A Perfect Pear-ing!

Another Hatchett Job, pear blossoms, creative commonsOne of the first things my parents did after we built our log cabin was to plant 2 trees each of pear and apple. Our apple trees never produced well, but most years, the pear has given us (and the deer, squirrels, crows, and even the occasional coyote) more pears than could possibly be consumed.
This year, though, our production is way down and the pears are very small. We are not in a horrible drought, but we didn’t necessarily get rain at the best times for the ripening fruit. But, when we saw a squirrel running across the rail on our back deck with a small pear in it’s mouth, we were pretty sure they were ripe!
I took some to a friend who had been sending over all of her excess produce for me to can up for Winter and then kept a good sized bucket (4 gallon maybe) heaped up for us.

The pears are small and hard with thick skins. Older varieties that were often grown on old farms and homesteads are often hard and grainy. These traits keep the fruit from turning to mush when canned for Winter use.

And canning pears is totally worth the effort! Pear crisps, pies, and other desserts are delicious on a cool day. Pear sauce is tasty and a nice change from apple sauce. We even mix some pear and apple together when we have an abundance.Another Hatchett Job, pears on tree branch, creative commons

But, add a few spices and the pear sauce totally transforms into an absolute country delicacy…pear butter. Mmmmm, mmmmm! Just different enough from apple butter to be a touch exotic, it is the best way to use up small, hard pears.

Here is how I make mine:

Wash the pears in cool, clear water and sit aside.

Rough chop them with a large knife and place in crock pot.  Don’t peel or core them.  Just cut off any obvious bad parts or insect damage (save those for compost).  The smaller the pieces, the faster they cook!

Add about 1 cup of water or fruit juice and a tablespoon or two of lemon juice.  Place lid on crock pot and turn to high.

When the pears are cooked and have released all of their juices, use a slotted spoon to put them in a food mill or sieve to make a pear sauce, while leaving hard bits of core, skins, and seeds behind.

Another Hatchett Job, cooking, canning, salsa, frugal life, frugal gifts, photo by Eddie Hatchett
Water Bath Canning

Strain liquid through a sieve and store in refrigerator (it is tasty to cook oatmeal in it or just to drink it…or use it for the liquid in your next batch of pears).

Return pear sauce to crock pot (I usually refrigerate mine overnight and deal with it the next day) and add sugar (at least 1 cup, possibly more), cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and ground cloves to taste.  Just remember to use more cinnamon than any other single spice and you will be fine.  If your sauce is runny, let it cook on low all day with the lid a bit ajar so that steam can escape.  If too thick, add some pear liquid, just a bit at a time until it is the consistency you would like.  If it is just right (and Goldilocks would approve) just let it heat on low for a couple of hours so that the flavors come together a bit.

Then, you can freeze it or can it for later use.  I am assuming that there are enough simple water bath canning (and pressure canning) video examples and blog posts to cover the rest of the story.  If not, let me know and I can do a post on how to can the pear butter.

Do you preserve summer fruits for Winter eating?

Till next time,

Another Hatchett Job blog, signature, Jan Hatchett

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Homemade Salsa

Another Hatchett Job, cooking, canning, salsa, frugal life, frugal gifts, photo by Eddie HatchettThere is nothing that my family likes better than homemade salsa throughout the year. It is the one thing that my sons request that I make in large quantities (that includes the many jams and sweet goodies that I also make).

For them, Mama’s homemade salsa is a sure winner!

I wish I could take credit for this amazing salsa making prowess, but, alas, I cannot. I learned to make homemade salsa from my wonderful hubby, who, in turn, had learned from his mother, an excellent cook.

However, she made hers fresh in small batches whenever she needed some and I make mine and can it for year round eating and some gifts. Hubby and I have learned how to expand those same fresh flavors into a safely canned product that we have been making for years.

First off, please consult a good book or website on food preservation and review the section on Water Bath Canning. As salsa is a high acid food, it can be easily canned in glass jars with two part lids.

This year, we have not had luck with growing tomatoes (last year, either), so we are using #10 cans of diced tomatoes that we got from our local grocery store. It is an economical alternative to fresh tomatoes when they aren’t at hand. It also enables me to make a batch on the fly when tomatoes aren’t in season for gift giving or if we run out (hungry hubby and two teen sons and all that).

Now, I would prefer having crushed tomatoes, but those aren’t available locally in the big cans for me, so I use an immersion blender (either when they are in the can or in the pot) to crush them up a bit for better texture. I pulse cilantro, onions, garlic, and peppers in the food processor, but you can put chunks in a good blender with diced tomatoes and let it grind all up together if you prefer. We have done both ways.

Another Hatchett Job, cooking, canning, salsa, frugal life, frugal gifts, photo by Eddie Hatchett
Finished jars cool overnight on the counter.

We tend to just add peppers until we like the taste. We do add about 1 tablespoon salt to each big batch, but no other dried spices are needed. So, when it is hot enough to make our eyes water, we heat to boiling and can it according to the latest USDA guidelines.

We will also make a much milder version for most of our friends and other family for gift giving and entertaining. We don’t want to hurt anyone! He he!

Water bath canning is simple and easy to do. Just look up the procedures in a good book or online and follow the steps. You will have a delicious, preservative free, fat free, vegetable salsa in no time. Yum!

Till next time,

Another Hatchett Job blog, signature, Jan Hatchett

Blast From the Past: Canning Beans

A short time ago, in a blogosphere far, far away, a little red headed blogger got in WAY over her head with a self hosted blog and one day–POOF–it refused to publish or save any more posts.  Even her techno savvy friends and family members (hi, Dad!) couldn’t save her beloved blog.  Sadly, the girl (who loves to write, but is only minimally techno savvy, by the way) restarted her blog on WordPress (but not the self hosted kind).  But, hating to lose her previous 800+ posts that wouldn’t be seen, she came up with a brilliant idea (!) to institute a feature to bring back some of her older posts that she wanted to keep or thought were good.  Hence the new feature:  Blast From The Past!

So, if you have followed my blog in that other, sadder blogosphere, you have probably already seen this one.  But, you might like it even more now…  Hey, you never know!

So, from January 23rd, 2013….

Another Hatchett Job blog, creative commons attribution, dried beans, mixed beans, legumes, healthy food, frugal life

Hubby and I love beans.  Pinto beans, black beans, garbanzo beans, we will eat them all.  The boys don’t always share our legume love, but younger one does enjoy a nice, warm pot of 15 bean soup from time to time.  I guess he likes all of his beans at once!

Cooking beans can take quite a while, but when I have a chance, I like to can them up in quart or pint jars to use later.  It’s easily as convenient as opening a can of beans that has been purchased at the store, but cheaper and I like to know exactly what is in them.  In my case, they contain only beans, salt, water and sometimes a bit of cooked ham or bacon to add flavor.  That’s all.

Pressure canning dried beans is really simple as long as you always, always, always pay attention to the canner and follow the established safety standards.  You just wouldn’t want to take any shortcuts with your family’s health!  So, get a recent copy (in the last 3-5 years or so) of a reputable canning guide (the Ball Blue Book is a good choice) so that you will know the proper times and pressures for safe pressure canning.  And, always double check your information before you begin!

I was scared silly at the thought of blowing up a pressure canner until I did some research and realized that not only was it something I could do, but it opened up loads of options for food preservation for my family.  But, make no mistake, you cannot can low-acid foods with a water bath canner.  It’s not safe and could make your family very ill.  Pressure canning is the only way to go here.

The first time I canned dried beans, I cleaned and picked through them well and then brought them to a boil in a large pot with plenty of water.  I let them boil for exactly one hour to have them swell and absorb water but not be completely cooked.  I ladeled them into clean jars, topped off (with 1 inch head space) with cooking water, wiped the rims on the jars, added lids and processed according to the directions that came with my canner.  It seemed simple enough at the time.

We enjoyed those beans a great deal.  We made homemade bean dips, ate beans and cornbread, had veggie nights, and even made homemade authentic refried beans.  Yum!

But, could there possibly be an even easier way?  Turns out, the answer is YES!Another Hatchett Job blog, canned beans, canning, black beans, frugal life, canning jars, creative commons attribution

This time, I will pick over and clean the beans well and then measure out 1/2 cup of the uncooked beans for pint jars and 1 cup of beans for the quart jars.  I will add 1 tsp salt to each quart and half that amount to the pints (any spices are fine and they don’t affect your processing times or pressures).  After topping off with freshly boiled water, leaving 1 inch of headspace, I will process them.

I live at just about 800 feet in elevation, so I can use the basic canning rules.  If you live at a higher elevation, you must adjust your times and/or pressures accordingly.  You can use Google to find that information.  I typed in “elevation” and my city and state.  I checked a couple of sites for accuracy and am now quite confident that I know.  If you need to make an adjustment, any good canning book will have a simple chart to use.  It’s just another one of those good reasons to have one for reference.

My quarts have to process at 10 lbs. pressure for 90 minutes.  My pints use the same pressure, but only 75 minutes.  If, by chance, you are processing a canner load that contains both pints and quarts, use the longer times needed for the quart jars.  Better safe than sorry!

By following these rules, I am assured that my foods will preserve and maintain their nutrition and quality for several years.  Healthy foods at the best possible prices is worth a bit of kitchen time to me!

As for loading and operating the canner, please refer to the instructions given in your canner instruction manual, canning reference books, or by a noted author.  I am rather fond of articles and books written by Jackie Clay, columnist for Backwoods Home Magazine, among other publications.  I trust her years of experience and like that she insists on following the rules carefully.

Have you ever done any canning?

Till next time,

Another Hatchett Job blog, signature, Jan Hatchett