Monday, March 18, 2013

Canning Lemons

Recently, we stumbled upon a great deal on lemons.  We had seen a few ways to properly can them, but the options were sparse.  So, we decided to venture to find a way to can lemons (by themselves) that offered some kind of diversity in their use.  Luckily, we stumbled upon this link:  Canning Preserved Lemons.

This is a little different take in that you are preserving the lemons by themselves to be used in cooked dishes.  We liked the idea of popping open a half pint and using them for cooking with tilapia, chicken, etc..  This doesn't make the prettiest finished product, but anything you preserve is pretty.  Right?

The Method:

Slice lemons, cover the bottom of your jars (wide mouth work best) with kosher salt, alternate layers of lemon / salt / lemon / salt, until the jar is full.
The next step is pretty straight forward:  Seal and sit. 
Over the course of the next three to five days, you will see that the salt extracts the liquids from the lemons.
After five days (the good thing is, if you get busy, no worries), this is your result.  Time for prepping for the canning.
Your lemons will come out with a much softer consistency than when they went in.  Once you have removed them from the jar, be sure to rinse them thoroughly in order get off the excess salt.
This was an added step.  In order to hot pack the lemons, we added them to a large saucepan and added only enough water to cover the lemons.  We then allowed the lemons to reach a boil for 5 minutes.
Remove your jars from the water they have been simmering in, fill with lemons and the water they were boiling in.  Prepare jars as you would normally, allowing for one inch of head space.  Process in water bath canner for 15 minutes (under 1000 ft above sea level) or 20 minutes (over 1000 ft above sea level).
After they have been removed from the canner, cooled, created their seal and stored, use to cook your favorite fish or roasted meat!
Enjoy amazing lemon flavor with your favorite dish!
The Verdict:
Amazing flavor, simple prep and great to have on hand in half pint jars for a delicious meal in no-time!  If you love adding some lemony zest to your meals, this is a great way to preserve your next harvest or grocery steal.  There is some residual salt taste, but it only enhanced our Lemon Pepper Tilapia.  We probably could have gotten more of it rinsed off, but we were a bit concerned about losing too much of the actual lemon due to it's fragile state.  Use as fine a colander as possible.
So, we hoped you learned a little bit different about how to preserve lemons.  This is going to be an amazing addition to our cooking arsenal and we hope the same for you.
Until then...
Keep Calm
Can On

Monday, February 4, 2013

Orange Marmalade and Jam / Jelly / Marmalade Repair

Good evening, friends!  We hope that you are all doing well and have gotten through this newest Monday relatively unscathed!

Yesterday, we attempted what is our first marmalade.  One of the local supermarkets had a great deal on organic naval oranges.  So, orange marmalade it was!  When looking for recipes we ran into a lot of orange ginger marmalade (which sound amazing, but we didn't have any ginger root in the house and going back out was not an option).  Here is the recipe that we decided on:  Orange Marmalade.

This is a pretty easy recipe, if your interpretation is correct...  That's the kicker...

Prep Time: 1 hour

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes

Yield: 3 pints


  • 5 pounds ripe oranges
  • 6 cups sugar
  • 3 pint jars with lids
Our Experience:

Obviously, be sure that you thoroughly clean your oranges since you will be using each part of it in the making of your marmalade.  Taking off the zest was fairly easy.  We did, in fact, use a vegetable peeler as we assumed that'd be the easiest route.  It takes some touch, but you eventually learn how to apply just the right amount of pressure so as not to scrape the pith with the zest.  When it came time to prepare the zest for inclusion in the marmalade, we decided on a combination of slices and processed zest for aesthetics.

This isn't an exact science.  Don't kill yourself trying to get off every centimeter of zest.  You'll end up getting much too much pith, which is pretty bitter.

Just a couple cycles with the food processor and you get a nice finely chopped texture.

Like this!

Or, you can go with this one.

Here's where it got a bit dicey.  Be sure that you read the above link regarding how to section oranges.  You want to make sure that all of the membranes and core are separated from the "meat" of the fruit.  Mr. B misinterpreted the separating method and it took 2 - 3 times as long as it should have to get to this point.

Once you have separated the core, membranes and anything other than the fruit, you can run it through a strainer, pressing hard, to collect any juices.  Then, you will transfer it to what is referred to as a "pectin bag" that consists of a double layer of cheese cloth.  You will notice that pectin is not used in this recipe.  That's because the remnants contained in the "pectin bag" actually release your natural pectin.

Then, it is time to combine your zest, fruit, "pectin bag," four cups and water and six cups of sugar in a large pot.  Bring to a boil and maintain a heat of 220 F for 5 minutes.  They warn you that this may be tedious. 
It is. 
Be patient.

Once your marmalade has met the 220 for 5 criteria, you can then test it to see if it is at it's "gelling point."  We go into deeper detail about how to test for "gelling point" here:  Canning Cranberry - Apple Preserves .  We used the plate test, for the first time.  Typically, we use the spoon test.  We weren't completely familiar with what the "clean path" meant in regards to the plate test and that got us jarring our marmalade a bit earlier than we should have.

While pretty, this still didn't set the next day.  Not even close.  Again, the recipe suggests that it may take up to 48 hrs for the marmalade to set, we're of the mindset that most of that work should be done before it goes into the jar.  So, we looked for ways to reprocess our work and not completely scrap our hours of effort.  We found a great one here:  What to do when your jelly doesn't set

A few tablespoons of lemon juice later and a little more time, orange marmalade.  Using clean jars, lids, seals and collars, reprocess your yummy goods via water bath.  A couple of things to note:  Notice the difference in color from what we thought were the "finished" goods to what was actually our final product.  The second has a distinctly darker tint to it.  Be sure to study more than one recipe and know what kind of visual evidence you should be looking for.  Also, notice how there are six half pints with the second?  We had seven half pints, one pint and several smaller jelly jars with the first "finished" goods.  Talk about reduction.

So, there you have it.  You learn so much canning new recipes.  Never stop learning.  Especially, as it pertains to what you are feeding your family.  It was quite the little adventure and we wish we would have done a couple of things differently (reading the entire recipe first and not just the ingredients is always a good start), but we are excited to pop open a jar and get our first real taste of our first real marmalade.

Have a marmalade recipe that you can't live without?  Tell us in the comments!

Until then...

Keep Calm
Can On

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Festive tags/ jar toppers

Hey friends,

I spent some time today making these Valentine's Day tags and wanted to share them with you.  Feel free to save the imaged below (if anyone can tell me how to upload the pdf as a link, I can do that, too) .  I will post idea pictures tomorrow.  These can be used as gift tags for Valentine's treats, toppers for your jar lids... or heck, punch holes in the top and bottom and slide onto a sucker stick for a cute Valentine to send with your child to school.  We hope you enjoy these cute little rounds.  They were made with love by yours truly. 

And as always...
Keep Calm
Can On

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Applesauce Adventure!

We have two apple trees on our property and, for some reason, we had never made applesauce.  So, what better time than now?!  In any case, you will find that there isn't a ton of rhyme or reason to our method, but we were semi-guided by a book called Canning for a New Generation, given our motto of bringing back the once lost arts of preservation.

The Method:

Now, our book told us a number of desirable apples for a sugar free applesauce, but we kind of made a hodge-podge of what was available at the local supermarket.  In our recipe, we used a combination of Ambrosia, Fuji and Gala.  It really turned out well, given our shortcomings.

While preparing our apples, we simmer our lids, gaskets and jars in hot water so as to sterilize them and assist with the canning process.

First of all, we don't have an apple peeler. So, we used a traditional carrot peeler to de-skin our apples. This is a bit time intensive and we encourage anyone that makes applesauce on a regular basis to invest in an actual apple peeler or food mill that separates the peel from the apple. Now, the actual recipe called for six pounds of apples while we only had three pounds on hand.  In any case, once peeling was complete, we put them in a water / lemon mixture so as to discourage browning. We used about 3 tablespoons lemon juice to 1/2 - 3/4 pot water (again, not scientific, but it worked).

Once our peels were removed, we used a corer / divider combo to cut our apples into more manageable pieces.

Finally, we chopped them into 1/2 - 1 inch pieces to assure proper cooking.  Before you say anything, we later realized there are easier ways to get about the same result.  :)

Then, we added about 1 1/2 cups of water and placed them on the stove top and allowed to rise to a boil.  This doesn't seem like a lot of water, but the natural juices of the apple are extracted pretty quickly.

Once the apples are properly cooked (about 30 minutes per instructions and with adequate stirring), you are left with a golden hue to your prepared apples.

Then, you can add them to the food processor and grind to desired texture.  We have a five month old starting on whole foods.  So, we went a bit finer than we may have normally.

Once you have properly distributed the contents into jars, assembled the lids and processed them in a water bath canner (approximately fifteen minutes after rolling boil), you have quite an aesthetic product.  Our little guy is eating them like candy!

The Verdict:

Well, there were a couple of issues with this adventure.  Due to lack of kitchen equipment and familiarity with the process, it was quite time consuming.  Also, we overestimated the amount of applesauce that comes from three pounds of apples (two pints).  Lastly, we apparently did not stir as much as necessary because slight burning occurred at the bottom of the pan.  Regardless, we got lucky and came out with a delicious applesauce.  You can add sugar, cinnamon, etc. based on your unique taste, but this one fit the purpose for us.

Have a way that you can help us out with our applesauce making process?  Let us know in the comments.

Until then....
Keep Calm
Can On

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Going Bananas!

Good evening, all! 

So, during the Christmas holiday, we were gifted a Nesco American Harvest dehydrator.  We had already done some jerky using round steak.  Next, came banana chips (one of Mr. B's faves).  It was an interesting lesson, but overall the results were decent.  Below, you will find a full account of our experience and the methods with which we accomplished some yummy, albeit chewy, banana chips.

First of all, we cut out bananas into 1/4" (or thereabouts) pieces per typical directions for banana chips.  This helps to ensure that your banana pieces will turn out nice and crisp via the dehydrating process.

We then dipped our banana slices in a mixture of 1/2 cup honey and and 1/4 water.

After stirring around the banana pieces in the water/honey mixture, we used a small opening wire strainer to run off the excess mix.  The directions state that you should drain them, but we assumed that recycling the mix was the best method as to not use too much honey.  Side note:  The honey that was used was from a local establishment only minutes away.  Always go local when you can.  This helps the local economy while allowing you to better control what is going on with your food ingredients.

After your banana pieces have been properly strained, you lay them out on your dehydrator trays.  Be sure to keep a good distance between them so as not to elongate the drying process.

Once the drying process is complete (this will vary based on the thickness of your banana pieces), you then are free to package them as you please.  We simply put them into an airtight sandwich bag since the six bananas we dehydrated yielded only that much necessary capacity.

We do apologize for the lack of pictures of the finished products, but it totally slipped our minds.  The chips came out with a deeper brown color than we had anticipated.  We suspect this is due to not treating them with a lemon/water solution, as we have seen elsewhere.  The reason for not treating them with said solution was that we thought the honey/water coating might alleviate the chances of oxidation.  We believe that hypothesis might be false.


The banana chips, while full of flavor, came out rather chewy.  We attribute this to the honey/water mixture that probably hindered the dehydration process.  The chips had an estimated 6 - 12 hour processing time, according to the Nesco Dehydrator guide, yet we left them in for an additional 6 hours.  Next time, we will probably use the method of treating them in the lemon / water blend and dehydrating them untreated.  Nevertheless, our little guy loves them and the flavor is great.  So, not all is lost.

Do you have a preferred method of banana chip making?  If so, let us know in the comment...

Until then...

Keep Calm


Can On

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Not Your Grandma's Cloth Diapers!

As one of our first steps towards self-reliance, we decided that we wanted to have our children in cloth diapers.  While we still use some store-bought (disposable) diapers when we are going to be away from the house for longer periods of time (rather than lugging around soiled diapers), cloth diapers have saved us a ton of money over the past couple of years.  We started with just one kind of cloth diaper to try them out and see if we were up to the task of regular washings and what not, but have expanded greatly from there.


These were the first cloth diapers that we purchased.  They're actually a hybrid diaper.  We had heard lots of good things about them and were excited to try them out.  They come in mostly solid colors (we have orange, blue and green).

I think one of the first things that turned us onto them was the snap-out nylon liner that you see.  This would help in terms of keeping the outside shell dry in cases of accidents.  The g's actually come with disposable, biodegradable liners, but the main purpose of us buying them was to avoid having to repeatedly buy diapers and to reduce waste.  Inside the gDiaper, you will see the absorbent cloth liners.  Miss Jackie found out how to make them and went ahead and hand sewed them.  They're made of fleece (with a layer of microfiber) which allows moisture to wick through to the layer below so that it doesn't irritate the baby's bottom in the case that you aren't immediately able to change it.  The second layer is a combination of hemp fabric and fleece.  This is the main "catcher" to, again, keep little bottoms dry.  Lastly, you have the nylon liner which protects the outside fabric from moisture.  The only drawbacks we found (and these are just personal preferences): you have to round up several parts after each wash to assemble the diaper.  Also, gDiapers are sized... so we invested in newborn, small, medium and large sizes.  We were new to cloth and didn't know about brilliance of one-size diapers.


The second style of diaper we invested in was a one-size pocket style from Bum Genius.  This was an instant favorite!  Not only did we love the idea that we could adjust this as our kiddos grew, but the "Albert" design delighted our nerdy science-geek selves!

This diaper came with an adjustable microfiber insert that kept our heavy-wetter dry (even during his 13-hour slumbers). 

Chunky Monkey

These are probably our favorites!  Not only is each order customizable, in terms of colors and designs, but they are also locally made (only two towns over!).  Also, we have found that they leak through less than some other cloth diapers.  Really helpful when you aren't able to immediately recognize when someone needs a changin'.  Chunky Monkey makes many types of cloth diapers, we have mostly one-size pocket-style and all-in-twos.
As you can see, the sizes are fully adjustable.  She does make fitted diapers, but we have found that one-size fits both our 5 mo. old and 2 year old.

Inside, you find a cotton "soaker" that is super absorbent.  These have worked great for keepin' our little guys' bottoms nice and dry.  You can also get hemp liners which just increase the absorption!

They are basically three sectioned and you just tri-fold them and insert them into the pocket and are ready to go!  Of course, there is a plastic (PUL) waterproof layer that separates this from the outside cloth so as not to soak through.


Last, but not least, we have the Bumkins.  These are pretty stinkin' cute in the Dr. Seuss designs that we got.  They, like our Chunky Monkeys, are also pocket-style diapers, but the fact that we can customize each diaper and we are supporting a locally based company gives Chunky Monkey an advantage.
Like we said earlier, we have saved a TON in what we would have spent on disposable diapers and they are quite stylish on the warmer days.  Haha.  Once we started cloth diapering, we were excited to learn about all the other benefits of cloth (less diaper rash, for one).  We definitely got some funny looks from some of our family and friends when we first mentioned the idea of cloth diapers.  Instantly, the image of safety pins and long strands of cloth pops into your mind, but this is definitely a contemporary spin on the whole thing.  While there are times when we have leak-throughs, they are probably less often than what you would have with disposable diapers. Plus, we've found that cloth diapers eliminated the dreaded blowouts that ruin cute outfits. 
So, that's just a bit about how another old school idea is making a roaring comeback in a contemporary way.  Is it just a little more effort?  Yes.  But the payoff is huge. 
Are there other products that you think are reviving practices of the past in a new age way?  Let us know in the comments!
Until then...
Keep Calm


Can On