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




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!




Make 5 Foods with 5 Ingredients (from Scratch!)

You know those days when you stare in your cupboards, seeing only the most basic ingredients, and declare there is “nothing to eat?” Yeah…me too. The things is, over the last 4 years, I have made it part of my habit to learn how to make the things we love most ourselves. Through that, I have learned how to take the basic ingredients and make some pretty cool stuff! I can make 5 foods with 5 ingredients and almost every house will already have what they need!

Make 5 Foods with 5 Ingredients (from Scratch!)

We have come so far away from where we used to be when it came to cooking. I mean real cooking, not opening a box or aluminum can to heat and eat. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love the convenience of it but I don’t care for the chemical taste anymore (so I started making my own meals in a jar!). I’m a big girl and my love of TV dinners, hot pockets, and pizza is evident and won’t be fixed overnight. We have gotten so deeply ingrained to a homesteading lifestyle that when we do splurge and get a TV Dinner, we are less than enthused about it. In fact, last week we decided not to get something quick and easy to eat. Though I was incredibly tired, I wanted something that would taste good, and not just so-so. The greatest compliment my husband has recently given me is saying he would rather not get take out because it just wouldn’t be as good as what I make. Oh yes, he got an exceptional dinner that night. 😉

OK so on to it! What are these magic ingredients and what can you make with them?

The Ingredients

  • Flour
  • Sugar
  • Egg
  • Milk (powdered or liquid)
  • Butter/Lard/Shortening

The Foods You Can Make

Truthfully, there’s much more you can do with these basic ingredients than what I’ve listed here. If you can add one or two other basic ingredients, the possibilities increase rapidly! One of my favorite sites to help me with figuring out what the heck to make using only what I have on hand is Supercook.com. Input the ingredients you have available and then get a list of recipes you can make using only what you have. It helps stretch the budget out and introduces new ways to make sure nothing is wasted. Plus, you’re likely gong to learn some new recipes for cooking from scratch and that is always a bonus!

 




Making Flour Tortillas from Scratch

Don’t you hate it when you have plans to make something for dinner, have everything prepped and then realize you forgot a key component? What’s even worse is you are flat broke and can’t go buy what you need, let alone spare the fumes in the car to get there and back. Ya…that happened to me last week but it turned out to be an eye opening and very fun experience. I had a crash course in making flour tortillas from scratch.

Making_Flour_Tortillas_from_Scratch

Necessity is the mother of all invention, as the saying goes and it certainly applies to this case. I needed flour tortillas to complete this masterpiece of home-cooked goodness I was expertly concocting. No, really. My refried beans and burger mixture is so good that people use it as a chip dip and the makings for both tacos and burritos. Maybe I’ll share it with you sometime but this article is all about the awesome experience of making flour tortillas from scratch!

I was in a rut and needed a solution so, naturally, I went to the internet. I admit I did check my cookbooks to make sure there was a recipe for them there, too. Anyway, off I went and found a recipe that was, to my surprise, very similar to the recipe I use to make crackers from scratch! I thought, “Wait, if making flour tortillas is as easy as making crackers… WHY didn’t I do this sooner!”

I cannot stress this enough to you. STOP PAYING those insanely exorbitant prices of flour tortialls at the grocery store. Here, an 8 pack of taco size flour shells will run you around $4. Making the same amount yourself in the same size for ohhh….thirty cents? Let me show it to you this way: Store bought – $4. Homemade – $0.30. That means you are paying $3.70 for convenience, preservatives, and questionable ingredients. I’m not saying it is bad to pay for convenience. What I am saying is this simple recipe can be easily made and customized.

The ingredients are as follows:

  • 4 C. Flour
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1 1/2 C Water
  • 2 TBL Lard (there are lard-less recipes out there, too!)
  • 2 tsp Baking Powder

Whisk the flour, salt, and baking powder together in a mixing bowl. Mix in the lard with your fingers until the flour resembles cornmeal. Add the water and mix until the dough comes together; place on a lightly floured surface and knead a few minutes until smooth and elastic. Divide the dough into 24 equal pieces and roll each piece into a ball.

Preheat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Use a well-floured rolling pin to roll a dough ball into a thin, round tortilla. Place into the hot skillet, and cook until bubbly and golden; flip and continue cooking until golden on the other side. Place the cooked tortilla in a tortilla warmer; continue rolling and cooking the remaining dough. (source)

That’s it. Mix the lard in with the salt and flour until it looks like cornmeal. Now, the original recipe says not to use shortening but it was all I had. I used double the amount of shortening than the measurement called for in lard. Then you add part of the water, mix, add a little more, and mix until the dough forms a ball. Knead it a few times to make sure it’s fully mixed on a lightly floured counter top. Let it sit for 10 minutes.

Heat a skillet up without any oil; it’s not needed due to the lard (or in my case shortening). Pinch off a golf ball size of dough and roll it out using a well floured rolling pin. Thickness is a personal preference. I suggest you go thinner to start with. Once rolled out, put it in the hot skillet until it’s browned (but not too crunchy*). Flip it over and do the same on the other side. Repeat until done!

It’s best to store them in a tortilla warmer so they don’t get too crunchy or dry out. If you don’t have one, place a clean kitchen towel on a plate and fold over the tortillas as they are done. If not large enough, another towel on the top will work, too.

*I think because I used shortening that the one I let get really brown broke when I tried to fold it around the burrito filling. Lard wouldn’t have likely done that as easily.

CUSTOMIZE TO YOUR TASTE

So, after I made these and got over the fact that I should’ve been making my own for years, my imagination started to go. Just like with the crackers, it would be incredibly simple to tailor these to suit whatever it is you were making. Think about all you could really do with it! Flavors like oregano and rosemary, garlic and black pepper….the possibilties are truly endless. But you can go even further than that!

What about substituting some of the white flour with wheat? I know from experience that it will make the dough thicker and more elastic. That could make for a harder time rolling it out so you wouldn’t want to make it half white and half wheat. You would end up with more of a bread than a tortilla. Another thing you could do is use some corn meal, say 1/2 a cup’s worth substituted for the same amount of flour. It would give it a good flavor! So many options!

Do you make your own flour tortillas? Corn? Share below!!




Getting 4 Different Meals From One Roast

In our household, there are just the two of us to cook for. It seems no matter what I do, there is always enough leftover for at least one more adult to eat. Though we don’t mind leftovers, eating the same thing for three days straight doesn’t exactly get your appetite roused. I do my best when we buy meat twice a year to vacuum seal it into portions small enough for the two of us and still, there are leftovers. I had to use some imagination to turn a roast or loin into 4 different meals.

Getting_4_Different_Meals_from_One_Roast

I know, first world problems, right? Food plays a huge role in our morale, though. Anyone who has gone without something they love for a long time tends to get giddy when the idea of having their favorite food again comes up. Take chocolate, for example. Imagine going without it for 6 months and then getting a Hershey’s bar. It would be better than Christmas and birthday wrapped up in one!

Recently, I pulled out a pork loin. We take a whole loin, cut it into thirds, and then vacuum seal them. That is still a good amount of meat for only two people. Oh sure, I may cut some off and boil or cook it plain for a nice dog treat but even then, we still have too much for one meal. We’ve done it and got sick of eating ‘pork roast’ for three nights. I swore the next time, I would do something different. Following is what I came up with to ensure we wouldn’t feel like we were eating the same thing. It worked so well, we didn’t even notice we were eating pork 4 nights in a row! The best part is nothing went to waste (from leftovers not being eaten).


Night 1 – Pork Steaks

After the loin was thawed, I cut three nice pork steaks off it, leaving a good 2/3rd of the loin left. Since I knew I was going to use the rest of it within a few days, I stored it in a tupperware-type container. I marinated the steaks, grilled them up and had home-canned green beans and applesauce as sides.

Night 2 – Fried Pork and Noodles

There are so many ways you can make this meal. I took the leftover pork steak that wasn’t eaten the night before and cut it into small cubes, maybe half an inch or so. The steaks were pretty thick and it ended up being a good amount. Take a small skillet and put a little olive oil in, just enough to give a good coating on the bottom when warm. Bring it to medium heat and add the cubed pork in there with some favorite seasonings. We looove garlic so added some powdered garlic, fresh onion, and black pepper. NO SALT. Get them good and hot in the pan so the garlic and seasonings stick to the meat, set aside.

I admit we cheated on this one (no one is perfect, don’t judge! 😉 ) and used ramen noodles. While the pork was frying, I heated water to a boil and made the noodles. Just before they were done (and before I added the seasoning packet), I cracked two eggs into the water and whisked them around with a fork, kind of like an egg drop soup. Once the egg was cooked, the pork was added along with the season packets (hence why you don’t add any more salt) and let it come back to heat for a moment before serving. Some people prefer to scramble their eggs before adding it to the broth. Don’t know it ’til you try it. It is an incredibly inexpensive and filling meal.

Night 3 – Shredded Quesadillas

On the morning of day three, I took the rest of the loin and put it into the crock pot with some onions, celery, and homemade vegetable stock to slow cook all day long. When I got home (it smelled so good when I walked in), I drained off the broth and shredded the whole thing up. The onions and celery that hadn’t liquified already was taken care of in the shredding.

Quesadillas are pretty straightforward. A flour tortilla, some shredded pork, and grated cheese over that. I also added some fresh onion. You can put all sorts of things like bell pepper slices or cabbage – just about anything your heart desires! Make sure there is some shredded cheese on top before you put the other tortilla on top. Heat it up until it browns on the bottom, then flip it over. When both sides are browned, crunchy, and the cheese is melted, it’s done!

Serve with sour cream and salsa. We used about half of the shredded pork up that night.

Night 4 – Open Face BBQ Pork Sandwiches

It does not get any easier than this. Take the leftover shredded pork and add your favorite BBQ sauce. Mix well. Toast or pan fry some bread to get it crunchy and add the BBQ pork on top. Add a slice of cheese and broil or put into a toaster oven until the cheese is melted. Serve with a salad!


 

It was a huge success! I started thinking of ways I could do the same kind of thing with a beef roast, a whole chicken, ham, a turkey… The possibilities are truly endless. It’s just a matter of preparing the larger portion of meat in a way that is easily changed to taste differently. It all depends on what spices you use and changing the texture of it (shredded versus a cut of steak for example) will make it seem like you are eating something entirely different each night.

Do any of you do things like this? I want to know about it! Give me a comment below; let’s get some great ideas going!




Cooking with Home Canned Food

Cooking with food you canned yourself is a real joy to experience.Not everyone has experience or are intimidated by cooking home canned food. When it is cold and snowy in the middle of February, is there anything better than opening a jar of jam you made yourself? The sweet taste of summer teases your senses and makes your heart yearn for the warmth of the sun and digging in the garden!  

Cooking with Home Canned Food

Most food that is water bath canned is pretty straightforward when it comes to consumption. Pickles, jam, sauerkraut, applesauce…all are open-and-eat foods but what about the stuff you pressure canned? Meats, veggies, sauces…it can be a challenge for some to know what to make with all of it. Sure, you could also open-and-eat these but I don’t know many people that pop open a jar of carrots and eat them for a snack. It’s easy to look at those beautiful jars and see the carrots, the canned pork, and beans but still be stumped on what to make. It happens even if you are looking at a cupboard full of boxed and processed foods so it’s pretty understandable that cooking with home canned foods may be a bigger challenge.

The idea that people may have some problems figuring out what to make with food they preserved is well known to me. When I first began this journey, I had no idea how to eat very healthy (other than salads, etc.) or how to cook a lot of different things with whole foods. I was 100% a typical overweight American who lived off all things frozen, pre-packaged, and preserved with chemicals. I used to joke that I would starve if I was locked in a health food store because I had no idea what to do with 75% of the food there. Thankfully, I kept at it and learned.

Not all of my experiments were successful (my poor husband haha!) and resulted in a meal that, while edible, was anything but tasty. A fine example would be pressure canned beans and rice with canned pork. What a gloopy, gobby mess that turned out to be! Too much salt, then too much pepper, then rice added (dry) to help take some of the salt out that ended up soaking all the liquid up and making the whole mess form into some high school science experiment gone very, very wrong. I kept at it though and have come up with some really great ways to use up all that food you worked so hard to grow and preserve.

A real eye opener for me was how fast meals were ready when I used jarred food I processed. Some of you may be saying, “There’s no difference between cooking with your jar of carrots versus an aluminum can of carrots bought at the store. You cook the same with both!”

They would be both right and wrong.

There is a difference in taste, color, and chemical content. Canned green beans from the store taste and cook differently. I can cook jarred green beans in a crock pot, on high, for 10 hours and it keeps its shape and flavor whereas with store bought cans of green beans, after a few hours, any stirring will cause it to break apart and turn to mush. I admit the bragging rights are a nice bonus. 😉 There is also the difference that comes with the knowledge that what you are eating is much healthier, tastes better, and you just took a shot at big food companies by making your own ‘convenience’ foods!

*Please note that I cook for only 2-3 people. Adjust amounts as needed and desired. Recipes below are suggestions.

Vegetable Soup

  • 1 pint Carrots
  • 1 pint Green Beans
  • ½ pint Peas
  • 1 quart Tomato Juice (V-8 is a fantastic substitute!)
  • Any other veggies you want to add
  • Any spices you want to add

Directions: Pop the jars open and drain water. Combine all ingredients in a crock pot or a pot on the stove. Add spices and bring the whole thing to heat. Allow it to simmer for at least 20 minutes.

HD Notes: I will combine the above ingredients into my crock pot in the morning and set it on low to cook all day long but I have also dumped it all into a pot on the stove, heated it up and let it simmer about 30 minutes before serving. There is so much you can do with this!

Meat and Gravy Over….

  • 1 pint Beef (Pork also works well for this!)
  • 1 pint Vegetable (your choice)
  • 1 quart Potato cubes
  • Corn Starch
  • Spices to taste
  • Optional: Instead of potatoes, you can use pasta or rice

Pop open your jar of canned meat and pour the whole thing into a saucepan or pot (I don’t use spiced when I make batches of canned meat). Assuming you use a pint jar, measure a heaping half teaspoon of cornstarch and mix into 2 teaspoons of water. Add it to the meat. Turn the heat to medium and let it get to a good simmer. The cornstarch will thicken the broth into a lovely gravy. Once you see it start to thicken, turn the heat back and make sure to stir. Total simmer time should be around 5 minutes or so. Let stand to thicken.

Pop open your jar of vegetables and heat them up as preferred. The potatoes can be heated and left as is in cube form or you can mash them up (drain the water first!) after heating them. You can also fry them up in a little olive oil though it tends to get messy. If you are going for jarred potatoes, mashing them after heating them up tends to be easier.

Season all to taste! Your meat and gravy is served over the potatoes with some veggies on the side.Bowl of Soup

HD Notes: I use the juices from the meat to mix the starch into. I will also add in some granulated garlic, chopped onion/garlic, chives, pepper…whatever I have on hand and feel like. This is truly one of our favorite ‘fast food’ meals as it only takes about 20 minutes to make the whole thing. It’s perfect for those nights when you just don’t want to ‘cook’ but have to make something. The best part is you know how the food was processed because you did it yourself and also know there aren’t a bunch of preservatives and other chemicals in there.

Other Ideas

  • Take a jar of pinto beans to make refried beans for burritos or a great bean dip.
  • A quart of homemade vegetable stock is perfect for more than just making soup! Use it to make your stuffing instead of water (a huge hit at our house) or you could use the stock to soak dry beans in versus water. The beans will soak up the flavor and nutrients!
  • A pint of jarred meat can be quickly turned into an open faced sandwich just by draining the juice (or save it for later) and mixing the meat with mayo or whatever you prefer to make a tasty (and fast!) meal.
  • We have also taken a pint jar of pork, drained it and shredded the meat. Layering shredded pork and cheese, we made fantastic quesadillas!

There are so many ideas out there that would honestly fill volumes of pages. I hope this gets the creativity and inspiration flowing on different things you can do and make with your home canned food!

What do YOU make with your home canned food? Give us a comment below and share the inspiration!