Canning is a great way to preserve your own harvest. You can also buy organic produce that is on sale from your local grocer or from your local farmers market. When the produce is in peak season, it is the most healthful and the least expensive of the year.When you can, you have to follow the recipe exactly to make sure it is safe to eat. When canning acidic foods like fruit or tomatoes, or anything using vinegar or sugar, you can likely use only a water bath. All other canning requires a pressure canner to get to high enough temperatures to kill off the bacteria that cause botulism.
Home Canning Resources
Here are some web pages and resources to use:
Mother Earth News How to Can app
National Center for Home Food Preservation
USDA’s Complete Guide to Home Canning
Home Canning website
Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving
The Complete Book of Small Batch Preserving
I bought a 1946 canning booklet from Amazon.com Steamliner Pressure Cooker-Instructions for Cooking and Canning so I could learn how to use the old fashioned canning jars. It was fun to read, complete with recipes! Okay, I thought, could I do some canning? My Granny canned during the summers I spent with her when I was little. We were growing tomatoes in our little flower/veggie garden. My handy Ball canning book revealed that tomatoes and fruits are high acid so they do not require a Pressure Canner; only a water bath was needed. Makes it an inexpensive experiment. I read that many canning lids also contain BPA. So, what other options were there? I found these glass lids in an antique store. I also bought the jars with the wire closure. All I needed now were the rubber seals and some directions!
I searched the web to see if I could find any instructions on how to use old-fashioned canning jars. No luck. Then I went to Amazon to see if there were any books on it. I found a 1946 pamphlet “Steamliner Pressure Cooker-Instructions for Cooking and Canning.” Success! It was great fun browsing the pamphlet. It was also very thorough in its instructions on how to use the old fashioned canning jars.
I went on line and ordered a variety of seals, sticking with ones that were not made in China and were natural rubber. I wasn’t able to find any that fit well with my cool, old fashioned jars. I also learned that the glass lids needed very tall rings. The modern ones were too short to close properly. Back to square one!
Choosing the Best Canning Jars
Then, I ran across an advertisement for these beautiful glass jar with glass lid made in Germany-Weck’s (it is the second from the right in the pic). Finally, a non-toxic jar! Later I discovered a plastic lid that is also BPA-free that can be used with modern jars made by Tattler, made in the USA since 1976. They are a seamless replacement for the metal lids. I was able to can a few using the old fashioned jars. The Weck’s work great. Easy to use, easy to know that the seal is good, and beautiful to look at. I highly recommend them.
All you really need when canning high-acid foods is a tall stock pot with lid, a jar lifter, a stainless steel spoon, a towel to put the hot jars on, and your canning jars.
For more tips on organic small space and container gardening, see Melodie's blog at www.victorygardenonthegolfcourse,com
Sometimes food heritage sites gain new life, years after their original purpose has been superseded. Such is the case with a Chicago meat-packing facility built in the Union Stockyards in 1925.
The company began much earlier than that, right after the Civil War. It was established as a meat-cutting and curing firm by a German immigrant from Stuttgart named Christian Buehler in Peoria, Illinois. His sons went on to create a string of stores called Buehler Brothers Meat Markets in Chicago, in 1894. And then later the packing building, to serve the markets. The company name changed to Peer Food Products in 1944.
But then, in 2006, Peer sold, and a new firm stepped up to take possession of the old brick building in the Stockyards.
Bubbly Dynamics bought it in 2010, and resolved to keep as much of the 93,500 square foot old construction as was reasonable.
The company is retrofitting the place they call The Plant to create a “net-zero energy, food business incubator.”
“The Plant will hold indoor demonstration farms and educational facilities operated by Plant Chicago, NFP and will incubate sustainable food businesses by offering permanent tenant spaces at low rent and low energy costs.”
The intention is to do aquatonics at The Plant, or grow fish and veggies in water.
You can read more about this re-purposing project of a food heritage site here.
For more food history and food heritage info visit The Food Museum.
It’s that time of year again: The time when cooler days have me itching to bake bread once again, but when the zucchini is threatening to take over unless I harvest it. I have been frantically using zucchini in everything; zucchini pie, stuffed zucchini, zucchini pickles, even zucchini brownies. But still, the zucchini keeps coming. I have an especially prolific patch of yellow zucchini this year. Out of desperation, or perhaps fear of the zucchini rising up like zombies, I decided to combine zucchini with my love of bread.
Zucchini bread is usually a sweet bread, but I was looking for something to use with sandwiches. The first experiment resulted in a moist, savory Golden Semolina Zucchini Tomato Bread. The experiment must have worked, because most of the loaf disappeared in mere hours. That encouraged me to design this Zucchini Olive Yeast Bread.
For the tomato bread I used golden semolina flour to boost the protein level. But olives can stand up to something with more body, so I added a bit of white whole wheat flour. If you can’t find white whole wheat flour in your area, regular whole wheat flour would work well too.
If you have ever purchased a loaf of olive bread that was tasty, but so hard your jaw hurt from chewing, this is the recipe you have been looking for. The zucchini keeps the bread almost white-bread moist. Real Mediterranean flavor results from the added Feta cheese, Kalamata olives, and toasted pine nuts. We served slices dipped in olive oil. And better yet, the bread stayed fresh for 3 days. It may stay fresh even longer, but we ate it all in the first 3 days. I would like to say that we had company to help us devour it. We didn’t.
Since the bread is very soft, it needs the structure of a pan to keep it together. Using a smaller loaf pan will give you a very high loaf, like that in the photo. A larger loaf pan will yield a flatter loaf.
Zucchini Olive Yeast Bread Recipe
¾ cup lukewarm water
2 tbsp honey
2 tsp active dry yeast
3 - 3½ cups bread flour, separated
1 cup white whole wheat flour
2 cups grated (not pureed) zucchini
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 cup crumbled Feta cheese
½ cup chopped Kalamata olives
¼ cup pine nuts
In a large bowl, or the stand mixer bowl, combine the water, yeast, and honey. Stir and let stand 15 minutes or until the yeast is foamy. Add 1 cup of bread flour. Beat to combine. Cover and let sit for 2 hours. Meanwhile toast the pine nuts in a dry frying pan over medium heat until just browned (about 5 minutes). Set aside to cool. Add the remaining ingredients except the olives and pine nuts. Knead for about 4 minutes, adding more flour if necessary to keep dough held together. Add the olives and pine nuts and continue kneading for another minute or until they are well combined with the dough.
NOTE: This dough is very soft due to the zucchini moisture. You want the dough to hold together, but not to be too dry. Transfer to an oiled bowl. Cover and let rise for one hour or until doubled in size. Scrape dough out onto a floured board. Let rest for 10 minutes. Form dough into a loaf and place in a greased 8½ x 4½ inch pan or 9 x 5 inch pan. Cover and let rise ½ - 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Score the top of the loaf. Bake for 50 - 75 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 190 degrees. Remove from oven. Let cool for 5 minutes. Remove from pan and completely cool before slicing. This bread is delicious dipped in extra-virgin olive oil and served with a simple meal. It also turns everyday sandwiches into something special. Toasted slices make a nice bruschetta or crostini
Both of these experiments have worked out so well, I am planning to create something else. Maybe a zucchini herb yeast bread or a zucchini ricotta yeast bread. Or maybe both — the zucchini patch doesn't seem to be slowing down.
I always feel guilty of throwing out any sourdough starter. But not always in the mood to put in the effort to make amazing bread. So here is a great recipe for crackers. I don’t know about you but I am a snacker. I am more about it being easy, rather than what is good for me. Sorry, but that is the honest truth. I think there are a lot of people out there like myself. So these crackers are perfect for me.
Sourdough Crackers Recipe
1 cup sourdough starter
1 cup flour
¼ cup melted butter
Combine flour, starter, and melted butter. Add enough flour to form a stiff ball. Cover and let it sit for at least 10 minutes. Roll dough out very thin. Baste with olive oil, sprinkle with salt (and other ingredients that will be mentioned below) to you taste bud liking. Cut dough into squares or whatever shape you like. A pizza cutter works great for this. Transfer to a baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 minutes. After this time keep checking on the crackers because they tend to cook quickly. Light brown and crisp is the goal. When you remove them from the oven let them cool completely before storing.
This is such an easy recipe. The variations are endless with this sourdough cracker recipe. Sourdoughs International has a great whole wheat starter called the South African that makes amazing crackers. You can put different cheeses on these crackers, fresh herbs, cinnamon and sugar, the list can go on and on. What is also wonderful is that these are so easy they are great to do with kids. They can cut them into different shapes and top with what they like. Easy and fast and taste great too. Can’t beat that. A fun treat for everyone.
Summer is winding down, particularly in the garden. The tomatoes are done, eggplants are still working on a few more, well, eggplants, but the cucumbers? We’re overrun! And there’s more coming, too. I’ve been trying to find ways to put them in and on everything. My friend Irene has suggested cold cucumber soup, which is about the only thing I haven’t done. One of my favourite ways with cucumbers is cucumber salad, a Scandinavian dish that is simple to make, and uses cucumbers, at least 2 at a time. My favourite cucumber recipe is cucumber sandwiches, but alas, doesn’t use a lot. Suffice it to say, cucumbers are on the menu everyday here, and will be for a while. I just brought another five in today. If I looked really hard, there’s probably more out there, which is a scary thought.
On to the salad. In true Scandinavian fashion, fresh dill here is the best for flavor.
Scandinavian Cucumber Salad Recipe
2 cucumbers, scrubbed, ends removed
1 tsp table salt
½ cup sour cream, more if desired
1 tbsp fresh minced dill
Salt and pepper to taste
Additional dill for garnish
If you like the peel of the cucumber, by all means leave it on, otherwise, you can peel the cucumber. I prefer the peel on, as it gives crunch and colour. Slice your cucumbers very thinly, and place in a large bowl. Add the teaspoon of salt to the bowl and cover with cool water. Let sit for about an hour.
After the hour is up, drain the cucumbers and rinse to get the salt out. Squeeze them out gently to get rid of any excess water; otherwise they may become too watery. Mix in the sour cream, fresh dill, and salt & pepper, if using. Once well combined, refrigerate until serving time, at least an hour or two. If desired, you can sprinkle more fresh dill over the top, or place some decorative sprigs, if you like.
As the weather begins to cool ever so slightly and the kids go back to school, I’m reminded that cold season is right around the corner. My number one preventative and cure is good old fashioned chicken soup. My family drinks a mug of warm, nourishing chicken broth just about every morning to start the day but that’s just one of the many ways we enjoy this delicious stuff; you can make it and freeze it for use weeks or even months later, use it as the base for delicious soups, put a little in a pan to reheat everything from brisket to pasta, cook rice in it- the list just goes on and on!
The feet in this recipe are optional but if you have access to them, use them. They will release tons of gelatin making your stock beautifully silky and flavorful. Gelatin is also very healing to the gut so there’s nothing better for a touchy stomach. Adding feet can be the difference between a great broth and an exceptional one.
Homemade Chicken Broth
1 large stock pot or slow cooker
1-2 chicken carcasses
2-4 chicken feet (optional but strongly recommended)
2 TBS apple cider vinegar- I like to use raw
1 tsp sea salt
1. Roast bones in oven at 375 for about 10 minutes on each side or until golden brown.If you’re using the bones of a roasted chicken there’s no need to roast the bones again, just toss them in the pot.
2. Put bones in a slow cooker or pot, cover with cool water, add apple cider vinegar and let sit for one hour
3. Add sea salt, bring to a boil, skim off any foam from top, reduce to barely a simmer, cover and let cook for 12-24 hours adding more water if necessary.
4. Take off of heat, cool, strain and store in refrigerator or freezer
You can use this recipe with beef, lamb, fish turkey or any other kind of bones you may have.
For an especially flavorful and even more nutritious broth save carrot peelings and the end pieces of onions, garlic and celery. Add these to the stock about four hours before the stock is finished. I have a ziplock bag in my freezer that I store these things in until I’m ready to use them.
Add fresh herbs like oregano, parsley, rosemary or thyme for the last 15 minutes or so for extra flavor and health benefits.
Chicken bones cooked for 24 hours will be soft and are a wonderful treat for your cat or dog.
One of my favorite things to do with this broth is to make a stock based veggie soup. It’s wonderfully simple and fantastic for any day of the week. Both of my sometimes picky kids love it and it’s the perfect thing to freeze and reheat. It’s also ideal to drop off for a sick or homebound friend.
Chicken and Vegetable Soup Recipe
Use two cups of water for every cup of broth (the above recipe will make a much more concentrated broth than what can you buy in the store). Fill a pot about halfway up. Add:
1 chopped onion
3 sliced celery stalks and leaves
3-4 sliced carrots
1-2 handfuls lentils (rinsed)
⅓ cup brown rice (rinsed)
6 cloves of minced garlic
any bits of roasted chicken you picked from the bones and saved (optional)
Bring to a boil, skim, reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 1-2 hours depending on personal preference.
Add any other veggies that you have on hand. Things like corn, peas, green beans, potatoes, squash and zucchini are all wonderful. It’s hard to mess this one up!
Save the rind of Parmesan and add to soup for extra flavor. Discard it when the soup is finished.
Oregon State University is the state agricultural college, and I live in an old neighborhood full of bungalows, where professors raised their children and planted fruit trees—plums, pears, apples, cherries, and one glorious fig—in the back yards. The professors have moved up into the hills, seeking quiet and larger houses, but the old trees remain, still producing fruit. I have a map of these trees in my head and in late summer mornings harvest the produce and preserve it for winter. Other mornings, I bring back the excess from Sunbow Farm and spend an afternoon roasting and canning tomatoes or pickling cucumbers and red cabbage. I am an opportunistic canner; I take what is about to go to waste and save it, rather than working from a series of pre-planned recipes. There are three essential tools in an opportunistic canner’s basement that make such quick action possible.
3 Essential Tools for Home Canning
First, I have a steam canner from Territorial Seeds. Rather than filling the huge canning pot with water and waiting forty minutes for it to boil, I can prepare my applesauce or grape juice and can it immediately, using about a quart of water and a fraction of the time. The timing is the same as a boiling water canner and it works on the same sorts of preserves—pickles, jams, juices, fruit in syrup, and tomatoes. This means that I can preserve a small batch of something, like three jars of pickled red cabbage, without feeling guilty about energy use.
Second, I have a large collection of jars. Some of them are old; I have quart jars with Bicentennial designs on them, and others read “Magic Mason” or “Mother’s Canning Jar.” I scour thrift shops for cheap jars in January. My partner’s mother ships jars to me from Tennessee and friends pass jars my way when they have too many. I buy the lids in bulk, string the reuseable rings on thick pieces of Christmas yarn, and I am ready to go when a bushel of cider apples appears in the back yard, gleaned from the tree down the street.
Finally, I have two books —The Joy of Pickling and The Joy of Jams, Jellies, and Other Sweet Preserves. Both are comprehensive, accurate, and detailed, discussing the general theories of preserving as well as giving specific recipes for a huge variety of vegetables and fruits. When I had a pile of very ripe cucumbers last year, I made senfgurken, which required tough-skinned fruits. Every year, I find new recipes in the books because I have new vegetables to work with.
I don’t can all of our winter’s produce; we eat more dried fruit than canned because of the sugar content and we prefer fresh kale to months old green beans. But, the last few weeks of August, just before school starts, are devoted to preserving whatever harvest comes my way. Like Greg Brown’s grandmother, I “put summer in jars” for the long winter nights.
To read more about the Twenty First Street Urban Homestead, check out my blog at 21StStreetUrbanHomestead.Blogspot.com. To see more of Julia Lont’s amazing artwork, go to www.JuliaLont.com and www.BlueCamasPress.com.