food, history, rural life, and how we connect our cultural past and future
It’s Winter; What am I doing here at Indigo House? Two canning classes in January!
You may only think of canning as only a summertime activity. Getting the tomatoes, and salsas, and jams and jellies and peaches and plums, pears and applesauce water-bathed canned into jars can suck up all our summer attention. I know that is often the case here in my kitchen.
But I also do a lot of pressure canning for main dish foods, dry beans, meat, stock, corn, potatoes, and soups. A lot of that work I do in the winter when I can spend more time inside monitoring the canners.
I can chicken stock and beef stock for use all year. Usually, I put up stock a couple of times a year. I can chicken meat for use in tacos, salad, and pot pie. When there is a good sale on pork butt or loin I can it, again in small cubes. When I get a gift of venison I can it in small cubes for chili or tacos. As you might imagine having six or seven jars of each of those three meats can mean lots of good eating with no trip to the store. And as one very experienced canner pointed out, what ever the meat cost when you bought it to can, it will always be cheaper than the present cost at the store as prices continue to rise these days.
I love cooking with beans, and while you can still buy canned beans for decent prices at the store, my dry beans were bought in bulk and a full quart of canned pinto, cannellini, garbanzo, red kidney, or black beans are much cheaper than the usual 15.5 oz commercial can. More importantly, as an essential part of my wish for food security my canned beans are lined up in my pantry, ready when I want them, and I do not have to go to the store to get them. Even though gas prices are slowly dropping I still do not want to drive the 32-mile round trip to town any more often than necessary.
Lately I’ve been drilling down into the world of American canners out there; I primarily use Facebook and YouTube as my access to so many different people practicing home canning. With a few reservations I am very impressed with how many people are sharing their years and years of canning experience and the number of new canners who are incorporating this method of food preservation, along with dehydrating and freezing. Because I’m always learning, and after several long conversation with my FB canning friend Linda in Texas, I bought my first dehydrator this last summer. She really knows her stuff and I have much to learn about dehydration but the figs and the dried persimmons have been a success. Next, I’ll try venison jerky!
You likely know that I teach canning, both water bath and pressure methods. The science of safe food preservation has been advancing rapidly over the years since our mothers or grandmothers’ day. Technology lets me stay connected to the sources for the best recent research. University and Extension test kitchens are helping us all continue to learn and to keep us safe. So, I regularly update my approach to this lovely art of preserving food.
My canning classes this January will concentrate on chicken stock because it is one of the basic kitchen ingredients. Why can chicken stock? Because if you make your own stock but chose to freeze it you must take the time to defrost it! And if you have to buy stock in the boxes at the store it is expensive and often has more salt than you might want. The last batch I made with students at the Trinity Episcopal Church with the Bread and Roses Program students, cost $4.86 for one chicken, with the addition of one large onion, two stalks of celery and two medium carrots, 1 tsp of black pepper corns, 4 cloves garlic, and two Bay leaves (all of which I already had in my kitchen). The canning session left us with 14 pints of chicken stock AND a pound + of cooked meat that can be used for other dishes. Wow! That’s a hell of a lot less than you can get chicken stock at the store, and you have enough to last you weeks.
I hope you can join me here in my Indigo House kitchen in January to make chicken stock. See my website www.indigohouse.us > classes to register. For private class fees and dates please email me via my website.