Saturday, October 29, 2011

Really FAST Food - Canning Meats

This week was busy and stressful for me. I had a cousin and his wife coming for a visit. I hadn't seen him in 52 years and never met his wife. They planned to come in Thursday and stay for a couple of days however, they called on Wednesday while I was in between appointments, to tell me they were on their way and would arrive in about 3 hours! Yep! You guessed it. 

MY plan was to get up Thursday morning and do some cooking and cleaning. Needless to say, there was a good chance they could arrive home before I did . . . after a minute of panic, I thought . . . well, IF I can beat them home by about 15 minutes, all will be well. I did and that gave me just enough time to freshen the guest bathroom and vaccuum the living room. Now what about dinner?

Well, dinner was a piece of cake . . . I've been canning meats for a number of years now and when I have meats all cooked and fork tender in the jar, I can create all sorts of good home style cooking in a matter of minutes! Truly!

The first few choices that ran through my head were:
Sauerkraut & Kielbasa or smoked sausage;
Beef Stew or Beef and Noodles; 
Pulled Pork or Turkey & Dressing;
Chicken & Noodles; Chicken Casserole or Chicken & Dumplings!

Seriously I could have prepared and set any of them on the table in less than 30 minutes from the time I walked in the door. I decided on Chicken & Dumplings, a comfort food if there ever was one and a huge favorite in my family.  Since I had canned chicken just last week (a local store had boneless, skinless chicken breasts on sale for $1.49 a pound) I was good to go. But then, I still had canned chicken from several years ago so I opted to use that up first.

When canning meats, you MUST use a pressure canner. You can roast or precook the meat first if you want to, but most of the time it is quicker and easier to just pack the raw meat and process it. You may also opt to add broth or water if you choose, but it has been my experience they are not needed (except for ground meats or processed meats).

You can also season it any way you choose. My personal preference is to add just a pinch of garlic powder and 1/2 teaspoon per pint or 1 teaspoon per quart of Kosher or canning salt, then pack in the meat; wipe the rims and seal tightly. Process pints for 75 minutes at 10 lbs. of pressure and 90 minutes at 10 lbs. of pressure for quarts. That's it! Now how easy is that? In about three hours time you can process two batches (8 pints per batch) and have 16 meals for ready consumption! Each pint will hold about one pound of fresh meat (trimmed of visible fat).

We have also canned hamburger meat or ground turkey but I do recommend precooking it so that you don't end up with a solid glob of meat. I do add a little broth to the ground meat and also to thick slices of processed meats such as smoked sausage or Kielbasa. For raw chicken, turkey, pork or beef (cut up as you desire to use it - cubed, chunked or in steaks) I simply leave enough head space and it creates it's own broth.

Need chicken salad in a hurry? Open up some and there you go! Need to take a meal to a sick friend? No need to wait for meat to thaw. Unexpected or early arriving guests? Not a problem Need to take it easy for a hectic day? Serve up a scrumptious meal that tastes slow simmered in nothing flat. Rachel Ray? You have nothing on me. I've been serving 30 minute (sometimes 15 or 20 minute) meals for decades.

This spring, a friend made the comment that when her power was out for an entire week (from the April 27th tornadoes that ravaged our county and state of Alabama), as they worked to save the meats in their freezer, she told me that she just kept thinking about me and my canned meat!    

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Don't Throw Out the Peelings!

Wow! I forgot to add a very important footnote to my last post about Canning Apple Pie Filling! Don't throw out the peelings.

Cover them with water, bring to a boil and cook 5 or 10 minutes. Let them cool just a bit and then squeeze them through a cheesecloth or run them through a juicer. Add sugar and cinnamon to taste and boil together until it reaches the Jelly Stage on a candy thermometer. Fill jars and seal. Process for 30 minutes in a boiling water bath or 10 minutes at 5 lbs. pressure in a pressure canner and you will have the best ever Cinnamon Apple Syrup.

This Cinnamon Apple Syrup is tasty served over pancakes, waffles, ice cream, you name it. My two favorites are over Gingerbread Pancakes or Pumpkin Waffles. This frugal hint has been a staple in our family for many decades.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Apple Pie Filling . . . Can or Freeze It

Dessert is half ready with an easy recipe like this. You can freeze it in freezer bags or plastic boxes as well, but I LOVE the convenience of having it at room temperature all ready.
Here's what it takes and how to do it:

6 - 8 lbs. cooking apples, peeled, cored and sliced or diced
5 c. sugar
1 c. cornstarch (or Clear Jel - which I've never used but many  love it)
2 T. ground cinnamon (less if you prefer)
1 t. ground nutmeg
1 t. salt
1 T. lemon juice
9 c. water
Blend all ingredients except the apples in a large pan.
Cook until mixture thickens. Pack the apples in jars and add the hot mixture. Using a dinner knife, remove air bubbles.

Wipe the rims of the jars and seal.

Process 30 minutes in a hot water bath or 10 minutes at 10 lbs. pressure in a pressure canner. This will make about 7 quarts of apple pie filling.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Radishes and Fall Gardens

Here in Alabama, we love our fall garden . . . even when we lived in Michigan, a small fall garden is possible but you will need to plant it in mid to late August.

In Michigan it would be mostly a salad garden but you can also plant hardy and frost resistant vegetables like cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, etc. Here in Alabama we’ve had good success with green beans, peas, greens of any kind, onions, lettuces (all varieties) radishes, turnips and other root vegetables. This fall, we didn’t plant until September 10th.

Today we harvested radishes. Our red soil here produces sweet, mild radishes, onions and other root crops.

My husband and I both love mild radishes but have you ever eaten the tops instead of throwing them away? When the radishes are young and the tops tender, you can coarsely chop them and add them to a salad.

When they are a little more mature (or not) you can sauté them in a little olive oil with some minced garlic. Add salt and you have a healthy treat on the table. Their flavor is mild and makes a great accompaniment for almost any meal. Try some today and if it’s too late for you to get your fall garden started, save the tops the next time you buy a bunch of radishes at the grocery store and try them in a salad or as a side dish. Let me know what you think by leaving a comment.