Preserving Series: Water-Bath Canning: How To

Water Bath canning is suitable for most fruits, jams, pickles, and really anything with a PH below 4.6. It is important to not use anything other then approved sanitized canning equipment (a steam canner or inverting the jars so that they will seal are not approved methods). The reason it is so important to use the proper equipment that is well cleaned is because of food safety, namely Clostridium botulinum. This bad boy is deadly and the oxygen free environment of canned good is it’s bread and butter. If the item is not at the correct PH and the PH is above 4.6 Clostridium botulinum will thrive in those canned goods.  It is also important to never alter recipes so that the delicate balance of acidity is not disrupted.

For low-acid items (like most vegetables) it is important to use a pressure canner which reaches the temperatures necessary to kill off Clostridium botulinum. Recipes will say if they are to be water-bath canned or pressure cooked.

But with that being said don’t be afraid of canning! When it is done properly the end result is much better tasting, much better for you, and if done smart,  much cheaper then what you can get at the store. Just follow my easy instructions below!

The equipment necessary for water-bath canning are as follows:
A water-bath canner with a lid (stock-pot with a spaghetti insert works for small batches)
Metal basket insert (so jars are not resting on the pot surface -they can break this way-)
Jar-lifter
Ruler
Clean butter knife
Clean wet wash-cloth or napkin
Full-length hot pads
Proper canning jars (ball, kerr, mason, or other type jar) inspected for cracks or dents
Rust-free rings/bands
New canning lids with un-used seals (this is what preserves the food)

The steps to water bath canning are:

1. Prepare boiling water canner. Heat the jars, bands, and lids in simmering water until ready for use. Do not boil. Set bands aside.
2. Prepare item to be canned according to the recipe. Remove jars from water just before they are to be filled.
3. Once the item has been placed in the jars with the proper headspace, or space left at the top of the jar as identified in the recipe, make sure to remove all the air bubbles with the butter knife. Wipe the rim of the jar with the wash-cloth to remove any food debris that could prevent a seal, and center on the lid. Then apply the band until it is fingertip tight.
4. With the jar-lifter and hot pads place each of the jars into the water-bath canner. Make sure the jars are covered by one inch of water and do not start the timer until the water is boiling. Adjust the time to the altitude you are at (a quick Google search will inform you, if you are unaware of your towns altitude). Process the jars for the full length of time.
5. Remove the jars and let cool in a draft-free place for 24 hours. Check the lids for seal after 24 hours, meaning the lid should not flex up and down when the center is pressed.
6. If your jar is sealed, Congratulations you have just put up food for out of season, following in the steps of those who have lived before you, if not, some recipes say you can reprossess it again for the full amount of time. I am not comfortable with that for 2 reasons:
   1. Your food has sat out in the temperature danger zone (41 degrees to 135 degrees) for far longer then is adviseable (four to six hours is the safety time frame) unsealed.
   2. You are re-cooking your food item to death, and it will most likely taste mushy or bland because it has been over-cooked.
I advise you to just put it immediately in the refrigerator and use it within a week.

Have you water bath canned before? Feel free to leave some tips for newbies below!

From my Family, to Yours..

Preserving Series: Water-Bath Canning: Peach Salsa

It is that time of year again! Time to put up all of this fresh local produce. We have been going to the local Farmers Markets and getting produce like some crazy people who are hoarding for the winter, partially because we are. (Seriously though, when I asked for 14 lbs of green beans the people in the long line at our favorite stand -Ashland Produce- looked at me like I was a crazy person.)

When I saw this recipe I knew we had to try it. I love peaches, like border-line love affair, love peaches (don’t worry the hubby is right there with me salivating over the delicious in-season peaches), and the hubby loves fruit salsa’s so I figured this was a match made in heaven.

And boy oh boy was I right. The only complaint that we have is that the original recipe has a kick to it. Like a huge kick. A little bit too much for us, though it is still delicious. If you like your salsa hot and spicy here is the link to the original recipe. If you like it somewhere between mild and medium use my recipe below (we did a two times recipe -see link above- which is why we don’t have enough peaches etc, we will definitely be making more though).

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Peach Salsa

Yield: About 7.5 pints, if you use larger peaches there will be a little more.

12 c fresh peaches, peeled, pitted, and small diced, about 15 medium peaches

1 large sweet onion, diced

6 tbsp lemon juice

3/4 c lime juice

6 jalapeno, deveined, seeded, and finely chopped

3 large green peppers, seeded and finely chopped

6 cloves garlic, minced

6 tbsp cilantro, chopped

3/4 cup honey

1. Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl, and make sure that they are well-mixed.

2. Place into prepared jars, leaving a 1/2 inch headspace.

3. Follow the rest of my water-bath canning steps here.

4. Process the pints for 20 minutes, up to 1,000 feet above sea-level, 25 minutes 1,001-5,999, and 30 minutes if you are over 6,000 feet about sea-level.

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And it’s ok if you have a little bit of extra salsa just plop it in a small jar and put it in the fridge, like we did. It is still delicious, you just want to use it within a week.

Let me know what you think below, and if you loved it as much as we do! What are you putting up this season?

Some Shiny New News

I wanted to share some exciting and shiny news with my wonderful readers!

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Here at the Snickerplum household we are expecting a new little baby!

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And that baby is going to be a girl! It has been a very different pregnancy this time around then with little man. Even though I have been sick with morning sickness I still wasn’t quite as sick as I was with him. The major difference is that I have been sick longer with her, which is quite a feat since I was sick until 19 weeks with little man. Yet it was a good thing I want as sick because I also started going back to school to finish up my degree at BYU-Idaho. (I figured since we are here any way it would not hurt to finish up my schooling as well.) But that is another post for another day. Back to the nitty gritty details.

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I will be 25 weeks tomorrow.
Up until 19 weeks I felt completely gender neutral (which was very different then the first time because early on we knew it was a boy). In my head I kept thinking the baby was a boy, but then suddenly one morning I was cleaning my son’s room and pow! It hit me, and I felt greatly impressed that we were going to have a girl.  So much so that when we were packing supplies for our gender reveal photos I felt silly bringing anything blue (we didn’t know when we left the house that morning). My sweet hubby on the other hand a couple weeks before felt impressed that we were having a girl.

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He is so excited to have a daddy’s girl, and for all the pink (especially the pink camo). I love that man and that I get to share forever with him.

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Over all this has been a different but good pregnancy so far and lately I have traded the morning sickness with Braxton-Hicks contractions.  Which I get all the time. Guess my body needs to do some major prep work for birthing this little one.

How has your summer gone? Do you have any fun or exciting news to share?

From my Family, to Yours..

Zaycon Foods

Today I want to share a quick little word with you about an awesome food movement. Have you heard of Zaycon Foods? No? Okay, let me share with you what they are all about!

“Zaycon Foods is a privately owned company based in Spokane, Washington. The company was founded in 2009 with the simple mission to bring farm fresh meats direct to consumers at wholesale prices. 

You see, we knew all the farmers who had the best stuff around. Thanks to our experience in the grocery industry, we knew how to quickly move that great stuff from point to point, preserving its freshness, taste, and nutrition.

 

So we asked ourselves: “Why are there middlemen involved? Why aren’t we just getting this food directly from the farms to the people who are going to eat it?”

 

That idea grew into the company we are today.

 

When we started off just a few short years ago, we offered only a few meats in a few areas. But thanks to the overwhelmingly enthusiastic response we’ve gotten from all of you, Zaycon has grown like wildfire!

 

We now offer a wider range of fresh foods – from milk to berries to salmon filets – to an ever expanding list of regions. If we have not been to your area yet, let us know and you can bet we’ll be there soon. And if we’ve already been through a dozen times, you know we’re coming back again, too!”

 

Here is short video about how they get their products straight to their customers.

We just put in our order for their upcoming 93/7 Ground Beef and Applewood boneless Ham, (which I would do soon by the way, if you are interested in ordering from them) and can’t wait to pick it up! If you want to check out their site just click here.

Have you ever purchased from Zaycon Foods or anyplace like them before? Please tell us about your experience below.

Amazing Homemade Ranch

I try to be a good wife and mother and devote my time with my family strictly to them. I only write posts and things when little man is sleeping either during naptime or in the morning or evening and when the hubby is busy with school work. And then during that time I only let myself write posts when all my household duties are taken care of (cleaning, cooking, dishes, laundry etc you get the idea). To me, if my home falls apart because of time spent online I have truly failed indeed at my favorite and most important job. In life there are seasons, and we happen to be in one that demands my time, a lot. So when it’s been a while just know that I am still here, loving and thinking of you, but trying to do a million other things as well.

We really needed a dairy free version of Ranch Dressing especially when the little man decided that: 1. Dipping food is the second coolest creation ever; and 2. Ranch Dressing is so amazing that he will eat it plain. (True story). So I started scouring the internet trying to find a recipe that we could use to make some ranch.  Trouble is all of those recipes that I found are made with a soy alternative and that didn’t work for me (and I suspect the little man too) because I am allergic to that, too. Fun right? So then I had the idea to just try to make it with the dairy substitutes we already use. Right now we are currently using either unsweetened or original almondmilk and original coconutmilk. We prefer to use the almondmilk for the ranch. Of course you could always make this into regular ranch, though we honestly can’t taste the difference, with soured milk or buttermilk (you would just leave out the lemon juice).

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See we love this ranch, looks like it’s time to make more!

Ranch Dressing*

1 c Homemade Mayonnaise
1 1/2 tsp Lemon Juice, poured into a 1 cup measuring cup (leave out if using buttermilk)
7 1/2 tbsp Almondmilk, or pour the almondmilk into the cup containing the lemon juice until it reaches 1/2 cup
1/2 tsp dried Chives
1/2 tsp dried Parsley
1/2 tsp dried Dill Weed
1/4 tsp Garlic Powder
1/2 tsp dried Onion Flakes
TT fresh ground Sea Salt
TT fresh ground Black Pepper

1. Let the lemon juice and almond milk sit for 10 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, in a large bowl whisk together the mayonnaise, chives, parsley, dill, garlic powder, onion flakes, and salt and pepper. Add in lemon and almondmilk mixture.
3. Let rest for 30 minutes in the fridge, (lf you can stand not eating it by the carrot stick full) and enjoy!
*We do like to make this doubled because we eat so much of it!

Hope you enjoy this ranch recipe! What is your favorite salad dressing/condiment?

From my Family, to Yours..

Whole Food Budget Challenge

I have had many people tell me that they would love to eat like we do. Nothing but whole foods. But they then say that they just can’t afford to right now, maybe later in their life when they have more money (probably has something to do with the fact that we are poor college students, and almost everyone that we associate with, are as well).

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First, I want to say that we don’t “eat whole” 100% of the time. We are still in the adjusting process of this whole experience, we by no means are perfect at this. Just check out todays lunch Instagram, we had a mixture of frozen homemade pasta sauce and store bought, becuase I didn’t make enough to last us until this summer last year, partially becuase we only have so much freezer space (oh pressure cooker I would love it if you magically showed up on my doorstep). Someday I hope that we are at 97% or above but for now we eat whole (meaning we do not eat pre-packaged processed foods, rather we make things from scratch etc etc) around 60%-70% of the time. But whenever I do eat processed foods my body is really starting to feel it, equaling bad headaches and a fog that overcomes my being. Not pleasant.
Second, I want to say that we are broke too! We set aside a larger portion of our budget for whole food shopping, but it is still restricted. I wanted to challenge myself this month though and keep to a tight budget and still eat whole foods in the process!
I set the budget to $200. But my budget plans might get messed up a little becuase we are going to have my parents, brother and his girlfriend staying with us this weekend and they have to eat too.
What do you think of this plan? Impossible? Do-able? Is the budget too high? Or too low?

Cloth Diapers: Questions and Concerns

There really is so much to learn when it comes to cloth diapers, it can be very overwhelming at first! I know I felt like a deer in headlights when I started looking into it. My goal is to hopefully help simplify that a little bit over the next several posts. Today let’s look at some cloth diaper concerns that people have.

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Cost
Will using cloth diapers really save me money?
I think everyone realizes that they will save you a little money because you are not buying bags or boxes of diapers all the time, but did you know that over your child’s diapering years you can spend anywhere from $1,200 – $3,500 or more if your child isn’t potty trained by 2 and a half, on diapers and wipes! If you don’t believe me do the math yourself!  A newborn on average uses 12 diapers a day. As they grow older they use less and less until it averages out at 6 a day around 6 to 8 months old.
But what about me, I shop sales and or use coupons?
Yes, though you will be spending less on disposables, think of all the extra money you will be saving by purchasing something you can reuse over and over,  even with your other children so that savings will continue to add up as you continue to use them. And when you are done with them they have a pretty good resale value too!
Okay, but what about all the water and electricity/gas that you will use to wash and dry them?
I am so glad you asked! First, let’s think of all the trees, water, electricity, and other precious resources that went into just making that little disposable diaper. Then, I will point out that most diapers are not supposed to go into the dryer, and in fact hanging diapers and liners out on the line in the sun not only sanitizes them further, but the sun has awesome stain-fighting power! So that cuts your drying time down to almost non-existent. Finally, I will concede. You do have to use water to clean your diapers, and to remove the waste, which I will discuss more in posts devoted entirely to those lovely topics. But you can be smart about how you do it, so that way you are not paying a ridiculous amount, nor using a ton of water. With cloth diapering you are not adding laundry that needs to be done daily (unless you don’t have a large enough stash), rather you will add 2 to 3 extra easy loads per week.
Before, I leave the cost factor I do want to say that there is an up front price tag associated with cloth diapers. You need to purchase your supplies almost all at once in order to cloth diaper. For example: If you purchase only diaper liners and wipes, you will not be able to achieve leak proof-ability (that’s a word right?) without a cover nor will you be able to wash them with out a detergent that is safe with cloth diapers (more on this in its own post as well).

Cloth Diapers Won’t Work
For one reason or another people don’t think that they will work anymore. Notice the word anymore. They used to work fine, but now with our modern society we need a more modern diaper, instead of the flat cloth that you have to fold and risk pricking either your little one or your self and finally some plastic pants to wear over them. Thank heavens for our modern life and the fact that we have more modern options. Cloth diapering has changed quite a bit and we will go over some of those changes in the following posts. I am happy to say that cloth diapers do work! In fact, they work better than disposables! They hold in the poopy messes so much better, which is music to the ears of any parent’s of newborn babies out there. I know with the little man we had diaper blowouts that went up his back and down his legs, using disposables, and we ruined tons of cute outfits in the process.
But I’ve heard that Cloth Diapers leak really bad.
It is true that cloth diapers cannot go on indefinitely absorbing urine as it seems some disposable diapers can. It is a good rule of thumb change your babies diaper every two hours. Then you should never have to deal with leaks. As for nighttime use there are certain liners and other tricks you can use to maximize your diapers absorbency. Also, I would avoid any cheap brands of diapers, they are not as well made and can delaminate or come apart easily.

Too Much Work
Cloth diapers are a great idea and all, but they take too much work to fit into my busy day.
I agree that life is incredibly hectic and busy and trying to do one more thing a day can seem overwhelming. But all in all I think I spend 1 hour altogether during the space of a week actually dealing with cloth diapers, not including diaper changing time because that would happen regardless of our use of cloth diapers or not. I have an entire post planned on our laundry routine and another one just for our daily routine.

Poop is gross
That is a true statement if ever there was one! And using cloth diapers doesn’t make poop less gross, but you don’t smear your hands in it! In fact, I have a whole post where we will discuss this whole “poopy issue” as well. And also did you know that you are supposed to flush the poop from a disposable diaper down the toilet to? Yep! Because otherwise that “loaded” diaper you are throwing away will go to a landfill creating a toxic dump, especially if that waste is contaminated with any kind of virus, bacteria, or disease. And beyond that, disposable diapers can take anywhere from 300-500 years to decompose. That means that none of the disposable diapers that have ever been used are even close to decomposing yet. Now THAT is gross!

Cloth Diapers Smell Terrible
The truth couldn’t be further from that. I actually have a hard time knowing when the little man has gone, because they hold in the smell so well. We have to actually look and see if he has or not. If your diapers do smell really bad of ammonia, then that most likely means that your diapers are in need of a good “strip”. A not difficult process that we will discuss in more detail later, but otherwise they do not smell bad at all.

There are a couple of extra pluses to using cloth diapers too. The use of disposable diapers exposes your baby to unnecessary and dangerous chemicals from the very beginning and, though the consequences may not be immediate, no one is sure of the long term outcome of such exposures. In my opinion, it is better to avoid chemicals as much as possible.
Cloth diapers also are more gentle on babies sensitive skin. The chemicals and toxins in disposable diapers can seriously irritate babies skin. It is not true though that cloth diapered will never get diaper rash. There are many factors that go into diaper rash such as: being left took long in a soiled diaper, food sensitivities or allergies, harsh laundry detergent, yeast infection, teething and so forth.
It is also possible for the use of cloth diapers to lead to earlier potty training! The reason behind this is because most babies do not like feeling the wetness that the cloth diaper produces compared to disposable diapers which are more of a stay-dry experience. There are many factors that go into potty training though so I would not have this be the reason you are cloth diapering.
And finally cloth diapers are just cuter! That may seem silly, but they make those adorable baby bums just that much cuter!

*The information in this post was taken from my own experience and also referencing “Confessions of a Cloth Diaper Convert” by Erin Odom an excellent resource on cloth diapers. You can also check out her websites here and here.

Were there any concerns that I didn’t address? Make sure to let me know in the comments below! And stay tuned for the next post in this cloth diapering series where I will discuss how we use cloth diapers and our daily routine.

From my Family, to Yours..