August Food Preservation Goals

In a recent video from one of my favorite Youtube channels, Three Rivers Homestead, Jessica is reorganizing her pantry and working on cycling out her inventory. There’s just something so beautiful about a well stocked pantry of home preserved food. A pantry, shelf or cabinet becomes a beautiful show piece and part of the home decor. I could binge watch any of these type videos for hours!

Jessica is also participating in the #everybitcountschallenge on her Instagram page. The goal is to preserve/can something each and every day of August. Wow! With her busy family and farm, that certainly is going to be a challenge. But I’m sure she’ll rise to it. 🙂

It got me to thinking about my own pantry and setting some goals for myself. I know my limitations with time and budget, so to try and get something preserved each day is just setting myself up for failure. I currently don’t have my own garden, so I’m relying on the grocery store, local farmers market and excess from friends gardens for my fresh veggies. But, because “every bit counts”, I can make some realistic goals for myself and add quite a bit of food storage over the next month.

Here’s what I’m planning.

Fruit Cocktail

My inspiration for this comes from the fact that cherries are in season! They look so delicious, but I couldn’t think of anything to do with them outside of a cherry pie, which neither of us would eat. I opened a jar of my home canned pineapple a few days ago and then it occurred to me that I could make fruit cocktail! A quick trip down the Youtube rabbit hole, and I found this recipe. Cherries, pineapple, grapes and pears canned in the natural juices, just like I do my pineapple. I’ll omit the peaches since we don’t care for those. For around $10, I’ll have 9 pints of delicious fruit cocktail made from fruits chosen at the ripeness we like them preserved with no extra sugar or preservatives!

Kidney Beans

While this is not one of the beans we eat as a side dish or entree, I do use them in my chili recipe. I’ll go ahead and can these in quart jars, since I usually use two cans. Sams Club has 4 pounds dry kidney beans for around $6, so I should be able to get 5-6 quarts on the shelf.

Carrots

Perfect as a side dish or adding to recipes. I can buy organic carrots in bulk and get around 9 pints for roughly $6.00.

Potatoes

This is a vegetable that I’ve been on the fence about for a number of years. I’ve heard how terrible the texture of home canned potatoes is, how mushy they get, etc. and so that never appealed to me at all. But, the idea of being able to just grab a jar, heat them up and have mashed potatoes in less than 5 minutes does. I think the key is to choose waxy types -like yukon gold, or yellow or red potatoes – instead of baking types, like russets. Mashed potatoes is the way we eat potatoes most of the time anyway and waxy potatoes are typically what I buy simply because that’s our favorite type of potato. So I’m just gonna go for it and see what happens! The guesstimation is around 13 pounds for 9 pints. That should cost me around $7.00.

Chicken and Ground Beef

(No, not together of course!) While I would love to get a couple canner loads of each done in August, it’s really going to depend on the sale cycles. There was a really good deal on organic chicken a few weeks ago, so I’m hoping that will be coming back around soon. It is usually easier to find a good deal on quality ground beef rather than chicken in my area. Even on sale, it’s going to take me about $50 to get enough of each to fill 16 pints. But since each pint holds a pound, that will be a really good value in the long run. It will decrease our dependency on using the freezer and it will retain it’s quality longer than it would in the freezer.

Dehydrating

I have several things that I can dehydrate! They’re inexpensive and won’t take much hands on time. As follows: garlic, onions, green beans, corn, mushrooms, peppers, peas and kale. Shelf stable and ready to add to so many recipes!

In Closing

Well, there’s my basic list. I feel this is completely attainable and I will be so proud of it once I’ve completed it. I’m sure I’ll be motivated and inspired to add more to the list as I get going!

I hope you’re inspired to start a pantry or add to yours over the next few months as well. There are so many delicious fruits and veggies to choose from this time of year and I can’t wait to enjoy them into the months to come. The time and effort spent adding to our food storage pantry will all be worth it down the road with the time saved and the convenience of having a well stocked inventory.

Please be sure to check out the youtube links above and if interested, follow Three Rivers Homestead on Instagram and join the #everybitcountschallenge.

~ Blessings ~

Homestead Chili Recipe

Many folks may think of chili as a dish to be enjoyed during the colder months of the year, but we eat it year round. Yes, even during the dog days of summer. It is the perfect accompaniment to a fresh summer salad and a glass of iced tea. Summer is the perfect time for making a big batch for canning or freezing since tomatoes and peppers are at their prime freshness. Like soups, spaghetti sauce and stews, chili is versatile and can be made with pantry staples that are already on hand.

I got the original recipe from the very first cookbook I purchased for myself shortly after we were married. I made it “by the book” for a number of years. As I became more confident in my cooking skills, I went rogue with the seasonings and amounts and learned just what and how much suit our tastes.

Chili is one of those dishes that never turns out the same twice, but it’s always delicious. It’s extremely forgiving and adaptable to most palettes or dietary restrictions (for example, cooked peppers cause digestive problems for my husband, so I omit them now).

The actual recipe calls for chopped chuck and hot Italian sausage. I typically just used ground beef and regular breakfast sausage. Over the years however, I’ve lightened the recipe by using a combination of ground turkey and lean ground pork or beef. You can make it using only turkey, but based on my experience, it is much better to combine with the pork or beef. The flavor is richer, but you’re still cutting down on a lot of the fat.

Making a big batch of chili was extremely economical when we were feeding two growing boys. It’s filling, packed full of protein, and tastes even better the second day. If you’re a canner, using home canned dried beans and vegetables will make this even more economical. While it is a one pot meal, there are several things that pair perfectly with chili based on the season. Rice, cornbread, rustic crusty bread, salad, or just a vegetable and fruit tray will provide a filling, frugal way to feed a crowd. I find that it freezes well, so I’m able to batch cook it to have a quick meal ready in no time.

This is my base recipe, but I taste it as I go and adjust the seasonings accordingly. Feel free to experiment with your own spices and quantities to suit your family’s tastes. If you like more, add more; if you like less, add less. If you don’t like something at all, leave it out and add flavor using something else. Also, the amounts of the beans and meats are “about” that amount. I’ve added more or less just based on what I had available.

  • 2 T Oil (I use EVOO)
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 diced bell pepper (can be omitted)
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 1 pound ground turkey (or beef)
  • 1 pound ground sausage, your preferred choice (or ground pork)
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) stewed tomatoes
  • 1 can (8 oz) tomato sauce
  • 1 can (6 oz) tomato paste
  • 1 jalapeno, diced fine (jarred is ok too; can also be omitted)
  • 1/4 c brown sugar
  • 2 cans (16 0z) beans (kidney beans, red beans, pinto beans or a combination, undrained)
  • My combination of spices: chili powder, cumin (about 1 tablespoon of each), salt, pepper, turmeric, garlic and onion powder all to taste
  1. In a 3 quart pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and bell pepper and cook until onion is translucent and bell pepper is tender. Add meats and cook until browned. Add garlic and let cook for about 30-45 seconds.
  2. Stir in tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, jalapeno, brown sugar, and seasonings. Stir well and allow it to heat for a moment. Taste and begin adjusting seasonings to your taste. (Be sure to let it heat for a moment after each addition before tasting to avoid over seasoning.)
  3. Once it is seasoned how you want, cook on low for 45 minutes stirring occasionally. Enjoy!

This makes approximately 10 generous servings.

I hope this becomes one of your favorite family recipes!

~Blessings!~

How to Can Pineapple for Pantry Food Storage

Canning pineapple for your food storage is quite easy. It can be labor intensive and a bit messy, but it is so worth it!

When I started canning a few years ago, it had not occurred to me to can fruit for food storage. Vegetables, pickles and jams and jellies are obvious, but it wasn’t until this past year that I realized I could actually can fresh fruits. I’m so glad I did! Having canned fresh pineapple on hand is so handy for baking, pineapple sandwiches or for a pizza topping.

Pineapple is canned using the water bath method, so you don’t even need a canner if you don’t have one. It can be hot or raw packed.

Pineapples are just coming into season, and I was fortunate to find them on sale this past weekend. I went ahead and picked up 3 and will purchase more throughout the season.

There are a couple of options when it comes to what type of syrup to use, so you will need to decide this before you begin the process.

Simple Syrup

(Recipe is for about 6 pineapples. Just adjust according for the number of pineapples you have.)

In a large stainless steel pot, combine 1 cup sugar to 5 cups water. Bring to a boil and stir constantly until dissolved. Add your cut pineapple and stir to evenly combine and heat approximately 30 seconds, just long enough to heat through.

“Natural Juices”

Place skins and cores of pineapples (NOT the leaves) into a large stock pot. Add enough water to cover by 2″. Boil for 15 minutes. Strain through coffee filters or cheesecloth before adding to pineapple in jars.

Just Water

Heat a pot of water just to boiling. Place pineapple in jars and ladle enough water to proper headspace.

Next, gather the canning supplies – rings, lids, funnel, ladle, pot to heat water, de-bubbling tool, canning pot and of course, jars. I typically use pint jars, since that’s closest to the amount I would usually use per recipe.

To avoid dirt or debris getting into your jars, go ahead and wash your pineapples in a sink full of water, giving them a good scrub with a dishcloth. As an extra precaution, I wash everything that will be used in the canning process each and every time I begin a canning project. Even though it was washed before it was put away after the previous session, I do not want to take any chance with anything contaminating my end product.

Before you begin cutting and preparing the pineapple, get the water started heating in you canner pot. Place your washed jars into the water so they can heat gradually and sterilize as the water comes to a up to temp in the canner pot. Remember, hot food into hot jars to avoid thermal shock.

I like to place my cutting board in a old cookie sheet to catch the excess juice and to cut down on the mess. Peel and cut your pineapple into slices or chunks, or a combination of both.

No matter which syrup option you choose, the rest of the process is the same:

  1. Remove the hot jar from the canner water.
  2. Fill with pineapple and syrup to within 1/2″ headspace. De-bubble, wipe the rim of the jar, place ring and lid, tightening to fingertip tight.
  3. Place back in canner and proceed to filling the next jar.

Once your canner is full , cover it with the lid and turn your heat to medium high. Make sure your jars are covered by at least 1″ in water. Once the water begins to boil, set your timer for the correct processing time. 15 minutes for pints, 20 minutes for quarts.

When the processing time is done, turn off the heat and leave the canner covered for 5 minutes. Then remove the lid and move jars to a towel or mat in a draft free area to cool.

And that’s it! Aren’t they gorgeous?!

If you’d like to add pineapple to your food storage, now is the perfect time. The peak season is March – July, so it’s at it’s tastiest, and will be cheaper to purchase than when it’s not in season.

I hope this is helpful and I hope you’ll give it a try!

~Blessings~

Dutch Baby Pancake Recipe

A Dutch Baby, (or German Pancake or Puffed Pancake or Bismarck) is a cross between a pancake and a popover. It has a soft tender texture, much like a thick crepe, with the egginess of a popover. The sides puff up and rise above the edge of the skillet while baking, turning a golden brown. While there are different recipe variations out there, the basis for the batter and cooking technique are virtually the same.

I use my father-in-laws recipe. I’m not sure if it was handed down to him through the ages, or if he got it from one of his many (many, many, many) cookbooks and it became his “tried and true”. He’s made it for years for our family when we go to visit for the holidays. It’s so quick and easy to put together and is perfect for breakfast or brunch. It can be paired with fruit or yogurt for a light satisfying breakfast, or made into a more hearty meal with a side of bacon or sausage.

To make one, you will need a 9-10 inch oven safe skillet. My father in law and I both use cast iron, but I think it would work in any oven safe skillet or dish, as long as it is the right size and has sides.

The secret to getting a good puff on your sides is a preheated skillet, so go ahead and put it in the oven when you set it to preheat to 400 degrees. Once your skillet is good and hot, add about 2 tablespoons of butter and return to the oven for the butter to melt and heat. This usually only takes about 3-5 minutes, but watch it closely. You want the butter hot, but not browned.

For the batter, beat 3 eggs and 1/2 cup milk until blended and frothy. Then add 1/2 cup All Purpose Flour and 1/4 tsp salt and mix until very smooth. I use a whisk and beat vigorously. You can also use a blender or mixer. Unlike pancake batter that you’re mixing just until blended, Dutch Baby batter needs to be mixed until smooth and silky.

Remove the preheated skillet from the overn, swirl the melted butter around to coat the bottom well and pour the batter in. Bake for about 25 minutes until the sides are puffed and well browned.

This is what it looks like when done…

Isn’t it beautiful?! It’s light, fluffy, tender, flaky and so delicious!

We like our toppings simple. Just a sprinkle of brown sugar with some maple syrup or honey. Or butter and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Sometimes we make it fancy and dust it with a bit of powdered sugar. My granddaughter loves it with sliced strawberries and banana. Even though the Dutch Baby is the star of the show, it’s very easy to customize it to your liking!

If you’ve never had one, I encourage you to give it a try. It makes a delightfully simple, delicious and versatile breakfast item.

~ Blessings ~

Canning Okra

Okra is one of my favorite things to grow in the garden. It’s not difficult to germinate, grows quickly and produces like crazy. Not to mention the flower of the buds are absolutely gorgeous. The bees love them!

Quite honestly, over the years, I have ended up giving most of it away to friends and family. For as much as I love to grow it, there’s only so much of it we can eat. And when your freezer space is limited, well, you have to choose your battles.

Now…

When I first came across this tutorial from one of my favorite Youtube channels, I had my reservations.

I watched the next video with a turned up nose. One of the draw backs of okra is its tendency to become excessively slimy when not cooked properly. So, I was a bit surprised when at the end of the video, it seemed to have turned out crunchy and light.

I decided to make a small batch and give it a try.

You’ll start by washing and chopping your okra into 3/4″ – 1″ pieces. Then you make a simple brine on the stovetop, fill your jars with the okra and brine and put on the lid and ring. Easy peasy. Then, you just wait for the PING!

The texture held up beautifully when cooked. It was not mushy or slimy. And I just love how it looks in the jars. So pretty!

Even if you don’t have a garden, this is a great way to add more veggies to your storage pantry. You could purchase fresh okra from the farmers market or a pick-your-own farm. As with most foods, the fresher it is, the better it will preserve.

I love the simplicity of the process. Especially during the hottest days of summer when the garden is producing at full tilt and there’s always something that needs to be processed, preserved and put by. Even though it’s a complete labor of love, it can still be exhausting. But with this easy method, I’m excited to grow even more beautiful okra plants and add to the bounty of my pantry!

~Blessings ~

Keeping calm and canning on

Growing up, I heard countless horror stories about the dangers of pressure cooking and canning. That distant relative that had a canner explode, impaling the lid into the ceiling. Someone’s sister got third degree burns and horrible cuts from a jar that exploded. And that aunt whose kitchen was ab-so-lute-ly COVERED in beans that they never really were able to get clean. Oh, the drama!

Now, once I started gardening, I really got into water bath canning. Pickles, relish, salsa, apply butter and jams, and oh so many jars of stewed tomatoes. It was so thrilling “putting stuff by” and decorating my pantry shelves with my treasures. I just knew there had to be a way to conquer my fear of the pressure canner and really get into some serious food preservation. There’s only so much freezer space that can be dedicated for long term storage.  And it’s not necessarily the best option for long term to maintain the quality of many vegetables.

I liked the idea of being able to store various items that I didn’t grow myself. Buying them in season and preserving to have them year round. It also appealed to me to have items that take a long time to cook – like dried beans – ready to go simply by opening the jar and heating them up. Not to mention the huge savings of buying items in bulk and canning myself.

Over the years of watching countless Youtube videos and reading blogs and tutorials, I usually found myself left with more questions that I couldn’t find the answers to. I’m sure most of it was my over thinking and paranoia. But still. It paralyzed me and I couldn’t seem to get over it.

This past year I too became concerned about food shortages and the increase in food costs. Having a store run out of toilet paper is one thing, but the dried beans and rice shelves bare – that’s a whole ‘nother level of concern.

This Summer while at Walmart, I ended up on the canning supply aisle. I wasn’t there for canning supplies, but when I saw the shelves, I was gobsmacked. These shelves were just as ravaged as many of the grocery and cleaning supply shelves! I had heard about the stores – online too – selling out of canners and supplies. I had also witnessed that once those items were back in stock, the price was increased, sometimes ridiculously.  There was one remaining Presto weighted gauge canner and it was a decent price, so I went ahead and got it along with a flat of pint and quart jars and a pound of dried pinto beans.

I re-watched a few videos, re-read a few blogs and read my canner manual very carefully. I unboxed, inspected and washed my canner and supplies. I carefully and methodically followed the directions EXACTLY as written, took a deep breath and locked the lid down on my canner. I kept reminding myself that I had followed all the directions and I just needed to practice to gain confidence. It’s gonna be fine.

That first batch,  I was a nervous wreck! Was there supposed to be steam coming from the petcock, was I supposed to actually smell the beans, should I hear the water boiling, is the weight rocking too fast, is my temperature too high? Finally, the timer was done and I could relax.

Once it was time to remove the jars from the canner, I was so excited! They were beautiful! Ping! Ping! Ping! I’d done it. Not only had I stepped outside of my comfort zone and overcome a paralyzing fear,  I was on my way to mastering a new skill. Currently on my pantry shelves, I have a variety of beans, vegetable and chicken broth, and butternut squash. I’m hoping to add a greater variety of vegetables this coming spring and summer.

So, if you’re wanting to try pressure canning, go for it!

Do your research. Follow all the safety guidelines of your recipe. Read your canner manual and inspect the canner itself carefully. While it’s not hard, you do have to be mindful of the correct and safe way to do it.  Believe me, I wish I had started years ago!

~ Blessings~