Tuesday, May 18, 2010

What's The Plan?

When spring rolls around, I begin thinking about self reliance and what I need to do this summer to make my family more independent. And my thoughts this spring have focused on The Plan.

I'm trying to formulate a simple plan to make sure that I can always take care of the basic needs of my family, no matter what happens.

So, I've been asking myself this question: What things do we need or what preparations do I need to make in order to take care of my family....

... if I don't have electricity/gas.
... if I don't have shelter.
... if if it is winter and extremely cold or wet.
... if it is summer and extremely hot or dry.
... if I cannot get fuel.
... if water service were disrupted.
... if someone is sick or hurt.
... if we were to lose our employment.
... if food became scarce or unavailable.
... if transportation by vehicle became impossible.
... if I had to evacuate my home quickly.
... if telephone, cel, and internet communication did not work.
... if family members became separated.

Watching the collective meltdown of the entire city of New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina showed me that things can go from inconvenient to desperate very quickly, even with the assistance of the Red Cross and other organizations doing their best to bring relief.

The thing I learned from watching all of that is this: Plan so you can take care of yourself and your family.

What's your plan?

Monday, April 5, 2010

Earthquake Preparedness

Here is a great site put out by the state of Utah showing what to do to be prepared for an earthquake and/or flooding.

You can even customize a kit for your family's needs.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Canning Applesauce

So, my mom gave me this awesome birthday present. It's just what any aspiring Domestic Goddess would want, right?

I promptly went out and bought 3 half-bushel boxes of apples (and the salsa screen for next year's salsa making!!) By the way, you can also get the pumpkin screen, the berry screen, the grape spiral. Want a Victorio? See http://www.victoriokitchenproducts.com/

If you are in Utah County, they are sold at the Bosch Kitchen Store in Orem. If you are in the Ogden area, they are sold at Kitchen Kneads.

Using the applesauce recipe in the Ball Blue Book, first I quartered the apples, popped them into some water-filled pots, and cooked them until tender. By the way, I used a combo of Red Delicious and Jonagold and the sauce was sweet enough that I didn't add any sugar.

After the apples cooked, they were dumped into Kat's 45-quart bowl (Jealous? Want one? Kat will take care of you over at Ram Kitchen Supplies). Seriously, people, I love Kat and I love Kat's bowl.

Next came the ooey gooey part, which the family loved. Unless you are an octopus, it would be helpful to have the following helpers: The Crank Turner, The Plunger, The Chute Filler, The Scraper, and The Boss (that's me!)

The Crank Turner had to crank so much that his arms hurt. No pain, no applesauce, I guess.

The Ball recipe required me to hot pack the applesauce, which meant I had to put it back into a pan, bring it to a boil, and simmer 5 minutes. Then I packed the applesauce into clean jars, affixed hot lids and rings, and processed according to published instructions.

Sorry. There is not pic of the finished product. But I did get 15 quarts from the apples I had bought (although the family had eaten quite a few before we started, so I would have gotten more).

I can't wait to do it again.

P.S. Want a tip straight from the School of Hard Knocks? I learned that if you cook the apples until they are REALLY mushy, they go through the food mill SO much easier and you get a bigger yield. I think my first batch wasn't quite cooked well enough, which meant there was a lot of muscle-hurting crankin' to do. Live and learn, yes?

Monday, November 2, 2009

Canning Peaches

I'll admit that I'm a rookie at canning peaches. This is only my second go-around, but I decided to document the process.

My first attempt (years ago) was not successful because I chose a good eating peach, not a good canning peach, and I think they were too ripe. I had used Angelos on my first attempt and will never do that again.

This year I selected O'Henries. I would have preferred to have bought Lemon Elbertas, but it was too late in the season by the time I got around to it (you know what they say about snoozing and losing....) Whatever peach you decide to get, make sure the pit is free (freestone) and not a cling. You'll hate yourself if you get cling peaches.

Also, I used Ball's Blue Book for instructions and processing times, adjusted processing times according to their elevation chart, and elected to use an extra-light syrup.

I like to do as much prep work ahead of time as possible, because once the skins come off the peaches, they begin to brown. So, I prepped two recipes of syrup and had it ready to go.

Also, I always wash my jars ahead of time, and I keep my lids and rings in a pot of hot water on the stove. Also, I wash all the fruit before I begin.

Next, I filled one side of the sink with COLD water and put a strainer in the other side (for skins and stems).

Using several pots of scalding hot water, I blanch the peaches for about 1 minute (the skins will begin to wrinkle or split). You don't want to cook the peaches so it is important to get them out pronto.

The blanched peaches then get dumped into the sink of cold water, and if you are lucky, you can get your kids to skin them for you!

Quickly pit and slice into halves, quarters or smaller slices (more can fit into the bottles if the peaches are sliced smaller). Some people scrape the reddish brown inner part of the peach out. Whatever. Do it if you want.

I fill a bowl of cold water with fruit fresh in it so that the peaches won't brown too much. Then I fill jars, shaking/twisting the jar occasionally to settle the fruit into the bottom. Some people painstakingly arrange the slices in pretty layers. Whatever. Do it if you want.

Don't forget to get a pot of syrup on while you are slicing and filling bottles. When it is ready, fill each jar, wipe the rim, and affix the lid and ring.

Then process according to process method and instructions. This recipe called for water bathing. Just as a reminder, you begin counting the processing time when the water is at a rolling boil. And, of course, the lid should be used!

After processing, let them cool and wait for the ***POP*** When totally cool, check each seal, wipe them down, remove the rings, date, and store. Then eat.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Green Smoothie

1 Granny Smith Apple
1 Seedless Orange
2 Cups Fresh Baby Spinach
3 Cups Frozen Mango Chunks
1/4 Cup water

Core and slice apple. Peel and slice orange. Place both in blender and blend together for a few seconds. Add spinach, mango & water into blender. Blend until smooth.

Monday, August 31, 2009

How to Make Salsa

The purpose of this post is to show you the basic preparation steps to make your own salsa. What you won't find here is a recipe. That's because the first rule to safe home canning is to use a tested recipe and to follow its processing instructions exactly.

Companies like Ball have tested their recipes and have altitude charts for processing, so you can be assured that if you follow their instructions, your product will be safe.

So, once you have your recipe and understand how to process it correctly and safely, you'll probably go through a process similar to this.

Step 1: Getting started. You'll need the following supplies:
  • At least 3 very large bowls.
  • Two to three pots for blanching
  • Hot pads & apron
  • A large slotted spoon
  • A couple of plastic sacks
  • A pairing knife
  • Stock pot
  • Pressure canner or water bath canner, depending on recipe

Step 2: Pick and wash your tomatoes. Make sure you select firm, ripe (but not overly ripe) tomatoes. Discard any diseased tomatoes.

Step 3: Stem and prep the tomatoes by cutting out any bad parts. I like to stem before blanching because the fruit is firm and it's less messy. One time-saving tip I learned is to put all the stems and discarded parts into a double-bagged sack in the adjacent sink. This really helps minimize the mess.

Step 4: After all the tomatoes have been washed and stemmed, set them aside in a large bowl. It's now time to prep for blanching. Quickly scrub out your sink again and fill one side with COLD water. Also, keep that double-bagged sack handy. You'll need it again for the skins.

Step 5: Blanching means to dip the tomatoes into very hot, nearly boiling water for a minute or two so that the skins will crack and will easily slip off.

I've learned a few tricks to blanching. First, I've found that it is better to use more than pot so I can blanch several loads at once. Also, it takes longer to heat up a really full pot than 2-3 or partially full pots. Second, I've found that doing step #3 and step #5 at the same time, in an effort to multitask, is chaotic unless you have someone helping you.

So, get your water nice and hot first and then pop the tomatoes in.

Step 6: Using your slotted spoon, pull out the tomatoes when the skins begin to crack.

Step 7: As I pull the blanched tomatoes out of the hot water, I place them into a large bowl and then quickly transfer the tomatoes to the sink filled with COLD water. You don't want the tomatoes to continue cooking and to get mushy; that would make skin removal more difficult.

Step 8: As soon as the tomatoes cool enough that they can be handled, begin slipping off and discarding the skins. Once again, using the double-bagged discard sacks is handy. I take this time to look over the tomatoes one more time, looking for any defects that need to be removed.

Step 9: Before you begin the salsa-making part, scrub out the pots you've used and clean out your sink again. It's much easier to deal with the mess as you go than to deal with it all at the end.

Now the tomatoes should be ready for salsa making (or bottling them if you just want stewed tomatoes). Here's a tip: Don't waste your time chopping them up. With clean hands, just squish them to oblivion. It won't matter in the end.

Step 10: Now follow your tested recipe exactly. Proper acidity needs to be maintained, so you shouldn't add or omit ingredients, change quantities, or make substitutions. Doing those things could alter the acidity and make the product unsafe. If you don't like the way a recipe tastes, find another recipe; don't try to fix it.

Step 11: My recipe calls for cooking the salsa. I really need to invest in a stock pot, but I've found that using my roaster over two hot elements works fine.

Step 12: If you want to thicken the salsa more quickly, dip a strainer into the pot and spoon off some of the juice. You can freeze it and use it in taco soup later.

Step 13: When the salsa is nearly ready to be put into jars, warm the rings and lids in a pot. Don't boil them.

Step 14: Fill your jars, wipe the rims, and affix the lids and rings.

Step 15: Process according to the proper method and for the proper time. Pressure canning and water bathing are NOT interchangeable methods. If the recipe you are using calls for pressure canning, do it! Most likely your recipe will call for water bathing, though. Be sure to adjust processing times for elevation as per the published instructions.

Step 16: After processing, make sure they have properly sealed before you store them. The lid, when sealed properly, should not make a clicking sound when pressed. Don't stress out if the lid is still clicking after you've pulled them out of a water bath canner. It sometimes takes a bit before they seal. You'll hear a **POP** when it seals, and after it does, the lid will no longer click when pressed.

If the jars are completely cool and the lid didn't seal, you either need to reprocess immediately or store the jar in the refrigerator and use its contents soon. Jars that have not been sealed properly should not be stored at room temperature.

After the jars are totally cooled and lids checked for proper seal, the rings can be removed and the jars stored at room temperature. Be sure to date and label each jar.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

More About Steam Canner Controversy

Jodie posted about the controversy regarding steam canners. I found a tidbit of info that unfortunately does not clear anything up (how helpful, eh?)

I happen to own the Back to Basics Steam Canner, a popular product sold in Utah stores. I have the 2008 instruction manual which includes this statement on page 2:

"Research scientists at Utah State University have tested steam canning and pronounced it as a safe and effective way for processing fruits, jams, tomatoes and other high acid foods."

However, the Back to Basics Steam Canner 2009 instruction manual does not contain that statement (at least that I could find).

NOTE: Utah State University Extension center has weighed in on this topic with a position statement against the use of a steam canner. It also explains the confusion regarding the statement made by the Back to Basics company.