, but that doesn't mean you have to stay that way does it? Just think about that wonderful dinner you didn't have to cook on that day you were just too tired to do it. Lastly, think about the money you'll save at the grocery store!
Clam Chowder anyone?