March 27, 2017

Home Canned Pork and Beans

I've been wanting to learn how to can dried beans for quite awhile now. I often have a pot of beans sitting on one of the wood stoves during winter, taking advantage of the wood heat for the long cooking time they require. But in summer, when I keep cooking to a  minimum, or when I need something quick and convenient, nothing beats simply opening a jar.

Canned black turtle beans from last year's garden.

This recipe comes from Daisy Luther's The Prepper's Canning Guide. (You can read my review of this book here.) My own recipe notes follow.

Basic Pork and Beans

5 lbs dried beans (any sort)
1 - 2 lbs ham, bacon, or salt pork (optional)
salt (optional)
6 small onions, halved
6 cups water or broth
12 bay leaves

Wash and sort dried beans. Soak in hot water at least 2 hours or overnight. Discard soaking water, add fresh water and bring to a boil. Drain the beans again, reserving the cooking water. Distribute the pork in the sterile jars. Add the soaked beans, filling the jar no more than 3/4 full.

Filling only 3/4 full allows room for the beans to
expand as they cook during the canning process.

Add salt, bay leaves, and onion. Ladle boiling water or broth over beans, leaving 1.5 inches of headspace. The broth must cover the beans and there must be enough room for the beans to expand during pressure canning.

Black beans make a dark broth, don't they? An inch &
a half is more headspace than I'm used to so I measured
and adjusted the liquid to see what it looked like.

Secure lids and process in pressure canner at 10 lbs pressure (adjusted for altitude): 75 minutes for pints, 90 minutes for quarts. Makes 7 quarts.

Recipe Notes
  • Soaking. I've read that some folks skip the soaking and put them in the jar dry, but this results in partially cooked canned beans. If that's what one is used to and willing to finish the cooking after opening the jar, no problem. I'd rather have something ready to heat and eat, so this was an important step for me. It didn't add any work, just time.
  • When I do a shorter soak (a couple of hours instead of overnight), I like to first bring the beans and water to a boil. I find this helps with the cooking time.
  • Soaking water. It's discarded because it contains the undigestible starches in the beans that give you gas! Use it to water plants or feed it to the pigs (who don't are about gas). Rinse the beans and cook in fresh water or broth. (Not being able to discard the soaking water would be another disadvantage to the no-soak method of canning beans. You'd end up with gassy beans!)
  • Salt is optional because some people like to salt after they open the jar. I add salt when I'm canning. This is a prepper thing for me; salt may not be readily available in a hard-times situation, so I like my canned foods with just enough salt to not need any more. 
  • Headspace. All of my jars' contents were low, like in the first photo, making me wonder if I could have done with less headspace. According to safety guidelines, 1 inch of headspace is usually left for starchy low acid pressure canned foods to allow for safe processing. In looking at recipes from other sources, I find one inch commonly recommended for dried beans. I didn't lose any liquid during processing, but I can't help but think a little extra broth wouldn't hurt and would ensure the beans remained completely covered in liquid during storage. 
  • Yield. I'm guessing this varies according to the type of bean. I only had about 3 pounds of dried turtle beans but still got 7 quarts.

One jar didn't seal so we had a chance to try them. They were perfect!

Scrambled eggs on a flour tortilla topped with black beans & sriracha sauce

I will mention that in terms of heating and serving, the amount of liquid in the jar was just right.

The whole process turned out to be much easier than I thought. Like bone broth, I think this makes for a good wintertime canning project! Now I'm ready to try some of the other canned bean recipes in Daisy's book!

Home Canned Pork and Beans © March 2017 

March 24, 2017

The Prepper's Canning Guide

I have a new favorite canning book! Ball Blue Book and Putting Food By have been my go-tos for years, but if I could only choose one, I think it would be Daisy Luther's The Prepper's Canning Guide: Affordably Stockpile a Livesaving Supply of Nutritious, Delicious, Shelf-Stable FoodsSeriously, it covers everything from beginner basics to advanced designer canning recipes, and all with a preparedness mindset.

Part 1: Canning Basics for the Prepper includes an introduction and covers canning how-to basics. One thing the author points out, is that many of the foods we commonly store as part of our preparedness plan take a long time to cook - grains and legumes for example. This can mean cutting into precious water and fuel stores just to prepare a meal. By including a variety of canned items in one's food storage, we can have quicker meals incorporating a larger variety of foods prepared the way we're accustomed to. Meat is another example. If the grid goes down and one doesn't have electricity, then the freezer is no longer a storage option. If you like to eat meat, consider learning to can it.

Part 1 also covers canning safety, tips for thrifty canning, off-grid canning, equipment, plus gives you step-by-step instructions for both water bath and pressure canning.

Part 2: Preserving the Basics covers just that, the basics: tomatoes, jams, pickles, condiments, fruits, vegetables, meat, and beans (as in dried beans). Some of the recipes on my "must try" list include Ginger Peach Jam, Spiced Fig Merlot Jam, Real Tomato Ketchup, Pleasantly Pickled Red Onions, Cranberry Apple Slices, Sweet and Sour Coleslaw, and Sloppy Joe Filling,  I've already tried the Basic Pork and Beans. 😀

Homegrown, home-canned black turtle beans.
I've been wanting to learn how to do this. Easy!

BBQ Beans are next on my to-try list.

Part 3: Dinner Is in the Jar. Now that's what I'm talkin' about - real convenience food. Preparedness aside, I have to admit that after a long day of working outdoors, nothing is nicer than a quick healthy home-cooked meal in a jar. Nothing to defrost, just heat and serve. First on my list to try are the Cajun Jambalaya and Apple-Spiced Pork Chops.

Also covered in part three are how to use leftovers for canning and a chapter on creative canning. This one gives you guidelines for canning your own recipes safely.

There are a number of really helpful charts throughout the book, but I very much like that these are also found in the appendix. That means I don't have to do a lot of page flipping to find what I'm looking for.

What more can I say except "Highly recommended."

March 21, 2017

Sprouting Grain for Goats


Sprouting grain for my goats was something I first experimented with when I was preparing to write How To Garden for Goats: gardening, foraging, small-scale grain and hay, & more. Sprouting their grain is a nutritious way to stretch the grain budget, whether one is purchasing grain or growing one's own. I continued until the weather got too hot and had trouble managing the project. My sprouts started to smell bad no matter how often I rinsed them.

Why go to the bother of sprouting grain for goats? Is it really better than feeding grain straight out of the bag? There is a lot of information out there on the benefit of sprouting grain. According to Sally Fallon in Nourishing Traditions, sprouting grain:
  • increases vitamins B2, B5, and B6, C, and carotene
  • neutralizes phytic acid, which inhibits absorption of calcium, magnesium, iron, copper, and zinc
  • neutralizes enzyme inhibitors 
  • produces digestive enzymes
  • breaks indigestible starches down into digestible sugars
  • inactivates aflatoxins (which are carcinogens)

This is my simple winter system. Each screened
bowl holds one days-worth of grain for my goats.

All that has proven great for monogastric humans, but what does it do for ruminants, i.e., multi-stomached goats? Especially the sugars. Goats' digestive systems are designed to extract nutrients from roughage. The longer digestion times allow for the breakdown of cellulose into simpler carbohydrates they can assimilate. Grains, which break down quickly, end sitting in their gut so long that they begin to ferment and become acidic - not healthy for the goat and why most goat owners offer free choice baking soda to their goats.

I do feed small amounts of grain, especially when there is little forage available, or for does in milk who need the extra calories. The does in milk get one pound of grain twice a day (with one quarter of that being wheat bran); dry does and bucks are currently get half that amount. I feed our homegrown grains as hay, i.e. it isn't threshed but still in the stalk. I think this is the healthiest way to feed grain, because the goat gets the long stem part of it as well which aids in digestion.

Chaffhaye, bran, sprouted grain, sunflower seeds, & chopped carrots.

Back to sprouting. I can't help but wonder how sprouted grains digest in the rumen, but can't find any answers. Most other blog posts or web pages on sprouting grain for goats say the same thing I've told you, but there doesn't seem to be any information out there specifically on that.

One thing sprouters do agree on, is that it only takes about half the sprouted grain as it does non-sprouted. I've found that to be true as well. So cutting down on that feed bill is a good reason to sprout. At least during winter when the temperature isn't too hot. I'll have to wait to see how it goes this summer. If we have too much heat and humidity to keep the sprouts fresh, I'll just save it for winter feed.

Sprouting Grain for Goats © March 2017 

March 19, 2017

Solar Cooking: Are You Interested?

Awhile back I did some blog posts about my Sun Oven solar oven. I have really enjoyed it plus learning new cooking techniques to utilize this free power source. I've been asked by the Sun Oven people if I would be interested in hosting an online solar oven cooking class on my blog, sometime in April or May? I've replied to get more details, because I think it would be something we'd all enjoy, but I thought I'd get an idea of how many of you might actually be interested. So...

Would you be interested in an online solar cooking class hosted by me?

yes
no
Poll Maker

Thank you for taking the time to let me know!

March 16, 2017

Winter Round 2 and Baby Goat Coats

Lini with her bucklings Conner (purple coat) and Jack.

After January's snow our weather turned mild and with just enough rain to get things growing. Then came March. We've had a few nice days but also snow, hail, sleet, heavy winds, and icy temperatures. Looking on the bright side, it has meant all my knitting was not in vain. The only trouble is, the kids have almost outgrown their baby goat coats!

Beau at the mineral feeder. I keep a cinder block there
so the kids can reach the minerals as well as the adults.

Lady

Conner. Those "airplane" ears are a Kinder trademark. :)

Jack

Windy. She's managed to wiggle her way out of three coats!

Lini's triplets: Lady (front), Jack & Conner (ears)

Ellie

Violet and Sky

Sky, Lady, and Jack

Beau and Sky

Beau and Windy

Other ways to stay warm:

Sleeping pile in the sun.

Cuddle up with your Maa (Windy and Violet).

At least they still fit, which is good because some of them are being separated at night so that I can milk their mothers in the morning. But I can also see where I'll need to make pattern adjustments in future coats.