Category Archives: canning

Frugal option to buying canning jars

>>I have a son’s bar mitzvah coming up for which my mom is coming, and she is going to try to bring a small number of canning jars with her – maybe a dozen…they sell basic canning supplies from Ball right in the grocery stores, at what I considered to be very reasonable prices. However, I have never canned and wondered if you might have suggestions as to brands of jars, lids, etc., and also what other canning supplies are necessary for water bath canning and where I might purchase them cheaply (in the US). I assume I need to purchase something that the jars rest on to keep them off the bottom of the pot?<<

As many of you know, I was an avid canner in the US and had a huge collection of canning jars (about 1000) but downsized my collection along with everything else when we moved here.

The reason I felt able to do this was because I had an alternate plan for canning supplies when I moved to Israel .  This is a good tip for anyone interested in canning, wherever you live, but for those in all countries but in countries where you can’t get canning supplies, it makes the difference between being able to can food or not being able to.

Here are the jars that I use – below they are filled with rendered beef fat, but I use them for just about everything – like storing foods in the pantry and refrigerator as well as for canning.

beef fat

These are glass jars recycled from store bought products – in my case, marinara sauce.  You can use jars of any height or width, small or large.  The main thing is that they have pop top lids.  You see these safety seal jars everywhere – the lids pop up when you open the jar.  The lids operate as a vacuum – and these lids can be resealed again and again if you’re canning (the heat of the rendered fat in the photo above also caused the jars to seal).  The lid will be indented when the seal is strong, popped up when the seal is broken.  If you don’t buy foods that come in this kind of packaging, then ask friends to save jars for you – I have one friend who has been the source of all of my jars; I probably have about fifty jars thanks to her!

It does take some preparation to use these jars.  If you’re a religious Jew, they will need to be toiveled, and completely getting the sticky residue off of the outside of the jars so you can do this is where the real work comes in.  What I do is put the jars in boiling water to loosen the labels, peel the labels off, pour a bit of oil on the outside of the jar on the residue, then scrub it off with steel wool.  I usually save up a bunch of jars and do them all at once.  Fortunately it only has to be done once!

Foods that can be waterbathed include jellies, jams, chutneys, fruits, juices, and pickles.  All of these are high acid foods which means they are low risk and easy foods to can.  I believe that it would be possible to safely pressure can with these jars – assuming you have a pressure canner and follow proper safety guidelines – but I don’t have a pressure canner anymore so I haven’t tried.  Pressure canning requires a lot more knowledge and caution since you’re dealing with low acid foods, so my recommendations right now are just regarding waterbath canning.

If you want to buy canning jars, it doesn’t really matter what company you buy.  Most of mine were Kerr or Ball, which are the name brands, but honestly I don’t think there’s a qualitative difference between the generic jars.  They are all a standard thickness and the same size.  So go for whatever’s cheapest.

The other things that you’ll find helpful are a funnel (to get the food in the jars neatly), a canning jar lifter (to lift the jars out of the pot of boiling water) and a magnetic wand (to lift the lids out of hot water).  You can buy these as a set online; I’ve also seen them sold at Walmart. I bought a new set of these before moving, but one of my lovely children took it out of the box it was packed in and I’ve never seen it since.  It probably ended up in a box of things that were given away – along with some other new items that were purchased for our move and didn’t make it into the boxes – and whoever bought these things at the thrift store wondered why anyone would have given away those brand new items!  When you get a canning jar lifter, if you’re planning to do a lot of canning I strongly recommend getting a good quality one that is solidly constructed and will last.

>>Also, where could I purchase kosher pectin – the low sugar variety, specifically?<<

I bought the low sugar pectic made by Ball, which had a kosher certification.  I remember a reader emailing me information about buying pectin in bulk but don’t remember the specifics.


Canning when you can’t buy canning supplies

>>Do you know where I can get canning supplies in Israel?? Can’t find any in my area! A lady gave me a couple dozen jars and a few lids but no rings! Have been looking and not finding anything.<<

Back when I was the owner of over a thousand canning jars, many dozen lids, and endless rings, I decided to move to Israel, land of many things but canning supplies weren’t one of them.

So I agonized over what to do with my canning supplies (including my heavy duty shelving units which could hold the weight of dozens of full jars), which I had acquired with much time and effort.  I very much enjoyed being able to fill my pantry with shelves of beautiful jars of food bought at great discounts and home-preserved for the long term.  I primarily canned real food (eg chicken, ground meat, vegetables and fruit) versus specialty items or jams, so I had jars I could pull off the shelf and heat up for an instant meal.

This was mentally a hard thing to let go of, but it became obvious that I couldn’t justify the cost of an overseas container just to take my canning supplies – though there are lots of other things that would have been nice to take, those were the main things I was having trouble letting go of.  How did I make the decision to sell all of my canning supplies?

I was able to let go of this because I had a backup plan for canning that I could do in Israel.  When I began canning, I read several books to fully understand the science of canning, the safety issues, how to prevent possible bacterial contamination, etc.  As a result, I felt I understood why each step was taken and realized there were different ways to get the same end result – a safe product.

What was that?  Factories don’t use canning lids and rings, but rather suction lids.  Many foods you buy come in these jars, and can be used to safely water bath high acid foods (this is a very important detail).  This was my plan when I moved here, and I’ve gradually accumulated several dozen jars (thanks to one particular friend who graciously saves her jars for me!).  I bought a new canning jar lifter before I left and packed it with the things I wanted to take on the flight so I’d have it right  away, but one of the littles found it and played with it, and when I found it the boxes for the flight had been sealed.  So it will come whenever my few boxes of books arrive.

The problem I have with these jars is that they aren’t very large, and I preferred canning in half gallon jars.  So when I canned fruit compote, we could easily use two jars for just one breakfast.  Knowing the work that goes into processing the fruits, it’s a little discouraging to see it disappear so quickly!  However, it does offer me a workable option and one that I’ve overall been satisfied with.


How to render beef fat

Five jars of cooled (white) fat, jar on right with melted fat still hot

Some things are so easy you feel almost foolish posting instructions on how to do it, and how to render beef fat (or chicken fat) is one of those things!

But since Chanukah began just last night and it’s traditional to fry foods in oil during this eight day festival, I’m going to go ahead and share an option for frying that our family enjoys year round!

Firstly, you’ll need to get hold of a good bit of beef fat.  This is also called suet.  There are different qualities of fat; if you have a choice, you want a big chunk of white fat rather than a blob of little pieces.  But either way, you’ll prepare it the same way.  We got a nice slab from the ribs, which is good quality fat.

If you want to make life more involved for yourself, then go ahead and dice the fat up.  Or put it in a food processor, or chop it.  I’ve seen all those things recommended.  But you know me, ‘why make more work than necessary?’ is my motto, so I just put the entire big chunk in a pot.

Put the burner on low, and let the fat slowly melt over the course of time – it might take up to a few hours, depending how much fat you have.  When it’s liquid, it’s called rendered – pour the fat through a strainer into a glass jar or container.  If you are going to refrigerate the fat and don’t care if there are tiny pieces of meat that end up in it, don’t bother straining it.  The beef particles will sink to the bottom of the jar.  I use this up so quickly that it doesn’t matter to me if it’s clarified (strained) or not.

If you have a big chunk, you might find that you can pour off most of the melted fat, but there’s still a chunk left.  Go ahead, pour off what’s melted, and keep melting the remainder – that’s what I did above, which is why one jar in my picture was in the hot melted stage while the others had already cooled off.

When the fat is liquid, it will be a lovely golden brown,  but when it hardens, it turns a pure white.  You can see that in my picture above.  (You can also see the little food particles at the bottom of the jar of melted fat on the right, if you look closely. )

You might be left with some tasty cracklings at the end of this – if you are, save them and use them to season another dish – it’s delicious!

Now, how do you preserve your rendered fat?  Assuming you’ve strained it, you should be able to keep this at room temperature for quite a while.  What I’ve liked doing in the past is rendering a large batch of fat at a time, pouring the hot strained fat into glass canning jars, and then immediately closing each jar with a new canning lid and ring.  It will seal as it cools, and will stay shelf stable for many, many months.

For those of you wondering why in the world I’d want to use something as artery clogging as beef fat, it’s because it’s not saturated fat that causes heart problems, but processed vegetable oils (yes, like the widely touted canola and soy oils).  They’ve done analyses of the stuff they’ve scraped out of arteries and it’s not saturated fat.  There’s lots of fascinating research about this and if you’re interested in reading some articles, here are some to start you off:  (This blogger has a PhD in neurobiology and has a number of excellent articles on different aspects of the research on saturated fat – you can do a search on his blog if you’re interested in reading more.) (This is an excellent site and is filled with high quality information, but you’ll find a little bit of off-color language from time to time – just a warning for those who would be bothered.)

The benefits in terms of cooking with beef fat are that it has a high smoking point, which makes it good for frying and baking.  Flavor-wise, I prefer to use coconut oil or palm shortening for baking, but find the beef fat adds a nice flavor to most other things.


(This post is linked to Make Your Own Monday, Monday ManiaHomestead Barn Hop, Real Food 101,  Traditional TuesdaysReal Food Wednesday, Works for Me Wednesdays, and the Real Food Hanukkah Blog Carnival.)

Tattler reusable canning jar lids

For the last couple of weeks I’ve been steadily selling off canning supplies, including a couple of days ago when I sold all of my fantastic Tattler canning jar lids that I never got around to telling you about last year.  

Though I’m not using them now, I still want to share about them since even in the canning community, many people don’t know about them and they’re a great option to be aware of. 

Tattler lids are made of BPA free plastic, and have a separate rubber ring that is fitted onto the lid before the lid is placed on the jar.  After putting the lid on, you put the metal canning ring on to hold it on, then process as usual.  The only difference is how you tighten the lid before processing, and when you tighten the lid after processing (instructions are on the box). 

What’s great about them is that they can be used long term repeatedly – no more having to buy lids and then dispose of them after one use (and though I’m a frugal person, reusing lids isn’t a way I recommend saving money).  That means that one dozen lids can be used continually for many, many batches of canning!   The other big advantage is there’s no concern about BPA leaking into your food. 

The big challenge is the upfront high cost of the lids – about $7 – 8 dozen (not including the rubber rings).  That means you have to can about six batches of food to break even (compared to the cost of buying disposable lids).  For me, I was able to purchase a large number of these lids for a super price through a private seller – I bought about 60 dozen lids that included the rubber rings (all unused) and paid about $120 for all of them- I was really excited about this when I found them.  

I passed on my savings to the person who bought from me – I know I could have made a nice profit by selling them at a higher price (which would still have been less than 50% of retail price, but that’s not what I wanted to do.  I was so grateful to have found these at a price I could afford and wanted someone else like me to be able to have the same experience.  She knew what these lids were and appreciated what an amazing buy they were; she told me she had been asking G-d to send her these lids since she really wanted them but didn’t have a budget for buying them at the regular price, and as I told her, “G-d provides!” 

Parenthetically, the buyer of these lids was Mormon.  Mormons are advised by their religious leaders to have  a year’s supply of food stored in case of emergency, though I’ve read only 10% of practicing Mormons do this.  She wanted to know how I could sell off all of my canning supplies at a time when it seems there is tremendous instability, and many are afraid that massive inflation and all that comes along with that is coming down the road for the U.S. in the not so distant future.  At this time, more people than ever are interested in canning, buying in bulk, and being prepared to weather at least a part of the financial storm by creating a pantry ‘hedge’.  We had quite an interesting conversation!

You can find these lids online , but as I said, there is a high upfront cost (though there’s a bulk option that lowers the cost).  These lids have been around since the 70s and so there’s a long term record for them holding up for decades (though the rubber rings will need to be replaced at some point if they get stretched out – they’re not expensive), so if you can often, even at the retail price you would still end up saving in the long run.  And it’s a nice to have a reusable option rather than constantly buying and discarding lids.


Recycling jars for canning

Today I was soaking some empty food jars I had saved (peanut butter, mayonnaise) to get the labels off so I can reuse them for canning.  That’s the best kind of recycling, don’t you think? :)    Then I soaked several more that I was given last week – I got six dozen jars for free, and about six of them had labels on them.   When I glanced in the box and noticed that, there was a feeling of, ‘oh, not real canning jars, but they’ll come in handy anyway’.  But it was really interesting to see that after I soaked the labels off, they were literally identical to Atlas mason jars in every regard, including the name of the canning company on it!  Then I remembered reading something posted by a long term canner about this, who always buys the spaghetti sauce in a jar made by a particular company (wasn’t kosher) because she gets the sauce along with a free canning jar. So while these particular jars were about ten years old, it’s still possible to get canning jars after eating up the supermarket foods that they contain.

As long as the glass jars fit the standard canning jar lids, you can use them for canning, in addition to storing anything that you find helpful.  In addition to using them for canning, I also like using glass jars for storing my dehydrated foods, grains, and other pantry items, so they come in handy.  

Some will say that you can only use jars that were specifically manufactured for canning, and that it’s unsafe to use other jars.   When I read this a few days ago in a local newspaper, I also noted a recommendation from the same writer to never reuse canning jar bands – because it’s not safe.  I don’t like when people feel they have to err on the side of caution to the point that everything becomes off limits and has warnings on it, even when it makes no sense.  The recommendation to throw away bands after one use unnecessarily brings up the cost of canning and is wasteful – I commented to my kids that anyone following that advice would at least be doing their part to stimulate the economy, since the ones to benefit from the suggestion are the companies that manufacture canning lids/bands.  And the writer also commented that canned goods have to be stored with the bands on them, which is exactly the opposite of what you’re supposed to do. sigh.gif

Is it actually unsafe to reuse jars that mayonnaise or peanut butter come in?  Though this is frequently cited as a safety issue, I don’t believe it is.  I’ve seen a number of people who have been canning for years post online about their experience with used canning jars.  All of them have said they haven’t noticed a difference between the breakage rate of used glass jars and specially made canning jars. Some have noted that the canning jars are in some instances thinner than the recycled jars.  Some have said that they’ve taken the precaution of only using those jars for water bath canning versus pressure canning, which makes sense to me, if you feel the mayonnaise jars are made of thinner glass and wouldn’t be able to stand up to the higher pressure. 

I’ve had jars break in the canner during processing, but all of those that broke were standard canning jars.  That happened in my early days of canning, and it was my inexperience in canning that lead to that, not a defect in the jars.  So far I haven’t made any attempt to treat the recycled jars differently than the canning jars, and haven’t had any breakage issues with them. 

I also like the ‘twofer’ aspect of buying food in glass jars and then being able to use the packaging the food came in.  Unfortunately, so many foods now come in plastic jars that it’s not as easy to find glass jars to recycle! (And the kosher companies don’t use standard sized jars for the most part – all those gefilte fish jars weren’t helpful when it came to canning.  But I did use them to give Chanuka gifts in, so they were still useful. :))   These particular jars came from a health version of mayo and the others from organic and sugar free peanut butter; I think that the healthier items tend to be packed in glass rather than plastic.

After soaking off the labels, I spent a very long time in the kitchen kashering used canning jars that I either purchased or was given.  The jars I bought several months ago were mostly still unkashered, so when I got this latest batch of six dozen, it was an incentive for me to get myself busy to clear the backlog.  I was getting tired after seven or eight dozen, and then noticed that my ds16 had kashered 4 dozen instead of the two dozen I thought he did (he marked the boxes a few months ago when he did them), and washed another couple of dozen in preparation for kashering (washing them is a chore since they have to be spotless and that’s not always easy).  Tonight when I write him a letter (since he’s in camp) you can be sure I’ll be thanking him for that! 

I still have another four dozen to go, but decided to have mercy on myself and call it quits for tonight.  Tomorrow I hope to toivel them, along with a bunch of new lids.  (Rav Heinemann told us we have to toivel the lids, even if using them one time – and since I’m going with his psak on kashering used jars, I have to go along with that, too! :))  Since I have at least twelve dozen to toivel, that will be an activity.  Good thing it’s not a busy time of year for this kind of thing; can you imagine the line I’d cause if I was doing this around Pesach time?!

If you’re wondering how many jars I have by now (Julie, you’re keeping track better than me!), I really have no idea.  It doesn’t seem like so many.  But I decided today that though a person can say that they never can have too many canning jars, I have an excess of the half pint size (some of you may remember last summer when I bought more than 30 dozen in that size, all brand new)- it’s not practical for my family at all since it’s so small; it’s like a one person serving!  I think I’ll sell them or take quart or pint sized jars in exchange. 


Canning jam and cherries

Yesterday I did some canning.  We were getting low on the homemade jam we made back in January, and since I recently found frozen strawberries on sale for $1 lb, it was a good time to make a batch to replenish our jam supplies!  We used ten pounds of strawberries and 2 cans of juice concentrate, which came out to 14 half pints and 4 pints of jam.  It looks a little liquidy, but last time I made it, it also looked like that and it then solidified over time.  Hopefully this will do the same – I’ve read that it takes about a week for jam to set.  If it doesn’t, we’ll use it as a thick syrup instead of a jam, and that will be fine, too.

Then I canned cherries.  I bought 20 pounds on Friday when I saw the organic cherries were cheaper than non organic sale priced cherries, but we ate some and took some to our hosts for Shabbos, so we didn’t end up canning more than 12 pounds.  We were recently enjoying the cherries I canned last summer and now’s a perfect time to replenish the pantry so we can continue to enjoy cherries when fresh prices aren’t at the seasonal low we’re enjoying right now.  Dh has been having them fairly regularly for breakfast, and I figured we must be just about finished with the cherries I canned last summer.

Today I was planning my next bulk order and in order to buy what I needed most, did an inventory of what I have on hand.  Usually I send the kids to the basement to bring up whatever I need, which is why I don’t have a good idea from seeing it regularly myself.   Imagine my surprise that we still have 14 quarts of canned cherries (plus one 1/2 pint)!  I don’t mind, it’s just that I would have expected that we finished them off!  I also noticed we still have eight + quarts of the pears we picked for free last year.  That’s especially nice since we’ve been keeping an eye on the same neighbor’s pear trees and there’s no sign of any fruit this year.  It just illustrates that you can’t assume what you have one year is what you will have another, and there’s a value in setting aside or preserving during the abundant times so it will tide you over during the lean times!


Canning and kashrus questions

I’ve gotten this question several times; since I posted the answer in a comment a while back, I think most people haven’t seen it. So I’ll put it up as  a post to make it easier for everyone.

>>so, i have a few preliminary questions for you, when you have time to answer. first, how do you deal with kashrus with used mason jars? i will ask our rav, but i am wondering how you hold on kashering, etc. <<

We kasher used jars – you need to make sure they’re spotlessly clean and then completely submerge them in boiling water.  It doesn’t matter what they were used for before.  This was what we were told by Rav Moshe Heinemann, who is head of the Star-K kashrus agency.

>>second, do you know if a pressure canner can be used for both meat and dairy? again, i will ask our rav, but am wondering what you do.<<

I don’t use it for both, only for meat, because the jars don’t seal until after they’re out of the canner.  Until then, juices leak out and make the pot very definitely meat.  There’s very little that most people would can which is dairy, so only using a canner for meat doesn’t present much of an obstacle.  The only dairy thing I’ve canned is butter, and that doesn’t need a pressure cooker, just a standard large pot for water bathing. 

>>third, have you found a use for the screw on lids for the mason jars? when i buy new round things that seal the jars, they always come with the screw on parts too, so i am getting an increasingly large pile of gold bracelet things. do you do anything creative with them?<<

Oh, good, now I can help you save some money. thumb.gif  Stop buying the packages of lids that come with rings!  You only need to do that in the very beginning, since the rings are resusable.  More of them just creates clutter, and who needs that?  What you need to look for instead are the boxes that have only lids – they contain 12 lids each and average in price at about $1.50 – $2; they look like this (this is an affordable online source – I bought a case from them last year).  Since it sounds like you’re aquiring a large collection of bands, put most of them away in storage, and bring them out when the ones you’re currently using start to get rusty and need to be replaced.


Time for canning again!

I haven’t done any canning for a while. I haven’t had the energy or desire, and I haven’t needed to.  But yesterday I went down to my basement to take something out of the freezer- the freezer that dh told me needs to be replaced because it’s not working properly – and found everything on the door half defrosted and everything in the main section encased in a thick layer of ice.

What to do?  First of all, I took out three frozen turkeys to make room for some of the items from the door that could be refrozen without a problem.  I also took out a 9 x 13 pan of shredded potatoes, and was able to chip out a couple of containers of cottage cheese and butter.  After moving some things from the door into that space, I was shocked that I couldn’t even tell I had taken anything out.  How in the world is it possible for there not to be noticeably more space after taking out three turkeys??

(This raised the question in my mind if it’s possible that maybe I buy a little too much food?  But I quickly banished that thought.)

Anyway, now I needed to find something to do with the turkeys.  One was already roasted so I put that in the fridge to defrost for Shabbos dinner.  The other two I decided I’d have to can.  I used the pressure canner as a pressure cooker, cooking them one at a time, and couldn’t believe how fast they were done. You know that cooking two solidly frozen turkeys would take hours, right?  I’d usually have to put one in the oven and the other in our electric turkey roaster, both of which would have added lots of heat to the house in the hours of cooking.  I just love the efficiency and versatility of my pressure canner – it’s been a much more valuable purchase than I expected. 

Well, since I was going to can them I didn’t need them to be fully cooked, so once the pressure was up to 15 pounds I cooked them for just 10 minutes, the same as for a defrosted whole chicken.  That was enough to cook the turkeys almost totally!  If I had left them in another 2 minutes, they’d have been done all the way throught – as it was, they were just a little pink in the very center.  When one was done, I put the other one in.  Within about 2 hours both turkeys were done.   They were finished cooking early enough in the day that I was able to debone and then can them  today, too, and they were finished before it was even late in the evening.  They’re now cooling on the counter, and all of them sealed except for one.  That one will go in the fridge.  All of that turkey amounted to 6 quarts (we ate some of it or it would have been 7 quarts) and I canned a quart of broth; the other broth was used to cook the rice for tonight’s dinner. 

Six quart sized jars on a shelf will take a lot less room than two turkeys in the freezer!  Now I’m going to have to put some effort into using the frozen veggies in the freezer before going out shopping for fresh vegetables.  And hopefully we’ll soon find a good used freezer at a good price.


Buying more canning jars

I haven’t bought any canning jars since last year, but I keep my eyes open on a regular basis in case I can expand my collection at a reasonable price.  Though I didn’t use all the jars I already have this year, I attribute that to it being my first year canning.  Over time, I think I’ll use more and more of them. 

But since October or November, used canning jars are getting snapped up very fast (I’ve read that new jars are also selling at a much higher volume than in the past).  This is interesting since the winter is the time of year that no one is usually buying jars – the summer is prime time canning season.  It’s markedly different than what I saw in the summer months immediately prior.  It’s amazing to me how fast the public has decided that something they once never paid attention to is now worth buying.  The interest in canning is intrinsically tied to the financial insecurity that people are feeling now, just like the huge increases in purchases of vegetable seeds.

Now on one hand, I think it’s great that people are getting interested in back to basics type skills like canning.  On the other hand, it means that suddenly used canning jars are commanding top dollar prices and finding a good deal is much harder.  A month or so ago, someone posted a large lot of used jars, and said she’d take the best offer.  I emailed her my offer, and explained what it was based on.  It was a reasonable offer, at a price that has been accepted every single time in the past.  She emailed me back to say that she had received a bunch of responses, that my offer was right in the middle, and someone was coming to buy the lot, which I had offered $60 for, for $150.  This floored me – in my opinion, no one in their right mind would pay such a high price for used jars that didn’t even have lids or rings, because it was significantly more expensive than buying brand new jars that had the lids and rings included.  (The additional purchase of a set of lids and rings at about $3 per dozen would be necessary for the buyer to have what he needed for canning.)

That indicated to me totally irrational buying – it’s obvious that the people buying now are those who don’t know the value of what they’re buying.  They just see canning jars and feel they need to get them because somehow that’s going to protect them from the bad stuff coming down the economic pike.  So that doesn’t leave much room to negotiate with sellers!

Last night I saw an offer for jars, and though it’s higher than what I’ve paid in the past, I felt it was in the realm of reasonable, unlike a lot of ads I’ve been seeing (like $22 for a dozen quart jars from a private seller – which you can buy for under $8 at Walmart).  Turns out I was the first person to respond, but the seller told me that after my response last night, there were three more responses, and then another three as soon as she opened her inbox this morning.  She said she didn’t think anyone would be interested – they were her mother’s jars, and she’d tried offering them to family members for free, but no one wanted them.  She was taken aback at how many responses she received in such a short amount of time. 

Anyway, I took four kids with me to pick up the jars – it was a nice 40 minute drive there, but they asked if they could come, and I was happy to bring them along.  (It was ds10, dd8, ds6, and ds3.)  She gave me the code for the electronic gate, and when we entered it, I was initially discouraged because it seemed to be a mini community of several homes, and none of them had addresses – there was only one address on the outside gate.  Turns out it was all one private property, and what looked like two homes was actually one huge home, in addition to one home for their parents who had recently moved away (hence her selling the jars), and the other was their garage.  At first we couldn’t find her, just the jars she had left in the driveway as she said she would (though she didn’t tell me there were several driveways, all independent of one another – the jars weren’t in the main home’s driveway and I had to drive around until we found them).  After we got the jars, we circled back around to the main house so we could pay her, and found her the second try.  She told me she found another dozen jars for me, and while my ds was putting them in the van, I was shmoozing with her and my other kids all got out of the van to play with her dogs (they loved dogs but as much as they’d like one, it’s not going to happen for us at this point in life).  She said she used to help her mother can tomatoes and green beans from their small but prolific garden in Brooklyn Park, and how the kids hated picking berries for jam because it took so many berries to make a small amount of jam. 

After talking for a while, she commented on how good the kids were, and offered to let them go onto her private dock behind the house and hang out there.  (Good behavior is it’s own reward! :))  You’d never know there was any water anywhere near there – the entire property was very expansive but also very private – but there was actually a private lake behind their home.  Then she mentioned that there was a large trampoline on the way down the path to the dock, and the kids might feel like they wanted to jump on it when they went by – so they should feel free to jump all they wanted!  She had to leave soon afterwards, but even though it meant leaving us there alone on her property, told us to feel free to stay there as long as the kids were enjoying themselves. 

It was so generous of her, and we had a lovely time on their beautiful property.  I was so glad that every one of them came along – it would have been a shame if they had missed the special outing it turned out to be.  The kids had a great time on her trampoline and on the dock, and enjoyed looking at their motor boat, canoe, rowboat, and kayaks, along with going on different parts of the dock (they particularly liked the floating dock). It was fun for them to be able to explore a different kind of place than we’d usually have access to.  The private lake didn’t have any entrance for public access, and the home itself was kind of hidden away, with the only access through their private gated entrance.   It was so relaxing on the dock, though less than it would have been if the kids weren’t there – I was pretty vigilant about watching them all every single minute – but there’s something about water that is so calming and peaceful. 

When we got home my ds10 organized all the jars, and it turns out that instead of 7 dozen for $30, we got 11 dozen for $30 (5 dozen quarts, 5 dozen pints, 1 dozen half pints)!  Which means that it ended up not only being a really nice outing with the kids, but a super deal, too!  And something I like about used jars is the sense of history that comes with them, as many jars were made by companies which no longer exist, in colors and sizes that aren’t made any more.  It just goes to show that even in a hot market, if H-shem wants you to have something, there are bargains to be had, unexpected though they may be. :)


How to can ground meat

>>How do you can ground meat? Do you cook it in a sauce or soup before caning? <<

I used to hear how complicated and dangerous canning meat was, and I’m really glad that one of the very first things I canned was turkey.  That way I did the ‘hardest’ thing first and I wasn’t intimidated by it because I had nothing to compare it to.    Some people will tell you to start out with fruits and jams and then work your way up, but it worked out well for me the other way!

Despite what people  may say, it’s really not hard or complicated to can meat.  It does require precisely following instructions, like any other low acid food (ie, not fruits and jams).  You MUST have a pressure canner and follow all proper safety guidelines.  Fill with water up to the water line (marked inside the canner), and fill up the jars you’re going to use half way with water.  While you prepare the meat, your jars will be sterilizing, and then the  jars will be ready to be used at the same time the meat is ready to be packed. 

Before preparing the  meat, you have to decide what you’re going to later use it for.  I decided I wanted to cook it up as crumbles that could be added to stews, pot pies, etc because that has the most possibilities.  (I considered making patties and then decided against it, but it is possible to make little meat balls or burgers and can them.)  I sauteed the meat in its own juice and broke the chunks up into crumbles.  It’s suggested to drain off the fat since it could interfere with the seal. 

I removed each jar, poured out the boiling water, and filled it with hot meat.  Then cover it with boiling broth or water, leaving 1″ headspace.  Make sure there’s no air space in the jars.  Wipe down the top of the jar, so that there’s no residual grease that might keep it from sealing later on.  Put the heated jar lids on, screw on bands, and put back in pressure canner.  It needs to process at 11 pounds pressure for 75 minutes for pints, 90 minutes for quarts.  Exhaust the canner for ten minutes with the steam steadily rising from the vent hole, then put the weight on top and wait for it to get up to the proper pressure.  Start timing the process from the point that it’s at the proper pressure. 

You have to keep it at the right pressure the entire time.  If it gets a little high, that’s okay, but if it drops below 11 pounds pressure, you have to restart timing the canning all over again (to prevent possibility of botulism).  So don’t let it drop!

So far in the meat department, I’ve canned beef cubes, beef stew, turkey pieces, ground chicken, ground beef, broth, and meat spaghetti sauce.  The only problem I had was with jars that failed to seal because I didn’t drain the fat enough, so when it reached the high temperature inside the canner, it boiled over the jar lid, and then the lid couldn’t adhere.  I put those in the fridge and used them right away, but they could have been reheated it, and then reprocessed. 

If you start canning and do some meat, please share your experience!