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Unless otherwise noted, all recipes on this blog are free of gluten, peanuts, soy, corn, tomatoes, potatoes, shellfish, cane sugar, oranges, and yeast. Most recipes are also free of egg, dairy, and tree nuts (if used, reliable substitutions will be provided for these when possible). Check out my recipe index for a full list of recipes by category. 

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Entries in Canning (8)

Thursday
Oct062011

How to check your canning jars for a good seal 

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After a long day of canning, you may think that you are off the hook the minute you take those jars out of the water canner. Oh, how wrong you are! One of the most important things about canning won’t happen until those jars are nice and cool. What is it?

 

You need to check the seal!
 
If your lids haven’t formed a good seal with the rim of the jar, your food will not be properly preserved. This means that pathogenic bacteria and fungus can form easily and make the food unfit for consumption. While keeping unsafe food in your own cupboard is bad enough, swapping or gifting unsafe food is even worse, as the person receiving the food may not recognize signs of improperly preserved food. While mold will be visible, some bacterial growth in the food may not be, and if someone consumes the food they may become very ill. Plus, opening a jar full of moldy jam is really nasty.

Thankfully, illness, shame, and sadness can be easily avoided with a handful of simple steps. Rejoice!

 

Here are a few tips to help ensure that you almost always get a good seal.
  • Always use new canning lids. It is unsafe to reuse canning lids for water bath processed foods.
  • Do not use really old canning lids, even if they are unused. While the box of canning stuff you found in the cellar of your rental house or the unwanted canning stuff from Grandma may be really exciting, treat yourself to new lids. The adhesive compounds on old lids – even if they are unused – tend to break down over time and may not seal properly. To be safest, use canning lids that are no more than 1-2 years old.
  • Check the rim of your jars. If there are chips or cracks, do not use for canning.
  • Thoroughly wipe the rims of your jars after filling. Use a damp, clean cloth and wipe up any of the contents that may have spilled on to the rim. I like to use a canning funnel to fill the jars to make it less messy – there’s less to wipe up!
  • Process for the designated amount of time in your recipe. Remember to account for changes in elevation if you are canning above 1,000 feet.
  • Remove your jars from the water canner gently after processing, keeping them as level as possible. Do not tip to pour off water that may have collected on the lid – it will evaporate. Place the jars on a double thickness of towel on a level surface. Keep away from drafts and let sit undisturbed for 12-24 hours.
Then…

 

You may hear a “ping!” sound as the jars cool – this sound means that the jar has sealed properly. But listening for this sound alone is not a reliable method for checking the seal. Plus, the “ping!” is an easy sound to miss and some well-sealed jars never “ping!” at all.

 

Once the jars have cooled…
  • Press down on the center of the lid. Does the lid move up and down or does it feel solid and concave? If it feels solid and concave, you have a good seal. If the center of the lid moves up and down, your jar has not sealed and the food is not safely preserved.
  • Tap on the lid. If it makes a tinny, ringing sound your jar is sealed. If it sounds like a dull thud, the seal is poor or non existent and the food is not safely preserved.
  • Here’s the big one: unscrew the canning jar ring. Then pick up the jar holding on to nothing but the lid. If you succeed, your seal is awesome. If not, well, you guessed it – bad seal.
If your seal passed the test, you have successfully preserved your foods!

Nice work. Remove the band and wipedown the rims and sides of the jars to remove any residues from canning. Replace the band if you’d like by screwing it on and leaving a bit of give, or leave band-less so you can use the band for other canning projects. Then label the jar with the contents and the date, store in a cool, dark place and consume within one year for best freshness.

 

If your seal did not pass the test, you have a few options.
  • You can eat the contents immediately
  • You can refrigerate the jar and eat soon. Within 1 – 4 weeks, depending on the food.
  • You can reprocess the jar. Unfortunately, you can’t just screw on a new lid and band, and drop in a pot of boiling water. Rather, you need to start over from the very beginning. Clean the jar(s) and band(s) thoroughly and use a new canning lid(s). Heat the jar (sterilization not needed if processing over 10 minutes). Then heat the contents back to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Then fill the jar as directed in the recipe and process for the designated amount of time.
Easy, right? That said, don’t feel bad about your canning abilities if you have a jar (or two) that doesn’t seal. It happens to the best of us sometimes! Just be thankful that you caught it and didn’t stash it in your pantry unsealed. And besides, it gives you an excuse to dig into some of your tasty foods now rather than later.
Food safety is fun, right? Happy canning!

 

 

Tuesday
Aug232011

How to Can Tomato-Free Peach Salsa 

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This recipe is adapted from the Ball® Complete Book of Home Preservation. I love this book! I have been canning a lot lately - rather obsessively, actually - and it has been a pleasure to work my way through its pages. 

This time of year is always marked by a bevy of stone fruit, and this recipe is a great way to preserve some of it for for another season. I like this recipe a lot because it has all the yumminess of salsa without tomatoes. As a tomato-avoiding person, I was darn excited to see this. I have made the recipe twice, and each time it has turned out great.  The first time I prepared it as written in the book, and the second time I prepared it with a few tweaks of my own and doubled the recipe. I have a lot of peach salsa in my canning cupboard right now, it's kind of ridiculous.

I know it is delicious because one of my jars was a dud and it didn't seal properly, so I had to eat it up. And boy, is it good! Whether you avoid tomatoes or not, I think you'll love it. The salsa is also very good fresh, so feel free to reserve some to eat right away and can the rest. 

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Friday
Aug122011

Low-Sugar Gingery Plum-Apple Jam (cane sugar-free, gluten-free, vegan)

Gingery Apple Plum Jam

While reading through the Ball® Complete Book of Home Preservation recently, I came upon a variety of pectin-free jam recipes. Instead of pectin for thickening, these recipes used homemade applesauce made from whole, uncored, unpeeled apples and whole unpeeled lemons. The high amount of natural pectin in these two fruits thickens the jam naturally. Additionally, using the homemade applesauce as a base helps to extend your other fruit - be it plums, cherries, berries, peaches, or the like - much further, allowing you to make more jam with less of this other fruit. I was totally intrigued, and liked the idea of not needing pectin to thicken the jam. Sure, I love my Pamona's Pectin dearly, but wouldn't it be nice to take a break?

The recipes looked easy to adapt to include unrefined sweetener instead of cane sugar, and I had all the ingredients on hand. So, I whipped up a batch of jam with apples, plums and a bit of ginger, sweetened with agave nectar. It turned out marvelously. The jam is soft and spreadable, but still thick enough to mound on the end of a spoon. The color is fantastic, and the flavor is sweet and bright. I knew immediately I had to share it with you!

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Tuesday
Jun282011

Maple-Sweetened Blueberry Rhubarb Jam (gluten-free, vegan, cane sugar-free)

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I love making low-sugar jams that with unrefined sweeteners like maple syrup, honey, evaporated palm sugar, or coconut sugar. These low-sugar jams aren't at all hard to make, thanks to the thickening power of pectin. There are a few brands of pectin available, and you can even make your own out of apple scraps, but I always go for Pamona's Pectin. Eventually I'll try making my own pectin, but right now the cheery blue box of Pamona's is a reliable and easy choice.

Pamona's Pectin can be a little tricky to find in stores. In the Twin Cities area, I know for sure that the Wedge Community Co-op and Whole Foods both carry it (the price is better at Whole Foods). I would recommend calling your local co-ops or natural foods stores to see if they have it before making the trip. If they don't stock it, they may be able to order it for you, so be sure to ask. And if you can't find at any of your local grocers, you can find it online very easily, either by the box or in bulk. I'd love to order a bulk bag of it, since it is much cheaper and pectin lasts forever. Every box of Pamona's has very detailed instructions and basic recipe frameworks, so if you've never canned before, they make it very easy to start.

I'm on a bit of a canning kick this summer and had a bevy of blueberries and rhubarb, so I thought it a good idea to combine them and make a delightful jam. I chose maple syrup for the sweetener, thinking that it would play very well with the blueberries, almost reminiscent of pancakes. For a little twist, I added freshly grated ginger, ground cinnamon and ground nutmeg.

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Saturday
Jan152011

How to Make Sauerkraut in Gallon-Size Plastic Bags: A Follow-Up

Updated on Saturday, January 15, 2011 by Registered CommenterKim @ Affairs of Living

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Back in October, I posted an entry called How to Make Sauerkraut - or - Four Women have a Cabbage-Laden Sausagefest.  I described one method for making sauerkraut, as demonstrated in photos of a party that three friends and I had where we shredded 50 pounds of cabbage and ate lots of sausages. After letting the cabbage ferment away for about 6 weeks, we got together back in December to sample our krauts, pack them into jars, and eat more sausages (and locally-made haggis). I wanted to let you know how it all turned out!

As you may recall from that post (found HERE), we fermented in gallon-size plastic bags, and made 9 different flavors.

  • plain with one with Canning Salt (3 Tbsp salt, 5 lbs cabbage)
  • plain with RealSalt (3 Tbsp salt, 5 lbs cabbage)
  • juniper berries (1 Tbsp berries, 3 Tbsp salt, 5 lbs cabbage)
  • seaweed extravaganza (a half cup each of crushed nori, laver, dulse, and wakame, 3 1/2 Tbsp salt, 5 lbs cabbage)
  • caraway (1 Tbsp caraway sees, 3 Tbsp salt, 5 lbs cabbage)
  • garlic, onions, and red pepper flakes (1-2 garlic cloves, 1 onion, 1/2-1 Tbsp red pepper flakes, 3 1/2 Tbsp salt, 5 lbs cabbage)
  • dill seeds (1 Tbsp dill seeds, 3 Tbsp salt, 5 lbs cabbage)
  • "Kim's Mix" - fennel and coriander (1 Tbsp fennel seeds, 1 Tbsp coriander seeds, 3 Tbsp salt, 5 lbs cabbage) - I sliced by thumb open while making this one, so I got to pick the spices. We joked that blood was one of the key secret ingredients.  Although I didn't actually bleed in the kraut, I did get to keep the batch.
  • "Terre Vivant" - a mix of juniper, clove, bay leaf, sage, and cumin, inspired by a recipe in the marvelous  book Preserving Food Without Canning or Freezing. I don't recall the exact measurements, nor did we write them down! But it was around 2 Tbsp total spices, 3 Tbsp salt, and 5 lbs cabbage.

IMG_0091Homemade haggis and sausages from the Seward Co-op in Minneapolis, MNSampling three varieties of our kraut with dinner: seaweed, garlic and onion, and Terre Vivant

 

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