When it comes to how to keep food so it is safe and convenient most Americans will opt for a trip tot he grocery store for a prepackaged mix of "food" that is highly processed, laden with chemicals, and fat, and tragically lacking in nutrition. For many people ignorance is bliss, but for others the knowledge of what they are doing to their body leads them on to find better ways to feed and nurture themselves and their families. Many budgets won't allow for this expensive grocery store option either. What to do? There are a few options out there to to both provide for your families future and have fast convenient food ready to go for those times you just don't have the time or energy to spend cooking meals.
My journey to find a better way has led me to a few options. A couple years ago we got a freezer. A big freezer. Against my better judgment we bought a huge chest freezer. I promptly loaded it up with boxes and bags of food from Costco. We made freezer jam and added it to the stash. (Heaven on earth! If you've never had freezer jam, find your nearest Mormon and ask her to make you some!) We bought lots of meat too. Frozen juice went in. A few (unlabeled) leftovers went in. (not a good idea).
But just like I had feared the chest freezer design made it impossible to find what I needed before frostbite set into my fingers. Sometimes it didn't get shut all the way and the frost began to build up. Finally I located the knob that would turn it down of off and I turned it off to get rid of the frost. I figured it would take a loooooong time to thaw all that frozen stuff in that insulated freezer. Wrong. It was all soft by the third day. So I hacked at the frost (which was only slightly softer) until I could properly close the freezer and promptly turned it back up to refreeze everything.
This experience got me thinking though. What if we had an ice storm or other storm that took out our power for a few days? Doesn't seem so unlikely these days....
Enter canning... I have been experimenting with my mother's old canner the last couple years. I canned peaches, pears, apple pie filling, and lately salsa and beans. We have been including more beans in our diet the last five years or so, especially refried beans. Over the last several months I have been using more black beans. We love chili with beans (with or without meat) over Fritos! The peaches were mushy, the pears were good, the apple pie filling was good but not often used, the salsa was not good, and the beans have been used regularly. I found that the beans did not have to soak before canning them. Hurray!I also found that if you put too many beans in the jar you end up with soft mushy beans at the bottom ~ like refried beans! But the beans usually end up perfectly cooked and not salty! I put some garlic, onions and spices into some of the jars. Turned out great!
Last night, I made a big batch of spaghetti sauce, cooked up a bunch of ground meat and stew meat, and packed some raw pork into pint jars. Unfortunately, my mom's elderly canner turned in her notice. I burned my finger a bit on the steam when it wouldn't seal and I said no more! Time for a new canner. (I'd been thinking I needed one anyway.) I borrowed a canner from a canner extraordinaire and got at least one batch done last night. As I type my second batch is jiggling away.
What has worked the best and proved most useful?
Well the biggest hit of the list was freezer jam. My kids are already worrying because they can see that we are almost out. After one year they can't seem to handle a future without freezer jam.
The beans all ready to go and without worry about salt and chemicals, has also been extremely useful. Besides eating less meat, I love having beans ready to throw into salsas, salads, burritos, soups and all kinds of new things I hadn't thought of before. I love black beans and so does my picky boy! Now I'm excited to have spaghetti sauce ready to open. We tried it for dinner before I put it in bottles and almost everyone really liked it. It will be used for spaghetti, and lasagna.We don't eat alot of spaghetti at our house because hubby can't handle the tomato at dinner time, but when he's not eating it will be a quick fast meal that almost everyone likes.
The conclusion is that I think I don't need this huge freezer and that canning regularly would be a more useful method for having healthy, precooked, easy to fix meals on my pantry shelf. My freezer will still have its uses, for freezer jam, bread, frozen juice, and other miscellaneous tidbits, but I think I'm going to sell the treasure chest that wasn't such a treasure after all. The canner would have been much cheaper!
Here's some of the places I've found inspiration
safely gathered in
Old School Self Reliance 101
Now time to clean up....:-(
PS I think I will do some posts on my different adventures with freezing and canning.....
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