Canning: Under Pressure

So last year we picked up a Presto pressure canner from Amazon.

We were torn between it and the All-American canner, but in the end, we went for the better value. I would have preferred to buy something made in North America, but we couldn’t justify the cost. I’m sure that over many years it would pay for itself, but even after canning 400 jars of food, it is still adding $1 to the cost of each jar.

So far, we are very happy with our choice. I think that it has paid for itself a few times over, when you figure out the savings we have been able to take advantage of.

Our very first batch was months after we bought the canner. There was a big sale on pork loins for $1.77/lb and we bought two at about nine pounds each. We were going to cut them up into boneless chops and have a whole bunch of meals for a very reasonable price.

It turned out that we didn’t have quite enough freezer space so we decided to try out our new pressure canner. We cubed the pork up and put roughly a pound in each pint jar. We then put a pinch of various spices into the jars to see which combinations work well.

It turns out they all did.

We tried Montreal steak spice, onion and garlic powder, masala paste, chili flakes and a few others I can’t remember. The results were fantastic. We opened a can that night, because we were too excited, and we weren’t disappointed. We immediately started talking about how easy and delicious it was, and how much money we could save by buying and canning meat when it was at a heavily reduced price.

Then we started planning. We had a bag of chicken breasts that we got on sale, but after trying them and not enjoying their texture or flavour, we decided to can them in chunks to free up some more of our limited freezer space.

One taco Tuesday we opened a jar and mixed in a couple spoonfuls of taco seasoning and stirred it up in a frying pan. It was the best taco filling we had ever made.

We also canned up some ground beef with taco spice in it and it worked out very well.

Speaking of ground meat… Our neighbour had shot an elk and didn’t have enough space in her freezer, so she gave us a five lb pack of mooseburger from her hunt last year. We mixed in some ground pork, frozen corn and peas, taters and seasoning for delicious stew or shepherd’s pie filling.

At Thanksgiving we cooked a fifteen pound turkey and ended up with tons of leftovers. Gerri sliced up a bunch of celery, onion, potatoes and carrots, threw in the meat and topped it up with broth.

I tell you, we’ve been very happy with this one on these cold winter days. A quart of that and a couple of fresh made buns and we’ve got more than the two of us canshould eat.

Another excellent use was jars of potatoes. Drain them and throw them in the skillet with some butter and onions. Voila! Some very fine homefries are a great addition to your breakfast.

I know that we’ve been focusing on dinner stuff, but look!

We got a case of Okanagan peaches and put them in jars with a pinch of cinnamon in the syrup. They go great with a bowl of Gerri’s homemade ice cream. (Which I might add is better than any we’ve bought at a store.) They are even better than the ones we did with mint last year, and I loved every last jar of those ones.

We have tons more, but I think you get the point. We encourage you to go out there and get canning. You don’t need to have a homestead to do this, either. You can take great advantage of sales and give yourself a sense of freedom knowing that if there was an emergency, you aren’t going to starve. At least not for a few days.

Needless to say, we are very happy with this canner.

While it would be nice to have the All-American,

we can’t really justify it on our budget. I guess if the Presto dies for some reason, but I can’t see that happening in the next twenty years.

Chris

Well, I Guess An Update Is In Order

It’s been a long time, but I doubt anybody was waiting around for it, so it’s probably not that big of a deal.

I guess I’ll start with the grow room.

This is the base of the grow room. All the soil starts with worm castings.

I make a few different soil mixes for the grow room. One is for starting seeds, and it is castings screened through an 1/8″ sieve, perlite and vermiculite. I also add sand to that for a cacti/succulent mix.

For the potting mix I screen closer to 1/2″ and mix the vermiculite and perlite with that.

I use the term “grow room” loosely.

You might wonder what this mess is. Well, I’ll tell you.

Mostly catnip, cacti, and jade plants.

The catnip was a glorious mistake, when I planted six seeds out of a packet of over 400, but the bottom of the packet got wet overnight and I decided to just plant the whole lot in a half tray that was sitting there.

Needless to say, the cats are quite happy, and we’ve been able to give plants away to friends. I will keep a bunch of them alive to plant outside as well. We should be just rolling in nip for a while.

The cacti and jade plant that made the trip from Ontario on the Cool Bus are now a whole bunch of other plants. Sometimes when you learn new things, like propagation, you get a little carried away. I guess we will be giving a bunch of those to the annual perennial sale at the senior centre this spring.

In the middle of all that is the most exciting thing so far.

Tee hee.

Yep, that’s two asparagus plants. I planted 20, and didn’t expect any, so I’m pretty happy, even if no more come up. I guess I will just let them grow until they get bigger and then plant them outside. That’s a good start to a bed anyhow.

I also have a new basil plant started, and this wondrous contraption.

Arriba!

Oh yeah, some fresh cilantro will be here soon. There’s a ton growing in the front herb garden, but it won’t be up for six months or so.

If you’re wondering about the Aerogarden, I traded two bars of soap for it, unhooked the air system and now I have a cool little countertop garden to use my worm castings in.

I do have a problem though.

They’re like Twins.

What do I do with that tomato that just popped up in there?

I was going to pinch it, but then figured I could try to grow a tomato plant in here. I will look into it, because if I can’t get fruit from it, there’s no point in wasting the nutrients. Also, if it was going to be huge, there just isn’t room.

You might be wondering about all the mugs and teapots in here. I bought some ceramic tile bits and poked holes in them for drainage. When we see cool containers at the thrift store, we now have a use for them.

The mealworms are the same, just more of them, and we also have another cool thing in the grow room.

It was more full, earlier.

Since the summer we have bought a pig, and a hind quarter of beef from local farmers. We also won a turkey from Legacy Village Market, our local grocery store. There was a whole bunch of other groceries that came with it as well, but they’re mostly gone.

We’re really lucky to always have an abundance of food. You don’t think about it until you see or hear of people that don’t have enough to eat. Of course the kids can rarely find a morsel that they want, but we sure aren’t starving.

By the way, if you can afford to buy your meat like this, you save a lot of money. Not only that, you put the money in the pockets of your neighbours, not some megacorporation that doesn’t give a whit whether you succeed or fail.

As long as you have enough strength to work your 40 hours and buy their crap, they don’t see a need for you to actually thrive.

Chris