Already Hot in the Kitchen; 5 Ways to Stay Cool when Canning

It’s just after 11:00PM and I still have two burners rolling on the stove.  I’m experimenting with a recipe for an asparagus soup concentrate that can be pressure canned and preserving a few odds and ends.

And it’s hot as heck.

Canning, pressure canning, dehydrating and cooking preserves can really heat up the house.  Here’s a few ideas for lowering the heat when preserving on warmer days:

  1. Move canning outside.  If you’re lucky enough to have an overhang or a covered porch, this is an easy step.  Create a small outdoor kitchen space and cook over a camp stove or the side burner of a BBQ.  I actually move our dehydrator onto our small fire escape when the weather gets really warm in order to stay cool.
  2. Change techniques.  I’m pressure canning soup and stock.  If I had a deep freezer I could easily freeze both items and cut a lot of heat out of my kitchen.
  3. Convert your garage.  OK, this is extreme – but it’s common in much of Nova Scotia; Garages are converted into rough kitchens (i.e. a fridge, sink, stove and counter are added to an otherwise ‘normal’ garage).
  4. Be a night owl.  Preserve later at night or early in the morning when it’s cooler (and energy is often more affordable).
  5. Work slower.  This may sound counter intuitive but multitasking (such as heating water while you’re chopping vegetables) can create extra heat in the kitchen (i.e. your water boils before your jam has cooked).  By working one-task-at-a-time you can ensure the heat is only on when it’s needed.

How do you stay cool in the kitchen?

10 Things on my Preserving Bucket List

I thought it would be fun to daydream and come up with a list of 10 things I want to preserve but haven’t done yet.  I don’t know how many of these things I’ll eventually make but I know I’ll be doing several of them this year.

This isn’t a complete list but it’s the first 10 things that came to mind.  Most of them have percolated for a few years – just not enough time to get to them!

10 Things on my Preserving Bucket List

  1. Fish sauce.  I’ve been ‘threatening’ to make this at home for years.  I don’t cook with fish sauce very often but I’d really like to make it even though I’m a little afraid of the potential fragrance.
  2. Sourdough.  I’ve made plenty of bread but I’ve never made sourdough.  I’m not sure it counts as a preserve although it does involve fermenting so I’ll say it does!
  3. Charcuterie.  I’ve made jerky, bacon, prosciutto and some other cured meats but I’d like to take these skills to the next level.
  4. Tanning hides.  You can’t eat them, but tanning hides (such as deer or moose) is definitely a form of preservation and I’d like to learn how.
  5. Ume Boshi.  I fermented some plums that were inspired by this Japanese ferment but would love to take it further and closer to the actual product.
  6. A giant batch of hot sauce (i.e. 100 gallons).  We make lots of hot sauce and I have no idea what I’d do with this much hot sauce but I’d really love to try to ferment a big batch of hot peppers to make sauce.  I don’t know why the volume is such an appeal but I’d really like to give it a shot!
  7. Cheese.  Making Ricotta was easy but I’d love to learn mooch more about fermenting cheese.
  8. Frozen food.  This one is a bit of a cheat because I already know how to freeze food but I’ve put it hear because we have the tiniest freezer.  I’d like to have the space for a deep freeze one day – we’d freeze a lot more food than we do now.
  9. Canned Fish.  Mrs Wheelbarrow inspired me with this recipe and I will pressure-can tuna or salmon soon!
  10. Fermented ‘something’ in a pumpkin.  Like beer.  I love the idea of using a pumpkin or a large squash as a fermenting vessel.

What would you add to your preserving bucket list?

10 Things I’ve Learned in Business That Apply to Preserving

I’ve worked in different businesses most of my life.  I’ve worked in all sorts of different companies in all sorts of roles.  I’ve never been a big believer in completely separating work from the rest of my life; there are all sorts of things I’ve learned at work that I use in the rest of my life – and all sorts of things I’ve learned in life that I use at work.

Here’s 10 things I’ve learned from work that apply to preserving:

  1. Teamwork
    A good team will out perform a group of solo-stars.  While I do plenty of preserving by myself it’s fun to preserve in small groups – especially when preserving large batches.  I adore a good pickle or jam session with Dana and/or a few friends, great music and a supply of wine or beer.
  2. Organization
    Be organized.  It makes the task easier, faster and more enjoyable when you’re making preserves.
  3. Planning
    I once made more than 300 jars of jam in 60 days.  I was jam-drunk.  I was having so much fun making jam that I didn’t think of the consequences – specifically what the heck I was going to with 300 jars of jam.
  4. Mesure twice, cut once
    Each year I make at least one dreadful mistake related to measuring.  I forget the sugar, double the vinegar or forget a key ingredient.  Read the recipe in advance, check as you go and measure everything carefully!
  5. Cheer the progress
    Take time to pat yourself and others on the back for preserving.  It feels good to put food up for the winter – celebrate the little victories to stay motivated.
  6. Fun
    It’s difficult to get good at anything you don’t enjoy.  Preserving is a lot of fun but if you’re too focused on the results it can be easy to forget to ‘fun’ part.
  7. Practice
    Make small batches (Food in Jars has a ton of recipes for them), swap with friends and preserve with others before making giant batches.  When learning to ferment hot sauce I would ferment a cup or hot peppers at a time (over the winter) before committing to make a gallon (or more) of hot sauce.
  8. Learn
    Read, study and watch videos.  Go beyond the usual sources and look for inspiration from other cultures, chefs, books, blogs and magazines.
  9. Share
    The more you share, the more that will be shared with you.  Talk to friends, family and others that share your passion and you’re bound to learn more about it.
  10. Coach
    When you’re comfortable with the process of preserving, help others learn how to do it.  The more you share your knowledge, the more you’ll learn!

What would you add to this list?

Preserving Herbs? A Few Ideas…

We asked our Facebook community for preserving questions and the community came through – almost 30 questions about all sorts of things related to preserving!

We thought it would make sense to group the questions to give you the best answers; today’s topic is all about preserving herbs!

Moss G wanted to know “…what are the options for putting up pesto? I’ve got a motherload of basil and was thinking it would be awesome to actually “can” it if possible – is it possible?’

I know your pain Moss!  Unfortunately, pesto is low acid which doesn’t make it safe to can.  It may be possible to pressure can it but the texture would change and the herbs would cook and it wouldn’t be the same.

My favorite way to preserve pesto is to freeze it using this trick (sorry for the bad photography from the early days) – essentially I use paper muffin tray liners.  Also check the next question which may help you out too!

Penny R. has an oregano problem!  She asked, “I don’t want to dry my Oregano , what are other ways to preserve it ?”

Hi Penny!  There’s a bunch of options – though drying it will be the closest to the original taste.  You could also:

  • Make Herbes Salees.  This is one of my absolute favorite preserves every year; salt cured herbs that sit in your fridge and can be used for a year or more.
  • You could make a herb jelly.  I haven’t made this one but it would work with oregano for sure.
  • Herb-Infused Vinegar.  These are really easy to make and fantastically easy to use!  The same technique would also work with a neutral alcohol (like vodka) and infusing oils are a possibility (though I haven’t done research into that…yet!)
  • You could chop in up, place it in ice cube trays, cover in stock and freeze (using a cube when cooking).

How do you preserve herbs?  Our most common way is, indeed, to dehydrate them.

Recap: Time to Get Preserving Discussion

More than 20 people came to our first Independent Preserving talk at the start of April.  It was an awesome night!

We struggles to describe the session in advance; it wasn’t until after we had it that we figured out what the night was ‘about’: the fundamentals of filling a pantry.

Recap: Time to Get Preserving Discussion preserving [Read more...]

7 “New” Preserves I’ll be making again in 2013

We were cooking dinner tonight; a simple polenta dish for an evening meal.  I wasn’t really paying much attention as I blissfully cooked guided by my subconscious and absolute hunger.  When I was letting the polenta rest I noticed a few open jars on the counter: dried wild leeks, chili salt, mushroom powder, and dried fermented chili seeds all made it into dinner.  Cooking with the diverse ingredients in our pantry is so easy that I almost risk taking it for granted/ remember what to make in coming years.

So tonight’s post is simple: 7 preserves we made last year for the first time that we will make again this year.

7 New Preserves Ill be making again in 2013 Whey preserving

All of these are great ingredients to cook with and add to almost any dish (from bread to sauce to to dry rubs to soup and everything in between):

What is something you made last year that you’ll definitely be making again?

Winter 2012 Update on The Great Wall of Preserving

Over the Holidays we cleaned the “Great Wall of Preserves” (I call it that very tongue-in-cheek).  Each bottle and shelf were cleaned with a bit of vinegar and water; it’s amazing what a difference it makes!

Winter 2012 Update on The Great Wall of Preserving well preserved shelf of preserves great wall of preserves [Read more...]

WellPreserved On-Demand: Weird Things We’ve Preserved

We were asked about what types of ‘weird things’ we’ve preserved so it’s time to come clean (this was so much fun to create) with our list of ‘weird crap we’ve preserved’:

  1. Epic Sauerkraut.  It doesn’t sound odd, does it?  It’s wasn’t – except that I made it in different hotel rooms as I travelled through the UK and fermented it in hotel safes so it wouldn’t get thrown out – and then smuggled it back to Canada.
  2. Candied Bacon Jerky.  12 months later and I still haven’t recovered fully from smelling bacon dry for 72 hours in our house.
  3. Dehydrated violets candied with maple syrup.  There’s no link because it didnt’ work: I ended up with a mess of sticky flowers.
  4. Wine powder.  Also no link because the project hasn’t worked (yet).  The essence: put the contents of a bottle of wine in the dehydrator for 48 hours to try to create a powder/ ultimate reduction.  Wine, being mostly water, disappears.
  5. Moose Stock.  This one doesn’t seem odd to me at all but I know it’s a very different perspective for many so it made the list!

There are probably more but I’ve blocked them psychologically to preserve my own ego (I say that to tease myself).  What would make your list of weird preserves?

The on-demand series of articles came from topics that users have suggested. We love your questions/ ideas/ requests and will do our best to answer them in this series of posts – feel free to add your ideas in the comments below!

WellPreserved On-Demand: Gateway Preserving Projects

I loved the idea/ question that inspired this post - what are projects that were the ‘gateway’ to preserving more and going beyond the basics?

Before I share a list, I should start with the ultimate ‘gateway’: repetition and experience.  Learning to preserve is an easy skill and it’s almost unbeleivable that once you’ve made a few batches of preserves that most people know most everything they’ll ever need to preserve safely and happily for the rest of their lives.  Things don’t get a whole lot tougher than water bath canning jam; the real gateways (in my opinion) are confidence, learning basic techniques and then learning to use what you’ve made in many different ways (i.e. jam doesn’t have to be a condiment only – we’ll share a post on Wednesday about that very topic).

Here are 5 of our gateway projects:

  1. Strawberry jam.  It was important because I learned I could make what my Grandmother and my parents had for years.  And it tasted good!  And it was easy!
  2. Herbes Salees.  It allowed me to use fresh herbs (many from our garden) for more than a year and connected me with food of my heritage and has made me curious to learn more about the roots of preserving in my own (and other cultures).
  3. Infused Booze and vinegar.  It showed me that you could make a micro batch (some of our infusions are 0.5 cup) and that preserving doesn’t have to be a giant process.
  4. Tomatoes.  They are abundant, affordable, local and they brought preserved food from ‘the side of the plate’ (i.e. condiments) to the middle and showed me we could use preserving as part of a full diet.  I had watched my parents preserving them as a child and avoided the work.  They would later show me how preserving can be a family event and a fun event.  Dana and I preserve our tomatoes with my parents every year.
  5. Mushroom Powder.  Taught me that preserving could emphasize a single ingredient and actually create ingredients for cooking through the winter.  The idea of making an ingredient was a turning point in how we preserve – and how we cook.

What would be on your list?

The on-demand series of articles came from topics that users have suggested. We love your questions/ ideas/ requests and will do our best to answer them in this series of posts – feel free to add your ideas in the comments below!

WellPreserved On-Demand: Late Fall/ Winter Preserving Projects

I used to think of preserving as something to be done for early summer (jams) and late fall (tomatoes and pickles).  That’s changed greatly over the years and we often have a batch of something (anything) preserving all through the year.

I really like to dehydrate in the fall/ winter because it can add some heat to our house.  I will also work a lot with carrots, apples and other vegetables that we can get seasonally.  While we do some non-local preserving (such as salted lemons) we don’t do a lot of marmalade or other citrus preserves (such as lemon squash) it’s certainly a good time for them.

Here’s 10 projects that are great fall/winter preserving projects:

  1. Ginger Beer
  2. Applesauce
  3. Pickled Carrots
  4. Celery/ Beet Powder
  5. Yam Dog Treats
  6. Pickled Garlic (and don’t miss our label tamplate for VAMPIRE BEGONE Garlic labels!)
  7. Mushroom Powder
  8. Yogurt
  9. Ricotta Cheese
  10. Dehydrated BBQ Flavor Sweet Potato Chips

What would you add ot the list?

The on-demand series of articles came from topics that users have suggested.  We love your questions/ ideas/ requests and will do our best to answer them in this series of posts – feel free to add your ideas in the comments below!