Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Summer Canning Warm-up with Cranberry Beans



This is the time of year that canning becomes a nearly daily activity for me. Last week, I saw that the green beans in my garden were nearly ready to pick. That was when I decided I had best get the dried cranberry beans that I had bought earlier canned and put away. In other words, I wanted my other "projects" completed before the busy green bean cycle began. And began it did! I have already picked my three rows of pole beans twice in the last three days, canning seven quarts and freezing another two, all the while cooking up a large stockpot of fresh beans for the week.

If you have never canned dried beans (pinto, black, navy, cannellini, etc.) before, keep reading as I "walk" you through the process of putting up the cranberry beans.

Years ago, I began using a "jiggler" pressure regulator with my Presto pressure canner. The pressure gauge can go "off" at times, and I didn't want to spend the money to send it to Presto - we don't have anyone close who will test the gauges anymore. What I like about this type of regulator is that I don't have to keep my eyes on the canner constantly to make sure that the pressure isn't building up too much. I can tell by listening - you sort of get the feel for it after time. I DO stay in the kitchen while using the canner, however.

Please refer to your canner's user manual before pressure canning for the first time.

The first step to canning dried beans is to soak them for at least 12 hours and then cook for 30 minutes. Make sure that you sort the beans, taking out any stones or bad beans, and rinse well. Cover the beans with plenty of water, as they will really swell in size. Rinse after soaking and fill with fresh water, enough to cover the beans, and cook with a gentle boil.

Since I did so many of them, I had two stockpots going.


While the beans are cooking, it's a good time to wash your jars and lids/rings. I wash in pretty hot water, but I don't bother to sterilize the jars. The canning process is so long and the pressure so much, that the jars and food inside get "sterilized" enough. If you are concerned, go ahead and sterilize them first.

Using a funnel, ladle the beans and cooking liquid into your jars, allowing about 1/2 inch at the top. Make sure you get out air bubbles as necessary.
Wipe each jar's rim with a clean wash rag and place a lid with screw band on each. Fill the pressure canner with water as recommended. My canner uses three quarts of water (I add a splash of vinegar to keep my jars cleaner - I have really hard water). Go ahead and place it on high heat.


 Put your jars into the canner and put the cover on, being sure that it is "latched" and secure. Reminder: Have you checked the lid as recommended in your instruction booklet? Everything needs to be in good order before using! Exhaust the air once steam blows freely from the valve stem - set the the timer for 10 minutes. The air will be exhausted from the canner and the pressure plugs "popped". 

Then, you can put the pressure valve (I use the 15 lb.) on the stem and begin to build pressure.



Once the jiggler is swaying easily back and forth gently and not showing stress (rocking hard), or the pressure gauge shows 15 lbs. pressure, begin timing.

Dried beans take 65 minutes for those who are below 1000 feet below sea level. Since we are a bit over 1000 feet, I have to add 10 minutes, making total canning time 75 minutes. 

If the pressure wants to go over the 15 lbs., lower the heat a little at a time in order to maintain pressure. If it goes below 15 lbs., you will have to start timing all over again, so keep an eye on it. Also, you don't want it to get so high that the lid blows. This happened to a friend of mine several years ago. She was canning tomatoes and the lid blew off and through the roof. Fortunately, nobody was hurt. Glass was everywhere. Again, keep a close eye on the amount of pressure and don't allow it to get too high or under the 15 lbs.

When your timer goes off and the required time is up, turn off the burner and wait for the pressure to return to zero. The pressure plugs will deflate and go down. Wait a few extra minutes to be sure! Open the canner carefully and use a jar lifter to remove the jars. Place on a towel away from any drafts. Allow the lids to seal on their own and don't attempt to force a seal by thumping on them. Let them cool for 24 hours and don't move them before that. Then, test the seals, label, and store away from direct lighting or excess heat. Use up or freeze any that didn't seal.

I ended up with nine canned pints and another two in the freezer.



Canned beans are a great asset in the winter. You don't want to have to resort to canned beans from the store if you can help it. They are not soaked for twelve hours before canning, which improves digestibility. Also, they are usually canned with sodium. You can always add salt if you want it, but having too much already added makes it a pain.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Gardening - Use What you Already Have


If you are anything like me, you've heard it time and again that the best way to save money is to "use what you already have". This year, we are working harder to use, and re-use, what we have. 

Over the years, we have accumulated more than the average family should. On top of that, we've moved several times and accumulated other people's junk that they not so nicely left us. 

My garden needed a  few things. In the grow bags below, I am trying out a sweet potato that supposedly grows well here in the north - Beauregard. This was definitely NOT a great year to try them because even though they are supposed to be cold hardy, they still need heat. Our spring was very late in coming and then we had cold rains combining with the cool days and colder nights. My sweet potato slips came and I couldn't keep them in the house forever, hoping and praying that it would finally warm up.

I planted them. Not all of them survived, but there are six plants in the large bag, one in a small bag, and three in the other small bag. Now, sweet potatoes vine, unlike white potatoes (which do great in our northern Michigan climate). One day while I was at work, my husband took extra lumber and scrap pieces that he had in the work shop and crafted this platform, complete with a "trellis". Next year, I can always use it for flowers or whatever else I decide to put in the grow bags - they are re-usable. As of this morning, the vines in the large bag were already long enough to begin training on the trellis. This picture was taken last week.



Below is another gardening project Hubby did for me. He used an old antique table top that was left here by the previous owner and made me a garden table. The table top is heavy and I think he said porcelain, like our antique kitchen sink. The bottom shelf is constructed of wood. He had some lattice that he placed on the back. The whole thing stands about three feet high.




I have to tell you, this table sure is handy. The best thing about these two projects is that they were crafted with love but without having to buy anything to make them.

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

Update on Sauerkraut


My doctor suggested that I eat homemade, raw sauerkraut often. Since I was unable to find one that didn't contain preservatives yet was affordable, I decided to make my own

So, it's been a while since my homemade, spicy sauerkraut became ready for me to eat. As of today, I am still the only one eating it and have been doing so every day for about a week. Which brings me to an interesting side thought: Why do some people think that if something is homemade, it can't be good?

This recipe is a little spicy and reminds me of a mild kimchi, but it is nowhere near being something that a person like me, with acid reflux, can't have. I have to tell you - just a couple of tablespoonfuls each day on top of my salad has really been wonderful. Probiotic goodness! 

I am storing this in my refrigerator where it will continue to ferment slowly until I have used it all up. When this batch runs out, I will try a plain version without the spices, just for kicks.






Thursday, January 24, 2019

Sauerkraut

In my quest for better health, I have discovered home fermented sauerkraut. Previously, I had purchased all of our sauerkraut needs, which weren't really needs. Already prepared kraut from the store is almost always canned, and you don't want that because the bacteria gets killed in the heating process, though you can find some fresher versions in the refrigerated meat case. If you buy that fresh version in the store, check it carefully. I have not found one yet that does not contain preservatives, which sort of defeats the whole purpose of eating sauerkraut.

My doctor suggested that I eat more fermented foods for my never-ending digestive issues: fresh yogurt, sauerkraut, fresh fermented pickles (not in vinegar), kimchi, etc.

I have made my own yogurt in my dehydrator as well as larger amounts in my slow coooker. Great, but in order for the sugars (lactose, which bothers me) to completely "burn out", the yogurt must be fermented for 24 hours or longer. The longer it ferments, the tangier it becomes. I can't find dairy yogurt in the stores that is fermented longer than a standard 12 hours.

I have never tried kimchi, but I have made my own fermented pickles. I am not a huge fan, but I am going to try some different flavors and see what happens. I am a pickle fan for sure, but usually the standard canned in a vinegar brine kind. 

Now, as for the sauerkraut, I had only tried making it once in my crock. That didn't work out for me. The kraut was moldy and buggy and spoiled.

This Christmas, my husband bought me the fermentation kit below. The jar is a wide mouth quart mason jar. The kit includes a bag of celtic sea salt and a packet of spices. I decided to try making a jar of sauerkraut using the recipe (included) for a golden kraut (uses the spice packet). 


To make the sauerkraut, I took a small head of green cabbage and put it through my food processor (grating blade attached). I was in a hurry that day. Then, I put the grated cabbage in a large bowl and sprinkled in a tablespoon of the sea salt (important - must use non-iodized salt). I didn't have a mallet at the time, so I didn't pound it, opting to rub and rub the cabbage with the salt. It's kind of like kneading bread; just keep working in the salt. Before long, I had a good amount of liquid and I just let it sit for a bit (about 1/2 hour). Then I put in the spice mix and worked it a little more before putting it all in the mason jar. It all fit! I did not grate up the outer leaf and I placed that on top of the cabbage in the jar. Pushing down with that leaf, I found that I had plenty of liquid in the jar as is and didn't need to top it off with a salt water brine.

I put the plunger on and pushed down, squeezing everything down, and then placed a wide mouth ring on the jar. Then, I put the bubble cap on top and put the whole jar in a bowl (to catch any spillover during the fermentation process). I put a bit of water in the "moat" at the top of the jar and put the whole thing in my basement, where it is cool but not cold and out of direct sunlight.


Today, after five days, I am seeing bubbles as the cabbage ferments. I will leave this to ferment for another five days before taking off the top leaf and capping off with a regular lid, then placing it in the refrigerator. It is ready to eat after 10 days from the time it is begun. My sauerkraut is yellow because of the turmeric. I can't wait to try it, as it smells wonderful already!


Has anyone tried fermenting other vegetables? I would love to hear your success stories.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Lessons from Robinson Crusoe

Robinson Crusoe, by Daniel DeFoe, is a classic. That is, it has stood the test of time and is one that folks keep reading. As I find it to be rather dull and difficult to really "get into", I have to wonder how it ever made the classics list.

In order to understand books like Robinson Crusoe, the reader really needs to look deeply at what the writer is trying to say. DeFoe wrote Crusoe during the enlightenment period of literature. In art, the movement was called neoclassical. The enlightenment period followed on the heels of the renaissance, which included authors such as Shakespeare and Edmund Spenser. Great writing and classical works formed the renaissance. Authors such as DeFoe and Jonathan Swift turned the tide with works that challenged the reader with reasoning, often with religion as the base, and the social and political issues of the time.

In Robinson Crusoe, the reader must read through the eyes of a person living in 18th century England. Slavery was legal and the buying and selling of slaves was a regular thing. The middle class was also a real thing, distinct from both the poor and the rich.

Robinson Crusoe, DeFoe's main character, was a middle class lad who decided to rebel against his father and travel aboard ship. In the first half of the book, Crusoe has adventures that only get him into trouble. He is made a slave in Africa - hmmm, Africa from which the British captured their slaves. He later escapes and winds up in Brazil, where he has a sugar plantation. Is he now rich? Then, the infamous shipwreck happens and he lands on a, so he thinks, deserted island.

Bad things happen to Crusoe - bang, bang, bang. Every time something good happens, Crusoe sins and then something bad happens. Then, he repents and the good happens once again. It becomes a cycle, much like the sin and repent cycle of the early Israelites of the Bible. They sinned and God brought disaster upon them in order to bring them back to Him. Once they repented, things went well. But they would forget God's goodness and again sin. And the cycle continued.

Robinson Crusoe follows this pattern and Daniel DeFoe wrote that pattern in his book on purpose. The book fits right with the enlightenment. DeFoe wanted to illuminate sin and repentance. The slavery issue was in there, but was not really the issue that DeFoe wanted to use to enlighten the reader. Salvation was.

As the novel reaches the climax - the point when Crusoe realizes he isn't living on that island alone after all and meets Friday - he has learned something. He has found repentance and forgiveness. His life has changed with this new spiritual awakening. Like the Prodigal Son of the Bible, Crusoe returns home. He brings Friday with him and becomes rich off of his sugar plantations. There is a happy ending, yet the book ends with the promise of a sequel.

So, the difficult to read story has a very deep, and pertinent meaning buried inside of the sometimes boring narrative. It was Daniel DeFoe's plan to bring the news of Christ and salvation to those readers in his day. Little did he know that Robinson Crusoe would still be read today and be considered a great classic.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Menu Plan Monday - June 25



Summer has finally arrived in northern Michigan. We have our hot days and we have our normal rather cool days. Today it has struggled to reach 70 degrees F., but that's okay.The sun is shining and I'm happy.

The menu plan this week reflects using what we have on hand. I have already over-spent at the grocery store. Our freezer is becoming bare and I can't wait for the harvesting of our garden. Right now, we are only getting a light cutting of lettuce and some radishes. As for the cantaloupe for tonight, we only use whole melons that we cut ourselves. Currently in Michigan, we are advised to not purchase cantaloupe already cut and packaged because of the listeria problem that has caused a massive recall.

Monday

Fish Sticks
Baked Potatoes
Cantaloupe

Tuesday

Marinated Chicken Thighs (crock-pot)
Mashed Potatoes
Peas

Wednesday

Left-overs

Thursday

Hamburgers on the grill
Potato Chips
Tossed Salads

Friday

Taco Salads

Saturday

Pizza & Pop

Sunday

On Your Own

Monday, June 04, 2018

Menu Plan Monday - June 4


Happy first Monday in June! I would like to say that we have beautiful summer-like weather here up north, but that would be a lie. It struggles to get into the sixties (Fahrenheit) right now. For me, that is frustrating.

My husband has the week off of work, so he is helping to make some of the suppers. Since he makes a mess when he cooks, I'm not sure if that is a blessing or not. I will let you know.

I don't have a vegan plan for you this week. To be honest, I have jumped off of the vegan ship for a bit. My digestive system was way out of whack because of all of the carbohydrates I was getting that I needed to get more variety. I am feeling better and will slowly add more carbs back in. That said, I will let you know that I am still whole foods, mostly plant based, just not eating starchy carbs at the moment.

Here's the plan:

Monday

Meat Loaf
Mashed Potatoes
Broccoli

Tuesday

BBQ Chicken Thighs
Roasted Root Vegetables

Wednesday

Taco Salad

Thursday

Left-overs

Friday

Pizza & Pop

Saturday

Cheeseburger Bowls

Sunday

On Your Own