Monday, September 8, 2008

Canning Meals for the Pantry

Autumn is nearly here so the season of homemade soups and stews is fast approaching. Each year, I make large batches of soups & stews, then can the extra up into quart and pint sized jars for stocking the pantry. Nearly any soup or stew is able to be canned. The only ingredients that you don't want to include are: rice, pasta, dairy and eggs. Rice and pasta will be overcooked and mushy after they have been pressure canned in the soups. Dairy and eggs are tricky. Some people home can using them without any problem, but the research has shown that including dairy & eggs in your home canning puts you at risk for food spoilage and the health issues that comes with it.

When canning a soup or stew, I fully cook the meal. Placing the hot soup/stew into hot jars will help in insuring a good seal. I also prefer canning this way as I know that the meat is thoroughly cooked and less likely to spoil. Some of the soups & stews that I home can are:

Vegetable soup
Chicken vegetable soup (add the noodles or rice later when cooking for a meal)
Bean & Lentil
Potato soup
Taco Soup
Tomato soup
Potato & Cabbage
Beef stew

The homemade soups and stews are wonderful for the quick meals. Add a salad and some fresh baked rolls and you have a wonderful easy dinner.

Other meals that I love to can whenever possible are the simple ones that can easily be made ahead in bulk batches.

Beef pot pie filling
Chicken pot pie filling
Stuffed Cabbage rolls with sauce
Shepherd's Pie filling (pour into a dish and add some potatoes on top before baking)
Pot Roast & veggies in broth
Tamale pie filling (add cornmeal topping before baking)

The dinner pie fillings are good to have on hand. I keep some of the refrigerated pie crust mix on hand anduse it to make the pie shell for these pies. You can also pour the fillings into a casserole dish and top with potaotes or biscuits instead of using a pie crust.

When filling the jars, I leave at least a 1/2 inch of headspace but often as much as 1 inch. Always put hot food into hot jars. The flat lids should also be hot to help insure a good seal. For most all of these meals, I process the jars in the pressure canner according to the canner instructions.

When making the chicken pot pie filling, of any chicken recipe where some chicken broth is left over in the pan, strain the broth well and pour into a hot canning jar. Process in a pressure canner according to maufacturer's instructions. This broth is then stored until I am needingit for other recipes. You can flavor the broth beofre processing by adding some diced celery and other vegetables to it if desired.

No More Electric Lights

Over the past week as we have been gradually making the changes to go without electric lights, I have been learning a great deal. I now fully understand why many of the early homes often had their kitchen in a sunny part of the home! Doing dishes, cooking and cleaning are easier to do when there is good lighting. In our kitchen, the sink in not close to a window. I have both windows uncovered during the day and the back door of the kitchen is open to allow in as much light as possible.

Sunday, Joe worked on the bathroom, putting up some paneling on the outside facing wall. In the process of taking down the temporary tarp covering the wall, he exposed an old window. The glass in the bottom window is broken, but the top window is intact. Joe slid the top window into the lower position. He then placed a window screen that was in storage into the top area of the window, adding trim to hold it in place. This brought a good amount of natural light into the bathroom.

We are now going to have to re-evaluate our options with each of the home's windows. Typically in the winter, I cover the windows with blankets to hold out the cold. Now, however, we will be needing the light. This means that each window will have a plastic cover put over it to help keep the cold out, while still allowing light in.

The idea of getting my work done during daylight hours has it's ups and downs. Getting it all done during the daylight seems all well and fine until I realise that come winter, those daylight hours will be shorter and I will have to really have my day well planned! At this point though, I am getting into the routine. It will take time though as I am more of a "night owl."

The new changes will take time to get used to. Not so much in the living without electric lights. That part is easy. The adjustments that we are making as to what we do and at what time we do it is having the greatest impact. I love the challenge though.