Emily’s favorite canning recipes

Canning JarsThis is a compilation of the recipes I most commonly can each year. I mostly wrote them down so I’d have them in a uniform format (Four pounds? Two quarts? Eight tomatoes?), with the modifications I’ve settled on over time, and notes on how much of each raw ingredient to buy to yield the quantity of chopped ingredients to go into each recipe. I also dug through my notes from the last several years and added a note on how much of each item we usually eat in a year, so I can more easily figure out what I need to can each year.

It occurred to me that some of you might also find these interesting or helpful…so here you go!

Emily’s Canning Favorites

Apple Compote

Apple CompoteIt’s another great feral apple year! I improvised this dish two years ago when the tree branches were literally breaking under the weight of the apples and pears and I was able to glean literally all the fruit I could eat. This stuff tastes amazing on its own, and it makes a super-quick apple pie or cobbler – just dump a jar into a crust (or put crumble topping on it) and bake until the crust is done.

Measurements are approximate – use any combinations, substitutions, or omissions, though I recommend keeping the pears to no more than 1/3 the volume of fruit so it retains some “bite.”

  • 4 parts apples, chopped in 1″ cubes (peels on or off). Some combination of sweet/tart/firm/juicy is a good idea.
  • 1 part pears, chopped in 1″ cubes (peels on or off)
  • A handful of chopped crystallized ginger
  • A handful of dried cherries
  • Dried cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and/or a hint of cloves
  • Sugar and/or lemon juice to taste – depending on your fruit, it might not need any at all, or you might need a couple tablespoons per quart of fruit

Heat all ingredients until it’s juicy and the apples are cooked through.

An important word about canning this recipe:

This recipe has not been tested for safe canning. Similar apple recipes have notable differences: applesauce is much more fluid, and apple pie filling has a very liquid syrup. That’s important, because in addition to the acidity of a food, the way it moves around in the jar (i.e., water activity) has important ramifications for its safety in a water bath.

That being said, I do can this in pints (20 min in water bath). I feel comfortable with this because a) all the ingredients are high-acid (well, maybe not the ginger, but it’s preserved already by the sugar, and it’s swimming in acid ingredients) and b) it’s not that much thicker than a super-chunky applesauce. HOWEVER – can this at your own risk.  You can freeze this recipe with no worries at all.

Pressure canning on a smooth top electric stove

Yes, you can use a pressure canner on a smooth-top electric range! Just be sure it has a raised “foot” on the bottom the size of your largest burner. My Presto (bought in around 2009) has this; the one i got from a friend (mid-1970s vintage) does not. The bottom of the older canner is completely flat, so it keeps tripping the overheat sensor on the stove and will never heat up properly.

Next, be sure you clean your stovetop and your canner bottom really well. Anything on your burner will weld on like enamel after the heat if canning, and anything on the bottom of your canner will scratch of you scootch the canner around. As a disclaimer, the stovetop in this house was a burned-on mess when we bought the house, so I’ve not been super worried about defacing it.

So, you have the right canner and a clean work surface – now how do you regulate the heat? Here’s what I do:

  • Once my jars are filled and loaded into the canner (always follow good directions for this), I turn the burner up to high and close the lid.
  • It will come to a boil; once there’s a steady stream if steam, leg it vent for 10 minutes as per manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Put the pressure regulator on. The pressure will begin to rise rapidly.
  • When the pressure reaches 5lb, turn the heat down to medium.
  • As the pressure reaches 10lb, turn the heat down as low as it will go and still be on.
  • the pressure will continue to climb a but and should settle in between 11 and 12 lb. since the directions say to cook almost everything at 11lb in this particular canner (dial gauge type), that’s just right.
  • Usually, this lowest setting is just right, but I do keep an eye on it; if the pressure goes above 12, I might turn the burner off completely or even slide the canner halfway off the burner.

Winter storage slaw and old country BBQ pork

So I’m inordinately pleased with how tonight’s dinner came out.

Pork and slaw

Totally unphotogenic but immensely tasty bbq pork and tangy slaw

First, the slaw.

Since I wasn’t teaching a workshop every weekend during this canning season, I actually felt like getting creative with my own canning. For the first time, I tried making some relishes instead of just doing straight tomatoes and salsa. I found that three recipes with a lot of overlap that I could make essentially at the same time: Corn relish (with cabbage instead of celery), beet relish, and Dixie relish (cabbage and peppers). All these came from the Ball Blue Book. I made fractional batches of each, and in a surprisingly short time, I had four pints and two half-pints of relishes. They are tasty, but WOW. Very, very heavy on the vinegar. My sweetie loves them as-is, but I can only eat a few mouthfuls before my tongue goes numb and my stomach is rebelling at the acid.

Relish recipes

Fractional recipes for three relishes to be prepared at once

So my brainstorm was to shred several cups of cabbage and some carrots and mix about a cup of slaw into maybe 4 cups of shredded vegetables. Add a little salt, stir, and let sit…and let me tell you, it’s the best sweet/sour slaw I’ve ever had. This one was made with the corn relish, which is less sweet and more zippy because of the mustard and turmeric. The Dixie relish will be more sweet and sour. The beet one has horseradish, and will be an entirely different kind of flavor, but I think it’ll work well.

I love so many things about this dish. First, it’s made from all local ingredients (hm, except the vinegar, though theoretically this area could produce scads of cider vinegar). Second, it’s a storage food, because cabbages and carrots can keep all winter, and the “interesting” ingredients are canned and will keep indefinitely.  And after a winter of plain cabbage and carrots, that hit of vinegar and spice is a real tastebud wake-up.  Third, I like sweet and sour slaw, but it’s usually too sweet. This is not. And it doesn’t come in a plastic tub, so it comes out way ahead of store-bought. We’d had the idea to make our own slaw many times, but somehow that feels like a lot of fuss on a week night. Shredding cabbage and stirring in half a jar of stuff is not.

With the slaw, we had some really good bbq pork. On the old Irish holidays, we like to stick to foods our ancestors would have used before they had access to spices and foods from the western hemisphere and Spice Islands, so this bbq has no tomatoes, peppers, sugar, molasses, ginger, cinnamon, etc. – but it still came out really well, and really “like barbecue.” It reminds me of the barbecue my grandmother (raised in Tennessee) made, only with far less vinegar.

Old World BBQ Pork

  • 3 lb pork shoulder, whole
  • 2 onions, quartered and sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (not sure when the Celts got garlic, but I know they had local alliums like leeks, so…pretty close)
  • 1/4 c honey
  • 1 apple, in large wedges
  • 12 oz hard cider
  • 12 oz water
  • Salt

Brown the onions and garlic in oil or fat. Sprinkle the pork roast with salt and brown on all sides. Deglaze the pot with cider. Add apples, honey, and water. Either pressure cook for an hour, or bring to a boil and stew for 3-4 hours. The sauce will boil down a lot – don’t let it burn completely away. After cooking, shred the pork, put it back in the sauce, and simmer until thickened.

I finished the sauce with salt to taste, a little mustard powder, and a splash of vinegar. If I hadn’t been serving it with a strong vinegar slaw, I might have used more vinegar, but opted for a more sweet taste to balance.

Serve with cider (sweet or hard), and raise a toast to the ancestors and the spirits of your place with a hit of homemade mead, if you have it.


Make-in-jar beef broth

I like a good bone broth. I think it has more flavor and minerals than broth made with just meat. Making and canning broth takes a lot of time – 2-3 hours to make the stock (or an hour or so in the pressure cooker), then 25-90 minutes to can.

I found myself wondering if you could pressure cook and can stock with bones right in the same jar. I found that it’s safe to can meat with bones, and of course raw-packed meat is safe to can. Stock (with or without meat) only needs to be canned for 25 minutes, though meat (with or without stock) needs to be canned for 90 minutes. I’m still not exactly sure where you draw the line between “meat with stock” and “stock with meat,” but I figure if half the jar (or less) is meat, you’re probably in the “stock-with-meat” range.

So what I decided to try was to put 2 beef short ribs – each a chunk of bone and some meat – into a quart jar, top with boiling water, salt, and seasonings, and can it for 90 minutes. For the “plain” jars, I added a squirt of Bragg’s and half a teaspoon of salt; for the “ginger” ones, I added two thick slices of fresh ginger root, a tablespoon of Bragg’s, and a big clove of garlic.

The result is a scant quart of ok broth and just enough meat to make the soup register as “meat soup” and not “plain broth. The stock is not incredibly rich; I’m used to stock so flavorful that you can add a quart of water to a quart of stock and have two quarts of really tasty soup. This broth can’t really be diluted, and of course there’s a lot less of it. It does taste good, though – so, we’ll see. It’s definitely a lot less work, but I’m not sure it results in enough of the kind of food we want to really be worth the savings.

Wood stove-assisted canning

Because I’m a big dork, I have spent a lot of my holiday vacation working very hard. 🙂 Actually, I love it – the freedom to do all the household fixups and food preservation I want without having to interrupt my Work for my job is rather luxurious.

This break, I decided to can a whole heck of a lot of meat and stock. I had three stewing chickens (small roosters, about 7lb total) that a friend raised, plus nine pounds of chuck roast and 5 pounds of beef short ribs from Family Farms Co-op. From that, I got eight quarts of chicken stock with meat, eight quarts of beef stock with meat, and eight pints of stewed beef. Twenty-four meals in all from about 21 pounds of meat and bones – I’m learning that this is a pretty respectable ratio, and I promise you, there’s nowhere near a pound of meat in each of these meals. Bones weigh a lot!

This time around, I experimented with using the wood stove to assist with as many steps as was practical. I did the actual canning on my kitchen stove; canning meat is too finicky and potentially dangerous for me to feel comfortable doing it on the wood stove just yet – I really don’t know much about regulating the temperature yet. Here’s what I did:

  • Pressure canning a chicken. I browned one stewing chicken and an onion in my 6-quart pressure cooker on the wood stove. I then added about 4 quarts of water and waited for it to heat up. An hour later, it still wasn’t boiling, so I threw it on the electric burner until it boiled and came up to pressure. Then I put it back on the wood stove for another hour. It kept enough pressure to remain sealed, with a little steam escaping, but not enough to “rock” the weight. After an hour, the bird was fall-apart tender. I removed the meat, put the bones back in the broth, and returned it to the electric burner for half an hour. This made really wonderful stock that gelled in the fridge when it was done.
  • Stewing chickens. For the second two chickens, I browned them (with onions and ginger root) on the wood stove, then added water and salt and let them simmer all day. The water never boiled (it was generally around 180 degrees) but after 5 hours, the chickens were very tender. Again, I removed the meat, returned the bones to the pot, and simmered them again (wood stove) to get the last nutrients out of the bones.  This stock also gelled when chilled.
  • Preheating water. For some of the beef stock, I needed to pour boiling water into my jars. I preheated a big pot of water on the wood stove, then finished bringing it to a boil on the electric burner.

I think anything that would work in a slow cooker will cook nicely on the wood stove, but I don’t think I’ll ever get it to really boil water. One interesting side effect of this sub-boiling stewing is that the both is amazingly clear. The Joy of Cooking says not to cook your stock at a boil for just this reason, but I could never be bothered to fuss that much when making soup on the stovetop.

It also requires a totally different cooking rhythm than what I’m used to, since I’ve never really cooked with a slow cooker. Making stock became an all-day affair – though really, on the stovetop, it takes 2-3 hours, anyway, so it’s not like it’s either “instant” or “all-day.” Preheating the water wasn’t difficult – in fact, it was nice to have that pot off the stove and out of the kitchen – but I did have to remember to do it early on in the canning process.

And, needless to say, using the living room wood stove would really bite in the summer. But for this cold-season preservation, it worked really well. I’ve never really determined how much electricity canning uses, but if you figure I kept the stove off for at least seven hours when it would otherwise have been on constantly, that’s gotta amount to something.

I also hit on a new way of doing beef broth, which saves a lot of time and energy. I’ll write that up in the next couple days.

Must try this next summer: lactofermented salsa


Been reading about this for a while…must try it next time tomatoes are ripe!

Sprouting potatoes

I have something like 50 pounds of potatoes sprouting madly in the root cellar! What should I do with them, besides plant them?

On a side note, all of the Kennebecs are sprouting, but very few of the Yellow Finns are.

Make the ___, buy the ___

I’ve been hearing a lot about Bake the Bread, Buy the Butter by Jennifer Reese. (Sharon Astyk has a nice review posted today.) I want to read the whole thing soon, and see what her conclusions are. One item mentioned in the review above mystifies me:  Reese thinks Del Monte peaches are as good as home-canned. Not a chance! But then, she apparently thinks all canning is too hard to bother with, so that would definitely color one’s opinion of whether home-canned peaches are “worth it.”

If anyone’s still out there reading this blog, tell me – what do you find you find “worth it” to make yourself, and what would you prefer to buy? What kitchen/garden tasks are fun to you, and which do you abhor?


Review: Electric Canner

Electric cannerWow. I think I’m turning into a gear hog. *chagrin* I keep buying things that are not, strictly speaking, necessary for home food preservation – but which I hope will help scale up home food processing to something above “one woman and a kettle” but not quite “$10,000 of commercial equipment on a small assembly line.”

I buy it and review it so you don’t have to. How’s that for a justification? 🙂

So! The electric canner.  It’s essentially a giant 8 gallon stainless steel pot with an electrical element in the base, a rack, and – key point – a thermostat.  Because it turns out what this baby does best is not canning, but pasteurizing just below boiling.  You can get them with or without a spigot; I’ve found the spigot to be very helpful.

How it works

Just fill it with water, turn the thermostat to the desired temp, and wait. I filled it deep enough to can quart jars and I think it took 45 minutes to boil – comparable to an electric stovetop.  Do be sure to turn the dial all the way as far as it will go – don’t stop at “simmer.” It also appears that wrapping it in a towel to contain the heat doesn’t work so well – though I might try that again once I’ve got it boiling.

What it does pretty well

  • Canning.  Since all you need to can is a deep pot of boiling water, it would be hard to screw this up.  And it does a fine job. It holds 14 pints or 11 quarts at a time, and probably a couple dozen half-pints, if you stack jars.  Keeps the kitchen cooler than doing canning stovetop, too, especially if you have a gas stove. (I bet gas boils faster, though.)
  • Extending your available “stove” space. What convinced me to buy this was not home use, but use at the Grange, where we are very limited by having only 2 stoves to use on canning days.  This puppy allows us to run three canners at a time instead of two – a big time savings, especially for tomatoes, which boil for 45 minutes.
  • Cooking stuff.  Take out the rack, and you can use this to stew four or five chickens at a time.  We used it to cook down the salsa at our salsafest, and it was ok, but not great.  Burned a little bit of the salsa on the bottom of the pot, and since we were doing so much at once, it took forever to cook down – but I think that’s just physics.

What it does really well

Having a thermostat is da bomb for anything that needs to be kept below a boil for a long period of time.  This thing was made for pasteurization. For example:

  • Home brewing. Pasteurize your cider before pitching yeast.  Keep your wort warm.  Halt secondary fermentation by pasteurizing your bottles after capping.  This thing is brilliant – just set the dial, wait for the light to go out (indicating it’s up to temp, and yes, we checked the accuracy with a thermometer), and start the timer.
  • Low-temp pasteurizing of pickles. If you think boiling your pickles for storage makes them too mushy, try low-temp pasteurization: ~170 for 30 minutes (see the Joy of Pickling for details). Again – it’s so nice not to have to watch the stove and thermometer!
  • Demos. I could do a canning demo or workshop anywhere with a counter and an outlet with this – no lugging propane tanks, cast-iron burners, and finding a place to work outdoors.
  • Cheesemaking. You can actually buy these (sans spigot) from Cheesemaking.com – does a great job keeping large batches of milk at temp for as long as you like.

The verdict

I don’t think I’d buy one of these just to put up a few dozen jars of tomatoes – it’s just too expensive and not enough of an improvement over a kettle on the stove to warrant it.  However, if you need portable canning, extra canning space, or to hold liquids at a set temp for long periods of time (hot cider for 100?), it might be worth it.  This would be a great community resource, available to loan out when needed.  (If you’re local and need one, e-mail me and we’ll talk.)

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