Monday, July 28, 2014

How to Pressure Can

After hearing stories of pressure canners exploding, jars breaking inside, etc., the first time I pressure canned about seven years ago, it was intimidating to say the least! And never having seen anyone do it before made it even more so. :) Once learning how, though, the process is really quite simple! (Though, I should add that it can be dangerous which is why it is very important to carefully follow the pressure canning instructions.)

If you have water bath canned before and would like to venture into pressure canning, yet are unsure how to do so, I hope that this little tutorial will be a help to you and will give you the confidence to start pressure canning!

(Please note, this tutorial is for dial gauge canners and specifically for the Presto. If you are using a dial gauge canner other than the Presto, please also refer back to your specific canner instructions - sometimes they vary from canner to canner!)

-- Put 3 quarts of hot water into the canner (and make sure the bottom canning rack is in place)

-- If you have hard water, add approximately 2 Tbsp. of vinegar to the water in the canner

-- Place washed jars into the canner



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Prepare your recipe, heat the lids, etc. according to basic canning methods and per your recipe.

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-- About ten minutes or so before you are ready to start filling the jars with your prepared product, begin heating your canner water and jars. You want it to be around a simmer when it is time to start filling your jars and also during the filling process. (And during this time, adjust the heat if necessary to prevent the water from boiling or from dropping below a simmer.)

-- One at a time, take the jars out of the canner and fill them following your canning recipe and basic canning instructions. After a jar is filled, and the lid and ring is in place, put it back in the canner.


A full canner load of quart jars of carrots

-- Once all of your jars are filled and back in the canner, make sure that none of them are touching each other or the sides of the canner. Then put the lid on the canner and align the arrows. Turn the lid to lock it securely into place. The cover handles must be aligned over the body handles. (Note, before putting on the lid, always check to make sure the vent pipe is clear!)

-- Now it is time to exhaust the air from the canner and jars! This step is very important so make sure not to skip it. Turn your burner heat to a relatively high heat setting (with our stove, I use the highest heat setting.) Once a steady, free flow of steam is coming from the vent pipe, set a timer for ten minutes (the vent pipe is directly to the right of the dial gauge in the below photo.) Lower the heat to maintain a moderate steam flow during this time.



-- During the above step, water may bubble out around the air vent/cover lock (which in the above photo, is in the front center of the canner lid.) This is nothing to worry about! If it is a lot, simply absorb it with a dry towel.

-- Once the ten minutes is up, place the pressure regulator over the vent pipe. Turn the heat back up to a high heat setting. The air vent/cover lock will soon pop up, and the canner will begin pressurizing.


The pressure regulator is over the vent pipe and the air vent/cover lock is up. Now the pressure will start rising!

-- When the dial gauge reads about two pounds away from the desired pressure, turn the heat down some (it will take a bit of testing to learn the best heat settings to use with your stove.) Adjusting the temperature down at this point will help to keep the canner from heating too fast and going well past the pressure you are wanting to reach (I learned from experience on this one! :) 

-- Once the desired pressure is reached, start your timer for however long your recipe needs to process. For the carrots that I was canning, this was 30 minutes.

As a little side note here, it is important to get your dial gauge tested each year to make sure it is accurate. This year, mine was reading a pound under so instead of processing at the called for 11 lbs of pressure, I am doing 12.

-- Reduce the heat enough to maintain the desired pressure, but not so low that it drops below it! Again, this could take some experimentation before you find which setting works best with your stove and canner and also the quantity of jars you are canning.



-- Helpful hint: I always like to bring my pressure to a little above the needed pressure (as can be seen in the above photo.) That way if it starts dropping, I can adjust the heat to bring it back up before it drops below pressure and thus necessitating the processing time being started all over again.

--Which brings me to something important, if at any time the pressure should drop BELOW the pressure needed for your recipe, bring it back up to pressure and start the processing time over again.

-- During the processing time, your canner will need to be 'babysat' to make sure the pressure doesn't go too high or low. This is a perfect time to do some deep cleaning in the kitchen, wash dishes, or things like that! (Or type a blog post :) which is what I am doing right now at 10:00 while the last load of carrots for the day are processing. edited to add: what I was doing, I should say :) . . . I started this post on Thursday and am just now finishing it!)

-- Once the processing time is complete, turn off the heat and carefully remove the canner from the stove to cool. Let the canner naturally cool and let the pressure drop on its own. Do NOT quick cool, and do NOT remove the lid or the pressure regulator at this time.

The cooling/depressurizing process takes quite awhile . . . usually forty-five minutes to an hour for my canner with a full load.

-- Once the pressure is down to zero AND the air vent/cover lock has also dropped, remove the pressure regulator and set a timer for ten minutes.


The pressure regulator is now off and the timer is going for 10 minutes

-- Once that time is up, remove the lid, lifting the back up toward you to keep the steam from blowing out on you.

-- If the lid is hard to turn, there may still be pressure inside the canner. In that case, let the canner completely cool before removing. (I have never had this happen, but thought I should include it just in case you ever do!)

-- Carefully remove the jars from canner with a jar lifter. Let cool according to basic canning directions.


23 quarts of carrots cooling

And there you go! It sounds like a lot of steps, but it is simpler than it sounds. :) It will also get easier and easier each time you can! And once you learn to pressure can, you will be able to preserve an even wider variety of healthy foods for your family and especially the delicious bounty from either your garden or from another's.

If you have any questions please feel free to ask and have fun canning!

(And for you seasoned canners, if you have anything to add 
that I am missing, please feel free to do so!)

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A July Garden Update

The warm summer days of July along with the abundant rains earlier in the month have made the garden grow prolifically! As it was planted late this year, we just recently started to harvest the first summer squash and cucumbers which means delicious summertime dishes made with fresh vegetables are back to being dinnertime staples.


Part of yesterday's harvest

Here is some of what the garden is looking like now . . . both the good and the bad. :)

Pole beans, Cosmos, Zucchini and Yellow Squash with Tomatoes way in the back

The cucumbers have done amazing this year! And for the first time ever, way outgrew the trellises that I have always used for them.


A pickling cucumber


When picking the the cucumbers, there is a constant hum of honeybees among the plants . . . pollination certainly isn't an issue this year!

Celery

Zucchini

Bush green beans on the left, tomatoes in the back (and the 'red' among the plants is ties holding the plants to the cattle panels) with sunflowers behind them, and then part of the 'bad' of the garden in the front . . . the poor pepper plants! They were hard hit by a fungal disease and have really been struggling. They were also planted in a section of the garden that has poorer soil which we're thinking now is too heavy for them.


Amish Paste tomatoes

The crookneck yellow squash plants which are in the foreground are huge this year! Up past my waist and still growing. Behind them are the cucumber trellises and the bush beans off to the right and the pole beans in the back.

The bush beans are just starting to put on beans

Beets that are ready to harvest and can

A growing watermelon

While this photo looks promising with the melons, this is another not so good part of the garden as just in the last few days, the cantaloupe plants made a dramatic change and nearly wilted away. We're still trying to figure out the cause to that one, and we're thinking it may be a soil borne disease.

A Lemon Yellow Squash

This photo is from last week and is the last of our blueberries. The plants are finished producing now, and the delicious berries either found their way into baked goods or are in the freezer waiting to be used.

Our poor strawberry bed . . . the plants had been doing so well and were tall, thick, and lush. But then a deer decided that the bed would make not just a good snack, but a good full course meal. :) Thankfully most of the plants are starting to rebound!

A few apples are growing! It's exciting that some of our young trees are starting to produce.

 A few of the peaches that the late frost spared us.

With all of the produce that has either reached maturity or is close to it, we'll be starting the first canning of the year this week!

Monday, July 21, 2014

A Visit from Family

Last week my Aunt and Uncle and two of their grandchildren were able to stop by for the afternoon as they were en-route to visit their son and his family, and we were right on the way. It was so nice to see them all, and we really enjoyed our time together! 

Here are few photos that were taken after they first arrived . . . .

Aunt Judy, Sophia, Mom and Leah
 Poor Sophia had broken her ankle just a few days before she went to visit her grandparents so she is on crutches. Even though it is harder for her to get around, she has such a sweet heart and smile despite it!

Tommy, Uncle Jim and Dad looking at the beehives (which you can't see thanks to the prolifically growing garden!)

 Making friends. :)
(Since walking very far was tiring for Sophia, I brought my little doeling over for her to see)
 
Leah showed her the rabbits, and she enjoyed petting some of the babies

Tommy, Uncle Jim, and Dad . . . both my Uncle and Dad grew up on farms so they always enjoy talking 'farming' together!

Aunt Judy and Leah with both of Leah's dogs

And some of what the pictures don't show is . . .

-- The many stories that were told as my Aunt, Uncle, and parents reminisced

-- Tommy having a first experience helping move a goat (we tie out some of our goats during the day so they can browse/graze so he helped my Dad move one.)

-- Visiting with Sophia about the crafts she likes to do and her face lighting up as she shared about them

-- Sitting around the dining room table visiting and enjoying the dessert my Mom had made

-- The expressions on their faces when they tried their first goat milk! Which Sophia liked. (:

-- The laughter that is always there whenever we get together

-- All of us standing by their vehicle when it was about time for them to leave and talking . . . and talking . . . and . . . obviously not wanting the afternoon together to come to an end! (:

(Photo courtesy of my Aunt Judy)

Thank you all so much for coming!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Blueberry Sour Cream Pancakes

 A few weeks ago when Leah and I were planning the menu, she had been looking through one of my cookbooks and saw this recipe which is one I happened to have marked to try sometime. With having an abundance of blueberries right now, it was a perfect time to do so! So I made it last week, and this simple recipe is definitely a keeper.


Blueberry Sour Cream Pancakes
(my alterations are in italics)

-- 1/2 cup sugar (or 1/2 cup evaporated cane juice)
-- 2 Tbsp. cornstarch
-- 1 cup water
-- 4 cups fresh or frozen blueberries

PANCAKES
-- 2 cups all-purpose flour (or 2 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour)
-- 1/4 cup sugar (or 1/4 cup evaporated cane juice)
-- 4 tsp. baking powder
-- 1/2 tsp. salt
-- 2 eggs
-- 1 1/2 cups milk
-- 1 cup sour cream
-- 1/3 cup butter, melted
-- 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

In a medium saucepan, combine sugar and cornstarch. Gradually stir in water. Add blueberries; bring to a boil over medium heat. Boil for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat; cover and keep warm.

For pancakes, combine dry ingredients in a bowl. In another bowl, beat the eggs. Add milk, sour cream and butter; mix well. Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened (let sit for a few minutes - if necessary add a little more flour.) Fold in the blueberries. Pour batter by 1/4 cupfuls (I did just a little less than 1/3 cup to make bigger pancakes) onto a greased hot griddle; turn when bubbles form on top of the pancakes. Cook until the second side is golden brown. Serve with blueberry topping. Enjoy!

(The original recipe can be found here.)

Monday, July 7, 2014

Ha Ha Tonka State Park

For several months, a good friend of mine, Joy, and I had been planning a get together at a mid-way point between us . . . Ha Ha Tonka state park! We had never been there, but she and her family had visited part of the park before.

Finally the long awaited day arrived, and the weather was simply beautiful for July with a perfect temperature for being outdoors and hiking. My Mom, Leah and I drove down and met her and her oldest daughter, Elyse, at a picnic area along the Lake of the Ozarks and had lunch and visited before beginning to explore some of the trails.

At the picnic area

The first place we wanted to see was the 'castle' so we drove to where the start of that trail was and began the climb upwards . . . 

Leah, Mom, Joy and Elyse . . . we had such a fun time together!

Elyse

You can tell we're in the Ozarks! :)

Looking down from the trail at the top of the hill


 The 'castle' is the main attraction of Ha Ha Tonka, and as you can see in the sign below, construction first began on it in 1905, it was completed in 1922, and a fire destroyed it in 1942 . . .


Seeing how much this man put into his dream of this impressive earthly structure only to die a year after construction began and never even seeing its completion was sobering. Granted I do not know the circumstances nor his reasons for building it, but it reminded me of the passage in Luke about the man who kept enlarging his storehouses and laying up treasure on earth, yet that very night his "soul [was] required of" him.

And for the man that built this castle, all that remains now of his dream is the shell of the buildings . . .

Part of the large carriage house which once housed 100 horses

Another view of the carriage house

The castle which was huge! I cannot imagine the amount of labor and time and number of workers it must have taken to complete such an immense project.


Joy, Elyse, Me, and Leah
(photo by my Mom)

 Leah, Mom and I
(thank you, Joy, for the photo! :)

 Elyse and Joy . . . we are so blessed to know you both!
(photo by Mom)

Elyse and Leah

Joy and Elyse photographing the inside of the castle

Mom and I looking at the amazing stone architecture inside the castle
(photo by Leah) 

Me
(photo by Leah) 

Inside part of the castle . . . at the bottom left, you can see where a fireplace once was.


Mom took this photo of Joy taking a picture of her . . . meanwhile . . .

I took one of all four of them! 


We all really enjoyed our time at the castle, marveling at the construction, having fun together, taking photos, and enjoying the beautiful views. From where we were, we could see the water tower in the distance . . .


So Joy and Leah figured out where to find the trail that led to it . . .


And then we went in search of it!


And found it :) . . .

It was interesting reading about how it had worked!

(photo by my Mom)

Me, Leah, Joy and Elyse
(photo by my Mom) 

Looking through one of the windows of the water tower

Joy


 After our time at the water tower, there were a couple of other trails we were wanting to explore, and one led to a 'natural bridge' . . . .

Leah, Joy and Elyse walking down the trail

A pretty little butterfly that was not very cooperative for a photo!

The natural bridge was so impressive! We loved our time down there exploring and enjoying the many different things to see.
(photo by my Mom) 

If I remember correctly, it was about 100 feet from the base of the natural bridge to the very top of it

 Mom, Elyse and Joy underneath the bridge

The rock formations were fascinating . . . so many layers.

 Leah
(photo by my Mom)

The trail continued on through a deep sinkhole, and we very much enjoyed hiking it

Joy, Elyse and Leah

Mom

The trail was less than a mile long, and it was beautiful along it! Definitely a treat for the eyes . . . and ears :) as there were many birds singing along the way. Once we reached the end of the trail, we decided it would be nice to find a quiet place to sit and visit, but before that, there was one last place I wanted to quickly stop by in order to get a photo of it . . .


. . . the huge stone post office.



It makes me so curious what it was like back when it was first built and in operation! To think of all the many people, letters, catalogs, etc. that would have gone through those doors.

After quickly stopping here, we found a picnic area and sat and visited for hours. It was so nice to enjoy talking about things ranging from faith and family, to homeschooling, to child training, to sharing funny or memorable stories from our pasts, and much, much more. What a blessing godly friends are! Thank you so much, Joy and Elyse, for the wonderful day!