Pressure Canners Tutorial

Tis the season!  No, not that season.  Canning season! The season where families like mine harvest their garden goodness, plop it into little jars, and process it in one of my pressure canners to last at least through the winter.  If we’ve had a really great harvest we might even get lucky enough to can up enough of summer to last a couple of years.

Often people hear the word ‘canning’ and run for the hills.  I promise it’s not that hard, and it is very safe as long as you follow a few simple directions.

how to use a pressure canner

The Pressure Canner.

This is the type of canner you might be the most familiar with.  This is actually an All American Canner.  You can find cheaper varieties, but after years of canning we finally traded up to this baby and I wish now I would have done so much sooner.  The All American has no need for the rubber gaskets that other pressure canners require.  It also comes in a size that allows you to process 14 quarts at a time.  It’s built to last too.  I’ll be passing this sweet thang down to my kids when I cross over to the great canning season in the sky.

Modern pressure canners are lightweight, thin-walled aluminum or stainless steel kettles. Most have twist-on lids fitted with gaskets. They also have either  a dial gauge for indicating the pressure or a weighted gauge (which both regulates the pressure and indicates…..that’s the ‘rattling noise you’ll hear). Pressure canners can usually handle either one layer of quart or smaller size jars, or deep enough for two layers of pint or smaller size jars.

Foods that REQUIRE a pressure canner:

  • vegetables
  • low acidic fruits
  • meat

These items need a pressure canner rather than a water bath canner because ordinary water bath canners can only reach 212 F and can not to kill the types of bacteria that will grow in low acid foods. This temperature can be reached only by creating steam under pressure as achieved in quality pressure canners.

A few thoughts on canning dairy.  I know a lot of people who are now ‘canning’ butter.  The professionals at my canning extension suggest that home canning butter is not a safe idea.  There may be a ton of people who have canned their own butter and lived to tell the tale.  I choose not to put my family at risk.  The fat found in butter can actually protect C. botulinum and toxin formation even if the butter has been pressure canned. I may be a wuss, but I’m a wus that won’t end up in the emergency room.

Here are a couple of the best websites for canners-

National Center for Home Preservation:  This website gets into the nitty-gritty of canning including safety requirements.

Food in Jars:  I dare you to spend time on this site and not want to start up your own canning engines.  From book reviews to their Canning 101 posts, this site is pure canning crack.  Go ye now and dream.  You can come back and thank me later.

Now there may be those of you wishing I had written this post much earlier in the season…..like when your area hadn’t already been blasted by the first frost of the season.  The idea that canning isonly a summer/fall activity is no longer true.   Do you participate in Zaycon Foods?  You could spend a day or two pressure canning hamburger or chicken!

Are you an experienced canner?  A beginner?  What do you can the most of?

Creating An Emergency Preparedness Blueprint

Emergency Preparedness.  Food Storage. Water.  Flash Lights. Batteries.   When I first began prepping, I thought about earthquakes and fires and droughts,  which are the usual concerns for my state.  I prepped more for short term than long term emergencies.

Life changed.  My family’s preparedness needs changed.  I found myself learning a lot of lessons on how to be prepared for an unexpected emergency the hard way; smack dab in the midst of it.

Emergency Preparedness Planning

What will YOUR emergency preparedness need be?

Our emergency came in the form of a tiny, premature, 5 pound baby boy.  Along with my 6th child came Life Flights, oxygen bottles, a list of diagnoses I’d never heard of before, 15 medications, so many surgeries we’ve lost count, durable medical equipment that would rival a PICU, and a list of specialists a mile long.

Even though we had savings and insurance, we found ourselves in sort of a no-man’s land between what our insurance paid out, what we were responsible for out of pocket, and what we brought home each month.

Grocery shopping didn’t make it as one of the line items of where our paycheck would go for months at a time.

Good thing I had my food storage, right?

Except.

In the midst of my emergency I discovered :  

 

*There simply wasn’t enough time to grind my wheat and make my own bread.

*My family HATED the brand of powered milk I had purchased.   We’ve since switched to Thrive’s powdered milk and will be using the other for baking and other products.

*My family needed more protein, yet  I had no where near enough protein stored.

*I couldn’t make everything from scratch and still have the time and strength keep my kid alive.  More quick and easy recipes would have come in handy.   While I prefer homemade chicken noodle soup, the canned stuff at least kept my kids happy.  And  why hadn’t I ever found the time to can some of my own homemade soups  before?  That would have been the perfect solution.

*If you don’t keep stuff rotated, it will, indeed, go rancid on you.

*Going down to my food storage room only to discover that I had most of the ingredients for a lot of different meals, but not all of the ingredients for any of them was frustrating.  This is especially discouraging when you don’t have the money to go to the store to purchase the remaining ingredients you need for your food storage menu plan.

*No matter how much my family has always loved rice, they WILL get tired of it and refuse to eat it if I serve it every single day.

*It makes NO difference how hungry my family is, they will never, ever, ever, ever eat oatmeal.  Yet I had 100 pounds of the stuff.  Why?  That money could have gone to other food items in my pantry that my family would have eaten.

Emergency Preparedness brings peace of mind.

What emergencies could you face?

-Job Loss

-Extended Illness

-Skyrocketing Prices

-Earthquake

-Flooding

-Snow Storms

-World Affairs
These are just a few of the unexpected types of emergencies a family could find themselves in the midst of.  I’m sure that if you think about it you’ll come up with a few more ways your family needs to prepared for the unexpected.

Create An Emergency Preparedness Blueprint That Meets Your Family’s Unique Needs

Sit down and make a list of the potential emergencies you and your family could face.  Start with the most important and the most probable and work your way down that list.   How would you make it through each scenario?

Envision yourself in the midst of the emergency and what you would need to make it through successfully.   Next, create a blueprint that will see your family safely through a time of need.

While my family prepares for an earthquake with great attention to detail, an atomic bomb attack is much further down on our list.  However, our biggest emergency preparedness plans center around our medically fragile child with special needs. 

While it’s great to read about what all of the ‘experts’ say, remember that your emergency needs are going to be unique.   Taking the time to identify what your emergency might be will help you focus on how to prepare for it.  A good place to find a basic emergency supply checklist is ready.gov.   Of course,  you’ll also want to check back here, as well as follow us on Pinterest and Facebook, to learn other great preparedness strategies.

What is your Number One Emergency Preparedness concern right now?  What plans are you making to successfully get your family through your emergency?

 

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Gleaning | Prepping on a Budget

It used to drive me nuts.  Driving by fruit trees that were loaded with rich, ripe fruit that was simply doing nothing more than going to waste.  I’d think about how much I wish I could go up and ask to pick that fruit, but I didn’t have the nerve.  Things changed one day when a friend of mine told me that she had asked the farmer behind her home if he would let her go gleaning in his tomato patch after he had picked enough to fill all of his orders.  Not only did the farmer agree, he was happy to have someone who could use the not perfect enough to sell part of his crops.

Gleaning is the biblical practice of hand gathering crops after the harvest, or gathering crops nobody else may want.  I think of it as a modern day sort of urban foraging.  There are even gleaning organizations set up in partnership with growers to glean their fields and orchards and give their bounty to food banks.

gleaned vegetables

I began my gleaning career nervously.  What would people think if I asked for the produce they weren’t in need of.  Instead of walking up to doors and knocking, I put a short blurb in our church newsletter.  The very next day I had offers of apricots.  So many apricots.  Trees and trees full of apricots.  Seems as though lots of people plant apricots that don’t really like eating apricots.

I always accept each time I’m offered the opportunity to glean from someone’s garden or fruit trees, even if it’s something that our family might not be fond of.  I can always find another family who would love that very thing, and it keeps me fresh in people’s minds for the next time they’ve grown more than they can eat.

I take notice if the people who are opening their fruit trees for gleaning have a garden or not.  I find it’s a nice touch to return with some of what I may have extra of to say thank you for what I’ve been offered.  I’m big on win-win situations.  This year a neighbor gave me a bonanza of plums.  I returned her kindness with a few jars of jam that I made with those plums.

gleaned fruit

This year I’ve been offered the opportunity to glean peaches, pears, cherries and plums.  Most of it has gone directly into my freezer for my son’s special blenderized diet.

Organic, local and free.  Prepping on a budget. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Have you ever gleaned before? What tips do you have? 

Are you following these top Preparedness Pinners on Pinterest?

Vacuum Sealing Mason Jars | Food Storage

You may remember a few weeks ago Tammy talked about vacuum sealing mason jars to store fresh nuts that she buys in coops for prepping on a budget.

vacuum sealing mason jars od Saver

We received a lot of questions about using this method of food storage but have both had a lot going on in our personal lives and haven’t had a chance to address them. Imagine how happy I was to see that Lisa Bedford recently did a how-to video tutorial for vacuum sealing mason jars showing exactly how to use this method using her Food Saver. She even vacuum seals chocolate and keeps it much longer than a year. I hope by sharing Lisa’s video it helps shed some light on the wonders of this little Food Saver attachment and all it’s versatility. Hint: make sure when ordering you get one for both wide mouth jars and regular mouth jars.  Happy vacuum packing!

Vacuum Sealing Mason Jars

Prepping With Potatoes

Potatoes are cheap, store well, and are easy to find thus making them a great friend of preppers. Recently 10# bags of potatoes have been on sale for $1.99 in my area leading me to search for many ways that prepping with potatoes can be done. Here is how I have been using these sales to further increase my food stores.

Prepping With Potatoes – Dehydrating and Freezing

For both dehydrating potatoes and freezing potatoes you want to par boil them first. That means you want to boil them until they are soft but still firm. You need to be able to grate them into hash browns for dehydrating so you do not want to boil them until they are too soft. See what I did here?

Dehydrating pototoes-step one, boiling Big mistake. I should not have cut them. This was my first time dehydrating potatoes for hash browns so I followed the advice on one of my favorite sites, Dehydrate2Store. The next time I do this I will peel them first with my apple peeler and leave them whole and hope that makes it easier for me. Cutting them in half allowed them to boil too softly which made grating them a bigger chore than it should have been.

I used half of this batch to dehydrate shredded potatoes into hash browns. I had mixed some yellow potatoes in which the 10# bag of russets because I had a few sitting around that I did not want to go bad. I store these in vacuum sealed jars. I don’t like the bags or mylar for these because they are pokey. These are considered a long term food storage option if packed in mylar with oxygen absorbers, estimated to last 20 plus years.

dehydrating hash brown potatoesI experimented with half of the batch doing what Nasreen of RamblingStump.com suggested on our facebook page (you are friends with us there, right?). Nas shared that she typically stores her potato bumper crop by:

I like to scrub them, dice them up and shake them with paprika onion powder salt & oil. Then I freeze them to make homefries with later. I haven’t had an issue with browning while freezing. The oil is just me being lazy. Then they can go straight into the pan & cook without having to do anything else.

I did this as a trial so I skipped the foodsaver bags but here is how mine looked. If it turns out well after tomorrows breakfast I will make a new batch and freeze them in foodsaver bags.

prepping with potatoes: homemade home fries

Prepping With Potatoes-Storing and Growing

I was telling Tammy about this post and she reminded me that she had a great post on how to store potatoes through the winter on Parker’s blog. Click over to see how she uses cedar shavings to keep them fresh.  I have also seen some great ideas on building root cellars on Pinterest that I will share next week.

I often take gardening classes in the winter and a few years ago one of the skills I learned was how to grow potatoes in garbage cans. Potatoes are one of the easiest plants to grow and you can use a standard garbage can or 5 gallon bucket. Ideally you want to start with organic ‘potato seeds’ which is really just cut potatoes revealing the eye’s to start the plants. In a non ideal situation though, any potato you have can be cut into “seeds”. They take roughly 140 days to produce plants but one eye can be quite prolific. It would be best to always have 1-2 (or more) containers going in rotation.

prepping with potatoes: growing potatoes in containers

If you are unfamiliar with growing your own potatoes, this is a great video to get you started. Remember, growing food takes practice. You can’t expect to become a master gardener in one season and with the cost of food going up like crazy it makes sense to start growing as much of your own food as possible! This is one you can do in a small amount of space with a big impact.

Family Food Storage Plan For 3 Months

Making a family food storage plan for 3 months can feel daunting.  Overwhelming.  Something you’d rather not even think about.

How much do I need?

Where do I start?

How am I going to pay for it?

I suggest working on a 3 Month Family Food Storage Plan.  3-Months of foods you KNOW your family will eat.  Nothing funky.  Nothing you hope they will eat.  Don’t buy into the theory that when people get hungry enough, they’ll eat whatever you put in front of them.  It simply ain’t true!

I suggest you begin by creating 7 breakfast menus, 7 lunch menus, and 7 dinner menus that your family is familiar with and enjoys. 

Then break each menu down to each ingredient.  Don’t just assume you have enough tomato sauce, go and check.  Add up how many teaspoons of salt you will need and make sure you have it on hand.  How sad will you be when your Italian pasta bake has no oregano because you thought you had enough? If you like mayo with your tuna salad, you’d better list mayo on your ingredient list.  The same with pickles.  How’s your supply of celery salt looking? Go ahead and look, I’ll wait…

Now you should have the ingredients listed for 7 breakfasts, 7 lunches, and 7 dinners.

Since you are working towards a THREE MONTHS family food storage plan, you’ll want to take those ingredients and multiply it by 12.  12 weeks = 3 months.

  • If you are planning on serving oatmeal for breakfast once a week for 3 months, and your family uses a pound of dry oats per breakfast, then you are going to need 12 pounds of dried oats.
  • If you need 1 cup of raisins for each breakfast, they you will need 12 cups of raisins total.   How much brown sugar does your crew plow through each time they eat oatmeal?  You are going to need that much, times 12.
  • Oh, and if your family likes milk on their oatmeal, you’re gonna want to make sure you have either powdered or canned milk in your stash.

What I like the most about this plan of starting your food storage  is that you wind up with exactly what you need in order to make a variety of complete meals. 

(And because you have three months of meals your family can’t wait to eat, you can easily rotate the ingredients for each meal.  Yes, you must rotate your food storage. Don’t give me the stink eye over this.  Storing only cans of stuff that lasts for 20 years, is expensive and  full of sodium.  In times of crisis your family is going to want foods that are familiar. )

Imagine 3 months of nothing but taco shells, green beans and pudding cups.

Yeah.

This plan is sounding better already, huh?

Food Storage Plan

Food storage plan for 3 months step by step infographic

PS:  Wondering how to make meals that call for meat if the power has gone out?  Yoders makes canned meat that actually tastes good.  With an (approx) 8 year shelf life, you may want to invest in a few cans.  I keep a couple of cases of the canned hamburger on hand.

Zombie Soup: Dry Soup Mix For Emergency Prepardness

I have always loved the story of Stone Soup. A community coming together to chip in and make something out of nothing is how I envision what I hope my community becomes in an emergency scenario. Homemade dry soup mix made from dehydrated vegetables is an excellent part of your emergency food storage plans. Before I get blasted by the people out there who keep prepping 100% OPSEC (operational security), I have built sharing into my prepping in a short term emergency. I feel the best security is to make sure that no one around me is truly in need. AKA a zombie. Prepping things like this simple Zombie Soup will hopefully go a long way in keeping the zombies at bay for at least a little while.

Soup makes me happy. It signifies warmth and comfort. This weekend I put together Zombie Soup preps out of our Thanksgiving leftovers. I now have everything I need dehydrated and ready to throw together a soup in our 36 qt. pot that fits on top of the turkey fryer, which makes an extremely efficient propane boiler that would provide that needed warmth, comfort, and nutrition in an emergency situation to a large group.

To make Zombie Soup you really don’t need a recipe. What you do need is the foresight to put away dehydrated foods in your emergency food preps.

Homemade Dry Soup Mix Ingredients for Zombie Soup:

Homemade Dry Soup Mix Ingredients to make Zombie Soup

  • I am a big fan of quinoa for prepping. One cup of cooked quinoa has 222 calories and 8.1 grams of protein. Alternately you could use the prepper staple food- rice or beans or both. If you use quinoa put it in towards the end of your soup cooking cycle as it only takes about 20 minutes in a simmering soup.
  • Dehydrated mushrooms. One Costco sized mushroom container is dehydrated and packed into this Kerr 1 pint mason jar and 1 300 cc oxygen absorber.
  • Dry vegetable soup starter. The third pint size jar has 2 1/2 onions, 1/2 Costco sized bag of carrots, and 6 stocks of celery (had these leftover from Thanksgiving)
  • Bouillon cubes. Sodium and flavor! Or use canned stock. Personally, if I am feeding this to a large crowd I am saving my stock and using cubes with purified water here.

Add as much or as little as you need and want but mark on the outside of the jar what the original volume of the dehydrated foods are. Carrots and celery dehydrate into very small pieces so there is a good deal more there than it appears in its dehydrated state. You could also toss in any meat available.

To save space I could have put the mushrooms in with the soup starter mix, added the bouillon cubes in a small ziplock bag sealed on its on (they have moisture not good for the vegetables) and the quinoa also sealed separately (so it can be cooked less time) all into one foodsaver bag. But to be honest, I can’t find where I hid my last stash of foodsaver bags!

 

Prepping Projects For Thanksgiving Weekend

Pinterest has been bursting with great ideas for prepping over this holiday weekend. Here are some of my favorite ideas for Thanksgiving weekend prepping projects.

thanksgiving prepping pinterest ideas

Dehydrate Pumpkins

We’ve been talking for several weeks now about how this is the time of year to put up pumpkins. Here are some great directions on how to dehydrate pumpkin:

How to Can Cranberries

I love fresh cranberries and this recipe looks delicious. I am curious though that the instructions for this don’t include a water bath. Has anyone done this without using the water bath method?


 

Plant a Winter Vegetable Garden

I never knew that there were some vegetables that will do very well in the winter. I am going to put some garlic sets out and try it:

 


 

What are you planning on prepping this Thanksgiving weekend? Have your eye on anything special in Black Friday sales? I am not planning on shopping but instead practicing skills and working on food stores. I have all the ingredients ready to dehydrate for Zombie Soup and will be getting that put up this weekend.

How to Dehydrate Apples

Dehydrating food is a skill that all preppers should master and dehydrated apples are probably the easiest food to learn with.  But I would be seriously remiss in letting anyone think that I store dehydrated apples as long term food storage in this house. Truth is, the second my kids see this bag on the counter they will be gone. The work involved used to make the fact that they would disappear faster than I could peel them discouraging and then I bought an apple peeler/corer/slicer. It cut my prep time down into a ridiculous 20 mins for a 5 lb bag to be opened and the nesco trays running. Now, that is a time I can deal with for making a healthy snack! If you don’t have teenage boys roaming your home, this makes an excellent long term food storage option. Especially when you get apples on sale in the fall.

I used a combination of Fuji and Gala this round.

5# bag of fuji applesI was able to slice, peel and core all the apples in less than 10 mins. You can also use this when prepping potatoes.

apple on peeler/slicer/corerNext, everything goes into a water bath dip with Ball Fruit Fresh.

apples in water and ball fruit fresh bath

5 lb bag fits 6 Nesco trays perfectly.

nesco tray with dehdrated apples I dehydrate for 6-12 hours (depending on how chewy or dry you like them)on 135 degrees. It works perfectly for me to put them in around 3:30 in the afternoon and have my husband shut it off in the morning around 6:30 am.

bagged homemade dehydrated apples

This whole process yields roughly a 1/2 gallon Ziploc bag, which will take my teens minutes to munch through. If I was storing this for long term use, I would seal in a mason jar, take the air out with the foodsaver jar sealer and include a silica gel pack.

I had to wonder who this compares cost wise to just buying a bag. I looks like in my local area I can get a bag this size for roughly $10. Apples right now are running about $1 a pound (not on sale) in my area so this is cheaper. Finding apples less expensive would be better economically but even at the $5 savings I like doing this for my family. They love the taste and it is easy and I know what is in it!