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Archive for the ‘Food Preservation’ Category

Curing Ham (sort of)

Just like with the bacon, ham is made with the pink salt which has nitrates in it.  I wanted to try it without the nitrates, and as the video I used says: it’s a really good roast pork leg,  but it’s not ham.  Next time I carve a pig, I will do one leg with the pink salt and one without.  It is really good, but I want a ham too.

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All I did was to brine the leg for 6 days in an ice filled cooler, then roast it as you would any raw pork leg.  350 degrees for 6 hours.  It depends on the size of the ham or pork leg as to how long it cooks for and how long you brine it for, but I don’t know all the specifics.  Here is a link to a video that I got some of my info from.  Sorry that I don’t have a ton of info to share, but I kinda just dumped stuff together to make the brine.  It was salt, brown sugar, and pickling spice.  I boiled it all up, let it cool, and then put everything into the big brine bag.  I will make it again and keep track of what I’m using.  I also want to add that this wasn’t smoked, just like with the bacon, because I don’t have a smoker and wanted to try it out.

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We try to do everything as “natural” and simple as we possibly can.  Therefore I like to try recipes that do not include ingredients that might be less than good for you.  In this example here, I want to make “bacon” without nitrates.  The pink curing salt normally used has nitrates in it.  There are many recipes out there that do not use the pink curing salt, so I gave one a try.  I wanted to taste the “bacon” in its simplest version to see if it was good without the pink stuff.  I figured that if it was awful, next time we would use the pink stuff.  We have got to at least try, right?

Here is the link to the recipe I used.

First I cut the whole pork belly into three parts and removed the last few ribs that were still attached.  I somehow ended up with a picture of only two pieces.  They aren’t pretty, but I have yet to achieve “master Butcher.”

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Next, I covered each piece in the rub, the ingredients in the rub are as follows:

1 lb salt

1/2 lb light brown sugar

2 Tbsp black peppercorns, crushed

1 Tbsp coriander seed, crushed

2 Tbsp juniper berries, crushed

4 Bay leaves

Be sure to coat the top, bottom and sides in the rub.  Then stack the pieces in a pile.  I put mine in a big plastic bag on a plate because my pans are all still packed somewhere, but you should try to stack them in something like a corelle dish and just cover them with plastic.  I am working on finding alternatives to plastic, but haven’t got there yet.

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Again, not pretty.  Let them sit like this wrapped up in the fridge for 24 hours then rotate.  Top to bottom, bottom to middle, middle to top.  Return the stack to the fridge for another 24 hours and repeat the rotation.  Repeat once more for a total of 3 days in the fridge.  After the 3 days, take the bacon out and rinse very well.  I found our bacon to be too salty, and so next time we have a chance to cook bacon, we will blanch it for 2 minutes before frying it up.  Blanching pulls out the excess salt.  At this point, you could smoke the bacon.  We don’t have a smoker and I wanted the simplest form of bacon, so we just skipped the smoking part.  Now we cut it, fry it, and eat it!

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So this is pretty much the same post as the couple before it, just with ground beef.  I DSC_0166found this excellent website, Poverty Prepping, to help me with this project.  This site uses a method called dry canning to can ground beef in all it’s forms.  You can can pre made patties or meatballs as they are, just without liquid to help them keep their form and taste.  I didn’t have time to be fancy, so I just canned pre cooked ground beef.  I just boiled it until it was just brown.

DSC_0164I prepared everything else as done in all the other canning projects.  I sterilized the jars and heated the lids in close to boiling water.   I filled the pint jars to just below the threads with the hot ground beef, not draining it completely, but not adding any extra juices either.  I then processed the jars for 90 minutes at 10lbs.  The reason I really liked the website I listed above was all the details it gave.  It listed what pressures at times for all kinds of meats including beef, venison, chicken, pork etc.  There was a lot of good information from people who seemed like they had a lot of experience in the area.  I encourage anyone who wants to get into canning meat to check out the site.  My project was a success, and I didn’t overfill or break any cans this time.  Now all the extra meat we have is canned up and ready to go.

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I’m still working on getting everything canned before the big move to the homestead.  Today’s project: Canning beef broth, which the Man made for me the other day.  We have an excess of soup bones in the freezer and will no longer a freezer once we get to the new homestead so it had to be done.  This vat of broth in the picture was full before I started my meat canning project.  It really is wonderful stuff, I’ll share more later.

DSC_0158This is my first time doing this, so here is the website I got my information from: Recipes We Love.  It was actually a really simple project.  I sterilized my jars and heated my lids just like I had done before and just like you should do whenever you can (as far as I have seen so far).  At the same time, I heated up the broth so that it was a similar temperature as the jars to prevent breakage.  Then I filled the jars using a funnel.  Once they were all full, I wiped them down, put the warm lids on, screwed on the rings and put them into the pressure canner with the water to the fill line.  I processed them at 10lbs for 25 minutes.  These were quart jars, but pints only need 20 minutes.  After the pressure dropped to 0, I opened it up and pulled them out.  No broken jars today!  They all popped almost right away.  Done!

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DSC_0161When I took the lid off the pressure canner after the pressure dropped, one of the jars was leaning to the side and there appeared to be beef broth in the once clean canning water.  I took all the good jars out and this is what I found.  The bottom had popped off the jar.  In my small amount of experience, I had never seen this before so I did some web searching.  I found this website by the makers of my pressure cooker.  I decided that the issue was likely that I had filled the jars up too much.  I thought that I had stayed below where the threads started on all the jars, but looking at the jars, clearly I hadn’t.  In my canning today, I will be much more careful about that so we don’t have a repeat of yesterday’s events.

 

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Canning Stew Beef

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Jars ready to be filled

I have been packing up the house to move to the new homestead and I decided I should tackle the freezer today.  A lot of the food looked awful and was full of frost.  I don’t generally have good luck with freezing for any long periods of time.  I also won’t have a freezer or even electricity at the new place, so I am going to try out canning.  I have done a small amount before.  But nothing more than applesauce.  We recently bought 50lbs of meat, thinking we would eat it all by now.  Not even close. I have also heard that canning meat is one of the easiest things to can.  Here we go.

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My 16 quart canner, cooking away

This is my first try at this, so here is the website I got my information from: Canning Granny.  First, the Man made me some delicious beef broth, I will chat about this later.  I cut up a ton of stew beef into about 1/2 – 1″ cubes.  While I was cutting, my quart jars were in some boiling water to sterilize them.  I also put the jar lids in warm water to soak.  While the jars were still hot, I added the raw beef chunks and then filled them up with the beef broth.  I filled them to just under where the threads begin.  Take a butter knife or something similar and gently work the bubbles out.  Once full, clean the jars with a wet rag.  I only had a ladle to use, so I spilled some.  They make these nifty little canning funnels, but I have yet to buy one.  Put the jar lids on and then hand tighten the rings onto the jars.  Put the jars into the pressure canner that is full only to the fill line.  My canner is marked for pint jars and quart jars so you know exactly how much water to use.  The recipe I followed said to use 15lbs of pressure for 90 minutes for quart jars.

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Finished product

After the 90 minutes, I let the pressure drop to 0 before opening the lid.  Use jar lifting tongs to pull the jars out of the still hot water.  Set the jars on the counter to cool and listen for the pops!  That’s it.  According to the recipe I followed, this will stay good for 2-5 years.  I just want to add it: I am not an expert and this is my first time trying this recipe.  I may have left something out, so I suggest checking the link I listed and make sure to do it right.  I always check multiple recipes for this sort of thing anyways just in case.  It is always possible someone posted directions that are very wrong or missing steps that could cause bad things to happen.  Be sure and be safe.  PS: I had a little accident with this canning episode (no injuries) because I think these jars are too full.  I’ll chat about this tomorrow or so.

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DSC_0210This is our first (successful) batch of home made sauerkraut.  We may have had a giant failure the first time around, but we’ll talk about that later.  More importantly, this batch was a huge success.  It actually is very easy, as long as you pay attention to it while it is fermenting.  First, we bought the book offered at this website.  All the information you could ever want can be found in the book and/or the site.  Then we got a fermentation crock like this one.  Then we filled it up with red and green cabbage and salt.  Every 5 pounds of cabbage gets 3 tablespoons of salt.  We use Celtic Sea salt.  After a day, you are supposed to see liquid brine in the crock as the salt pulls the liquid out of the cabbage.  This never happened for us, even though the cabbage was pretty fresh.  We added salt water until the cabbage was totally submerged.  One tablespoon salt per cup of water.  We added 10 cups to get enough liquid and probably should have added more.  

This is where the giant failure comes in the first round.  Not only did we not add any brine, but it was forgotten rather than checked on every day or so.  It really needed the brine that wasn’t there, and so it rotted.  Too much to save any of it.  If only some rots, you can just carefully scrape it off.  We also noticed maggots growing in the good batch.  They showed up really quick, but we were able to clean them out and revive the batch sauerkraut without too much trouble.  That’s when we realized how generous with the brine we really could be.  We ended up with much more brine than we originally thought we needed, but this seemed to do the trick.  Another good reason for a lot of brine is that it is healthy for you to drink.  As long as you like the taste of sauerkraut that is…

Our good batch fermented for about a month.  We stopped it here because that was the taste of the kraut that we wanted.  There is no set limit on how long it has to go.  It just depends on what you are looking for.  Less time makes for sweeter kraut.  Longer time makes sourer kraut.  Either way, I am amazed at how crunchy this stuff is.  I have only ever had soggy canned kraut before now.  And I hated it.  Really, really hated it.  To the point that I had no interest in making the sauerkraut at all.  It was the man who convinced me it was worth while.  I am still skeptical these days, but this stuff is leaps and bounds better than what I had thought sauerkraut was.  Just like anything else we make for ourselves I suppose.  Next time we will try out some other vegetables and see how that goes.

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