Water Bath Canning vs Pressure Canning

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There really is no debate on which you should choose. There are somethings are safe to water bath can but everything can be pressure canned. Why can’t I water bath can low acid foods? My grandma only ever water bath canned. I have heard pressure canners can explode. Tons of reasons to avoid pressure canning. But one big one to use it. BOTULISM!! A silent, odorless killer. Other things can happen as well but this is the big one.

What is botulism?

Picture courtesy of the CDC.

Botulism is a bacteria that can kill you. If nothing else it will make you feel sick enough you want to die.

It is a rare, potentially fatal illness caused by a toxin. The toxin is produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. The disease begins with weakness, blurred vision, feeling tired, and trouble speaking.

It is a nasty illness that we can avoid by properly preserving our food bounty.

 

What can I water bath can?

Things that are considered high acid foods. Tomatoes are a big one, unless of you are growing low acid tomatoes, those varieties are a story for another time. Jams and jellies, pickled anything. Fruit preserves and most anything that you add lemon juice, vinegar, or are fermented.

Some fruits are considered naturally high in acid:

 

  • apples
  • berries
  • blackberries
  • blueberries
  • cranberries
  • peaches
  • pears
  • raspberries
  • strawberries

What should I pressure can?

Anything that is not on the above list. Those things can also be pressure canned. There are no safe ways to can fresh squash, including pumpkins. Those need to be prepared how you want them and then pressure canned. Or simply frozen.

Other items, not produce related, that you should pressure can are meats, soups, and broths. Your other option is to freeze them. All of this will prevent you, your family, friends, and customers from being poisoned.

Making Time to Cook

It is so very, very tempting to buy pre-made foods. Why? The answer is quite simple, time. As a busy working mom (granted all moms work) I find myself strapped for time to make the delicious, whole food meals that my kids have to come expect. So how am I managing this?

I keep a calendar, actually I use Google Calendar and a pocket one which I make sure have all the same, correct information on them. Then I print out a calendar to use for menu planning. This also writes my grocery list for me. My next life saving object is my slow cooker (crock pot). So meal planning looks a bit like this.

Calendar (kids events, my work schedule, daddy’s doctor’s appointments, etc.), coupons, menu calendar, school lunch calendar, blank paper, pantry list, freezer list, refrigerator list. The kids and I sit down and plan out the type of meal we need to prepare for each day. Weekends we need to typically plan for 3 meals plus snacks.

We plan dinners first based on where everyone needs to be and at what time. Then weekday lunches and breakfasts. Some days not even a crock pot will save me any time, couple that with an awesome sounding sale and some coupons and temptation is there baby. So to combat that overwhelming need to throw my hands up and give in, I have started making a few meals ahead of time or planning something like sandwiches or breakfast for dinner.

I find that if I can get an entire second meal out of an entree, I freeze it. Prep work done, ready to go. I do need to breakdown and get a microwave. I am also slowly replacing cheap plastic tupperware with good quality glass dishes (with lids). I am concentrating on small pieces that I can toss individual meals into so that if the need arises and we need to rush. I have created my own convenience foods.

Finding the time to make meals ahead of time, the easiest way I am finding is to make double what we need and freeze the rest. At least for entrees, side dishes are normally quick and easy anyway. It doesn’t take any extra time to make a double batch of chili, soup, stew, roast, etc. Once the entree is done cooking, I set aside half for another meal so that it can cool. When we are packing up leftovers, if there are any, we pack up the extra meal and freeze it.

I am also simplifying my menu. I am saving large multiple course meals for days off and special occasions. The rest of the time our meals are simple but follow a very basic plan: protein, starch and veggie. I try to make the veggie the largest portion of the meal. Proteins do not always have to be meats there are a variety of options for that as well.

Being organized, getting your family’s input and marrying your slow cooker will really help you manage your cooking time.

Light, Love and Peace

More detailed tips and information will be available in my upcoming book.

How to Roll an Egg Roll

Ready for cooking.

Not everyone but I am sure there are a few who are intimidated by rolling up and making their own egg rolls. It’s fast an easy actually. We have used a no fry recipe here twice now and love it. Totally non-greasy which let’s you enjoy the flavor of the filling more. We will be experimenting with various egg roll fillings. The girls are wanting to try something more Mexican in the near future and I am thinking some kind of dessert.

1. Layout your egg roll wrapper on a flat surface so that it looks like a diamond.

2. Add your filling to lower 1/3 of the wrapper. (Make sure excess liquid is drained first to avoid a soggy egg roll)

3. Roll the bottom of the egg roll wrapper up and tuck it under the filling. This one didn’t want to stay put while I took a picture.

4. Fold the corners in to make the egg roll wrapper look like an envelope.

5. Roll the egg roll up so that you tuck the top flap under.

Keep a small bowl of cold water handy. Dip your fingers into it and then moisten seams to help them stay together. Fry or bake, whichever you prefer and enjoy! 

Total time to roll 20 of these little beauties is 10 minutes, unless you have your chefs in training helping, then 20 minutes and don’t count on making 20 egg rolls, some of the filling will be enjoyed prior to rolling. Add to the roll time how long it takes to make your filling.

Menu Planning

Something I used to do on a regular basis not too long ago. Life was disrupted and some how I have ended up with a pantry and freezer full of food. Not complaining at all but now as part getting back into routines and such and making wise use of the food we have I need to start menu planning again.

The main reason is so that I can keep track of how much of various items we have. How much we are using of said items and when to time stocking up. I am moving towards once a month shopping so I really need to track these things.

Menu planning is also cost effective. It doesn’t have to be written in stone, I am totally into flexibility simply because things happen. However, if you have a good idea of your weekly schedule, appointments, activities, etc you can easily plan what food things you will need. This works well for weekly, bi-weekly and monthly cooking/shopping.

A few good tips for helping with menu planning:

  • Start off weekly
  • Keep a running list of basic must have items that you and your family use daily.
  • Start a pantry/freezer/refrigerator list
  • Pick one evening and use it as your planning night, remember to ask for family input
  • Plan your meals first based on what you already have on hand
  • If you are making a specific recipe make sure you add those ingredients to your shopping list
  • Don’t be afraid to substitute items in recipes for less expensive options, recipes are after all just guidelines.
  • Plan your menu around your family’s schedule. 
  • Just like going grocery shopping, I don’t recommend menu planning on an empty stomach. 
Light, Love and Peace!

Stretching a roast chicken

We have been on a tight budget for so long, I have come up with creative ways to stretch food. As an example last night. We had one of the small roasting chickens I had bought on sale for dinner. Even after feeding 5 of us and making one lunch to go, there was still some meat on the bone. So today I put the carcass with some water in a bowl and nuked it about 3 minutes. This made it easier to pick the meat off. Then I took the home made creamy chicken gravy from last night, added about a cup of milk and a cup of water and poured it into the crock pot. Peeled and diced 6 small potatoes, two carrots, diced up some green pepper and onion. I am not adding anything the soup just yet spice wise since there were a lot of seasonings on the chicken and in the gravy last night.

This is just a simple cream of chicken soup that we will have with sandwiches tonight for dinner.