Category: Uncategorized

Food Preservation #1

Someone said they would love to learn more about canning, i.e. Food preservation earlier this summer, so I’ll share some of my canning adventures this fall. Today is a busy day, there will be beans to pickle and plums to jam. Let’s start with the dilled green beans. They are amazing if you have never tried them and pretty fool proof, like cucumber pickles,Mohicans are still hit or miss for me.

But first, we should talk equipment. Here’s what you need:

  • A non ceramic stove top. Those smooth tops can break under the weight and heat from the canner. The old fashioned electric or gas stove is fine.
  • A large pot for the brine, it needs to hold 2-3 quarts of liquid, so a Dutch oven works great.
  • A hot water bath canner. These are usually available at hardware stores, Walmart, and ag related stores like Tractor Supply or Runnings. They are BIG, able to hold 7 quart jars.
  • A canning kit, if you’ve never done this before. You probably have some of the items, but the canning kit contains the jar grabber and the funnel, which is exactly the size of a narrow mouth jar. They also contain a nifty lid grabber with a magnet on the end. Those three items are worth the kit! 
  • Jars and lids. A new box of jars comes with the rings and lids. The rings are resusable, the lids are not. Wide mouth are easier for novices to work with, especially for pickles of any kind.
  • Various pans for sterilizing the jars, rings and lids, of which one should be a 9 X 13 metal cake pan or similar.
  • Safe Recipes-I get mine from the Extension Service because they do the food safety research. **Any recipe that tells you to use the oven or dish washer is UNSAFE!!

Here’s some of my equipment. As you can see, I use tongs instead of the lid magnet…DH threw it away, because he didn’t like it!! If you have this assembled you can make jam, pickles, or preserve fresh fruit.

Grocery items you need for 8 pints of dilled green beans:

  • 4 -5 pounds of green beans, at least 4 inches long and straight
  • Canning salt (it has no iodine or anti-caking additives, so the brine remains clear)
  • White vinegar (5% acidity-Don’t go fancy here, unless the acidity is marked. Good old Heinz or generic vinegar  is a standard 5%.)
  • Fresh dill weed. (Dill seed will work, but it isn’t as pretty)
  • Red pepper flakes (not required, but ooh so good)
  • Garlic clove for each jar

A batch of dilled green beans (8 pint jars) requires 4 pounds of beans, the straighter the better. If you buy beans, you can weigh and select the straight ones. If you pick like me, you sort and then prepare extra jars. It’s always better to have too much than not enough. If you buy, get extra, and you can have fresh green beans for dinner. 
Before we start prepping the beans, its’s time to get the stove set up and the water, etc. heating. First, wash your jars and lids in hot, soapy water and rinse. Fill the canner 1/3full of water and put it on your biggest back burner on medium high. On one of the two small burners,  put a 2 qt. sauce pot with water and the rings and lids for the 8 jars. The pot needs to be large enough that the rings and lids are completely covered with water. Turn this on high, and when it begins to boil, turn it down, but keep the water on a stout simmer.  On the second smaller burner, center your metal cake pan and add 8 pint jars, then add 2-3 inches of water. Put this on mediuhigh heat.

**The jars and lids need to be in boiling water so that they sterilize. They need to come to a full boil, then do a stout simmer 10-15 minutes depending on the altitude. The formula is 10 minutes for 1000 ft. Elevation or less + 1 minute for each additional 1000 feet.

The final large burner is for your brine solution. A Dutch oven is a great size for this. Into this pot measure your water, vinegar and salt.  When pickling, you can do the math to make more or less solution, just remember that the ratios must remain the same. I am pretty picky about recipes. I generally use only the info provided by the canning guides produced by land grant institutions and their Extension Service.  Today’s recipe has a simple brine: 4 cups water, 4 cups vinegar, and 1/2 cup canning salt. 

See my stove set up below. Note how I have my lids and rings set up just like they will go on a jar. This is necessary for me when using tongs, because I’m a klutz.

 Now that the liquids are heating up, it is time to turn our attention to the green beans.Wash them, snap off both ends, and then line them up on your cutting board and cut them into a 4 inch length. If they are longer, they will not fit into the jar. As it is you may still need to trim a few. Set the cut off pieces aside, there may be enough left over to have fresh green beans for dinner. Rinse those beans one more time, and put them in a large bowl so that you can easily grab a handful. 

**When the water in the cake pan begins to boil, sometimes the jars will create a vacuum and suck up all the water. It usually makes a very strange sucking noise, so you will hear it. If that happens, no worries, just gently tilt or lift the jar to let the water escape. 

Check your water, turning things up or down as necessary to move them down to a stout simmer or bring them up to a boil. Don’t forget, the jars and lids need 10 minutes plus to sterilize. While you are waiting, peel the garlic cloves, pull out a clean cloth to wipe the jar rims if you spill brine on them, find a 1/8 teaspoon or something tiny for the red pepper flakes, and finally remove 8 sprigs of dill.  Once the jars are sterile and the brine is boiling, you are ready to assemble your jars!

Wash your hands again just before you assemble. You will have to put the beans into the jars with your bare hands, so get them as clean as possible before you begin. When you are ready to assemble, turn off the heat under the jars and lids. Carefully take a jar out (they are very hot) and add the clove of garlic, 1/8 tsp red pepper flakes and the sprig of dill (fold it as necessary to fit, like the picture above.) Next, take a handful of green beans and slip them into the jar. Give it a good shake and/or swish, to help settle the beans, then add more until the jar is full. Don’t stuff the jar tight, but get them pretty crowded.

Once the jars are filled, you can use the funnel and your ladle to add the simmering brine. This recipe calls for 1/2 inch head space, so fill to the first ridge. Once the jars have brine, take your lids and rings from their pot and put them on the jars. If a rim is wet from brine, wipe it off with the cloth you have handy.  Tighten the rings with your hand only. Using your handy jar grabber, pick them up and put them in the canner. The water needs to be 2-3 inches over the top of the jars. If you need more boiling water, use the water from the rings and lids pan, and the jars pan. Turn the burner on high, put the lid on and keep watch. When the canner has come to a full rolling boil, set your timer and consider turning the heat down just a bit. You don’t need an out of control boil, just a good rolling boil. For my altitude (1000-6000 ft.) the time is 10 minutes.

When the timer dings, turn off the heat and take off the lid. Place a towel on the counter, and use the jar grabber to carefully lift you jars out of the canner. You can tip them just enough to let the water run off the top as you pull them out. Let them sit on the towel, and in a few minutes you will hear the delightful ping of a jar sealing. Sealed jars have a concave lid and unsealed jars have a convex lid. Allow your jars to completely cool before you worry about unsealed lids. Unsealed lids make a popping sound when you push down on them, while sealed jars don’t move at all.

Let you pickles dill for 4-6 weeks before opening them, to maximize the flavor!


    SAL Update August 27

    It is time for the three week check in for our SAL group! We all work on our own projects, so these days are always inspiring as we share our progress on a wide variety of needle work happening all over the world! I highly recommend a visit to these blogs; you are guaranteed entertainment, amazement and even a few giggles as we share our stitching from the past three weeks.

    Avis,ClaireGunCaroleLucyAnnKateJessSueConstanzeDebbieroseChristina MargaretCindyHelenStephLindaCatherineMary Margaret,TimothyHeidiConnie

    Here is where I was last time:

    And here’s where I am now. Not tons of progress this time, but I’m still happy with where I am overall. I was a bit distracted by finishing some exhibits for the County Fair, but I’m glad I completed them or prepped them as the case may be. More on that later this week, after they have all come home!

    My goal for this next session is to either do all the centers or get one side of the final border done.


    Photo Challenge-Thrift

    Yesterday provided the perfect illustration of thrift. I participated in an open house hosted by the area home schooling group, and of course, they had a theme…I don’t do themes, and designing displays makes my stomach hurt! Enter Girl #2, who doesn’t have enough to do these days! Sunday afternoon we built this display using things we found around the house. The only purchase was some candy in the bowl. She had a vision, and I was able to handle the mechanics of it. (I can do some really cool stuff if I don’t have to also provide the design!) So, I think this is a good illustration of Thrift.


    The display board is thrice used; we covered it with some ugly brown calico stuff my MIL sent years ago, but worked well for a cowboy round up theme. Red gingham is the camping table cloth…ugly stains covered by assorted table items. A bandana was cut into some of the pennant pieces, then used in the boot, and on the vase, which holds some wheat I took from the garden earlier this spring. “Saddle up” is made of twine we found in the garage and double twisted….you get the idea. Amazing what raiding the closet, a fabric stash, glue and a printer can create!

    Linking with Wild Daffodil 

    Pattern Testing

    This past week I had the honor of being a tester for Bella of Created by Bella. She has designed a windmill quilt block and is hoping to sell the pattern in her Etsy shop. My job was to follow the instructions and note anything that seemed confusing, etc. and to photograph the completed block. 

    I am excited for Bella, because she has a sweet design, and it will make some very nice blocks for a baby quilt or table runner! She did a great job on her instructions, and did a fine job on her illustrations. With a few final tweaks, she was soon ready to publish.

    I found this experience to be so interesting! I was motivated to sew the perfect quilt block (does that ever happen?) and because of the notes at the beginning I was especially careful to measure each and every seam. There were a lot of them, because this is an intermediate level block, but I only had a question on one step, and she quickly solved that. I was tickled with my finished block, and while I work through my queue, will be considering what I want to do with this unique block…..a pillow,  a table runner, an entire quilt? It will be fun to ponder!

    Mountain Vistas

    Mountain Vistas

    The Big Horn Mountains contain wonderful high meadows, forests and snow at the tops of the highest peaks. During our camping trip we enjoyed the cooler temperatures and the wonderful vistas. I especially loved the variety of the mountain flora. Click any photo for a larger picture.

    We did some hiking, and enjoyed some gorgeous views, especially during the hike into the Cloud Peak Wilderness.



    There were some incredible trout fishing areas here, though neither of us fish. We just enjoyed the gorgeous scenery!

    We were also treated to some interesting wildlife. The chipmunks and squirrels enjoyed teasing Max, driving him to distraction at times. I was able to capture one cheeky squirrel who had no fear.


    But the best was seeing Mama Moose and her baby one afternoon. They were just across the road from our campsite, browsing along the river.

    It was a welcome respite from the hot days in Rapid City, where temperatures have been in the mid to upper 90’s (35-37 Celsius) for a week, and are expected to continue indefinitely, with no rain.

    We camped at two different places, one very near a bubbling creek, which Max the dog LOVED. He kept hopping in and laying in it, then chasing squirrels, hopping in again, etc. We finally had to put him on his chain so that he would dry off before bed time! The second was at a Forest Service campsite, which had the standard picnic table, trash, bathrooms and potable water. We have a Berkey water filter, so we have the option of camping anywhere there is a water source. (We use it at home too, to remove many of the chemicals from the city water.)

    We have a great time cooking while we camp; here’s what we ate:

    Friday supper: Red beans and rice with Andouille sausage, which was made ahead at home, and warmed up over the Coleman propane stove, which we use to prepare the morning coffee while the fire is readied for cooking breakfast.

    Saturday: Sausage patties and pancakes made over the campfire for breakfast and roast beef with mixed vegetables made over the coals for supper.

    Sunday:  Bacon, eggs and biscuits for breakfast, and green chili beef burritos with refried beans for supper (from the leftover roast beef, and peach pie for dessert. (I should have taken a picture!)

    Monday: Sausage patties with fried potatoes and onions for breakfast, and pepperoni pizza for supper. DSCN1137

    We have a cast iron griddle, skillet and Dutch oven, which really expands what you can do with a campfire! If anyone is really interested, I will do a post on how I prep for these types of camping meals. They are a fun challenge, and really yummy!

    We had a great time cooling off, and just enjoying creation, but it was good to get back today and get everything cleaned up. I am going to enjoy a very long shower here in a bit!

    Gone Camping!

    Every summer we try to take at least one weekend and camp in the Big Horn mountains in northern Wyoming. We are leaving this morning and will return on Tuesday.

    We will be taking an Internet holiday, so I’ll be out of touch for a bit, but hope to have some gorgeous photos of my beloved Rocky Mountains when I return.

    Until then, I’ll leave you with this photo, which I hope to copy on one of our hikes!

    Vogue 1537

    As promised, here are some photos of the completed dress and coat from Vogue 1537. I’m not thrilled with the pictures, but then I never like my pictures so whatever! I have a little tweaking to do with the dress; I’m going to take out the gray zip and out a white one in, and when I do that I think I will give the hip area another 1/4 inch on each side. I didn’t notice it before, but I think it needs it when I look at the photos.

    The dress is 100% handkerchief linen, underlined with silk organza, and lined with a basic polyester. The back has a deep V with inserts, which requires a side zipper. I never did take a photo of the back. 🙄

    The coat is a silk/linen windowpane plaid, with the linen used as contrast, and lined with the same basic polyester. The coat has covered buttons and bound buttonholes. I have the original buttons on right now, I may change them out, but I really like those big ones!