Monthly Archives: August 2012

  • Dehydrating has been one of my favorite ways to preserve food—especially foods meant for snacking. It’s an easy way to get the kids involved in storing food and they like being able to choose how we flavor some of their snacks. I love trying to dehydrate different kinds of foods. I have found that I can dehydrate most fruits and vegetables and many kinds of meat, including fish. Here are some things that I have learned over the years that might help you get started.

    FP-D060_dehydrator with fruit

    Dehydrating Tips:

    • To prevent browning of fruit or potatoes – dip them in a solution of water and lemon juice before putting them in the dehydrator.
    • Remember to cut or slice all fruits, veggies or meats evenly so that they dehydrate in the same amount of time.
    • Tomato sauce can be dehydrated like a “fruit roll” and then re-hydrated for cooking at a later time (e.g, spaghetti sauce). We do this for camping. It is much lighter and takes up less space, especially for backpacking.
    • For fruit leather – cook fruit first and don’t use sugar it will crystallize during storage. Use honey or corn syrup instead.
    • For best results blanch vegetables before dehydrating.
    • Always use the freshest, highest-quality foods. Fruits and vegetables should be ripe, but not too soft or mushy.
    • Apples don’t need to be peeled to be dehydrated; the peel adds more fiber (and flavor) to your snack.
    • Try drying herbs from your garden. Store in zip-top bags or mason jars.
    • To flavor apple slices sprinkle with any flavor Jell-o® powder. I use an old bottle that held cake sprinkles to shake the Jell-o® onto the fruit. It works great and the kids love the added flavors.
    • When making apple fruit leather always add cinnamon.
    • Dehydrators are not just for fruits and jerky. Try making crackers, granola bars and cookies. I have even made dog cookies in mine.
    • To prevent tomatoes from dripping in your dehydrator, place trays over your sink, add tomato slices and let them drain before stacking in your dehydrator.
    • When making any type of jerky be sure to marinate for several hours. I marinate beef jerky overnight. That gives the flavors time to soak through the meat.
    • Be sure to rotate the dehydrating trays so the foods dry evenly.

    iStock_000010243854XSmall_driedfruit

    Dehydrating is a great way to make crunchy, healthy snacks. Have fun with it, and don’t be afraid to experiment. You might be surprised by what you can make.

    --Dawn

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: dehydrating food, fruit, preserve food

  • US Drought Monitor, August 7, 2012

    Image Source: http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/

    It’s been a dry year so far in much of the country. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, 45.57% of the United States is in severe to exceptional drought. Important food-producing states like Iowa, Indiana, Illinois, and Nebraska seem to be getting the worst of it. This is certainly affecting U.S. farmers, but how might it impact the rest of us? The USDA projects that corn prices could reach $8.90 per bushel, much higher than their prediction of $6.40 in July and $4.80. About 40% of corn grown in the U.S. goes into ethanol production, 40% into animal feed, and about 20% into processed foods. If corn prices spike, what might this mean for the American consumer in the months to come?

    It’s impossible to predict exactly how much food will cost a year from now, but with food prices increasing an average of about 3.1% a year over the past decade it seems they will continue to go up. So, how can we limit the impact of rising food prices on our food budgets? You know that long-term food storage will help you prepare for unforeseen emergencies, but you may not have considered that buying it sooner than later could save you money in the long run.





    The U.S. Drought Monitor is an online tool that combines multiple drought indices and impact reports to assess drought conditions as accurately as possible. For more information, visit droughtmonitor.unl.edu.

    http://www.usatoday.com/money/industries/food/story/2012-08-10/drought-corn-soybean-crop-estimates/56930320/1?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm;_medium=twitter&dlvrit;=206567

    http://metricmash.com/inflation.aspx?code=SAF11

    Posted In: Uncategorized

  • The USA National Gas Price Heat Map on GasBuddy.com shows the ‘temperature’ of gas prices around the country, dark red being the highest price range and dark green being the lowest. As you zoom in, local maps show the locations of gas stations and their current prices. This is handy if you want to find the least expensive gas in your area. You can also search by city, state, or zip code, making it easy to find locations near you. The map even allows you to search by fuel grade/type. GasBuddy has a free mobile app that helps you locate gas stations and check prices wherever you are. GasBuddy.com has a trip cost calculator, fuel saving tips, price charts, graphs and more.

    Image Source: gasbuddy.com

    Posted In: Uncategorized

  • Image Source: wired.com

    Imagine a flood is headed your way. You and forty nine others, including family, friends, and neighbors, gather at a central location and pile into a bright orange submarine-like storm shelter.  Once inside this “Storm, Tornado, and Tsunami Interconnecting Module” or “STATIM pod,” you and the others buckle up and wait. When the floodwaters hit, the STATIM pod rises with the water like a boat. As you wait for rescue, the fully-stocked and securely-tethered pod bobs gently, keeping you safe from harm. This kind of scenario is surely part of STATIM pod inventor, Miguel Serrano’s vision.[i] In a recent article on Wired.com, Serrano was quoted saying, “We’re addressing a high-priority need with a low tech approach.”[ii] This low tech approach, however, comes at a high price. The estimated cost per person for a 50-person pod is about $1,800; $90,000 dollars altogether.[iii] This price doesn’t include supplies needed to sustain 50 people for at least 72-hours.

    Although the STATIM pod seems like a great idea, how many of us have $1800 to buy ourselves a spot in a storm shelter? Do you know forty nine other people willing to help you cover the other $88,200? What about other needed supplies? For most of us, a shelter like the STATIM pod just isn’t practical. Still, there are a lot of things we can do to prepare for potential disasters.

    Imagine you did have $1,800 to spend on emergency-preparedness supplies. What would you buy? That kind of money could buy 3-day Emergency Kits for 30 people. It could also buy about 450 100-hour Emergency Candles. For about fifty dollars more you could buy our Premium 1600 Year Supply of Food. The big question is: What’s the best use of your money when it comes to emergency preparedness? Of course the answer will be different for everyone, but here are a few things to consider. While natural disasters do happen, often with devastating results, other smaller disasters occur more often. Disasters like house fires, deaths in the family, job-loss, or car trouble happen every day to inpiduals and families. Another thing to keep in mind is the fact that we each need to drink water and eat food everyday no matter the situation.

    Ideally, everyone would have a fully-stocked disaster-proof shelter nearby, but that simply isn’t a reality. Not everyone can afford to invest in an expensive shelter. Still, everyone can do something to prepare. It’s important to assess inpidual needs and resources to determine what each inpidual or family can do to prepare. In a real-life disaster, any preparation is better than none. Our website, beprepared.com, features over 150 “Insight Articles” that offer expert advice on topics like food and water storage, disaster preparedness, first aid, and much more to help you plan. Emergency Essentials also carries over 1300 products to help you get prepared.

    So, what can you do to increase your emergency preparedness? What are your preparedness priorities? Are you ready to buy a seat in a STATIM pod or do you still need to get an emergency kit? How well-supplied is your “escape pod?”


    [i] Go to statimshelter.com for more information on the STATIM pod.

    [ii] Tim Maly. “Brace for the Apocalypse! Surviving the Worst in an Inland Lifeboat.” Wired.com. 20 July, 2012.

    [iii] Ibid.

    Posted In: Uncategorized

  • Kosher Dill Pickles

    4 Cups White Vinegar

    1 Cup Kosher Salt

    3 Quarts Water

    Pickling Cucumbers

    Fresh Garlic

    Fresh or Dried Dill Sprigs

    Place 1 clove of peeled garlic and 1 Dill Sprig into the bottom of each jar.  Pack cleaned and dried Cucumbers into each jar.  Make sure they fit snugly.  Set aside.  My family likes hot pickles too so for some of the jars I will add a jalapeno or Anaheimpepper.

    Place water, vinegar and salt into large pot and heat over high heat until boiling.  When the brine comes to a full boil it is time to fill your jars.  It is important to keep the brine boiling while filling jars.  Place a canning funnel on the jar and us a two cup measuring cup to pour brine into the jar.  Fill jar with brine leaving ½” headspace, wipe the top of the jar and put on a lid and ring.  When all jars are filled process using a water bath canner for 20 minutes after the water in canner returns to a boil.

    Pickles need to sit for about 3 months before they are ready to eat.

    I usually make pickles in small batches since I can only get enough from my garden for a few jars at a time.  Any left over brine will store safely in a container either in your pantry on in the refrigerator and can be used for your next batch.

    --Dawn

    Posted In: Uncategorized

  • Hi, all! Dawn is sharing two of her go-to canning recipes with us today!

    First up, this delicious-sounding salsa.

    Salsa

    12 Cups Tomatoes – peeled, cored, chopped and drained

    5 Cups Chopped AnaheimPeppers (I leave the seeds in but you can take them out)

    5 Cups Chopped Red Onion

    2 Cups Chopped and Seeded Jalapeno Peppers

    4 Cloves Garlic, Minced

    3 Tablespoons Cilantro, Minced

    3 Teaspoons Salt

    1 ¼  Cup Cider Vinegar

    1 Teaspoon Cumin

    Heat all ingredients in large pot. Allow time for the mixture to cook down and thicken to your liking. Prepare jars, lids and rings.  Bring salsa mixture to boil, reduce heat to simmer and fill jars leaving ¼ inch head space. Wipe rim of jars and put on prepared lid and ring.  Process salsa in water bath canner for 20 minutes (after canner returns to full boil) – remember to adjust this time for your altitude.

    Helpful Hint – When chopping and seeding peppers always wear gloves to prevent your hands being burned.

    Posted In: Uncategorized

  • TOMATOES-CRUSHED (with no added liquid)

    A high-quality product, ideally suited for use in soups, stews, and casseroles. This recipe is

    similar to that formerly referred to as “Quartered Tomatoes.”

    Quantity: An average of 22 pounds is needed per canner load of 7 quarts; an average of 14

    fresh pounds is needed per canner load of 9 pints. A bushel weighs 53 pounds and yields 17

    to 20 quarts of crushed tomatoes—an average of 2-3/4 pounds per quart.

    Procedure:

    Wash tomatoes and dip in boiling water for 30 to 60 seconds or until skins split. Then dip in cold water, slip off skins, and remove cores. Trim off any bruised or discolored portions and quarter.

    Heat one-sixth of the quarters quickly in a large pot, crushing them with a wooden mallet or spoon as they are added to the pot. This will exude juice. Continue heating the tomatoes, stirring to prevent burning.

    Once the tomatoes are boiling, gradually add remaining quartered tomatoes, stirring constantly. These remaining tomatoes do not need to be crushed. They will soften with heating and stirring. Continue until all tomatoes are added. Then boil gently 5 minutes.

    Add bottled lemon juice or citric acid to jars. See acidification directions on page 3-5. Add 1 teaspoon of salt per quart to the jars, if desired. Fill hot jars immediately with hot tomatoes, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace if needed. Wipe rims of jars with a dampened, clean paper towel. Adjust lids and process. (Acidification is still required for the pressure canning options; follow all steps in the Procedures above for any of the processing options.)

    This recipe is from the USDA’s Complete Guide to HomeCanning.

    Are you going to give this one a shot? Hope it goes well!

    Posted In: Uncategorized

  • Are you ready to try canning for the first time? Today we'll be posting some great recipes throughout the day to get you started.

    This recipe is from the USDA’s Complete Guide to HomeCanning.

    PEACHES—HALVED OR SLICED

    Quantity:

    An average of 17-1/2 pounds is needed per canner load of 7 quarts; an average of

    11 pounds is needed per canner load of 9 pints. A bushel weighs 48 pounds and yields 16 to

    24 quarts—an average of 2-1/2 pounds per quart.

    Quality:

    Choose ripe, mature fruit of ideal quality for eating fresh or cooking.

    Procedure:

    Dip fruit in boiling water for 30 to 60 seconds until skins loosen. Dip quickly in cold water and slip off skins. Cut in half, remove pits, and slice if desired.

    To prevent darkening, keep peeled fruit in ascorbic acid solution (see page 1-11). Prepare and boil a very light, light, or medium syrup (see page 2-5) or pack peaches in water, apple juice, or white grape juice. Raw packs make poor quality peaches.

    Hot pack

    —In a large saucepan, place drained fruit in syrup, water, or juice and bring to boil.

    Fill hot jars with hot fruit and cooking liquid, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Place halves in layers, cut side down.

    Raw pack

    —Fill hot jars with raw fruit, cut side down, and add hot water, juice, or syrup, leaving 1/2-inch headspace.

    Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace if needed. Wipe rims of jars with a dampened, clean paper towel. Adjust lids and process.

    Processing directions for canning peaches in a dial- or weighted-gauge canner are given on

    pages 2-31 and 2-32.

    Ready to give it a shot? Let us know how it goes!

    Posted In: Uncategorized

  • Now that you know some of the basics of canning, it’s time to get started. Deciding what to preserve and when are really important. Make a list and check when each item will come into season in your area. It is so much easier to spread your canning out over time instead of buying everything at once and not leaving the kitchen for a month. When you want to begin a canning session, you should have everything you need clean and available. Double check before starting, because you don’t want to be in the middle of filling your jars and realize that you forgot to buy mustard seeds for your pickles.

    Below is a list of my favorite canning tips. They have simplified canning for me and prevented a few mistakes along the way.

    Canning tips and tricks

    • Never set jars directly on the bottom of the canner; they will burst. Always use the wire rack that comes with the canner.
    • Make all preserves, jams and jellies in small batches. This will ensure proper jelling. If you double or triple a recipe it just doesn’t work.
    • Most new varieties of tomatoes are not as high in acid as older varieties. To continue to use a water bath canner you must add an acid. I use lemon juice. Add 2 TBS per quart jar or 2 tsp. per pint jar. Just put the lemon juice in the bottom of the jar prior to filling. This amount doesn’t affect the taste but if you are concerned you could always add a tsp. of sugar to compensate.
    • Processing time starts when the canner has returned to boiling after adding the jars
    • Clear Jel® is the only thickener (i.e. pie filling) considered safe by the USDA for canning. Do not use flour, cornstarch, rice or pasta.
    • To prevent darkening of peeled or cut fruit use commercial ascorbic acid (“Fruit-Fresh”). Follow the directions on the package and prepare a bowl of cool water with the ascorbic acid added, then simply put your fruit into the water as you peel or cut it.
    • Any jar that fails to seal can be reprocessed in a clean jar with a new lid.
    • After processing tomatoes through a food strainer or sieve, pour off the water that collects on top. This will help keep the bright red color of the tomato and cut cooking times in half when making salsa or catsup.
    • Use soft or filtered water to pack vegetables. This will prevent cloudiness in the jar when storing.
    • To remove hard water from jars, soak them overnight in a solution of 1 gallon water and 1 cup white vinegar.
    • Jars should always be added or removed from your canner one at a time. Never lift them out using the internal rack. It is only designed to keep them off the bottom of the pan and prevent them from bumping into each other during processing.
    • Do not make modifications to recipes, especially in a water bath canner. This can lead to spoiling and bacteria growth. Canning recipes are very specific and tested to ensure the safety of the food for storage.
    • Adding “pickling lime” to your pickling brine keeps pickles crisp in storage.
    • Never use any jars larger than 1 quart. Due to the density of the food in such a large jar, home canners can’t reach a high enough temperature to process foods safely.
    • Only fill your canner about half full with water. When you begin adding jars the level will rise. I keep a tea kettle with boiling water ready so if the water level is too low I can add enough to cover the jars by about 1 inch. If the level is too high I just use a measuring cup to scoop some water out.
    • Use a long handled thin rubber spatula to remove air bubbles from inside the jars after filling. Just run it around the inside edge and through the middle. This makes sure that your jars are filled properly and all of the air can escape during processing.
    • Preserve meat! You must use a pressure canner but it is just wonderful. It can be packed with either water or broth. The meat becomes so tender and recipe ready during processing, it is simply amazing!

    These helpful hints should get you well on your way to “putting up” your harvest or bulk buys. You will find that it is a little work but nothing beats the feeling of being able to serve your family something that you have canned yourself. Canning will also help bring you one step closer to being self-sufficient and is an excellent way to increase your current food storage.

    For more canning tips, information, and recipes, refer to the USDA’s Complete Guide to Home Canning: http://nchfp.uga.edu/publications/publications_usda.html

    We’ll have some recipes posted tomorrow so you can put your new canning skills to use! Good luck!

    --Dawn

    Posted In: Uncategorized

  • Let’s talk about preserving food at home—specifically, canning. Canning is my favorite way to store local, seasonal fruit and vegetables. Purchasing seasonal produce in large quantities—or growing your own food— and canning it is very economical and it provides my family with their favorites year round.

    I also love how eco-friendly canning is. All of your canning equipment, including jars and rings, can be used for many years. The only thing you throw away after use is the lid with the rubber seal. It’s a great feeling to know that you are helping to conserve natural resources by canning your own food.

    Before we talk about the steps you’ll take when canning, let’s go over the equipment that you will need to get started. Here is a list of basics:

    • A Canner – Water Bath and/or Pressure Canner
    • Jars - These come in several sizes and designs, just be sure you choose jars that are designed for canning.
    • Rings and Lids – These can be purchased as a set or individually. The first time around you will need sets. After that you can just buy new lids.
    • Wide Mouth Funnel – This will allow you to easily fill your jars.
    • Magnetic Lid Lifter – A great little tool that makes it easy to get the lid from the pan of hot water onto the jars.
    • Jar Lifter – This tool is a giant pair of tongs that lets you grab the jar from the lip just below the threads and safely put it into and take it out of your canner.

    Once you have all of your equipment together it’s time to start thinking about what you want to can. In a water bath canner you can preserve most acidic foods, such as most fruits, tomatoes and pickles. If you want to can vegetables or meats you will need a pressure canner. When choosing food to can, be sure to pick only the highest quality available. My mom always had the rule that “if it isn’t good enough for your table then it isn’t good enough to can.” You want to choose food that is ripe but not over-ripe. Be sure to discard food that has any bruising, insect damage, or disease.

    You have so many choices when preparing food for canning. Food can be peeled or not, chopped into large or small pieces, packed with water, syrup (for fruits), or broth (for meats). Most fruits and tomatoes will need some acid (like lemon juice) added to each jar. It's very important to use recipes specific for canning and follow them exactly. Following these directions and processing times exactly will ensure the safety of the food by removing oxygen, destroying enzymes, and preventing the growth of bacteria, yeasts, and mold.

    You'll also have the choice to “cold pack” or “hot pack.” Cold packing is done by putting the cold food into the jar and then pouring hot liquid over it to fill. Hot packing is done by heating the food and liquid together in a pan and pouring both into the jar to fill. (When is cold packing better? When is hot packing better?)

    When you're ready to begin, start by sterilizing your jars and washing your lids and rings. Keep your jars and rings covered with a clean dishtowel until you're ready to use them. Fill your canner to the proper level with water and begin preheating it. You'll also want to put your lids in a small pan with just enough water to cover and put them on the stove with a low heat. They don’t need to be hot. You just want the rubber seal to be soft. Now it’s time to prepare your food for canning—again be sure to follow the recipe instructions exactly.  Filling the jars should be done fairly quickly, so make sure that your canner is ready before you begin.

    Take a sterilized jar and fill it with food; be sure to leave the proper headspace (specified in the recipe) to allow for boiling. I keep a wet dishcloth handy to wipe down the top of the jar and the threads. After cleaning, put a lid on top of the jar and twist on a ring. You only need to hand-tighten the ring. It does need to be tight, but don't over-tighten. Quickly fill all jars for a single batch in your canner. Do not add them to the canner as you fill them. Wait until they're all filled, then put them all in at the same time. This will ensure that the water in your canner stays hotter.

    Once you have all of your jars in the canner, you just need to wait for it to reach the proper temperature, pressure, or begin to boil (based on the recipe and type of canner you’re using). Set a timer to make sure that you have processed your jars for the correct amount of time. If you want to do several batches in one session just begin preparing the next one while the others are processing in the canner. When they finish, carefully remove the jars from the canner and place them on a towel on the counter to cool. Before you add the next batch to the canner make sure that the water is still at the proper level. If you need to add more water, you'll have to wait for the temperature to rise before putting in your next batch of filled cans.

    As your jars cool, you'll hear the ping of the lids as they seal. Once the jars have cooled completely, remove the rings and wipe down the jars to remove anything that may have seeped out during processing. The rings are not necessary for storage, but you will need one to keep the lid on the can once you open it. If you misplace things easily, it might be best to keep a ring on each can. All that’s left is to label your jars (don’t forget to date them) and put them away to store.

    It's a wonderful feeling of security to have your harvest safely stored away. These canned foods have some other benefits as well. Fruits and vegetables that are handled properly and canned promptly after harvest or purchase are often more nutritious than canned food purchased at the store, they don’t require refrigeration, and will store about two years at room temperature. No thawing is required, these jars are recipe ready!

    So, do you think you’re ready for your first canning recipe? Check back here in a couple of days—I’ll have some additional tips and a few great recipes for you.

    --Dawn

    Posted In: Uncategorized

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