A New Gadget For An Old Favorite Meal

I love kitchen gadgets, but at the same time I hate them.  There are so many wonderful, time-saving appliances and utensils out there to make preparing food easier, more fun, and certainly quicker, but how many of these can we honestly justify keeping out on the kitchen counter.  Because you know if you don’t keep it on the kitchen counter, the chances of you digging it out of the cabinet are slim or God forbid it be in the basement and you have to trudge down there and search for it, it will no doubt be used only once or twice before it is forgotten until your next yard sale and you end up selling it because you really never used it anyway.

Well I admit I have lots of gadgets sitting in the basement that are rarely, if ever, used.  When I was cleaning out the storage room last summer to make room for my pantry expansion, I ended up donating more than half of my stash.  The remaining gadgets were put on two shelving units in plain view, so every time I go into the pantry area, there they are staring at me, begging me to take them upstairs and use them.  This has worked out for the most part, but whichever gadgets aren’t used by this summer, will promptly be donated, thus making room for new, hopefully more useful ones.

During the past month I have bought two new kitchen gadgets that I know will be getting a lot of use.  First of all, they will both be stored right in the kitchen, one on an open shelving unit in the nook and the other in a cabinet that I go into at least three times a day.  Second, they are gadgets that will save me money and open the door to many opportunities for new meals and improving on some old ones.

Today I want to share one of these gadgets with you.  The second one will have to wait for a later post.

Meet my new Meat Cuber:

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What sparked my sudden desire to make my own cubed meat was one of those wonderful cooking shows on television. The other day a restaurant was featured that cubed pork butts for a cornmeal crusted, deep-fried pork butt sandwich.  Well, that was all it took.  I had to have a cuber of my own, seeing as cubed pork is not something common in the grocery stores around here. At the same time, I knew that this gadget would not be exclusive for pork butts.  There are so many meals that I make or want to make that call for meat to be pounded.  This cuber does the job in an instant instead of me standing at the counter pounding away for 30 or more minutes.  It can be used on beef, pork, chicken, veal, and probably even lamb if I wanted.

I know this might not seem like a practical gadget on the surface, but with the continuing rise of meat prices I am faced with every week at the grocery store, being able to buy a cheaper cut of meat, using the cuber to tenderize it, and thus producing a delicious meal, is definitely something handy to have around.  This morning I used the meat cuber to cube round steak.  Cube Steak at the grocery store is $6.99 per pound.  I bought a large package of round steaks for $4.25 a pound yesterday and cubed about 2 1/4 pounds for dinner.  This is more than a $6.00 savings just for this meal and all it took was less than five minutes time to cube it.

The cuber I bought claimed I could use meat up to 1/2″ thick.  That was pushing it a bit, so I sliced the round steak in half horizontally so it was just over 1/4″ thick. The meat slid easily through the cuber and I ended up with perfectly cubed steak.

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So, tonight rather than using store-bought cube steak to prepare a family favorite, All Day Simmer Cube Steak, I have freshly cubed round steak cooking in the pan.  Actually though with this home cubed round steak I don’t think I’ll have to cook it all day in order to attain the cut-with-your-fork tenderness we’ve enjoyed in the past.  I tasted the meat just after I’d seared it, which basically cooked the meat because it was so thin, and it was already tender.  A few hours in the pan and this will be falling apart.

Saving money and improving on an old family favorite, does it get any better than that?  And for this I am — Simply Grateful.

 

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Nothing Goes to Waste – Drying Pineapple Cores

Last year with all the canning I did using pineapples, I never thought to try to utilize the core.  It’s hard, woody, and not very tasty, so the only thing I could think to do with it was throw it in the compost heap.

This year I just couldn’t bring myself to throwing another core away.  There had to be something I could do with it.

Researching what to do with pineapple cores yielded some interesting options such as freezing chunks of it and using it as ice cubes in drinks, throwing it in smoothies, and the option I opted for — drying it.  Last year I dried several pineapples, but not the cores.  This year I dried only the cores.

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The salvaged pineapple cores from the pineapples I used to make crushed pineapple.

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I sliced them thin because cores are tough and woody.

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I put the slices in the dehydrator at 135 degrees for about 12 hours until they were completely dry.

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This is what they looked like after they were dry.

The dried core was not woody or tough.  It was not as sweet as when I’ve dried pineapple slices, but it is tasty and will make a nice snack or addition to my granola.

Using as much of any food I buy or grow is important to me, so this project is one I will definitely be doing again.  Another jar of wholesome goodness for the pantry shelf, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Canning Crushed Pineapple

I love it when pineapples go on sale.  From about the middle of March until the middle of June, we can find pineapples at our local grocery stores here in Michigan for about $1.00 each.  Not every week mind you, but during these three months, every couple of weeks one store or another will put them on sale. This is when I stock the pantry with freshly canned crushed pineapple and like to experiment combining pineapple with various other fruits to make new jams, jellies, concentrates, or sauces.

Last year I canned crushed pineapple, but not nearly enough, so when I found pineapples the other day for $.99 each, I bought a dozen of them for the sole purpose of making crushed pineapple.  In order to get the most usable fruit out of these pineapples, I opted to cut out the fruit with a knife and then scrape the skins with a spoon. Although I like using a pineapple corer most of the time, I have found this gadget leaves a lot of usable fruit in the skins.

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After I cut off the top and split the pineapple down the center, I cut a V in the center of each half to remove the core.

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Then I cut out the main chunks of fruit from the skin.

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Even being careful to get as close to the skin as possible, there is still a lot of fruit that can be scraped from the sides. Using a spoon I carefully scrape the skins.

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Next I place all the big chunks of fruit in a food processor.

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A few quick pulses later…

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And I’ve got crushed pineapple.

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I then heat the pineapple just till it’s warm, fill hot jars with it, seal with bands and lids, and process for 25 minutes in a water bath.

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You’ll notice some little brown specs in my jars.  These are seeds.  I’m not particular when it comes to pineapple seeds.  I figure there has got to be some nutritional value to them, so why bother trying to remove all of them.

Home-canned crushed pineapple is super sweet and tastes just like fresh pineapple.  Stocking the pantry with more than a dozen jars of pineapple should keep up happy for some time, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Catching Up On Canning – Sauerkraut

March is the best time I have found to can homemade sauerkraut.  Because of St. Patrick’s Day and the hype to serve corned beef and cabbage, every super market and specialty grocery store puts cabbage on sale.  Typically cabbage is anywhere from $.33 to $.49 a pound.  The first two and a half weeks of March though you can get it as low as $.14 a pound, which is exactly what I paid for it this year.

At this great bargain price I bought six large heads of cabbage for less than $5.00 and with this I was able to get 8 1/2 quarts of sauerkraut.  This will be enough until I buy the token couple of heads of cabbage at the fall markets just because I love to buy farm fresh produce locally whenever I can.

I am not a big fan of fermenting cabbage or pickles in a crock.  I find it more cumbersome than doing it in jars and less sanitary.  For me, fermenting in a jar is the way to go.

Sauerkraut in jars is so simple, it took me about three hours from start to finish.  If I had used my food processor to shred the cabbage rather than a mandolin, the time would have been cut at least in half, but for some things I just like doing it a certain way.  A food processor will shred the cabbage quick, but not as thin as I like it.  My mandolin makes it paper-thin and then I use the chopping blade on my food processor to finish up any cabbage that couldn’t be done on the mandolin.

Here is what I do:

Homemade Sauerkraut Part 1

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  • 6 Heads Fresh Cabbage
  • Pickling/Canning Salt
  • Quart Jars

The first step is to shred the cabbage to the desired thickness.  The thinner the cabbage, the easier it will be to tenderize.

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Next you will add 2 tablespoons of pickling or sea salt for each head of cabbage.  Massage and knead the salt into the cabbage, reducing the volume by at least half.

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Squeeze the liquid from the cabbage and pack into clean quart jars.  Add another teaspoon of salt as you are packing the jars.  Be sure to really pack down the cabbage in the jars with a pestle  This is crucial to remove excess air.

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Once the jar is packed, add reserved salty liquid over cabbage and top with a folded leaf of cabbage.  This leaf will help keep the sauerkraut from floating to the top.

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Cover the jars with clean lids and bands.  Do not over-tighten bands as the jars will begin to ferment and liquid will need to escape.  Sealing them finger-tight is good.

Let jars sit in a cool dark place for at least three months.  During the first couple of weeks you should check on the jars every other day or so to burp them.  Also, check to make sure that the liquid in the jars does not fall below the folded cabbage leaf.  If it does, add a salt brine to top it off.  To make brine, combine 4 1/2 tsp. pickling/sea salt and 4 cups water.  Bring to boil to dissolve salt.  Let cool to room temperature.  I usually make a jar of brine the same time I make the sauerkraut so I don’t have to worry about having to do it later.

Once the sauerkraut has fermented for at least three months, you can remove it from the jars, heat, replace in clean jars and seal for storage.  I typically let mine sit for at least 4 to 5 months, as we like it pretty sour.  Some people don’t open the jars after they are done fermenting to re-jar them.  I have mixed feelings on this.  Although I have not always re-jarred them using the water bath method, I somehow feel more secure in doing so because I think it will prolong the shelf-life of the sauerkraut.  I’m not a huge believer that botulism would be a factor here because the jars seal themselves during the fermenting process and we never got sick when we ate them without resealing them, but everyone should make their own decisions and do what they are most comfortable with.

In a later post I will go into greater detail as to how to re-jar the sauerkraut, as my jars that were made in October are ready to be sealed now.  Possibly next week.

With St. Patrick’s Day over, so is canning sauerkraut for another year, unless I have success in planting cabbage in my garden this year, in which case I’ll be doing this again in October — keep your fingers crossed, and for this I am — Simply Grateful. 

How To Get Bottom Round Roast Super Tender

I had to share this.

This week at our local grocery store they have bottom round roasts on sale.  I know that bottom round roast is very tough, but seeing as all other beef cuts are $3 and $4 more a pound, I figured I’d have to make the best of it.  I’ve used it before and although it is a tasty cut of beef, it is tough.  Hubby would ask me things like, “Did this die on its own?” or “Is this beef or mule?” Still, for the past 22 years I used this cut more often than any other for economic reasons.

Today however I decided things had to change.  I know that if you cook meat at a low temperature for a long period of time, it typically turns out tender.  This being said, that is why a crock pot is recommended so often for tougher cuts of meat.  I am not a big crock pot fan though.  For some reason I find meat cooked in a crock pot to be somewhat flavorless.  It is tender but unless you are dousing it with barbecue sauce or a tasty gravy, the flavor just isn’t there. This is just one persons experience, but for me a crock pot is used only on the rarest of occasions.

Another tenderizing trick I have learned through the years is that liquor or vinegar helps to make most meats become fall-off-the-bone tender.  Marinating tough cuts of meat even for a few hours in wine or a vinegar based marinade can make a world of difference.

This morning I pulled out the roast I picked up on sale.  First I seared it to seal the juices in, then I put it in the roasting pan.  Next I put 1 1/2 cups of wine in the pan, covered it tight with foil, and put it in the oven.  For 4 hours I cooked the roast covered at 225 degrees.  Then I removed the foil and put the broiler on.  I left the roast under the broiler for about 10 minutes to brown the fat.

When Hubby went to cut the roast he couldn’t believe how tender it was.  It fell apart as he lifted it from the pan and cutting it was more like shredding it.  The taste however was the best part.  It was flavorful, moist, and tender. Everything a roast should be. Everyone went back for seconds and there were no jokes about how tough it was.

Being able to save money by buying a lesser cut of meat but still serving something that tastes like a more expensive one is a great way to save money, if I can pull it off.  Tonight, by using a few things I’ve learned through the years, (why I didn’t think of this sooner I’ll never know), I made what was once an okay meal into something the family will actually look forward to, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Cranberry-Meyer Lemon Marmalade

Last year I began experimenting with various citrus spreads.  For months I worked at combining flavors, sometimes using the rind, sometimes not, and learning a lot about how just the right amount of citrus can make jams and jellies really pop.

Several of the recipe that I wanted to try called for Meyer lemons.  I had no idea what these were.  I had never heard of them, let alone seen them.  From what I could gather, a Meyer lemon was supposed to be less tart, more on the sweet side.  Unfortunately, there was nothing that I could find that could be substituted here in Michigan.

Rather than not try the recipes that called for Meyer lemons, instead I decreased the amount of lemon in these recipes and substituted regular ones.  Also, I tasted the spreads often during the preparation to make sure there was enough sugar and that the spread was not turning too bitter.  Overall, I’d have to say that my marmalade and jams turned out pretty good.  Even so, learning about Meyer lemons intrigued me.

Last weekend while Hubby and I were out picking up a few things at the grocery store, I happened to walk past the produce department and on an end cap right up front they had a whole display of Meyer lemons.  I couldn’t believe it. How is it that they had them now?  Not willing to chance not being able to find them again, I picked up a couple of bags.

This morning I finally had a chance to work with these Meyer lemons and see what all the hype was about.  I slit the end off of one, cut a thin slice and popped it in my mouth.  My eyes scrunched up, the muscles in my face contracted, and I nearly choked.  This lemon was by no means sweet.  It was as tart as any lemon I’d tasted.

I wasn’t disappointed.  Maybe a bit surprised, but definitely not disappointed.  Not to be deterred, I pulled out a recipe that called for Meyer lemons and went to work.  Maybe there was something I didn’t know — maybe the lemons got sweeter as they cooked.  The recipe I chose was a Cranberry-Meyer Lemon Marmalade.  Not only would I be able to use up some of the Meyer lemons, but I’d also have a chance to use some of my stockpile of cranberries.

Cranberry-Meyer Lemon Marmalade

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  • 3 Meyer Lemons
  • 16 oz. (4 Cups) Fresh or Frozen Cranberries
  • 3 Cups Water
  • 3 3/4 Cups Sugar
  • 3 Tbsp. Clear Jel dissolved in 1/4 Cup Water

Peel lemons.  Remove the white pulp from the rind by scrapping with a pairing knife.

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Cut rind into thin slivers.

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In a large pot bring the 3 Cups water with the lemon peel to boil, simmer 15 minutes.  Much of the water will cook away.  It should decrease at least by half.

Juice the lemons. I put mine in a food processor and strained the pulp through a mesh strainer.  Add strained lemon juice, cranberries, and sugar to simmering lemon rind mixture and return to boil.  Simmer 15 minutes.

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Stir in Clear Jel slurry and slowly return to boil. I turned the stove down to medium for about 5 minutes and then began to increase the temperature to high.  It took about 10 minutes for the mixture to return to boil and reach the thickness I wanted.

Remove from heat and ladle into hot jars.  Process 8 oz. jars for 15 minutes in water-bath canner.

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This recipe yielded 5 – 8 oz. jars and 2 – 4 oz. jars.

The original recipe I found online called for 7 cups of sugar and Certo pectin.  I began taste-testing the marmalade when the cranberries had popped but before adding the Clear Jel. I knew there was no way I wanted to add 7 cups of sugar to this, so I started with 3 cups and added the additional 3/4 cup before the second 15 minute simmer was done.

This marmalade is wonderful.  It has a subtle lemon flavor and the rind slivers are tender and not as bitter as regular lemons. Perhaps this is the difference everyone is talking about.  Of course this is the first time I’ve combine cranberries with lemons, so the cranberries might cut down on the bitterness of the rind as well.  Regardless, this marmalade is a keeper, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Rendering Three Types of Lard

For the past several years I have been using peanut oil for deep frying and in place of vegetable or canola oil whenever called for.  Other than coconut and olive oil, peanut is supposedly the next best option.

Recently I finished the last of the 4 gallon container I’d bought and went in search of a new one.  To my dismay, the store I usually bought this at had discontinued carrying it.  So, off to the internet I went.  In searching for bulk peanut oil, I began to get somewhat discouraged, as I did not want to pay shipping.  The only other option I had was to buy smaller containers at the grocery store, at nearly twice the amount of money per ounce.  Suddenly, I decided that peanut oil was not going to work.

In researching other options I realized that I used probably the best possible type of oil product in some of my baking and frying already, but had never considered using it exclusively — lard.  I save the fat every time I make bacon and strain off the fat (lard) when I make cracklings.  Why it hadn’t occured to me to use lard more often, escapes me.  Although I might not have had  enough “clean” home-collected lard to do everything I wanted, I knew for certain that lard could be purchased at any grocery store.

Remembering that I’d seen those green and white boxes of Armour lard in the meat department at our local grocery store, I headed over there.  Not finding what I needed, I asked the butcher.  She told me that they no longer carried the lard I remembered, but had another brand.  She directed me to the International Aisle.  Confused I asked her how “lard” could be stored on the shelf without refrigeration.  She told me “lard” did not need to be refrigerated.

Ok then!  I knew immediately that this woman knew absolutely nothing about lard.  If the lard she was directing me to was “real” lard, it would most definitely have to be refrigerated.  I left her and went to the International Aisle, located the lard she referred me to, and proceeded to read the ingredients.  Just as I thought — Hydrogenated.  If I wanted artificial, I’d be using vegetable oil.  Back to the drawing board.

For the next several days I went to four different grocery and international stores and found all of them had exactly the same brand of lard as well as the familiar green and white box of Armour lard, which it turns out was also hydrogenated.  Frustrated, I finally went up to the meat counter of the last market I went to and talked to the butcher.  I told him I wanted “real” lard and seeing as it didn’t appear I was going to find it, wondered if it would be possible to get some pork fat and render my own.  He was very supportive and told me that he would save the pork fat for the next week for me and I could pick it up on the weekend.

I was excited!  As nice as it might have been to be able to just run up to the store and buy lard right off the shelf, making my own lard was even better.  I would know exactly what was in it, when it was made, and have yet another use for all my canning jars.  Could this get any better?

A few days ago I went to pick up my pork fat.  I hadn’t asked how much the fat was going to cost, but figurered pork typically costs less than $4.00 a pound, so anything less than that would be fine.  The butcher handed me a 10 pound bag of pork fat — no charge.  I guess seeing as he was just going to throw it out, he didn’t think it necessary to charge me.  Score!

The next step was to start rendering lard.  Lard is easy enough to render, but what some people don’t know, is that there are various types of lard that are produced from pork fat depending on what temperature you use to extract the lard.  I have never rendered lard that does not have some hint of pork flavor, but the temperature the fat is melted at determines how much flavor the lard will have.  The higher the temperature, the more flavor; the lower the temperature, the less.

Wanting to render several different types of lard I decided to begin the rendering at 200 degrees and work my way up to 400.  First, I melted the lard slowly for 8 hours at 200 degrees.  After draining off the lard I returned the fat to the oven and increased the temperature to 300 for an additional three hours.  Finally I strained off the liquid lard and returned the fat to the oven and increased the temperature to 400 and let it cook for several more hours until the fat was completely crisp and light brown.  The smoke point for lard is 370 so increasing the temperature to 400 gives this final bit of lard a smoky pork flavor, very tasty in breads.

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The above picture does not do the varying colors of the lard justice.  Starting from the left is the whitest of the lard, which was rendered at 200 degrees.  The middle quart is beige and was rendered at 300 degrees.  The final pint is the darkest and was rendered at 400 degrees.

For two days I worked on the lard and in the end I had one quart of lard with just a hint of pork flavor, one quart with medium pork flavor, and a pint of lard with heavy pork flavor and it’s all real.   Success!  Now I have lard for baking, lard for frying, and a pint of very special lard for some very special recipes, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Triple Berry (Cranberry/Raspberry/Blackberry) Spread

My kitchen appliance/gadget wish list is long and full of tons of things that I need, want, and can only dream of ever having. On this list, at the very top, is an upright freezer to store all the canning jars I want to fill with pies, cheesecakes, meals, and quick-fix snacks.  Along with these, I would store all the fruits and vegetables I freeze every year for use during the long Michigan winters.

Right now I have a chest freezer and refrigerator with a freezer in the basement as well as the freezer in the refrigerator in the kitchen.  These freezers are constantly full and I am continually needing to reorganize everything inside of these in order to store anything new.  It is truly a source of stress that I don’t enjoy dealing with on a daily basis.

Much of the fruit that is stored in the basement freezers are there to be used in canning projects that I have not gotten to either because of lack of time or lack of ingredients.  With the stock of cranberries I picked up in October and November of 2014, I am now able to possibly make a dent in some of that fruit and clear out some space.  As much as I’d rather just go out and get that upright freezer that I’ve been wanting for so long, it’s still not in the cards.

Hubby and I are at opposite ends of the spectrum on whether or not this is a necessary expense or not.  I suppose I can survive without another freezer, and it is a “want”, but no matter if I were to use up all the fruit that is waiting to be canned, the fight for freezer space would continue.  It’s one of those unwritten laws I think.  No matter how much space I have, it is never enough.  So why do I think another freezer would solve all my problems?  Well it wouldn’t, but boy it would sure be fun filling that new freezer.

Anyway, seeing as chicken thighs are on sale this week and I want to stock up a bit while the price is good, I pulled out several bags of cranberries, raspberries and blackberries, to try a combination recipe that I thought would be fun.

Triple-Berry Spread

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  • 3 Cups Cranberries (12 oz bag)
  • 3 Clementines
  • 3 Cups Red Raspberries
  • 3 Cups Blackberries
  • 3 Cups Sugar
  • 3 Tbsp. Clear Jel mixed in 1/4 Cup Water

Peel and section the clementines.  Combine the clementines with cranberries in a food processor and process until coarsely chopped.

Put processed cranberry mixture in a large stock pot and add remaining berries and sugar.  Bring this to a boil over medium-high heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

Remove from heat and puree using a stick blender.  Strain the puree through a fine mesh strainer to remove cranberry skins and berry seeds.

Return strained puree to stock pot and add Clear Jel slurry.  Bring mixture to full rolling boil and time one minute. This thickens very quickly so be careful, it spatters terribly.

Remove from heat and immediately ladle into hot, sterilized 8 oz. jars.  Top with hot lids and process in water bath canner for 10 minutes.

This recipe will yield 7-8 oz. jars.

Making a dent in the overflowing freezers in the basement is great, but having this new spread to add to my ever-growing list of tasty spreads is even better.  One more cranberry project under my belt, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

 

First Canning Project of 2015 – Sweet Potatoes

Happiness is…being back in the kitchen canning!

Yesterday I finally got back to canning and boy did it feel great!  I pulled out the bags of sweet potatoes I’d picked up just after Thanksgiving for $0.28 a pound and found only one potato that had softened.  In all I had 36 pounds to work with.

The first 26 pounds of the potatoes, I decided to can raw in water.  This allows me to add sugar when I use them if I like or as we prefer in many cases, spicing them up with a bit of chili powder and cayenne pepper.

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I checked my canning books and the internet and most sources suggested boiling the potatoes first and then peeling. This seemed like it would take longer than just peeling them.  Plus, I didn’t want to really cook the potatoes at all if I could help it.  With the long processing time in the pressure canner, the less the potatoes are cooked, the less chance of them turning to mush in the jars.

I don’t mind peeling potatoes.  It took me about 20 minutes to peel each batch and with Grace’s help it went even faster.

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Once peeled, I cut the potatoes into cubes and put them in a pot of hot water on the stove.

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I turned the stove to low and let the potatoes sit there while I prepared the jars, pressure canner, lids, and water for canning.  By the time I was done, the potatoes were warm, not hot, but warm enough that they wouldn’t cause the jars to crack when put in the canner.

Next I packed the jars with the warm potatoes and put 1 teaspoon of canning salt in each quart jar,

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covered the potatoes with boiling water to within 1″ of the top,

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did my best to get out any air bubbles, placed a lid and band on the jar, and put the jar in the canner.

Quick and easy.  The longest part of this project was waiting for the canner.  It took about 40 – 60 minutes for it to reach pressure and then they process for 90 minutes at 10 pounds of pressure.  The last batch of three, is in the canner now and I am waiting for it to pressurize before I can start the timer.

Once the canner is done, I typically wait until the next day to open it, allowing it to completely cool before attempting to remove the lid or jars.  This morning I finished the second batch of potatoes and opened the canner just before loading it again this evening, and although the jars were still hot, the pressure canner was completely depressurized.

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Twenty-six pounds of sweet potatoes yielded me 21 quarts of canned sweet potatoes that I plan on using for sweet potato pie and other desserts as well as a side dish for dinners.  With the remaining potatoes I am going to try dehydrating some of them and possibly making sweet potato butter with the rest.

Getting back to canning was for some reason a relief for me.  With the hustle and bustle of the holidays, all the decorating, baking, entertaining, planning, shopping, and rushing around, to finally be able to settle down and do some canning felt like a vacation.

My first canning project of 2015 is a success with many more to come, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

2015 Canning To Do List

Now that the holidays have come to a close, I am anxious to get back to some canning.  Up until last winter I really didn’t know that there was canning beyond summer and fall.  Last winter however I canned many things and am ready to start my list of canning projects for the next couple of months.

The first thing on my to do list are sweet potatoes.  These were bought when I found them on sale for $.28 a pound at Thanksgiving.  I don’t have as many as I’d like, as we’ve been eating them, but I am excited to give these a try.  I want to use the canned sweet potato for pies as well as a side dish for pork or poultry.  Seeing as the pumpkin I canned last fall turned out so well, I am confident that these will turn out also.

Next, I have raspberries and blackberries in the freezer from last fall and definitely want to make some things with these.  Combining these with the cranberries I froze in November and December, I’m sure I can come up with some tasty syrups, sauces, and concentrates.

Mentioning cranberries, I made some plum-cranberry sauce last November to use on turkey burgers and it turned out perfect.  I am definitely going to make more of this.  I went to several grocery stores today to see if I could find a few more bags on clearance, but everything was gone.  I hope I bought enough to keep me happy until next November.

Sweet potatoes, raspberries, blackberries and cranberries should keep me busy for January.

Once I clear out some space in the overflowing freezers by using some of the berries that are frozen, I’d like to do something with white potatoes.  I found several recipes for canning potatoes that I want to try as well as methods for freezing and dehydrating.

White potatoes, as long as I can find a good deal on them, should keep me busy in February.

For March I plan on making more sauerkraut and canning cabbage in several other ways that I’ve wanted to try. Being that cabbage goes on sale for about $.14 a pound around St. Patrick’s Day, I will definitely be stocking up. Freezing, canning, and dehydrating are all on the agenda.

That’s it for the first quarter of 2015.  I have lots of jars itching to be filled in the garage and pantry shelves in the basement emptying, making space for new concoctions.

I should keep track of how many jars we go through a week.  Last week I counted only 6 jars on the counter that we’d emptied.  During the holidays though there were a few weeks that we went through more than a dozen or more.  At the end of the fall canning season October 2014 I had seven dozen jars of freshly canned food on the floor in the pantry because I didn’t have enough shelving.  Now the floor is clean and the shelves have gaps in them.

Already I’m having to ration the pickles I canned last summer.  With Grace going through a jar a week, we won’t make it till harvest time — thus why the pickle A-Frame is going to have a matching companion next year.  300+ pickles harvested for 2014 and going for 400 – 500 for 2015.  Keep your fingers crossed.

Holiday Season 2014 is over and a brand new 2015 is just beginning, full of potential and possibilities, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.