Food Storage: Make and Can Homemade Applesauce

Ooohhhh… the smell of baked apples and homemade applesauce has been filling my home for the past couple of days and it smells like Fall Heaven on Earth. πŸ™‚ My initial applesauce drama tempered the enjoyment a tad at the beginning (you can read all about that fun HERE), but on Saturday I finished my fourth day of working with apples in the kitchen, and let me tell you… the pain of the first two days was worth it for the enjoyment of the last two days! Days 1 and 2 were definitely my learning days. Having never really attempted homemade applesauce (especially in this quantity), it was a bit overwhelming. I stuck to strictly using apples in my applesauce, no futzing with anything fancy, and just tried to survive! πŸ™‚ Day 3, I took a break from applesauce and treated myself and my family to a heavenly apple crisp, which perked up the apple enjoyment level (yes, I’ll share that recipe soon!), and Day 4 I did one last round of applesauce making. But with all benefits of learning from the first two days behind me, I enjoyed smooth sailing and some wonderful success! So buckle up and I’ll take you on my applesauce making ride (with all the tips and tricks I learned along the way!) πŸ™‚ Β  {P.S. I will add more pictures to this post as I find the time, but I wanted to at least get the process and what I’ve got done so far up and posted before Fall is actually over.} πŸ˜€

How To Make/Can Homemade Applesauce

Okay, well if you read my drama story, you know that I tried making applesauce two different ways*. I will only show you the second method I used, because the first is still too traumatic for me to re-live. πŸ˜€

Get Your Apples: What Kind and How Much

So alright. First things first. Clearly, you’re going to need a bunch of apples. Experts suggest using a variety of apple types. This will apparently produce a better applesauce flavor in the end. Well, I didn’t have a variety. I had two big boxes of Golden Delicious, but they worked wonderfully for me. (Although in the future I think it would be fun to try different apple blends as well.)

Obviously, you can use as many or as few apples as you would like and that will just determine the total amount of finished product you get. My two boxes produced 17 quarts and 12 pints of applesauce, two apple crisps, and two apple pies. (I wish I knew how much those boxes weighed so I could give you a better accounting. I’ll see if I can find that out.) From what I can gather from online resources, though, a bushel of apples (which is estimated roughly to 42-45 lbs) will produce in the ballpark of 15 quarts of applesauce. On a smaller scale, 3 lbs of apples should make about 1 quart of applesauce. So I’m guessing each of my boxes was about a bushel. Okay. Moving on…

Check and Prepare Your Equipment

Make sure you’ve got clean, warm jars (I like to run them through the dishwasher, or if they’re already sparkling clean, just have them soaking in hot water in the sink to keep them warm) and check them for any nicks or cracks. Check your canner to make sure it’s in good working order; new lids; good rings that are rust free; pots to cook the apples in; a large bowl for working in, something to mash with, and that should about do it!

Prep The Apples For Cooking

Once you have your apples, you need to prep them for cooking. For me this meant using my cool new apple peeler/corer/slicer. But even without a cool gadget, you’re going to need your apples peeled, cored, and then sliced into small sections.

{Helpful Tip: What I actually found that I really liked was that on the end of Day 2 (when I still had almost a whole box of apples staring at me), I sat there and just peeled/cored/sliced all the remaining apples, stuck them into gallon size ziploc baggies, and then stuck them in the fridge. This meant they were ready for use whenever I was ready to tackle the rest of my applesauce project. I did most of the remaining applesauce two days later, but five days later I still have some sitting in baggies in my fridge to make an apple crisp with and they are still doing great. So this gives you a lot of flexibility in terms of being able to work around your own schedule. It also creates a whole lot less stress in the kitchen when you’re actually making the applesauce: less mess, less things to worry about… it made my last day of applesauce making really nice!! So I plan to prep my apples a day or two in advance every year from now on!} But I digress.

Cook Your Apples

This is super easy and makes your house smell appley wonderful!! I used a steamer for this step and it was perfect, but you can also just use a big stock pot as well.

For the steamer, I added filtered water to the bottom part and then filled the steamer basket full of my prepped apples. For a stockpot, you basically do the same thing: add your apples till it’s full and then put some water in the bottom to keep the apples from burning. {Tip: It took about 1Β½ of my gallon sized bags to fill the steamer (which is about an 8-qt pot), and doing this twice made enough applesauce to fill 6-7 quarts… which is just the right amount to process one batch in the canner. So 3 gallon size baggies will do one batch for me.} You’ll want to cook your apples until they’re soft and start to break down (this will be roughly 15-20 minutes over medium-high heat). And don’t forget to give your apples a stir occasionally to keep them circulated through the pot and cooking evenly.

{Another helpful hint: Get your water heating up in your canner at this point so it will be ready for you when you’re done filling jars. Also get your lids boiling in a small pot of water.}

Mash, Mush, Blend

Now it’s time to turn those apples into applesauce! {Helpful Hint: So here’s the trick with this part… You need to keep your applesauce warm right up to the time you’re going to process it in your canner (otherwise you end up with spillage in your jars… yes, I learned this the hard way). This can be difficult if you aren’t able to cook enough apples all at the same time to fill your jars and process right away. So what I found to work well is that I’ve got a large bowl with a lid, and when my first batch of apples was done cooking, I tossed them in the bowl, covered them, and then cooked my second batch of apples. The apples in the bowl stayed warm enough till the second batch was done, and then adding the second batch on top of them heated the first ones right back up. Was that confusing?! You could also keep the first batch of apples in another pot over low heat on the stove, but I don’t have that many big pots and I don’t have that much room on my stove!) Well, however you do it, with all your warm apples in a large bowl, choose your favorite way* to mush those apples down. It can be as simple as using a potato masher (this will give you a chunkier sauce), or you can use something like a food processor or blender to get a smoother texture. I used an immersion blender, which I loved for a few reasons: 1) It meant I could leave all the apples in my big bowl and not dirty up any more items, and 2) I had good control over the texture this way– some batches I made ultra smooth, and some I left a little more chunky. (BTW… if you just wanted to make applesauce to eat right away this is where you’d stop. Just stick the applesauce in an airtight container and keep it stored in the fridge. It will probably be good for a week or two. Otherwise, continue on…)

Fill The Jars

Simple, easy peasy. Using a wide-mouth funnel for less mess, fill your warm canning jars near to the top, leaving at least a 1/2-inch headspace. Give the jars a little jiggle to help the contents settle, wipe the rims, and then place a hot lid on top. Secure a ring on it (just till tight… don’t crank it on or anything!) and it’s ready to go!

Process The Applesauce

There are two ways to process applesauce: a hot water bath, or pressure can it.
For the hot water bath, simply place your jars in your canner (preferably with already warm/almost boiling water in it), and then make sure the water level rises enough to cover your jars by at least 1 inch. Bring the water to a boil (checking every now and then to make sure the water level has remained at an inch above the jars), and once the water is boiling, you can start your timing. Quarts will process for 20 minutes; Pints will process for 15 minutes.
For pressure canning your applesauce (which is the method I ended up preferring), follow the directions on your pressure canner… but it will likely go something like this (or at least these are the directions for my Presto pressure canner): fill your canner to the 3-qt line with water (and add 2 Tbsp of vinegar to prevent hard water on your jars) and bring that water up to a boil. Add your jars. Seal the lid on the pressure canner and continue to boil until the steam starts to vent out the top. Time 10 minutes and allow the steam to vent the entire time. At the end of 10 minutes, apply the pressure regulator (use 5 lbs of pressure for applesauce). Wait until the pressure regulator starts rocking and then start your processing time. Quarts will process for 10 minutes; Pints will process for 8 minutes. At the end of the processing time, turn the heat off and let the pressure come down of its own accord. (Do NOT attempt to speed the pressure release by removing the regulator or by trying to open the lid!)

Whichever way you process the applesauce, once they are done take the jars out and place them on a towel to continue cooling. Check the lids to make sure all have sealed (they should not ‘pop’ when you press on the top but should be sucked down). It may take several hours for this to happen. (Note: If after 24 hours, there are any jars that have not sealed, stick them in the fridge and use them within a few days. Or you could re-process them with a new lid. Your choice.) After 24 hours, remove the rings and wipe down the jars. Label, store, and you’re done!! Woohoo!!! Now you can just enjoy your delicious homemade applesauce.

Getting Fancy

Depending on the kind of apples you used, or the kind of applesauce you like, you may want to add some stuff to your applesauce. For my first two days of applesauce making I used straight apples, and although I enjoyed the taste I wasn’t “wowed” by it. On my last day, I knew I wanted to make some jars to give away, so I thought I’d start getting a little fancy. The first thing I did was to add a little bit of lemon juice to my prepped apples in the ziploc baggies. (I used maybe 2-3 Tbsp in each baggie and tried to spread it throughout the apples.) This really helped zest up the flavor a bit. Then, when it was time to mash into applesauce, I added some cinnamon and sugar. For my whole batch (which was 3 of the gallon bags cooked down) I added a tad over 1 cup of sugar and about 3/4 Tbsp of cinnamon. This was absolutely delicious but almost made it more like a dessert! (Next time I’ll maybe try a 1/2 cup of sugar (and maybe the same amount of cinnamon) so it’s not quite as sweet.) But I really liked the additions and will definitely be using them again!

Wanna know a ton of fun facts about apples? Check ’em out HERE. πŸ™‚

*I also know of/have learned of several different gadgets available for use in making applesauce (or other such things). If you happen to own a KitchenAid mixer, they have an attachment called the ‘Fruit/Vegetable Strainer and Food Grinder’ that does the same thing my friends gadget does (it strains out the applesauce part and discards the skin, stems, and seeds for you) but without having to manually crank anything! It’s all done by machine. I could see that being a super quick and convenient method, although the attachment is quite pricey (in the $100 range). Ya… that goes on my ‘someday when I’m rich and famous’ list. πŸ™‚ You can also use a food mill, a food processor (you’d need to peel, core, slice first), or even a blender (again, peel/core/slice first) to get the job done.There are tons of possibilities. πŸ™‚

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Making Applesauce: The Saucy Drama

So, I’m working on making applesauce for the first time and thought I’d share my fun story with you… if for no other reason than to just keep me motivated and laughing at my food storage adventures! πŸ™‚ Hopefully you’ll get a good laugh too. πŸ™‚ Here’s the background story:

A good friend of mine sends me an email letting me know that a big truck is headed our way with tons of boxes of apples from Utah (a big treat for us Texan gals) and do I want to get in on the action? She entices me with stories of her homemade applesauce, baked apple pies, and so of COURSE I say YES! (Who says no to homemade apple pie?!) Then I realize I have a few obstacles in the way between me and applesauce greatness.

Hurdle #1: Budget. We’re on a tight one. Let’s just say we’re in the “We’re thankful we already have our food storage supply because we’re frequently relying on it to save our grocery bills” phase of life and not the “stocking/re-stocking” phase of life. But we manage to overcome this hurdle and move on to…

Hurdle #2: I have never made homemade applesauce before, I have never had an entire box of apples staring at me in the kitchen before, and the thought of watching them sit on my counter and rot because I’m too scared to do this on my own has me terrified. (Can you tell I’m not much of a ‘fly by the seat of my pants’ and ‘just wing it’ type of gal??) But after watching some online how-to videos and reassurances from friends that they will hold my hand, I overcome this fear, get TWO boxes of apples (I’m feeling brave), and then discover…

Hurdle #3: The applesauce DRAMA! So okay. My good friend has a super cool little applesauce making gadget she let me borrow (see above) that is supposed to save you the trouble of having to peel, core, and slice all your apples. Instead, you just cut your apples into ΒΌths, cook them until soft, and then process them through this gadget, which pushes the pulp of the apples through the holes in the strainer type funnel and moves the seeds, stems, and skin through to the end to be dumped out. Super cool gadget… if I could get it to work right. Oh my heavens. You would not believe the amount of issues I had. The gizzmo has a clamp on the bottom of it that will only screw in so far, so you have to make sure your work surface is thick enough to get a tight fit. Well, my table wasn’t thick enough, my counter didn’t have a wide enough lip, which left me the breakfast bar counter… which was barely thick enough, but it’s tall and I’m short. Ugh. So now a chair enters the picture, and I’m getting up and down off this chair (did I mention I’m pregnant?), going back and forth between trying to add apples to the funnel area, then back up onto the chair to push them down, then down off the chair to get a good crank on the processor, back up to push the apples down some more, oh wait… they’re getting jammed… I need to plunge the stick through there to get the peels moving again, back down to crank again… all the while, I’m battling trying to keep the thing from sliding around on the countertop and trying keep the collecting tray in place (I couldn’t get it screwed on tight enough for it to stay on its own)… and four hours later I have a whopping 5 quart jars processed. If I were the swearing type, there would have been a string from here to Japan that would have made a sailor blush. Okay, okay… maybe not THAT bad. But I was worn out, on the verge of tears (again… pregnant), still had 1 and 2/3 boxes of apples staring at me, and I had already sent a text to Hubby telling him to hide the guns. πŸ™‚ I was done. {In fairness to my friend’s gizzmo, had I been strong enough to secure it in place properly, it probably would have worked pretty darn well. So all this pain and suffering was due to user error. Just so ya know. :)}

Saving Grace #1: Then I remember a gadget I had seen in one of the how-to videos that does the peeling/coring/slicing of apples for you. (I had done an internet search at the time and new they carried these peelers online in several locations but that they actually had them in the store at Bed, Bath, and Beyond. So that’s in the back of my head.) I realize that if I get that peeler, I can just peel/slice/core all my apples, then cook them, and then they’re all ready to be mashed/pureed into applesauce. And then I wouldn’t have to fight with the applesauce maker!!

Saving Grace #2: So Hubby comes home from work, sees me in my pitiful plight, (and no… no dinner is made), makes dinner without complaint, and then takes our girls to his scouting activity with him (he’s a scoutmaster) so that I can go to the store and purchase my peeler tool without dealing with children. Did I mention that I love this man??!

So with apple peeler/corer/slicer in hand, I come home, give it a test run, do a little adjusting to get the right peeling depth, and Ta-Da!! Within about 5 minutes, I have 10 apples cored, peeled, and sliced!! (*The heavens open and angels are singing!*)Β Of course, there was no way I was starting up more batches that late at night, so I simply zipped those apples up in a baggie and saved them for today to start another applesauce making adventure.

Well, Day 2 has been a better adventure for me. There has not been any real drama to speak of, no tears, no swearing, but the time intensity is still definitely a factor. This time the work is on the front end of the cooking as opposed to the back end, and occasionally the peeler thingamajigger has difficulty with an apple (usually the ones where the core is caddywhampus) and I have had to break out the parring knife to manually peel a few apples, but it’s easy, manageable, and I am having fun doing it. I feel like I’m back in the 50’s when people spent all day in the kitchen canning their produce to put up for the winter. πŸ™‚
And just for the record, I did two batches today and the first batch took a lot longer than the second batch did. There was definitely a learning curve factor. I have a feeling next time I attempt something like this, I’ll be even faster and more effecient. πŸ™‚Β But I do have to say, this re-enforces to me why meat is one of my favorite things to can. It is SO much easier than this! πŸ™‚ But I’ve snuck a taste of the applesauce every here and there and am thoroughly enjoying the taste of this homemade treat, which, again, reminds me why we go to all this work in the first place. πŸ™‚ Yea for homemade applesauce! πŸ™‚

So anyway, stay tuned for the step by step ‘how to’ for canning applesauce, and good luck in all your preparedness efforts!

Food Storage: How To Can Chicken

This post has been a long time coming! I’ve been wanting to post it for forever, because canning meat is such a FUN part of food storage (you really start to feel like you’re part of the ‘food storage “in” crowd’ when you cross this line :)), but I also knew I wanted the tutorial to be detailed and have lots of pictures. So it has taken me this long to finally get all of that together in one place! πŸ™‚ Anyway, hopefully this is helpful to anyone who’s been debating giving this a try!

Canning chicken/meat is probably my favorite thing to can because to me it seems like it’s also the easiest (although definitely not the least time consuming). But it’s just. so. easy! I’ve been canning my own meat for about a year and a half now, and the first time I tried it I couldn’t believe I’d waited so long to try! I had horror scary stories in my mind about how difficult it would be, how gross it would likely taste, and all the fun stereotypes I love to put with things that are unfamiliar to me. πŸ™‚ But it was a piece of cake! It tastes great, it’s SO much less expensive* than store canned chicken, and it makes dinner time a snap to be able to just grab a jar of ready-to-go chicken and serve up a tasty meal. πŸ™‚Β {*NOTE: You MUST have a pressure canner (different from a pressure cooker) in order to can meat. This is a bit of an investment, but one that is well worth it!}

So, in case you’ve been holding out for fear of the unknown, I’m going to alleviate any concerns and give you a step by step of the process so you can see just how easy and non-threatening it really is. πŸ™‚ Alrighty. Here we go.

How To Can Chicken

Download Printable PDF Version

First off… there are two ways to can chicken: raw pack or hot pack. Raw pack is just as it sounds– you put the chicken in the jars raw, and then process them in the pressure canner, and the chicken cooks as it processes. Hot pack is when you cook the chicken first and then process it. I’ve done both ways and like both for different reasons.Β Raw pack is so much faster to do, obviously because you skip the whole step of cooking the chicken first. The raw pack method, however, produces more of a shredded chicken. So I use it in recipes like chicken enchiladas,Β chicken enchilada soup, chicken salad sandwiches, coconut curry chicken… you get the idea. The hot pack method is a little more labor intensive on the front end, but produces chicken that holds it’s shape a little better. So I like to use this for meals where I prefer the chicken to be in more of a chunk rather than shredded… such as thai peanut chicken noodle salad, broccoli curry chicken casserole, green bean chicken alfredo, and basically any of my casserole dishes. I always make sure I have some of each kind. Okay. Shall we proceed?

Step 1. When canning chicken, I like to start with a clean work area. One, because it helps me think/function/work better to be in a clean and organized environment, and two, because I have major raw chicken germ phobias and I don’t want those icky germs infesting anything more than they have to- lol. (Note the big canister of Clorox wipes in the background!) πŸ™‚

Step 2. Get out all your equipment and check to make sure it is in good, clean order: pressure canner, jars, lids, rings, and your canning tools. Check your jars to make sure there aren’t any cracks or nicks. (You can use either pint jars or quart jars, depending on how much chicken you usually use in a meal. Pint jars will take approximately 1 lb of chicken to fill, and quart jars will take closer to 2 lbs. I mainly do pints.) {Tip: You will want to use the wide mouth jars… especially if doing raw pack. Raw pack tends to leave some science-projecty-type looking stuff in the jars, and unless you have an itty bitty hand, it is SO SO difficult to clean it out of a regular mouth jar.} For the lids, I always use new ones when I’m doing canning. They’re not expensive and I don’t like risking that the jars won’t seal because I’m re-using old lids. And finally, check your canner as well.Β I have a Presto pressure canner (which I know isn’t the fanciest option out there, but it gets the job done and I love it) so I give it a once over and make sure all is well with the rubber gasket, the spout is clear, etc. (Oh, and while I’m checking it, I usually go ahead and fill it with the 3 quarts of water it will need, along with 2 Tablespoons of vinegar.)

Step 3. Make sure your jars, lids and rings are squeaky clean. Fill the sink with hot, soapy water and let them relax in a sudsy bath while you slave away over the chicken. πŸ™‚

Step 4. Rinse and dry the jars, lids, and rings in preparation for filling. (Not shown: You should also get a small pot of water boiling on the stove and put the lids in. This sanitizes the lids as well as softens the rubber rings on them so they will get a better seal.)

 

Step 5. Prepare your chicken. Wondering how much you need? Well, remember a pint jar will take about 1 lb of chicken and quart jars will take close to 2 lbs. My canner will process 7 pint jars at a time, so I need roughly 7 lbs of meat for each batch (although you don’t have to do a full batch if you don’t want to).

If you are doing raw pack, simply cut your raw chicken into large chunks (size doesn’t really matter since, as I said, it’s all going to basically turn into shredded pieces anyway). {Tip: It’s a whole lot easier to cut your chicken if it is partially frozen.}

If you are doing hot pack, you will want to go ahead and cook your chicken and then cut it into your desired size of chunks. For cooking your chicken, you can boil it, grill it, or Hubby likes to smoke it on the pit. (You can get some pretty darn good flavors in your canned chicken by marinating it first and then smoking/grilling it prior to canning! πŸ™‚ …although I should say, it doesn’t say anywhere in the canning book that you should marinate and grill your chicken. It only mentions boiling it. But we have never had a problem.) When cooking it, you don’t have to make sure it’s cooked all the way through– just till most of the pink is gone. Remember, it’s going to cook more as it processes in the canner.

 

Step 6. While you’re preparing the chicken, get the water heating up in your pressure canner. For my Presto canner, it says to add 3 quarts of water (there’s an indicator line marked on the inside) along with 2 Tablespoons of vinegar (the vinegar helps prevent hard water spots on your jars and keeps them nice and clean) and bring it up to a boil.

Step 7. Once all your meat is cut up, go ahead and fill your jars. {Tip: I start by filling each jar just about halfway and then fill them the rest of the way with the remaining chicken. This helps to make sure they’re getting equal amounts.} Be sure to leave at least a 1-inch space from the top of the rim (called ‘headspace’).

Step 8. Add your canning salt, if desired. {Tip: Remember to only use salt specifically for canning or pickling. Regular salt will cloud up your jars.} Add Β½ teaspoon for pint jars or 1 teaspoon for quart jars.

Step 9. If you are doing the hot pack method, fill each jar with either hot water or hot broth, leaving 1-inch headspace at the top. If you are doing the raw pack method, you will skip this step because the chicken will make its own broth as it processes. However, I have found that the resulting broth does not fully cover the chicken… which isn’t a problem… but I like for all the chicken to be covered. So I generally will add a little water or broth (just about ΒΌ of the way up the jar… if that) when I’m doing raw pack.

Step 10. (No picture) With a damp cloth or paper towel, carefully wipe the rim of each jar to ensure it is completely clean. If any grains of salt or little pieces of chicken or something are on the rim, they will interfere with getting a good seal, or your jar may not even seal at all.

Step 11. Using your magnetic jar lid grabber thingy, remove a lid from your boiling water on the stove and place it on top of a jar (try not to touch the under side of the lid since it is now sterilized). Then screw on a ring until it is ‘finger tight’. (That just means you make sure it is secure, but you don’t screw it on with all your might or anything.) πŸ™‚ Repeat for each jar.

Step 12. Place your prepared jars into your pressure canner (try to keep the jars from touching).

Step 13. {Important Note: These last few steps are for the Presto canner that I have. Although the process will be similar for all canner types, you will want to reference the instructions for your specific canner, as they will likely be different!} Place the lid on your canner and secure it until it is fully closed. (The picture shows the lid on, but not fully closed yet. You have to twist it till the handles are lined up for it to be fully closed.)

Step 14. Keep the pressure canner over high heat and watch for a steady stream of steam to come out of the spout thingy on top. (It will probably be about 7-10 minutes before you start seeing steam.) Once it starts steaming steadily, set the timer for 10 minutes.

Step 15. After the 10 minutes are up, place the pressure regulator with 10 lbs of pressure on the spout (10 pounds of pressure is the regulator plus just one of the metal rings that fit on it) and wait for the regulator to start rocking at a rapid pace (this will probably take another 10-15 minutes).

Step 16. Once the regulator is rocking, set the timer again: 75 minutes for pints; 90 minutes for quarts. Then reduce the heat a bit to just keep the regulator at a gentle rocking. (My heat usually ends up being between medium and medium-high.)

Step 17. At the end of the processing time, simply turn the heat off and then just leave the canner alone so it can cool on its own. You do NOT want to force the lid open or quickly release the pressure or anything. Doing so could explode your jars. Just so ya know! πŸ™‚ So just leave it alone until the overpressure plug has dropped of its own accord. (Mine usually takes anywhere from 30-45-60 minutes… somewhere in there.) Then go ahead and remove the pressure regulator (no steam should release at this point) and open the lid.

Step 18. Remove the jars from the canner and place on a towel to continue cooling, leaving a bit of space between each jar. (Note: The jars of chicken in the picture are of chicken processed using the hot pack method. I believe they were thighs and drumsticks, etc that had been smoked. Chicken breasts make for better chunks, since you can just cut them into the size you Β want. These had to be pulled off the bone, so we were left with whatever size it came off the bone as. Also, if you do raw pack, just be aware that the end result will end up looking a little more like a jar that belongs in the science lab. But don’t let this deter you!! It’s still awesome and tastes totally normal! :))

Step 19. As the jars sit and cool, you will likely hear some popping. This is the lids sealing. Each lid should “pop” to indicate it is sealed. It can take up to several hours for all the jars to pop and seal, so just keep an eye on them and don’t panic if your lid isn’t sealed right away. If, however, after 6 hours or so (or the next morning- if you were doing this late at night like I usually am!) you have a lid that has still not sealed (meaning you can push on the lid and the bubble on it still pops up and down), you will want to go ahead and put that jar in the fridge to use within the next few days. Technically, you could actually try to process the jar again, but I’d only ever consider that if I happened to be doing another batch anyway. But you could do it if you wanted to. πŸ™‚

Step 20. Once the jars are fully cooled, remove the rings and give the jars and rings a quick little bath. πŸ™‚ Just rinse around the outer rims and the inside of the rings with a little soapy water to remove any grimy, greasy stuff that may have leaked out Β during the processing. {Heads up: If you neglect to do this, you may end up with a few critter friends who are attracted to the stuff stuck on your jars.} After their bath you can place the rings back on the jars, but it’s not necessary. You can leave them off if you’d like.

Step 21. I also like to check each jar at this point to make sure that the sealed lid is fully secure. I’ve had a couple of jars where, even though the lid had popped shut and sealed, I was still able to pull the lid off with my hands simply by applying just a little bit of pressure. Realistically, the jars probably would have been fine if I had left them alone since the lid was still sealed, but my opinion is that if it’s that easy to pull open with my fingers, then there’s probably a chance that it will un-seal on it’s own while it’s just sitting on the shelf… at which point I would never know until I went to use it and then I’d have bad meat. So I just like to give it a test and make sure they’re solidly sealed. And if it opens, just throw it in the fridge to use within the next few days–same as if it hadn’t sealed in the first place.

Step 22. Alright! That’s it! You’re done! Just slap a label on those bad boys, throw them on the shelf, and call it a day! πŸ˜€ CONGRATULATIONS! You just canned your very own home canned chicken! πŸ™‚ Hope you enjoy it!

{Tips For Using Your Canned Chicken: When I’m getting ready to use my canned chicken, the first thing I do is to drain and rinse it. This gets rid of a lot of the ‘canned’ smell. Β Next I like to sautΓ© it in a frying pan with just a drizzle of olive oil and a bit of McCormick’s Grilled Chicken Seasoning (Montreal Style). This particular seasoning is amazing at bringing in a freshly grilled chicken smell, but I imagine most seasonings would enhance the chicken wonderfully. So at this point, it’s ready to add to my meal. Delicious! You’d never know it came from a can!}

What’s From The Garden? Refrigerator Pickles!

We have gotten a WHOLE LOT of cucumbers so far from our garden, so I’m trying to figure out some good ways to use them. My first thought was to make some homemade relish, but I need bell peppers for that (which I don’t have enough of those growing yet), we’ve done home canned pickles before and they have just sat on our shelf because we’re not huge pickle eaters (unless it’s on a burger or something) and then I remembered my grandpa’s canned pickled cucumbers from my childhood. My grandpa was an avid gardener and one of my favorite things he made was homemade pickled cucumbers. They taste more like a cucumber than a pickle, but with a hint of dill and a hint of sweetness to boot. At this memory I immediately knew what I wanted to do with ALL my cucumbers! However, Grandpa passed away a few years ago, and my mom was out of town so I couldn’t get the recipe from her. So I checked online and found something similar. This isn’t exactly the same as Grandpa’s (it doesn’t have any dill in it… which I’m sure I could have just added) and these aren’t canned either, you just keep them in the fridge. I like the fridge option for easiness, but I also want to can some as well so I can keep them on the shelf. So anyway, here’s a great recipe for you to enjoy and I promise to share Grandpa’s as well as soon as I can get my hands on it! πŸ™‚ And if you’ve got some cucumbers growing, you have GOT to try these. They are so refreshing and delicious. But caution, you can easily sit and eat a whole jar at a time! πŸ™‚

Homemade Refrigerator Pickles

Download Printable Version
Ingredients:

  • approximately 2 quarts of thinly sliced cucumbers (about 6-7 cucumbers)
  • 1/2 to 1 whole onion, thinly sliced (depending on how much onion you like)
  • 2 Tbsp sea salt (or regular salt)
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup vinegar

Directions:

  1. Slice your cucumbers and onions as thin as you can. (I used my 2-quart drinking pitcher to hold the cucumbers so I’d know when I had two quarts. :))
  2. Place the cucumbers and onions in a large bowl and cover with ice cold water (add 8-10 cubes of ice). Add the salt and stir to combine. Let stand for about 2 hours.
  3. Drain the water. Then add the sugar. Mix the sugar until the cucumbers are evenly coated (I just use my hands).
  4. Add the vinegar and mix.
  5. Spoon it all into mason jars (a canning funnel definitely helps) or some other airtight container and let it sit in the fridge for approximately 24 hours. Note that there will not be enough liquid to cover all the cucumbers initially, so just divide the liquid as evenly as possible among your containers. And as it sits, the cucumbers will make their own juice and eventually they’ll be full almost to the top. You want the cucumbers in liquid if possible, since that is what will enhance the flavor as they sit.

And that’s it! Easy right? Next time I think I’ll definitely add some dill, and maybe some ground mustard seed. But I like these the way they are too. Hope you enjoy! Happy Gardening!