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Category Archives: Canning/Preserving

Teacher Appreciation Day

Homemade Chai Tea Mix in a JarSpiced Chai Tea Mix in a Jar

Rapidly approaching us next week. I try to give teachers a gift that that is a little unique and useful. This year I have decided to gift some Instant Chai Tea mix in a jar to each of my children’s teachers. I need to make approx. 10 gifts total. Here is a recipe that I have tweaked from the internet. I am a foodie so I wanted it to be something I would drink, but had some flexibility to water down the sweetness level without watering down the tea and spices too much. Also, don’t skimp over the cardamom; it is a necessity.

Spiced Chai Tea Recipe:
3C dry milk powder
1 1/2 – 2C sugar (i put in 2 C because usually people like sweet and I used regular, unsweetened creamer and added in vanilla powder I had)
2-2 1/4 C unsweetened instant tea (nestea or lipton)
1C Vanilla powdered non dairy creamer (if this is sweetened lessen sugar)
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/4 – 1/2 tsp ground white pepper (YES! for real)

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl; mix; then in small batches pulse through your blender to make a fine, consistent powder. You must do this otherwise the ingredients do not look appealing at all and it will not disintegrate nicely into the water.

Serving Size: approx. 3 T into 8 oz hot water; stir well (adding more or less water to taste).

NOTES: I purchased 2 jars of the nestea, 1 larger box of the powdered milk and a large (not a tub) of the creamer. I used all the tea to make 3 batches with a very small amount of powdered milk left over and about half of the creamer left over (these are items I do not usually purchase). 3 batches filled ten (10) 1/2pt jars and approx 3 pint jars. fyi. Also, purchase store brand (generic) items on this as the ingredients are the same.
COST: Milk $8, large size Creamer $3 (not small, not regular, and not the tub), Tea $2.50/ea, spices (purchased in bulk – buy what you need)approx $5-7, jars (2nd hand) $0.50/ea, fabric 1/2 yard $1. Approx Total: $26-30 depending on what you already have on hand to make 10 half pint jars and approx 3 pint jars. If you made all half pint jars that would total about 15 jars for approx $2 per gift on the high end of the estimate, plus it’s homemade which makes it special. I think I could have purchased the “regular” (not small size) of the creamer for the 3 batches (3c) – just wanted to make sure I used as much of the items I purchased. And if you don’t have as many teachers as I do you could just put them in pint jars and essentially double that cost from $2/half pint jar to $4/pint jar and still have a couple left over for random housewarming/hostess gifts as they store for 6 mos.

I repurposed paper grocery bags to label jars; cutting out a square, writing in black marker (like an old market type look and taping to front of jar using wording such as “Spiced Chai Tea —– To make: Add +/- 3 Tablespoons to boiling water, stir and enjoy”. I also chose to add fabric underneath jar bands for decor. But, you could also use this as an opportunity to use other saved jars with lids (old peanut butter jars, dip jars, etc….) and you could modge podge fabric over these lids, wrapping/glueing the fabric over the lip to overlap the lip of those lids (I think there is something about doing this too on the martha stewart website). I happened to use 2 old frito lay dip jars and their lids; I can modge podge the fabric over/around lids and labels peel off and just need to clean up jar with oil to get residue off.

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Reusable Canning Lids?! YES and NO BPA

I was at the library an going through one of their Mother Earth publications and saw an advertisement in the back for reusable canning lids that are also BPA FREE!!!

In that same magazine was an interesting article about the harmful effects of BPA on humans (like cancer, early puberty). They use it to line most cans; another reason to can/jar your own food! However, even the lids purchased at the store are lined with BPA – although it’s a lot less than an entire can.

These reusable lids apparently were on the market back in the day and now with the resurgence of the do-it-yourselfer, they are back in production and can be purchased at http://www.reusablecanninglids.com

There are also youtube videos you can watch too. I will order these this year and make sure they go onto lids that will remain in the household with me as they are a bit pricier than the other lids.

 
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Posted by on February 23, 2012 in Canning/Preserving

 

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Time for the countdown! Starting Seed Indoor?

It’s already here! Time to start thinking about what seed you will start indoors in the PacNW. Harvesting your own food; It’s not an off again, on again hobby. Our family recently finished butchering the elk my son harvested right before Christmas. We get to take January off! Only to start thinking seeds, starting late January, February.

If you are thinking of starting seeds, check out the seed savers exchange catalog. I received a membership from my husband for my birthday and the catalog has so many lovely heirloom choices!!! But, this year, I have so many leftovers – I doubt that I will order much, if any. Inventory any seeds you have and what you will need for starting seed indoor as well as your early spring plantings. And start making your garden plan for the year (as I will).
FEB-March – start seed indoors according to your last frost date.
Mid-March – Is timing to direct seed those early spring veggies, and if I am thinking correctly any started brocolli and plant potatoes and lettuces.

Note any big changes (here are a few of mine off the top of my head):

TOMATOES — One whole row devoted to tomatoes instead of the 5-6 plants. I notice that I use at least 1 quart jar of marinara sauce each month — and in addition, we use plenty of chopped tomatoes and sauce throughout the year. What I made this year will likely not last until next harvest.

PEPPERS – My 6 pepper plants were enough, I think – I still have a good frozen supply.

PEAS – shelling peas. I might plant more sugar peas and allow them to grow and shell OR plant specific shelling peas. The ones I shelled were the best peas I have ever eaten — so I’ll likely devote space for this purpose. AND the peas froze wonerfully!

CUCUMBERS – Might really try to plant pickling – depends on space.

 
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Posted by on January 16, 2012 in 2012 Garden, Canning/Preserving

 

Canning and Freezing accomplished this year

This year I canned chopped tomatoes, tomato sauce, marinara sauce, apple pie filling (to just dump in pie crust then bake), jams, turkey noodle soup from leftover thanksgiving turkey, dilled beans, green beans, wax beans.

I froze chopped bell peppers, corn and peas that I shelled. We have also been busy filling the freezer with the moose my husband hunted and the deer my son provided to feed us throughout the year. We are still working on filling the freezer for the year with additional game meat harvested and butchered by my family.

This “comprehensive list” of food items was grown by me or local grown (i.e. the turkey was grown organically on a local farm; the apples – someone at church brought a bunch of boxes and I took one), or harvested/hunted by my family.

Having these experiences with our food source keeps me (and my family) mindful of wastefulness, food quality, and propels me to think more and more outside of the box with reusing or repurposing other household items that would otherwise be considered waste. I am also proud of my overall success each year with my growing baby steps and being able to share these successes (along with the few failures)with my kids. It shows them visually that even though there might be several flops, overall, the harvest is truely bountiful.

 

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CORN! Don’t turn it down!

Okay, I don’t grow corn. However, a lot of people around here grow corn and end up with extra to share with others. I brought home a big bucket (you know the type they sell at walmart; the big plastic buckets with rope handles?) full of corn that someone brought to church. My plan: To bring it home and either freeze it or jar it. There was discussion and inquiries on how to best “save” it, so let me share.

The most important part of preserving corn is that you MUST BLANCH it 4-6 mins. before you move on to freeze or jar it. This destroys the enzymes that would otherwise breakdown the sugars and nutrients in the corn niblets. Here is a link you can refer to:
http://www.pickyourown.org/freezingcorn.htm

You can absolutely freeze it on the cob (you see it yourself in the freezer dept. of your grocery store). Or you can cut/shave it off the cob.

Basically you have your kids shuck the corn and then you blanch/boil whole or cut cobs for 4-6 mins then plunge into ice cold water to stop “cooking” as fast as possible then either freeze on the cob, or shave off and bag/jar it.

I chose shave it off and freeze it because for me this is such a “process” in it of itself that I just can’t wrap my head around putting it in the jars, filling with water and processing via pressure can only (although not that hard). I put into foodsaver bags (3 cups per bag for family of 5) and vacuumed sealed shut and stuck in freezer – SUPER EASY. This process took me approximately 1 1/2 hrs to freeze 22 cups of corn (after the kids shucked it which took them about an hour the night before – they goof off).

When I need to eat it I boil water and cut open bag and boil it up for another 6-10 minutes (until done) and butter, salt/pepper to taste and it is sooooo good! and crunchy still.

 
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Posted by on September 29, 2011 in Canning/Preserving

 

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Freeze your peppers

My peppers are coming in. I have too many to eat. One great way to use them is to make stuffed peppers. I notice sometimes that garden peppers are not as large or symetrical as those you find at the store. To use your garden peppers to stuff, cut them lengthwise in half and lay them on their sides (open faced, so to speak) and fill them that way.

But, with the rest of them, I chop them up and put 1-2 cups in foodsaver bags (or ziploc) and freeze for future use in eggs, potatoes, stir fry, chili, stews or marinara. This is the first time I have tried to “save” my peppers for future use. I’ve seen Frozen bags of peppers and onions at the supermarket for stirfry; so I figure I can do the same. I suppose you could even throw them in your autumun/winter salads. During the fall/winter, I make a lot of stir fry, it’s easy and filling and a one pot type meal that has veggies. For the stir fry batches, I will slice them into longer, thinner strips, (you don’t have too) because I prefer them this way in stir fry. This shouldn’t take a lot of freezer space – I can store in the “door” shelves in the outdoor freezer or even find space in the inside freezer.

 
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Posted by on September 3, 2011 in Canning/Preserving

 

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Revisiting the idea of Canning and “The Canner”

In an earlier post, I mentioned that you don’t have to go bankrupt to preserve/can your food and make it shelf stable (a lot of people don’t have a ton of freezer space). You can only process/can high acid foods with a water bath canner – that would be dilled veggies, jams/jellies, fruits in a sugar syrup, salsa (provided there is acid introduced too) and tomatoes. “dilling” makes the environment acidic. Search “Water bath canning” and “High acid foods to can”. I have gotten by with my water canner for several years. I only graduated to the pressure canner this year due to the fact that my kids eat a lot and I’d like to grow and can beans, and possibly corn and soups/stews (maybe meat/fish in the future).

By the way, jams/jellies and such make GREAT gifts to anyone. Who wouldn’t love to receive something they can use and was hand crafted? Great teacher gifts, coworker gifts, hostess gifts, and especially family gifts.

Where I live, NOW is the time to goto Walmart and purhcase a canning pot. In the Boise and surrounding areas, lots of people can/preserve and the pots (which is a big enamel coated pot with a jar rack inside) costs $20. Here is the link for the 21.5 Quart, Granite Wear, Canner pot with Rack http://www.walmart.com/catalog/product.do?product_id=10543332&adid=bzv_fb_revshr_001 – Do not spend more than about $25 for a water bath type canner. You could also just order a separate canning rack to insert into your already owned deep stock pot (measure diameter and that pot has to be deep enough to have 1 1/2 inches of water over your tallest jar). You could also zip tie a bunch of “bands” that part that screws onto the lid of a jar. The important thing is to have the jars slightly elevated off the bottom of the pot. (I do recommend the canning rack though, it has handles).

It is also wise to get a funnel and a jar lifter (and obviously jars). Jars with lids/bands are a slight initial investment. Jars and bands may be reused year after year – you have to use a new lid/seal each time you process. Each year I have to go and purchase a few boxes of lids (pks of 12 for less than $3) and maybe a couple of cases of smaller jelly jars that I give away as gifts ($8 or less per case of 12).

Pressure Canners are much more expensive and I’d only recommend purchasing one if you have a larger family, don’t have a lot of freezer space and you really are going to can/preserve green beans, corn, meats, soups, etc., OR you are going to do high volume canning of many high acid fruits/vegetables (only water bath jams). The pressure canner takes up a lot less time during the canning/processing stage. However, if not doing some mass volume and you have the freezer space for those beans and corn, it is easier to freeze those. You must blanch the veggies before freezing though – look up process for each one separately.

 
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Posted by on August 30, 2011 in Canning/Preserving

 

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