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Tips for Storing Furits and Vegetables

September 15th, 2014

fridgeAre you wondering what should be stored in the drawers of your refrigerator?  It is important to know how to best use them to keep your produce at top quality for as long as possible!

Refrigerator drawers are designed to help you adjust the humidity level so it can be different from the rest of the refrigerator.  Many drawers have a control that allows you to increase or decrease the air flow coming into them.  Less air flow means higher humidity.  Since different produce require different levels of humidity it allows you to tailor the drawer to the produce inside and it will last longer.

Here are a few tips to store your fruits and vegetables in the refrigerator:

  1. Vegetables typically like high humidity and fruits like lower humidity.
  2. Leafy greens like high humidity (85-95%) and cold temperatures(32-40°F).   This includes lettuce, spinach, chard, collards, mustard greens and watercress. Bulbs like green onions, leaks and endive should also be stored here.
  3. Apples, grapes, cherries, apricots, nectarines and other tree fruits like less humidity and cold temperatures (32-35°F).
  4. Don’t put ripe fruits and veggies in the same crisper drawer since fruits give off ethylene gas.   Apple, pears, plums, cantaloupes and peaches are all high-ethylene producers. This can cause green vegetables to turn yellow, lettuce to get rust colored spots, potatoes to sprout and carrots to turn bitter.
  5. Citrus fruits like oranges, lemons and grapefruit can be stored in the main part of your refrigerator since they prefer even less humidity.
  6. Some fruits and vegetables do better outside of the refrigerator. Tomatoes, potatoes and onions prefer a cool, dark, dry place. (65-70°F).
  7. Wash your fruits and vegetables before eating, not before storing them.

By storing your foods properly you save money since your fruits and vegetables will remain fresh as long as possible!

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Food Preservation, Food Safety, Household Equipment

Storing Garden Vegetables

September 11th, 2014

tomato plantIt’s time to think about harvesting vegetables as the gardening season winds down. After you have spent hours choosing seed, planting, weeding, and watering your garden it only makes sense to store the vegetables carefully. You have many options for storing vegetables. Canning, freezing and drying are not your only choices. Many vegetables benefit from moist storage in a cool, dark area. If you are fortunate enough to have basement storage that can be heated without being overheated, you can build shelves and bins for vegetables. A small room that can be insulated from the rest of the basement with shelves and separate ventilation works even better. Plans for such a room are available.

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Food Preparation, Food Preservation, Food Safety

Canning Tomato Sauce

September 8th, 2014

tomato plantIt’s that time of year again, more tomatoes than I can possibly use in salads and BLTs.  I do like to freeze some whole but it is also nice to have some home preserved tomato sauce too. There are many variations of tomato sauce recipes that are safe, tested, and research based. Some of these recipes must be processed  with a pressure canner so be sure to check the recipe before you begin to be sure you have the proper equipment.

There are also recipes for canning tomato juice, “V 8″ style juice,  and  catsup or other sauces. None of the recipes are very difficult so you can truly enjoy the bounty of your garden all winter long. You can even make a tomato jam if you still have tomatoes left after making all of the other recipes listed above.

Remember we are always glad to answer questions about home food preserving.  Give us a call Monday through Friday from 9-11 and 1-4.

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Food Preservation, recipes

Freezing applesauce

September 1st, 2014

freezing appleasuce

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!

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Food Preservation, recipes

Home Canned Chicken

August 25th, 2014

1368801891946Many 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.

 

 

 

 

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Food Preservation, recipes

Consider Ketchup

August 21st, 2014

tomato sauceDo 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.

 

 

 

 

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Food Preservation, Nutrition, recipes

Why did my canning jar break?

August 14th, 2014

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 boiling water bath cannersinside the canner.

  1. Using old jars. Antique canning jars are attractive but perhaps not the best choice for a product that is very labor intensive to prepare.
  2. Nicks or small cracks in the jar. Always check for small nicks or hairline cracks before filling jars.
  3. Not releasing trapped air bubbles inside the jar.
  4. Using metal utensils to release trapped air—this can cause scratches or weak spots inside the jar.
  5. Overfilled jars.
  6. Fluctuating pressure inside a pressure canner. Watch the gauge or listen to the “jiggle” of the weight to maintain a constant pressure.
  7. 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.
  8. Placing hot jars into a canner of cold water.
  9. Forgetting to add water to the pressure canner.
  10. Forgetting to put the rack into the bottom of the canner. Jars bouncing around during processing are at a high risk of breaking.
  11. Setting your hot, already processed jars into a draft to cool.
  12. Screwing the bands onto the jars too tightly. Remember, finger-tight only.

Following canning directions carefully will help you avoid jar breakage.

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Food Preparation, Food Preservation, Food Safety

Top 10 Canning Questions

August 11th, 2014

During August, we get many calls and emails with canning questions. Here is our own top 10 list of canning questions.

  1. 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.
  2.  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.
  3.  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.
  4.  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.
  5. 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.
  6.  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.
  7.  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.
  8.  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).
  9.  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:

  1. 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.

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Food Preservation, Food Safety

Tip for Freezing Pie

August 7th, 2014

 

 

imageThere 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:

  1. 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.
  2. Do not cut vent holes in the top crust. You will do that at the time you bake the pie.
  3. 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:

  1. Cut some vent holes in the top crust of the still frozen pie.
  2. Place pie onto a cookie sheet.
  3. Bake without thawing at 450° for 15-20 minutes.
  4. Reduce temperature to 375° and bake an additional 20-30 minutes or until the top crust has browned.

Enjoy

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Food Preparation, Food Preservation, recipes

Zucchini

August 4th, 2014

ZucchiniIf 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.

 

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Food Preservation, recipes