Archive for the ‘Household Equipment’ Category

Gifts for Canners

May 28th, 2015



Do you have family members that are interested in home food preservation?  Here are some great gift ideas that anyone would be interested in receiving! 

ball blue book1 

The 37th edition of Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving offers 200 pages that will guide you while you learn about preserving. This book provides information about equipment and step-by-step instructions for each preserving method. Also included are over 500 recipes for canning, pickling, dehydrating, freezing food, and much more!


So Easy to Preserve


The University of Georgia Cooperative Extension has now published a 6th edition of its popular book, So Easy To Preserve. The book is new as of September 2014. Chapters include Preserving Food, Canning, Pickled Products, Sweet Spreads and Syrups, Freezing and Drying. Ordering information is available on the So Easy to Preserve website.




Clear Jel® is a chemically modified corn starch that produces excellent sauce consistency even after fillings are canned and baked. Other available starches break down when used in these pie fillings, causing a runny sauce consistency.  Make sure that you are using the regular Clear Jel® and not the instant type.  It is not readily available in a grocery store but is available online.  A one pound package will make approximately 7-9 quarts of pie filling.



Complete book of home preserving

The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving contains 400 tested recipes that are easy to understand with detailed instructions to preserve your foods safely.   It includes everything from salsas and savory sauces to pickling, chutneys, relishes and of course, jams, jellies, and fruit spreads, such as: Mango-Raspberry Jam, Damson Plum Jam Crab Apple Jelly, Green Pepper Jelly Spiced Red Cabbage, Pickled Asparagus Roasted Red Pepper Spread, Tomatillo Salsa Brandied Apple Rings, Apricot-Date Chutney.  Excellent for new to advanced canners.




Another possible idea is to print off these publications published by Iowa State Extension and Outreach’s Preserve the Taste of Summer.  Also available are hands-on workshops in several areas across the state taught by our ISU Human Sciences Extension and Outreach Nutrition and Wellness Specialists.

With these resources your canner will have tested, reliable information, equipment and recipes to preserve their foods.

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Food Preservation, Food Safety, Household Equipment, recipes

Power Outage and Food Safety

May 18th, 2015

imageWe receive many calls during the spring and summer regarding power outages and freezer and refrigerator food safety. The callers may have experienced extreme weather conditions such as a severe storm or flooding, or other reasons.

What foods can you keep and what needs to be tossed?  That depends. If your freezer is full, your frozen food can remain safe for three days, but if it is on the emptier side and the temperatures are warm, it may not last as long.  Here are some guidelines for what to keep and what to dispose of and what steps to take in this situation:


  • Without power, refrigerators keep food cool for four to six hours.
  • Place block of ice in a container in the refrigerator to keep food cooler.
  • Do NOT open the refrigerator.


  • If power is interrupted, do NOT open the freezer unnecessarily.
  • If the freezer is full and you keep the door closed, the food will stay frozen about two-three days.  If the freezer is not full, group packages together so they stay cold longer.
  • If you anticipate the power going off, turn the freezer control to the lowest temperature setting. If you have several days without power, act quickly. Get dry ice and put it in the freezer before the food starts to thaw.  For a 20-cubic-feet, full freezer, 50 pounds of dry ice keeps food frozen for four days.  To use dry ice, place cardboard on top of the food.  Put the dry ice on top of the cardboard.  Handle it with gloves and have the room well ventilated.  Caution: be certain of good ventilation in the room. Carbon dioxide gas can accumulate and cause loss of consciousness/asphyxiation.
  • If power will be out more than a few days, transfer foods as quickly as possible to another freezer or a commercial locker.
  • Do not put food out on the snow-the sun may cause warming.

After Power is Restored:

  • Check food temperatures. If food is above 40 degrees, you need to determine how long it was at 40 degrees. If food items were above 40 degrees longer than two hours, throw away the food.
  • For frozen foods, look for ice crystals and check temperature.
  • Throw away perishables such as meat and poultry leftovers.

Do Not Refreeze:

  • Food that has thawed completely and is less than 40 degrees, especially meat, poultry and seafood.
  • Prepared, cooked foods such as pizza, hot dishes, stews and soups.
  • Foods with off colors or odors.
  • Creamed foods, pudding or other low-acid foods that have thawed.

Safe to Refreeze:

  • Foods that still contain ice crystals.
  • Bread, cake, cookies, doughnuts.
  • Nuts, flour, cereal.
  • Raw meat and poultry that is 40 degrees or less.
  • Cheese, butter.

For more information, call us here at AnswerLine and our staff will be happy to assist you.

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Food Preparation, Food Preservation, Food Safety, Home Environment, Household Equipment

Tips on Selecting Home Canners

May 4th, 2015

boiling water bath cannersHome canning can be a fun and rewarding way to preserve the produce you are growing in your garden.  The only way to safely preserve food is to process it in either a boiling water bath or pressure canner.  The boiling water bath canner is used for foods that are high in acid or are acidified like fruits, pickles and salsas.  The pressure canner must be used to can vegetables and meats, things that are low in acid.

A boiling water bath canner can be anything from a stock pot with a lid to a granite ware canner.   It just needs to be tall enough so that the water is at least one inch above the top of the jars and has a rack on the bottom so the jars are not sitting directly on the heat source.  The advantage of the granite wear canner is they come with the rack included.

When you are shopping for a pressure canner there are two types that are safe to use.  One is a dial gauge and the other is a weighted gauge.  Make sure that you are purchasing a pressure canner and not a pressure cooker.  A pressure canner must be able to hold at least 4 quart sized jars.  If you are purchasing a 16 quart or larger canner it should be big enough.  A pressure cooker or saucepan is smaller and not intended for home canning.  They heat up and cool down faster than a pressure canner and could cause spoilage and botulism risk in the foods.

A dial gauge canner has a dial that shows the pressure.  The pressure must be maintained the entire time.  If the pressure goes below the recommended level, bring the canner back to pressure and start over from the beginning with the time.  In order for the food to be safe it must maintain the correct pressure for the correct length of time.  Dial gauge canners are a great choice if you live at higher altitude since pressure adjustments based on altitude are easy to make.  The disadvantage is that they should be tested yearly for accuracy.  In some states canner testing is not readily available.

A weighted gauge canner has weights of 5, 10 or 15 pounds.  Each canner will give instruction on how often the gauge should rock or jiggle.  If the rocking or jiggling stops, pressure must be returned, and the food should be reprocessed for the entire time.  These canner do not need to be tested yearly so if you live in an area where testing isn’t available this may be a better choice for you.

Electric multi cookers are now showing up on the market.  The tested recipes that we provide have not been tested in these cookers and therefore are not safe to use in them.  Remember to use tested recipe in any of the canners you purchase and use.  This is the only way to ensure that you are preserving your food safely.  Do not use old family recipes, internet untested recipe or even old out of date leaflets from your canner.  Make sure that you have the latest publications based on current research.

To make sure that you are using tested recipes and safe methods give us a call at AnswerLine.  We are here to help!

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Food Preservation, Food Safety, Household Equipment, recipes

Spring Cleaning Your Grill

April 27th, 2015

Once the weather gets warmer we use our grill about every day.  Cleaning it before you start to heavily use it is always a good idea.  Here are some cleaning tips that will keep your grill working well for years to come.

  • Start off by washing the outside with warm soapy water. Rinse well after washing.
  • If you have a stainless steel burner on the side of your grill you can use a mild stainless steel cleaner. Use a non- lint cloth to clean and polish.
  • Next move to the inside. If on the lid of your grill you have deposits that look like peeling paint it is carbonized grease. Use a stainless steel grill brush to remove them then wash with warm soapy water and rinse.
  • Brush the grates with a stainless steel brush and then wipe them clean with a rag and soapy water, then rinse.
  • To clean the burners and tubes use a stainless steel grill brush. Brush them sideways not lengthways to avoid moving debris from one hole to the next.
  • Be sure and clean the bottom of the grill. If the grease is excessive use a spatula or putty knife to scrape it off into the bottom tray. Clean the tray and the drip tray.

Just like cleaning your oven, maintaining your grill will keep it working for a long time.  Your food will cook more evenly and you will enjoy the fruits of your labor.

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Cleaning, Household Equipment

Are you ready for canning season?

April 9th, 2015

Canning JarsThe weather is starting to warm up, it’s time to start planning what you are planting in your garden and time to get your canners ready to preserve your garden bounty!  Making sure that your canning equipment is in proper working order is required for safe, high quality home canning.

If you have a pressure canner with a dial gauge it needs to be tested every year.  Check with us at AnswerLine to find the closest Extension office or hardware store for testing.  A weighted gauge canner does not need to be tested.  If you have a Presto canner they will also test the gauge.  Simply send it to them, they test it and send it back to you.  Just be sure and do it far enough in advance to have it back and ready for canning season.

The canner’s vent and safety value should also be cleaned.  Use a very small bottle brush or small cloth to run through the holes to make sure they are clean and operating freely.  Next check the gasket if your canner has one.  It should be soft and flexible, not brittle, sticky or cracked.  If it needs to be replaced you can usually find them at hardware stores that selling canning supplies or they can be ordered from the manufacturer.

Then do an inventory of your jars, flats and bands.  Check the jars to make sure there are no small chips or hairline cracks.  Nicks, especially on the top sealing edge of the jar can keep the lids from sealing properly.  Hairline cracks in jars caused by old age and frequent use could cause them to break under pressure and heat during canning.  If your jars need to be replaced start watching for specials on them in stores.  Sometimes stores have sales before the canning season officially starts! The bands can be reused year after year as long as they are not dented or rusty.  The flat lids are only used once so make sure that you toss the old ones and have new lids to use for this year’s canning.

The last thing is to make sure that you have your tested canning recipes ready.  Publications and information is available through us at AnswerLine or at your local county Extension Office.  If you do not have a copy of the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service canning book called So Easy to Preserve I would recommend purchasing one.  It is a comprehensive book with information on all types of home food preservation methods.  Remember to look over your tested recipes in advance to make sure that you have all of the ingredients that you will need!

With your equipment and supplies ready to go you will have a head start when your garden starts producing!

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Food Preservation, Household Equipment, recipes

The Many Uses of Baking Soda

March 19th, 2015

baking soda


Baking soda is something that everyone has in their cupboards to use in baking but it has so many other uses as well.  Did you know that more than 100 tons of baking soda was used to clean the Statue of Liberty’s inner copper walls during its 1986 restoration?  If it is good enough for the Statue of Liberty just think of the ways that it can be used in your home!

  • Use it to clean off sticky grease on pans or kitchen equipment (ex. waffle maker). The baking soda acts like an eraser to clean off the grease.
  • To clean a drain, pour ½ cup of baking soda and ½ cup of salt down the drain. Follow with ½ cup of vinegar. Cover the drain and let it work for at least 15 minutes. Finish by pouring a tea kettle of boiling water down the drain.
  • Make a paste of baking soda and water in a small container. Apply the paste to your tooth brush to make your own toothpaste.
  • Sprinkle baking soda liberally over dry carpet to remove odors. Leave it on overnight and then vacuum in the morning.
  • If your plastic food containers have picked up a strong odor wash them in hot water and baking soda. Next sprinkle 2-3 tablespoons of baking soda inside the container. Cover and let it stand for at least one hour or overnight. Wash as usual and the odor should be gone.
  • Sprinkle baking soda on a damp sponge to erase crayon, pencil, ink and furniture scuffs from painted surfaces. Rinse when the mark is removed.
  • Are you getting black marks on your floor from your shoes? Rub the area with a paste of baking soda and water. Rinse and wipe dry.
  • If you have a small grease fire in your kitchen pour baking soda on it to help put it out.
  • Sprinkle baking soda on baked on pans. Then add a little hot water and dish soap. Let it sit and absorb for several minutes then use a kitchen dish scrubber to remove the baked on food.
  • Do you have an oil spot in your garage? Sprinkle a mixture of baking soda and salt over it, let it soak to absorb and then sweep to remove.
  • Adding ½ cup baking soda to top loading machines or ¼ cup to front load washers help you to reduce the amount of bleach you need by half in your laundry.

With so many uses for both cooking and cleaning I keep a several containers of baking soda handy!

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Cleaning, Home Environment, Household Equipment, Laundry

Pillow Talk

March 16th, 2015

Pillows generally last a long time, so you don’t need to buy them very often. But when you do need new ones, it’s helpful to have a few facts at hand. The most common bed pillow fillings are polyester fiber fill, feathers, down, and molded or shredded foams.  The foams may be latex, polyurethane or rubber. Each stuffing material has a somewhat different feel. Fiberfill, feathers and down all feel soft and cushiony.  Down and fiberfill are more resilient than feathers and return to shape more easily after crushing.

Latex and Polyurethane Foam Pillows:

Polyurethane is stiffer than latex. Memory foams are a type of polyurethane.  These foams return to shape immediately after crushing, but can deform with continued pressure over time.  Shredded polyurethane foam tends to feel somewhat lumpy unless stuffed fairly tight and covered with a heavy ticking fabric.  Latex gradually stiffens and crumbles on exposure to oil and air.  Latex will last about 10 years if coverings are washed regularly.

Down and Feather Pillows:

When purchasing down pillows, look for at least 80% down and 20% feathers.  If you can feel quills, there isn’t much down in the pillow.  Pure goose down can be a real sleep inducer, but it is the most expensive type of down pillow. Often, different kinds of feathers may be mixed in the same pillow.

It is not easy to compare one down pillow to another unless you compare weights.  There should be a label attached to the pillow or in the packaging. Down and feather pillows sometimes irritate persons with allergy problems, whereas polyester and other synthetic fiber and foam pillows do not. Sniff a pillow for odor before you buy it.  If dust or lint appears as you pound or pat a pillow, this is a clue it could cause problems.  Down will last a long time.  They are usually dry-cleaned, but when washable, the pillows need careful drying to prevent mildew.


Fiberfill pillows can be easily laundered.  Stuffing can sometimes shift, but you can expect polyester fill pillows to keep their fluffy resilience at least five years.

Washing Feather Pillows:

If you want to wash your feather pillows, make sure the ticking is in good condition before washing. We would also suggest slipping the pillow into a pillow case and basting the case shut, for additional insurance against the ticking failing and releasing the feathers.  Fill the washer with warm water and the regular amount of detergent for a normal load, gentle cycle, agitate to dissolve the detergent.  (Dissolving the detergent is not as critical if a liquid detergent is used.)  For a balanced load, wash two pillows at the same time or one pillow and enough bath towels to balance.  Immerse the pillows in the sudsy water until they are completely wet.  Wash using the gentle or soak cycle for 10 minutes.  Rinse the pillows twice.

To dry, tumble in the automatic dryer using the warmest setting for one hour; reduce the heat and finish drying.  Or, in warmer weather, hang the pillows on a clothes line in a gentle breeze – occasionally “fluff” or move the feathers around within the pillow.  This will take a few hours – then finish drying in an automatic dryer.

Now you can sleep peacefully, enjoying the fresh scent of your clean pillows.






Home Environment, Household Equipment, Laundry

Are You Confused About Cooking Terms?

March 9th, 2015

Have you ever been confused about terms that are used in a recipe?  What is the difference between creaming and beating?  How can you tell when egg whites are soft peaks or when they are hard peaks?  Here are some common cooking terms and what they mean:

  • Al dente – this is a term for pasta that is cooked tender but slightly firm.
  • Beat – mixing foods thoroughly to a smooth consistency.
  • Braise – to cook gently in a small amount of liquid in a covered pan.
  • Cream – to incorporate air into the butter, margarine or vegetable shortening and sugar. When creaming have the fat at room temperature and beat at medium speed until light and airy.  The result will be a light fine grained texture.
  • Deglazing – adding a liquid (wine, broth etc.) to remove the bits of caramelized pieces left in a pan after cooking meat. This is the start of a great sauce or gravy.
  • Emulsify – this means to mix two ingredients together that don’t normally combine well like vinegar and oil. Whisk one ingredient very slowly into the other to emulsify.
  • Firm or stiff peaks – continue beating until the volume increases and becomes thick. When the beaters are raised the peaks should stay straight up even if you tilt the bowl.
  • Fold – using a rubber spatula and an over and under motion to combine ingredients without knocking out the air. Add the light ingredient like egg whites to the heavier ingredients and gently fold the mixture over top of itself to combine.  Rotating the pan as you fold helps to mix the ingredients without over mixing.
  • Julienne – to cut food into long thin strips similar to matchsticks. Carrots are quite often julienned.
  • Parboil – to cook a vegetable until it is partially cooked.
  • Pare – to remove the peeling or skin on a fruit or vegetable
  • Pulse – this means to turn a food processor on and off in very short bursts
  • Scald – this is to heat a liquid only until tiny bubbles form around the edge of the mixture. Not to boiling.
  • Sear – browning the meat in a hot pan quickly to seal in the meat juices.
  • Soft peaks – beating on medium speed until the meringue or cream peaks fold over when the beater is lifted out.

If you have a term that you are not sure what it means let us know and we will be glad to explain it to you.  We are only a phone call or email away!

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Food Preparation, Household Equipment, recipes

Time To Get Rid of Your Wallpaper?

March 5th, 2015

After living in our house for 19 years I decided that it was time for a change and undertook the removal of the wallpaper that we had in our kitchen.  I was lucky.  My dad was our wallpaper installer and he used sizing so it came off easily.

That wasn’t what happened in our first house that we purchased when we got married.  There were many layers of wallpaper and it was a much bigger task!

If you have wallpaper and are ready for a change here are the steps to remove it from your walls.

  • Remove all of the electrical face plates, light switches and any nails used to hang pictures. Cover anything electrical with masking or duct tape to protect them from water. It is a good idea to cut the power to the room to avoid water and electricity problems.
  • Place a drop cloth on the floor that is water resistant to keep water off of the carpet, hardwood or tile floor.
  • Test a corner of the wallpaper to see if it easily comes off without taking off the drywall. If it doesn’t come off easily you can use a solvent to help with the removal or you may need to rent a steamer.
  • A solvent can be made at home by mixing hot water with a few tablespoons of white vinegar or hot water and fabric softener in a spray bottle. The important thing to remember is that hot water is needed to work with the vinegar or fabric softener to dissolve the glue. Spray on the wallpaper in a section that you can strip in a 15 minute period.
  • The paper will begin to sag or pull away from the wall if this method is working. If it doesn’t you may need to rent a commercial wallpaper steamer. This tool has a pad where steam is released. The steamer is held in place to allow the steam to penetrate the paper and soften the glue. Use a scraper to remove the wallpaper once it has loosened. If it is not coming off you might need to use the steamer for a longer period of time but also make sure that you are not damaging the wall by using too much steam. Make sure you wear gloves since the wallpaper and glue will be hot. If your wallpaper is very old or you have many layers to take off, this method will save you the most time.
  • Once the wallpaper is removed the last remaining glue should be washed off using a sponge and very hot water with a small amount of soap. When the remaining adhesive is removed, rinse the wall with clean water and use a towel to dry it. If the wall was damaged use spackling to repair it.

Removing wallpaper will give your house a whole new look.  It is a labor of love that gives you a sense of accomplishment when the project is finished!

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Cleaning, Household Equipment

Cleaning Your Humidifier

February 16th, 2015

imageIn the winter our houses tend to dry out causing static electricity, dry nose, throat and skin problems.  One way to add moisture to our homes is to use a humidifying device.  These machines can be cool mist, steam or evaporative (a fan blows air through a moistened absorbent material like a belt or filter).  These will add moisture back into the home if it is dry but care must be taken to avoid excessive moisture which can lead to bacterial growth if the machines are not maintained and cleaned regularly.

Here are some tips to keep in mind if you are using a humidifier in your home:

  • Use distilled or demineralized water in your machines to reduce hard water deposits. Tap water often contains more minerals which can be released in the mist. If the particles are fine enough they can be breathed in which could cause health problems depending on what the type and amount of minerals are.
  • Try to change the water in your humidifier daily. By emptying the tank and wiping it dry it will keep any film and scum from developing in your machine and will reduce the growth of microorganisms. If the tank is not removable use the manufacturer’s instruction to keep the machine clean.
  • If you are using a steam vaporizer keep it out of the reach of children. The steam can cause burns if anyone comes in direct contact with it.
  • Make sure that the humidity in your house doesn’t go beyond 50 percent. If so moisture can build up on windows and walls and can cause mold growth. A tool called a hygrometer can measure the humidity level in your house. They are usually found at your local hardware store.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s directions on what cleaning products to use. If bleach or other products are used, the tanks will need to be rinsed well before using so that those strong chemicals smells are not released into the air in your house.
  • At the end of the season make sure that all of the parts are cleaned and dry before putting it away. Also clean it thoroughly before bringing it out to use again the next winter.

Remember breathing dirty air can cause problems ranging from flu-like symptoms to infections.  If you suffer from allergies or asthma the problem can be even worse.  By keeping your humidifiers clean and using them correctly you can make your house comfortable and safe.

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Cleaning, Home Environment, Household Equipment, Housing