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Ontario, Canada
I am a wife, mother and grandma who enjoys the many aspects of homemaking. A variety of interests and hobbies combined with travel keep me active. They reflect the importance of family, friends, home and good food.
Cook ingredients that you are used to cooking by other techniques, such as fish, chicken, or hamburgers. In other words be comfortable with the ingredients you are using.
--Bobby Flay

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Monday, September 17, 2007

Weekend Home Canning

It was a weekend filled with cooking and canning. One of the grocery stores has whole pork shoulder picnic roasts on sale for $1 per pound. With four nice roasts tucked into the refrigerator, I decided to cook one for Saturday's dinner then can the other three. I also had two hampers of tomatoes and 8 lb of L-star apples to process. In total, I canned 4 - 500 ml apple butter, 12 - 500 ml salsa, 7 - L whole tomatoes, 4 - 250 ml tomato paste and 5 - 500 ml barbeque pork. This productive weekend left the house smelling wonderful while it added to my pantry stock!

Apple Butter Bars

The weekend started off with of course cooking. Friday I made Anna Olson's (host of Food Network's Sugar) Apple Butter Bars. One question that often comes up on the canning groups is "I canned this but now how do I use it?". I saw this segment and thought it would be interesting to try so I did.

I used the recipe as written except for substituting organic sugar, unbleached flour and sea salt. The bars were more of a cake texture but had a very lovely flavour. I'm going to modify the recipe a bit to use a larger pan for a thinner bar-like layer. Other than that, this recipe gets two thumbs up from our family. It is a wonderful way to use up a jar of homemade apple butter!

Roast Pork Dinner

Saturday's dinner was of course long cooked pork shoulder roast. I had ulterior motives as I wanted something easy to cook since I was canning tomatoes and I wanted to determine cooking time for the pork I wanted to can on Sunday. I poured Uncle Sam's BBQ Sauce (voted best 2006 Etobicoke ribfest) onto the roast then topped with sliced Spanish onions. The roast was cooked at 250ºF for five hours then increased to 350ºF for 1 hour in a clay baker. A side of calrose rice completed the meal.

The meat was melt in your mouth tender and moist but clearly for bulk cooking, I would need to modify the cooking method. I also thought cooking at a lower temperature over a longer period of time would work better for canning. After making careful notes in my cooking journal, I knew I was ready for canning barbeque pork the next day.

Whole Tomatoes & Salsa

Tomatoes are classified as heirlooms or hybrids and may or may not be organically grown. They are further divided into slicing (beefsteak, etc), cherry (grape, etc), plum (paste), pear-shaped and striped. The choice of variety will determine the outcome of homecanned tomato products. If the tomato is not meaty, it will mean more prep work and a longer cook time for some homecanned tomato products.

Two hampers of tomatoes were sitting in the kitchen Saturday morning. These were very meaty, very few seeds paste tomatoes. I decided on making salsa and another batch of whole tomatoes. I've made previous blog entries on both. This would be a higher prep work canning session using the boiling water canners. Salsa has more prep work so I worked on that first slipping the skins from the first hamper of tomatoes. The size of the batch meant running two canners as well. This is the first of four larger batches of salsa of varying degrees of heat that I will make this year. A smaller test batch is also planned for tweak besides heat.

The whole tomatoes were prepared as in the previous blog entry. Instead of pressure canning, I decided to use the boiling water bath canner. The main difference between the two processing methods is time. Processing for L (quarts) is 85 minutes for boiling water bath. The choice to use one method over another is purely preference and timing if you have both types of canners. If you do not have a pressure canner then the boiling water bath method is a must.

Before & After

Large pots and pans are essential when doing a lot of canning or bulk cooking. Over the years I have accumulated quite a few. A large square enamelware roasting pan was ideal for this test run. It held the three roasts comfortably so since I have another of similar size I know I can prepare six roasts for canning by also using the grill. The roasts were prepared using a method I've often used and know results in tender, juicy pork.

Method: I put three pork shoulder picnic roasts in a large roasting pan, sprinkled with a little garlic pepper then topped with Diana sauce (rib&chicken) and sliced Spanish onions. I slow cooked at 200F about 6 hrs then increased the temperature to 250F for about 2 hours. Then I carefully removed each roast, took off the fat and pulled into shreds. I strained the resulting sauce. What meat was left after DH helped himself as official taste tester and ferreted away a bowl for his lunch today was hot packed into 500 ml (pint) jars. I poured the sauce over the meat leaving 1 inch headspace. Processing was at 10 lb pressure 75 minutes.

It is very important to me that the food in the jars look as good as I know it will taste. The barbeque pork looked wonderful when it was first removed from the canner but as it cooled the fats congealed. I'm not overly impressed with the final appearance. This is one reason why I will be experimenting with different cooking methods. The other reason is I want to make a lower fat end product. Eliminating all of the fat would be impossible and I wouldn't want to as it does add flavour. Instead of using a strainer for the next batch, I'm going to use a gravy separator to remove more of the fat in the sauce.

I'm getting more roasts today and more daily until the sale ends. Now I know this works well, I'm going to be playing with cooking methods, rubs and sauces so each batch will be different. We will be able to decide which versions we like best then make larger batches of them.

Tomato Paste, Barbeque Pork, Apple Butter

When preparing long cooked foods for canning it is a better use of time to make more than one kind. I like to plan so I can run the boiling water bath canner back to back on one burner and the pressure canner on the other. This is how I canned on Sunday. Shown is tomato paste, canned barbeque pork and apple butter.

Homemade tomato paste has a nice robust flavour without any of the tininess of store bought. It isn't difficult to make just time consuming. My tomato paste is made using only paste tomatoes unlike some recipes that include other ingredients. A food mill is essential to get a smooth sauce that is reduced to paste over low heat.

Method: Wash the tomatoes and cut in half. Bring to a boil in a large stock pot, reduce heat and simmer slowly for an hour. Run the mixture through a food mill. Return the sauce to the stock pot and continue slowly cooking until mixture mounds on a spoon, about 2 1/2 hours. I like letting the sauce reduce on the grill in a roasting pan as the larger surface area decreases the reduction time. Ladle into hot, sterilized jars. Wipe rims and adjust two piece lids. Process in boiling water bath canner for 45 minutes.
Yield: Yield depends on the amount of tomatoes and how meaty they are. About 11 kg (16 lb) will yield about 9 - 250 ml (1/2 pint) jars.

Apple Butter
8 lb L-star apples (or similar tart apples)
2 c water
8 c organic sugar
3 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves

Wash and cut the apples into quarters. Place in a large stock pot with 2 c water. Slowly bring to a boil while stirring to prevent burning. Run the apples through a food mill. Return the sauce to the stock pot or crockpot. Set the temperature to low and allow to slowly simmer and reduce. When the butter is thick, ladle into hot sterilized jars leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Wipe the rim and adjust two-piece lids. Process 10 minutes in boiling water bath canner.
Yield - about 8 pints

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