Monday, October 17, 2011

My First Canning Adventure!

I know, I know, all I've been writing about lately is food! Well, that's what my life is all about right now. I love living in a bigger house so that we have room for some food storage! FINALLY! As most of you already know, Rit and I bought a new refrigerator a couple of months ago. I LOVE THIS THING! I know it's silly to fall for an appliance, but it seriously makes my life so much easier. I love the extra space, the great lighting, and the filtered water in the door. I drink so much more water now! I hated washing and filling up our old Brita filter in the fridge before. Anyway, we also bought a freezer at the same time.

I have never had a separate stand-alone freezer. It's a whole new world. I. Love. It. I have been spending a lot of time lately roasting tomatoes, making soups with fresh local produce, and making vegetable and chicken stock...all for the freezer. I'm thrilled with the concept of being able to use local-produce-based, homemade foods all winter. Plus, as silly as it may sound, I find it really satisfying to "put up" food and to see what I've accomplished from this fresh, local produce. I know where it came from and how it was made. I love that!

After listening to Amy's stories of preserving, I decided to try to dehydrate some hot peppers and make our own chili powder. The peppers from the farmer's market were gorgeous and cheap (remember them from my last post?) We also harvested quite a few from our small garden. So, while wearing gloves, I sliced them length-wise in half and removed the seeds. I then dehydrated them. When they were nice and dry, I put them in my beloved Vitamix blender and turned them into powder.

If you try it, just be careful not to inhale when you take the lid off of the blender. It's potent stuff! But it smells heavenly. We can't wait to make chili this winter with our roasted tomatoes and homemade chili powder! Thanks for the idea, Ames!

The boys are in love with dehydrated apples, so I'm making as many as I can. We purchased apples CHEAP from a local orchard. We actually got a really good variety, too.

I bought two dehydrators cheap at a local factory store. They've been running almost non-stop since I bought them a couple of weeks ago. But, in lieu of a dehydrator, an oven can also be used to dehydrate apples. First peel, core and slice your apples. As you slice them, place them in an antibrowning bath. You can make the bath by crushing and dissolving 6 500mg vitamin C tablets in 2 c. of cold water or by adding 1/4 c. lemon juice to 2 c. cold water. After 10 minutes in the bath, remove and pat the apple slices dry. If using the oven method, place the slices on a cake cooling rack and place the rack in a 170 degree oven for about 3-4 hours. If using a dehydrator, place the apple slices on the racks in the dehydrator, careful not to overlap. The time in the dehydrator depends on the type of dehydrator. The slices are done with they are leathery and won't stick together when squeezed together. Cool and then place them in a covered container for one week. If there is no moisture in the container after one week, transfer the slices to an air-tight container and store for up to one year. If moisture is present, try dehydrating longer.

So aside from dehydrating and freezing, I tried my hand at canning this weekend...for the first time! I was a little intimidated, but I read a lot before I got started and I hope I did it right. I have to wait a little longer before checking to see if my jars sealed correctly.

I used a variety of apples. I did core them, but I didn't remove the skins as that is where so many nutrients are found.

I didn't add any sugar at all, just lemon juice and cinnamon. It's delicious! I canned 8 quarts so far and made some to keep in the fridge, which Rit has almost finished off already.

I am loving all of this preserving and I look forward to another week of it. It's getting me even more excited for my big garden next year. YEAH!

Love, Kate


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