Archives

Why did my tomatoes separate in the jar?

tomato-picture

If you have seen separation in your home canned tomatoes, you may be wondering just what causes this to happen. Heating the product before putting it in the jar; otherwise known as a hot pack can help prevent this separation.

Separation in canned tomato products is not unsafe. It merely reflects the action of enzymes in tomatoes that have been cut and allowed to sit at room temperature. The enzymes that naturally occur will begin to break down pectin in the tomatoes.  This breakdown results in a yellow red tinted liquid that can appear in either the top or bottom of the jar.  In tomato juices, a quick shake of the jar will make the layer disappear.  The layers will reappear after the contents of the jar resettle.  In canned whole tomatoes, the separation cannot be dispersed by shaking the jar.  You can safely use both the tomato layer and the liquid layer while making other foods like spaghetti sauce or chili but it is a bit unappealing in the jar.

Be sure to follow the directions for the hot pack carefully as overheating the tomatoes can also cause separation of the solids and liquids. Our favorite recipe for canning tomatoes is from the National Center for Home Food Preservation.

Enjoy the rest of tomato season!

 

 

Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

More Posts - Website

Salt . . . Which for What?

salt 2Sea salt, table salt, kosher salt, Himalayan salt, pickling salt, fleur de sel, flavored salt, smoked salt, low-sodium salt . . .  The list of salt choices has grown far beyond the single salt shaker we once knew.  The grocery shelves are now lined with numerous possibilities.  Why so many choices?  Is one better than another?  Which should you use for what?

The answer to such questions could become an entire SALT 101 course.    Bottom line, all salts are not created equal but essentially are alike.  Salt, in any form, is a crystalline mineral made of two elements, sodium and chlorine, both essential to life.  However, in our quest to get these essential elements, we must be mindful that the American Heart Association recommends keeping our salt intake to less than 1,500 milligrams of sodium a day or roughly two-thirds of a teaspoon of table salt.   Most of the world’s salt is harvested from underground salt mines or by evaporating sea water or other mineral-rich waters.  It is the processing after harvest that makes the difference.

Here’s a quick “shake” on salt:

Table Salt – Table salt is available plain or fortified with iodine; iodine is important for thyroid regulation. Table salt also dissolves the quickest making it ideal for most cooking and baking.

Kosher Salt – Many chefs use kosher as it is a flatter, lighter, and flakier salt.  Because of its irregular shaped granules and subtle crunch, it is a good salt to use to flavor food as the larger grains give you less sodium per teaspoon.  Kosher salt is also commonly used to rim margaritas.

Sea Salt – The bigger granules of sea salt offer more flavor with less sodium.  However, it may not be a good choice for routine cooking or baking since it does not dissolve easily and can cause issues with the taste and texture of dishes prepared with it.  It is great for garnishing.

Low-Sodium Salt – The sodium chloride is reduced with the addition of potassium chloride, a mineral that tastes salty but is bitter when heated.  It works well as a replacement in the salt shaker at the table but should not be used by those on blood pressure medications.

Pickling Salt – Canning salt or pickling salt is pure salt and as such is more concentrated.  It contains no additives.  This is the best choice for canning, pickling, sauerkraut making, and brining meat.  A publication by Penn State University, Types of Salt and Salt Substitutes in Canning, offers some great information on using salt in food preservation.

Gourmet Salts – This group might include salts by such names as Fleur de Sel, Sel Gris, infused salt, Himalayan salt, Celtic salt, and others.  These salts tend to be more expensive and are used for various purposes in food preparation but largely they make a great finishing salt for the special flavors they may impart.

Rock Salt – Mined from deposits in the earth, rock salt is for making ice cream and deicing.  It should not be used directly on food.  Minerals and other harmless impurities can give it a grayish color.

The above is by no means a complete list of all salt possibilities but will hopefully help you navigate some of the choices available.

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

More Posts

Too many berries? Freeze a pie!

imageMy family loves pie! My son, who lives on the east coast, firmly believes you can’t find a pie there that equals what you can find in the Midwest. With berry season here, you may want to consider making some extra pies now to freeze for later use.

If freezing an UNBAKED filled pie, add an extra 1-2 Tablespoons flour or ½ Tablespoon cornstarch to compensate for the extra moisture that will exude while baking. Do not cut vents in the top of double crust pies before freezing. Wrap, label, and freeze for up to three months. Bake unthawed pies at 425 degrees 15 minutes, reduce heat to 375 degrees, and bake an additional 25-35 minutes. For easier clean-up, bake the pie on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

BAKED and filled double-crust pies may be frozen up to 6 months. Be sure to wrap them well and label them before freezing. When ready to eat the pie, loosen the wrapping, and thaw in the refrigerator. Warm thawed pies in a 350 degree oven for 10-15 minutes. Cover the edges of the crust with foil to prevent burning if necessary.

I plan to freeze some pies for the next time my son comes home!

Beth Marrs

I graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Adult Home Economics Education. I love to cook and entertain and spend time with my family.

More Posts

Can your green beans safely!

imageFor some people, the middle of summer is the Fourth of July weekend. For me, it is when our callers all begin to ask questions about canning green beans.  At AnswerLine, the middle of summer officially started in the first week of August.  That is when our phone lines started to get really busy and we spent most of the day talking about green beans.

The most common question callers have is: “Is it really necessary to process my green beans in a pressure canner?”  Or a variation of that call is “How many hours do I need to process my green beans in a boiling water bath canner?”

The answer, of course, is the green beans MUST be processed in a pressure canner to ensure that the botulism bacteria are inactivated. There is NO safe time that low acid foods like beans can be processed in a boiling water bath canner.

Even though the occurrence of those bacteria your green beans is rare, the consequences are quite severe.  Botulism poisoning can cause death or very severe illness that can have a long recovery time.  I think we can all agree that it is more important to protect our family members than to save a little time or money taking a short cut.

If you don’t own a pressure canner, consider freezing the beans, borrowing a canner, or purchasing one on sale at the end of the canning sale.

Also, remember to always use current, safe, tested canning recipes and procedures. Always make altitude adjustments if you live at an altitude over 1000’.

Follow those rules to preserve safe food for your family. Remember if you have any questions you can always call us at AnswerLine.

Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

More Posts - Website

Salsa Time!

It’s salsa time. We are beginning to get questions about making salsa so I thought it might be time to remind people of the rules for making salsa.

First of all, if you have a salsa recipe that has been in the family for years or if you love to experiment and develop new recipes, make all the salsa you want. Just don’t plan to process it in the boiling water bath canner and store it on the shelf.  These salsas can only be stored in the refrigerator (for 5-7 days) or in the freezer (for 1-2 months).  The texture of the frozen and then thawed salsa will be similar to canned salsa but you won’t have the risk of eating an unsafe product.

1368801833383Always, and I can’t say this enough, always choose and use a tested recipe for home preserved salsa. That means look at Preserve the taste of Summer publications, recipes from the National Center for Home Food Preservation, the USDA canning guide, or the Ball Blue Books for a safe tested recipe.  These recipes have been tested to ensure that there is enough acidity to balance the amount of low acid vegetables in salsa.  The onions, peppers, garlic, and tomatoes are low in acid so they must be combined with a quantity of acid to make a mixture that is safe to process in the boiling water bath canner.   If there is not enough acid in the salsa, the botulism bacteria can grow.

When callers ask how long a salsa should be processed, how long it should be processed in a pressure canner, or the processing time for quart jars of salsa; we know that the caller is likely not using a tested recipe. Since salsa is not heated before eating it, the salsa must be unquestionably safe.  Using a tested recipe and following it without changing the recipe is the only way to guarantee safety.

Until a year ago, you could not use much creativity when making salsa. You could vary the type of peppers but not the total quantity of peppers in a recipe.  So, you could make a mild or fiery hot salsa by using either bell peppers or ghost peppers.  Now the National Center for Home Food Preservation has a choice salsa recipe that allows a bit of creativity when you make salsa.

Please don’t hesitate to contact us with any salsa questions.

Enjoy.

Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

More Posts - Website

Too many berries? Freeze a pie!

imageMy family loves pie! My son, who lives on the east coast, firmly believes you can’t find a pie there that equals what you can find in the Midwest. With berry season here, you may want to consider making some extra pies now to freeze for later use.

If freezing an UNBAKED filled pie, add an extra 1-2 Tablespoons flour or ½ Tablespoon cornstarch to compensate for the extra moisture that will exude while baking. Do not cut vents in the top of double crust pies before freezing. Wrap, label, and freeze for up to three months. Bake unthawed pies at 425 degrees 15 minutes, reduce heat to 375 degrees, and bake an additional 25-35 minutes. For easier clean-up, bake the pie on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

BAKED and filled double-crust pies may be frozen up to 6 months. Be sure to wrap them well and label them before freezing. When ready to eat the pie, loosen the wrapping, and thaw in the refrigerator. Warm thawed pies in a 350 degree oven for 10-15 minutes. Cover the edges of the crust with foil to prevent burning if necessary.

I plan to freeze some pies for my son for the next time he comes home!image

Marcia Steed

Marcia Steed

I graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Home Economics Education. I enjoy spending time with my family and friends and traveling.

More Posts

Am I saving money by canning my own food?

Home food preservation has been pretty popular during the time that I’ve been working at AnswerLine.  We certainly get lots of calls about it; but one question is rarely asked. I think BWB1callers assume that they are saving lots of money by preserving food at home.  If you are canning or freezing food only because you think you are saving lots of money, you may want to take a deeper look.

There really are many reasons to preserve your own food.  Gardeners really enjoy tasting produce from their gardens year round.  Some people with health issues are happy to spend time and energy ensuring that the food they have is free from added salt or sugar.  Some people are committed to the idea of local foods, and some people really just enjoy the process of canning or freezing food.

Both of the common forms of food preservation, canning or freezing can provide a lot of entertainment.  However, if you are only interested in the financial aspect of the process then we should consider all the “hidden” costs of preserving your food at home.

You will need to consider:

  1. The cost of buying the freezer and maintaining it
  2. Electricity to run the freezer
  3. Material costs for freezer containers or freezer bags
  4. Ingredients such as water, fruit juice, sugar, anti-darkening solutions
  5. You may also want to consider your time, unless it is a hobby that you truly enjoy
  6. The cost of a canner
  7. The cost of the jars, rings, flats
  8. Electricity or gas for you stove
  9. Canning tools, such as funnels and jar lifters
  10. Repair to the canner, including gasket replacement or gauge testing
  11. The actual cost of the produce you are preserving–either seeds or purchase price
  12. The cost of your recipe books for safe, tested recipes

If you add up all the costs and compare them with the cost of food purchased at the grocery store, you may find you are not saving much money after all.  If you want to calculate the cost of freezing food, Colorado State University has a handy chart to help you calculate.

I’ve always enjoyed the process and using my home preserved foods.  I’ve never really worried about saving money; we just enjoy the food.  Happy canning!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

More Posts - Website

Make your own egg noodles!

I like to make my own egg noodles when I am making a casserole. It seems to add a whole new dimension to an old family recipe.  The recipe is really pretty easy.  It doesn’t take too long, especially if you have one of these noodle makers.

Simply mix together these ingredients in a large bowl:

  • 1 ½ cups of flour
  • ½ teaspoon of salt
  • 1 tablespoon of cooking oil
  • 2 eggs

Turn them out onto a floured surface and knead gently until the dough sticks together.

noodles, makingCut the dough into four equal sized pieces. Flatten and roll through the widest setting on the noodle maker.  Fold the dough in half and roll again.  Repeat this step a third time.  Now set the roller distance at the next higher setting.  Roll once and then set the roller distance higher (thinner/more narrow).  After the third rolling, lay the long strips on a flat surface and cut into manageable lengths. The length of the noodles is determined by the size of these pieces.

Now roll the noodle dough through the cutters. At this point, you can either place the dough noodles, rollinginto boiling water to cook the noodles or allow the noodles to dry a bit before freezing the raw noodle dough.  My daughter likes to make 3 batches of noodles when she makes noodles.  That allows her one batch for the recipe she is making for dinner that night and two batches to put in the freezer.  The noodles can go directly from the freezer to the boiling water. This is an easy convenience food to have on hand for those nights you need a quick supper.

Enjoy!

Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

More Posts - Website

Making Freezer Meals

food saverOur oldest son and our daughter in law just had a baby this week! I am so excited to be a grandma and I have already blogged about making homemade baby food for him.  One of my gifts to the new parents is to help them fill the freezer with healthy, easy meals that they can use to help make mealtime easier for them.  Here are just a few meal suggestions that I am planning on making that will freeze well.

  • Sloppy joes. Just heat and put on a bun.
  • Soups like chili. Ready to rewarm in a variety of sizes.
  • Chicken pot pie. If they are made and frozen individually you can decide how many to get out for dinner.
  • Fajita meat and vegetables. All you need to add are the tortillas, and the toppings.
  • Pulled pork. Add the BBQ sauce and it will be ready to heat and put on a bun.
  • Lasagna. Make it in a small bread pan and it will be the perfect size for a small family.
  • Ground beef or sausage cooked that can be added to a jar of tomato sauce for spaghetti.
  • Baked ziti or other pasta casseroles. Use a pan that is appropriate for the family size and have them thaw it in the refrigerator the night before you eat it.
  • Slices of ham from a spiral ham. Add the number of slices based on the family size.
  • Apple crisp. Make a small pan that they can put in the oven to bake while they are eating their dinner. Everyone needs a dessert!
  • Cookies. Chocolate chip cookies freeze well in an air tight container and they can take one out whenever they need a sweet treat.

I am using my vacuum sealer to keep the meats air tight so they will last in the freezer for a longer time. If you don’t have one make sure you are using freezer bags or containers and try to get out as much air as possible.  This will keep the food from drying out and developing freezer burn.  Remember the more layers of protection the better quality the food will be.  Think about wrapping foods in cellophane wrap then aluminum foil before you put them in the freezer containers or bags.

Remember to use a permanent marker to write the heating directions and a date on the freezer containers. I am also giving my kids a list of the foods that are in the freezer.  They can scratch off the foods when they eat them and they will know what is left in the freezer to eat.

Whether you are making meals for family members or friends that are sick, or after the birth of a child your efforts will be appreciated! If you have any questions on freezing some of your favorite foods give us a call at AnswerLine.

Beth Marrs

I graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Adult Home Economics Education. I love to cook and entertain and spend time with my family.

More Posts

Canning Questions All Year Long

It may seem like a strange time of year for a blog about canning but at AnswerLine, we get calls about canning almost every day.  Callers today were canning pork, beef, or planning what products to preserve next summer.

One of our callers today realized that she had not processed her beef at the correct pressure in her canner. She had only done 5 quarts of beef but was concerned that it would not be safe to eat. She was right, that beef was under processed and would not be considered safe to eat. I was happy to tell her that she did have options to correct the problem and she would not have to discard the jars of beef.

  1. The jars could be reprocessed at the proper pressure (PSI) for the entire time prescribed in the recipe. The resulting food would not be quite as high quality as food processed only once but it would be safe. For beef, likely very tender beef would not be problematic but processing green beans a second time does result in an inferior product.
  2. The jars could be stored in the freezer. If the jars are overly filled, you may want to remove a small amount to prevent jar breakage as the food expands in the freezer. These jars will not break in the freezer.
  3. The jars could be stored in the refrigerator and the contents enjoyed within 3-5 days. It would be difficult to use an entire canner load of jars within a week but you may want to enjoy at least one jar in that time.

Any of those three options can be used within 24 hours of the original canning process. You lose those options after that time, so always check to be sure that you used the proper processing time and that your jars have sealed. We offer these solutions to anyone that did not use a proper canning method or for jars that failed to seal.

Hopefully you will not need to use any of these remedies the next time you use your canner; but now you will know your options.

Happy Canning! Call us any time-we are always happy to talk canning with callers.

Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

More Posts - Website