September 19, 2014

Simple Guide to Canning and Making Homemade Jelly – Part 2

Aug 2, 2011

The following is a guest post by Raising A Family On A Budget.

If you have been seriously considering canning, you probably have poked around a few websites and maybe even checked out a book or two from the library.  And if you are like some people, reading through these books brings flashbacks of high school chemistry class with lengthy procedures, tons of equipment, unfamiliar terms, and a heavy dose of caution.

While canning is a science, and you do have to follow certain steps in order to have a final product that is both delicious and safe to consume, it does not have to be overwhelming.

Before we get started, let’s review some of the terminology that you will come across in canning.

  • Canning Jars – also known as Mason, Ball or Kerr Jars.  A glass jar with a 2 piece lid.  When you first buy the jars, they come with the caps and rings.
  • Cap – the part of the lid that seals directly to the jar.  These can only be used once.
  • Ring – the part of the lid that holds the cap to the jar.
  • Pectin – a natural jelling agent added during the cooking process to guarantee that fruit spread sets up as desired.
  • Canning Kettle – A large heavy bottom pot that you can place your filled jars in with 2 inches of water above the top of the lids
  • Water Bath Canner – the usual canning method for preserving jams, jellies, pickles, and most sauces.
  • Head Space – the amount of space you leave in the top of the jar; this varies by recipe.
  • Processing Time – the amount of time the filled jars need to be in the canning kettle once the water has returned to a boil.

I find that a large soup pot works well as a canning kettle, and do not see the point to purchasing a special canning kettle.  If you have a tall stock pot or crab pot this will work nicely for processing pint jars, and smaller jars.  If you want to process quart jars, you may need to purchase a separate canning kettle (which is why most of what I make is in 8 oz or pint jars).

The next tools of the trade are a jar lifter and a funnel.  You can often purchase these as part of a kit.  The jar lifter is exactly that, a set of tongs designed to lift jars out of the canning kettle without sacrificing your fingers.  The funnels for canning are a must!  They fit nicely inside the standard and wide mouthed jars, and are a great way to ladle hot jams into the jars while keeping the lip of the jar clean.

Next up is pectin.  If you are planning on making any variety of fruit spread, you will want to buy a commercially produced pectin such as Ball Pectin or SureGel.  There are liquid and powdered pectins available on the market, and the choice in variety is yours.  I prefer powdered pectins for jams, but tend to use liquid pectins for jellies and butters.  Its just what my recipes call for so that is what I do, but the choice is completely yours.  In addition, there are pectins available that use little or no sugar.  These are a good option if you are preparing a fruit spread for someone who is diabetic and can’t have the added sugar, but the quality of the finished product is different than with a pectin and sugar combination.

Now it is time to pick your jars.  Ball and Kerr now make a variety of designer jars, as well as the plain standard jars.  If you are making the jams as a gift, by all means purchase the pretty jars.  If the items are just for you and your family, I say go with the plain jars and save yourself a few dollars.

When it comes to jars, I am a little particular about what sizes I use for which items, but again, the choice is up to you.

  • 4 oz jars – these are great for just a sampling of the jam.  I like to have these on hand for when there is a little jam left in the pot that won’t fill a larger jar.  These are also nice if you are giving jam as a gift and want to give the recipient a variety.
  • 8 or 12 oz jars – these are ideal for jams and other fruit spreads.
  • Wide Mouth 8 oz jars – these are perfect for salsa.  They are short and wide which is perfect for dipping right from the jar.
  • Pint Jars – this is the jar that I use the most at home.  It is perfect for pickles, jams, apple sauce, barbecue sauce, and marinara.
  • Quart Jars – I don’t recommend making jam in quart jars, but they work well for anything else as long as you have a canning kettle that is tall enough to accommodate the jars.

For the purpose of this series, we will be working with 8 oz jars.

I have found that the best prices on canning supplies are at Walmart.  They tend to have a large selection in their stores, but their canning supplies are only available from May through August in our area (you may be lucky to have a longer growing season where you live, and in turn Walmart may carry things later into the fall).

If you don’t have a Walmart in your area, many grocery stores also carry canning supplies, however they tend to be more expensive.  You can also find a lot of the basic supplies at your local hardware store (TruValue, Ace, Agway or privately owned establishment).  You can also purchase canning supplies from Amazon or directly from Ball/Kerr.

<< Previous Post: Introduction to Canning

Next Post: Step-by-Step Guide to Making Jelly >>

Stephanie Huston is the mom behind Raising A Family On A Budget.  Her main focus is saving families money through couponing and shopping sales for the items we need and would buy anyway. In addition, there are often ideas shared for other frugal aspects of our lives (cooking, dining out, DIY, vacation, etc).

Photo Credit

My Freezer Cooking Experience: 30 Meals in 2.5 Hours!

Jun 8, 2011

I mentioned in my menu plan last week that I was planning to do some freezer cooking as well as a meal swap with friends. I am so pleased with how well it went!

For the freezer cooking, I just doubled the recipe for some of the dinners I was already making. This way we got dinner for that night plus an extra for the freezer.

When you double your meals, it saves in SO many ways! You use about half the dishes (use your skillet once for both meals instead of using and washing it twice for two meals on two different days), you are able to streamline your processes (chopping vegetables all at once), and you save so much time (instead of spending 30 minutes each time you make a tamalie pie, make 2 at a time and spend only about 35-40 minutes total)!

I also made five of two of the meals for a meal swap. I got together with three friends and we decided to each make two different dinners for each person. The meals I chose were Tuna Fettucine and Tamalie Pie. I made one of each for our dinner those nights, one for our freezer, plus one for each of my friends. Then we all swapped. I traded my six meals for six different meals from the others. A great way to get some variety! We all agreed to just do one meal next week though because two was a little much for us.

I only spent approximately 2.5 extra hours cooking last week. For my efforts I now have 30 meals in the freezer! All of the meals are actually enough for us to make 2 or more dinners (so each meal you see in the picture will give us 2 or more dinners), so I was able to get many more meals than I expected.

Here are the meals I now have in my freezer

  • Chicken Curry – 5
  • Tamalie Pie – 3
  • Sausage Strata – 3
  • Tuna Fettucine – 2
  • Lasagna – 3
  • Sausage Casserole – 3
  • Chicken Wontons – 3
  • Country Creole Peas ‘n Corn – 2
  • Peppered Steak – 2
  • Chicken Penne Pasta – 2
  • Burrito Beans – 2
  • Mashed Potatoes – 14 (this was something extra I did to use up some potatoes that I purchased in bulk)

Most of the recipes I used were from the Meals in Minutes Cookbook by Sue Gregg. I was VERY pleased with this book and everything we’ve tried has been delicious!! Her recipes use whole foods and are kid-friendly. (PS. This post is in no way sponsored by Sue Gregg. I bought this book at a book fair and loved it so much I had to tell you about it. :) )

I definitely think freezer cooking is worth it! I won’t be doubling meals every night but I will be doubling them far more often after seeing how easy it is!

Simple Guide to Canning and Making Homemade Jelly – Part 1

Jun 6, 2011

The following is a guest post by Raising A Family On A Budget.

For the past 10 years, I have been making my own jams, jellies, pickles, salsas, and sauces and canning them.  Not because my mother or grandmother taught me how to do it, as a tradition passed down from generation to generation.  Rather, as an escape from all of the super fast, super processed foods that were on the market.  I wanted to have foods in my pantry with ingredients that I could pronounce, and with as few ingredients as possible.

Initially, I set out with a small jam making kit and a few pounds of fresh strawberries to attempt to make strawberry preserves and capture the flavor of summer in a jar for the cold and nasty Northeast winters.

Within 6 months of that initial batch of strawberry preserves, I was cranking out batch after batch of home canned goodies to sell at local craft shows and markets.

People would taste the jam and it would transport them back to their childhood summers of helping their grandmother and aunts make jam in the hot steamy kitchen.  For others, the flavor just captured summer in a jar, if only for a little while.

I loved the stories that people would share with me.

The nostalgia.  The recipes.  The desire for something simple.

Now as a mother of two young children, I no longer have the time, nor the energy, to crank out canned goods to sell at every farmer’s market in the area.  I do however still can my own jams and jellies, marinara sauce, barbecue sauce, apple sauce, pickles, and a few other goodies with the desire to pass on this love to my own children, as well as my family and friends, if not by spending quality time together in the kitchen, then by passing on the homemade goodies as gifts at the holidays or putting them out on the table at meal time.

While grandma probably only canned what she grew in her garden or what she could get at the local market, today’s possibilities are limitless.  Beyond the basic fruit jams and jellies, you can get into the more “gourmet” variety of things, using the exact same skills and basic know how.

Do you love kiwi?  Try making a Kiwi Jam!  Like it a little spicy?  Then try Jalapeno Jelly!  Want something sophisticated for a cocktail party?  Make homemade jellies from your favorite varieties of wine!

Over the course of this series on canning, you will gather the knowledge and know how to successfully, and safely make your own canned goods to share with family and friends.

Next Post: Terminology and Supplies >>

Stephanie Huston is the mom behind Raising A Family On A Budget.  Her main focus is saving families money through couponing and shopping sales for the items we need and would buy anyway. In addition, there are often ideas shared for other frugal aspects of our lives (cooking, dining out, DIY, vacation, etc).

Photo Credit

Chicken Cheese Ball Recipe!

Sep 13, 2010

I hope you’ve printed the $5/5 Kraft Cheese Printable Coupon.  Walmart currently has Philadelphia Cream Cheese blocks on roll back for $1.  With the printable coupon, you can get 5 FREE blocks of cream cheese!  Don’t forget, the coupon can be printed twice!

Don’t know what to do with cream cheese?  Here is a recipe I love to make for parties or get-togethers.  It would be a perfect snack for football season!

Chicken Cheese Ball

Ingredients

4 Chicken Breasts
4 Cream Cheese 8 oz packages, softened
8 Green Onions, sliced
1/2 cup Stuffed Green Olives, chopped (or to taste)
Garlic Salt, Salt and Pepper to taste

Directions

1. Boil chicken and shred/chop.
2. Combine all ingredients and refrigerate overnight.
3. When ready to serve, form into shape of a ball on a platter
4. Serve with Cream Cheese & Chive Wheat Thins (You could use any kind of cracker, but I’ve tried tons and these just go with it the best!)

Baking Day: The Results

Jul 27, 2010

Well, my baking day went great!  I got so much done in just around 7 hours.  I was smart this time too – I asked my cousin to come over and keep the kiddos entertained and out of trouble.  It made things so much easier! ;)

Here is what I have:

Cheesy Broccoli and Rice with Chicken – 2 meals
Chicken and Black Bean Taco Filling – 3 meals
Chicken Pots Pie with Homemade Pie Crust
Crockpot Salsa Chicken – 3 meals
Crusty French Baguette – 2 loaves
Bread Machine Wheat Rolls
Pizza Kits with Homemade Pizza Dough x 4
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins
Chocolate Butterhorns – 2 dozen
Pie Crusts x 4

Not pictured:

Chicken Pot Pie – ate for dinner that night
8 Chocolate Butterhorns – ate for dessert that night
13 Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins – ate for snacks
Double Chip Cookies – made a few days later
Taco Seasoning – I knew I’d forget to include this in the picture!

Altogether, I have 13 meals plus lots of other goodies stocked in my freezer now.  Spending one day making all that food will save me countless hours and money since I was able to prepare multiples at once.

Baking days definitely work for me!

Chocolate Butterhorns Recipe

Jul 24, 2010

You have to try these. Seriously. They are unbelievably good.

I’ve already had three today.

I could not believe how easy they were to make either.

I did add a little extra touch though.  After I pulled them out of the oven, I drizzled them with melted butter and sprinkled some powdered sugar on top. Oh la la.

Here is the Chocolate Butterhorn recipe.  You can thank me later.  See what else I made during my baking day here.

Want a bite?

Baking Day: My Plan and Recipes

Jul 23, 2010

Today I am doing a baking day!  A baking day (or freezer cooking day) is just a day where you cook several things to freeze for later use.

I really struggle with cooking in the summertime.  The heat makes me avoid heating up the kitchen and I just tend to eat less in general in the summer.  Strangely, my family still needs to eat!  These past few weeks we’ve been relying on frozen pizzas and my husband’s cookings far too many nights.  I decided I needed to do something about it!  So, I’m going to stock my freezer with some meals that will be easy to heat up and eat on the nights when I don’t feel like being in the kitchen.

Here is my plan for today:

Cheesy Broccoli and Rice with Chicken
Chicken and Black Bean Taco Filling
8 Pie Crusts
2 Chicken Pots Pies – using 4 pie crusts from above
Crockpot Salsa Chicken*
Crusty French Baguette
Bread Machine Wheat Rolls*
Pizza Dough*
Pizza Kits*
Taco Seasoning*
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins
Double Chip Cookies
Chocolate Butterhorns*

That will net at least 13 meals plus extra goodies!

My plan has already changed since I wrote it last night!  The salsa chicken and taco seasoning were added this morning.  I had intended to make something else in the crockpot but neglected to prepare it last night.  Then I decided to make crockpot salsa chicken instead (mainly because it sounded easy…) but then realized I was out of taco seasoning!  Thank goodness my friend Rachel recently shared a homemade taco seasoning recipe or I would have decided to make something else.

I seem to have not planned this out very well because there have been several other things that I thought I had but don’t!  My husband made a trip to the store for me to get a few things, but I’ve since realized I’m out of other things.  I am by no means a pro at this but I do have one bit of advice – check to see if you have all the ingredients, don’t just assume you do.  Don’t forget about things like spices, oils, flour, and sugar!

I also haven’t been feeling well this morning so my day is going a bit slower than I expected.  I am going with a no-stress approach though this time. I hope to get everything done but I am not going to be upset if I don’t.  It’s helping me to be much more relaxed!

So far today (it’s 1 pm now) I have made chicken and black bean taco filling (substituted red beans), taco seasoning, salsa chicken, pizza dough, pizza kits, pumpkin chocolate chip muffins, chocolate butterhorns, and the wheat rolls are currently in the bread machine!

Oh, and all the recipes with a *star are new recipes.  All the others are tried and true!

If that is all I get done today, I will be happy.  Though I do hope I can at least get the meals done.  I’m not sure why I planned to make all the sweet stuff first… ;)

I will try to post updates later on and maybe some pictures of the food!

How to Make Southern Sweet Iced Tea

Jun 10, 2010

Southern Sweet Iced Tea Recipe


Down here in the south, sweet tea is a staple. It’s priority is right up there with milk and eggs.  I drink tea year-round and with every meal - including breakfast.

However, I just don’t understand how people can pay for those jugs of pre-made sweet tea! Don’t y’all know how easy it is to make sweet tea?  Well, I have decided to take on the responsibility of curing everyone’s tea-jug-buying habit.

First of all, it is very important that you imagine me saying all this with a southern accent. M’kay?

Let me break down the cost for you. Red Diamond Sweet Tea costs about $2.50 per gallon.  A box of 100 Lipton Tea Bags costs about $3.  If you use 4 tea bags to make a gallon of tea, that means you will make 25 gallons of tea per box of tea bags. That works out to 12¢ per gallon. A savings of $2.38 per gallon. Even if you work in the cost of sugar and a cute new tea pitcher, it is still cheaper to make your own.

Now, if great savings does not sway you, what if I said homemade tea tastes better? Cause it does. And my version is The. Best. Seriously.

Because I love you all dearly, I am going to share my super-top-secret Southern Sweet Tea recipe.

You will need:

Water
Pan or Kettle to boil water
1 Gallon or 2 Quart Pitcher
4 Regular Tea Bags (or 2 Family Size) – any brand (I recommend Lipton – but NOT the cold brew!)
1/2 Cup – 1 Cup of Sugar

First, bring some water to a boil. I use this handy tea kettle that I got at Ikea, but you can boil it in a saucepan or whatever you have on hand.

Pour boiling water into your tea pitcher. Make sure to use a pitcher that is safe to hold hot liquids. Don’t use glass!

Remove 4 small tea bags from the package and brew in the hot water. I drape the paper part over the side, but my husband likes to wrap the string around the tines of a fork, and lay the fork across the top of the pitcher.

Let the tea brew for a few minutes. I don’t really time this, and I don’t really think it matters that much, but I’d guess around 5 minutes.

Take out the tea bags and add cold water to fill the pitcher. You can add ice too, if you want.

Add sugar. I like mine pretty sweet and use about 1 cup for for my 3 Quart Pitcher. I’d suggest adding a little, stirring, and tasting until you get it just right.

Stir well.

Pour over ice and enjoy!

Slow Cooker Italian Chicken-Lentil Stew Recipe

Mar 25, 2010

Slow-cooker Italian chicken-lentil stew recipe -- easy, frugal, and delicious!


I have a bit of an obsession with lentils.  They are little, and cute, and require no soaking!  This stew recipe only fuels my obsession.  It’s easy, frugal, healthy, and delicious, which are the four qualifiers for a meal to get into my regular meal rotation.  So, without further ado, please meet my current favorite recipe.

The great thing is, this recipe is very versatile; you can use whatever veggies you have on hand!  I will also probably add in something with a little more flavor next time because we like our food to have some kick!

Baking Day Part 3 | The Results

Nov 3, 2009

baking day

I am completely worn out.  Completely. Here’s why:

baking day food

Meals:
(2) Vegetarian Chili (un-vegetarianized, my husband requested that I add ground beef)
(1) Veggie Lasagna (large – will feed our family at least 2 meals)
(4) Breakfast Hot Pockets, 3 – 4 per package (these turned out HUGE!)
(5) Cinnamon Rolls, 4-5 per package (there were 6, exchanged with friend for 5 eggs because I ran out!)
(1) Chicken Pot Pie Soup (not pictured, eaten for dinner)

Misc:
(2) Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins (18 out of 24 left to freeze!)
(2) Banana Nut Bread
(1) Stuffed Bread Sticks (will make several snacks)
(4) Beans in 2 cup portions (see a great tutorial for cooking dried beans here, as well as the “per can” savings)
(4) Pie Crusts (not pictured, forgotten)

I am really excited about all the breakfasts.  I am not a morning person, and cooking first thing when I wake up is just not going to happen.  Now I have several homemade breakfasts that I can microwave in the mornings for the kiddos.  They will be thrilled!

This was a hard day, but thinking of not cooking again, at all, for at least a week makes it so worth it.  I mean, if you had to choose between working a little bit a day for 7 days a week, or working for one really long day and taking the rest of the week off, which would you choose?

Find all the recipes HERE and some yummy-looking pictures HERE.

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