Low-Acid

Better Than “Better Than Bouillon” Chicken Base

Chicken Base!

Chicken Base!

It’s here!  I know you’ve been breathlessly waiting for this post!  Or not.  Pretend for me anyway?

Actually, I made this about a month ago.

But then I turned 30 and people threw me a party and gave me a beautiful brand-new road bike and I’ve been gazing longingly at it for a week straight now.  I even took it out for a spin, but the country winds and 20-degree chill encouraged me back home to my warm living room where I could resume gazing:)

Don't judge my outfit...I live in the country!  No one sees me unless I put pictures of myself on the Internet...oh, wait...

Don’t judge my outfit…I live in the country! No one sees me unless I put pictures of myself on the Internet…oh, wait…

Anyway, I mentioned on this podcast that I wanted to learn how to make my own chicken base.  Since then, hundreds of people (ok, one person) have asked me if I’ve made it yet, so I’m happy to report that I have!  And it’s pretty easy to do!

Disclaimer- sorry about the terrible pictures…  I lost my camera for about two weeks and had to use my iPod to take pictures.  Fortunately, my husband found my camera, and it turns out it was right where I left it.  In the last place I looked.  (All those childhood memories of Mom saying those things coming back to you yet?  I have more!)

 

 

 

 

Chicken Base

Read through the directions first!  You need to refrigerate the stock before adding all the veggies!

What you will need:  (Recipe can be doubled)

  • one whole chicken 
  • 2-3 sticks of celery, chopped
  • 1/2 – 1 whole onion (or onion salt if you forgot to buy onions…), chopped
  • 2-3 carrots, chopped
  • salt
  • pepper
  • garlic salt
  • turmeric
  • stick blender or food processor

Directions:

  1. Place rinsed whole chicken in large stockpot, cover with water so the water is about 1-2 inches above the top of the chicken.  Bring to a boil, then simmer for 45 minutes or until chicken is completely cooked. 
  2. Remove chicken to cutting board.  Allow to cool slightly, then remove all meat from bones, returning bones to stockpot.  If possible, snap some of the smaller bones in half so the bone marrow will cook into your stock!  I know it sounds gross, but it is very good for you! Reserve chicken meat, you will be adding some of it back in at the end.
  3. Boil the bones for another 30 minutes or until they are “clean” (nearly no meat left on them at all).  At this point, the easiest method for removing all the bones is to strain the broth into a new, smaller pot.
  4. Refrigerate stock overnight.  Once completely cooled, the fat will rise to the top and you can easily skim it off.  Return to stove, bring to a boil.
  5. Add celery, onions, carrots, salt and pepper to taste (like 1/2 tsp of each, you can add more later), turmeric to color.  (By color, I mean add it until your broth is a nice yellow color that looks attractive to you.  Or don’t add it at all if those things don’t matter to you.  Personally, a yellow broth tricks my brain into thinking it’s gourmet.  I know that’s weird, but who am I to argue with my brain?)
  6. Now the boring fun part.  Bring stock to a boil, then reduce heat so it is boiling gently, not too hard.  Now walk away and find something else to for an hour while your stock reduces.  This amount of time will depend heavily on your broth-to-vegetable ratio.  The more broth you have, the longer this will take to reduce, of course.  Once your stock has reduced to about half, add 1 cup of chicken meat back in.  Using a stick blender (also referred to as an immersion blender) or transferring your stock to a food processor, puree all ingredients.  If your base is still thin, continue to gently boil until it is reduced to the thickness you desire.  You could also add more chicken and puree that in, as that will also increase the consistency as well as the protein content!

Whisking in ClearJel

A couple of notes:

  • I added the vegetables after the bones were drained so you wouldn’t have to try to fish all the bones out amongst the veggies.  Since it needs to reduce anyway, there’s time for the veggies to cook down.
  • I added the chicken last after the first reduction because I believe overcooked chicken isn’t going to make this taste all that amazing.
  • You will probably need to add more salt at the end.  When you taste it, it should taste way too salty.  Keep in mind that you are adding this to water or broth to enhance the flavor of your soups!  (It’s also a sneaky way to get picky eaters to eat veggies and chicken!)
  • I looked everywhere on the Internet for chicken base recipes, and didn’t find anything very specific, so this is very unscientific, of course!  I did read somewhere that cooking the bones too long will also result in an undesirable taste, I have never stumbled upon that misfortune though.  But I thought I’d warn you.  Probably cooking them just until all the meat falls off is sufficient.
  • I was going for a very similar product to Better Than Bouillon, because that’s what I buy and like.  I could not get it to the exact consistency to BTB, so I tried adding ClearJel to some of it to experiment (because at that point I was still planning on canning it, and you can use ClearJel to can with, unlike cornstarch).  I do not recommend this to you because while it did thicken it to the consistency I wanted, it also deadened the taste substantially and I had to add a lot more salt than I would have preferred.  The rest of my base that I did not thicken with ClearJel, while thin, did not require as much added salt to achieve the taste my family likes.  The next time I make this, I will add more chicken, which will help it be closer to the BTB consistency I so desire.  The nice part about that is you can always add more and more chicken since it’s the last thing you do!  (I don’t know why I didn’t think of that when I was cooking it.  Hindsight. 20/20. ‘Nuff said.)
Base with ClearJel on the right - Just to show consistency differences

Base with ClearJel on the right – Just to show consistency differences

  • I ended up freezing my base into ice cube trays rather than canning it.  I still plan on canning it in the future, I just ran out of desire to spend any more time in the kitchen this particular day.  The ice cube tray method works perfectly though, and is just as convenient as canning it, I think.  To use it, I just add one or two cubes to my soups and they melt right in!  It’s pretty cool, actually, and I feel a little bit like a genius.  I can see the Pin now:  “One ice cube tray of chicken base equals 8 quarts of broth!”  Or whatever.  Pinterest is annoying.  And cool.  I’m annoyed by all the make-your-life-easier stuff on it and yet I’m wildly addicted to it.  I need a Pinners Anonymous Group or something.  PAG.
  • I’m in a weird mood today.
  • Your base may have turned out differently than mine.  You will have to play around with experimenting to find exactly what your taste buds like.  Start with one cube per quart, and if that isn’t flavorful enough, add another one.  I actually added up to 4 cubes to one soup I made where I had started with water!  If you start with broth, you’ll need less base.
About 2 cubes will flavor 1 quart of water (4 cups) for delicious Chicken Soup!

About 2 cubes will flavor 1 quart of water or broth (4 cups) for delicious Chicken Soup!

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Categories: Freezing, Low-Acid, Poultry, Soup | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

The Last of the Garden: Potatoes!

I was a little late in harvesting my potatoes this year… I got busy trying to get into a new routine that included beginning homeschool for my preschooler!  I didn’t make it out to the garden for over a week, and in that time the potato vines went from “dying” to “dead”.  It wasn’t a big deal, the potatoes were fine for the most part, although they were beginning to get molested by some sort of bug or fungus.

Potatoes are fun to grow.  Have you ever tried growing them?  I didn’t grow nearly as many as I intended to this year.  I completely forgot to even plant sweet potatoes, and I wish I would have at least doubled the white and red potatoes that I planted.   They are so easy to grow, and require absolutely no attention while they grow besides weeding.  As an added bonus, come harvest, you get to dig in the dirt and search for them!  It’s fun for all ages!

This is the first time I’ve ever “preserved” potatoes.  I know I could have stored them in the basement long term just in a brown paper bag, but for one, I didn’t have that many, and secondly I was a little concerned about some of the potatoes that looked like a bug got to them.  I wasn’t sure if they would store well or rot quickly.  Lastly, I actually purchase sliced canned potatoes (*gasp!*) because my husband makes the most delicious fried potatoes with them.  The canned kind cook up so much tastier than a fresh potato sliced does, too.  So anyway, it made sense to me to slice and can my potatoes instead of storing them in the basement and hoping they last, while still purchasing canned potatoes.  Right?  🙂
This was pretty easy to do…once you get all the potatoes peeled, that is.  But after you get through that, the rest is simple!

Sliced Canned Potatoes

What you will need:

  • Food Processor
  • Colander
  • Stainless Steel Stock Pot
  • Peeled white potatoes (I forgot to weigh mine!  The Ball Book says you’ll need 2-3 lbs per pint if CUBING them.  Eyeballing my pile, it looks like around 6-7lbs, and I got 3 quarts of slices out of that.  Don’t quote me on it though.)
  • Boiling Water

Directions:

  1. After you peel each potato, put it into a stainless steel pot filled with cold water to prevent browning.  Once all the potatoes are peeled, drain them into a colander, rinse them, and fill the pot back up with fresh cold water and put the potatoes back in the water.
  2. Using your food processor with the slicing attachment (or a sharp chef knife and careful fingers!), slice each of the potatoes, putting the slices immediately back into the water to keep them from browning.  Once you have sliced all the potatoes, put the full pot on the stove and begin to heat the water.
  3. Begin heating clean jars in your pressure canner on the stove, and lids in a separate pan.  Fill another pot with water and bring to a boil.  (I actually just used my teapot for easier pouring!)
  4. Heat the sliced potatoes until they are hot through.  You don’t need to boil them.  Just pull one slice out with a tongs and check if it’s hot.  Once they are hot, you are ready to fill the jars.  Drain the potatoes back into a colander, then fill the hot jars.
  5. Fill jars with boiling water to a 1-inch headspace.  Using a plastic tool, slide it between the potato slices and the jar, releasing air bubbles.  Adjust headspace if needed.
  6. Wipe rims and place lids on jars.  Tighten rings, and place back in the canner.
  7. Vent 10 minutes, set gauge to 10lbs psi, and let pressure build.  Once 10 or 11 lbs psi is achieved, process pints for 35 minutes and quarts for 40 minutes.
  8. Turn off heat and allow pressure to return to zero naturally.  Once it reaches zero, wait 2 more minutes, then remove gauge and canner lid.  Wait 10 minutes for jars to acclimate to your kitchen temperature, then remove jars to a towel on the counter.
  9. Let jars cool completely, clean lids, label and store up to 1 year!

    Don’t they look kind of neat stacked up in there?

Ty’s Delicious Fried Sliced Potatoes

There’s no specific recipe for these.  You basically just heat some oil and butter in a fry pan, add the potatoes, a little  red wine vinegar, lots of salt and pepper, and some more butter.  Fry them, stirring minimally, until they are brown and the outsides are crispy.  Serve them with a perfectly grilled medium-rare steak.  That is an order!  (I had a picture of these, but for some reason I can’t get it to upload.  Computers are weird when they’re selective.)

Categories: Canning, Low-Acid, Potatoes | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Preserved Garlic: Delicious Meets Healthy…Maybe

Why preserve garlic? 

Garlic is one of Nature’s most helpful foods.  Besides warding off pesky vampires, it’s also renowned for preventing and treating colds, the flu, and cold sores.  I found this quote very interesting, although I admit I did not follow up on the source to see if it’s true or not.  This source seems to back that up, though.

“Modern science has shown that garlic is a powerful natural antibiotic, albeit broad-spectrum rather than targeted. The bacteria in the body do not appear to evolve resistance to the garlic as they do to many modern pharmaceutical antibiotics. This means that its positive health benefits can continue over time rather than helping to breed antibiotic resistant ‘superbugs’.” (Source)

At any rate, there is some speculation that garlic loses some of it’s antibiotic qualities once cooked.  It does not, however, lose any of it’s delicious, delicious flavor.

And isn’t that what eating should be about?  Flavor?  Enjoyment?  What a treat it is to find a food that is all a food should be.  Flavor.  Enjoyment.  Nutritious.  Guilt-free.

Well you aren’t gonna find the latter here, because we are about to smother the former three adjectives in sugar, oil and alcohol.  Guilt, you can come pop a squat right next to this cellulite!

Preserved Garlic (Because it might be good for you…  )

What you will need: (Makes 4 half-pints)

  • 2lbs whole garlic, about 5 cups
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/3 cup sherry vinegar or champagne vinegar
  • pressure canner

Directions:

The first thing you need to do is peel the garlic, if you were a big enough sucker to buy whole garlic instead a jar of pre-peeled cloves.  *Ahem*  Let me just tell you that if you have never peeled 2 lbs of garlic by hand on a sweaty afternoon with two small children begging for attention, you just haven’t lived.  I can however, offer some tips on how to “quickly” peel garlic.  There’s three ways:

  1. Watch this video.  It’s some kind of magic trick.  I couldn’t get it to work, but I think it’s because I’m not a 250-lb super strong man.  I also don’t have two large bowls the same size.
  2. Cut off the large end of each clove, then rock the flat edge of a chef knife over the clove and the skin should fall off fairly easily.  Be careful with your pressure though.  It’s okay if the clove gets a little smashed, but you want the clove to remain as intact as possible.
  3. Soak the cloves in water for at least 1 minute, then peel.  This is the method I used, and it took me about 2 hrs to peel 2lbs.  (Now you know why I put quotes around the “quickly” up there.) I did take several breaks though to address my children.

I eventually got an assembly line of sorts going on: Separate the cloves, Soak the cloves, Cut off the ends, Peel, Admire.

I got this recipe from this blog, and while most people would be grateful enough just for the amazing recipe, I am also eternally grateful for this different, much easier way to sterilize/keep the jars hot.  I struggled to sterilize them on the stove because my back large burner doesn’t work, and the pot is too large to place over a small burner.

Anyway, here’s how you do it:  Turn your oven to 220 degrees.  Place 5 half-pint jars (it’s always good to prepare an extra jar just in case) in a pan or on a baking sheet and place in oven until ready to use.  (He also said you can sterilize the lids in the oven, but I chose to heat them in simmering water on the stove.)

*****UPDATED****** I don’t do this anymore.  I got a new large burner for my stove, and now I just heat the jars in the canner while I’m preparing recipes.  You can use the stove method, but it’s not recommended in the Ball Book of Home Preserving because ovens have inconsistent temperatures and there is a chance that the varying temperatures can cause breakage when you go from the oven to the hot water.  (I never lost a jar doing that, though.  So whatever.)

Meanwhile, prepare pressure canner with 3 inches of water.  Heat over medium heat.

Now for the garlic:  In a large saute pan, heat the oil then cook the peeled cloves over medium heat.  Add the salt.

Beginning to brown…

Once the cloves begin to brown, after about 10 minutes, add the sugar and cook 3-5 more minutes or until they begin to caramelize.

Sugar added, caramelizing…

Add the sherry vinegar and turn the heat up to medium-high.  Cook for about 2 minutes.

Adding the sherry vinegar…

Remove jars from oven and fill with cloves and sauce, leaving a 1- inch headspace.

I used 2 half-pints, and 3 jelly jars (process all for 10 minutes)

I added a little extra oil and sherry vinegar (a few drops of each) to each jar so that the garlic was almost covered.  Wipe rims with a vinegar-soaked paper towel, add lids and rims, tighten, and place jars in canner.

Allow canner to vent 10 minutes, then set to 10lbs pressure.  Once pressure is achieved, cook 10 minutes for half-pints, 20 minutes for pints.  Allow canner to return pressure to 0lbs, then remove vent and lid.  Wait 10 minutes, then remove jars to a towel on the counter and let cool completely.

Okay, I confess:  I didn’t wait for them to cool completely.  We had company over for dinner that night and I was in the mood for some serious compliments.  I served these over perfectly grilled steaks (grilled by my grill-master hubby) with a glass of full-bodied red wine and smiled nonchalantly at each exclamation of delight.

This is why you preserve garlic.  Because they so good that when you are sneaking downstairs in the middle of the night for a snack, you eyeball the jar of them and seriously consider choosing preserved garlic over M&M’s.

And because they might be good for you 😉

Categories: Canning, Low-Acid, Vegetables | Tags: , , , ,

Wild Sockeye Salmon…For Breakfast!

Yesterday while grocery shopping I happened across a beautiful slab of wild-caught Sockeye salmon.  (Alaskan Red Sockeye) I practically stopped in my tracks because they are pretty hard to find around here except for commercially canned versions.  I’ve been on a salmon kick lately, due to this AMAZINGLY addicting recipe, and I’ve been hankering to try canning my own.  But I have looked high and low for fresh Sockeye salmon, and had not been able to find it anywhere!  oh, there’s plenty of farm-raised, color-added stuff out there, reasonably priced, even.  But I wanted the good stuff!  It was frozen, but in Ohio, that’s about as “fresh” as I’m gonna get!

You can understand my excitement at finding it!   It was $9.99/lb, which seemed a little steep to me, but never having had the privilege of buying it before, I didn’t have much of a frame of reference.  So I bought it on faith, and looked up prices online when I got home.  Fresh fish is always market price, so it’s hard to find local prices online.  I did find a few online stores that sold frozen Sockeye, and they were around $15.00 – $18.95/lb!  For commercially canned Sockeye, the best price I found online is around $0.72 per ounce, if bought in bulk.  (My Sockeye was $0.62 per ounce.)

So go me!  Turns out I found an incredible deal!  I’m going to tweak our budget a little and go back to Giant Eagle and get another slab!

I researched online and read a few forums on the best way to can salmon, and ultimately decided to just follow The Ball’s instructions.  I was a bit thrown when it said not to add any liquid, but Ol’ Ball hasn’t done me wrong yet!

So without further ado…ok, maybe just a little more ado…

Canned Salmon (or any fish, except tuna)

What you will need:

  • 2lbs Salmon, your choice.  I obviously prefer Sockeye
  • 1/2 Cup Canning Salt
  • 8 Cups of Water
  • 10 Half pint or 5 pint jars, no larger*
  • Pressure Canner and supplies

*Because seafood is very low in acidity, you must can them in half-pint or pint jars.  Heat penetration of larger jars may be inadequate to destroy bacterial spores.  (Source: Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, page 394)

Directions:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1. In a large stainless steel bowl, create a brine by dissolving the salt in the water.    Slice the salmon into pieces that will fit into your jars.  (I did 10 pieces – 2 per pint) Soak salmon in the brine in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Prepare pressure canner and lids 30 minutes before you are ready to pack the fish into the jars.  Wash jars, but do not heat them since you will be raw-packing the fish.  (Putting chilled fish into hot jars could cause breakage.)

3. When the fish is done soaking, drain and rinse for 10 minutes.  I don’t have a picture for this step because I forgot it.  The step.  Not the picture.  If you skip this step accidentally too, don’t worry.  I don’t think it affected the salmon much, if at all!

(Mmmm…suddenly I have a strange craving for sushi…)

4. Pack salmon into jars, with the skin side out.   Leave at least a 1″ headspace.  DO NOT ADD LIQUID.  (I know it’s weird, but trust me!  The oils pulled from the fish during processing will fill the jar about halfway with liquid.)  Here the Ball Book says “Remove any visible air bubbles.”  That part made me laugh a little…isn’t the whole jar a giant air bubble if there’s no liquid in it?  But just for good measure I swished the plastic tool around a little bit, releasing imaginary air bubbles.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. Put a little vinegar on a paper towel and clean the rims of the jars.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6. Remove the lids from the simmering water and seal the jars.  Tighten rings.

7. Place jars in canner, adjust water depth if needed (As long as you had at least 3″ in there to begin with, you’ll be fine).  Lock lid, allow pressure to build and vent for 10 minutes then close vent.  Set gauge at 10lbs, and once pressure is achieved cook for 100 minutes for both half pints and pints.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8. Turn off heat and allow pressure to return to zero naturally.  Wait 2 more minutes, then open vent.  Remove lid, wait 10 minutes, then remove jars to a towel and let cool.  When they are completely cool, check lids for resistance and store for up to 1 year.  Although if you’ve tried this recipe from Keeper of The Home, they won’t last 1 month!

That’s it!  I think so far this was the easiest canning adventure I’ve ever had.  In fact, it was so easy that I kept thinking “What did I forget?  What did I miss?”.  Turns out I did miss step 3, and I fretted for awhile that the salmon would turn out too salty as a result of that, but it is great!  I also think next time I’ll either pack more into the pint jars or use half-pint jars for the same amount (around 5-7 oz in each pint).  I think it’s fine how I did it, but it seems like a waste of space to me.  (And admittedly, aesthetically it’s kinda bugging me…)

So I wanted to be able to tell you how it tasted and show you pictures of the finished product, so I went ahead and opened one this morning.

 

 

It looks a little unappetizing with the skin on, but  I scraped the skin off easily and flaked it up.  It flaked the same way commercially canned salmon does.  The salmon aroma was very pleasant, not as fishy as I’ve smelled before.  (Although if you’re not a salmon-lover, it will probably smell pretty fishy to you.)

Nice color, eh?  It definitely is a few hues lighter than it’s original beautiful red, but I was impressed at how pink it still was after canning it.  Now it’s time to taste it!  I don’t know about you, but I don’t usually wake up thinking, “Mmm, how about some salmon for breakfast?”  Nah, I’m more of an eggs and toast or yogurt kinda girl.  However, I already had plans for lunch and dinner, and really wanted to get this post on here today.  Plus I really was curious about how it would taste!  A quick Internet search for salmon suggested omelets or quiches, which sounded pretty good to me.  But Ty wasn’t interested in broadening his breakfast taste buds past cereal and I didn’t really want to go all gourmet just for little old me.  So I chopped up a potato and fried that up with oil, butter and rosemary, then scrambled an egg with about 3 teaspoons of salmon and 1/4 tsp of dried dill.  I topped the scrambled egg with a slice of mozzarella/provolone blend, added a little drizzle of hot sauce on the potatoes and YUM!  That was a delicious breakfast!  (Ha, ha, Ty!  Sucker!  Hope that cereal was everything you thought it’d be!)  

The Verdict:

I am THRILLED to report that the salmon turned out excellent!  I will absolutely be canning my own salmon whenever possible!

Categories: Canning, Low-Acid, Seafood | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Condensed Cream of Chicken Soup

Part of my quest in canning is to eliminate all commercially canned items from my pantry.  A big one, especially around any of the winter holidays is Campbell’s condensed cream soups.  I mean, who wants to just eat regular old vegetables when you can smother them in creamy goodness and bake every last nutrient out?  Okay, fine, I’ll eat vegetables the way God intended them for most of the year.  But when it’s a holiday, by golly I will make them taste good!  And yes, my birthday counts as a holiday.  So do Friday nights.

This is a pretty good recipe!  It doesn’t taste exactly like Campbell’s, but I would actually dare to say it is better.  It has a richer, more honest flavor.  I did add a little extra salt because we’re so used to Campbell’s, and I am still gradually weaning my family off of a high-sodium lifestyle. I got the recipe from Six Sister’s Stuff.  That link will take you to a delicious recipe, including how to make your own Hidden Valley Ranch spice packet!  I made that the same night as this cream of chicken soup, mixed it together and served it with chicken over rice.  It was pretty tasty, but I want to try their slow cooker recipe with pork chops next.

Condensed Cream of Chicken Soup                                                                            (Yields 3 cups of soup, which is equal to about 2 cans of Campbell’s Condensed Cream of Chicken.)

What you will need:

1 1/2 cups chicken broth*
1/2 tsp poultry seasoning
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp parsley
1/8 tsp paprika
1 1/2 cups milk
3/4 cup flour (can use gluten free flour)

Directions:
1. In medium-sized saucepan, boil chicken broth, 1/2 cup of the milk, and the seasonings for a minute or two (longer if using fresh onions or garlic).
2. In a bowl, whisk together the remaining 1 cup of milk and flour. Add to boiling mixture and continue whisking briskly until mixture boils and thickens.
*This is especially flavorful if you make your own chicken stock!
I doubled this recipe, used some for dinner that night, refrigerated some more for another meal, and froze the rest!  It’s not recommended to can foods with dairy, unfortunately, because the fat in dairy could encapsulate any bacteria in the product, and even the heat from pressure canning isn’t high enough to permeate it.  That’s fine, just freeze it!  I agree it would be more convenient to be able to can it, but it probably isn’t worth the risk.
Categories: Freezing, Leftovers, Low-Acid, Poultry, Soup

Canning Dried Beans

Beans, beans, the musical fruit
The more you eat, the more you toot
The more you toot, the better you feel
So eat your beans at every meal!

Any post with the word “toot” in it has to be a good one, right?  I for one, love beans.  I would work them into every meal if my husband would allow it, but alas, beans are permitted only once a week or so.  Regardless, I buy a lot of beans.  I eat chickpeas in my salads, sneak white kidney beans into soups and pride myself on my bean-packed homemade chili.  (“Homemade” = opening cans of tomato sauce, beans, and a spice packet.  Yeah, I’m amazing.)  Well, recently I have become aware of the existence of BPA in canned foods, and am working towards eliminating canned foods in our home.  I took a “before” picture of my pantry, and I’m hoping that by this time next year, my “after” picture will contain only canned-in-jars food!  Beans is a big step towards that, since one whole shelf is dedicated to them!

I chose to can red kidney beans, black beans, and chickpeas this time around.  I’ll hit up some other varieties at a later date.  The process is the same for any dried variety, so feel free to shake it up!

Canning Dried Beans

What You Will Need:

  • 4 lbs Dried Beans = 13 Pints
  • Pressure Canner (beans are a low-acid food and MUST be pressure canned.)
  • Canning tools
  • Canning salt – optional.  I did not use any, but I will tell you how to use it if you choose to.

Directions:

Wash and sort your beans.  Discard any discolored or diseased-looking beans.

Place beans in a large pot, fill with water and bring to a boil.  Boil 2-3 minutes, then remove from heat and let soak while you wash your jars and sterilize them.

How to sterilize jars:  In a 20-qt pot or your pressure canner, sink your jars in enough water to completely cover them.  Bring to a boil and boil 10 minutes.  Let the jars sit in the hot water to keep them hot until you are ready to fill them, one at a time.  

If you have a dishwasher, just run the dishwasher to clean and sterilize them and leave them in your dishwasher until you are ready to fill them.

Out of my 4 burners, only my two little ones and one of the big ones works, so I had to sterilize my jars on the burner that worked before I could start heating up my canner.  If all 4 of your burners work, add an inch of water to your pressure canner and start heating it up.  Once your jars are sterilized and you begin to fill them, you can use the hot water from that to add to your pressure canner so you have 3-4 inches of water.

Meanwhile, get a kettle of water boiling in your teapot or another pan.  You will need this to fill your jars.

If you are as slow as I am, or as distracted by children as I am, this has probably taken you a good hour to get your jars ready.  That is good timing, because your beans should be pretty well soaked by now!  Drain your beans, rinse them one more time and set near your filling station. (A towel on the counter next to your pressure canner.  Keep all your tools handy on the towel.)

One at a time, gripping your jar firmly with the jar lifter, remove the jar from the sterilizing water, dump the hot water into your pressure canner, and set the empty hot jar on a towel.  Ladle beans into the jar.  You’ll probably want to use a funnel to keep the beans from making a mess.  Or maybe you are more coordinated than I am…  I needed the funnel.

If you want to add canning salt, this is the time to do it.  1/2 teaspoon to each pint (1 tsp to quarts).

Fill the jars with hot water from your teapot to a 1″ headspace.

With a plastic knife or tool, carefully stir the beans to make sure any trapped air bubbles get released.

WIPE YOUR RIMS.  Don’t forget this very important step!  If you don’t wipe your rims, and somehow a particle of bean is left on the rim, your lids will not seal correctly and you will have a jar of rotten beans!

In a small pan, bring your lids and some water to an ALMOST boil.  Just so the water is hot, not quite boiling.  It’s ok if you are just now doing this step, your bean-filled jars will stay hot while you do this.  Once your lids are hot, use your magnetic lid-lifter to lift them out of the water, place them on your jars and screw the bands on.  Fill your pressure cooker AFTER making sure you have at least 3 inches of water!  (I played it safe and put in 4″)  If you have a pressure cooker like mine, you can do 2 layers of pint jars.  I have been dying to try this out!  I think it’s the coolest thing ever.

At this point, I was completely ready to lock my canner and crank up the heat, but I still had a ton of beans left!  (I had only started with 9 pint jars)  So I found 4 more pint jars and quickly washed and sterilized them (while keeping the other jars hot with the lid on the canner)

Anyway, YOU won’t do that, because YOU are learning from my mistakes.  4lbs = roughly 13 pint jars.  Obviously the teeny tiny black beans won’t take as many jars as the big kidney or chickpeas will.  Next time I will just wash and sterilize 14 pint jars, which is all that will fit in my canner anyway.  If I don’t use some, no big deal.  At least I won’t have to scramble at the last minute like I did this time!

Processing Dried Beans

(Yes, I am boiling more eggs!  Those pickled eggs were awesome!)

On medium-high heat, allow the canner to vent for 10 minutes.  Process pint jars 75 minutes at 10lbs psi, and quart jars 90 minutes at 10lbs.  Allow gauge to return to zero, (this could take an hour.  Be patient) then wait 10 minutes, remove weight, then remove the lid.  Place jars back on the towel and allow to cool.  Stick around to listen for the “pop”!  Once the jars are cool (at least an hour later), remove the rings and test the seals.  Just use your fingers and apply medium pressure.  They should not budge.  If any failed to seal, refrigerate the beans and use in the next few days.  You *can* reprocess them, but it’s not recommended because it alters the flavor.

I have to tell you, my jars of beans have been sitting on my counter for three days now because I’m so satisfied with myself and I just like looking at them.  I’m no longer dependent on canned beans!  I don’t have to try to remember to soak beans the night before!  Muwahahaha!  I feel powerful, which is a little ironic since my actions are actually a regression from technology and convenience.  But that’s okay.  My homemade canned beans cost about a third of store-bought canned beans and I’m not getting any nasty toxins.  It’s worth it to regress!

Categories: Beans, Canning, Low-Acid | Tags: , , , , ,

Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup

Since I did not put as much chicken into my quarts as I should have when I canned chicken soup, I had lots of leftover chicken to use up.  This is hardly a problem around here, and when in doubt, into soup it shall go!  I decided to freeze what we didn’t eat to show you an easy way to preserve foods by freezing.  (Ok, truthfully, I hadn’t even cleaned out my pressure canner yet, and was kind of dreading doing so!  It’s heavy!)

Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup

What you will need:

Directions:

Chop veggies and add to pot.  I also added more chicken since I didn’t have enough in my quarts that I canned.                                  

Add the quart of chicken soup and bring to a boil.  Add base, and several handfuls of washed spinach or arugula.  No need to chop the spinach, it will naturally shrivel up to bite-sized pieces in the hot soup!  I’ve made this with spinach and arugula, and I would say the arugula lends a better, peppery flavor.  

In a separate pan, bring the orzo and about 2 cups of water to a boil.  You don’t want to add uncooked pasta or rice to your soup because it will soak up all your lovely stock! 

Cook it in water (or different stock or broth) and add it once the orzo is tender and the remaining water has been drained.

Bring back to a boil, add generous amounts of lemon juice.  I would say it needs about 1/2 cup.  I would start with 1/4 cup, taste it, and decide what it needs.  If it needs more lemon, add more juice.  If it needs more salt, add more base.  Add base by 1/2 teaspoons at a time, because too much base is difficult to fix!  (Learned that on lobster bisque – DOH!) Add a little pepper, and voila!  I served this on our date-night with homemade garlic bread.  (Quick recipe: leftover hamburger buns opened, spread with butter, liberally doused with garlic salt and broiled in the oven at 500 degrees until they’re browned.  Browned, not burnt to a crisp.  I almost always burn them to a crisp.)           

There was enough for four 2-cup servings from this batch.  The girls were off at the grandparent’s house and frankly, after cooking two whole chickens and making tons of soups from them, we are little tired of soup.  (*Gasp!*  I said WHAT?)  Freezing the rest of this soup was a better option!

Here is my favorite way to freeze soups:

Grab a freezer baggie.  I used a quart-sized one.  Write the contents and the date made on the baggie BEFORE filling it with soup.  (Learned that one the hard way, too)

Ladle soup into the baggie, seal it closed as close to the top of the soup as possible to eliminate as much air as you can.  Now for the clever part:  (I’m being a little ironic.  You probably already know this trick, but it took me about 6 years to figure this out.)  Clear a spot in your freezer so you can lay the soup flat.    

Once it is frozen, you can turn it upright and file it neatly under “soup”!  This is a definite space-saver!

I hope you all have a lovely Easter tomorrow!  Don’t fret over all those leftover hard-boiled eggs…  Hang on to them and stay tuned for an excellent way to turn a carton (or cartons!) of color-tinged eggs into finger-lickin’ treats!

I may have staged this shot, but he still loved the soup!

Categories: Freezing, Low-Acid, Poultry, Soup

Versatile Chicken Soup

What can you do with two whole chickens?  Make a TON of soup!  Two chickens will net you over 7 quarts of chicken stock and around 3 quarts of shredded chicken.  Two chickens will also conveniently fit into my 921 All-American pressure canner/cooker!  It’s kind of cool that I was able to make stock and then turn around a can it all in the same container.  Although I will admit I had a bit of a head-scratcher trying to figure out where to put all that stock while I washed the canner and prepared everything for canning.  I probably dirtied more dishes than necessary, and next time will probably save the canner for canning.  It was a satisfying experiment, anyway.

I decided to can just stock and chicken, so that I could use them as a base for any chicken soup.  I make a few different chicken soups and usually the only common ingredients are chicken and stock.  At the end of this post are a few of those recipes.

Canning Chicken Soup from Two Whole Chickens

Makes 7 Quarts
(Plus a little extra for immediate consumption!)

What you will need:

  • Two Whole Raw Chickens
  • 2-3 Carrots, washed and cut into chunks
  • 2-3 stalks of Celery, washed and cut into chunks
  • 1/2 tsp Onion Salt
  • A Pressure Canner – NOTE: You can NOT use a water bath canner when canning low-acid foods like poultry.  You must use a pressure canner!
  • Canning tools: a plastic ruler, a jar lifter, a lid lifter.  You can get a handy little set that includes all these things in the canning aisle at most grocery stores.

Directions:

First, rinse your chickens well.  Make sure there aren’t any remaining feathers (ew) and be sure to rinse the cavity on both ends as well.  I admit, cooking with whole chickens is not for the weak.  Just take a deep breath and focus on the prize.  Once your chickens are rinsed, place them in a 20-quart pot and fill 2/3 of the way with water.  Add carrots and celery.  You don’t have to be precise with the veggies, just hack them up and throw them in there.  They’re just in there to round out the flavor of your stock and will be discarded at the end.  Add a few dashes about 1/2 tsp, of onion salt, and bring the water to a boil.  Let boil for about 20 minutes, and then check the chicken.  It will fall apart easily when it’s done.

While this is boiling, wash your jars and rings.  Jars should be kept hot.  Either leave them in your dishwasher until you’re ready to fill them, or fill a large pot with water and keep your jars in that.  The water does not need to be boiling, just hot.  According to my canner’s instruction manual, foods that are going to be processed in a pressure canner do not need to be pre-sterilized.                                    

Once your chickens are done, remove the meat from the bones.  Again, not for the weak-stomached.  This works the best when you work with hot or warm chicken.  I don’t recommend letting the chicken get cold before trying to remove the meat.  It comes off much easier when it’s warm.  I attacked mine while it was still hot with two forks.  It took about 20 minutes to clean both chickens, and once the bones were safely deposited in the trash, I was able to start enjoying the rest of the process. Store all the chicken meat in a bowl and set it aside.                                     

Now it’s time to skim the stock.  Place a strainer over another large pot (or several medium pots, in my case) and ladle cups of stock through the strainer.

Discard the contents of the strainer, wash your canner (if you used it to make the stock) and let’s can!  (Did anyone else start singing Moulin Rouge?)

I experimented here.  Everywhere I read said NOT to add noodles to the canning process, and to add them when you’re ready to serve the soup, but I wanted to try adding noodles to see how it would turn out.  (See: Noodle Verdict below)

I chose to add noodles to just two jars to experiment what the canning process would do to them.  In case it completely destroys them or generates botulism or something, I will only have wasted two quarts.

Next, fill the jars with chicken.  I didn’t do this correctly.  I actually put some of the chicken back into the stock which, in hindsight, was dumb because later I wished I had put MORE chicken in each jar.  So, “learn from my mistake”.  (I have a feeling that will be a recurring theme in each post.  Eventually I’ll probably have a whole page dedicated to Do What I Say, Not What I Do”.)  In your empty jars, fill them about halfway with chicken.  Add the stock LAST.  Fill the jars within 1-inch of the top.  The books recommend measuring it with a ruler to be fairly exact on that 1-inch margin.  Once the jars are full, swish a plastic spoon or ruler around in there to release any trapped air bubbles.

Next, wipe the rims of the jars with a clean, wet rag or paper towel.  This is a really important step.  If there are any food particles left on the rim, it could cause the jar to fail to seal correctly, which in turn will allow evil air to get into your stored jars, botulising them and killing off the lot of you.  (I know botulising isn’t a word, but it worked in my sentence and hopefully terrified you into always remembering to wipe your rims!) 

Canning lids are supposed to be heated in hot (not boiling) water before use.  This sterilizes them for use.  If you have a jar lifter, use that to remove them from the hot water.  If not, drain the water, use your fingers and move fast!  (Or I suppose you could use tongs if you’re a giant wuss or something…)   Just set the lid on top of the jar, and screw on the rings.  You don’t have to use superhuman strength or ask your husband to do it, just use your own girlie strength to tighten the rings. 

Before adding the jars to your canner, make sure there is 3 inches of water in there.  After this project, I invested in a 47-cent plastic ruler to keep in the kitchen, so you don’t have to tease me (much) about using a tape measure for this.  The water level is important because during the canning process, the water turns to steam, which is what is cooking your food.  If you don’t have enough water, you won’t get enough steam, and ultimately you’ll destroy your canner if it goes dry.  So always check your water level before adding any jars, and make sure there is a good 3 inches in there.  It said all that in my instruction manual, just worded more professionally and with less commas. 

Add the rack and then your jars!  Getting excited yet?  I sure was!  Don’t forget to put the rack in there, though!  The jars are not supposed to sit directly on the bottom of the canner!                                                        

When you put the lid on, you’re not supposed to lock one screw at a time.  You’re supposed to lock two at a time, opposite each other.  It’s also important to make sure the pot is facing forward as well as the lid, so that both warning labels are facing you.  (Guess who didn’t do that until her husband pointed it out?)  Turn your stove on high and wait.  It takes a surprisingly long time for the water to boil, and even longer for it to start venting.  For chicken soup, you let it vent for 10 minutes before putting the weight gauge on.  After 10 minutes, set the gauge to 10 lbs pressure.  Then it takes another 10-15 minutes for it to build pressure.  Once the pressure reads 10 psi, the vent will start steaming, hissing, and the gauge will rock a little.  Turn the heat down if the pressure continues to climb and find the level of heat needed to keep the pressure level close to 10 psi.  The vent will continue to hiss, and the gauge will occasionally rock.  Little drops of water will occasionally leak out of the vent, which is normal.  At this point, start the clock.  90 minutes for chicken soup! 

Check back periodically to ensure the pressure is holding steady at 10 psi.  Once the timer goes off, turn off the heat.  Don’t touch the gauge yet, wait for the pressure to drop all the way to zero.  This took almost 20 minutes for mine to do.  Once the pressure hits zero psi, you can remove the weighted gauge.  USE A HOT-PAD!  Then you can remove the lid.  Be sure to lift the back end of the lid first because there will still be steam in there and you don’t want that to blast in your face.  Wait 10 minutes, then you can lift the jars out onto a towel.  As they cool, you’ll hear a distinctive “pop!”, which is the sound of success!  Let the jars completely cool, then take off the rings and check the lids.  Just use your fingers.  Apply medium pressure and try to pry the lid off.  If it pops right off, it obviously did not seal.  You should not be able to pry any of the lids off, but if any of them did not seal properly, just store them in your refrigerator and consume within a week.  You can try to process them again if you want to, but it’s not really recommended because it may change the flavor or whatever of the food. “Quality of the food will not be as good after reprocessing”, straight from the manual.

Aren’t you so proud of yourself?  You just made chicken soup that doesn’t have to be frozen or kept in the fridge.  Make sure you label the date on the top and store it in your pantry!  You rock!

  (You can see I didn’t put enough chicken in the jars.  I wish I would have doubled it.)

The Noodle Verdict:

Ok, I waited a week before opening one of the jars that I canned with the noodles.  I warmed up the soup on the stove before serving it to my pint-sized taste-testers.  Cozy, my 4-year-old picky eater, ate about 6 bites out of habit before announcing, “This soup doesn’t taste very good”  (I personally tasted it before serving it to her, it tasted great).

Me: “It doesn’t taste good?  What don’t you like about it?”  (I had a hunch)

Cozy: “The noodles are melty”

Well, she had me there.  The noodles were melty.  Soggy doesn’t even begin to describe the outcome of the noodles.  They were downright disintegrated.  The good news is that it’s completely salvageable.  The flavor was delicious, so with the rest of this quart and the other quart I experimented with, I’ll just add fresh noodles. So apparently the rest of the world is right.  No noodles in the jars.  Huge bummer!  How does Campbell’s DO it?  I must learn their secret.  When I do, I will pass it on to you!  And if you know it, help a sister out!  Here’s a picture of one of the jars with noodles, you can see that they’re pretty mushy:

Here’s a couple of recipes to use your non-noodled chicken soup with:

Little Ball Soup

Part of my reason for wanting to learn to pressure can in the first place was because I wanted to eliminate Campbell’s soups in my cupboards.  Now, Campbell’s has been a longtime favorite of mine, and definitely a favorite for my 4-year-old.  There isn’t an easier lunch than opening a can, slopping it into a bowl and microwaving soup for 2 minutes.  But there also is very little nutrition in that lunch, so I’ve gradually stopped buying Campbell’s and started making and freezing my own soups.  I got a bit of protesting at first from the peanut gallery, but once I started making “Little Ball Soup”, all protests end.  This is the simplest chicken noodle soup you can make from scratch, and it became an instant classic in our house.

What you will need:

  • 1 quart Versatile Chicken Soup
  • 1 cup Acini de Pepe noodles (hence the little balls) if you didn’t already include them in the quart jar.
  • 1 tsp Chicken Base (I use Better Than Bullion, which also comes in an organic option)

Directions:

That’s it.  3 ingredients.  You can add carrots or celery or whatever else you like in chicken noodle soup, but I can’t.  My picky eater likes carrots, but only if they’re raw.  Sometimes I puree cauliflower or carrots or celery to add to the soup, but usually I’m lazy and just do these 3 ingredients.  The Base is absolutely necessary, it’s what makes the soup taste like Campbell’s, and what makes my daughter who can talk and my husband declare that I’m the best cook ever.  My 1-year-old daughter would say it too if she could talk.  So now you know my secret!  Boil the quart of Chicken Soup in one pot, boil the noodles in a separate pot.  Once the noodles are done, drain them and add them to the Chicken Soup.  Stir in the teaspoon of Base, and done!

Chicken Soup with Wild Rice and Beans

What you will need:

  • 1 quart Versatile Chicken Soup
  • 1 tsp Chicken Base
  • 1 can Cannellini Beans (white kidney beans), or 1 pint of home-canned beans (stay tuned for that recipe!)
  • 1 cup Wild Rice uncooked
  • Carrots, celery, mushrooms, all optional

Directions:

Cook the rice according to package instructions.  Bring the Chicken Soup to a boil, add the beans and any veggies you desire.  When the rice is done, add that too.  Bring to a boil, then serve!

Stay tuned for Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup!  I’ll also discuss how freezing foods plays an easy, important role in food preservation!

Categories: Canning, Low-Acid, Poultry, Soup

It’s HERE!

Isn’t she beautiful?  I think I need to name her…

Stay tuned for Chicken Noodle Soup!  I made it yesterday, but I’m testing a noodle theory so the post won’t be live until I have my conclusion in about a week.

Categories: Canning, Low-Acid

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