The pressure’s on

bubbling away

bubbling away

With a boiling water bath, or Fowlers Vacola preserver, it is easy to preserve many fruits and tomatoes for 1-2 years storage at room temperature – basically the high acidity levels combined with the high heat kill the bacterias and moulds that would destroy the food. Jams and chutneys have the benefit of high sugar or acid levels making them even easier for mid – term storage. This limits the range of things you can safely store for later, without chewing through power keeping a freezer going or having everything loaded with vinegar or sugar. Also, we don’t have a microwave so defrosting means planning ahead which we don’t always do.

But as soon as you start considering lower acid vegetables (anything really unless you want pickles), beans, meat,  fish or soups, then you need to keep in mind botulism toxins - nasty and potentially fatal. To avoid this, the foods need to be heated beyond the boiling point of water, and it seems for much longer, to make sure everything inside the jar gets superhot for long enough to stop the botulism spores multiplying and making the toxins. Heating the jars under pressure achieves this.

Thanks to some very useful forum posts and articles scattered on the web, and the US government sites with detailed information and guidelines, it actually seems practical to ‘pressure can’ some alternates to the apricots and tomatoes that I’ve preserved in the past.

Pressure Canner arrives

Pressure Canner arrives

The cheaper Australian dollar also made it quite feasible to buy in the requisite toy device from the US.

First Experiment

In doing my research, I’d found a simple looking recipe that ought to suit our tastes: Many Layered Chili. Expecting delivery this week I’d bought the ingredients in preparation. And decided that if the jars exploded or spewed their contents everywhere I wouldn’t be too surprised and I wouldn’t have lost hours of work in prep!

Before pressure canning

Before pressure canning

Many Layered Chili

Many Layered Chili

I did a test run first just with water bringing the canner up to pressure, no jars or ingredients to worry about. That all went smoothly, so I prepped up the jars of chili beans and meat.

After loading up the canner, and getting it up to pressure I realised that I had not put in the bottom rack for the jars to sit on, using instead the jar lifter contraption. So at that point I figured if the jars didn’t explode from the beans swelling up, they’d crack from too much heat on their bottoms. Sigh.

Milly and Ruby

Milly and Ruby

I then realised just how long 90 minutes can be, ducking in and out to the garden, and filling in time with small jobs and pushups so I wasn’t too far away from the kitchen. The kittens just slept.

Success!

After Processing

After Processing

They didn’t taste bad either. We had some for dinner on Friday night to see if we liked the recipe before doing a big batch. Definitely worth repeating with a touch more spice. It felt mighty strange to leave the jars sitting around the kitchen for two days. ‘Shouldn’t they be in the fridge’ asked a little voice in my head. I told it to shut up and ate.

On Friday I did baked beans using Mum’s recipe and referring to the USDA site for timing, and also some chickpeas – much cheaper than buying tinned. Buying dried beans and cooking them ourselves is a lot more efficient in terms of transport – the organic tinned versions I can buy easily are from Italy. I can buy organic dried beans here, cutting down on transport costs. Every so often I’ll cook dried beans in bulk then freeze them but much prefer the convenience of tinned, or now, home canned.

I can see foods like this that are standard meals in our house being brilliant to have in a jar for dark winter evenings, or lazy summer ones.

Making Bacon & Mrs Radford

A while ago, when ordering lids for some of the recycled glass jars we sourced,  I saw a link to a recipe for homemade bacon.

Well, bacon is one of our regular purchases at the Farm Gate Market from Ross O’Meara and Matt Evans (known in our house as the Pork Boys). And their bacon is such a world apart from regular bacon that we don’t buy anything else. Same for sausages really.  A week or so later I sat down with the internet and also Matt’s Real Food Companion and did some more serious thinking about bacon – cold vs hot smoking, brine vs dry cure and so on.

But it was a conversation with Mrs Radford from whom we bought over 100 Fowlers Preserving jars that cemented the deal. At over 80, she still made her own bacon. Visiting her was inspirational – a gorgeous garden, plenty of energy and mobility, a sparkle in her eye and well organised under the house where the bottles were stored. When we ran out of boxes for the bottles, she emptied the box of spuds she’d dug from her garden earlier in the day. Hers were also the best cared for preserving bottles we bought too.

The next day we travelled to Margate to collect jars from a freecycler, then over to Nicholls Rivulet to check out an organic beef and pork farm. We bought a range of his meat but sadly no pork belly. We did get some at the local corner store though, a small piece to experiment with this bacon concept.

After cure, before Smoking

After cure, before Smoking

My Mother-in-Law had heard us talking and also bought a piece which got thrust into our hands – “you do something with this”. So we cured one piece just in a salt cure, the other in a brown sugar and salt mix.

14 days of turning and peering into the ziplock bags, and it was time to smoke it. Well, in hindsight, 7 days would have done but the last week of work had to be dealt with.

Before Smoking

Before Smoking

Milly
Milly watching proceedings
Smoking in the BBQ

Smoking in the BBQ

We picked up some hickory chips, and made a smoking set-up in our BBQ.

Smoking

After smoking

After smoking: Top: salt cure bottom: salt sugar cure The pieces started out different sizes too.

 

Slicing

Starting to slice

Starting to slice

Sliced bacon

Sliced bacon

 

Eating – we forgot to take a photo once cooked, but before eaten. When we rang M-I-L to say we were slicing the bacon and did she want to come for lunch she came around so quickly she didn’t take her apron off :-)

With the benefit of hindsight:

  1. Cure for the 7 days recommended per inch of thickness.
  2. Block up more gaps in the BBQ to contain the smoke more.
  3. Make more!!!!!

 

 

 

backup of tally

Last Updated 10th March
Apricots (stewed): 30
Apricots (halves): 24
Apricots (spiced): 8
Pears in lemon: 31
Tomato Chutney: 5 (red) 10 (yellow)
Red Pepper Ketchup: 4
Sauerkraut: 4
Beetroot: 3
Dill Beans: 2
Dill Cucumbers: 3
White Nectarines: 6
Yellow Nectarines: 20
Crushed Tomatos: 15
Rich Tomato Puree: 11
Salsa: 7
Spiced Pear Butter: 7

Brassicas as a breather

With dinner in the slowcooker, I headed outside after work to plant out the brassicas that had waited a little too long in the greenhouse.

Into C6, under the clothesline, and side of driveway went a mix of caulis, purple and green broccoli and red savoy cabbage. I’d prepped the ground and holes the day before adding a scoop of compost where needed, and watering in well before the predicted showers over night. C6 is a dry bed – the fruit trees uphill swallow most of the water.

 

Harvest: pinkeyes and dutch creams to go with the Greek lamb stew. The chickens were falling over themselves to try and get into the spud circle as there were worms galore. Will clear the straw mulch on the weekend and plant some spinach and rocket to take advantage of the spot before it gets too cool and shaded. This is the circle in between the two orchard apple trees.

Just about ready – the red fuji and red delicious. Massive crop on the red fuji this year.Bountiful pears

Pears – 5 more bottles last night bringing the total to 31, also Zac made the most amazing crumble with brown sugar and almond meal.

 

Ginger Beer – our first batch bottled and sitting in the sun (optimistic? clouds more likely) on the bench.

Week Ending March 6th

End of Jar Gathering moving into Jar Filling and Storage

Preserving – 10 jars yellow tomato chutney (homegrown yellow toms), 15 jars crushed tomatos, 7 jars salsa – last two from 2x10kgs boxes.

Garden:

Prepped spots for more brassicas to be planted out – C6. under clothesline and side of driveway.

Gathered a very short sweetcorn harvest – really has been hopeless but we will get one feed out of it. The trees in Mary’s garden are shading C6 more than I thought so if we plant sweetcorn again, it needs to be in C1.2.3 I think.

Weeded some space in C0 but more work to be done – the residual chives need to come out.

We are getting another flush of strawberries, ans still picking up on average 2-3 kilos pears per day from under the tree.

Apples are nearly ready.

scarlet runner beans doing well.