Save money with home-canned foods
By LINDA HEITMAN
Comfort food evokes a sense of well-being, and brings back memories of happy times, places, and people. Thinking of the fare you associate with these two words brings satisfaction and contentment. But just what makes a particular food comfort food? What may constitute a comfort food in New Mexico is totally different from a comfort food in Maine. I grew up in Texas, and my husband in Nebraska. We have totally separate definitions of comfort food.
What is a comfort food to me? Something I can provide for my family that I made myself. Food that is totally organic with no concerns of harmful residues or ingredients-local food, fresh food, wholesome food. Food picked at the peak of ripeness. Varieties selected for taste, not beauty and ship-ability. Real food. That’s comfort food to me.
It is also immensely comforting to me to walk into my pantry during winter and see shelves filled with jars that I labored over in the summer and fall, knowing that in minutes I can prepare a meal, and realizing that I produced and processed everything on the table. That’s comfort food.
As you may have gathered, I have a great desire to be food self-sufficient. I am not completely there yet, but I am getting closer every year.
Currently, I am spending less than $150 per month on groceries for a family of three, and that includes paper goods and items I cannot produce myself. I love to find local sources to replace foods I enjoy that come from far away. Therefore, the recipes included here celebrate local food. Some of the food I grew, some I gathered wild, and some my husband processed after hunting.
All of it was processed with care, and I’m confident in its flavor. Some of the recipes may seem “normal,” and others totally unexpected, but I invite you to give them a try and see if they don’t become comfort foods for you, too.
Bread and butter pickles
Do you know why they are called “Bread and Butter” pickles? It is because they are so good that you can spread butter on bread (homemade, of course) and put these pickles on it and that’s all you need. My father eats them in a bowl like potato chips. The bell peppers and onions absorb the same sweet flavor.
2 to 3 dozen cucumbers-no larger around than your thumb and index finger can make, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices (The thick slices are the secret to firm pickles.)
3 large green or red bell peppers, cored and sliced into -inch strips
2 large onions, peeled and sliced into -inch “rings”
1 cup salt dissolved into 1 pitcher cold water (table or canning salts are OK)
5 cups white vinegar
5 cups white sugar
2 teaspoons whole cloves
3 teaspoons turmeric
2 tablespoons mustard seed
Combine cucumbers, bell peppers, and onions in very large pot (I use my pressure canner or a large stockpot). I fill my canner about 2/3 full of sliced cucumbers. Cover with ice and pour salt water over vegetables. Add more water if necessary until all vegetables are covered with water. Close pressure canner lid and put petcock on so the cold will stay in the canner. If you are using a water-bath canner pot or stockpot, put the lid on and put it in the refrigerator. Let soak at least 12 hours, but no more than 24 hours or pickles will be soft. After the soaking time, drain in strainer and rinse to remove excess salt.
Since you’re using the water-bath method, be sure to sterilize jars and lids.
In large pot (I use my pressure canner without the lid, or a large stockpot), combine vinegar, sugar, cloves, turmeric, and mustard seed. Stir until sugar is dissolved and bring to a boil. Once brine is at full boil, add vegetables and, while stirring constantly, return to a full boil.
Turn off heat and, using wide-based funnel, ladle vegetables into quart jars. After all jars are filled, ladle in brine, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Remove bubbles. Wipe rims of jars with clean, dampened paper towel, place hot lid on jar and tighten band fully.
Return canner that you sterilized your jars in back to the stove and insert jar holder/lifter. Add jars and lower into water. Make sure jars are completely submerged-at least 1 inch under water. Put lid on and bring to a gentle boil. Turn down heat to keep at gentle boil, not a full, rolling boil. Process 20 minutes.
Remove from water and put on towel. Leave undisturbed until cool, then place in dark cabinet or pantry for at least 1 week to bring out the full flavor. Yields about 9 quarts.
Note: Never pressure can cucumbers or summer squashes as it will turn them to mush.
Honey apple butter
This is a super delicious apple butter that is easy to make, and you don’t have to stand over the stove and stir for hours.
12 cups peeled, cored, and sliced apples (I really like the McIntosh and Gala apples for apple butter because they have a bolder flavor. I do not recommend Red Delicious unless they are locally grown because the flavor is very bland and the texture can be mealy.)
11/2 cups water
4 cups white sugar
1 cup honey
11/2 teaspoons cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
In large pot (like a stockpot), cook apples in water until tender, stirring often to prevent sticking. This usually takes 10 to 15 minutes. Either run cooked apples (do not drain) through a blender, or use a hand mixer and blend apples while still in stockpot.
Next, put all ingredients into large slow cooker and stir to combine. Cover with lid. Cook on high for 5 to 6 hours, stirring occasionally. Remove lid for last hour to thicken. Don’t stop cooking the apple butter too soon, as the darker it is, the richer the flavor! I like mine to be a rich, dark brown. The butter is done if it remains mounded in a spoon, or if a teaspoon of butter placed on a plate (wait at least a minute) does not have liquid rimmed around the edge.
In the meantime, clean jars and lids.
Ladle hot apple butter into hot jars, either pint or half-pint, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Wipe rims with clean, damp paper towel, put hot lids on that have been boiled, and tighten bands fully.
Pressure can at 7 pounds of pressure for 8 minutes for pints and half-pints, or process in water-bath canner (using sterilized jars) for 20 minutes for pints and half-pints. Yields 8 cups.
Note: Check the instructions with your pressure canner. Many experts say apple butter is high enough in acid that it doesn’t require pressure canning; a water-bath process will suffice. But since no additional acid is added to this recipe, the pressure canner is a safer way to go.
I absolutely love Mulberry Jam. It is thick, rich and super sweet. There is nothing better on fresh, hot bread than Mulberry Jam, in my opinion. Mulberries grow in most parts of the country and, while mulberries grow on trees, they are closely related to blackberries and dewberries, and the fruits are interchangeable in this recipe, so wherever you live, you can enjoy this tasty treat.
7 cups white, granulated sugar
5 cups crushed mulberries, do not drain
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 box Sure-Jell
1/2 teaspoon butter
Measure sugar into large bowl.
In large pot (at least 6 quarts), combine crushed berries, lemon juice, and Sure-Jell. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Add sugar all at once, then add butter (this helps to reduce foaming); stirring constantly, bring back to a full boil. Boil 1 minute, remove from heat.
Let sit for about 3 minutes, then with regular spoon, skim off foam.
Ladle into jars (sterilized if using a water-bath canner), leaving 1/4-inch headspace, wipe rims with clean, damp paper towel and cover with boiled lid and band. Tighten fully.
Process in pressure canner at 7 pounds of pressure for 8 minutes for pints and half-pints, or process in water-bath canner for 10 minutes. Yields 9 cups.
Heirloom spaghetti sauce
I use a lot of spaghetti sauce and tomato sauce, so I can enough to use at least 1 quart per week. I only grow heirloom tomatoes because they are disease resistant and have outstanding flavor.
To make this recipe as a tomato sauce, just leave out the herbs and garlic. I use fresh herbs, but you can substitute dried herbs. Simply reduce the listed amount by half.
If you are using low-acid or modern hybrid tomatoes, add 1 tablespoon lemon juice to each jar to raise the acid level sufficiently to water-bath can. If you are pressure canning, this is unnecessary.
20 pounds heirloom tomatoes
Cut ends off of tomatoes and cut into chunks. Fill blender 3/4 full with chunked tomatoes (do not peel). To blender, add 1 clove (not the whole bulb) sliced or diced garlic (or 1 teaspoon dried), and 2 tablespoons each of chopped fresh parsley, basil, and oregano. Blend until all chunks disappear. Pour into large stockpot. Repeat until all tomatoes are used.
Simmer sauce on medium heat, stirring occasionally until it reaches desired consistency.
Ladle into jars (hot, sterilized if using water-bath canner), and add 1 teaspoon salt to each quart or 1/2 teaspoon to pints. (If using low-acid or modern hybrid tomatoes, add 1 tablespoon lemon juice to each jar to raise the acid level sufficiently to water-bath can. This is unnecessary if pressure canning.) Leave 1-inch headspace. Wipe rims with clean, damp paper towel, and place boiled lid on the jar and tighten band fully.
To process in pressure canner, process pints at 7 pounds pressure for 20 minutes, quarts at 12 pounds of pressure for 15 minutes, or process in water-bath canner for 45 minutes.
I love fish but am concerned with the levels of pollution in our oceans. When I lived on the Gulf Coast, there were regular cautions about eating certain fish because of high pollutant or mercury levels. When we moved back to Nebraska, I started looking for alternative fish to eat and even to replace canned tuna. On a recent fishing trip, my husband caught several rainbow trout, and we decided to can them and see how they tasted. The result? I will never buy canned fish of any kind again.
Clean fresh fish, removing head, tail, fins, and scales, and remove entrails. Rinse well. Cut fish into sections up to 4 inches long. If fish is small enough, do not remove spine and ribs as they will soften during processing.
Fill clean, hot jars to bottom of band rings, or approximately 1-inch headspace. Place skin side next to glass. Do not add water. Wipe rims with clean, damp paper towel; place previously boiled lids on and tighten bands fully. Use only wide-mouth pint jars.
Process in dial-gauge pressure canner at 12 pounds for 100 minutes.
2 pints canned fish
1/2 small onion, chopped
Lard or cooking oil
Drain fish juice into bowl for your cats; they will love you forever for this wonderful treat.
In large mixing bowl, add fish (remove spine if you desire, although it is not mandatory as bones were softened during processing, but you can still see them), egg, and onion. Combine with hands until well mixed.
Form into palm-sized patties and cover on both sides with cornmeal. Fry in lard or cooking oil until golden brown, about 8 minutes.
Note: I guarantee you will absolutely love this dish. The fish patties are moist and have a delicate flavor that can’t be beat.
Fill your pantry with recipes found at www.grit.com.
Excerpted from Grit. To read more articles from Grit, please visit www.grit.com, or call 800-803-7096. Copyright 2019 by Ogden Publications Inc.
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