August 9, 2020

Canning Figs

Our figs are starting to ripen. Just a few at first, but they need to be picked daily. By the end of next week we should be picking bucketsful. For now, it's too many to eat fresh but not enough for a full canner load. Figs don't keep, so I freeze, dehydrate, or do small batch canning.

Preparation is simple. After washing, I cut off the stems. These are fed to the goats.

Figs must be hot packed, so I make an extra light syrup, and bring it
to a boil. Then I add the figs, & return to a simmer for 5 minutes.

Extra light canning syrup: 1¼ cups sugar to 5½ cups water.

I estimated only 4 or 5 pints, so I used one of my tall stainless steel pots
instead of my water bath canner. This saves on water and heating time. 

Utensils laid out. Not pictured, tongs for the scalded lids.

Filling the jar with hot figs.

One tablespoon lemon juice is added to each pint jar.
If I have cinnamon sticks, I add a piece of that too.

Hot syrup is ladled into the jar leaving ½-inch headspace.

Rims are wiped clean.

I use Tattler reusable canning lids. They are two piece and have
been scalded in a small saucepan. The rubber gasket is first.

The white lid is next.

The canning rings are not screwed down tightly. They are
tightened after the jars are removed from the boiling water.

Filled jars are placed in the hot water bath, which is brought to a boil.

Processing time starts at full boil; for pints it's 45 minutes.

My yield was 4 pints plus about a cup extra to eat for breakfast. 

With Tattlers, I test the seals after the jars are completely cool. I remove the rings and pick up the jar by the lid. If it holds, the seal is good! If I can pull it off, no seal. Then I pop the jar into the fridge and we eat the contents within a couple of days.

So I've made a start. By the time the figs are done, I hope to have several dozen pints put by. As pickings taper off at the end, I'll switch to dehydrating them.

Of fruit, I'm still picking blueberries, and the apples and pears are about ready. No time to be bored when harvest is in full gear.

Canning Figs © August 2020 by Leigh

August 5, 2020

A Nifty Gadget for Lacto-Fermenting

Has anyone else had trouble finding canning supplies? I had been looking for low-sugar pectin for weeks, and noticed canning jars and lids always seem to be sold out, especially wide mouths. Canning salt seems to be sold out regularly too. I did find this, however.

I couldn't resist buying it. If you've ever lacto-fermented anything (like sauerkraut), then you know that the challenge is keeping all the chopped or shredded veggies submerged in the brine. The bits tend to float, and if they have contact with the air, they will get moldy. The package was less than $10 and I thought worth a try.

The box contained two stainless steel springs made to fit wide mouth canning jars and two fermentation lids.

In the above photo, you can see that the lids have a little check valve that lets the carbon dioxide escape but keeps oxygen out.

I was anxious to try this gadget, but we still had a half-full gallon crock of sauerkraut in the fridge, so I wasn't ready to make a new batch. Instead, I transferred my sauerkraut to a wide-mouth half-gallon canning jar to give the gadget a try.

The spring pushes the veggie contents down to keep them in the brine.

The lid holds the spring down and keeps the jar airtight. Unlike a sinking weight, the spring is easy to remove to get to the contents.

I finally ordered my pectin in bulk from Pacific Pectin, but I can't tell you where to buy the Ball fermentation kit. I found it at Walmart, but online, it's currently unavailable or double the price I paid for it. You may have to check out your own favorite local places that sell canning supplies, if you're interested.

August 1, 2020

Pantry Cooling Project: What's Next?

Our objective with the pantry project is to improve food storage conditions. About a year ago, we started giving this a good think because after we quit air conditioning, the pantry became the warmest room in the house. Doing something about that has meant a feasibility study, analysis, researching alternatives, and formulating a plan:
  1. Moving the freezer and auxiliary fridge out of the pantry.
  2. Replacing the old upright auxiliary fridge with a chest fridge.
  3. Putting the freezer and chest fridge on solar energy. 
  4. Replacing old pantry windows with energy-efficient windows.
  5. Add insulation to the pantry walls.
  6. ➡ Cooling the air in the pantry without air conditioning.
Steps #1-5 of our plan checklist are completed (they're linked to take you to their respective blog posts). Already, they have made a difference! The pantry is no longer the warmest room in the house, but even stays a couple of degrees cooler than the kitchen, with the bonus that it isn't as humid!

Now, we're contemplating #6. As a baseline, I've been keeping track of temperature highs and lows in three places: our shaded outside back porch, the kitchen, and the pantry.

Baseline of daily highs and lows. O = outside, K = kitchen, P = pantry
Morning low on the left, afternoon high on the right. All in Fahrenheit.

The pattern is that the outdoor high is about 8 degrees or so higher than the kitchen, and the kitchen  is about 2 degrees higher than the pantry. So there is typically a ten degree difference between outdoors and the pantry. The question is, can we do better? Can we bring the pantry air temp down a little more? I listed quite a few ideas in this post, with some being more realistic for us than others. Dan has been researching and collecting more ideas, and he's ready to experiment with some of them. If something works, I'll let you know!