For Your Information
- [January 15, 2016] - It's National Soup Month so this month's posts will focus on soups. Yum!
- [February 1, 2016] - An interesting report on why you should always choose organic tea verses non-organic: Toxic Tea (pdf format)
- Sticky Post - Warning: 4ever Recap reusable canning lids. The reports are growing daily of these lids losing their seal during storage. Some have lost their entire season's worth of canning to these seal failures!
Pork is the remains a popular meat of choice for curing with bacon and ham being the most popular. What many don't realize is curing me...
If you recall we moved into this during the first two weeks of September of 2011, taking official legal position as homeowners on September ...
As a result of milder fall temperatures the pepper plants were still producing nicely through the mid portion of last week. The plants were...
Thursday, November 28, 2013
Sunday, November 24, 2013
As mentioned in yesterday's post, I have been doing a bit more dehydrating this year. Dehydrating is an easy way to preserve fruits and vegetables for long periods of time. Apples can be dehydrated anytime throughout the year. I prefer to dry them when in season. Apples were just starting shortly before we left on the first leg of our winter vacation in early October. That gave me just enough time to run a batch of applesauce as well as dry apple slices.
Apples need only be washed well, cored, sliced then dipped in an ascorbic acid solution to prevent browning before drying. I dried the apple slices at 135°F/57°C until they were leathery feeling. Once dried, I vacuum sealed the apple slices in mason jars for storage. Each mason jar held a dehydrator load of 6 trays. I will have to dry more as two jars is not enough to last through the winter!
Saturday, November 23, 2013
This past busy processing season, I did a bit more dehydrating than I normally do using my Nesco dehydrator. Dehydrating is a very easy and inexpensive way to stock your pantry with little effort. Not only that, dried foods take up less space in the pantry than the same amount of food home canned or frozen. Like home canned foods, there is no further cost for storage. Unlike home canned and frozen foods, dried foods are light weight, easily transported if need be. Dehydrating foods need not be restriction to in season crops either as it is an excellent way to take advantage of produce sales anytime of the year.
Dried foods are best vacuum sealed to prevent loss due to insects or moisture. I like vacuum sealing dried foods in mason jars because the glass also protects against loss due to rodents. An alternative method I have used is to vacuum seal dry foods in the plastic bagging material then place the packets in rodent-proof containers.
I use either a standard mouth vacuum sealer adapter (pictured) or a wide mouth adapter (not pictured) depending on the style of mason jar I'm using. I also reuse the metal snap lids that were originally used for home canning. These lids cannot be reused for home canning but they are still usable for vacuum sealing providing they are not damaged. I label home canned foods directly on the lid using a Sharpie marker. I do not remove any writing on used lids until after they have been vacuum sealed. Normally, the lids seal without a problem although occasionally I need to use the two lid method to get a good seal. For some reason, one of the lids did not want to seal. I was using older Bernardin jars so the shoulder could have been the problem. At any rate, I resorted to another trick for vacuum sealing lids by placing the filled jar with lid in a vacuum sealer canister.
As mentioned, I like using a Sharpie marker for labeling just about anything in the pantry or freezers. It can be used on just about any surface although may not clean off porous surfaces well. It can also leave ghost marks on some plastics. The marker comes off easily from metal, glass and some plastics with rubbing alcohol.
Tomato powder is a must have in any pantry! It can be used to make tomato paste or sauce, add extra flavour to soups, stews and meatloaf, or sprinkled on salad or other vegetables as a seasoning. Commercially prepared tomato powder is available but it is expensive at as much as $1.10 per ounce or more. It is not a product that I can find locally, so for me as well as many, tomato powder is a product that would have to be ordered online or by mail order. Homemade tomato powder can be as inexpensive as only the power it takes to run the dehydrator (my case) or the price of about 30 large paste tomatoes. Even buying the tomatoes and making your own tomato powder will still realize a savings. I used paste tomatoes because that is what I had. Any tomato can be used to make tomato powder although I highly recommend using organic tomatoes. Cherry tomatoes make a wonderful tomato powder if you find a good deal on them. Mixing tomato varieties works well too making this an ideal way to use up excess tomatoes from the garden.
Thursday, November 21, 2013
Thursday, November 14, 2013
Monday, November 11, 2013
I am constantly looking for as well as developing new, safe home canning recipes. This fall I added home canned picante sauce to my ever growing list of must make recipes. Picante means hot but the recipe I used was mildly pungent and stimulating. The results were delicious! I will do a bit of tweaking for the next batch but overall, I am quite pleased with the sauce. This one is a keeper!
source: Bernardin Ltd., Tomatoes Canning & Speciality Recipes (2000), Pp. 64
7 c coarsely chopped tomatoes
1½ c coarsely chopped Spanish onion
½ c finely chopped jalapeño pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 c malt vinegar
1 can (5½ oz) tomato paste
1 tbsp pickling salt
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tbsp finely chopped coriander
1 tsp cumin
Prepare vegetables. Leave ingredients as is for picante sauce or purée mixture if making enchilada sauce. Place all ingredients except coriander and cumin into large saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Boil gently for 45 minutes. Stir in the coriander and cumin. Continue boiling for 15 minutes for picante sauce or 30 minutes for enchilada sauce. Ladle sauce into hot 250 ml (half pint) jars. Wipe rims and cap with metal snap lids, Tattler reusable canning lids or glass inserts as per instructions for type of lid used. Process in boiling water bath for 20 minutes. Remove from canner. Tighten bands fully if using Tattler lids or glass inserts. Allow to cool undisturbed for 24 hours. Remove bands and test for seal. Wash jars and label for storage.
Yield: about 8 - 250 ml (half pint jars), 7 enchilada sauce
Sunday, November 10, 2013
I am a high volume home canner with over 30 years of experience. In addition to the two piece metal snap lids, I also use reusable canning lids (eg. glass inserts, glass lids, Tattler, and 4ever Recap). I ordered one dozen standard and one dozen wide-mouth size of the 4ever Recap lids. The 4ever Recap lids came in at 10¢ less per lid than the Tattlers and
promised the lids with gaskets (treated properly) would last forever.
As a high volume canner, I knew that savings would make a difference. I contacted 4 Ward Industries immediately upon
receiving my 4ever Recap lids who did not resolve my problem or address my concerns.
I started testing the 4ever Recap lids in April of 2013, wrote about sealing problems with the 4ever Recap lids the same month, and wrote a review of the 4ever Recap lids in May. I left the remainder of the jars using 4ever Recap lids in the pantry which is both cool and dark. During the midst of the busiest of my canning while putting newly canned foods in the pantry I noticed a jar of stock with a 4ever Recap lid that looked strange. Upon closer inspection I discovered the lid had actually popped up and the contents obviously spoiled. I immediately checked through all my jars of stored food, no easy task given the volume. Every jar with a 4ever Recap lid had come unsealed. I have to tell you, I was beyond furious!
Yesterday, a reader who wished to remain anonymous left the following comment on the 4ever Recap review post:
You may be interested in knowing that after finding out that their "superior silicone' rings will not stay sealed longer then 3 weeks, 4Ever Recap is now selling nitrile rings. Now if you have a superior product, why would you exact copy your competitors tried & true (which you claim to be inferior) product? Also interesting, if you type 4Ever Recap Trademark into your search engine you will find that the company is actually owned by Kang Investments LLC. You form your own opinions on that one!I decided to do some investigation:
According to their website, 4 Ward Industries LLC in Anna, Ohio "is the company that brings" you 4ever Recap owned by Jackie Ward (President). Brandon Ward, her husband, is Director of Marketing and Sales. The website 4everrecap.com is a GoDaddy domain with the registrant set as private and their IP 18.104.22.168 points to InternetNamesForBusinesses.com in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. I could find no real information on 4 Ward Industries LLC other than what is on their website which is rather odd. Of note, Anna is a village of under 1,600 people and the Village of Anna Businesses does not list 4 Ward Industries as a business in Anna, Ohio but City Squares listed 4ever Recap (not 4 Ward Industries) at 114 West North Street in Anna. It's interesting that Google Street View shows nothing that appears to be a building for manufacturing the lids but perhaps it is a small enough operation to fit in a large shed. The 4ever Recap trademark is definitely owned by Kang Investments LLC (also not listed in the Village of Anna Businesses) in Anna, Ohio, filed by Matthew H. Swyers who appears to be a trademark lawyer for The Trademark Company in Vienna, Virginia. The address given for Kang Investments is 12800 Wengler Rd. which appears on Google Street View as two rather impressive homes on a dirt road across the road from an empty field. . My conclusion is that 4 Ward Industries is not who they say they are and may possibly be portraying themselves in a deceptive manner. I don't feel they are actually manufacturing the lids themselves as their website indicates 'the company that brings you' not manufacturers of 4ever Recap lids. It is unclear where these lids are made and may or may not be BPA-free. At any rate there is evidence that 4 Ward Industries is simply selling someone else's product that mimics Tattler.
According to their website, 4ever Recap is offering silicone (red) and nitrile (black) gaskets. If the silicone gaskets were superior in the first place, inquiring minds would like to know why they are suddenly offering nitrile gaskets? Nitrile is an oil-resistant synthetic rubber that has recently been used in the manufacturing of medical gloves as a less expensive alternative to latex gloves. It is also used in applications such as gaskets where oil resistance is necessary. Clearly, there have been seal problems with the 4ever Recap both immediately and during storage which is why 4ever Recap is again copying Tattler by offering nitrile gaskets BUT they are still offering silicone gaskets despite the gasket seating defects which would lead to seal failures and the problem in general with the seal failures using silicone. My conclusion is both Jackie and Bruce are aware of the high level of seal failures AND have relayed that to whom ever is manufacturing the lids. Rather than correct the problem, an alternative gasket is being offered. Clearly, an alternative nitrile gasket would not be offered if there weren't known seal problems with the silicone gasket! Based on the numerous complaints over seal failures using the 4ever Recap lids and the multitude of canning sites and forums recommending against their use, I would not be surprised to see a class action lawsuit in the near future!
The bottom line:
Regardless of the confusion over who actually manufactures the 4ever Recap reusable lids, there is sufficient evidence to indicate that they are not manufactured at the location implied by the Wards. There is a question on the feasibility of a business built on a non-sustainable business plan selling a product designed to last forever meaning they are only interested in first time buyers not maintaining existing customers. There is reasonable evidence to speculate that these lids may not manufactured in the USA which brings their safety into question. There clearly is a recognized problem with the silicone gaskets that leads to a higher rate of initial seal failures as well as increased seal failures during storage. Of note, all negative comments regarding the 4ever Recap lids have been removed from their Facebook page, something they do blame Facebook for but I have my doubts. It's their page so they have the power to remove any comments as they see fit. I fully believe they have removed the negative comments to prevent perspective buyers from seeing them which could influence them not to buy the faulty lids.
On a personal level, I was not happy with the correspondence from Jackie who failed to resolve my problem or address my initial concerns over the gasket seating. Despite several emails, she did not answer my concerns at all! She blamed seal failures on being a new user of 4ever Recap lids even though they are used exactly the same way glass inserts and Tattler reusable lids are used, both of which I have been using on a regular basis for a few years. Every single jar with a 4ever Recap lid in storage had lost the seal by September. While this is longer than the 3 week in storage failure some are reporting, it is still unacceptable. I currently have a little over 12 dozen jars in storage using Tattler and glass inserts. Some of those jars have been in storage over a year. To date the only seal failures I have experienced during storage has been using the 4ever Recap lids. I definitely will not be using these shoddy reusable canning lids! I am not willing to waste my time, effort, cooking fuel and food using what is clearly a substandard, defective product! I do not recommend these lids!
Saturday, November 09, 2013
The Earl of Sandwich was clearly on to something with his culinary invention that remains a dietary staple today. Basically a sandwich is a filling between two pieces of bread, quite often including some type of meat. Commercially prepared, thin and evenly sliced lunch meats are only as far away as the nearest grocery store. Packages often go on sale or are regularly priced at very low prices to encourage consumers to buy them. This type of lunch meat is not without fault. Sure, you are getting it for a very low price but like most commercially processed foods, lunch meat is laden with preservatives, food additives and sodium. One slice of roast beef lunch meat contains as much as 300 mg of sodium in comparison to 6 oz of home cooked roast beef that contains 92 mg of sodium. A sandwich made using two slices of roast beef lunch meat contains 600 mg of sodium in just the lunch meat without adding in the sodium content of the bread, condiments or extras. In perspective, those two pieces of roast beef lunch meat contain almost 30% of the sodium RDA set by Health Canada. Clearly, if you are on a sodium restricted diet lunch meat is not a food that you should consume on a regular basis. However, the problem with commercially prepared lunch meats is more than just sodium. Sodium nitrate, a known carcinogen, is used as a preservative in commercially prepared lunch meats. Expectant mothers are advised not to consume lunch or deli meats due to risk of Listeria to the feotus. Commercially processed lunch meats may also contain a number of food additives including high fructose corn syrup. All that aside, I have to admit not liking commercially prepared lunch meats and never have. My work-around is simply making homemade versions of lunch meats using whole cuts of meat, home cured meats and cooked meat loafs, all thinly sliced.
In general, I find leaner roasts work best for lunch meat slices. I generally do not add a lot of seasoning other than garlic pepper, onion and Worchestershire sauce although sometimes I add tomato stock. Once the roast is fully cooked, I let it cool then refrigerate until cold. The cold meat is easier to slice thinly.
This method of freezing and storing lends itself nicely to thinly sliced turkey breast, meat loaf, home cured summer sausage, home made pastrami, and wild game. I have found the price per pound of the home made lunch meats to be generally less expensive than commercially prepared lunch meat. The quality of the product is significantly higher though with lower sodium content, no preservatives or additives, and it tastes better. Prep time for freezing the meat is minimal at only slicing and vacuuming time. Overall, homemade lunch meats are a healthier, cost effective alternative to commercially prepared lunch meat!
Thursday, November 07, 2013
Wednesday, November 06, 2013
Winter squash is always a bargain in season! It's high in nutritious and taste but low in calories and price. Just before we left for Florida, one of the kids brought me two large, home grown butternut squash, a type of winter squash. Winter squash keeps nicely in a cold, dark location but I decided to freeze the squash instead. Part of the reasoning was for later convenience but the main reason was not leaving any food that may spoil while we were away.
I uses a chef's knife to cut the butternut squash in half starting at the top on one side then slowly working towards the base of the squash. Once I reached the base, I continued cutting up the other side. The seeds are found inside the round base of the squash. I scooped out the seeds and set aside to be cleaned then air dried for next year's garden. Of note, saving seeds from produce even store bought is one way to accumulate free seeds for the garden.
This method really is a no mess, no fuss method for cooking squash. It lends itself nicely for cooking larger winter squash or larger quantities however, I often use this method to cook acorn squash. When cooking acorn squash, I add a little butter and salt in the cavity. I didn't add butter or salt for this batch of butternut squash so it would be more versatile for later use.
Winter squash will be plentiful and low cost for another month so I plan to freeze a bit more. It can also be dehydrated and canned. When dehydrating the squash is shredded then steamed lightly before dehydrating. It can then be hydrated much the same as you would instant potatoes or the dried flakes can be added as an ingredient in dishes for extra flavour. Winter squash cannot be safely canned as a purée because it is too thick for proper heat penetration during process. It can be safely canned in chunks processed in a pressure canner. Be sure to put up plenty of this budget stretching, versatile and delicious vegetable!
Tuesday, November 05, 2013
Shortly before leaving on the first leg of our fall vacation, I was busy canning, freezing and dehydrating. Despite having a large, walk-in pantry (formerly a bedroom), I still need to use the space frugally. All foods in the pantry are rotated including home canned foods. This requires an organized approach to storage but it ends up saving both time and money in the long run.
I really dislike the new packaging which consists of lids and rings on the jars that are in a half case then shrink wrapped. I understand that this method of packaging reduces the amount of cardboard used and that the plastic wrap is less expensive for the manufacturer but it is less than ideal for the home canner. As a high volume home canner, I use the cardboard cases for storage of both filled and empty jars. The new packaging offers no protection to the tops of the jars even when stacked and the cardboard portion is not as sturdy as the old cases. As far as the new packaging being eco-friendly, although less cardboard is used, the original plastic cannot be recycled so ends up in the landfill.
Sunday, November 03, 2013
We are incredibly blessed to own a vacation home in sunny Florida where we try to spend three months a year over three trips. This past year we also bought a co-op in Aruba, so in essence we have three fully equipped kitchens. We are very much firm believers of eating healthy, home cooked meals even when on vacation. The only difference in our eating style on vacation is we tend to eat out more. While discovering new restaurants and revisiting our favourites is a wonderful culinary experience that we truly enjoy, we also enjoy home cooked meals.
Our vacation home kitchen is fairly similar in size to our home kitchen with a similar layout except the vacation home kitchen is open to the small family room. It is an eat-in kitchen. The patio doors lead to the lanai where we often enjoy morning coffee and meals. The cabinets are standard white, nothing fancy. The counter tops are basic formica but the backsplash is ceramic tile. There is a bit less actual counter workspace than our home kitchen, not significantly less but enough to be noticeable. The appliances are Whirlpool with the stove being electric and the next step down from the natural gas Whirlpool Gold range at home. The sink is a heavy plastic double sink with food disposal. We replaced the original taps with the set pictured last spring. The floor is a textured sheet flooring in a tile pattern.
Our vacation home kitchen is light, bright, quite functional and easy to maintain. It has the distinct disadvantage of being what you see is what you get. That is the entire storage available for food, kitchen appliances and kitchenware. There is no extra storage space in the rest of the home to store extra kitchen equipment or food although larger pots and pans could be stored in the golf cart shed. In all honesty, longer stays require being a bit more creative but we will never be living there full time and we will likely continue to rent our vacation home out from time to time so the kitchen more than meets both needs.
Our vacation home while considerably smaller than our home still requires interior maintenance, repairs and updating. This is fairly consistent with any vacation home or cottage. As mentioned we have already replaced the faucet set as the old one sprung a leak that continued to get worse despite repairs. We are planning a few upgrades to increase the value of our vacation home while adding more durable, lower maintenance materials that will withstand the intended purpose of our vacation home. We are planning on replacing existing carpeting with laminate flooring or ceramic tile next spring. Ceramic tile is likely our best choice so we would end up tiling the entire house at that time.
Now when I note we are at our vacation home or show a meal prepared there, you will have an idea of what the kitchen there looks like. Our vacation home kitchen is equipped with the basics - blender, slow cooker, toaster, coffee maker (mainly for tenants), Keurig (our use only), can opener and hot air popcorn maker. I took the stainless steel Lagostina pot and pan set we recently replaced from home to the vacation home so we are set that way. So, it is fairly well equipped suitable for any of the cooking and baking we will be doing there. We also have an outdoor grill that just as at home gets a lot of use. Tenants at most will be there a total of 3 months but that is very rare. So far, we have had tenants stay a month or two, most commonly one month. Next week I will share some of our foodie highlights during this portion of our fall vacation.
Saturday, November 02, 2013
We arrived home last Wednesday night after spending three weeks at our vacation home in sunny Florida. We spend three months each year at our vacation home spread over three separate trips, usually flying. Flying is inexpensive and gets us there the same day unlike driving that ends up taking us two days with an overnight stop-over. That means I am very restricted as to what food I can bring from home to our vacation home since liquids are restricted to 3 oz or less only in the quantity that will fit in a one quart zipper bag, one bag per traveler. Thank goodness, I am not a make-up person! We have also found that certain powders like Morton's Tender Quick will result in extra screening at the airport security checkpoints. Now, as funny as that one was, and it was funny as the very friendly screening had never met someone who cured meats which led to an interesting conversation, I quickly decided in future to either mail these types of items to our vacation home or bring them with me when we drive. We can bring dried foods as long as they fit in our backpack, more dried foods if driving but it isn't feasible to try bringing meats or fish by either mode of travel.
I brought a few jars of home canned foods with us for a taste of home. It is surprising how much I've had to modify my cooking style at our vacation home simply because I don't have a lot of the ingredients, especially the home canned foods I am so accustomed to using. I brought salsa, Old Fashioned chili sauce, zesty bread & butter pickles, Mom's pizza sauce, picante sauce, roasted tomato garlic sauce, beef stock, pork & beans, whole kernel corn, black cherry jam, Italian garden sauce with mushrooms (not pictured) and low sugar chocolate raspberry sauce (not pictured). In hindsight, I should have brought another case of home canned foods so I may even mail more down before our return to our vacation home this year.
Eating at our vacation home is quite different than at home but I am finding that the more we are there, the more cooking from scratch we do. The biggest problem we face is not being able to store much in the way of food with the exception of the fall trips as food can be left in the cabinets and refrigerator. However, we rent the house out mid-January through mid-April, so all food that can not be safely stored in our homeowner's closet has to be cleared out. We also leave the house tenant ready after our spring stay just in case. Basically, we are restricted to storing a large Rubbermaid tote of food, mainly dried and commercially canned foods that will not be affected with the closet at room temperature. I don't store any home canned foods in the homeowner's closet.
Driving to our vacation home and back has a lot of benefits even though it takes longer. We are able to bring a taste of home with us and take back some of the new foods we discover while there as well as along the way. We also get the opportunity to do a bit of sight seeing along the way. Of course, there are a lot of foodie stops! Stay tuned for the foodie highlights of this leg of our fall stay at our vacation home...