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!


    New Projects…

    The middle of August seemed to mark a completion of sorts, and I found myself thinking about what projects I want to start this fall.  The first item isn’t actually new, it is a UFO I pulled out when doing my clean up last week. This UFO came from my mom; she had planned to make it into a quilt, but her arthritic hands were no longer up to the challenge, so she passed it on to me. I got the blocks stitched, but hadn’t gotten any further with it.

    First, I squared the blocks and sewed them together. My plan to just add a border or two was thrown out during the pressing, as I discovered how awkward the shape is. My solution is make two rows of something to get it to a better size, then maybe a border. The obvious choice was to emphasize the butterflies and roses in the stitching, so off to that black hole Pinterest to find something that would work. (Days go by….) Bingo! I found an old butterfly pattern from the 40’s?, and I was half way. Next I found some nice applique roses, so it looks like this will be a handwork heavy project. I finished the first applique  and now have the other three ready to stitch. I used Kim Diehl’s freezer paper method, and will use this as my footbal/movie/time with DH in the basement project.

    Next on the list, my wool pants for this fall’s MIWW contest. While in Denver with Girl#2, I found some wool flannel that would work, so I grabbed it. I pulled out a very nasty piece of mystery crepe from my stash to use as the muslin. New pattern, so I took the easy way out and cut the size 16, then marked the size 10 seam lines and basted the whole thing up, assuming I would have to let it out. I was happily surprised that the first round was close! (Actually, it wasn’t…I stitched the outside seam at 5/8 instead of 1 inch.)  I let out a scant 1/4 inch in the inner leg seam to lengthen the crotch a bit, and presto! 😱 What a happy surprise! Girl#2 thought the legs were too wide, so I slimmed the legs down to the size 8 from the crotch seam on down.

    The other surprise is that once the nasty crepe was sewn into pants, they actually look pretty good, so I may stitch them up! With the adjustments made, I went ahead and laid it out and cut the wool, so it is ready for marking. I want to have them done so Girl#2 can help with the hemlines before she leaves, since mine are always different lengths.

    Also on the quick list is a shirt dress for Girl#2, out of this cheery print. We washed it with the laundry and in spite of being 100% cotton, it was fairly wrinkle free…a very good thing, since I doubt she’ll do much ironing in Italy. She is thinking that she will help sew, so we may finish in double time.

    I also need to come up with a suitable gift for a young gentleman who will be completing a book recital in a few weeks. He is not the sporty type, and likes computer games more than I would prefer. Any ideas out there? He is a 5th grader…so age 11. At least I have the girls gifts under control!

    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.


    Wedding Cards

    I promised Helen I would post the wedding cards I made for the summer weddings, so here they are!

    I found the idea on Pinterest, and had most of what was needed. I didn’t actually have the cards, but I had lots of extra envelopes, so I just cut a few down to size. Instead of a folding card, I wrote a personal note to the happy couple, so it is more like a wedding postcard with an envelope.

    I had bits of lace and ribbon left over from some projects, so just pulled them out of the odds and ends bag and used a little tape and glue. This lace was actually three layers thick, so one length supplied the lace for three different cards. I just had to unpick the seam holding them together!

    Pinterest can be a black hole for time, but a few search words can yield the idea you are looking for!

    Photo Challenge – Fold

    It took me all day and three tries, but I finally have my photo for today’s challenge. YouTube is amazing, as you all know!


    I tried with some heavier large paper, nope! I tried again with printer paper, nope! Finally I remembered I had some odds and ends of wrapping paper, and that worked, just barely! I think that these cute little animals require the use of real origami paper to look good, but I am happy with my little guy!



    Scary Garden

    Yes, our tame, stubby garden turned the corner and has become a monster! No more happy rows of tomatoes…now it’s enter at your own risk…

    The corn and squash have taken off. The squash would have reached danger level had it not been decimated by squash bugs. We keep adding diatomaceous earth, and I think they are now on the run.

    The cantaloupe is reaching epic proportions…sure hope there’s some cantaloupe in there.

    Look at this lettuce, it FINALLY grew….


    ….as did this one pepper plant.


    The carrots that survived look pretty good.


    The sunflowers are getting monstrous!


    We had our first green beans in a stir fry this week, these are just revving up.


    The potatoes went wild. Hopefully we had enough covered to get some potatoes out of the deal, and we had a few surviving turnips (maybe 10).  I pulled one and put it in the stir fry. I have just a dab of dill, hoping it is enough to make a batch of dilled green beans. Yum!

    Look at these grapes! The vines are four years old and have taken over this side of the fence. I’ll never find them all.

    Now, if we can just hold back the frost until the end of September…we will be living the high life! 😊

    Of course as soon as I wrote this post we got golf ball sized hail…things are recovering, and we didn’t have too many major hits. The largest sunflower’s head got severed clean off, and a few baby cantaloupe split open, but that was the worst of it.

    Book Review – The Century Triology

    I am currently waiting for the third installment of the Century Trilogy by Ken Follett. This is an epic series, following several families throughout World War I in Fall of the Giants,  and through World War II in Winter of the World.  There’s an American, Russian, German, and two families from Wales; one aristocratic and the other coal miners. The families cross paths multiple times and that continues across the generations, with world events creating the back drop. Definitely historical fiction on steroids! I have been listening to these while finishing up several major projects, and in that context they have been quite engaging. I rather feel as if I am listening to a TV drama…it seems that this may have been written with that in mind.

    I won’t put these in my favorites category because I think Mr. Follett was a bit liberal with his sprinkling of the F word. My dad was a WW II vet, and he has never uttered those words! I can not imagine that it would have been used, especially in 1914. I could be quite wrong and sheltered, but I have a feeling Mr. Follett wasn’t quite accurate in his choice of Edwardian swear words! More likely, he was preparing for an HBO mini series, considering the success of Pillars of the Earth.

    I am going to finish the trilogy, the characters have taken some interesting turns and I want to see what happens. I have both the book and the audio on hold, we’ll see what come available first, and if it changes my view at all. 

    While waiting, I’ve read a fluff Christian romance by Sarah Sundin about a flight nurse in WW 2. It was a sweet book, and a fun summer read if you go for that sort of story. 😊