Preserving the Holiday Leftovers

The holidays bring more smiles, kinder words, and bucket loads of leftovers. Holiday leftovers go largely to waste, especially in the United States but it didn’t always used to be the case. Thankfully, (no pun intended) there is a rising surge to preserve the holiday leftovers and make your food dollars stretch!

Particularly when it comes to the meat portion of the holiday meals, you can do so much more with it after the main meal and get more than just leftover turkey sandwiches from it, too. Here, we will cover the most common dishes served at holiday meals and then give suggestion and links to instructions on different ways you can preserve the leftovers for short or long term. Below is how I preserve holiday leftovers!

Turkey

You’ve nibbled, made sandwiches, fed the dogs, and there’s still leftover turkey. Even though you’re sick of it now, in about three months you’ll likely be ready for more. There’s so much more on that turkey than just meat! You are looking at at least a gallon of turkey stock, too, depending on the size of your turkey, too. I process the whole thing at once to make it easier. I’m already in the kitchen, right?

First, I cut off all the meat I can and set it aside. I put the carcass into my largest stock pot and fill it with enough water to cover and then bring it to a rolling boil. While waiting for that to boil, I assess the meat I have available to use. I always make sure to have at least one vacuum packed bag cubed up for making a turkey pot pie. I also have some smaller packs made for turkey and dumplings and a turkey noodle soup.

Other possibilities for leftover turkey:

  • Turkey melts
  • Turkey salad
  • Pulled BBQ turkey
  • Casseroles
  • Turkey tacos, enchiladas, etc
  • Canned turkey*

I vacuum seal my packs up, date them, and put them into the freezer. They will hold for at least a year, though none of it ever lasts that long before being used. As mentioned above, you could can the turkey but that requires a pressure canner and could render the meat into mush. Anyone with tips on this (I’ve never done it) is encouraged to share your tips and tricks below in the comments.

The stock is strained to get all the bits out of it (I always strain twice with a fine mesh strainer) and then canned in quart jars in a pressure canner. Even though the meat was cooked, and you just boiled it, the USDA safety standards call for the stock to be pressure canned to ensure there’s no bacteria leftover that can make you sick.

*Requires pressure canning

Ham

Ham is done much like turkey, except there’s no stock to make. Slice into cubes, strips, or slabs and vacuum seal! You can make so much out of it!

  • Soups and chowders
  • A lovely crock of ham and beans (perfect for a cold January day!)
  • Chipped for sandwiches
  • Ham and noodle casserole
  • Hawaiian quesadillas
  • Hawaiian pizza
  • Fry slices to enjoy with breakfast
  • Skillet meals
  • Canned ham*

I enjoy cubing the leftovers to be used in noodle casserole dishes and we always enjoy ham and beans in the winter!

*Requires pressure canning

Mashed Potatoes/Gravy/Stuffing

Most people don’t ever save these dishes (admittedly, there are rarely leftovers of these three items) but we’ve started to get creative. The gravy is something that can be used on just about anything, anytime but the mashed potatoes and stuffing is another matter. Most people don’t have any idea of what to do with it (other than hoping someone eats it before it goes bad!).

For mashed potatoes, I love to make potato cakes with breakfast in the morning. You can also make cheesy pancakes, potato puffs, or use it as a stuffing for bell peppers or mushrooms.

For stuffing, I usually freeze it in vacuum sealed packs. I like to make fried stuffing patties with it but you can also use it as a top layer on your casseroles for a different flavor (and crunch!)

Veggies

Veggies can be frozen or canned. They also make great compost or chicken treats (no onions or garlic!). One of the things I will do, depending on what I have available, is to make a vegetable stock out of it and can it up to be used later.

Desserts/Breads

Frozen usually works the best. You can’t can them, generally speaking, but freezing slices of pie to save for later is a great way to ensure your money isn’t being wasted.

Breads can be made into croutons, desserts (think bread pudding), bread crumbs for baking use, and so much more! A quick Google Search will help inspire you to do more with what you already have.

Summary

When you consider how much money, time, and effort was put into these larger meals, it makes sense to get as much as you possibly can out of it!




The Cycle of a Homestead Freezer

Freezers (and refrigerators) have been an integral appliance for food preservation for over 100 years. It wasn’t until the 1940s that the separated fridge and freezer units were created but even before then, iceboxes were a go-to for keeping things cool and lasting longer. The homestead freezer has a cycle that reflects the seasons, just as everything else on the homestead does!

 

 

When you live off what you grow, raise, and harvest – either in the wild or domestically – you rely on the freezer to see you through. Sure, there are other forms of food preservation but the freezer is just about the easiest. It also gives you a place to put food you’ve harvested and keep unspoiled until you can get to it and process it later.

Though every homestead is different, I’m going to share with you the cycle of our own homestead freezers that will give you an idea (and maybe inspire you!) of ways you could better utilize your own. As you’ll see, the homestead freezer is used for a lot more than just meat! First, we will cover different events that involve using the freezer and then we’ll briefly look at the annual cycle of how we use ours.

Annual Freezer Events

Meat Sales – We only shop for meat two times a year. Those times are in October and again in Spring (usually April) because of the meat sales the local grocery stores have. We buy in bulk and then portion it out using our vacuum sealer so that nothing gets freezer burnt. We don’t buy steaks – we buy a roast and cut steaks off of it. We make stew meat packs and even save the larger fat chunks I carve off the roasts to be used later on in either some dog food or when making certain meals. Don’t forget to date your sealed packages!

Foraging and Hunting – In the summer, we gather berries and fish. In the Fall, we hunt deer. The freezer is an integral part of all of it! It will hold things until we can further process it.

Prep Tool – We use the freezer as a great way to do some prep work on different foods, as well as storage space until we can get back to it. For example, we freeze our berries in single layers on cookie sheets before putting them into a bag. This makes a huge difference in handling, measuring, and processing them into jams and jellies.

When I make jerky, I use the freezer to partially freeze the steak sized pieces of meat so they’re easier to slice thin. It helps avoid cutting yourself and makes for consistent thickness on the slices, due to the increased control you have.

Our Homestead Freezer Cycle

March/April: In March, I know the next meat sale is coming up soon. I get into my freezers to pull anything out that is nearing the one year mark or is freezer burnt (rarely happens). This will be pressure canned to extend the shelf life of the food another 18-24 months! I’m making room! If you’d like to know more about canning meat, click here.  I make a list of what items I am low on or out of shop to get us through until October. Salmon is smoked and canned, meat is made into meals-in-a-jar or canned for later use.

May/June: The meat that was nearing a year old has been removed and processed, and the freezer restocked with meat recently purchased. Room has been made for the BERRIES!! In May and June, the salmonberries are ripe and ready for picking. (Not sure what a salmonberry is? Click here!) The fish have started to return to the area with King Salmon being the first. We try to get at least half a dozen of these beauties to be filleted and vacuum seal. King Salmon (also called Chinook salmon) have a nice, firm meat that holds even through smoking and canning. We have all 5 species of salmon:

July/August: Summer is in full swing and so is the use of the freezer! Blueberries and huckleberries are added to the mix, as are coho/silver salmon. We feed our dogs salmon mixed in with their dry food (talk about shiny coats!), as well as fillet some for ourselves.

We also start to see some early veggies that are blanched and frozen in vacuum seal packs. I don’t freeze much, preferring to can it instead, but the ‘fresh frozen’ is a nice change of pace. I loooove to pickle food too; it’s incredibly easy! We also fish for halibut, cod, and drop shrimp and crab pots.

September/October: The harvest is just about over in my zone (7b) by the end of September and things are winding down in the garden. In between batches of canning, I am able to turn my focus back onto the freezer and start getting it emptied out of berries and anything else I can process up. I check all the dates on vacuum sealed meat at the same time.

The berries are made into jams and jellies and any meat nearing the one year mark. Needless to say, this is the time of year my canner is going full boil (pun intended) for days on end! Cases of delicious food that I processed myself is incredibly rewarding to put up on the shelf. I haven’t bought jams, jellies, or any kind of stock (meat or vegetable) in years.

In October, my freezer is about emptied out of anything needing processed to make room for the big meat sale. I always make sure to leave some room, though!

November/December: Every year, we try to hunt some deer to help supplement and fill the freezer (hence why I always save space this time of year). There’s also the turkey and ham for the holidays! Leftovers of either kind of meat is packaged and frozen to be used later. I love making turkey and dumplings in February! Why February? Because by then, you aren’t sick of turkey!

January/February: We have come around full circle. This time of year, not much happens with the freezer, other than taking food out to be eaten. On the off chance we go fishing, anything caught goes into the freezer. I do take stock of what we have and what we will need coming up to the next meat sale, along with enjoying a little down time. 🙂


Thoughts? Questions? We thoroughly enjoy hearing from the readers and are here to help as best as we can on your homesteading journey and dreams! Drop us a comment below: we see every single one!




5 Things You Should Never Water Bath Can

I’ve learned an awful lot about canning over the last few years! From falsely sealed lids to broken jars, I’ve definitely had my share of bumps in the road. Thankfully, no one has ever gotten sick from any of my mistakes. I chalk that up to being a stickler for doing things right and not taking risks. Through it all, I’ve also learned there are certain things you should never water bath can. Ever.

5-things-you-should-never-water-bath-can

Now, before people start in with “But my grandmother did thus-and-so and we never got sick!” let me be clear: Just because it was done in a certain way back in the day doesn’t mean it is the ‘right’ way. Times change, new information is learned, better equipment is available and so on. The food itself also changes over time. That is the nature of life – always changing and adapting! The potatoes you eat today are assuredly not what they were like 100 years ago. Even if you take out the chemical factor, there would still be differences.

The main reason these 5 foods listed below shouldn’t be water bath canned is because they don’t have enough acid in them to inhibit bacteria growth. You need to have a high acid environment for water bath canning. Pressure canning is different because the temperature gets much higher and you also process for considerably longer. For more information about the difference between water bath canning and pressure canning, click here!

Meat

Meat is one of the foods that should always, without question, be pressure canned. Never water bath canned. The reason is because of the lack of acidity. Bacteria can more easily grow inside the food, even cooked meat, unless brought up to 240 degrees F and then sealed.

The wonderful world of home canned meat creates shelf stable protein that doesn’t require refrigeration. You can just pop open a jar, heat and eat! It also extends the life of the food you already paid for by at least 12 months. If you don’t have very much meat to process and don’t want to waste the time for just a few jars, consider making meals in a jar instead! The processing time is the same so why not make some ready to eat meals of your own?!

Stock (Meat or Vegetable)

Vegetable and meat stocks are another thing that should never be water bath canned. Even though, especially with vegetables, you are basically boiling water, the bottom line is a water bath canner doesn’t get the contents hot enough to ensure all bacteria has been neutralized. It’s not worth getting sick!

Green Beans

Yes, I know. Your grandmother, great grandmother, aunts, and cousins’ mothers all water bath canned green beans and there were just fine. No sickness. I understand that. How you choose to can your food is up to you and I don’t judge. To each their own. For myself, I follow the USDA standards found here. Now, I don’t claim to be perfect. Far from it! I do, however, do my best to follow the standards and the guide that came with my pressure canner.

There IS a way you can water bath can your green beans though! Make Dilly Beans! Pickled green beans are delicious!

Carrots

Who doesn’t love opening their pantry and seeing jars of bright orange carrots smiling back at them? Carrots are one of my most favorite things to grow but they have about as much acidity as a piece of paper. Therefore, they should always be pressure canned. Thankfully, they take considerably less time than canning meat does.

Again, if you pickle the carrots, you can water bath can them. Otherwise, it’s the pressure canner to be safe!

Tomatoes

Many will balk at this one. “But Homestead Dreamer, tomatoes are full of acid. No bacteria can grow! Water bath canning is how <insert relative here> always did it!”

While it’s common knowledge that tomatoes have a higher acidity level than most vegetables, the truth is that most tomatoes sold in stores are low-acid varieties. There are some ways you can still water bath can them, such as adding lemon juice or ascorbic acid to them, but is the risk really worth it?

Tomatoes also don’t take very long to pressure can and I would rather have peace of mind versus saving an hour’s worth of time and potentially having to toss the whole batch later. Better safe than sorry!


If you would like to learn more about canning, try one of the links below!

Water Bath Canning vs Pressure Canning

Unraveling the Mystery: Water Bath Canning

Going From a Complete Newbie to a Confident Canner




Longest Shelf Life? Whole Foods!

In a perfect world, food would never go bad. You could just leave it wherever and it would be perfectly fine even six months later. Unfortunately, the world doesn’t work that way. For homesteaders and preppers alike, trying to find the food with the longest shelf life is a never ending challenge.

Longest Shelf Life? Whole Foods!

In our efforts to be as self reliant as is reasonable, and looking for new ways to keep the bills down, I first focused on different food preservation methods. Then, I sought out the right equipment. Though some of the food preservation equipment took a little to save for, the payback has been incredible! I’ve learned so much from reading and then experimenting over the last few years. Today’s article is intended to introduce people to the concept of storing whole foods versus processed products for their emergency plans. If you aren’t going to use it up in the first year, you may want to reconsider

In our efforts to get away from the boxed and canned (store bought) food, I learned about canning my own, using a vacuum sealer to the fullest, and dehydrating. I haven’t bought sage, basil, or oregano in years! When you pay almost $6 for a 2 oz. bottle of ground sage, your perspective tends to change.

While all of this is good and wonderful, increasing shelf life with things like mylar bags and food storage buckets will only take you so far. I started wondering what, if anything, I could do to try and increase the shelf life (and stability) further. As usual, I took to the internet to research all I could! Here is what I found.

The Longest Shelf Life Starts with Whole Foods

Have you seen those large tins of flour that claim to last 10+ years? Just because they’re factory sealed doesn’t mean it will last for a long time. Though the food may technically be edible in 10 years, it doesn’t mean there will be any nutrition or taste like you’d expect.

The point is: when food is broken down from its whole form, the clock has started ticking. Though the enemies of food storage are a constant threat to any food, once you start to process whole foods, the clock picks up speed. Consider whole coffee beans versus ground coffee. Which one will last longer? Retain more flavor and what about nutritional value?

Preserving your food for the long term is wonderful but wouldn’t you make it that much better if you could? If you have these items in your long term storage, consider switching them out with the whole-food alternative.

Coffee Grounds – Store whole beans instead of ground coffee! The oils will stay intact longer. When you grind it down, it releases the oils and fragrance (which equals flavor) and allows more oxygen and moisture to get in there which breaks it down. Note: If you want to store for very long term (more than 5 years), consider storing green coffee beans that haven’t been roasted yet.

Flour – Flour is the same as coffee in that once you grind it, the quality begins to fade. Storing wheat berries is a much better option, for several reasons. First, it takes up less room than ground flour (1 cup wheat berries = 1.25 cups ground flour +/-), second the berries last considerably longer as is, and finally, the overall cost is lower.

Corn Flour/Meal – Storing whole kernels is the way to go! Much like wheat berries versus flour, whole kernels can be stored instead of pre-ground. There is so much you can do with these simple ingredients, it makes sense to have them in whole form and grind as needed.

White Rice (Not Brown) – This is one area that is an exception. White rice will last longer on the shelf than brown rice will. Though brown rice is more nutritional than white, the process that makes the white rice actually increases its shelf life! Brown rice in mylar bags can last 1 – 3 years whereas white rice in mylar can last 25-30!

Take a look at your pantry and see what kinds of things you can store in their whole food form instead. Consider how certain meals will actually taste even better because you are using freshly ground ingredients or freshly processed from their raw state!

There have been several people asking about this topic and I would love to hear some tips and tricks in the comments below and I know others will appreciate the ideas, too!




Unraveling the Mystery: Make Your Own Vinegar

Vinegar (a French word for “sour wine”) is one of those things that is largely taken for granted. Once upon a time, vinegar was a ‘must have’ for any kitchen – and not just for cooking with. In fact, vinegar was used for all manner of cleaning, food preservation, and even used for medicinal purposes! It’s a great all around thing to have but to make your own vinegar – now that is one heck of a skill to have. The upside is making vinegar is pretty darn easy!

Make Your Own Vinegar

I’ve done a little in the area of making my own apple cider vinegar (using apple scraps, no less!) last year when I made apple cider vinegar. It turned out really well, I was so proud of my little self! When I tried to make it a second time, it didn’t go so well because I didn’t ensure the apples were fully submerged. This year, when apples go on sale and I start making apple sauce, apple butter, and canning apple pie filling, I plan on making a bunch of the vinegar from the peels and cores. I love it when you can take the ‘waste’ and make something useful out of it!

There are pretty much two types of vinegar starts: Those started with grain and those started with fruit.

I remember having a bad sunburn as a kid. Grandma diluted some white vinegar in water and then smoothed it over my red, angry skin. The cooling feeling of it gave me so much relief, I remember crying because it felt so good. I also remember using it on newspapers to clean glass with, again from grandma. Vinegar is highly acidic and yet still mild, and there are so many non food uses for it! Now that I’m older, I started wondering how white vinegar is made. How all vinegars are made. What I learned is pretty darn cool and so easy, it makes you ask why everyone doesn’t just make their own! Chances are pretty good that you have everything you need in your house already, too.

As we do with all of the “Unraveling the Mystery” articles, we will first dive into the science of vinegar, then cover the equipment needed and the process to make your own vinegar, and lastly, provide you with some links to different kinds of vinegar you can make!

The Science of Vinegar

Vinegar is made via fermentation. Some might call it “ultra” fermenting because vinegar is what happens to alcohol when it’s been left too long. Firs the sugars Vinegarmake the alcohol, and then the acid makes it into vinegar. Ever have a bottle of sour wine? That’s the start of vinegar. There’s some kind of joke there, I’m sure of it. 😉

To ferment, you need sugar for yeast to eat. That process turns the liquid into alcohol. Once the yeast and sugar have done their dance, the first stage is over. The second stage of making vinegar is letting acetobacter, a harmless bacteria, feed on the alcohol. This process is what makes the vinegar and gives it that sour, distinct taste and scent. Instead of sugary, now it’s acidic. Instead of making a sticky mess, now it cleans sticky messes up. Ah, science!

If you would like to get a more technical explanation on what happens at the microscopic level, you can check out the Wiki page that will tell you all about it (and more!).

There are pretty much two kinds of vinegar types: Those made with fermented grain (rice, corn, etc) and those made with fermented fruit (apples, etc). The fruit or grain is fermented, strained, then sometimes fermented again. You can infuse vinegars with different flavors after fermentation, too.There are numerous ways to make vinegar that are used the world over. Whichever method you choose, there are certain things you need to use (not not use) during the process to end up with your own homemade vinegar.

The Equipment and Process

The equipment needed is pretty minimal, unless you’re doing something overly fancy. It’s easy to buy a bunch of ‘gadgets’ for making vinegar but the truth is, you really don’t need it! Chances are good you already have what you need.

The Equipment

You will need:

  • Fruit or grain you plan on fermenting
  • Glass, plastic, or pottery bowl(s) and utensils. NO METAL
  • A double boiler (or a pot within a pot will work just as well). Typically used for vinegar made with grain.
  • Fine Mesh Strainer
  • Cheesecloth or other filter to strain out the fine pieces
  • Measuring cups, clean cloth, mixing bowl(s)
  • VERY CLEAN AREA*
  • Jars or bottles to put the vinegar in when it’s ready.
  • Time
  • Some may want to use fermentation airlocks (though not generally needed in my opinion)

Depending on what you’re making, there may be things here you don’t need and some items not listed that you do need. It would be pretty easy to write a book about making vinegar. The purpose of this post is to show you how easy it is to make your own, not to cover all possibilities.

*You are dealing with fermentation. You want to ensure only the bacteria you want gets into the mix!

The Process

I cannot stress enough how important it is to have a clean working area. Fermentation requires certain bacteria, especially for the second round of fermenting. Also, the use of any metal is a vinegar making no-no. The reason for this is because you are dealing with acidic liquid and when metal comes in contact with it, the chemistry changes. Trust me on this one, it will mess up your batch.

It’s very satisfying to make your own vinegar!

Fruit based vinegar: Mix your sugar and water. Put your fruit (or fruit scraps) into the bowl or jar you’re using. Pour in your sugar mixture (generally 1 TBL to 1 cup of water) until it completely covers the fruit. Make sure to leave some headspace, too! Loosely cover with cheesecloth or maybe a coffee filter. Put it away in a place that will be warm and dark for about 2 weeks. You can stir it every other day if you like. A layer may form on the top, simply skim it off. It’s totally normal.

After 2 weeks, you will be able smell the vinegar but it won’t have the tang you want just yet. It needs another fermentation period but this time, without fruit! Strain the liquid well and then put back into the cupboard, loosely covered, for another 2 weeks (minimum). If it isn’t as tangy or scented the way you prefer, simply let it sit longer!

Rough, right? Grain based vinegar is a little more involved but still easy enough to get it started in an afternoon.

Grain based vinegar: There is more to it when you are using a grain to make your vinegar with. Other than the normal two step fermentation process, you may also need to distill the vinegar which can be rather dangerous. Most people who make their own tend toward using a fruit instead of a grain for this very reason. I don’t know too many people who have a still, let alone know how to safely use it.

White vinegar is generally what you end up with when using grain and an alcohol base. It tends to be very clear and strong, much like what you can buy in the store. The difference is the vinegar in the store is sped up with chemicals and other additives to turn it into something sellable more quickly. The downside is the chemical use, the upside is white vinegar is very inexpensive.


There is so much you can do with this amazing liquid and it’s very satisfying when you make your own vinegar. This article has only made one tiny scratch in the surface of the world of vinegar and I don’t claim to know or have experience with it all – that would be quite the dedication! Even though I may not understand every tiny detail, I feel pretty confident in making and using my own. One less thing to buy at the store!

Additional Resources




5 Kinds of Seeds We Eat (And Can Grow More Of!)

You probably don’t realize just how many seeds you actually eat. It might not have occurred to you that when you are eating chili, those kidney beans are actually seeds! The seeds we eat span across almost all types of vegetative categories. Legumes, grains, nuts, and even flower seeds are all something most people enjoy.

The 5 Kinds of Seeds We Eat

  • Beans (Legumes) This includes all beans, lentils, peanuts, and peas.

  • Grains (Corn, Oats, Barley) Rice also falls under this one but you have to get the right kind of grain (steel chopped isn’t exactly able to grow)

  • Nuts (Walnuts, Almond, etc) In raw form, these are seeds you can plant to grow more!

  • Vegetable Seeds (Pumpkin seeds, squash, etc). Often baked, seasoned, and enjoyed!

  • Flower Seeds (Mostly as a Spice) Celery, cloves, poppyseed, sunflower, etc.

While many of these seeds come to us in an altered form, if you can get them whole, you can plant them. Certain edible seeds, like beans, can be cooked, sprouted and eaten, or sprouted with the intention of growing and harvesting more beans. Oats, on the other hand, have to be a certain kind to be able to actually grow a sprout. If they are steel chopped or parboiled, the seed portion is dead and the edible goodness left behind. Peanuts out of the ground are plantable, boiled or baked peanuts aren’t.

One of the great things about eating seeds is that you have a stockpile (generally speaking) of seeds that could be planted at any time. Keep in mind that some foods we eat have been treated with chemicals and may make the seed no longer viable for growth. Do some research to be sure about it before you buy!

This is fantastic for both Homesteaders and Preppers alike: it’s very easy to store some beans or dried peas, some lentils or rice*. Not only is it food, it will grow even more food! One great way to make your food stretch and cut down waste is to sprout your beans first. There will be more food due to growth and it’s very tasty and good for you. Sprouted beans or barley make for some really great flavor in your favorite dish, too!

As stated above, many seeds some to us in an unplantable state. Many have been hulled or shelled. Some have been parboiled, baked, fried, or otherwise altered by heat that renders the seed ‘dead.’ So while you can grab a handful of pinto beans from the bag at the store and plant them (I’ve done it and yes, they produced pods I was able to dry!), popping open a jar of celery seed isn’t going to grow you a crop of celery! Side Note: Celery Seed isn’t from traditional celery. (source)

The downside to growing almost all of the items listed above is that the plants take up an incredible amount of space when compared to what you get out of them. Your pinto bean plant takes up the same amount of space as a green bean plant (generally speaking) and yet you get far more food from the green beans than you do from the pinto beans due to the drying process. Sunflowers are another one: they take up a huge amount of space but once you’ve processed it all, the few cups of seeds per plant may not be worth the garden space it took up. That is for each person to decide. I personally love seeing their bright and happy flowery faces staring drunk up at the sun in the middle of summer.

The seeds we grow around here include green beans and peas for the most part. Once we move to our dream homestead though, that will change considerably!

*Brown rice is the only one that will sprout. White rice and wild rice are no longer viable seeds.

Do you grow any seeds to eat? Give us a comment and share your story below!




Pressure Canning on Electric vs Propane Stoves

We recently (finally) purchased a stove for the new house and I am thrilled to be able to cook and bake normally again. The only catch is it’s propane and not electric. We chose it on purpose and I don’t have any problems with cooking on propane but canning was a whole new game. I learned how to can on an electric stove and admit I was a little apprehensive about having to deal with the learning curve of electric vs propane stoves when it came to pressure canning.

Pressure_Canning_on_Electric_vs._Propane_Stoves

I’ve gone 7 months without canning anything and the withdrawals were getting serious. At least, serious enough to motivate me into canning up some pinto beans up 2 days after the stove was installed. I chose beans as my first canning session on the new stove in the new house because:

  • They’re inexpensive. If something goes wrong, the loss is minimal.
  • They’re super easy to do and take very little prep time (see below for how I can dry beans!).
  • We only have one jar left in the pantry and we eat them about once a week in various dishes.

So I’m off! I get everything I need ready to go and load the canner up with 7 pints. Normally, I would fill my awesome canner to capacity but since this was a trial run and I didn’t want to lose a bunch of jars, I went with less. Noting the time, I fire the stove up and then sit down to wait for it to start boiling so I can vent it for 10 minutes. Drop the knocker on and then sit back to wait for it to get close to 11 pounds of pressure. A mere 6 minutes after putting the knocker on, I’m at pressure! It took 26 minutes from the time I turned the stove on to being at pressure and starting my timer for the beans. I.Couldn’t.Believe.It.

Canning on a propane stove is faster to get to pressure, easier to control, and is more cost effective!

Anyone who has canned on an electric stove knows that it’s a yoyo game of trying to dial in the right temperature. Even after you get used to what setting the knob should be on to maintain constant pressure, it still takes tweaking and sometimes just sitting there while it processes. Heat is constantly coursing around the coils, ebbing and flowing, which can make the pressure drop below the desired number.

Speaking of hitting and maintaining the second number, I have never been able to really keep it at 11 pounds of pressure. By the time I would get things equalized out, it would be at 12 or 13 but I didn’t want to fiddle with it and just left it. Pressure canning on a propane stove doesn’t require such constant babysitting, I’m thrilled to say! I was able to set it and leave it be for 20 minutes before checking on it. When I came back, it had risen a little bit but not enough to do anything about. I checked half an hour after that and it had risen to a little over 12 pounds so I lowered the flame a smidge. On the third check (now 1 hour and 15 minutes in), it had lowered back down to 11 pounds and that was it! Before, I would basically sit in the kitchen the entire time, no matter how long it took for processing (meat also takes a long time).

My overall experience mirrors others I’ve read about: pressure canning on electric vs. propane stoves is a no brainer! Propane is the clear choice between the two. I didn’t realize it but I learned how to do it the hard way first so switching over to propane truly felt like a breeze. It’s not only (much!) faster for getting to pressure, it’s also easier to control and uses less energy. Our tank of propane will last us over a year versus paying the electric bill monthly that used to get pretty high during the harvest and heavy canning season. You don’t have to move the heavy canner off the burner when it’s done processing, either. Just turn the propane off. It seemed to lose pressure more quickly, too. Could be because there is more air underneath it than on an electric stove. If you have the choice, go propane.

Canning_Beans_on_Propane_Stove“What’s the catch?”, you might ask. Well, you need to do it in an area where the wind won’t be blowing the flame around. That can make it fluctuate more than you’d like, which I learned from having the fan on when it first came to pressure. Also, you need to have a burner that will get low enough (tiny flame) to keep the pressure steady. Most propane burners have an additional flame adjustment, check the manufacturer’s information to make sure you do it right.

Other than that, there really are no “cons” to pressure canning on a propane stove and plenty of “pros.” I’m hooked!


Pressure Canning Dry Beans

As promised, here is how I pressure can my beans. Please note that, as my canning friend over at Simply Canning says, “There are no canning police!” Use good judgement and safe practices when canning any food to avoid getting sick. That being said, my method for canning dry beans varies a little from what my canning book says. It says for “dry beans,” you are to boil them for two minutes and then soak for an hour before processing. I skip that step.

I usually can jars of beans as a filler to ensure my canner is always full when I process a batch to maximize the energy used compared to what I get out of it. Plus, it is very fast to fill the jar and add it to the canner if you find you have extra space. The seasonings and added ingredients to the jars are my own preferences. Due to the length of processing time, any vegetable you want to toss in there will be plenty cooked through, too. Be careful what spices you use when canning though, as some will make your food inedible!

Ingredients

Dry beans – Pinto, kidney, northern, navy, lima…you get the idea.

Vegetables – Carrots, onion, celery

Seasonings – Pepper, basil, rosemary, garlic, etc. I personally never use salt unless I am canning salmon.

For Pint Jars

Measure a heaping 1/3rd cup of the dry beans into the jar. Add in your vegetables but keep in mind that you don’t want to fill the jar more than halfway. Just under half is best, due to the expansion of the beans. Add seasonings: always add less than you think you should. It’s easier to add more than to take away. Fill with water, leaving 1 inch headspace as normal. I like to use my homemade vegetable stock (if I have enough). Process for 75 minutes at the pressure suited for your elevation. Under 1,000 feet is 11 pounds pressure.

For Quart Jars

Measure out a heaping 1/2 cup or slightly less than 3/4 cup dry beans. Follow the same instructions as for pints but increase your processing time to 90 minutes at 11 pounds of pressure if under 1,000 above sea level.

BONUS: We love to pressure can meals in a jar that include meat, beans, carrots and onions, garlic, and other fresh edibles from the garden and so can you!