Canned Coleslaw and a Bit of Advice

Five jars of canned Coleslaw and a pan of Strawberry Rhubarb Squares. There were six jars of Coleslaw, we ate a jar of it for dinner last night.
Note the experimental Tattler Canning Lids, and the one lone Bernardin one-use used metal lid, on the jars.
The Strawberry Rhubarb Squares were made with the Strawberry Rhubarb Pie Filling I canned last spring, with our garden Rhubarb, and the strawberries we picked at a pick-your-own farm.

At our house, the lastest thing since sliced bread is canned coleslaw. Wow!

Attila chopped the vegetables, and I took care of everything else from there. Canning projects are so easy with two people, not only does the job go quicker and easier, but there is also a sense of connection in sharing the tasks, connection to each other, and connection to our food, for both of us. If I were to give away some of the canned products, I think I would also feel a connection to those people who would be eating my creations. Of course, we struggle, and will have to struggle harder from here on, to ensure we have enough to eat, so we aren’t giving away any food, that would mean we would go without.

Coleslaw is something I have not tried to can before, so the whole concept was new to me, the recipe, and the techniques used. Since the coleslaw would be consumed within a week or so, and the jars would not be going into longer term storage, I decided it was the perfect time to experiment with the Tattler lids I purchased a few years ago. The Tattler lids were a big disappointment, the learning curve is very, very steep. I was confident I could master the skill, but alas, after many failed jars, I realized I had met my match. I gave up and went back to the the 100% reliable one-use, tried-and-true metal canning lids. In four decades of canning , not one metal lid has failed on a canning jar, no food has been lost, not even once. The Tattlers were 80% failure. Experimenting with them was put off until a suitable project presented itself, a project like Canned Coleslaw.

As I sit here writing the jars of coleslaw are waiting on the counter, as they must for at least 12 hours after being removed from the canner. Of course, one was consumed for dinner last night, and it was delicious. Also, the Tattler lid on that jar had sealed, yes! But it must be remembered that many of the Tattler lids in the past sealed, only to loose the seal after a week, two weeks, a month, meaning the jars on which they were used had to be constantly checked every few days. Checking lids every few days is far too labour intensive. But since this coleslaw will be sitting in the cupboard in the kitchen, the task will be easily performed, and is a part of the experiment.

The other experiment in the project was the reuse of a previously used metal canning lid. It sealed! So reusing metal canning lids for products that will be eaten within a few weeks is something that is viable at our house. Of course this is NOT RECOMMENDED practise, I am saying that up front, because it is definitely not considered a safe practise. Still, when needs must, metal one-use lids are expensive, and right now are not even available. I will be keeping a very close eye on that one jar with the used lid!

The really, really important aspect of the project is that we LOVE the canned coleslaw. It tastes great, so we will eat it. Other considerations are: cabbage is cheap, the vegetables are all good for us, we leave out the salt so it is sodium-free, it is an instant vegetable side dish or entre, it is easy to preserve, we can grow all of the vegetables required in our small yard, and all of the vegetables are grown in Ontario, so they might be readily available going forward in the new economy.

I will tweak this recipe in several ways. The salt is omitted. The syrup in the recipe was doubled. It was too sweet for us, so the sugar will be reduced, not drastically, but reduced. The important preservative in this canning recipe is the vinegar, so that ingredient stays the same no matter what.

Taking a break from writing, I am just now back from the kitchen. The rings on the Coleslaw jars were removed, and all of the jars sealed. That was good news! The jars were washed to remove any sticky remnants of syrup around the lids or on the jars, and all of the jars are still sealed. That was good news! The jars are lined up at the back of the counter, where I can check the seals on them every day. If a seal fails the jar will go into the refrigerator and if it smells and tastes fine, will be eaten within 24 hours. It is hoped none of the seals will fail. Time will tell.

If I were to give advice to people who are new to canning, this is what I would relate.

First, learn the difference between high acid and low acid foods, this is fundamental to safe canning. The method of canning is different, depending on the acidity of the food you want to can.

High acid foods are most fruits, and canned items like jams, jellies, pickles, and relishes, and can be steam or water bath canned.

Low acid foods are most vegetables, meats, beans and legumes, fish, and many other foods and MUST be pressure canned.

Reliable canning books and online resources have information on what foods are high acid and what foods are low acid, and how to can them safely.

For people canning for families of three or more, intending to can a substantial amount of high acid foods, this larger, stainless steel Victorio Steam Canner is what I would recommend. It Handles 8 pint or 7 quart jars, for canning, AND can also handle 20 quarts of liquid if you use it as a stock pot. It is easy and simple to use, and does not use a lot of water.

For people canning for one, or two, intending to can small to medium amounts of high acid foods, this smaller, lighter and easy to handle aluminium Victorio Steam Canner is what I would recommend. It handles and processes up to 7 quart or 8 pint jars of high-acid foods at one time, does not work as a stock pot, but does allow people with most mobility issues to can with ease. It uses very little water, and does not require lifting jars out of the top of a large pot. I love mine, because I can use it for small batches of the foods I forage, like dandelion blooms, and small batches of jams, jellies, pickles, and relishes.

For people on an extreme budget, or who just want to try out high acid food canning to see if it is for you, low-budget water bath canning may be the way to go. You may already have a pot in your kitchen that will work for water bath canning, as long as it is deep enough to cover the jar lids on a rack with 2 inches of water, and there is a rack or means of keeping the jars from sitting on the bottom of the pan, e.g. use canning rings.

Low acid foods require a Pressure Canner (not a pressure cooker). There are two pressure canners that I would suggest. The first I have not used, but have interacted with dozens and dozens of seasoned canners who rely on it, the Presto 23 Quart Pressure Canner. It is apparently easy to use, and very reliable, and has a relatively reasonable price point, it does require a gasket that needs to be replaced occasionally, and has a gauge that needs to be tested annually. The other is the All American Pressure Canner, which is relatively expensive, will last for generations if it is used as recommended, has a metal on metal seal with no gasket required, and can operate with the weight and/or the gauge. Gauges need to be tested regularly to rely on them, but the weight is a piece of metal that does not require upkeep to be deemed reliable. There are NO ELECTRIC PRESSURE CANNING appiances that have been deemed safe for pressure canning by the USDA, in particular no model of Instant Pot should be used for low acid pressure canning, they have been tested and deemed unsafe, despite statements by the manufacturer.

Now, to talk about knowledge. To learn how to can safely, the books by Ball, Bernardin, or Kerr are the way to go, or the free online resources The National Centre for Home Food Preservation, the University Extension Service sites, or the Ball, Bernardin or Kerr web sites, are up to date and reliable sources of information on recommended techniques, and tested recipes.

Always use tested recipes until you evolve into an expert canner, which takes years of experience and study. Botulism can permanently maim or kill, carelessness in canning can be unforgiving, but there is little risk (I feel no risk) unless you fail to follow reliable techniques and recipes. Do not rely on Pinterest, Youtube, or personal blogs for canning techniques or recipes (that includes my blog by the way).

Note that this entry is based on a recipe that is not tested by reliable sources, so use the recipe at your own risk. I am a seasoned canner, and consider myself an expert canner. This is my personal reasoning in using the recipe. It is a pickled product, so if it spoils I will immediately smell it is off. Pickled products will not harbour botulism, the only undetectable danger in the world of canning food. I will trust it is safe unless I detect an off smell or taste, and even then it would probably not hurt me if I ate it, there is no danger of botulism in pickled products, but I wouldn’t eat it.

Well there you have it, brief, unasked for advice. I love canning, just as I love all aspect of food preparation and food preservation, so writing about it delights me.

Stay safe dear friends!

Worldly

Weather

6°C
Date: 11:00 AM EDT Tuesday 21 April 2020
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 99.5 kPa
Tendency: Rising
Temperature: 5.5°C
Dew point: -1.8°C
Humidity: 60%
Wind: W 31 gust 55 km/h
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“I have found that everything wants to kill you. For some things, like fast food, or riding a bike, it just takes longer.”
Devin J. Monroe
1983 –

Eat your vegetables!!

Cancation

There are vacations, staycations, and I have just decided that what I had… was a cancation. I stayed home and canned for a week. And I enjoyed it. Attila stayed home and enjoyed being home, low-key, low pressure, he loved it. And I, and Attila, will enjoy the results of the cancation for months and months to come.

In total, I have canned over 100 jars of food since the first weekend of September. I am now perfectly comfortable using my All American pressure canner. There are only one dozen empty canning jars left in the canning supplies, so another dozen were ordered on sale from amazon, to arrive sometime this coming week. Canning lids were a reasonable price at the local dollar store, so a season’s supply were purchased, ready for next year’s cancation.

And still, apple season is just getting into full swing, so there may be a bushel of apples needing to be canned in the near future. The canning equipment is on standby.

Also, somewhere in the deep dark of the chest freezer lurks a large bag of beef bones, that were part of the quarter of grass-fed cow that we purchased quite a few years ago now. That needs to be turned into bone broth for soups, which will be pressure canned.

It will be a few weeks yet before canning season is over for 2018.

Since the cancation involved no financial outlay for entertainment or travel, no eating out, no drinking out… well, it didn’t cost a cent. So Attila and I both agreed that an indulgence was in order. We bought a 15 cubic foot chest freezer! It doesn’t sound like an indulgence I know. But we could limp along with the banged up, small, used chest freezer that in use at the moment, bought for a song quite a few years ago. It still works well. That is why this is an indulgence, a new chest freezer is not actually NEEDED, but it will certainly improve the quality of life here at Mist Cottage.

The new chest freezer was delivered last week, and installed by the delivery fellows. They were quite helpful, installing the casters for me, setting it up where I wanted it, plugging it in, making sure everything was tickety boo. The all-summer heat wave was still clinging to us at that point, so I made sure they parted with cold beverages in hand.

I have decided to take exclusive responsibility of the frozen food here at Mist Cottage. It is beyond Attila, who works full-time, and has other areas in the house to keep organized, like the garage.

My first step was to measure the interior of the new freezer, then head to the Dollar Store. Stackable baskets with handles were purchased to aid in keeping like items together and easily accessible. Wish me luck with that.

The next step, the one currently underway, is to slowly remove items from the old freezer, and place them in the appropriate baskets in the new freezer. This is a slow process, because there are many surprises in the old chest freezer. For instance, Attila thought he had found all the frozen tomatoes last year, for me to stew and freeze. Well, he missed a few, two big bags of them actually. So my efforts were diverted into dealing with the tomatoes, which were stewed and ended up in last night’s dinner, Lebanese Beef and Green Bean Casserole, in the Instant Pot of course. Then there was the bag of pineapple, with the missing tag, open to freezer burn. That was stewed as well, taste tested, Attila approved, then pureed as an ingredient for muffins. Today, a small container of chopped turkey breast was rescued from the freezer, and it will become tonight’s dinner, Mongolian Turkey, in the Instant Pot of course. So you can see how this freezer organization is going, slowly but surely.

So here I am, inventing ways to make dribs and drabs of vintage food palatable. It is my ongoing fantasy (decades of dreaming) that the chest freezer will be organized, and that food will be easily identified and used in a timely manner. I can dream can’t I!

Attila has been dehydrating cayenne peppers from our garden, a work in progress. I have dehydrated three 500 ml jars of tomato powder, which is the skins and seeds of the tomatoes, dehydrated in the oven, then put through the blender to powder. The real dehydration coup though, is the onion tops, walking onions, which Attila dehydrated, and are amazingly tasty. These onion tops would have been composted, but now they are going to a welcome addition to many soups, stews, and casseroles.

A project under consideration is freezing chopped onions. They can be purchased cheaply in the autumn in large 10 pound bags, chopped and frozen on cookie sheets, then taken out of the freezer throughout the winter for soups, stews, and casseroles. I don’t mind chopping onions every day for cooking, when they are freshly harvested and crisp, it is actually enjoyable. But as the winter progresses the onions available are decreasingly fresh, and become more and more difficult to chop; that is when frozen chopped onions will seem like a great idea.

Before seriously considering this onion chopping project, an experiment was conducted. Two onions were chopped, then frozen, then used to create last night’s dinner. They sautéed very nicely, and there was no noticeable difference in the dish, compared to using freshly chopped onions. So the decision was made to chop onions for freezing.

Now, if you chop onions, you know it is a sad affair, lots of tears. After reading a lot of advice online, for chopping onions in quantity, I decided to purchase an onion chopper, which will arrive sometime this week. The amazon ratings aren’t all that high, but the personal accounts I read online were more glowing. I chose this unit because of the personal anecdotes I read, the price, and the size. Storage is an issue here at Mist Cottage, and this item has a relatively small footprint. I hope to use it to chop onions for daily use, when frozen chopped onions are not available. This little unit should be easy to clean, in the sink or dishwasher. I could use the food processor, but I don’t like the inconsistent size of the onion pieces, and the cleanup is not something I would tackle on an onion a day basis. We shall see if my reasoning and plans for the onion chopper work out the way I hope they will.

Wordly

Weather

9°C
Date: 8:00 AM EDT Sunday 30 September 2018
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 102.8 kPa
Tendency: Rising
Temperature: 9.1°C
Dew point: 5.6°C
Humidity: 79%
Wind: W 10 km/h
Visibility: 24 km

It was 7C outside this morning at 6:00 a.m., and 21.5C in the house. The heating system has not been turned on yet this fall, so we are maintaining our comfortable indoor temperature due to heat retention from body heat, cooking, and sunshine through the windows. This feels pretty good.

Quote

“We don’t know a millionth of one percent about anything.”
Thomas A. Edison
1847 – 1931

Mind boggling but true, in my opinion. What this means to me is that life is never boring. I feel it is cowardly to think you know everything, and foolish to think you are an expert at anything.

One Cheese Slice

For decades I have had issues with pre-processed foods.

While growing up, we processed our own foods for use during the winter. Apples, pears, potatoes and many other fruits and vegetables were harvested or purchased in sufficient quantity, when they were in season, to last until the next harvest season. The same old canning jars were used over and over again. Cold cellars kept produce well for many months.

When I was attending University the first time through, studying Food and Nutrition, I was disturbed by the trend to individually package food. I wrote an impassioned essay on the evils of individually wrapped cheese slices, which was something new on the market at that time. Sure, individually wrapped slices made separating the slices so much easier, but at such a cost! At the time I was considered extremely “off the wall” for my views, both faculty and fellow students found my ideas “eccentric”. I was ridiculed by some faculty, some students. I did get an A+ on that paper I wrote though, so the indifference to consequences did not prevent the Professor of Human Nutrition from recognizing and rewarding good work.

After many decades, I had almost lost touch with the root reason for my dislike of pre-processed foods. It is primarily the extravagant packaging. Which of course, extends well beyond food products these days.

There are other reasons for objecting to pre-processed foods of course. Another reason is the large proportion of ingredients that do not promote human health and nutrition; additives, salt, sugars of all kinds, fats of all kinds, preservatives and so on. And yet another reason is that I believe food chains should be as local as possible, and that destruction of food sources should be localized and recognized as a local issue, impacting people in such a way as to illicit an immediate and localized response. Global food economies have robbed us of our essential social local feedback systems.

All those miles of floating plastic bits in the ocean are our species shame. And I cannot help but think that there are a few small bits of plastic, perhaps from a slice of cheese I ate, floating out of sight, somewhere out at sea.

Our species is creating more issues than our technology, and our activists, can effectively tackle.

Here at home, Mist has settled in and seems content. She enjoyed her milk this morning, her observations gazing out the open blinds, and her cozy bed. Quiet and serene again, thank goodness! An indignant Mist is a force to be reckoned with!

Finally the humans get it! Mist waited all day yesterday for us to figure out that she just wanted to be brushed; what a happy cat she is today. Just one of the trials and tribulations a cat has to endure, waiting for the human epiphany.
DSCF3575 MistWithBrush

The rest of the week will be extremely busy for me, as I will travel long distances on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. My routes will be picturesque though, so I am focusing on the lovely drive, rather than the destinations, which are not so picturesque; work and a car maintenance appointment.

One of the things I discovered while I was looking through some older entries, looking for a specific date on something, is that the images included with the entries are memory triggers, much more so than dates or entry titles or tags or categories or key words. This inspires me to spend a little more time preparing images for the entries.

Worldly Distractions

Weather

22°C
Date: 4:00 PM EDT Wednesday 18 September 2013
Condition: Mainly Sunny
Pressure: 102.0 kPa
Visibility: 16 km
Temperature: 21.6°C
Dewpoint: 7.6°C
Humidity: 40%
Wind: SSW 17 km/h

Quote

“The greatest justice in life is that your vision and looks tend to go simultaneously.”
Kevin Bacon
1958-