Last fall the apple trees were packed with an abundance of apples. Even though I don’t have a tree myself I was lucky enough that Liz, my co-worker shared her apples with me! I used the majority of them to make and freeze applesauce for my family.
The best applesauce is made with apples that are sweet, juicy and crisp. If you like a tarter flavor, try adding 1 to 2 pounds of tart apples to each 3 pounds of sweeter apples. Simply wash, peel and core the apples. To prevent them from turning dark you can put them in a solution of ½ cup lemon juice per ½ gallon of water as you peel them. Then when you have enough that you are ready to start cooking, place them in an 8 to 10 quart pot. Add ½ cup water, and stir occasionally to prevent them from burning. Heat them quickly and cook until the apples are tender (5 to 20 minutes), depending on the maturity and variety. If you like smooth applesauce, press the cooked mixture through a sieve or food mill. If you like chunky-style sauce you are ready to taste. If desired, you can add 1/8 cup sugar per quart of sauce. Taste and add more if needed. My apples were so sweet additional sugar wasn’t needed!
I have found that using freezer bags is a very easy and space saving way to store applesauce in the freezer. I used quart freezer bags since this was a reasonable amount for our family to eat. When the applesauce is completely cooled simply lay the bags flat and you can stack them on top of each other in the freezer.
My family has really enjoyed having applesauce ready to eat in the freezer whenever they want it! I am sure your family will too!
Food Preservation, recipes
Roasting vegetables can be done on the grill or in the oven. They are a special treat especially this time of year when the vegetables are coming fresh out of your garden! The best roasted vegetables are soft and tender, browned and caramelized and full of flavor. It is easy to roast the vegetables, but there are some tricks to making them come out delicious. These tips are adapted from How to Cook Without a Book by Pam Anderson.
- Preheat the oven. Set the oven anywhere between 350°F to 450°F. The lower temperature will take longer to roast the vegetables.
- Cut the vegetables into even sized pieces. If you have smaller vegetables they can be roasted whole as long as they are similar in size to the other vegetables.
- Toss with oil. Oil will help the vegetables brown so toss them with 1-2 Tablespoons of olive or vegetable oil. It will also help to hold the spices or seasonings that you add.
- Don’t crowd the vegetables. The less the vegetables touch each other the more surface area on them will brown.
- Add a small amount of salt before you roast. Many restaurants add salt at the beginning of the roasting process and also at the end.
- Use the top third of your oven. This will help them to brown the best.
- Shake or turn the vegetables. In order for the vegetables to brown evenly move them around by using a spatula or shaking the pan, after they start turning brown.
- Roast them thoroughly. Your goal is to have the vegetables both brown and tender. If they start to get too dark, cover with foil until they are tender and take the foil off for the final 5 minutes. If they are tender but not as brown as you want move the pan to the upper part of the oven.
- Finish the vegetables. Add a final drizzle of olive oil and a little sprinkle of salt to finish off the vegetables. You could also add fresh pepper, lemon juice, minced herbs (parsley, thyme).
- Serve the vegetables warm. Any vegetables left should be cooled in a single layer so they don’t get soggy.
With these tips you will be offering your family and friends delicious roasted vegetables from home!
Food Preparation, recipes
Many of us have memories of home canned chicken in meals at grandma’s house. Preserving your own chicken isn’t too hard, you just need a bit of time and access to a pressure canner. If the canner has a dial gauge, you will want to have it tested yearly to ensure accuracy. The National Center for Home Food Preservation has recipes for canning poultry. Follow the directions as written and you will produce a safe and delicious product.
Food Preservation, recipes
Do you have more tomatoes than you know what to do with this year? Have you thought about canning your own ketchup? The National Center for Home Food Preservation has three different ketchup recipes: Tomato Ketchup, Country Western Ketchup and Blender Ketchup The recipes have several steps and are a bit time consuming but you will be rewarded with a special product that you can enjoy or share with others. Consider ketchup this canning season.
Food Preservation, Nutrition, recipes
It’s time to start thinking about school again and packing those school lunches. Much has been written about the safety of packing a lunch for school. Here are a few important points to consider.
- Use the right style of lunch box. It is important to have an insulated lunchbox to keep perishable foods like sandwiches cold enough to prevent bacterial growth. It is tempting to buy a lunch box based on a TV show or character. Make a wise decision based on food safety and don’t be tempted to give in to a popular style just because your child prefers the look of a lunch box.
- Wash the lunch box and containers daily. Use hot sudsy water and rinse well. This is another way to prevent bacterial growth in a lunch.
- Tell your child to dispose of uneaten food. Bacteria can grow in that half a sandwich leftover from lunch that is eaten on the school bus ride home.
- Include hand sanitizer or wipes in the lunch. Make it easy for your child to eat with clean hands.
Following these tips won’t guarantee a safe lunch but will increase the odds your child does not become sick from food borne illness.
Food Safety, Nutrition
There is nothing more frustrating than taking the time to pick, prepare, and can something and open the canner to find broken jars and wasted food. Here are the top 12 reasons your jar might break inside the canner.
- Using old jars. Antique canning jars are attractive but perhaps not the best choice for a product that is very labor intensive to prepare.
- Nicks or small cracks in the jar. Always check for small nicks or hairline cracks before filling jars.
- Not releasing trapped air bubbles inside the jar.
- Using metal utensils to release trapped air—this can cause scratches or weak spots inside the jar.
- Overfilled jars.
- Fluctuating pressure inside a pressure canner. Watch the gauge or listen to the “jiggle” of the weight to maintain a constant pressure.
- Reducing pressure too quickly. Resist the impulse to run cold water over the pressure canner after the processing time is up. That is a quick and easy way to destroy all your hard work.
- Placing hot jars into a canner of cold water.
- Forgetting to add water to the pressure canner.
- Forgetting to put the rack into the bottom of the canner. Jars bouncing around during processing are at a high risk of breaking.
- Setting your hot, already processed jars into a draft to cool.
- Screwing the bands onto the jars too tightly. Remember, finger-tight only.
Following canning directions carefully will help you avoid jar breakage.
Food Preparation, Food Preservation, Food Safety
During August, we get many calls and emails with canning questions. Here is our own top 10 list of canning questions.
- Someone in our family can’t have salt, is it ok to leave the salt out of home canned vegetables? YES the salt in these recipes does not help preserve the food.
- Someone in our family is diabetic; can I leave the sugar out of canned fruits? YES, fruit can be sweetened with artificial sweetener after the jar has been opened—if needed.
- I’ve opened a jar and discovered discoloration on the bottom side of the lid; is the food safe to eat? YES, probably. Acids and other compounds present in food can eat away at the underside of the lid and leave a dark spot. These foods are safe to eat.
- If my jar doesn’t seal, what should I do with the food? You have several options during the first 24 hours after canning. You can reprocess (open jars and refill to proper headspace, reprocess for entire recommended time), freeze the contents, or eat the food within 3-5 days. Refrigerate the jar until ready to eat.
- Is it really important to fill the jar according to the recipe? Is headspace really important? YES, the headspace is determined by the amount of expansion of the food inside the jar. Different foods have different headspace requirements. Too much food in the jar can cause loss of liquid inside the jar. Too much headspace can cause food darkening at the top of the jar. Either situation can cause failure of the jar to seal.
- How long can I store my home canned food? For best quality use your food within the first year after canning. Storage in warm spots, sunlight, or damp areas decreases food quality faster.
- Do I have to sterilize my jars? NO, if the canning process lasts longer than 10 minutes sterilizing jars before filling them is not necessary.
- My jars lost liquid during canning, should I open them and refill them? The lost liquid should NOT be refilled; food inside the jars remains safe but food outside the liquid will discolor over time. Choose to use these jars first. If more than half the liquid has been lost, refrigerate and use these jars in the next few days (2-3).
- I know that the jars are reusable, but can I reuse the bands and lids? YES for the bands, no for the flats (lids). The sealing compound will not seal well during a second use. Discard old lids.
And, finally one of the most popular questions we get every summer:
- My mom taught me to can using the open-kettle method; can I use this method today? NO, that method has not been recommended for over 40 years. You will not produce a safe product using this method. Choose scientifically tested recipes to produce a safe product.
Enjoy canning this summer. Remember that we are ALWAYS happy to help with your canning questions and problems.
Food Preservation, Food Safety
There is nothing better than a fresh, homemade pie. Fresh fruit is so abundant this time of year; it is nice to preserve that fresh flavor. It is easier than you think to freeze a pie and enjoy it later.
Directions for freezing a two crust pie:
- Make your favorite pie recipe as usual but remember to add an extra tablespoon of flour or tapioca. If you use corn starch as a thickener, add an extra half tablespoon. This will prevent boil over while the pie is baking.
- Do not cut vent holes in the top crust. You will do that at the time you bake the pie.
- Freeze your completed pie in the pan. Package it for the freezer.
An unbaked pie will have more of a fresh-fruit flavor than a frozen, already baked pie. If you are using a very juicy fruit, you may want to cook, thicken and chill the filling before filling the pie crust.
Directions for baking your frozen pie:
- Cut some vent holes in the top crust of the still frozen pie.
- Place pie onto a cookie sheet.
- Bake without thawing at 450° for 15-20 minutes.
- Reduce temperature to 375° and bake an additional 20-30 minutes or until the top crust has browned.
Food Preparation, Food Preservation, recipes
If it seems like you have served fresh zucchini in every way you can imagine, consider freezing some this summer. The directions for freezing zucchini are really pretty easy.
Just remember that you will want to drain the shredded zucchini after thawing. Allow the excess liquid to drain without squeezing the squash. Plan to freeze in amounts about one and a half times the amount you typically use in a recipe. Then after draining you will still have enough for that loaf of zucchini bread.
Spend Smart. Eat Smart. has a great zucchini pie recipe your family will enjoy. Try it this week.
Food Preservation, recipes
I’m beginning to harvest some of the peppers growing in my garden. Now is a great time to make some pepper jelly. It is really important to follow the directions in a tested recipe as the ingredients in this recipe are lower in acid than other jellies made of fruit. My family really enjoys taking a jar of this jelly and pouring it over a brick of cream cheese. This makes a really easy appetizer when served with crackers. It also goes well with roast beef.
Food Preparation, Food Preservation, recipes