There has been a major change in the procedure for canning in Mason jars. I’ve been pondering hard on why I’m having too many jars not seal when canning lately. I’m very careful with my process, so I’ve been very upset to have jars not seal. As it turns out, there was a change in process that wasn’t widely publicized.
I’ve always trusted my grandmother as the expert on all things canning. I’ve followed her recipes and advice to the letter. The same thing goes for my mom. These ladies have me on experience by decades. I’d be a fool not to listen. This new change has taken us all by surprise. I guess we learn to adapt and overcome!
This change involves the lids we use on our jars. For 100 years, the process has included simmering the lids in a saucepan of hot water on the stove. We do this to sterilize the lids, and until recently, to soften the rubber so the lid would seal. This is now WRONG! 100 years of tradition is gone now. If you simmer new lids, there is a decent chance they will not seal. I’ve experienced this a lot lately. I’ve had a ton of jars not seal while following the process I grew up with.
After all the failures, and researching online to get the new information, we’ve just been washing the lids with warm water and putting them on jars. We’ve processed a couple dozen jars this weekend and have had no seal failures. This is a big change, since we’ve had a lot of failures to seal this summer. I was really getting concerned about my abilities to can. I’m happy to report, it wasn’t anything I was doing wrong, just a change I wasn’t aware of.
I wish the lid manufacturers would have made a better attempt to inform us of the change, but at least I know now and can pass the information along. If you are having issues with lids not sealing, stop simmering. We have, and it has made all the difference.
It is rare that I post two articles in the same day, but I thought this was worth sharing immediately. If I can spare one of my readers the hassle I’ve been experiencing with canning and having failures, then I will feel a lot better.
Here are a couple of links explaining the change.
At the end of every summer, the state of New Mexico shares its bounty with the rest of the world. The famous Hatch Green Chile is in season! During this season, all the stores in Texas offer these peppers for a great price. Usually they can be had for less than a dollar a pound. Since it is a short window on Hatch season, a lot of us like to stock up for the year. There are several ways to preserve them for year-round use.
The most popular methods are freezing, drying, and canning. For our yearly stockpile, we bought a 25 pound case, so we have a lot of peppers to work with. More than half will be frozen, which is a lot more work than it sounds like. The rest will end up getting dried. Drying these peppers will use the same process I covered a few weeks ago, so I won’t go into any detail.
Before peppers can be frozen, it helps to remove the skin. Most peppers have a very tough skin that will not come off the flesh of the pepper without some help. This is where the roasting comes in. Once the peppers are roasted, the skins will slip off. At this point, the peppers go into small freezer bags and into the freezer. Be sure to use small, serving size bags because once thawed, the peppers will only last a week or two in the refrigerator.
I planned on roasting the whole batch over hardwood coals in the fire pit. It works well but was very time consuming. It also involves working directly over an open fire in August in Texas. Needless to say, it was hot work. To roast these peppers, pierce each pepper with a fork several times. Put them over the heat until the skin blisters. Once it is blistered completely, remove from heat and place them in freezer bag or a bowl covered with a towel to allow them to “sweat”. Once they are cool the skins should slip off.
About halfway through, some friends showed up to help. They were born and raised in the Mesilla Valley in New Mexico. We were quickly onto a different method. We built the fire up to really increase the heat and procured a large pot. In this pot, we poured enough vegetable oil to completely cover a few peppers. Once this oil was hot, we started tossing peppers in and letting them blister. As they finished, they were laid out on cardboard to drain. This process took 2 or 3 minutes compared to the 15 to 20 minutes it took over the fire.
There is a method that uses an oven to roast the peppers, but we decided against it. It works well but makes the house smell of chile peppers and can turn the air in the kitchen into pepper spray. Even with 3 peppers in the oven, the odor was strong. We will continue to do all of our roasting outside.
A few things I discovered that will help out… When handling peppers, don’t touch your eyes or face (or private parts!). You can wear gloves to help out with this. When working over a fire, the longer your tongs, the better. I lost some hair on my hands turning peppers. The friends from New Mexico said that a gas or charcoal grill works very well.
Photo courtesy of Sarah’s Musical Kitchen.
There are a lot of lists out there on items that you should have in your preps. These include items for barter and items to have on hand even if you don’t know how to use them, “just in case” someone else might know how to use them. I think stocking items like this will tie up money and storage space that can be much better used for items that you can and will use in daily life or if the world goes to hell in a handbasket. Having all sorts of great HAM radio gear costs a ton of money to buy and can take up quite a bit of space. Being a licensed radio operator, I can assure you that just having the equipment will do you no good whatsoever. There is a significant learning curve on using HAM to make contact with other operators. Unless you are practicing these skill already, you won’t have the ability to use this gear when you need it. I encourage everyone to become proficient in communications, but I’ll never recommend that someone buy radio gear “just in case” For the price of a good transceiver and antenna you can put back a ton of beans. Literally a TON of beans. In my opinion, barter items are in the same boat. If you overstock ammo with some trade in mind, that’s not too bad because you can use that ammo yourself if there is no need to barter. I hear a lot of people that store liquor for barter, but they don’t drink at all. I like a good drink, so I know exactly how expensive liquor can be. Don’t get me wrong, if you drink it’s all good to store some of your favorite beverage. It will store indefinitely and I can think of nothing better than facing the end of the world with a nice Bourbon to take the edge off. However, I’m not going to tie up hundreds of dollars to store a luxury item before additional food or medical supplies. Now that I have my rant out of the way, we’ll look at some items that you can feel confident about storing without worrying about overstocking. Of course, I’m a proponent of “Store what you eat, eat what you store”, so rotating these items shouldn’t be a major problem. You should only be limited by the amount of space you have available to you. This list isn’t meant to be completely inclusive, so use your judgment on what would serve you and your family. Also, note that the list is not in any particular order, so don’t feel the need to add any items in order of appearance.
Water – You can never have too much, but it is bulky. Have a way to purify water from outside sources!
Rice – White rice stores a really long time. Wild and Brown rice have a much shorter life span.
Beans of all types
Canned meats – only store these if you are willing to eat them!
Powdered milk – You’ll need to learn to cook with this, so practice now.
Home canned goods.
Dehydrated foods – These take up very little space and store for a long time.
Freeze dried foods – These are a little pricey, but can’t be beat for shelf life.
Dried eggs – Check out the OvaEasy brand. They are amazing!
Powdered drink mixes
MREs – Try before you stock up. They are calorie dense, but some people despise the foods within.
Soap – Bar and liquid
Shampoo and Conditioner
Over the counter medications
Batteries – all sizes and types used in your household
Cordage – stock a variety of sizes and types
Ammunition – This is also a great hedge against inflation since the price only seems to go up!
Gasoline – Gas must be treated to increase shelf life, so plan for this if you have long term in mind
Kerosene or lamp oil
Seeds – Heirloom varieties ensure a supply of seeds from the garden year after year
Currency – None of us can ever have too much money!
Canning lids and rings
Like I said earlier, this isn’t a complete list, nor is it in any particular order. Each person or family’s needs will vary a little bit, so each of us will need to evaluate what should be in our preps. If I have any glaring oversights, please feel free to leave a comment so we can build this list up on items that we can never have too much of.
This weekend the Self Reliance Expo made its stop in the north Texas area. Sarah and I managed to sneak over for a few hours to see what was going on. This was a pretty big feat for me since I had to violate a personal rule about crossing into Dallas County. Dallas has a lot to offer and a lot of cool things going, for most people. It’s there if I need it, but I can generally make due without the massive 6 lane freeways and the 5 mile long interchanges that involve half of the major interstate highways in Texas. Couple that with all the drivers that feel like they aren’t moving unless they are passing you. Yeah, I generally avoid the big city unless something really cool is going on. Fort Worth can be crazy, but Dallas is usually pure insanity. That “something cool” was there this past weekend.
We didn’t get to make it out that way until around noon on Saturday. I like getting to events much sooner to the opening than that, but with prior obligations we got there as soon as we could. I was hoping that showing up halfway into the second day of a two day event would still allow me to see everything available and meet the folks I was hoping to run into. I wasn’t disappointed in the least. We made it just in time to catch the presentation from Doctor Bones and Nurse Amy from Doom and Bloom. It didn’t take long before they had our full attention. For an hour they covered medical care for collapse situations. Everything from broken bones to lacerations was covered in detail with a great slideshow presentation. I’ve sat in on medical presentations in the past that bordered on boring. A few have crossed over into true slumberland. Not this round. Doctor Bones and Nurse Amy are both good presenters and enjoy interacting with their audience. Not once did I get the feeling that they were dragging. I’m looking forward to getting my hands on their new book, The Doom and Bloom Survival Medicine Handbook. I was planning on getting one at the expo, but Doctor Bones explained that they managed to sell every copy they brought with them.
Once the presentation was over it was time to hit the aisles and see the vendor booths. Food and water are always popular items at events like this, so I got to get myself familiar with the product offerings for both. Berkey water filtration seemed to be a hit, so it took me a few minutes to get up to the booth and ask a few questions. I was surprised as the number of options available for filtering water. I knew about the big countertop units Berkey offers, but discovered they have other options as well. Of note were water bottles with integrated ceramic filters. Sarah pointed out this might be a good gift option for friends of ours that spend a few months each year in research in the jungles of Central America. To say the water should be avoided down there is an understatement!
Next we were on to the food vendors. The normal offerings were available including Mountain House, Wise and Thrive brand long term foods. Sarah discovered Thrive’s freeze dried grated cheese. We’re both a little leery of long term dairy, but this stuff was pretty good. We’ll be adding some of that to the long term storage. The hit of the day for me was the booth for OvaEasy Whole Egg Crystals. I’ve had dried eggs in the past and the results were less than stellar. After asking the important question… “Are these just powdered eggs?” I was presented with a fork full of scrambled egg. That answered the question. “NO” these are not just powdered eggs. They tasted like eggs, but more importantly, they had the texture of eggs. Gonna have to add this one to the long term storage grocery list.
There were several booths extolling the virtues of alternative energy at the expo. That’s a subject I’m interested in, but the product prices in that field are pretty much off limits for the prepping budget in the short term. I didn’t spend much time in those booths, but will be sure to the next time the expo comes through town. I spent a little more time with the custom knife makers, but their wares were out of the budget as well. My lust for a custom knife will have to wait until more important items are procured.
The folks at Ready Made Resources were there showing off some of their cooler products. I only got to speak with the proprietor for a minute since his booth seemed to be one of the most popular that afternoon. They were showing off a solar power pack that looks incredibly portable and useful, but I didn’t get a chance to ask many questions thinking I could find it on their website. No luck yet, so it looks like I need to give them a call.
On our way out the door, we paused to talk with the folks from Backwoods Home Magazine. I’ve been a fan of theirs for a long time, so I really enjoyed getting to meet Dave Duffy, the editor. Since I think they do a lot of great work for the Survival and Homestead community, I decided to go ahead and get a magazine subscription. They make a ton of info available on their website for free, so I wanted to support them on the side of the business that pays their bills.
Overall, I was impressed with the Self Reliance Expo. I think it was well worth the ticket price to get in the door. I hope the show was successful enough to expand to other cities, and I certainly hope to see it again in north Texas. Now I I can just talk them into moving it a little west to Fort Worth so I don’t have to break my “No Dallas” rule again!