Thursday, April 7, 2011

Homestead Experiment #19-Adventures in Canning

Well, it's been a crazy, productive few weeks here at our Alaskan homestead. Consequently, I haven't been able to write much.  Since I had the Great Pantry Cleanout, I have been working on replenishing my empty shelves of canned goods.  Rather than blog them all individually, I have decided to do it all in one shot. I will link you to the recipe and give you our family's review of the finished product.

First off, we decided to try canning citrus; more specifically oranges! I had never thought of canning any citrus prior to reading a blog entry on The Prudent Pantry, but figured it made sense. After all, all those little cans of mandarin oranges in the grocery aisle are not cheap!  I went to Costco and picked up a 10# box of navel oranges. We had been eating these for a few weeks already. They were as sweet as candy, and the peels were coming off easily, removing most of the pith with them.  (I wasn't nearly as worried about a little white pith showing through like Miss Heather at the Prudent Pantry.)

I had my trusty assistants (a.k.a my beautiful children) assisting with the peeling.  Then I separated the segments, cleaned off any 'stringies', ladled in my light syrup, and processed.
My little blue-eyed fruit peeler

Baby A and Baby B, now almost 8 years old and working hard for their Momma's pantry

A job well done!

Looked sweeter than they tasted...

Appearance: They looked so pretty, and they definitely brighten up my pantry shelves.

Ease: Super easy project for the kiddos to help with.

Taste: Yeah, this is where this project scored pretty low.  For some reason, processing sweet oranges in sweet syrup made them really SOUR?? I'm sure all you Alton Brown-types could come up with a scientific explanation why. All I know is that they ended up tasting similar to grapefruit.  I'm not sure we'll attempt this one again, but if I do, we'll be sure to research for a different syrup solution!
 Next, we moved on to a different food group: canning meat.   I have been wanting to try this ever since watching this video at Homestead-Acres.  I came across a great deal on super lean ground beef (93/7) for 1.99! I think that's a pretty good deal anywhere, but I know it's a great deal up here!

I checked the meat section in my canning books, and sure enough I found recipes for canning ground meat and sausage, but they all did it by shaping the meat into patties and baking it first.   Since I mainly use ground beef and sausage in browned,crumbled form, I liked the idea of boiling it in large batches and canning it like in the video above.

The Results:
Appearance: This is where this food definitely scores lower. Honestly, it looks like canned dog-food. You can see for yourself:
Not the winner of any canned-good beauty pageant!

Ease: Again, very easy. Made easier by boiling the meat in large batches like in the video referenced above. However, you do have to process meat in a pressure canner, so if you don't like/have one of these, it cannot be done safely.

Taste: Great! It tastes like it should. I didn't bother to try browning it again first to 'crisp' it up like she suggests in the video, so it was a little soft. However knowing that I can do that in the future, and knowing that it tasted good allows me to recommend this process!  Next up I have 5 whole chickens in the freezer waiting to share a pantry shelf with this ground beef. I'll blog about that when I get to actually doing it! lol
Finally, I went ahead and canned a few items that I have already canned before. This included this pears with cinnamon sticks in light syrup, yummy cheese sauce (scroll down to 'Home Canned Cheese Sauce") and potatoes.  We are HUGE fans of canned potatoes. Not only are they the perfect consistency for potato salad (just rinse well to get the salt off), but they are perfect for camping! Since they're already cooked through, you just have to warm them through on the fire.  (I will include my favorite camp hash recipe below :)

The experiment with the potatoes came with the peeling aspect. I can up 40# at a time (2 big Costco bags of russets), and peeling them can be tedious. It's also too much for me to mess with blanching.  So, I decided to try adapting my trusty apple peeler/corer/slicer to see if it would work. The only thing I had to do was change it into just an apple peeler and get rid of the corer/slicer part.  That was easy enough. As you can see, the blade that has the circle for coring, and the edge for slicing was just held on by a wingnut. I removed it and Viola!
Next, we tried putting the potatoes on as they were. It turns out they were waaayyy too big! The weight of the spud, along with the curved shape, meant that they did not hit the peeling blade evenly. We tried peeling half and then flipping it around, but that didn't work so well. I just decided the best way was to cut them in half and then peel.

Afterwards, I went back with my paring knife and cut out eyes or missed peels. I was able to peel all 40# in 10 minutes or so! Cool eh?  Then I cut into salad-sized chunks, and processed as directed in the recipe. Again, you need a pressure cooker to safely process these jars.

I am so thankful when I look at my pantry and see all that yummy, healthy food for my family! However I must admit, that I am even more eager for summer, and really excited to go camping!

Blessings to you and your homestead,
Hillary At Home


  1. What great ideas! I just started canning last year, and have canned chicken stock, rhubarb, dried (cooked) beans, strawberry jam, applesauce, and raspberries. I will have to try the meat and potatoes!

  2. Wow-rhubarb? I will have to look that up since rhubarb grows abundantly up here :)
    Have you tried making strawberry freezer jam? I used to can my straw jam, but my sister convinced me to try the freezer version and it actually tastes so much better and fresher. That's the only jam/jelly I make that I don't can.
    Have a wonderful day!

  3. Your site is looking good sweetheart.

    Love- me

  4. Hi!

    My husband stumbled upon your blog and sent me a link. We are dreaming of having a homestead in the country someday too but cannot afford it right now. For the moment we live in a small town so we are a little closer to our dream anyway...LOL.

    I am curious...have you shared your strawberry freezer jam recipe? I would love to try it!

    I love your blog! Have you considered using Google Friend so that folks like me can easily follow you? Or is your blog on Facebook?

    Thanks for the great tips!!!

    Building Home with Him,

    Mary Joy

  5. Hi Mary Joy!
    I'm glad you're enjoying the blog, and it's always encouraging to know there's like-minded people out there :) I'm also glad that you pointed out about Google friend. Apparently when I changed my format over for spring, I accidentally deleted that gadget. Whoops! It is back, and I also added a new one for people to follow via email. :)
    As for the freezer jam, I just use the recipe in the Surejell freezer jam pectin package. It's so good...I hope you enjoy!