Thursday, April 17, 2014

Storing chocolate and other happy items...

Various people are known for different skills or areas of self-sufficiency. Mine is being a newbie, who is willing to learn and try. That being said, I am very literal when it comes to storing what I use (and using what I store).
One, I think storing chocolate is extremely important. I eat; therefore I store! I need to add here that I have better results with dark chocolate than milk chocolate. 
Two: I store a LOT of coffee, since I get a pound every week for free, I store, therefore I drink. The coffee is for another post. 
This cache of chocolate is stored in the cabinet under my tv, which happens to sit on 110 gallons of water storage...

We have had multiple discussions about the Food Saver as a great tool for vacuum sealing storage, particularly in canning jars. It is so very easy to do. Here are just two methods I use for dry canning/sealing food for long term storage.. First is using a FoodSaver.
When you purchase your Food Saver you need to insure that it has an “accessory port”. 
This is the accessory tube. It is hidden in the bottom of the Food Saver.

Note these empty jars. They held biscotti and chocolate candy, which "someone" had used (eaten) So, true to my word, I purchased twice the amount that I ate to add to my storage.

Here are the jars waiting to be sealed...

Now I often will do a large batch of sealing at a time. You simply place the attachment on a jar with a lid (with out the ring), insert the tube into a little hole on the top of the lid attachment & hit the accessory button. When it stops, you remove the attachment. That's it.
Here is an example:

We use our Food Saver Attachments frequently.  You can find the attachments for sale on Amazon for under $10 each. I recommend getting both the wide mouth and regular mouth attachment. This is what the boxes look like for the attachments.

Canning jars are a very cost effective way to store. When vacuum sealed (which removes the air from the jar) and stored in a dark cool place, you extend the shelf life for many years.
I recently wrote another post about vacuum sealing jars with with out electricity using a Mityvac Automotive Test and Bleeding Kit

Storing powdered cocoa:  Hershey Company's FAQ they state "Cocoa is considered a non-

perishable item which should  maintain quality if stored at room temperature in a tightly 

sealed container." Sounds good to me.  I have heard as long as it is kept in a cool, dark, 

dry place it lasts a very long time. 

I am now getting my Hersey's Dark Cocoa from Amazon. 

If you  are having difficulty getting a seal, try placing two lids on top, then the attachment. It will only seal the bottom lid.

If you are doing a powder type product, you can either place in individual plastic bags OR add a small coffee filter on the top of the jar to stop the fine powder from being sucked up into the tubing.

Feel free to add our own personal tips here or on Facebook & I will edit this post so we will now have a centralized location to refer people too, who are having questions.

Another tip from Tammy Milasmom: Try taking out the Food Saver attachment's gasket and then reinstalling it. I have to do that constantly to get it to work

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Monday, April 14, 2014

Turnpike Salad, another bacon recipe from stored items...

Flashback from the 1970's. I picked this recipe up when I was in high school. It has been a family favorite forever. This is another one of my recipes from storage foods.
Macaroni and cheese (pack), milk, butter 
1/2 cup Mayo (stored)
3/4 cup diced dill pickles (stored)
4 boiled eggs diced (the eggs I used were oiled in November 2013)
6 pieces of cooked bacon, crumpled up
3/4 cups of diced tomatoes (canned)

Simply make the macaroni and cheese according to the packaged directions. Add the other ingredients & stir. While we will eat when I make it, it is one of the dishes that is better the following day.

Pasta Carbonara from Food Storage

For the life of me, I never seem to be able to follow a recipe to the letter. I tend to always add and subtract based on my tastes. That being said, I wanted to make Pasta Carbonara (this was my first time making the dish), utilizing only food from storage. You know, use what you store, store what you use. This is a rich bacon and egg pasta dish,and i used the recipe here as my jumping off point. Pasta Carbonara II from All
These are the ingredients that I actually used from storage. I actually packed everything up in box and made the dinner at a friends house.

1 pounds of spaghetti (stored)
2 T. olive oil (didn't use, because I don't store olive oil. Everything turned out fine with out it)
8 slices of bacon (crumbled) (from my pressure canned bacon)
1 onion (that I dehydrated)
1 clove garlic (that I dehydrated)
4 eggs (stored with mineral oil)
1/2 grated Parmesan cheese (this store really well unopened on the shelf) and I also used smoked Gouda (which I waxed in 2013)
salt & pepper

It was so simple. I basically prepared the recipe, just baking my bacon
adding extra cheese.
Let me tell you, it was a big hit, especially the 12 year old. WIN!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Bacon, bacon, bacon...

Ah, pressure canning bacon. Another controversial subject.
First, read your book that came with your pressure canner. It has exact directions for canning, especially since various canner have different equipment on them to determine pressure etc.  
I have read the information list at the National Center for Home Food Preservation many times and I recommend that you read it also to make your own informed decision about various canning guidelines. For me, I decided that though some PEOPLE don't recommend pressure canning bacon, I couldn't find any specific prohibition from the NCHFP. 
Now lets talk bacon. I am cautious to sterilize everything along the way and aware of allowing enough head-space to keep the fat content from creeping up the jars and disturbing the sealing process. With that said, did I mention you should read the guidelines yourself to make an informed decision?
In February 2013 I did my first batch of pressure canned bacon. In my opinion, it was a lot of work. It entails wrapping the bacon slices in parchment paper. It you want to try that method, I will have a link at the bottom of this post.
I thought since I recently got a shipment of Zaycon bacon, I would try another method. I like this process better. I found that a higher
quality bacon does better with pressure canning, that why I plan to only use 
Zaycon bacon from now on.
I am not going into every detail of canning since you are going to be reading your book; I am giving general instructions and I want to define some terminology that I didn't understand when I began to can.
First get all of your canning equipment, jars & lids clean, together and ready to use. I also thoroughly clean and sanitize my counter top and sink. I normally keep all my canning equipment together in a bag and inside of my canner when not in use.
That way I don't have to go looking for everything when I start canning. I also have an “s” hook, that I hang the bag from off of a shelving unit close to where I am working. I actually keep two sets of equipment in the bag, in case I happen to drop a utensil, I will have the back up already sterilized and available. Link to see how I do this: Getting Started and Organized.
I get a pot of just under boiling water (180 degrees) going on the stove. I added my lids and rings. These need to be in the very hot water for 10 minutes.

I know my Presto canner will hold 7 quarts at a time, so I work with 7 jars at a time.

I set the clean jars on the counter, then started to add the bacon. I opened that package and folded the bacon lightly in half, then quarters & placed that piece in the canning jar.
I laid two one direction, then stacked the next layer at 90 degrees. I gently tapped the bacon pieces down, leaving at least an inch of head-space at the top.
This diagram from Presto shows what various head-space amounts look like.
Then clean the tops of the canning jars with a paper towel (or a clean cloth) and vinegar.
Add a lid and ring to each jar from your hot water.
Tighten the ring on the jar to “finger tight”. Now what does “finger tight” mean exactly? From “A practical way to determine if the lid is fingertip tight is to place the band on the jar, turn it just until you feel resistance, then turn the band one-quarter turn more. For beginning canners, it may help to mark the band and lid with a marker at the point of first resistance and at the point that represents an additional quarter turn and to then turn the band to that point.
Place your jars into your pressure canner and add the appropriate amount of water, based on your canner. On my Presto there is a line inside the canner.

Check your lid to see if you are able to see air through the vent hole, and then place your lid on your canner and secure. Set heat to high and continue heating until a steady flow of steam comes out of the vent.

Set timer for 10 minutes, let the steam continue to vent for 10 minutes.

After the timer goes off, add appropriate weight. Check your canning book for your weight pressure based on the altitude of here you live. Here is a link to an altitude chart.
FOR WEIGHT ONLY CANNERS: After adding the weight, keep temperature up until your weight jiggles. A jiggle is when the weight on top spits, sputters or wiggles a little. After the weight starts to jiggle, reduce your heat until the weight is only jiggling 3-5 times a minute. This take s a little practice. 
Keep an eye on your pressure gauge and/or weight during the process. You are able to reduce the heat, as long as you are maintaining the proper pressure. With my stove, I am able to reduce the temp. to low during this time.
It all depends upon your stove. 
FOR GAUGES: after adding the weight and gauge, bring the pressure up to the appropriate pressure (again check your book)
Then reset your timer for the proper time for what you are canning. It will vary depending on what size jar you are using and what you are cooking (again check your book)..For this batch we are doing quarts. For my altitude it is 10# of pressure, cooked for 90 minutes.

When the timer goes off: turn off the heat and gently move the canner from the heat.
Let rest until the pressure gauge drops down to zero or when the little button drops down.
Remove the lid carefully, turning it away from you when removing the lid.
Smile when you start to hear the pings!
Gently remove the jars from the canner and set on a clean, dry dish towel.
Let them set for awhile. If a jar does not seal (ping), say in an hour (?) put that in the fridge and use it.
Let rest away from drafts. While not completely necessary, I cover my jars with a towel to help protect them from drafts.
You put a lot of work, time and money into pressure canning food. When you are done canning, you just put the jars on the shelf, right? WRONG! I often say "there are questions that newbies don't even know to ask". I don't believe I have seen a list of the simple, yet very important steps to take after you finish a batch to optimize and protect your hard work. In my mind each of these little steps are to protect the safety of my family & are easy to do. Check this link for important steps often missed. Testing 1, 2, 3...

Check the lids periodically over the next few days, weeks to insure the lids remain sealed.
There you have it. Here is the very same bacon cooked up. I simply open the jar, gently unfolded the bacon strips and laid them out in a baking dish and baked at 350 degrees until golden brown and crispy. Lay out on paper towels to absorb the extra grease and it is ready for eating! Soon, I will be sharing a few meals I plan on making from my food storage using bacon.

Here is the old method I used to pressure can bacon: How to Can Bacon with Parchment Paper.
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