Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Canned Spaghetti Sauce, Chili & More

For some reason I am driven to can and preserve . . . it’s more than just being self-sufficient, though I certainly do love and appreciate that aspect of it. For me, it is just second nature I suppose. It’s the way I grew up and generations before me. We love to plant, tend, grow and harvest and then preserve our bounty. For me there are few things more beautiful than rows of varying colors of fruits, vegetables, meats and more all lined up and ready to be used.

For a number of years now I have been canning meats in addition to everything else that I have put up for years. I love the convenience of opening up a jar of chicken for lightning quick Chicken ‘n Dumplings, casseroles or salad. I can have a big pot of Beef Stew ready in a matter of minutes or Beef and Noodles.

But this blog post is not about canning meats . . . this one is about putting up staple recipes so that you can use them impromptu and still feel good about what you are eating and serving to your family and friends.

Over the past week I have put up quarts of Beef Vegetable Soup, Chili con Carne and Spaghetti Sauce with Meat. 

Here are just a few of the reasons why and the how to’s follow:
-          It’s just so darned easy to come home or feel puny and still put a ‘home cooked’ meal
      together instantly.  I mean, who doesn’t love convenience?
-          It truly saves time. I put up 20 quarts of spaghetti sauce in about 3 hours. That’s 20    
-                 meals in mere minutes.       
-          It saves money. Buy the ingredients you can’t or don’t grow when they are on sale!
-          There is a great satisfaction in having the pantry full.
-          If I need to share a meal with a sick friend or neighbor, I can do so quick and easily.

There are other reasons as well, but these are the few that popped into my head as I type.

First of all, let me say that you can preserve nearly any recipe you have by following a few safety  rules. Canning meat was done by the water bath method for many generations and while I don’t know personally of anyone dying from eating it, I still do not want to take that chance. I even Googled it and could not find information anywhere on how long to water bath meats or products having meat in them.

Secondly, anything that you process that has meat in it, must be cooked as if that is all that is in the jar! This is extremely important to the safety of your food supply. The standard times for pressure canning meats are 75 minutes at 10 lbs. of pressure for pints and
                                                                90 minutes at 10 lbs. of pressure for quarts.

Please do NOT deviate from these times; therefore, when I pressure can Beef Vegetable Soup, Chili or Spaghetti Sauce (we always eat ours with meat in it), they are processed at these times.

If you are afraid of a pressure canner, don’t be. As long as you follow the manufacturer’s instructions you will be just fine. The two main dangers occur when you leave it unattended and it seriously overheats or trying to remove the lid before the pressure has been safely released. If you follow these two basic rules, you should not have any problems or fears.

You can use your own favorite recipes for Chili and Spaghetti Sauce, but the following are the ones that my family and I prefer:

Spaghetti Sauce      
1 to 2 lbs. lean ground beef
1 large onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 t. each dry basil & oregano
Salt & pepper to taste
1 12 oz. can tomato paste
2   4 oz. cans tomato sauce
1  29 oz. can tomato puree
1  4 oz. can mushrooms, coarsely chopped

Brown the beef and drain and rinse if needed. Add the onion and garlic and cook about 3 minutes. Rub the basil and oregano between your palms to crush it and release the flavors. Add to the pot. Stir in the tomato paste, sauce and puree. Add a little water if needed. Add the mushrooms and season to taste with the salt and pepper. Simmer about 20 minutes if you will be eating it right away.
If you are canning it, you don’t need to simmer it. Simply fill the jars, leaving at least ½ inch of head space and process as described above.

I love having this ready to go. I can make a salad and heat the sauce in the microwave right in the jar (without the lid of course) while the pasta cooks and dinner is served!

2 lbs. lean ground beef
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, diced
2 T. chili powder
2 quarts canned tomatoes
4 – 6 cans kidney or pinto beans (or cook your own)
Salt & Pepper
Hot sauce or cayenne if desired

Brown the meat, drain and rinse if needed. Add the onion, garlic and seasonings. Cook 2 – 3 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and then the beans. Bring to a simmer and cook 20 – 30 minutes if you want to serve it right away.

For canning, process at the times and pressure listed above.

*Both of these recipes are in my cookbook, NEVER Trust a Skinny Cook! It contains over 600 recipes and about half of them are my original concoctions. I still have some for sale for
$10 each plus shipping. They make a great gift too!

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