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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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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

My Somewhat Restocked Pantry

I was beyond excited when we bought this house last year knowing full well the fifth bedroom would be used as a full size pantry.  The room is located on the lower level of a bi-level home.  It is approximately 11' x 10' so has ample storage space.  The pantry is home to all of our home canned foods, dried foods, two chest freezers and specialized kitchen appliances.  I have spent a considerable amount of time restocking and organizing the pantry  over the past few months.

entrance to pantry
The pantry is located off the large games room (out of camera range) on the lower level, on the north wall of our house, across from the lower bathroom and adjacent to a door leading to the outside.  It does of course have both AC and heating to maintaining a constant temperature is not an issue.  Not only is the room spacious, it is almost square with a nice window that really isn't needed in a pantry but the depth can be used for extra storage.  There is a nice size closet that when cleaned out of the boxes from moving can be used for additional storage.   It is by any accounts one of the nicest and most spacious pantries we have ever had.  Oh, and I did notice the walls in the pictures look purple.  They aren't.  The walls in the hall and games room are almost a chocolate brown and the walls in the pantry are a taupe with a funky black racing stripe.

As you enter the pantry to the left (west wall) there is a large closet ( just barely shown to the left).  It is home to a few boxes we haven't unpacked yet.  I do have a nice over the door rack to hang a few things on the pantry door.  The west wall has large plastic storage totes that are going to be replaced with a storage locker.  An industrial wire mesh shelving unit hold a lot of staples like baking needs, dried pastas, commercially purchased foods and home canning.  Our house backs onto a farm field so everything in the pantry is protected from rodent damage.  Rodents did get in last year when the field was harvested but since hiring an exterminator, we have had no problems.  Still, everything is protected as we spend an average of three months outside of the country.

north wall of pantry
The north wall has a nice size window that will end up being blacked out with the new deck in 2013.  What I would like to do with that space is turn it into storage as the window well is a good foot deep.  I have pails of dry food in recycled ice cream bins (right) and other recycled rodent proof food grade containers.  There is a smaller wire rack to house recipe books, canning supplies and basically whatever else I can fit on it.  Beside that is our largest chest freezer.  We down sized this freezer when we moved to our last house.  It is just borderline small but will hold a half a beef with a bit of extra room and it is EnergyStar rated.  To the front of the north wall are three boxes of mason jars.  I was in the midst of home canning when I took the picture so that's where they were.  They will be filled with home canned goodies shortly.

east wall of pantry
The east wall of the wall has a huge, industrial strength shelving unit we got from one of our friends who has a grocery store franchise during their renovation.  It houses a lot of our small kitchen appliances.  Not seen but to the back of the top shelf are two knitting machines and on the bottom adjacent to the freezer are boxes of my candlemaking supplies.  The second to the top shelf has 206 jars of wonderful home canned tomato product.  The bottom shelf is home to home canned products in cases waiting their spot on shelves.

If you look close, I like using painter's tape for labeling.  It comes off cleanly without causing any damage to the cartons or shelving.  I use a Sharpie to write on it.  It's not high tech but it works for us.

south wall of pantry
The south wall of the pantry is short as that is the entrance wall.  It has the smaller freezer, home to poultry, pork and fish.  To the corner, there is enough room to stack two rows of empty jars which was stacked to the ceiling before I started the busiest canning season.  BSo eside the freezer, there is a small wire shelf that is used for plastics, cook books and extras.  I don't have much in the way of plastic storage so don't need a lot of storage space to begin with.

There is a bit of space above the freezer where we are thinking of adding a cabinet.  So there is still a fair amount of potential for increasing the storage in our pantry.  It is still not fully stocked but I'm working on it.  I am pleased that so far the pantry is organized and progressing nicely.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Home Canned Crushed Tomatoes

I am not a huge fan of home canning plain, basics as in tomato products.  The reason is two fold.  First home canned basic tomato products while versatile take up a fair amount of space in the pantry that could be better used for a home canned convenience product.  I would rather can the tomatoes in the form of ready to use sauce or quick meal than just plain tomatoes.  Second, there is little savings in canning a basic tomato product like whole, diced or crushed tomatoes.  This is not the case for me as my tomatoes are free to begin with but it is a factor for others who have to pay for their produce.

home canned crushed tomatoes
I decided to can a few jars of crushed tomatoes for the pantry.  Like most of my tomato products, I acidified and pressure canned both batches.  Pressure canning results in a healthier product that makes the beneficial anti-oxidant lycopene more readily available to the body and it save considerable time over processing in a boiling water bath canner (BWB).

I hot packed the first batch of crushed tomatoes (l jars to the back).  Plain tomatoes tend to be a bit problematic in that they will lose liquid during the canning process especially if raw packed.  I don't like that so hot packed the jars meaning I brought the tomatoes to a low boil using the method to prevent separation then processed.  There should have been no liquid loss but I suspected the venting time was a bit longer than it should have been for the first batch.  The batch was fine with all jars sealing just a bit more headspace than I like.  The second batch (500 ml jars to the front) had no leakage problems.  Once I removed the rings for storage, I was more than happy with the results.  The jars were picture perfect!

When it comes to home canning, pay attention to the required headspace.  This is a must and very important when processing using a pressure canner.  Be meticulous about the venting period before the canner is brought to pressure.  This allows any trapped air in the jar to be released before the canning process.  Most canner manufacturers recommend a 10 minute vent period.  Ignoring either of these will cause problems like liquid leakage and failed seals.  In the event a jar does leak during the canning process, as long as it seals during the cooling period the food is fine for storage although you might have a bit of a mess to clean-up in the canner.  If the jar does not seal during the 24 hour cooling process, put the jar in the refrigerator for use within a day or two or reprocess.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Home Canned Tomato Purée

One of my goals with home canning is creating a few convenience products for the pantry.  I have to tell you I don't can a lot of whole, diced or crushed tomatoes because I can take the tomatoes to the next level before canning.  This means I prefer canning tomato sauces and ready to use tomato products over plain tomatoes if I have to make a choice.  I canned 7 - 750 ml and 6 - L jars of tomato purée.  Tomato purée is thinner than tomato paste but thicker than tomato sauce.  It unseasoned so can be used as a base for tomato based sauces, ketchup, soups and tomato powder.

tomato puree in recycled store bought pasta sauce jars
In their 1994 revision of home canning guidelines, the USDA warns against using some recycled jars (eg. mayonnaise jars) as there may be more breakage especially if processing using a pressure canner.  The reason for this is two fold.  First, the interior of the jar can be scratched from using metal utensils like knives.  Second, manufacturers have gone to a thinner glass for mayonnaise jars.  However, some store bought pasta sauces are packaged in 750 ml Atlas mason jars.  At one time, Atlas did manufacture mason jars specifically for the purpose of home canning.  Of note, the word 'mason' does not refer to the jar itself but rather the design of the threads.  I have about a dozen of the Atlas mason jars recycled from store bought pasta sauces  generously saved for me by family and friends.  They end up being used two or three times a year so have seen a lot of use.

The manufactures made a bit of a change realizing folks were reusing the jars for home canning although I think a more likely explanation was to cut down production costs.  They have gone to a smaller mouth, thinner thread on some of their sauces so the mason rings will not fit even though the jars continue to be embossed with 'Atlas mason'.  If you are buying commercial sauces specifically for the purpose of reusing them for home canning, take a mason jar ring with you.  Avoid any sauce with the thinner lid fitting the thinner rims.  Jars that can be repurposed for home canning will have a lid with a band the same depth as a mason jar ring.

The jars pictured have been in service for about 10 years without a problem.  I've had no more breakage than using regular mason jars which is minimal to begin with.  The risk of any scratches in the jar are minimal because any frugal homemaker would use a spatula not a knife to get the last remains from the jar.  The jars are 750 ml rather than 500 ml or a L which is an off size for home canning jars.  In this case the jars are processed to the next largest size so I processed according to the 1 L size (20 minutes at 10 lb pressure).

tomato puree in regular mason jars
I canned the second batch of tomato purée in 1 - L mason jars.  While this is a new product in the pantry, it will be one that graces the shelves from now on.   Something tells me I did not can enough of it!

Tomatoes and tomato products tend to separate during storage due to the release of the enzyme pectase (pectinesterase) that is released when the tomato is cut.  A special process is used to prepare the tomato purée to prevent it from separating. This involves heating a small amount of the purée quickly over high heat then slowly adding in the remainder of the purée in small amounts while continuing to cook.  I started with about 750 ml of the purée.  Once that came to a boil I stirred in about 500 ml of the raw purée.  I continued in this fashion until all the purée had been added and was fully cooked then boiled the purée down a bit to get the right consistency.  The result was a beautiful tomato purée ready for the pantry and doesn't it just look lovely?

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Tomato Stock Problem

If you have been following this blog you will know I do a lot of home canning.  Each year I process somewhere between 1,100 and 1,400 jars of food.  For the most part, I experience few problems but those that I do, tend to have me shaking my head because sometimes I just can't explain why the problem occurred.  I have over 35 years of home canning experience so know what to look for with respect to home canning problems which tend to be few and far between.   I know what kind of problems to expect and what to do to prevent the problems from happening in the first place.  Normally, I can pin point the root to any home canning problems.

tomato stock problem
I canned my third batch of tomato stock in 500 ml jars.  I normally can this stock in 250 ml jars but I was down to 4 empty jars and simply did not want to buy more jars.  The stock was perfect!  I brought it to a boil then ladled into hot jars and processed in the pressure cooker for 30 minutes at 10 lb pressure with no problems.  Once the pressure came to zero, I removed the jars from the canner for their 24 hour cooling period (pictured).  I immediately noticed one jar (far right) was a bit cloudy but the others were clear with a little tomato pulp on the bottom just the way they should be.

I decided to let it sit for the cooling period to see if the stock would clear.  The following day, it was still cloudy.  I removed the rings from the 4 jars, washed and stored but left the cloudy jar out.  In my mind, I thought if it didn't clear after 36 hours I would toss.  My mantra with home canning is always if in doubt toss it out.  Well, the jar of stock did not clear and despite smelling delicious, I emptied it out.  I have no idea what happened.  It was from the same batch, put into hot prepared jars that had gone through the same dishwasher load and processed in the same canner load.  Jar contamination should not have been a problem given I ran all jars prior to filling through the dishwasher and yet that is the only conclusion I can come up with.  Had the stock itself been contaminated, all the jars would have been cloudy.  I know there was no bacterial growth because the stock had been pressure canned. The contents of jars of food coming out of the pressure canner are still boiling inside the jars.  Adding to the mystery, the cloudy jar of stock sealed fine during the cooling period so that wasn't the problem.  At any rate, the problem remains a mystery.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Fermented Dill Pickles

This past summer, much of my focus was on restocking the pantry.  Our house had been on the market for almost 19 months before it finally sold enabling us to buy our new home with a move in date of September 1, 2011.  We completed our move on September 12, signed the final papers on September 15 and flew out to our vacation home on September 18.  I had reduced my home canning to a considerably lower level for two years to accommodate the house sale and move.  It didn't help that the move and fall vacation coincided with the 2011 tomato harvest!  As a result, we were completely out of some of our home canned staples like pickles so I knew as soon as the busy canning season started that I would be quite busy.  This year I made zesty bread 'n butter pickles, best bread and butter pickles, dill slices, fresh pack dill pickles, fast favourite garlic dill pickles, freezer pickles, and fermented dill pickles that gave me a total of 31 jars (24 L total) of pickles in the pantry and 3 jars (0.75 L total) of pickles in the freezer.

fermented dill pickles
Fermentation gives a distinctive tangy flavour foods like pickles and sauerkraut.  It is a long process that requires consistent monitoring and attention to detail for a 3 to 7 week period.  The food to be fermented is prepared and placed in the fermenting container.  I used an 11.4 L (3 gallon) ice cream bucket to ferment the pickles.  The cucumbers were then covered with the brine and weighted down so they stayed under the brine for the fermentation process.  The container was placed in the lower level of our home where it remained at 21°-24° C (70°-75°F) for the duration of the fermentation process.  It is very important that the temperature remains consistent throughout the fermentation process.  Once the fermentation is complete, the pickles are drained.  The brine is strained and heated to a boil then poured over the pickles that have been packed into hot, prepared jars.  The pickles are processed in a BWB canner for 15 minutes.  Some do not process fermented pickles as it destroys the probiotics but rather store them in a large container in the refrigerator.

I started the fermented dill pickles on July 20 but didn't can them until September 21 as the fermentation process took a bit longer.  Once the fermentation begins, small bubbles form on the surface of the brine.  After that, a scum forms on the surface.  This scum must be removed daily.  Clearly, I needed to tend to the pickles daily during most of the fermentation period meaning this is not a process that has to be planned ahead so as to not be interrupted via impromptu overnight trips or going to our vacation home.  Fermentation is definitely not something I can do during the autumn months because we spend two extended periods of time at our vacation home.

I ended up with 6 - L of fermented dill pickles which is a fairly good yield from 4.5 kg (10 lb) of pickling cucumbers.  I was a concerned that the brine was just a bit cloudy when I was filling the jars.  Brine can turn cloudy if table salt is used or from minerals in the water, however it can also be a sign of spoilage.  I had used Windsor pickling salt so knew that wasn't a problem and there were no obvious signs of spoilage (eg. mold, foul smell, slimy feeling) so I went ahead and processed them.  During the cooling period the brine returned to crystal clear.  In this case it must have been minerals in the water I used for the brine.  Next time, I plan on using filtered water even though our water is soft.  All in all, I was rather pleased with the results!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Kitchen Quick Tips - Freezing Burger Patties

kitchen quick tipsBurger patties can be made up in advance and frozen for later use.  When packaging burger patties for the freezer, place a piece of wax paper or parchment paper between each patty.  This will allow you to easily separate the frozen patties later.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Homemade Fortune Cookies

When we eat Chinese in a restaurant the final offer is always fortune cookies.  Fortune cookies are not authentic Chinese cuisine but rather an American invention.  We enjoy making Chinese food at home so I thought it would be fun to make homemade fortune cookies to finish off our meals.  Here is a short video showing how they are made.

Homemade Fortune Cookies

2 large egg whites
½ tsp pure vanilla extract
½ tsp almond extract
3 tbsp vegetable oil
½ c all purpose flour
1½ tsp corn starch
dash salt
½ c granulated sugar
3 tsp water

Preheat oven to 180ºC (350ºF).  Grease cookie sheet.  Blend egg whites, extracts, and vegetable oil until frothy but not thick.  Mix in remaining ingredients.  Blend until smooth.  [Work with only 2 cookies at a time as they harden very quickly.]  Drop 1 tbsp of batter per cookie on the cookie sheet spreading evenly to for a 4 - inch diameter circle.  Bake 11 to 12 minutes until edges are golden brown.  Working quickly, remove cookie and put fortune in centre.  Fold in half then bend over the edge of a cup.  Place in muffin tin to hold shape until cool.  Store in an airtight container.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Frugal Kitchens 101 - Keepware

Frugal Kitchens 101

Food storage by default means you must have some type of container to store the food in.  That usually means reusable food grade plastic, glass or metal containers or single use plastic storage bags or metal tray type containers.  In general, food storage containers should be able to be used in the refrigerator, freezer or for dry storage.  The food industry has come up with a simple solution to food storage containers, called keepware.  The term keepware, refers to packaging the manufacturer intends for the consumer to keep as an incentive to buy their product.

Re-purposing of containers is not a new concept because folks have been keeping containers from store bought foods to reuse for storage for years and years.  Back when our kids were young I would frequent a couple of restaurants and doughnut shops specifically to get free plastic margarine containers, large plastic pails with lids and institutional size glass jars for dry food storage.  The price was right - free.  In recent years, some restaurants and doughnut shops charge a small fee (usually well under $1 per container) that is usually donated to a charity of their choice but I still get my industrial size containers there.

The food industry, realizing frugal folks would be more apt to buy their products if they got a free reusable container with the product were quick to react in developing keepware.  Keepware basically comes with the food packed inside but the container is designed to be reused.   These containers are nicer than margarine or dairy containers, as there is little in the way of labeling and are the quality of Ziploc or Gladware storage containers designed for refrigerator, freezer and dry storage.  It is of the same quality that could be purchased without the contents.  Years ago, a brand name peanut butter came packed in bear shaped jars designed to be used as piggy banks when empty.  At one time we had a set of six kids' theme drinking glasses that came packed with peanut butter.  Now, sauces are being packaged in keepware.  Keepware is a wonderful, frugal way of being able to accumulate storage containers without having to pay for storage containers!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Low Sugar Hot Pepper Jelly

Hot pepper jelly is an absolute taste sensation when paired with cream cheese.  I make a few versions that are sure to please any palate.  It is a good way to use up excess hot peppers from the garden.  It's also one of those products that immediately says homemade because aside of the specialty food shops, hot pepper jelly is seldom found in the grocery stores.

low sugar hot pepper jelly
This year I made a low sugar hot pepper jelly for the holiday season feature red and green flecks for festive entertaining.  We are not huge fans of sugar but for hot pepper jelly you need just enough sugar to tame the heat.  I use Pomona's pectin which is a low methyoxy pectin that uses calcium water for the gel rather than sugar so the amount of sugar in a recipe can be greatly reduced.  Other pectins (eg. Certo, SureJel) cannot be substituted in this recipe.  This jelly is well worth the extra effort.  It is beyond delightful, a sure crowd pleaser!

Low Sugar Hot Pepper Jelly
recipe by:  Garden Gnome

1 c finely chopped sweet red peppers
⅓ c finely chopped jalapeño peppers
1⅓ c white vinegar
2⅓ c organic granulated sugar
1½ tsp Pomona's pectin
2 tsp calcium water

Bring the peppers, vinegar and calcium water to a boil then reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes.  Mix the pectin in ½ c of the sugar.  Stir the pectin mixture into the pepper mixture stirring well until dissolved.  Stir in the rest of the sugar.  Return to a boil.  Ladle into hot jars leaving ¼-inch headspace.  Adjust two piece metal snap lids (or Tattler reusable lids or glass inserts).  Screw bands on jars (adjust accordingly if not using metal snap lids).  Process for 250 ml for 10 minutes in BWB canner at altitudes up to 1,000 feet above sea level.  At higher altitudes refer to altitude adjustment chart on Canning FYI page.  Remove from canner.  Adjust bands if using Tattler or glass inserts.  Allow to cool 24 hours.  Remove bands and test for seal.  Wash and dry bands and jars.  Label and store.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Home Canned Plum Sauce

Home canning is one of those activities where you really need to take advantage of what is is season.  While my focus for September was processing tomatoes, I worked in a few other home canned goodies as well.  This broke up the focus on tomatoes giving my mind a bit of a break and my body a change in the routine.  Seriously, this is a good thing.  It isn't uncommon to have more than one type of produce waiting to be processed so being able to switch gears is a benefit.  Plums were on sale so you just know I had to take advantage of that!

Sauces often make a good dish spectacular.  So it is with plum sauce.  It is a must have for oriental finger foods and egg rolls.  Now plum sauce is rather inexpensive in the grocery store at $4.99 for a 475 ml squeeze bottle (1¢ per ml).  Plums were on sale for 97¢ per lb so I paid $4 for the plums used in this recipe with a yield of 9 - 250 ml jars (2.4 L) for a total cost with all ingredients and energy to process at .02¢ per ml.  More importantly the home canned plum sauce has an incredible flavour far superior to store bought,  greatly adding to the economic savings.  This really is a must have product in your pantry!

Home Canned Plum Sauce
recipe modified from:  Ball Blue Book, 2001. Pp. 80.

4 lb red plums
2 c brown sugar
1 c organic granulated sugar
¾ c chopped onion
2 tbsp mustard seed
2 tbsp chopped jalapeño peppers
slice of fresh ginger, minced
1 tbsp salt
1 clove garlic, minced
1 c cider vinegar

Wash, pit and chop the plums.  Combine all ingredients except plums in large saucepot.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and stir in plums.  Cook until thick and syrupy.  Ladle into hot jars.  Adjust two piece metal snap lids (or Tattler reusable lids or glass inserts).  Screw bands on jars (adjust accordingly if not using metal snap lids).  Process 250 ml for 10 minutes in BWB canner at altitudes up to 1,000 feet above sea level.  At higher altitudes refer to altitude adjustment chart on Canning FYI page.  Remove from canner.  Adjust bands if using Tattler or glass inserts.  Allow to cool 24 hours.  Remove bands and test for seal.  Wash and dry bands and jars.  Bands can be placed loosely on the jars for storage if desired.  Label and store.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Kitchen Quick Tips - Stop Peeling Fruits and Vegetables

kitchen quick tips
Peeling fruits and vegetables removes nutrients and fiber while creating kitchen waste.  Chewing the fiber while eating also strengthens jaw muscles. So stop peeling your fruits and vegetables!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Home Canned Spaghetti Sauce with Meat

As mentioned yesterday, home canned spaghetti sauce with meat is a must have tomato based product in our pantry.  It puts any store bought pasta sauce to shame at a fraction of the cost.  I use my own developed after years and years of tweaking to where I finally have the perfect blend our family so much enjoys.  The original recipe, if you can even call it that, was taught to me by my mother-in-law as a newlywed.  It was a toss this in, cook, taste and adjust with nothing written down very much the same way I learned to cook from my Mom.  It is now been developed into an actual recipe for home canning purposes but I also continue to tweak for fresh use and freezing.

home canned spaghetti sauce with meat
I ended up with 14 - 500 ml jars of ready to use home canned spaghetti sauce with meat.  It also has mushroom slices in it making for a rich, full bodied, flavourful sauce.  This sauce is used on pasta, in homemade lasagna and other casseroles.  I make oodles of this sauce so fourteen jars is nowhere enough for what we will need for the upcoming year but again, I don't mind making a large batch for fresh use and freezing during the cooler months.  It helps heat the house and smells heavenly when cooking.  Having a bit of homemade convenience in the pantry is nice for the days I don't have the time to make fresh!

Home canned spaghetti sauce with meat is low acid so has to be processed in a pressure canner.  While my spaghetti sauce with meat recipe will not be posted here, if you would like to home can your own check out the spaghetti sauce with meat recipe from the NCHFP is a good place to start.  The sauce on that site can be tweaked providing you do not alter the ratios.  I will note, NCHFP does not acidify their spaghetti sauce with met but I do.  Tomatoes are borderline pH 4.6 so the recommendation is always to acidify them and that applies to those tomato products that will be pressure canned as well.  I use citric acid to acidify my tomato products that do not specifically use vingar, lemon or lime juice.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Home Canned Chili with Beans and Spaghetti Sauce with Meat

The kitchen has been a flurry of activity with home canning to restock the pantry after our move last year.  Now a lot of folks think home canning is all about jams, jellies, pickles, applesauce and tomatoes.  Well, it is all about those home canned products but it is so much more.  Home canning is also about putting homemade convenience products in your pantry.  This includes delicious home canned foods like chili with beans and spaghetti sauce with meat.  These are two must have homemade convenience foods in out pantry.

home canned chili and spaghetti sauce with meat just out of the pressure canner
I use my own TNT recipes for home canned chili with beans and spaghetti sauce with meat.  Both are processed in the pressure canner (large pot with label) for 60 minutes at 10 lb pressure using 500 ml jars.  I will discuss both in a bit more detail in the next couple of posts.

Pictured are the jars of chili sauce with beans (3 rows closest to wall) and spaghetti sauce with meat (3 rows closest to counter edge).  Jars just removed from the canner will still have the contents boiling and they are subject to thermal shock by sitting on a cold surface or getting a draft.  To the right out of camera range is a set of patio doors.  If they are open I close them to prevent drafts.  Overhead is a ceiling fan that I also turn off.  I set the hot jars on T-towels on the ceramic tile surface just to be on the safe side.  The jars will sit as is undisturbed until well cooled then seals tested after 24 hours, the bands are removed and washed along with the jars.  Don't they just look delicious?

Monday, October 15, 2012

Frugal Kitchens 101 - Food Storage Containers

Frugal Kitchens 101
Every kitchen needs food storage containers.  At one time the choice for lunch bags was brown paper bags with sandwiches wrapped in wax paper or tin foil.  The ultimate in food storage was Tuperware and yet before the plastic craze it was glass bowls with glass lids, later followed by glass bowls with plastic lids.  There remains the debate over which is better for food storage between glass or plastic for food storage but one thing that is certain, disposable wraps and zipper style food bags are no longer an in vogue in a frugal kitchen.  While wax paper, tin foil and parchment paper all have a place in any kitchen, the frugal choice is to always use a re-usable container whenever possible for food storage.

The choice between plastic and glass quite often is one of convenience combined with the safety aspect of plastic especially when younger children are helping in the kitchen.  One alternative to plastic is metal although the choice of containers is a bit more limited.  My personal preference is glass, both specific food storage designed (eg. Anchor Hocking storage bowls), recycled jars and mason jars.  However, I do use food grade plastic pails (free from the doughnut shop) with lids in the pantry, non-food grade plastic in the pantry for boxed foods that will not come into contact with plastic, and recycled plastic food tubs (eg. cottage cheese, sour cream).  I also have a very limited amount of Rubbermaid plastic food storage containers.   I also prefer not to use glass in my freezers unless it fits in the door shelves.  This is a safety issue for me.

Here's a few tips on food storage containers, the pros and cons:

  • plastic 
    • pros - In general plastic food storage containers range in price from free (recycled from store bought) to the rather expensive Tuperware.  There's even a lot of cute plastic containers available for storing small amounts of food (eg. 2 oz).  The key thing with plastic storage containers is the seal.  If the seal fails you can have a rather nasty mess in your freezer or lunch bag.  Ziploc has rather nice plastic containers with screw on lids and Bernardin has plastic jam jars with nice seals.  There are also the old fashioned pastel freezer containers still available.  Unlike some food storage containers (eg. Gladware) the plastic does not become brittle when froze so you don't have to worry about a container getting bumped in the freezer then cracking and they won't rip like the freezer bags sometimes do.
    • cons - Plastic food containers should not be used in the microwave oven as all plastics even food safe ones have the potential to leach chemicals into the food when heated.  Heating can also cause pitting of some plastics.  Plastic food containers may discolour when exposed to tomato based foods.  Plastics can allow food odours to escape which can attract rodents and insects.  A hungry rodent can chew through plastic and ineffective seals can allow humidity and insects to contaminate foods.
  • metal 
    • pros - Metal food storage containers are most commonly found as cookie tins, bread boxes, canisters and lunch boxes but there are some sandwich style metal containers available.  Metal containers have the advantage that while they may dent they won't break.  They are quite durable.  They are pretty much rodent proof and for the most part are resistant to insects and humidity depending on the seal.
    • cons - Metal containers cannot be used in the microwave oven.  Metal containers used for food storage but if the coating becomes scratched, rusting can occur.  This happens even with the metal mason jar lids.  For the most part, finding metal containers can be a bit difficult especially if you want something out of the norm.  
  • glass
    • pros - Glass food storage containers don't react with stored foods and they can be rather inexpensive ranging from free recycled jars to more expensive specialty storage jars.  Canadian Tire always puts Anchor Hocking sets (freezer, refrigerator, oven) on sale for about $6 for a nesting set of 4.  The nice thing is you can bake in them then just cool any leftovers, cover with the included plastic lid and pop into the refrigerator without dirtying another bowl.  There really is no need for labels for short term refrigerator storage as you can easily see the contents.  Most glass food storage containers can be used in the microwave oven but check for the heat proof symbol before heating in them.  Glass food storage containers are rodent proof.  Vacuum sealing them will protect the contents from humidity and insects.  Properly looked after glass food storage containers will give years of service making them a very frugal choice.
    • cons - The biggest con with glass food storage containers is breakage which is why I don't like using them in the freezers.  The next biggest con is the weight.  My husband takes his lunch to the office in glass food storage containers but he doesn't have to cart around the container all day or even have far to go.  Breakage and weight make glass food storage containers unsuitable for children in elementary school, taking to the beach (safety issue) and not a convenient for camping or picnics.

Frugal Kitchens 101 - The Waste Not Kitchen Fallacy

Frugal Kitchens 101
I am a rather frugal person who wants the best value for my dollar without overspending.  I tend to follow several frugal forums because sometimes I learn a thing or two.  One of the forums I follow has the philosophy of wasting nothing.  Some are claiming the waste nothing in the kitchen while others are moving in the direction of wasting nothing in the kitchen.  I'm sorry but wasting nothing in the kitchen is a  delusion.  Putting a can or plastic container into the recycle bin is not by any stretch of the imagination wasting nothing.  Energy and resources are wasted cleaning those containers then they are collected at curbside (a colossal carbon footprint) and transferred to a recycling facility (even more waste).  The whole concept of a waste not kitchen is a fallacy.  There never in history has been a kitchen that doesn't produce waste and there never will be.  The only way to have a waste not kitchen is to not have a kitchen!   The fact is kitchens produce waste.  However, the thrifty and frugal person can greatly reduce the waste their kitchen produces.  We have been focusing on reducing our kitchen waste and are seeing the results for our effort.  Here are a few ways we are reducing our kitchen waste:

  • eliminate individually packaged or single serve - This includes single serve yogurts, cheese slices or strings, hard candies, snacks, fruit cups, puddings, and that type of thing.  We never did use much in the way of single serve foods to begin with.  Some like cheese strings or slices and freezies create waste that can't be put into the recycle bin so it does end up in the landfill.  Our one single serve splurge is K-cups for the Keurig but most of the time we use the My K-cup reusable filter system.  K-cups are recycled for crafting projects and starting seeds.  Coffee grinds from both go into the compost.
  • reduce plastic and metal containers - We avoid anything commercially canned in aluminum cans period. We buy in the largest container possible for things like sour cream, cottage cheese and yogurt but normally make these foods from scratch to avoid the plastic container entirely.  We use reusable water bottles and hot drink travel mugs rather than buying bottled water, bottled juices, tea or coffee.  If I have to buy a commercially prepared product I will purposely choose one packaged in a glass container over plastic and always in the largest size possible based on unit price because the jar can be be reused for dry storage.
  • reuse containers - A vast number of the glass jars or plastic containers that come into our home are reused for dry storage or other purposes.  If we can find a use for it, the container doesn't make its way to the recycle bin.  We buy as little as possible foods that have been commercially prepared so we get the industrial sized pickle jars and plastic pails with lids from a local donut shop and local restaurants for dry storage.  So we are actually reusing containers that would have been discarded by these sources.
  • home canning -  Home canning can greatly reduce kitchen recycling waste as the mason jars are reused until they break.  I have jars over 30 years old still being used for home canning now.  The rings are reused unless rusted or bent then they go into the recycle bin.  The single use metal snap lids go into the recycle bin which is one reason why I am making the switch over to using the reusable Tattler lids and glass inserts wherever possible.  Foods being home canned do produce scrap waste, much of which can go into the compost bin.  It takes the same amount of energy to run BWB canner and/or pressure canner at part capacity as it does to run at full capacity so run at full capacity whenever possible.
  • cooking from scratch - Cooking from scratch is a great way to reduce packaging waste (eg. convenience food packaging, take out food containers) plus the waste can be turned into wonderful, rich compost to enrich your garden, container plants and houseplants.
  • nix the box - Store bought convenience mixes (eg. 'Helper", mac & cheese, cake etc) are not only expensive and filled with horrendous additives, they also create a lot of waste.  If you really want these types of mixes in your pantry, take a half hour on the weekend to make up a few mixes.
  • give up grocery bags - Carting home groceries is part of any kitchen but rather than use plastic or paper grocery bags from the grocery store that now in Ontario have a 5¢ surcharge, use reusable cotton grocery bags or plastic totes.  Both can be purchased very inexpensively and will pay for themselves over the years of service.  Even the dollar stores carry reusable grocery bags and plastic totes.  This will also help curb a bit of kitchen clutter.   
  • energy usage - Kitchens by default now include many electrical appliances, ranges (natural gas, propane or electric) and lighting.  By far, a fair amount of energy can be wasted each day.  There are manual versions of many small kitchen appliances and all major kitchen appliances should be EnergyStart rated if electrical.  There are many creative ways for getting more light in your kitchen without using electricity including solar and reusable battery powered task light.  Use CFL bulbs in all overhead fixtures unless they are fluorescent tube fixtures.  Multi-task to save energy.  Cooking extra baked potatoes or an extra casserole or an entire meal plus extras in the oven takes the same energy as cooking one baked potato in the oven so take advantage of that.  If your slow cooker is over 10 years old it might be time to invest in a new one that is more energy efficient and keep the old one for times you may need more than one slow cooker.  A pressure cooker can save you time and energy  For more energy saving tips in the kitchen, consult your local energy provider.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Grilled Salmon

We are very fortunate to have a few fisheries within a 100 mile radius of our home in addition to being able to fish ourselves.  It is an interesting way so spend a bit of time watching the fishing boat dock with their delicious cargo.  As a result we are able to enjoy local fish like perch, pickerel (walleye) and bass of a fairly regular basis.  Most of these fisheries also have fresh fish like Atlantic salmon, rainbow trout, lake trout and whitefish as well as other fish and seafood.  We recently stopped at one of the fisheries, Purdy's Fisheries who have three locations in Ontario:  Grand Bend, Point Edward and Port Franks.

salmon and pickerel on the grill
We live in a smaller community with two grocery stores but only one carries a very limited supply of fresh fish.  That fish is transported to the grocery store and while it is fresh fish, it is not a fresh as the fish at the fisheries.  We brought home a lovely pickerel fillet and salmon fillet.  I cooked them on foil over charcoal along with acorn squash wrapped in tin foil and grilled potatoes.
Salmon is a nice, sturdy fish that lends itself nicely to grilling directly on the rack, in a pouch or on a prepared cedar plank.  Pickerel, on the other hand is a bit more delicate and sticks to the grill easily so needs to be cooked on foil or in a foil packet when grilling.  The fillets were lightly seasoned with lemon juice, butter and garlic pepper.

vacuum sealed grilled salmon
Fish is the ideal fast food because it does cook quite quickly.   Charcoal adds a lovely flavour to the fish that can be enhanced using wood chips if desired.  Salmon can be cooked to rare if desired but pickerel should be grilled until the flesh is opaque and flakey yet moist.  It is important to not overcook the fish as it will become dry.  Place the fish on a baking sheet with holes or tin foil with a few holes poked into it.  Let the fish fillets cook without turning.

We certainly love our fish but the two fillets were too much for dinner.  I vacuum sealed the remainder of the salmon fillet to be frozen.  Pre-cooked like this, salmon is excellent for making salmon dip for entertaining, flaked for salmon sandwiches or used in seafood chowder.  It certainly will not go to waste!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Home Canned Applesauce

Despite the fact that I have been focusing on home canning tomato products, other home canned products tend to get processed at the same time.  I took a bit of a breather from tomatoes to do a batch of applesauce.  This type of break serves as both a mental and physical change in pace.  A mental break in processing one type of produce helps to stimulate your creative thoughts so it is not uncommon to decide to process some type of sauce rather than just the plain product when you return to processing it.  A physical break helps to prevent repetitive stress injuries.  Each type of produce has specific methods of preparation, some of which (eg. seeding tomatoes) can cause repetitive stress injuries that can range from mild to severe and lingering.  It is best to avoid or minimize the impact of these types of injuries whenever possible.

home canned applesauce
Apples are just starting here so I picked up a 10 lb bag of Courtland apples at the local orchard.  I am so excited they decided to open this year!  They sold the orchard to a rather seedy character who took off in the middle of the night leaving them to clean up the financial mess he left behind.  They are in their late 70's so I really didn't expect they would re-open this year.

Applesauce is very easy to home can.  I simply wash then quarter the apples and put just enough water into a large saucepan to prevent sticking.  Once the apples are soft, I run them through the Kitchen Aid food strainer to remove the skins, seeds and core.  I do not add any sugar or flavouring to my home canned applesauce.  The reason being is I use applesauce as an ingredient for baking so plain works better for this purpose.  Applesauce made this way will take on a hint of colour from the skins of the apples as well as the flesh so the sauce will be a pale yellowish as this one was to having a slight pinky tinge.  I experienced a bit of separation in this batch of applesauce.  That can happen.  I simply stir the applesauce after opening the jar.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Home Canned Pizza Sauce

Homemade pizza has been a long family tradition in our home.  During the busy tomato canning season I put up a fair number of jars of home canned pizza sauce along with the starts of pizza sauce to last us until the following year's crops of tomatoes.  You just can't beat homemade pizza with homemade pizza sauce.  This sauce can be frozen if you don't home can.  You can also tinker with the seasonings to get just the right combination for your family's taste buds.

home canned pizza sauce
This year I processed 12 - 250 ml jars of home canned pizza sauce.  This is not enough for the year but I have plenty of home canned tomato purée to make a couple more batches of the pizza sauce throughout the year as needed.  I also have crushed tomatoes in the freezer from when my husband was in the hospital that I'd like to can up to save freezer space.

I used the squatty 250 ml  Elite jars for the pizza sauce.  Normally I wouldn't use these but I didn't have enough of the jelly jar style of 250 ml jars to process the batch.  The squatty jars were a very generous gift from one of our friends who gave me 19 - 4 pks of the jars.  They are a wide mouth jar (86 mm) rather than standard mouth (70 mm).  I actually like them for salsa and home canned condiments because they look cute on the table.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Kitchen Quick Tips - Wooden Utensils

kitchen quick tips
Keep your wooden kitchen utensils in tip top shape by treating with food grade mineral oil. Pour the food grade mineral oil into a 13 x 9 - inch baking dish. Soak the clean utensils in the oil for 15 minutes. Turn the utensils then soak for another 15 minutes. Remove the utensils from the oil and wipe away the excess oil. Let the utensils dry for 24 hours before using.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Jalapeño Poppers

Much of the summer months have focused on gardening, home food preservation, and restocking the pantry.      At the same time we were enjoying the first summer in our new home which meant a lot of poolside entertaining and grilling on our dual fuel (propane, charcoal) grill.   It did not take long for us to become hooked on grilling with charcoal!  Charcoal gives an incredible flavour to food that can't be duplicated using other grilling methods.

jalapeño poppers
Appetizers are usually the precursor for many restaurant dining experiences.  I often make appetizers when entertaining because they are a wonderful way to offer several dishes without a lot of extra work.  The beauty of a lot of appetizers is it looks like you spent a lot of time making them when you didn't.

I made jalapeño poppers for a small gathering.  This appetizer is so simple to make and it got rave reviews.  I used jalapeño peppers from the garden, extra thick cut back bacon, cream cheese and cheddar cheese.  A word of warning when growing peppers.  They will cross pollinate so leave plenty of space between varieties otherwise your sweet bell peppers or jalapeño peppers may end of having the heat of a habanero pepper.

Method:  Pre-heat oven or charcoal grill to 180C° (350° F).  Bring an 8 oz block of cream cheese to room temperature.  Mix in about a half cup of shredded cheese of your choice.  Wash the peppers then cut in half lengthwise.  Remove the seeds and pith.  Spoon the cheese mixture into each half.  Cut the package of bacon in half.  Wrap a half slice of bacon around each stuffed pepper.  Place on Silpat or parchment paper lined baking sheet.  Bake until bacon is well cooked.  Remove from oven and allow to drain on paper towel lined cooling racks.  Serve hot.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Home Canned Italian Garden Sauce with Mushrooms

I was so impressed with the tomato purée that I canned seven 750 ml jars of it, knowing the tomato purée would be a convenient product in the pantry.  The tomato purée can be used as the base for a variety of tomato based sauces, cooked down further for tomato paste, or dried then ground for tomato powder. It can also be used as an ingredient in many dishes.  While I simply cooked the tomato purée using the slow method to prevent separation, I think a roasted tomato purée would be quite possible.  Encouraged with the preliminary results of canning tomato purée and the first batch of Italian Garden Sauce, I went on to can another 7 - L jars of tomato purée and 7 - L jars and 2 - 500 ml jars of Italian Garden Sauce with Mushrooms.  Something tells me I should have canned more of the tomato purée.  I think it will be a rather popular tomato product in the pantry.

bottling the tomato puree
The vast majority of the home canning pictures on this blog feature the actual product after processing, ready for storage in the pantry.  I have a distinct system for preparing the jars for the canners taking care to prevent thermal shock that would cause jar breakage.  The jars I will be using for that canning session are filled with hot water in the sink with about 5 cm of hot water to the left just out of range of the camera.  The pressure canner (pot with label) has 3 L of water and about 2 tbsp of white vinegar heating on low while filling the jars.  The lids are sitting in hot water in the measuring cup with the rings immediately to the left.  I removed the boiling
sauce from the burner and placed in on a cork trivet.  I fill one jar at a time which is the preferred method over the assembly line method that allows cooling of the first few jars filled increasing the risk of thermal shock.  I ladled the hot sauce into the hot jar leaving 2.5 cm headspace.  I remove another hot jar from the sink placing it close to the filled jar to put the funnel in then I quickly wipe the rim, put the lid on and tighten the ring finger tight.  I lift the prepared jar into the canner and repeat the process until all jars are in the canner.  Once all the jars are in the canner I put the lid on the canner and flip up all six of the securing lugs.  Then I tighten the opposite securing lugs two at a time giving them all a final tightening.  I increase the heat to the sweet spot on my burner.  This is the level of heat where the canner runs nicely at the proper pressure.  The canner is heated without the regulator on until a steady stream of steam comes from the vent.  It is then allowed to vent for 10 minutes.  The regulator is put on the vent stem then the canner is brought to pressure.  Once at pressure, the timing for processing begins and the product is processed for the required time.  After processing the burner is turned off.  The canner sits as is undisturbed until it is fully depressurized (0 pressure) then the regulator is removed.   This takes 20 to 30 minutes.  The canner is left for another 5 minutes without the regulator which allows the temperature to stabilize.  At that time before jars are removed from the canner any source of draft (eg. ceiling fan, open patio door) are eliminated.   Foods processed in the pressure canner will still be boiling when removed from the canner.  A draft can cause a jar to break during the removal process creating a dangerous situation.  The lid is removed and jars carefully lifted one at a time without tilting out of the canner and placed on a folded T-towel.  The jars are left to cool for 24 hours.  The bands are removed, seals checked then jars and rings washed and dried.  At that point the jars can be labeled then stored.  The rings can be put on the jars loosely if desired.

Italian Garden Sauce with Mushrooms
The jars of home canned Italian Garden Sauce with Mushrooms looked gorgeous as pictured.  This rich, full bodied sauce will be perfect on pasta or for making chicken cattorie.   When pressure canning a mixed product it is processed according to the lowest acid ingredient.  In this case the lowest acid ingredient was mushrooms so this sauce was processed for 45 minutes at 10 lb pressure.  I used sliced white mushrooms in the sauce.  Other cultivated mushrooms can be used in home canning but wild mushrooms should not be used.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Italian Garden Sauce

Several years ago I started experimenting with home canned tomato based sauces spurred on by an increasing number of gourmet style pasta sauces available in the grocery store.  I reasoned that many folks enhance store bought pasta sauce so why not do it with the basic tomato based sauce.  When it comes to home canning it is important to know what can be altered without affecting the safety of the finished product. Basically as long as the sauce is acidified and pressure canned there is a lot of leeway with respect to possible alterations.  There is less leeway if the sauce is to be processed in a boiling water bath (BWB) canner so you can't add too much low acid vegetables (eg. celery, onions, mushrooms) to the sauce as that will affect the pH.  If you want to process using a BWB canner it is essential to properly test the pH of the product.  If higher than pH 4.6 the product must be processed in a pressure canner.

Italian garden sauce
Essentially herbs, salt, cooking method and flavour combinations have no bearing on home canned food safety.  My first huge success was roasting the tomatoes for my sauces on the outdoor grill.  That quickly turned to fire roasting over charcoal which lead to adding wood for a smokiness.  This year I began experimenting with making sauces from a purée.  A tomato purée is thicker than a plain tomato sauce but thinner than a tomato paste, making it the perfect base for many tomato products (eg. ketchup, sauces).

The pasta sauce I made this year using a tomato  purée was and Italian Garden Sauce.  This is a rich, full bodied sauce that got its name from the origin of the base ingredients in it, my garden.  The sauce contained four varieties of tomatoes, two varieties of sweet peppers, onions and fresh herbs from my garden in addition to celery and seasonings. It is a smooth sauce with touch of texture perfect as a sauce for pasta or other dishes.  I acidified using citric acid.  The first batch was a wonderful success so I did go on to make a second batch with a couple of modifications of course (more on that later).  The sauce was pressure canned in Canadian Mason jars, made in Canada.  The jars are about 30 years old.  Doesn't that sauce look yummy?

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Home Canned Seafood Cocktail Sauce

I have been making my own seafood cocktail sauce for a number of years.  Now the thing is you really don't have to can it if you will be using the sauce within a week.  I home can it so I have sauce to use whenever I need it.  The thing to remember about horseradish is it loses it's potency and continues to lose its' potency from the time it is cut.  Horseradish should be shredded outside due to the fumes.

I started out home canning seafood cocktail sauce then each year tweaked a bit.  I now have a lovely, flavourful, full bodied seafood cocktail sauce worthy of space on my pantry shelves.

This sauce really starts right from the tomatoes and you do want to use paste tomatoes.  However, the tomatoes are boiled down to form a purée before other ingredients are added.  A purée is thicker than a plain tomato sauce but thinner than tomato paste.  Tomato purée is used as a base for many tomato products including soups and sauces.  With that in mind, this year I canned up a few jars of tomato purée.  I will be discussing tomato purée in more detail shortly.  This is a must have product on your pantry shelves.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Home Canned Salsa

Eons ago I never knew what salsa was then Taco Bell came to Canada and I was hooked.  I was so hooked that I cloned the recipes and started making my own salsa.  Home canned salsa is beyond delightful, tasting so much nicer than the store bought varieties.  In fact, it tastes so much better many refuse to eat the 'swill' commonly called salsa in the stores.  Who can blame them.  Home canned salsa is made with fresh ingredients picked that day, free of artificial colourants or preservatives.  It's the real deal!

home canned salsa
I make my home canned salsas in three strengths: hot, medium and mild although every once in awhile a fire batch sneaks through.  Pictured are 8 - 500 ml jars each of hot, mild and medium salsas.  This is no where enough salsa to get us through the year.  If trying to figure out the amount of salsa to can, seriously go for 52 - 500 ml jars.  That is one jar per week for the year.

I love the look of salsa in the jars.  It is just gorgeous, what do you think?  I did end up making another batch bringing my total number of 500 ml jars to 36 which is down from last year.  Still, the jars look good :)

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Kitchen Quick Tips - Removing Stains from Cutting Boards

kitchen quick tips
Remove produce stains on your cutting board by pouring white vinegar over then blotting with a sponge. Give a light scrub and rinse.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Jars of Home Canned Tomato Products Adding Up

Once my husband was out of the hospital and on the mend it was back to canning tomato products.  I had lost a bit of time but nothing I couldn't make up to reach my goal.  Tomatoes are funny in that they come in a rush but if the frost hits them they are unfit for consumption.  Tomatoes started about two weeks earlier this year so I already had it in the back of my head that they would be ending two weeks earlier.  Sure enough, my husband picked up the last hamper of tomatoes on the Sunday and Monday morning we woke to a rather heavy frost.

jars of salsa
I was in a canning frenzy once my husband was out of the hospital.  A lot of folks don't really realize how much home canning can disrupt a kitchen.  My kitchen was basically chaos for the entire month of September with jars cooling, jars ready to be filled, jars waiting to be moved to storage and jars upon jars.  Pictured are 24 jars of salsa and 5 jars of seafood cocktail sauce all just fresh out of the canners.  Now technically these jars are supposed to sit for 24 hours undisturbed.  Mine tend to sit about 18 hours then are carefully moved to counter space out of camera range.  The thing is I need that spot for filling jars and removing hot jars. 

So the jars are adding up and I do have a rather nice system.  The jars go from the canners to this spot then are moved to their final cooling spot.  The I remove the rings, wash the jars and move them back to this spot for their photo.  Then they are labeled and moved into a basket for taking down to the pantry.  I do have a system :) 

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Hubby's Meatloaf

My husband is a large man at 6'7" and about 280 lb but he has a rather good medical history of being quite healthy.  When he gets sick which is rather rare, he gets sick!  On August 28 he came home in a lot of abdominal pain but it subsided.  The following day, he came home again in worse pain so to make a long story short he was admitted to hospital where he stayed for five days.  He was pretty much out of it for two of those days then the third day they let him have liquids and the fourth they started him on solids.  The poor guy!  Seriously at lunch time on day 4 he was sitting cross legged, table ready for food as soon as he heard the lunch cart.  It was a rather funny moment and while I did take a pic I can't share it here. 

hubby's meatloaf
Hospital food always gets a bad rap but when I was going to university I ate at the hospital cafeteria all the time.  The food was healthy and tasty.  The food at this hospital is good for the patients but not so much so for the visitors.  Visitors get whatever they put in the vending machines which really is not good! 

Anyway, I called hubby first thing in the morning the day he was scheduled to make his escape (aka be discharged).  I asked him what he would like for dinner...meatloaf!  I pulled a couple of pounds of ground beef from the freezer to thaw then headed up to the hospital.  He wasn't discharged until mid-afternoon but we headed back home with him excited about meatloaf.  You know, sometimes these types of events is all it takes to ground you just a bit!

My meatloaves range from plain to stuffed.  The commonality is ground meat (beef, venison, pork, chicken), a binder (eggs), liquid (ketchup, mustard, Worchestershire sauce), extender (bread crumbs and seasonings.  I made a basic meatloaf, a little lighter on the seasonings then served with the classic steamed potatoes and home canned green beans.  He was tucked in on the couch when I brought his plate in and oh my gosh, talk about a happy beam from ear to ear!  Such a simple meal and yet it brought so much pleasure...

Monday, October 01, 2012

Frugal Kitchens 101 - The 100 Mile Challenge

Frugal Kitchens 101
Eating locally is one way to save on food dollars while getting healthier, more nutritious foods and  stimulating the local economy.  The 100 Mile Challenge was a Canadian reality television series that aired on Food Network Canada.  It followed the eating habits of six Canadian families living in Mission, British Columbia for 100 days who agreed to only consume food and drink that was grown, raised and produced within a 100 mile (160 km) radius of their home.  I watched the series for awhile.  Some of the participants found the change difficult yet others embraced the lifestyle change.  Mission, BC is located on the north bank of the Fraser River, and along with the City of Abbotsford is part of the Central Fraser Valley, home to dairy farms, vineyards,  and wonderful agriculture production.  The final result was eating local require more time and planning as well as being more expensive but they had experienced positive health changes like weight loss and increased energy.

We live in beautiful southwestern Ontario, home to some of the finest produce, local grower and producers.  Most of the foods we consume are grown, raised or produced within a 100 mile (160 km) radius of our home.  This has been the norm for us well before The 100 Mile Challenge aired on April 5 of 2009.  In fact, eating locally has been the norm since early childhood days.  Even when traveling, we tend to choose local foods from that area.  In addition to Ontario grown, raised or produced foods we use Ontario produce hydro and natural gas to cook that food.  I'm still using mason jars to put up our preserved foods that were produced at glass factories in Ontario within 100 miles of our home.  There are also a few food processing plants within 100 miles of our house so we can easily buy locally produced, commercially canned foods using local produce if we desire. 

We can buy the following all grown, raised or produced within a 100 mile (160 km) radius of our home:

  • dairy - This includes Ontario milk, cheeses made with Ontario milk, eggs, butter, sour cream, yogurt; there are several cheese factories that will deliver to your door using overnight delivery
  • produce - a wide range of fruits and vegetables including a few Ontario seed catalogues and local nurseries to get the seeds to grow your own; the are a multitude of orchards, roadside stands and farmer's markets all featuring produce grown within 100 mile; fresh locally grown within a 100 mile radius produce is available year round, even cranberries are grown within 100 miles of our home
  • commercially produced foods using Ontario produce - the list is extensive including a wide range of tomato products, a wide range of cucumber products, a wide range of canned vegetable products, commercially canned soups using produce grown within 100 miles of our home
  • Ontario grains - soybean, hard and soft wheat, corn are all grown locally
  • wild rice - grown within just a few miles of our home
  • mushroom farms - there are three mushroom farms within a 40 mile radius of our home
  • herbs - a wide range of fresh, locally grown herbs including a few Ontario seed catalogues to get the seeds to grow your own
  • meats - beef, lamb, mutton, rabbit, moose, elk, venison, pork
  • poultry - chicken, turkey, goose, duck, emu, wild waterfowl, duck eggs
  • fish - local fresh fish (bass, pickerel, perch) is readily available in local waters and the shores of the Great Lakes bordering Ontario have a multitude of fisheries specializing in local fish
  • salt - The largest Canadian salt mine is in Amherstberg, Ontario within 100 mile radius of our home.
  • sugar and sweeteners - Sugar beets are grown and processed into sugar within a 100 mile radius of our home.  Local honey and maple syrup are produced within a couple of miles of our home.
  • miscellaneous - locally grown ethnic foods (Chinese, South Asian, Middle Eastern, and African foods are available locally just within the 100 mile radius of our home
  • alcoholic beverages - wines from Ontario vineyards in the Niagara region and along the shores of Lake Erie, beer (Sleemans in Guelph, Ontario) and other Ontario micro-breweries, whiskey (Hiram-Walker in Windsor, Ontario)
What isn't grown locally is imported.  This includes: black pepper, tea, coffee, citrus fruit, tropic fruit and spices.  Although Canada does not grow coffee, several firms import the raw materials for processing.  This is not within the ideals of The 100 Mile Challenge which really seeks to avoid imported foods.  Tea and coffee can easily be replaced with locally grown herbal teas.  Imported spices can be eliminated or greatly reduced. We don't follow a strict eating within a 100 Mile radius of our home because we do enjoy the aforementioned food items.  However, those foods make up less than 5% of our foods consumed so we aren't doing too bad!