Reusable Canning Lids

How many canning lids do you have in your storage? Canning in a long term emergency situation means having the supplies to do it. You’ll need your canner, jars, rings, and of course those pesky lids. Lots of them. Those lids that you can only use once and then you need a new lid. And once you’ve used your stash of lids, then what? Or is there a better way? What about canning lids that can be used over and over?

Last fall I tried some Tattler reusable canning lids. I canned jam, tomatoes, and salsa with them. The Tattler company has been making these lids since 1976. They are two pieces–a plastic lid and a rubber gasket. You’ll need the metal rings that came with your jars or you can buy some extras on the Tattler site if you’re short on rings. The lids are BPA free and made in the USA. Tattler has them available for wide mouth and regular jars. The upfront cost of $7.00-$8.00 per dozen is, of course, more than the metal lids, but with regular re-use they pay for themselves pretty quickly.

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Review: The Forgotten Skills of Self-Sufficiency Used by the Mormon Pioneers

Walking along the book aisle in Costco the other day, I came to a rather sudden stop as a specific book caught my eye. With a name like The Forgotten Skills of Self-Sufficiency Used by the Mormon Pioneers, can you blame me?  This was obviously a book stocked for a local audience, so I hope our non-Utah readers can find a copy.  Author Caleb Warnock is a local (Alpine, Utah) writer, year-round gardener, and teacher of “Forgotten Skills” classes.  It also helped when I noticed one of the people listed in the special thanks section is a friend of mine, and local sci-fi author (how’s that for a tight-knit Utah Valley). Also at only $11 or so, any tidbit that might help will likely pay dividends well over the purchase price of the book.

This book also stood out to me, because I often wonder *how* my family managed to get enough food to live.  My mom’s side of the family was that oft-discussed “hearty pioneer stock”.  However I have noticed that while many farmed to live, I have a long history of blacksmiths and military.  There is no hiding that this must be because I inherited a really lousy black-thumb, they took up other trades because of this family curse. I’m one of those people who has to work really hard to make part of his garden succeed.  I enjoy blaming my heritage on this, as it cannot be some failing of my own, right?  So I felt driven to read this book, and find out how they managed to live, despite my inability to grow enough of the right foods in the wasteland of Utah.

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Liquid or Powdered Pectin

This year has been a big experiment in new canning recipes, and foods.  In doing that, my wife especially has been learning a lot as she has stretched beyond some of the basic recipes we’ve used in previous years.

Well, over on her own blog, my wife made a comment about something she’s learned this year.  Go check out what she’s learned on the difference between liquid and powdered pectin.

And boy has she been using that a lot this year.  I’ve been grabbing pictures to post up here, hopefully I can get to it soon.

Farmer’s Markets

Typical Farmer's Market Offerings
Typical Farmer's Market Offerings

Now that the weather has warmed up, I am revisiting a post I started back in the deep winter of January.

Farmer’s Markets are a great way to find locally produced fruits, vegetables, meats and other products. These markets are often the only way to find heirloom varieties of fruits and vegetables that our forefathers took for granted. You will also generally find more variety if you are looking for Organic or hormone/pesticide free food.
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Adding to your long term supply using dehydration

Someone sent me these great videos on dehydrating food and using it in your food storage. The woman in the presentation is very knowledgeable about the subject and shows the correct way to dehydrate, store and use your food while helping to avoid some of the common pitfalls along the way.

These videos have changed the way I think about dehydrating food at home. Many of the tips about using oxygen absorbers, buying buckets, etc. are useful for other types of food storage as well.

Give them a thorough watching, take notes and let us know what you think.

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Dry-pack Christmas

For Christmas this year, we decided to forgo gifts and add to our dry-pack food supply. With access to a dry-pack canner through the local unit of my Church, I decided the most cost effective and efficient route this time would be to buy in bulk and do the canning myself at home. I purchased all of the food and supplies from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Home Storage Center in Sandy.

We were able to get everything we wanted except wheat which they were out of until the first of the year. I will be going back in a few weeks to finish off that part of the order. I did learn exactly how much will fit in a 4Runner, although I had more than the traditional blind-spot to worry about on the drive home. For this round, I canned rice, sugar, pinto beans, black beans, white beans, potato flakes, dry milk, dried onions, apple slices, and both quick and regular oats. Continue reading “Dry-pack Christmas”

Cesta Básica

For several years I lived in the amazing country of Brasil (yes, that’s how to spell it right :) ).

Stack of Cesta Básica's ready be sold
Stack of Cesta Básica's ready to be sold

One of the many things I learned while living there was about a product called the Cesta Básica (Basket of Basics).  This product is the lifeblood of many Brasilian families, making up the core of their grocery shopping.  What it is, is simple.  It is a package containing an assortment of basic food items, designed to meet the basic needs for a given amount of time.  Which products it contains, and how much would vary by store, but largely were the same.  This was an extremely common item for several reasons.  The first of which is the basic brasileiro’s diet, which starts with beans and rice, and almost anything else is extra.  Which type of beans was largely a regional choice as the default, but alternative ‘versions’ of the packages could easily be found if you preferred another regions flavor.

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How To: Adventures in Food Storage with Mylar Bags

There are several options available to us for long term storage of bulk food – 5 gallon buckets, #10 cans and Mylar Bags are some of the most popular. In this post we’ll be going over the advantages and disadvantages of Mylar Bags and how to use a Mylar Bag Sealer. Specifically, we’re going to show how to turn all of this:

2200 pounds of food

Into This:

packaged food

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Canning (bottling) Chicken

One important and often difficult to achieve aspect of a good food storage plan is meat.  My strategy had always been to purchase canned meat at the grocery store or through group buys, but that gets pretty expensive!  We recently learned about and tried bottling chicken.  I had heard about it but it sounded like it was probably a huge job.  Then Mom told me a couple weeks ago that it was really easy – she was right (of course)!

Here’s the simple description for bottling chicken: cut it up into 1 inch square chunks, put 1/2 tsp salt in bottom of bottles, put chicken in bottles, pressure cook it for 90 minutes.  That’s it, super easy!

But, that’s too short of a blog post so here is the photo essay of how to can or bottle chicken.  Incidentally, I’ve been told that you follow the same procedure to bottle beef, venison, elk, any meat.

To start with, we bought 80 pounds of raw skinless boneless chicken breasts from a great sale at Macey’s – at $1.19/pound.  Fortunately for me, I have lots of kids who can help out, makes a big job happen quickly.

Here we are cleaning fat off the chicken and cutting up the breasts:

The meat needs to be cut into about 1 inch square chunks:

Here is what 80 pounds of chicken looks like all ready to be bottled (notice the quart jar for perspective):

The next step is to put 1/2 teaspoon of salt in the bottom of the jar (you can add whatever seasoning you like) then fill the jar with chicken to about 1 inch below the top and load them into the pressure cooker:

Heat up the cookers on high until they start rocking, then back off the heat until you get 3 rocks a minute, in the mountain region cook at 15 pounds of pressure.  Maintain 3 rocks/minute for 90 minutes (time starts after first rock).

After 90 minutes of cooking, turn off the heat and let the cookers sit for 30 minutes – DO NOT open them before hand, they’ll blow up!  After 30 minutes, remove the rocker, if it hisses you still have pressure – WAIT until it doesn’t hiss!

We averaged 2 pounds of chicken per bottle giving us 40 bottles:

Notice in the picture that there is liquid in the jars – that’s broth baby!  You don’t put any water in them at all, the cooking process fills the bottle up with juice.

After all our hard work we feasted on a bottle – it was delicious!  The fully cooked chicken comes out of the bottles and falls apart and tastes wonderful.

So, let’s calculate.  For about $2.50 on sale, you can buy a small tuna size can of chicken that weighs 10 ounces.  We’ve got about 32 ounces in each jar, giving us a little more than 3 cans in each jar.  That puts an equivalent value of $7.50 on each jar and we got 40 jars worth.  That gives us $300.00 equivalent value of chicken – and it costs us $110.00 – $80 for the chicken and $30 for the jars.  So we saved about $190.00 and ended up with a lot of chicken for storage!

Next up for us is to do this with hamburger.  I have about 80 boxes of hamburger helper in storage – my goal is to have a bottle of already cooked hamburger to go with each box.

– Phil801

Out of Jars?

People are not letting their jars go for anything

Nice article in the Daily Herald on Sunday about the rise in home canning, largely due to economic reasons.  They attribute it mostly to economic reasons, and list out how people are having trouble finding canning jars and equipment in stores now.  Freecycle and garage sales are largely wiped out now.

In an interview on Friday, Stephanie Shih, national spokeswoman for Ball Jars, said the Utah Valley spike is not isolated. Nationally, demand for Ball food preserving products has spiked 30 percent this year, and customers as far as New York have had trouble finding jars as demand grows. Sales of large Ball jars have jumped nearly 40 percent, and sales of Ball plastic freezer containers have doubled.

A recent survey of 1,800 people by the company found “that more than 70 percent of respondents intend to preserve more foods this year in an effort to save money on weekly groceries,” she said.

Hope you’ve been canning too.  I know I just had to pick up two more cases of quart jars, Wal-Mart had just received a load and was getting lower on quarts, still had pint sized though, at the time.