Pressure To Simplify - Home on the Range Blog at - 299651

Home on the Range

Pressure to Simplify 
Mar. 22, 2013 11:43 am 
Updated: Mar. 30, 2013 7:00 pm
“The ants are a people not strong, yet they prepare their food in summer” prov 30:25

The reality of living with incurable autoimmune conditions, is something that is definitely a catalyst for change. Some are good changes, others, not so much. One thing I have learned is that there will be good days and days that are so debilitating, I can do nothing. Lately, there have been more of the latter than the former. So it is against those days for which I must prepare. It isn’t a HUGE departure from things I do anyway, but there is incentive and more of a plan to what I will do. 

Sharing with some of you who experience the same kind of limitations and challenges is what this blog entry is about. But not just for those of us who have limitations, but also those who have limited free time, like working moms even.

Primarily, I am the one who cooks the meals and living as far from town as we do, pretty much everything is made from scratch. That means baking all the breads, making dairy products and canning food. Therefore, that’s what I spend a lot of my time doing on a ‘good’ day. I bake bread ahead of time and slice and freeze it so we can just grab a few slices when we need. I wrap it in plastic wrap then foil and it thaws out like fresh. I always double the recipe when making waffles and freeze the extras for a quick breakfast with a tasty whole wheat waffle as opposed to spending hard earned cash on L’eggo’s which aren’t nearly as good.

I’m a big believer in gadgets and things that simplify my life and save me time. I have large water troughs for the animals that only need filling once a week instead of daily. I have automatic feeder for my chickens and dogs (not all dogs do well on this, but ours do).

Having a garden is something I do, but the garden goes on a drip system which is run by automatic timers (operated by battery and not all that costly). Because I like fresh food and because I don’t like wasting money or buying substandard ingredients, I took up canning.  But now my canning has a purpose beyond just preserving food. I can to ensure that on days I simply cannot feed us, there are meals available. This is pretty easily done, really and I actually enjoy it more than just canning up the regular stuff...tomatoes, jams and fruits. (Let’s not forget making that pie filling so pouring a jar into a crust and baking it gives a quick and tasty dessert!)

I pressure can appropriate foods instead of freezing them, when I am able. That way there is enough room for our beef, lamb, chicken and venison and in the case of freezer failure, less food is going to be lost. There is also something very comforting about seeing jars and jars of food on my pantry shelves.

Lots of people are afraid of pressure canners. There is no need to be. To begin with, there are foods that can be “water bath” canned and others that require a pressure canner. High acid foods like tomatoes and jams/jellies are usually done in a water bath environment. When water bath canning, altitude adjustments are made by lengthening the TIME an item is in the canner.  With pressure canning  the altitude adjustments are usually made in the pounds of pressure. There are charts in most canning books as well as online for how long something needs to remain in the canner and the psi for your altitude. It’s very important to follow the directions about stopping the canning process. When to remove the pot lid, how soon to lift out the jars, allow the internal and external pressure to equalize and make sure your jars seal properly.

The procedure is really pretty easy. Decide what you are going to can and get it prepared. Most things are canned hot. A few can be canned cold or 'raw pack' such as chicken, but you will get that information and the details out of your canning book, which I recommend everyone have. It's been invaluable to me and there is no point in preserving your food unless you are going to make sure it is safe for consumption.

Grab your materials. This would be your:

Pressure canner (and weight, if yours is like mine)
jar grabber
canning funnel
plastic knife thingy for getting air out
white vinegar and a paper towel
lids & rings ( I love the Tattler reusable lids)
and I use a placemat to put everything on once it is sterilized and to set the hot jars on when done so the glass doesn't crack.
  • Sterilize  jars, either in the dishwasher, or boil/steam them in the canner
  • Fill to the recommended level, wipe the rims with papertowel dipped in white vinegar to prevent any food or oil on rim causing a seal failure.
  • Put on your lids and if using 2 piece metal lids, tighten finger tight.
  • *If using the plastic tattler reusable lids, only tighten enough for the ring to catch the threads. These have to be much looser in the canner to seal properly.
  • Set the jars in/on the rack. Never place them directly on the pot bottom or they will shatter from heat induction.
  • Make sure the water is at the proper level per your canner's instructions
  • I put a touch of white vinegar or cream of tartar in the water to prevent the aluminum from discoloring. It also helps remove the blackness if you didn't do it last time.
  • Set the lid on and tighten it so it is sealed.
  • Let it 'vent' for 10 minutes. (It is much, much easier than listening to someone else vent, although nearly as monotonous)
  • Set your weight on it's little jiggly post.
  • Once the weight begins to jiggle, adjust your heat so it is jiggling at a rhythmical there is a strange word to spell. Rhythmical. Honestly, who makes these decisions anyway???
  • Pull yourself together.
  • Set the timer.
  • Once the timer goes off, turn off the heat.
  • When  the pressure plug drops, remove the weight, usually for 2 minutes.*your recipe will tell you*
  • Remove the lid and usually wait another 5 minutes for jars to pressurize properly
  • Remove jars to placemat.
  • Re-tighten lids and be SURE to tighten the tattler lids now.
  • Let sit 24 hours.
  • Remove rings, check for seal
  • Mark jars what they are and put on date. I no longer use the paper labels as they are too much work to remove. Instead I write on the jar with a permanent marker which washes off easily before using again.

Done! Nothing terribly difficult there. I just double or triple a recipe I was going to make anyway, and can what is left over. This way I really only have to make that dish once a year. It frees me up to do other things.

The resource that I use the most is Ball’s Complete Book of Home Preserving. It has all the information you need on both water bath and pressure canning and 400 recipes to boot. Most of them I have tried are great.

If I were to start over, I would purchase an “All American” pressure canner. In fact, it’s on my wish list. It is definitely an investment. There aren’t going to be problems with getting your canner loaded and finding out your seal is bad and having to wait a week or more for a new one...which is something I have some experience with. Just try eating 7 quarts of the same something in less than a week! Freezing for me, is not usually a favorable option, as we have 3 freezers full. Space is at a premium here. The All American is a higher quality canner. I currently have a different canner which was a thoughtful gift from my step mom. It’s done an excellent job so far with the exception of needing replacement parts now and then. 

You could use your pressure cooker for water bath canning as well, if you have a regular lid that fits it. I just chose to buy one of the inexpensive graniteware canning pots so I don’t confuse myself and pressure process something by accident, which again, I have done, as my brain rarely remains on what I am doing at the moment and tends to wander off to greener pastures a lot, leaving me to do the work all by myself. You are able to cook in your pressure canner, but you can’t can in your pressure cooker. I don’t pressure cook much stuff, and personally, since the canner I have is made of aluminum, I wouldn’t cook in it anyway. Just my thoughts on it.

Some of our favorite soups: (I have put in clickable links to the recipes)

We have made great use of canned French Beef Dip this year. It’s very easy to do. I just put two big cheap roasts in a crock pot after cutting off the fat, add all the seasonings and let it cook down until the meat is tender. Then I fill the sterilized canning jars with meat and the au jus and process it. For a quick meal we have just pulled a jar off the pantry shelf, heated it in the micro wave and stuffed it in french rolls.The au jus from it is amazing. Have a side salad and you are good to go! Another meat I have happily canned this year is pulled pork or kalua pig. It’s delicious heated up on a french roll, or cooked up in a breakfast burrito, or mixed with BBQ sauce for a BBQ get the picture.

We’ve had several chickens that needed to be culled. Typically, older hens or rooster tend to be very tough and stringy, albeit tasty and full of flavor. You can often find chicken quarters on sale. Canning them would save you a lot of money. The easiest way to make use of them is to separate the drumstick and thighs, put them in a jar bone in, fill it with hot broth and can it. Same thing with the breasts. It becomes a tender, deeply flavored shredded chicken that is ready to be used in your casseroles, or taco salads, or whatever you like to do with shredded chicken. There are hundreds of things I can think of. It's just another great thing to have on hand.

This week I canned up a double batch of meatballs. I canned them in spaghetti sauce so we can have meatball sandwiches in a snap. I'll can some more in broth to use in albondigas soup or swedish meatballs. The neat thing is, we don’t have to use any of these for a year or more, but it's there whenever I want something quick and easy. This makes living with RA quite a lot more tolerable for me. I think this would make life a lot easier for many of you, as well. 

I try to can SOMETHING every week or two if I feel good. I always have left over chicken carcases and beef soup bones in the freezer waiting to become stock, if nothing else. Stews, chili, fruit for pies, there is always something that you can jar up and make good use of. I even can potatoes. I buy a big bag whenever we go to the store but with just 2 of us, I rarely can use them all, so into the can they go. It's quick to make fried potatoes then, or roast them with butter and herbs, or heat and mash them. If someone shows up for dinner unexpectedly (which doesn't happen very often here anymore) all you need to do is grab another jar.

I hope all  of us, who suffer or not, are able to look ahead and see how life can be both amplified and simplified with just a few easy steps. I try to do what I can and that which I cannot, I try to leave in the Lord's hands.  "Try", being the key word, as, like most women, I tend to be a bit of a control freak. Yes, I said it. Maybe in my case, that's what this disability is all about. Learning how to trust.

I've been flat on my back most of this week and I can sure appreciate the time I spent earlier doing this.

Do you have things you can share, that make life simpler? 

My kitchen in Christmas past, which is probably the last time it was this clean...just sayin'....

"Nothing is better for a man than that he should eat and drink, and that his soul should enjoy good in his labor. This also, I saw, was from the hand of God.   Eccl. 2:24
Mar. 22, 2013 12:12 pm
As always a great read. I look forward to seeing your posts. My DMIL and just started doing jams together about two years ago. So far we have only done strawberry (looking forward to this again) and peach jam. So far we have not used the water bath as the jam has been hot enough to seal the jars for us. But I will try the process next them I do my Raw Cranberry Relish. Love the picture of your kitchen it fanastic.
Mar. 22, 2013 1:23 pm
Thanks's different...specially that 50 year old turquoise linoleum LOL
Mar. 22, 2013 2:10 pm
Like the picture of your kitchen.I do some canning,string beans,beets,chow.I do the same as you with the bread.So much easier.I saved your split pea and ham soup.With your ham and potatoe soup,would lactose free milk,or silk work?Thanks for writing this,i enjoy reading them,and always learn something.Take care petey.
Mar. 22, 2013 2:40 pm
I don't do any canning anymore. Remember my gramma canning and watching her. She would store them in the fruit cellar. She would send one of the grandchildren down there and they got to pick what they wanted. I always picked the violet jelly, Can't remember what it tasted like, but loved the color. Thanks for sharing another week in your life.. Bless you always.
Mar. 22, 2013 3:12 pm
manella, I am sure it would. It is just to make the roux which thickens the soup up
Mar. 22, 2013 3:56 pm
petey,i suppose it would help if I read it all the way, saw milk and stopped.Thanks.
Mar. 22, 2013 9:33 pm
Petey, there is no other way to say it than to tell you, you touch my soul. The things I consider a challenge and am proud of when done (like making a loaf of bread), you do every day, amongst a million other things and I am sure always while in pain. Every single thing you write about inspires and encourages me to do more. To try harder. To be honest with myself and to never give up. I am not a religious person, but I often find myself praying for one more painless (or less painful) day for you. I can't thank you enough for sharing your stories here. You have made me a better person by knowing you and I wish you the same physical peace you give the rest of us emotionally every time your stories are read.
Mar. 22, 2013 9:38 pm
Just dropping a note. I'm going to mark your blog for reading. I too have an autoimmune disorder(one without a name) I have to poke and test to figure out what's okay in my diet. My husband is an insulin dependent diabetic and my son may have mild ASD(Autism) or ADHD. For him good days are more often than others and I believe it's because of my planning and making our meals. It can be hard cooking and baking regularly, but with freezing it's easier. I've also found that now I'm having more better days than low days.
Mar. 22, 2013 11:03 pm
AZ93, thank you so much for your kind words! It means a lot to me
Mar. 22, 2013 11:06 pm
Wanaderer-some folks are sensitive to different foods. Fortunately, (or not) none of them seem to affect me, but it may also be because we grow most of our own, grind our own whole wheat and drink raw milk from my own cow. With almost 0 processed foods it may be making the difference. I think the commercial food supply may indeed be responsible for more than people realize. You are wise to investigate it! Glad to hear you are finding a routine that works for you :)
Mar. 23, 2013 5:18 am
Yes raw milk for some might be better (dmil has always claimed that she felt better on raw milk compared to pressurized) but unfortunlatly it is against the law here in Ontario we can only have pasteurised.
Mar. 23, 2013 7:44 am
that is such a shame. Once it has been pasteurized it really has lost all of its health benefits as ALL the beneficial organisms have been killed along with any potentially bad ones. Once it is homogenized, it actually becomes unhealthy. But commercial Ag will have its way with the public, and sadly for large populations, pasteurizing is a necessary evil. Big dairy cannot possibly keep milk sanitary. I would only buy from small farmers where I could inspect their procedures myself. I know I am fortunate to live like I do
Mar. 23, 2013 11:56 am
petey, I wish I had mentors like you and Randyman when I was a young fellow. It's so much harder to grow up when you're already old! Thanks for a a great synopsis on canning; it was very encouraging. How much can you change a recipe for a canning process and it still be safe? Commercially, I know that you couldn't make changes. It would have been deemed unsafe. I used to supervise a canning plant in Chicago.
Mar. 23, 2013 12:41 pm
Petey, you are such an inspiration. I put that canner on my wishlist on Amazon - it is an investment but well worth it IF I would really use it. Of course there is always the issue of convincing No Baking Papa that my canned goods are safe. Silly, but he has good reasons he is leery of home canned goods. His mother, Lois once gave us a jar of 'plum jam' that was sealed with wax - the wax seal looked cracked and out of caution we decided to run the jam down the garbage disposal. He dumped it in the sink - shoved it down into the disposal and an enormous racket arose from the disposal. Seems the plum 'jam' was full of plum pits! YIKES - scared the heck out of him. I will get the canning book and see if I am up to the task. Thanks again. Blessings to you.
Mar. 23, 2013 12:47 pm
LOL@ the jam! I dont' paraffin seal, as I don't think it is safe either. It's surprisingly easy to can things, and there are some rules to follow but its not complicated. I canned a bunch of meatballs in pints with sauce. My hands are so badly affected today I couldn't make anything so Randy heated up a jar and had 2 meatball sandwiches in just a couple of minutes! :)
Mar. 23, 2013 12:50 pm
Doc, it really depends on what you are canning. I can a lot of my own recipes, but omit things like any kind of milk product additive because it is not recommended, they aren't stable. It's easy enough to add them afterwards. It is very important when doing simple waterbath canning to follow the recipes EXACTLY because it needs the right amount of acid to be safe, so I don't mess with that. Pressure canning gives me a bit more flexibility, I just check my ingredients against my guide to make sure I have everything within safe parameters. You probably understand it all a lot better than me though :)
Mar. 23, 2013 1:35 pm
OK Petey, another question - " so I don’t confuse myself and pressure process something by accident...." So are you saying that there are somethings that shouldn't be pressure canned? I know there are things that MUST be pressure canned but I always thought you could choose to pressure can anything that could be water bath processed. I am so easily confused.
Mar. 23, 2013 3:46 pm
well, I wouldn't pressure can jams. Most people don't pressure can tomatoes but its ok if you do. I pressure can everything but jams, including tomatoes. What I was saying above is that if you water bath INSTEAD of pressure can ( such as tomatoes and such) the recipes will have you add lemon or vinegar etc. You want to be precise with them because it IS only waterbath. I hope that makes sense. If you get the book I recommended, it will make things much, much clearer
Mar. 23, 2013 3:51 pm
Fruits and pickles are only waterbath canned as they are high acid. I follow directions on them exactly. Things like meat are low acid and MUST be pressure canned. I accidentally pressure canned some peach jam and it turned a nasty color and was not very nice at all. I tend to go airhead now and then :)
Mar. 23, 2013 7:02 pm
OK - that makes sense. Kinda of. I would want to pressure cook tomatoes - weird I know but I have read "those" stories. I am not a huge jam person but would like pie filling on the shelf. I will get the book. Thanks Petey.
Mar. 25, 2013 7:42 am
Petey, I live on a small lot here in Central FL, so I just grow a few tomatoes and peppers in pots, vertical growing they call it. I do wish we had a larger lot for a good garden, but for now I just stick to the bees, butterflies and bird gardening. I guess reading your blogs takes me to a place I've always dreamed of living and for that, I thank you. I love that you put a picture of your kitchen, and it is lovely, looks just like I pictured it.
Mar. 25, 2013 9:16 am
thanks that with, or without the hideous 50 yr old turquoise linoleum? LOL
Mar. 25, 2013 11:41 am
Another awesome blog Petey. So sorry you are having a bad week. Hopefully next week will be better.
Mar. 25, 2013 11:44 am
You are giving me the courage to consider doing pressure canning, Petey. Frankly, it scares me to death! lol 1. I'm afraid of exploding something. 2. I'm afraid of botulism. 3. I'm afraid we won't like the texture of canned meat, which is something we never buy. 4. But my last fear is not having a way to preserve food if our society takes a big turn for the worse or if we N. Korea makes good on its threats. I refuse to live in fear and trust God for those concerns but believe He calls us to be prepared. :) If most of America were thrust without warning into your rancher lifestyle (making most everything from scratch and being mostly self sufficient) most would be unprepared. We're on our farm so we are better off than many but I need a more long term way of preserving our food than the freezer. :) So thanks for loaning me your courage. I'm committing to further research and then taking action~ :)
Mar. 26, 2013 3:59 am
glad to hear it goodfood4ursoul. I have found that home canned foods are much, much nicer than commercially canned ones...but then I also think we are using superior ingredients to begin with. You will be surprised!
Mar. 27, 2013 5:44 pm
I've been considering canning and think with the help of your blog may take a leap of faith and give it a try! I'm a working Mom and need the quick meal option without all the box junk from the store. Plus I'm trying to get my family eating less chemicals. I grew up on home grown meat, frozen and canned veggies from my grandparents and would love for my children to experience the same! Thank you for the inspiration!
Mar. 28, 2013 8:54 am
Glad to hear it Kim. I don't think you will be sorry. It's a much cheaper, easier and healthier way to eat! :)
Mar. 28, 2013 5:16 pm
beautiful blog, thank you. I do can but so far only hot water bath. I really want a pressure canner! I do tomatoes, pickles (all kinds), relishes and chili sauce. I'd love to do my meat sauces etc. etc. After reading your blog...I think a pressure canner is coming my way! ;) Leasa
Mar. 28, 2013 5:19 pm
~I have to add, that I love the idea of making my pea soup with pork hock and being able to double batch it and pressure can, and my bean soups, and my boston baked beans... I too, am a scratch cooker. I don't have raw milk or farm animals (we are vegetable growers in Ontario Canada), but I will be putting in my big garden again. You certainly have me itching for the summer canning to start, and with a pressure canner I can be doing it all year long!!
Mar. 28, 2013 10:09 pm
absolutely, Leasa! I am always able to think of something to can, from potatoes to broth, to sauces, meat or full on meals! The book I recommended has some AWESOME recipes for both water bath and pressure canning...ketchups, BBQ could become addictive :)
Mar. 29, 2013 12:56 pm
What a great blog - you're a woman after my own heart. I do have a question, tho as the FDA has me scared to death to alter even an iota of an *approved* recipe - (ie: if they say 3 cloves of garlic and 5 peppercorns, I put in EXACTLY 3 cloves of garlic and 5 peppercorns). I would love to slightly adjust some of their recipes - but get the heebie-jeeebies. You've had no problems making changes or canning your own recipes (using common sense of course)? I've canned beans, broth, and potatoes, but that's about it. You've inspired me to hit meat next.
Mar. 29, 2013 4:58 pm
I've said it before, and I'll say it again, Petey, you are an amazing person! Thanks for sharing.
Mar. 29, 2013 7:47 pm
litegal, its mostly the acid and density that makes a difference. Seasonings aren't going to change your canning times, but adding things like meat or beans will. With a few rules, such as no dairy, pasta or rice and adjust your pressure and time to the ingredient that requires the longest processing you should be fine. you can always run things by your county extension agent if you are not sure. I don't believe in taking risks with food either
Mar. 30, 2013 2:24 pm
Hello, Petey-I'm just another fan of your blog. You have a real gift for writing and your photos are wonderful. I so hope you get to feeling better very soon.
Mar. 30, 2013 7:00 pm
Thank you cookinkate :)
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About Me
Kids are raised, we are ranchhands on a 250,000 acre working cattle ranch 110 miles from the nearest small town, so we raise a lot of our own food, vegetables, fruits, milk,eggs and meat. Love riding and working cattle, but find myself spending a lot more time in the kitchen, and the garden.
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Having 2 Jersey cows as well as milk goats, playing with fresh milk is a hobby, making our own butter, yogurt, sour cream, cheeses, soap and all the other great stuff you can do with fresh raw milk.
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A layered Jello dessert...the middle layer never set, so it did the 'ooze-wiggle'...and...well..I liquified a couple of chickens on 2 different occasions, turning them into a black gel. Moral of that story is, don't start cooking then go clean barns!...and there was the time that my kids were helping me make Thanksgiving dinner and SOMEbody (who resembled my youngest son) forgot to put the sugar in the pie!!!
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