Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Preparing Tomatoes for Canning

I just got finished processing 13 baskets of tomatoes this last week.  Everyone needs to know how to process tomatoes.  In this blog post, I'll show you how to prep your tomatoes and can them in chunks.  The only different with sauce is that you would blend the softened tomatoes and cook them down more so there is less water in it.

Let's begin:  Bring a pot of water to boil.  This will be used to blanch and peel the tomatoes.  Do this first so that while you're prepping the tomatoes the water can start to heat up.

Aren't these tomatoes beautiful?  Do you know that I will NOT eat a fresh tomato?  I can't stand the taste of them.  But, I'll eat anything made from a tomato.  I'm a little strange.  I do try a tomato once or twice a year to see if anything has changed. :)

Get all of your tomatoes washed off.  I got these straight from my garden.  I pick my tomatoes and put them in a colander that I bring to the garden with me.  Makes it much easier to rinse and start eating.  I do this with all my veggies from the garden.

This is just a picture of my pretty tomatoes.  I grew all heirlooms this year.  This are a paste tomato except for the big fat one, that's a Campbell's brand heirloom that I picked up at a plant sale this spring.  I'm learning how to harvest seeds this year.

Once your tomatoes are washed, go ahead and with a knife, cut an X in the bottoms of the tomatoes.  This will help you peel them easier once they've been blanched.

Fill up a big bowl or a sink with cold water and add some ice to it.  You're going to want the water as cold as possible when you put the hot tomatoes in it.  That will stop the cooking process and make the tomatoes easier to handle.  It's hard to see the ice in this picture but there is some in there.

Once the water in the pot is boiling, put about 10-15 tomatoes in and let them boil for about 1-2 minutes.  Depending on how ripe your tomatoes are--leave them in longer or shorter.  You'll see the skins begin to crack and split or you'll see the X start to curl.  Pull the tomatoes out and put them in your ice water.

Ahhhhh......Those maters feel so much better now that they're in the ice water.  You can see how the skins are just falling off the tomatoes.  Sometimes that will happen.  Other times, if the tomato isn't quite ripe, you'll have to hand peel it.

In this picture, you can see how easy it is to peel.  Grab the tomato so the X is facing up, and just pull down the skin with your fingers.  Easy peesy!

I like to get the seeds, core and some of the liquid out of the tomato before I put them in jars.  Here you'll see one half that I've seeded and cored and the other half before working my magic.

Now, just give it/them a rough chop.
Put the chopped tomatoes in a pot and bring them to a simmer.  You're reducing the liquid a little more and softening the tomatoes.  I've found in all my years doing this that cooking them down a bit makes for a prettier jar of tomatoes and you can get more in the jar.  It's one more step than canning the tomatoes raw, you can do that too if you'd like.  I've done it many times.
You will need to add some lemon juice to your tomatoes before you process them in a boiling water bath.  Nowadays the tomatoes aren't as acidic as in the past and little beasties are developing to withstand regular tomato acidic.  By increasing the acid with lemon juice, you're making sure the little beasties (very academic) can't grow in your stored jars.

1 Tbl in a pint 
2 Tbls in a quart

I usually put the lemon juice in first so I can see that I did it.  I just go around with my bottle of lemon juice and a tablespoon and fill up all my prepared jars.

Ladle in your tomatoes, wipe the rims and put on your warm lids and rings.

Process quarts 40 minutes in boiling water bath. Pints 35 mins.
Let cool on cooling rack over night.  Remove rings and wipe around threads near the rim.  Label with type and date and put them in your storage.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Coupon Basics

I taught a VERY basic coupon class on Saturday and thought I'd share the powerpoint presentation here. I'm in NJ so there will be differences with store policies about coupons in different places of the country.

I welcome any other suggestions. This was very basic and I filled in with a lot of stories from my experiences of couponing over the last 10 years.

I welcome any suggestions to add to the ppt. I'll be teaching a similar class to an organization within Catholic Charities next month. So, I'm all for tweaking it.

Thank you.

Couponing 101

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Flu Preps

I've been meaning to write a little about prepping for a potential pandemic flu. Now, with the current state of affairs it's not too difficult to realize that this can actually happen.

I want to encourage everyone to gather a three month's supply of the food that you eat on a regular basis. Figure out about 5 meals that are common in your home. Take of example: spaghetti. In our family we have 6 children and 2 adults. We have to have 3 pounds of pasta for just one meal. If we eat spaghetti once a week, I'll need to store at least 36 boxes of pasta for a three month's supply. The same type of calculations are done for the ingredients for the sauce. If you buy canned sauce, then calculate how many you will need.

Continue doing this for all of the meals you've chosen. Remember to think of meals for breakfast as well. Also include fun foods that you're going to want to eat. Cookies, cake and brownie mixes, jello, instant pudding...etc.

Along with food, you're going to want to have N95 masks and surgical type gloves in storage. This is to prevent spreading or inhaling anything from the flu "of the day" to MRSA a nasty staph infection.

Learn how and teach your loved ones how to wash their hands correctly. When washing hands, lather the hands up generously and continue to scrub hands for the the amount of time it takes to sing "Happy Birthday". Then rinse hands in warm water. You'll need to wash hands after using alcohol-based hand sanitizer five times. The hand sanitizer just doesn't get into all the crevices of the hands and fingers.

BUT, please do include hand sanitizer in your storage. Get hold of small bottles of sanitizer so that EVERY member of the family carries it with them. Teach them how to use it and make it a normal part of their day.

Washing hands will be the greatest source of protection we have to fight against any funky things coming down the pike.

Bleach is also necessary to clean the surfaces of your home and other areas. Mix 1 tsp of bleach to one gallon of water. This mixture will only have potency for ONE day. You'll have to mix this up every day. My husband will be taking this in a spray bottle to the gym every day to spray down the equipment before he works out.

Keep your "outside of the house" footprint small. Combine all of your errands so you only have to be outside for a minimal amount of time. This is where the three month's supply comes in handy.

Add over the counter drugs and vitamins to your storage. Things like children's Tylenol and cough medicine may help with symptoms from the flu. The healthier you can make your body the better chance you will have of getting through this will as little stress as possible.

If you have more questions, please ask.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Container Gardening Class

Last week I had the opportunity to teach a container gardening class to my stake.  I was pleasantly surprised to see that over 50 people attended the class.  I created a power point presentation vs. giving out a ton of handouts.  I thought I'd post the link to my power point presentation that has been converted to a .pdf file.

Container Gardening Presentation

Friday, March 20, 2009

Thank you

I'm still a little inept at figuring out the blog stuff. I just wanted to say THANK YOU to so many of you who have sent me your success stories about your own home storage efforts. I'm so proud of you. I don't know you but I'm thankful to you for all of your preparations. It makes me more determined to do more.

Keep up the good work. Please continue to write and tell me all the fun stuff you and your friends are doing. YAY FOR YOU!!!

Wendi in NJ

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Online Canning Class

I just took an online self-study course on Home Canning and Preservation offered by the the National Center for Home Food Preservation through the University of Georgia.

I have to say that I knew a lot but learned quite a bit as well. It also helped to solidify some things I was a bit shaky on. They have you take a pre-quiz before each section. I didn't pass the pre-quizzes but scored between 70-90%. After the section, you'll have the opportunity to take the same quiz up to two more times. If you pass the course with greater than 70%, you will be sent a certificate saying that you completed the course.

The course is free of charge. Click on this link http://www.uga.edu/nchfp/index.html and scroll to the bottom. You'll see a little sign that says "Preserving Food at Home--Self Study". Under that banner there will be a teeny tiny link to sign up for the course. It took about a week before I was sent the link and password for the actual course.

You have up to 6 months to complete it. Having done a bunch of canning, I didn't feel it necessary to actually go through the exercises they give you. They teach you to can apples, tomatoes and something else that slips my mind. If you mess up, they give you reasons for the problems. I did find it to be very helpful.

I completed the course in one day. If you're familiar with canning, it takes about 2 hours or so. I was also doing laundry, homeschooling and general mom stuff.

Let me know if you take the course and what you think.

Monday, March 9, 2009

I've decided that I'll add some of my musings from my weekly emails I sent out to members of my church and others about food storage.  Most of it is the sales from the different grocery stores each week.  But, it's also a chance for me to communicate some preparedness thoughts.  This is last week's.

I'm going to delve into your personal lives. Do you have a year's supply of toilet paper? Have you ever tried to figure that out? I'm not sure if I want to tell y'all how much TP I have saved, but....my goal is to have a roll/day. I have 8 people in my family. All of whom are potty trained now. And there are 5 girls to boot. So, like I said, I've got a goal of having at least 1 roll per day in storage. Depending on how quickly we catch the 3 year from unrolling it all ....I may need less or more. :) TP takes up a lot of space, BUT the good thing is that it doesn't require a cold, dark storage place like your food. Though, I would be thoughtful about where I store it because little rodents like the soft cushiness of Charmin just like we do. If you have extra Rubbermaid containers that you can put it in, you can store it in the attic or up in the rafters of the garage. You can also squish it down to put more in a container. I have a roll of TP in each of our 72 hours kits that's been vacuum packed with our food saver. If you have other suggestions, please let me know.

One more thing personal...feminine supplies. Please store these things. Just take a little wander into the world where you have nothing for yourself (if you're a woman) or your daughters or anyone else that may need your help. Again, they take up some space, BUT just like the TP, they don't require special storage conditions. It would be my suggestion that you pick up an extra package each time you go to the store. Don't wait until you need them. If you get them on sale, it's not too much of an extra burden. Plus, Kotex always has coupons available to make a package of pads right around $1.50-$2.00. That's not that bad. You've got to have them anyway, just make it a habit to grab a box each time you're at the store. You'll be surprised at how quickly that adds up. I encourage the men that read this to please support your wives in this extra expense. It'll make for a much happier wife in the long run. This is also something you may wish to add to your 72 hours kits. I'd put them in a plastic bag.

I'll tell y'all a little about myself. One that I"m sure will make you mock me, BUT I can handle it. Everyone has to start some where with food storage. I was a single woman living in Charlottesville Va with my own house (own mortgage). I did not have any food storage at all. Nothing! I got a letter from my aunt that encouraged me to start saving water in 2 litre soda bottles. That's where I started. Well, more specifically, I started with a 2 litre soda bottle filled with water and a GIANT box of Tampax tampons from Sam's Club. And the rest is history. :) If I can do it, anyone can. Trust me.

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Survivors Club widget

Leave a comment and let me know which type of survivor you are.  This is a great little quiz.  I haven't read the book yet, but intend to purchase it within the next week.  BTW, I'm a Thinker. Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Applesauce Oatmeal Cookies

Applesauce Oatmeal Cookies

1 c shortening
2 c sugar

2 eggs
2 c applesauce (2 c dried apples, 2 c boiling water, let stand for 5 minutes)

Add and mix well:
2 tsp soda
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cloves

3 1/2 c flour
2 c oatmeal
1 c chopped nuts (optional)
1 c chocolate chips (optional)
1 c raisins (optional)

Mix well and drop by spoonfuls on greased baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees 10-12 minutes.

Note: I did add chocolate chips and nuts to mine. I also doubled up on the cinnamon.
Use a blender to create the applesauce for the cookies after they've soaked.

Apple Brown Betty

Apple Brown Betty

Pour 2 c boiling water over 4 cups dried apples. Let stand at least 5 minutes.

Topping: Mix the following ingredients well:
1/2 c flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 c oatmeal
1/4 c brown sugar
Then cut in 1/4 c butter

Place the apples and liquid remaining in a greased 9 x 9 pan. Sprinkle the topping over the apples. Bake at 350 degrees for 55 minutes.

I doubled the recipe for the topping mix as I really really like the crunchy stuff. You could also add some chopped nuts to the topping mix if you like.

I sprinkled my ice cream with a little cinnamon...just to be fancy. :)

Dehydrated Apple Slices

I've never really played with dehydrated food.  Today I tried out two different recipes.  Apple Brown Betty and Applesauce Oatmeal Cookies.  Both were made with dehydrated apple slices that I got at the Home Storage Center many years ago.  Seriously, at least 8 years ago.  

The Apple Brown Betty was a cinch to make.  I'd make that one again.  It turned out to be more like an apple crisp.  I would never have known it was made with 8 year old dehydrated apple slices. 

The Applesauce Oatmeal Cookie were fine but I screwed them up.  I made the mistake of not reading the directions on how to make applesauce from the apple slices.  So, after soaking them, I had some brain warp that did not let me thing through the problem of how to make it into applesauce.  I ended up using a ricer.  Please don't do that.  I ended up squirting apple guck all over the place including my hair and clothes.  I can laugh about it though.  I didn't have enough liquid nor enough riced apples.  Why oh why did I not think to use the blender?  I guess I've just shown how NOT to do something.  That's also very important.  Glad I could help.

I've included the recipes from the blog preparednessmatters.blogspot.com that I used today.  All in all I was happy with my endeavors.  Dehydrated food is not so scary after all.