Thursday, October 09, 2008

Canning Marathon


Mountain Firekeeper was here again! We did a pressure canning "marathon"! Well, not too much of a marathon but, it did last over half the day. I think it was rather easy by Mt. Firekeeper standards, judging by Lynn Bartletts comment after my last post. He helped them can. She said, "My most intense experience was when our family purchased 200 chickens from a Hutterite community, and took only 2 days to pressure can it all!"
Wow, now that's a canning marathon!

During our visit we talked about sometime renting the town hall and doing some heavy duty pressure canning on the industrial sized gas range and you should have seen the gleam in the Mt. Firekeepers eye. He really gets into this stuff! I admire his enthusiasm!

Kelli has been quite intimidated by our pressure cooker/canner. She mentioned that fact to Mt. Firekeeper back last December when we first met him in person. So when he came for another visit he remembered and walked us through step by step on how to safely and properly operate the appliance. That was way better than reading the manual. It really helps to have someone who is experienced walk you through with something like that.

Mt. Firekeeper quickly adapted to our quirky 17 year old electric stove. First, after filling the jars with veggies and placing on the lids and rings (finger tight) we'd put them inside and evenly tighten down the wing nuts. Then we set the pressure canner along with it's contents on the stove and turn the burner to high. At this point the little pressure relief weight thing that jiggles and hisses when the pressure is up is not in place until the kettle gets good and hot. After steam steadily streams out of the hole that it sets on did we put on the weight. (Hope that made sense)

Now, the settings on our stove are no longer accurate to it's original factory function so we had to find our particular "sweet spot". After putting on the pressure relief weight we'd turn down the heat from high to maintain a constant pressure to no lower than 12 psi and no higher than 15. (It depends on where you are relative to sea level. We are at 1500 ft. above sea level) On our stove simmer was that place. That particular burner will boil water on simmer. Depending on what we were canning we kept this up for between 25 and 40 minutes. Carrots and green beans went for 25 minutes. Stew vegetables or rather "vegetable soup" as Mt. Firekeeper called them, went for 40 minutes. The finished products looked absolutely wonderful. And every jar sealed tight. We've canned plenty in the past without using a pressure cooker, it is always like music to my ears to hear that neat little 'pop' when the lids pull down tight during cooling.

It was all a great learning experience since Mt. Firekeeper is an excellent teacher. And he's entertaining as much as knowledgeable as he regaled us with story after story of his many life adventures and travels. For instance this summer he spent time on and off living in his tipi.

We thoroughly enjoyed our visit with Mt. Firekeeper.

Well, we had back to back company over the past few weeks and life here is getting back to normal, if there ever is anything that can be considered normal for us and how we live. But, as we continue to look at the headlines it's hard to comprehend exactly where all of this financial crisis is taking us. Unprecedented changes are before us. Here's a couple headlines just to sum it up: Market crash shakes the world and Berlusconi Says Leaders May Close World's Markets

I believe more than ever it's time we become proficient at doing things for ourselves and not relying so much on the system to provide the most basics of our needs. Like canning food. It's one thing to raise some food it's another thing to preserve it for future use.

Back in April Mt. Firekeeper had sent me an article that he had written for 'Life after the Oil Crash' forum about canning meat. I think it is timely information and with his permission I'd like to share it with you here.

By Mountain Firekeeper:

Canned meat is DEFINITELY convenience food!!!!

I grew up on an old fashioned farm where my extended family butchered and processed ALL of our own meat including pressure canning meat in a number of ways. Opening a jar of canned meat was soooooooo much easier than thawing something out from the freezer and done specifically for that reason!

We mixed beef, pork and seasonings for our 'sausage' meat. Some of it went into sausage which was smoked, cut to length and stuffed into wide mouth quart jars and pressure canned. This seasoned meat was also rolled into small meatballs which were stuffed into jars and canned----these were used in 'macaroni and meatballs' for a super fast meal. The meatballs were also added to spaghetti sauce--delicious!!!

We cut roundsteak into widemouth jar size pieces or smaller, dipped the pieces in seasoned flour and browned in frying pans and stuffed into jars. A gravy was made from the drippings in the frying pans and poured over the meat in the jars. After pressure canning, this steak will fall apart with a fork! This steak and gravy served with noodles or mashed potatoes made one of the BEST meat meals ever!!! The canned steak was what my Mother would grab if we had unexpected company and she needed to whip up a 'praise worthy' meal quickly.

All the beef bones from meat cutting were saved and then boiled down in large kettles. These kettles were allowed to cool---butchering was in the fall so outside temps were cool enough to cool the butchered animals and then also the kettles of bones. The next day, a thick layer of tallow was picked off and then the meat was picked off the bones. The resulting meat and broth was pressure canned and then used for a beef noodle or vegetable beef soup.

She also canned pork chunks which tasted delicious but she used 'Tenderquick' which has a bunch of nasty nitrates so I've never done that for health reasons.

We canned all of our old laying hens after the second year as they were replaced with younger laying hens. After butchering and washing, the chicken bodies were cut into large pieces and boiled until the meat would easily come off the bones. After the bones were removed by hand, the meat and broth was canned for 'chicken soup'---or turkey, duck, goose--wild or domestic. Sometimes we'd cut the thicker meat from the breast and thighs and pressure can 'chicken chunks' to use in pot pies or noodle dishes.

With such variety, convenience and AWESOME taste, I'll continue to pressure can meat for as long as canning supplies are available. I have no experience trying to cook wonderful meals with dehydrated meats but I'm guessing that it would be delicious as well.

A word of CAUTION!!!

Always pressure can meat---never use the hot water bath method. The meat has to be fresh, clean and not allowed to set out raw at room temperatures for extended periods of time. Wash off the rims of the jars right before you put the lid on even if it looks clean. The fats and oils from the meat as you filled the jars that have gotten on the jar rims will reduce the number of jars that don't seal. After pressure canning and allowing the jars to cool, wash the outside of the jars off in warm soapy water as the fat that escaped during pressure canning will coat the outside of the jar. The outside of the jars may get covered with mold and look yucky. If it does happen, just wash the outside of the jar off before opening---the inside meat will still be good.

When you do open a lid, the seal should be tight and take some effort to open. If it opens easily, the seal may have been weak or broken--don't eat it!!!

Enjoy! I have less fear of my own processed meats than what I receive from the STORE because I KNOW what has gone into my jars!

The way I look at things I don't like to be dependent on any one system for mine and my loved ones well being. The system that provides us with "just in time" delivery is just a man made system like any piece of machinery. And any system or machinery can become broken or worn out. Nothing lasts forever. So I believe it is best to know how to live without the conveniences of the modern world if need be. And it can be alot of fun. It gives a sense of great satisfaction to accomplish some things.
One of our most recent accomplishments was to finish a full season with the CSA. Here is a picture of our last share of produce which was last Thursday. I hope to blog about it on my next post.

Until Next Time


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Russ and family!

Thank-you for your kind words and compliments! I felt sooo welcomed--like a member of your family!

I made it back to the hills without any problem and haven't set still since.

Winter's coming and there is so much to do. I continue to help friends get ready for the coming season as well as the global storms.

As I said, 'there's so much to do!'

Thanks for sharing so much information on your CSA!! I'm excited to try something like that as well.

May the Lord bless you and yours!

Mt. Firekeeper

7:54 PM  
Blogger RL said...

Your welcome my brother! I‘m glad you felt welcome. You do seem like part of the family. We’re kindred spirits for sure. Also, it was a pleasure meeting Candis. She is a delightful lady.

Yes, there is much to do before winter especially with battening down the hatches for the storm that is upon us.

I like how CSA’s are structured. Of course everyone of them I’ve ever looked at is tailored to the individuals who run them. Ours is no different in that regard.

I’m getting ready to make my next post on the blog here and plan to talk about the CSA and how it finished up.

Take care and God bless.


8:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love your site!
I may have missed it, but what kind of pressure canner do you have and where did you purchase it?
I have never canned anything except in water bath.
Tomatoes, peppers, fruit jams, syrups, etc. I am soooo interested in doing meat "dishes".
I think chili and soups would be good, too.
Thank you for any in put or recipes offered!

9:00 PM  

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