Can Art by Kathleen Young

Can Art by Kathleen Young
(c) 2015

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Muslin Vs. Cheesecloth in the Canning Process

I came across a sale on whole chickens last week.  .88/lb is not bad at all.  I snatched up two of them, took them home, and dumped them in the freezer while I figured out what I was going to do with them.  I knew that making some chicken stock would be ideal.  It was going to be a long weekend in the kitchen.

The recipe called for cooking the chicken for about two hours, but I think most of know that you get a better flavor by taking your time and letting it simmer for most of the day.  Onions, celery, whole peppercorns, and a few dried hot peppers from last years harvest.

After pulling the chicken and other solids out the recipe calls for running it through cheese cloth to get all the finer particulates out.  Did that.  Then let it sit overnight in the refrigerator so the fat can solidify on top. 

Skim the fat.  Run it through another measure of cheese cloth to pull out some of the chunky fat and particulates that were still there.

Get all the gear going.  Water boiling, jars sterilized, lids and bands ready.  Get the stock back up to boil.

In the canner.
After the pressure canner settled and rested,  I pulled out my jars. 



Not happy.

How to make this better?

I remembered using muslin this past summer to make blueberry jelly.  Figured it might be a viable option here in getting a better end product.  Now, the first batch is still usable.  Nothing "really wrong" with it per say, just not as "pretty" as it could have been.

Round Two.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat the whole process.  This time though I used the muslin (washed and dried to remove any chemicals from sizing etc.) to strain it after pulling out all the chicken and vegetables.  Let is sit over night to solidify the fat.  Pulled as much of the fat off as possible, and ran it through the muslin again. Figured it would help to keep the cold chunks of fat out also.

Get the pressure cooker up to rocking.  Process. Settle. Rest.  Pulled out the jars.


From now on I will be using muslin to do any of my straining.  The cheesecloth just doesn't cut it.  For the cost of muslin vs. cheese cloth at the grocery store, you will get more use for your dollar.  Muslin runs anywhere from $2 to $5 a yard.  The less expensive stuff will do just as well.  Just make sure you wash it.  And rinse it.  I wouldn't use laundry soap.  There are just too many fragrances in that.  Take the time to wash and rinse it by hand with hand dishwashing soap. You can use it over and over if you take care of the muslin by washing and drying after each use.  I would recommend that you keep your muslin sieves for meat and one for produce.

Until next time,
Happy Canning!!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Spring is still months away, but you have to start somewhere, sometime.
I don't think we are going to plant as many tomatoes as we did last year.  The deals were so great on the plant starts that we got a little bigger than we could comfortably handle.  That's not complaining, just being realistic.  I have to give thanks to the Old Man for getting out there and getting it all harvested.
No, that's not my tractor.  I live in a two bedroom apartment on a busy street in the city.  I've got a small backyard that I have turned into a garden. 
This was taken before the tomatoes took over early last summer. 
I had originally planned on just growing herbs and some lettuce, but the tomatoes had to go somewhere.  I think I may  just do one or two plants this year so that I can get a variety going.  Of course, I may not have to go out and buy any tomato plants with all the seeds that are in the boxes from last year.  We will see.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

I started canning over 20 years ago.  I taught my Old Man several years later.  Memory fades over time if you don't use it.  When I was teaching him, I was going off my personal experience ( I taught myself the canning arts).  Back then we didn't have videos on the internet on how to do things.  I had to go off my interpretation of what I read.  After evacuating the kitchen while the pressure canner was going full tilt, I developed a fear of my canner.  That thing was just out of control.  Volatile to say the least.

The Old Man got to spend this past summer at home.  We had already planted a garden and the fields of professional farmers were coming into fruition.  I had to go back to work full time.  I wasn't about to let these things get in the way of filling my pantry with things I can eat. (I am highly sensitive to A LOT of additives you find in everyday pre-made foods on the supermarket shelf.)  So....he, being the inquisitive sort, did a bunch of research on the internet in between tending the garden and keeping up on housework. 

On point to the subject, he did some research on how a pressure canner should be properly run.  He experimented while I was at work.  I would come home at the end of a 16 hour shift to canned Marina Sauce, Beef Stew, Split Pea Soup, Baked Beans.  It sparked an interest to re-learn my pressure canner.

After some very patient and understanding direction, I have produced 10 quarts of Split Pea Soup this weekend.  Ingredients:  Split Peas, Water, Carrots, Onions, Ham, Allspice, Bay order of ratio to volume.  I like that.  A Lot.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Getting Creative:
Beyond Grape Jelly and Strawberry Preserves
I'm really happy that the Home Arts are making a comeback.  Kind of like quilting did in the late 1980's-early 1990's.  The options were pretty limited to muted colors, tiny prints, and hand drawn templates.
The same thing holds true with Canning and Preserving.  Twenty years ago, I would never have thought to pickle grapes.  There are a lot of very creative people out there bringing home food preservation up to speed with modern needs and tastes. 
Why the move back to such primitive means of creating food stuffs?  Read the back of a label.  I can't count the number of times I've pulled an item off the shelf, say a can of Blueberries.  I think to myself, yum....blueberry muffins hot out of the oven.  I could make that.  Then read the label, and put it back on the shelf.  I just wanted Blueberries.  No added colors.  No added preservatives that I can't pronounce.  Just Blueberries.
When you make things yourself, you know exactly what you put in it.  You know, pretty much, where all your ingredients came from.  You know the quality of what you are eating.  The questions have been minimized.  And you can pronounce everything.
I have in my pantry (the one devoted to home preserved goods) delicious concoctions like Spiced Apple Chutney (goes great in fish and chicken dishes), Raspberry Habanero Jelly (perfect on medium rare steak),  Pickled Concord Grapes (lending toward a duck dish or Cornish game hen), and Carrots en escabeche (think taco stand condiment) to name a few.
I also have your culinary staples....Chicken broth, Baked beans, Pickled peppers of a large variety.  I have some jams and jelly's that we put together for quick peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. 
I plan on expanding again this year.  Trying new recipes from some of the new books I've picked up along the way.  I hope to share some of my experiences in regards to combing the countryside for ripe fruits and vegetables and the things I come up to do with them.  I have a really bad habit of picking more than I can process but I just get so excited out there in those fields.
Until then, Happy Canning!!



Sunday, January 18, 2015

It's almost the end of January.  It's cold. And wet.  If I was in to crabs, I would be on the Coast with my crab pot.  I'm allergic to crab, sad to say.  But I would be more than willing to spend the day on a dock waiting for my pot to fill for the Old Man.  He's more than willing to spend the day shoulder deep in sand and muck to find clams and other shellfish for my culinary endeavors.  It's a yin/yang thing.

It's the time of year that you pull jars of canned goods you sweated over making in the summer months to expand your kitchen now.  Pickled Serrano's.  Crushed Tomatoes.  Spiced Apple Chutney.

Dinner tonight:  It's cold.  It's windy.  It's rainy.  We have spent the afternoon out Geocaching.  Liver and Onions in Spiced Apple Chutney Sauce, New Potatoes, and Acorn Squash.  Fresh garlic from the local High End Market.

Settling in for the night.  Will write more soon.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Let me just start with a Disclaimer:  Harvesting Oregon is not easy.  It's a steep learning curve just to mine information from Locals.  Oregonian's are a little stand-offish until you ask them a question.  They won't walk up to you and tell you where their favorite clamming/fishing/mushrooming spot is. And God Forbid, don't let on early in the conversation that you are a California Native.

You are going to get wet.  You are going to get dirty.  You are going to get stung.  You are going to get caught up in berry vines.  And when the harvesting is done for the day, you will need to re-up on the B-Vitamins, and process it all.  Your goods won't last long.  You've got 24 hours, at best, to get your work processed.

Don't complain about the rain.  It's what makes Oregon Oregon.   My favorite motto since moving here:  "If you wait for the sun, It will never get done."  Saw that on a weather forecast station while recovering in a nice, warm hotel room from a blustery day of hunting down treasures on the heels of high tide following a storm at the beach.  There will be enough sun for a year's worth of Vitamin D in August.  You will be praying for the sun to set then.  Just spend a day here as the sun rises at 4:30 AM and the light is still in the Western Sky at 10:30 PM.

I've been here in the Great Northwest for three seasons now, coming up on my Fourth.  I've pulled in a few Blue Ribbons at the Oregon State Fair.  I can already smell Spring.  My thoughts are on new recipes that take berries beyond Jam.  Clams beyond Fried.  Veggies beyond Stir Fry.

I would like to impart my experience on anyone willing to listen/read.  I would like to help make moving to The Great Northwest a bit less intimidating to anyone genuinely interested.  If you came here to make this place the place you came from, turn around.  They, and we, don't need you here.  Appreciate what this land has to offer.  Thank it for it.  And thank the people that have spent lifetime's here to make it what it is today.

 (C) Copyright 01.17.2015.  All rights reserved.