Archive for the ‘Food Preservation’ Category

Easy Recipe for Pickled Beets

July 28th, 2014

pickled beets

Pickled beets are another way to enjoy one of the lesser used vegetables. The process for making pickled beets is really pretty easy. Just remember that you want to leave one inch of stem and one inch of root on the whole beet when cooking them before beginning the pickling process. Leaving some stem and root intact prevents color loss in the beets; also called bleeding. After the beets have cooled, it will be an easy task to slip the skins off the beets.

Most pickled beets call for pickling spices. This is readily available at grocery stores, or you may choose to make your own. The Ball Blue Book contains an easy to follow recipe for pickling spice.

Follow this and any tested canning recipe exactly for best and safe results. Enjoy!







Food Preparation, Food Preservation, recipes

Canning Methods

July 14th, 2014


Canning JarsOne of the questions we often hear when folks are canning is: What is the difference between Hot Pack and Raw Pack? Obviously, the main difference is that one style involves totally raw food while the other method uses partially cooked food. Both styles of pack have benefits; select the best pack for the situation.

Raw Pack is often used when canning vegetables in the pressure canner. This is an easy method; clean and slice the fruit or vegetable and pack tightly into the jar. Air is often trapped between pieces of raw food and this air can be difficult to eliminate. Trapped air can cause a loss of liquid during the canning process, floating fruit, or discoloration of the food after a few months of storage.

Hot Pack foods are heated to a boil followed by simmering for about 5 minutes. Precooking shrinks the foods, allowing you to fit more food inside the jar. Air is not trapped inside the food (so fruit will not float) or between the pieces of food, which can cause loss of liquid in the jars. Also, the best quality of some foods, like pears, is obtained by using a hot pack.

No matter which pack you choose for your food, remember to always use boiling water, broth, or juice to fill the jars.

Happy canning.


Food Preparation, Food Preservation, Food Safety

Pickling Carrots

July 10th, 2014

pickled carrotsSummer canning time is one of my favorite times of the year.  We get many calls from people learning to can or trying something new. It is fun to teach people proper canning methods. There are so many different options available to us with the recipes tested by the USDA, National Center for Home Food Preservation, Extension Resources, and the Ball Blue Books.

Pickled carrots are yet another way to serve a delicious and nutritious vegetable.  Carrots that are small, young, and tender produce a great canned product.  You may want to try pickling some of the first carrots you pull in the garden this summer.  The National Center for Home Food Preservation has this recipe available for Pickled Carrots.



Food Preparation, Food Preservation, Food Safety

Pickled Corn Relish

July 7th, 2014

pickled 3-bean saladCorn will soon be plentiful in both the farmers markets and our gardens.  We used to freeze a LOT of corn when our kids were young; now we tend to enjoy it fresh from the garden.  Sometimes it is fun to experiment with new recipes.  You may want to try this one for Pickled Corn Relish that our friends at the National Center for Home Food Preservation have included on their website. It has a nice combination of garden vegetables and a tangy flavor.  Enjoy making some this weekend.  Just remember that canning recipes are designed and tested to produce a safe product.  Do not alter the recipe in any way.


Food Preparation, Food Preservation, recipes


May 29th, 2014


“Are you going to Scarborough Fair? Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme….” (Now that song will be stuck in your head all day!) I love cooking dishes at home with fresh herbs. Sometimes I go to the store to find they are sold out of the herbs I need and they also tend to be pricey. Many times you are forced to buy larger amounts of herbs than you need for a recipe and it rots in the refrigerator before you can use it for something else. So, I grow my own herbs at home. Herbs are simple to grow in containers and can add aesthetic beauty to small spaces. In addition, container gardens are excellent for advanceherbs-pots-garden-decorations-33439875d gardeners as well as beginners – even if your thumb isn’t exactly green!!

Containers can be grown where traditional gardens are not possible such as balconies, decks, small courtyards and areas with poor soil.

Tips for planting, growing and harvesting herbs in containers:

1)      Choose a container with good drainage. Plants will not grow well in water-logged soil.  Just about any container will work, just make sure it has never held toxic materials. The container should be large enough so the plants won’t dry out between waterings. The smaller the container, the more daily maintenance your plants will require.

2)      Use soil that’s free of disease organisms, insects, and weed seeds. Potting soil may contain pasteurized soil, sphagnum peat moss, vermiculite, perlite, and composted manure. Stay away from used potting soil from previous seasons, because it’s likely to contain disease organisms.

3)      Herbs that grow well in pots include: Sage, parsley, Greek oregano, rosemary, marjoram, bush basil, thyme, chives, and summer savory.   Select herbs that are small and still growing. Plants can be mixed together in a pot.

4)      Container plants require more frequent watering than in-ground plants because the exposed sides of the pots result in more evaporation.

5)      Apply water until it drips from the drainage holes. Do not over fertilize herbs. Pinch the plants during the growing season to keep them bushy and compact. Remove any dead or diseased leaves. Water plants only when the soil is dry.

6)      Check plants frequently for insects and treat appropriately.

7)      Leafy herbs need to be harvested when the leaf quality is optimal, as determined by the flower buds when they first appear. Remove top leaves and stems with a sharp knife. When harvesting annuals, leave four to six inches of shoots on the plant for better re-growth. Perennials should be harvested by removing only the top third of the plant since future harvests depend on new growth.

8)      Herbs can be used fresh or dried. Use roughly 3 times the amount of fresh herbs as dried in most recipes and vice versa.

After that long winter we had here in Iowa and many other locations around the country, it is such a pleasure to get outside and dig around in the dirt!! Enjoy those “herbalicious” herbs!

jill sig

Food Preparation, Food Preservation, Home Environment, Horticulture, Uncategorized

Freezing Asparagus

May 15th, 2014

AsparagusA sure sign of spring is when you see the asparagus arriving in the grocery store or if you are lucky, in your home garden.  If you are purchasing or growing more than your family can eat you might want to freeze some.   To freeze you should select young tender spears.  Wash them thoroughly and sort them into sizes.  Trim the stalks by removing scales with a sharp knife and cut the stalks into even lengths.  Water blanch the small spears for 2 minutes, medium spears 3 minutes and large spears for 4 minutes.

To blanch, use one gallon of water per pound of prepared vegetables.  Put the vegetables in the water and it should return to boiling within 1 minute.  If it doesn’t you are using too many vegetables for the amount of water.  Start counting the blanching time as soon as the water returns to a boil.

After the blanching is complete remove the asparagus form the water and put in ice water.  This allows it to stop cooking and will give the asparagus good color, texture and flavor.  After it is cooled drain and package, leaving no headspace.  Freeze using a freezer container or freezer bags for best results.

Now you can enjoy the treat of eating asparagus all winter long.

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Food Preservation

Hotline Resources

January 27th, 2014

Sometimes, even in this day of Google searching and networking, it is hard to find the answer to a question.  I’ve listed hotline numbers for Iowa and Minnesota that may be helpful.  Remember that AnswerLine is only a phone call away if you don’t see a resource for the question that you have.



Hotlines available for all
Iowa Concern (800-447-1985)

  • Financial questions, legal issues, family transitions
  • Phones are answered all hours, all days
  • TTD (Telecommunications Device for Deaf Persons) (800-735-2942)
Teen Line (800-443-8336)

  • Personal and health-related information and referral
  • Phones are answered all hours, all days
  • Teen Line is an information/referral hotline
  • TTD (Telecommunications Device for Deaf Persons) (800-735-2942)
Farm On (877-BFC-1999)

  • Program to match beginning and retiring farmers
  • Hours are Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
BETS OFF (800-BETS-OFF) (800-238-7633)

  • Gambling a problem? Call to be connected to a treatment program
  • Concerned about a family member or friend? Call for information.
  • Need an informational packet for a training? We can send one free of charge.
  • Answered everyday, all day.
Hotlines available to Iowa Residents Only
AnswerLine (800-262-3804)

  • Questions relating to home and family
  • Relay Iowa (TTY) 800-735-2942
  • Hours are Monday through Friday from 9 a.m.-noon and 1-4 p.m.
  • Email questions to
Iowa Healthy Families (800-369-2229)

  • Health Information and Referral, Confidential
  • TDD (Telecommunications Device for Deaf Persons) (800-735-2942)
  • Phones are answered all hours, all days.
Hortline (515) 294-3108

  • Hortline provides assistance to home gardeners on lawn, garden, and ornamental questions
  • Hours are Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 12 noon and 1-4:30 p.m.
  • Email questions to
PORKLine (800-808-7675)

  • Available to assist Iowa pork producers in all aspects of pork production
  • Hours are Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Email questions to


The MN Bed Bug Hotline 612-624-2200 or 1-855-644-2200
The bed bug hotline at the University of Minnesota can:
 Provide information on bed bugs
 Suggest ways to reduce the number of bed bugs in your home
 Provide advice on selecting a Structural Pest Control Company
 Recommend steps you can use to avoid bed bugs in your everyday
life and while traveling.

Search: Lets Beat the Bug @letsbeatthebug


Minnesota Farm Information Line  800-232-9077

Minnesota agriculture and small acreage farm questions

Referrals made to local Extension Agriculture Personnel when available

Will answer some horticulture questions

Available: 8:30-1:30 Monday through Friday

Water Resources Center 800-322-8642

General water information and research information about water quality, shorelines, drinking water, and sewage and septic system questions.



Cleaning, Consumer Management, Food Preparation, Food Preservation, Home Environment, Housing, Laundry, Nutrition

Soup Time!

January 6th, 2014
Chili made to enjoy later.

Beef Butternut Chili


This is the time of year that I crave  soup for dinner. It is especially convenient to prepare this soup in a slow cooker. Coming home from work and stepping into the house, it is wonderful to be greeted with the aroma of freshly cooked soup ready to be dished out and put on the table.

 I prepare heartier soups during the winter, usually accompanied by freshly baked bread. I bake several loaves of bread at a time, slice, package and freeze. When we need it I just thaw out as many slices as needed, toast and serve with our soup.


2013-05-19 20.05.54A small bowl of fresh, in season fruit rounds out the meal. Clean up is easy – one soup crock and a few serving dishes! We usually have enough leftover to provide for several more meals. I freeze one or two containers and eat the rest for dinner the next night.

One of my favorite soups, Beef Butternut Chili uses a small amount of beef stew, rounded out by a larger amount of vegetables; butternut squash, carrots,onions and beans. Feel free to add whatever you like or have on hand.



Food Preparation, Food Preservation, recipes

Preparing for blizzards and power outages

December 30th, 2013

BlizzardBlizzard warnings headed your way?  Here are some steps to take if you live in an area where you frequently lose power.


Before the storm arrives:


  1.  Keep an appliance thermometer in the refrigerator and freezer.  This will help you know just how warm it is getting inside those appliances.  Freezers should be 0°F or below, refrigerators below 40°F—nearer 32°F.
  2. Use the cold temperature outdoors to freeze jugs of water to cool your food if the power goes off.
  3. Freeze normally refrigerated foods like milk or meat—this will keep them at a safe temperature longer.
  4. Learn where you may buy ice or dry ice locally—before the storm hits.
  5. Have a cooler on hand to store refrigerated food if the power is off for more than 4 hours.



After the storm:


  1. Keep the doors of the refrigerator and freezer shut as much as you can.  The food stored inside will remain cold longer if you do.
  2. Know that you have about 4 hours to keep cold food safely—as long as the door remains closed.  The freezer, if it is full, will hold a safe temperature for about 48 hours.
  3. Toss perishable foods like meat, poultry, fish, soft and shredded cheeses, milk, eggs, leftovers, deli meat after 4 hours—or store them in the cooler before the 4 hours have elapsed.
  4. Food may be safely refrozen, as long as: it is still mostly frozen, the food still contains ice crystals, or it is very cold-as if it has just been removed from the refrigerator—below 40°F.
  5.  NEVER taste a food to see if it is still safe. 
  6. Use your refrigerator and/or freezer as a cooler; add some ice or dry ice to cool the food inside.  Fifty pounds of dry ice should hold an 18-cubic-foot full freezer for 2 days.
  7. Check the food inside the appliances as soon as power returns.  That will help you determine if a food should be refrozen, saved, or tossed.

 Remember, if you have questions about the safety of you food we can help you decide which foods are safe and which foods should be tossed.  We are as close as a phone call, email, or facebook post away.



Consumer Management, Food Preservation

Mailing Holiday Cookies

December 12th, 2013

Preparing cookies for mailingThe holidays are rapidly approaching, making me think about the cookies I want to bake this season and for whom I will bake them. When thinking about mailing cookies, it is important to remember these things:

  1. Always let cookies cool completely before packing.
  2. Drop and bar cookies are recommended, avoiding cookies that are fragile, crumbly or frosted.
  3. Chocolate-covered cookies tend to melt and should be avoided.
  4. A sturdy container should be used for mailing, including boxes, coffee cans or tins.
  5. Line containers with foil or plastic wrap. Seal cookies in an airtight bag; wrap individually or in pairs, back-to-back, separated by waxed paper. Place a layer of filler (tightly crumpled waxed paper or popped corn) on the bottom of the container. Arrange cookies in rows and place a layer of filler between each layer and on top before closing the lid. Cookies should also be no closer to the edge of box than 2 inches. Make certain there is no movement in carton, once filled and lid is in place.
  6. If packing several kinds of cookies, place heavier cookies on the bottom. Irregularly shaped containers should be placed in a box and cushioned before wrapping.
  7. DON’T send high moisture foods (brownies or quick breads).

Assuming you have chosen your recipe(s) wisely and wrapped the cookies with care, in good time your loved ones can look forward to receiving goodies in the mail from you.


Food Preparation, Food Preservation, Food Safety, Holiday ideas