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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

For Your Information

Please watch this area for important information like updates, food recalls, polls, contests, coupons, and freebies.
  • [March 19, 2020] - Effective Mar 17, this blog will no longer accept advertising. The reason is very simple. If I like a product, I will promote it without compensation. If I don't like a product, I will have no problem saying so.
  • [March 17, 2020] - A return to blogging! Stay tuned for new tips, resources and all things food related.
  • [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! [Update: 4ever Recap appears to be out of business.]

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Sunday, May 16, 2021

Canning Supplies & Shortages

Folks, canning supplies were in high demand last year to the point we could not get jars or lids in our little corner of southwestern Ontario.  Our main sources are Home Hardware, Canadian Tire, Dollarama (lids only), Walmart and most grocery stores.  This was the first time I wasn't able to find jars but it was an odd year.  Now, I am a high volume home canner who cans year round averaging about 1,000 jars annually.  I have a very good supply of jars but what happens is some of those jars are gifted and while most of them make their way back, I lose a few each year.  Due to current restrictions, I'm down about two cases. 

In Canada, we have three jar mouth sizes:

  • Standard - 70 mm
  • Gem - 78 mm (very popular in our prairies), BTW, this size can be found under brand names like Imperial and Canadian Jewel but the size is always referred to as Gem
  • Widemouth - 86 mm

Jars: 

  • Bernardin, formerly Canadian owned is the best known and trusted brand in Canada.  I have the old Imperial pints and quarts as well as the new metric L, 500 ml, 250 ml etc.  Golden Harvest jars are available.  Back for y2K Home Discovery was available.  And there are numerous older brands still available used.
  • Know your local prices!  Many resale venues are selling jars for well over their price new. 
  • Buy ahead.  Yes you don't need 4 cases of jars right now but if you can't get them later you will be patting yourself on the back.
  • Put the word out.  Networking is key to finding jars and there's always jars available given that each year some folks give up canning.  It's all about asking around and chances are they will give you the jars free for a filled jar of jam or salsa.

Lids: You can have all the jars possible but the barrier will always be the availability of lids.

  • The most popular and heavily promoted lids are the single use metal snap lids.  This is a metal disc that uses a metal band during the canning process.  Both bands and snap lids are available for all three sizes.  The ping tells you it sealed.  Some of the rebel canners are reusing these lids out of necessity.  My concern would be seal failures.
  • Glass inserts - Glass inserts require a rubber ring (Vicroy) and special metal (not the old zinc) bands  to use.  The rubber bands are still easily available.  These reusable lids are a must.  They are available for standard and Gem widths. 
  • Glass shoulder lids - These are considered an antique, fitting the old Corona, Crown, Imperial and similar jars.  I have oodles of them for dry storage.  The rubber rings are available but my opinion is these jars should not be used in a pressure canner.  I'm iffy whether to use them in the steam/WB canner.  However, they are excellent for dry storage.
  • Tattler reusable lids - Tattler's are amazing and I have 10 doz.  These are reusable plastic BPA free discs with rubber rings.  There's a different methods like the glass inserts so a learning curve.  The only problem I have with Tattler's at the moment is they aren't shipping to Canada.  I did find them on Amazon.ca but the reviews were not good as apparently the ones being sold aren't the real macoy.  However, if you have someone in the US they could send them to you.  Stock up on the rubber rings because they will be at some point the limiting factor.  You should be able to get 7-10 uses per ring and rings are very inexpensive.
  • prices:  By far, Dollarama is the best price for snap lids, more expensive than last year but still the best price.  Their price has increased to $2.50 per box of lids so at 21 cents is still the best price.  You can order a case lot on line but have to pay for shipping which would increase the overall price to 29 cents per lid.  Still, delivery to your door is not a bad deal. Stay away from Amazon.ca for lids at 81 cents per lid.  The next best are Walmart/Uline (26 cents per lid), and Home Hardware, Canadian Tire (33 cents per lid)
  • My opinion: Learn how to use the reusable lids even if you only use them for high acid foods.  If you are a high volume canner, it is the only way to go.  Aim for 10 dozen pllus extra rings.  Hands down, this is your best hedge to being able to home can.  Be sure to stock up on the rubber rings.  Buy a package every time you get a chance.  Stock up on snap lips as you will want to gift some of your goodies.  If you are high volume, 300 lids seems to be the amount most home canners are going for.

Pectin:

  • I use Pomona's pectin.  I stock up when in the US but it is available in Canada at a rather inflated price but it really is the best.  It's non-GMO and shelf stable indefinitely.  I'm getting reports of Certo brand not setting properly but that could be a bad batch.  The biggest problem with the other pectins is availability.  Last year, after June you could not find pectin anywhere.
  • green apples - if you have a source for green apples, you can make your own pectin and this is what I would consider a useful skill to learn.
  • long cook - Many fruit jams can be made using no pectin but rather the long cook method.  Honestly, a very useful skill to learn!  Basically the fruit/sugar mixture is cooked to gel stage (220 degrees F) then bottled. 

Clear Jel:

  • Clear Jel is the only USDA approved thickener for pie fillings.  I buy mine in the US but if you are lucky you can find it on Amazon.ca at a greatly inflated price.
  • My opinion: If you are buying Clear Jel for a couple of jars of apple pie filling, don't.  If you want to can stews, gravies, etc. then yes.  There are a few recipes out there using flour for tomato soup rather than Clear Jel.  I've had wonderful results using that.  I typically use Clear Jel for stews, pie fillings and gravies BUT there are other ways to do it. 

Equipment:

  • pressure canner - If you are considering buying a pressure canner, buy All American that does not require a gasket.  Folks have already sounded the alarm at not being able to find a gasket for their pressure canner.  Without a gasket, you cannot pressure can low acid foods but there are old school long boil methods.  These methods are not USDA approved but it's your kitchen, your rules.  And, I am well acquainted with many Amish families who put up all kinds of foods without a pressure canner.  My opinion is the USDA is another arm of government control without rhyme of reason sometimes.
  • steam canner - Now available at a decent price on Amazon.ca.  This handy device replaces your waterbath canner.  It is about $70 CDN but well worth the price in time, fuel and water savings.


Saturday, May 15, 2021

Canning Stock

I honestly don't cook with water if I can help it.  Why?  Water adds liquid but no flavour.  Stocks, juices, whey, milk and so many other liquids add that extra nutrition and flavour so necessary in pandemic cooking.  Meat stocks are one of the most frugal and easiest products to can.  It is the one product that I can never have enough of.

All meat stocks are canned basically the same way.  You need bones, filtered water, onion, carrot, celery, peppercorns and bay leaves.  For best flavour, roast the bones for an hour before making stock.  Always add a little apple cider vinegar to increase the calcium content of your stock.  Apple cider vinegar causes calcium to leach out of the bones increasing the nutrient density of the stock.  I use a pressure cooker to actually make the stock because it is a lot quicker but you can make stock in a stock pot or slow cooker.
 

When you buy beef or other meats in bulk, you get thinks like soup and neck bones.  Our friend is raising chickens for us so I get necks and feet.  I'm working on freezer clean-outs because we have new meats coming soon.  This is the time of year that I like canning stocks using bones from the freezer. 


Friday, May 14, 2021

Questions & Answers

Here and on my Facebook posts, I stress organic, home canned, homemade, in the descriptions.  Why?  The reasons are very simple, what I use will give different result than what you use.  So,

 

Q. Can I use _____ fill in the blank to make this recipe.

A. If it is similar likely but I can't guarantee that.  I do know the taste will differ.


Q. Can I use refined white sugar instead of organic cane sugar.

A. Yes but you won't get the same flavour profiles.  Refined sugar adds sweetness, organic cane sugar adds flavour and sweetness.


Q. Do I have to follow USDA canning rules?

A. No, your kitchen your rules.  I am Canadian, so USDA has no bearing here nor does any other government agency within your home.  I highly recommend following safe canning guidelines but even I am septal of some of those.  


Q. Why organic?

A. There are certain chemicals I do not want in my foods especially dried foods where the concentration increases.  Organic certification also ensures non-GMO.  


Q. Why homemade?

A. When you make something from scratch, you know exactly what is in it. 


Thursday, May 13, 2021

Crème brûlée

We are not dessert folks.  Sure we like the occasional sweet treat but it's not something we have on a regular basis by any stretch of the imagination. We started cruising six years ago with Norwegian Cruise Lines and to date have been on six cruises and have several booked in the hopes of getting out of these lockdowns soon!  We had to cancel four booked cruises in 2020 and so far three this year. 

One of the things we love about cruising is the food!  Honestly, Norwegian is top notch for this.  Hubby tried the Crème brûlée that quickly became his favourite.  This delectable dessert means burnt cream.  It's also known as Trinity cream.  Crème brûlée is simply a custard base topped with a hard sugar crust.  So I decided to try my hand at duplicating this dessert.

 Crème brûlée is not difficult to make.  Simply prepare your oven proof bowls and place them in a bain marie.  Prepare the custard and pour into the prepared bowls.  Bake the custard until set.  Remove from oven and let cool.  Top with sugar of choice.  Pop them under the broiler OR use a Crème brûlée torch to melt and brown the sugar.  I used the broiler method but really thing the torch would have given nicer results.

 Crème brûlée will keep nicely in the refrigerator for a couple of days, perfect for preparing ahead for company.  I was very impressed at how easy they were to make.  A lovely taste of Norwegian while waiting for things to open up!