Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Under Pressure

Because most of my food preservation is tomatoes and they are high in acid content, I've most often used a water bath preservation method. Occasionally, there are debates about the safety of the water bath method, but, I've always found if I use quality produce and follow the directions I have no spoilage.

I have on occasion used my Amish recipes and the old preservation methods for non acidic produce and products. It requires "cooking" for several hours, but again, I follow directions, use good products and have no spoilage. I do NOT recommend this to any one because the FDA, everyone who owns a product or network show, Hilliary Clinton, the Back Street Boys and a truck driver who once delivered a table says it's unsafe.

A few times, I've used my small (seven pints) pressure cooker for odd products and small quantities. I finally decided to break free with some seriously high dollars and buy a pressure canner that would hold 7 quarts. I looked at the ones that would hold 19 quarts - which could make the processing faster. But then I couldn't lift it and I'd have to mortgage our house because they are seriously big bucks.

I don't kid myself that home canning is a cheaper way to feed a family. It is definitely a better quality of food and a better flavor. Plus, it's kinda fun in a self punishing kinda way.

I've been buying whole chickens on sale and certainly love having the convenience of homemade chicken stock. I've previously had home canned meat and poultry stock but won't brag about it on this BLOG for fear the FBI is keeping a list of people who break the canning rules.

I "thought" using the pressure cooker to preserve would be much quicker because it does cook meat much faster (and is more tender) when used traditionally. At 5:30 tonight, I'm into my 9th hour at canning chicken stock. Right now only my second batch is being pressurized.

Granted, I have used less water and probably less gas (gas stove top) and that alone should make me feel virtuous but frankly I just feel tired.

Because pressure canning directions must be followed to the "T", there are a lot of little time consuming steps that add up to a long day. Of course, boiling and boning four chickens, washing and cutting onions, celery, and carrots, cleaning and chopping herbs and all takes a good share of this time.

One recipe has a great suggestion: Take all the clean pieces of vegetables that you aren't going to put in the pretty chicken stock and all the bones and debris from the cooked/boned chicken and add it to a pot of water, cook, strain and have clear broth. Waste not ~ want not is the mantra for Amish cooks. Had I done that, I would probably be up till midnight...

At the risk of being a whiner (OK, I have been a whiner) I'm sure I'll do this again and I'm sure I've been temporarily taken off the CIA "threat" list for manufacturing my own noxious potions. I'm virtuously polishing those beautiful quart jars of chicken soup in preparation for those cold nights when all we want to do is have a quick supper and snuggle up with a good book.

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