Water Bath or Pressure Canners: What Works for You?

Ball Blue Book Food Canning Guide

Ideal for beginning or experienced home canners–The Ball Blue Book has the best and most up-to-date home food preserving information. Available at Lehmans.com or Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio.

When folks new to canning start out, one of biggest questions asked is this one: which kind of canner should I use? And the answer most often heard is this one: “Well, it depends. What are you canning?”

As frustrating as that might be, that fuzzy answer isn’t out of line.

It really is important to know what you’ll be canning. Depending on the acidity level of the food, different processes and methods are used. Continue reading

Eat Local All Year: Plan Now for Preserving Season

canned cherriesIt’s easy to eat local in Massachusetts in August. Sweet corn, vine ripened tomatoes, tender green beans, creamy milk and abundant eggs make consuming local food a treat. But come the dark days of January, that local diet is a lot harder to manage. That’s what food preservation is all about. You take what’s cheap, plentiful and delicious at the peak of its freshness and preserve it for later use. Preservation is all about manipulating the environment of food so it retains its goodness for months or even years.

Food has a lot of enemies. Microorganisms (mold, yeasts and bacteria) are enemies of food. So is physical damage (one bad apple really will spoil the whole bag). Enzymes that cause food to ripen don’t halt their work when food is harvested. They continue to work until that lovely cantaloupe becomes a sodden mass destined for the compost heap. Food preservation works by controlling the temperature (freezing and root cellaring) removing moisture (dehydrating) or killing mold, yeast and bacteria and then protecting from further contamination by removing and excluding air (canning). You can also change the environment of food by adding salt, sugar or vinegar.

Nothing makes homemade applesauce and tomato sauce easier than the Roma food mill. At Lehmans.com and our store in Kidron, Ohio.

Nothing makes homemade applesauce and tomato sauce easier than the Roma food mill. At Lehmans.com and our store in Kidron, Ohio.

So why discuss food preservation now? Here in Massachusetts the asparagus and rhubarb is still just a promise. The early strawberries won’t even make an appearance until June. We need to discuss it because now is the time to plan your garden, join your CSAor make contact with the farmer who will provide you with raw ingredients for the dilly beans and tomato sauce that will grace your January table.

It’s not too early to take an inventory of jars and lids, pectin and salt and make sure you can put your hands on the ladle and jar lifter when the happy days of canning arrive. I’ll be doing an inventory of what we ran out of and what I overdid so I can plan next year’s pantry. I know without looking that I ran out of peaches and applesauce (it was a terrible tree fruit year) but I rather overdid the tomato sauce. I find I still preserve like I did when I had 8 kids at home. There is only one child at home now, and I just don’t need as much food as I once did.

This kit contains everything you need to start canning this summer! At Lehmans.com and our store in Kidron, Ohio.

This kit contains everything you need to start canning this summer! At Lehmans.com and our store in Kidron, Ohio.

Before I decide on amounts I find it useful to consider the worst case scenario. What if one of my adult kids lost a job? Might they need some food support? Suppose we have a supply disruption? We have had them before and will certainly have them in the future. So what if I have too much sauce? Contrary to popular opinion, canned food does not need to be discarded after a year. As long as the seal is tight and the food looks and smells as it should it’s fine to eat. Last year was a bad year for cherries but no worries for me. I had canned over 100 quarts the year before and we are still eating those cherries.

So what’s on your agenda? Are you going to grow or purchase? What tools and equipment needs to be procured or replaced? Don’t be put off by the high price of good equipment. Go in with a friend or your sister or your church group. Get what you need now while supplies are good. Who knows what the summer may bring. Be prepared to eat well.

Riding Out the Storm

Emergency Survival Kit - It might be the most important bucket in your home! A source of light, heat and water packaged all in one convenient bucket; essential items to help you and your family cope during unexpected power outages, storms and other emergencies.

Emergency Survival Kit – It might be the most important bucket in your home! A source of light, heat and water packaged all in one convenient bucket; essential items to help you and your family cope during unexpected power outages, storms and other emergencies.

Unless you live in a cave, you are by now well aware that the Northeast was pounded by astorm last week. It was a whooper if you live near the coast, a doozy if you lived a bit inland, and little more than a nuisance for those of us in the Western-most regions. There is a lesson to be learned from the hit-or-miss pattern of snow and wind, and that’s that the forecast models are not precise. Weather people do a good job, but you really never know.

Always, just in case, we take storm preparedness seriously. I find that is far better to have things ready that I don’t need than it is to need something major that I don’t have.
The preparations begin with water. We can manage 10 days without power for water. Even so, it isn’t something we can afford to waste, especially if the power is out for a long while, and many more people than usual have to access the water supply form the main 

Always, just in case, we take storm preparedness seriously. I find that is far better to have things ready that I don’t need than it is to need something major that I don’t have.
The preparations begin with water. We can manage 10 days without power for water. Even so, it isn’t something we can afford to waste, especially if the power is out for a long while, and many more people than usual have to access the water supply form the main  lines downtown. In the huge October blizzard of a few years ago we had people from further up in the hills coming here for shower, laundry and drinking water for 2 weeks after the storm was over. So the first thing I do is get all of the chores out of the way that require water in the day before the storm. Sheets are changed, laundry is done and showers are taken. I clean the bathrooms and kitchen very well and feel mighty virtuous in the process.

Next up I clean out the refrigerator. I do not want to be stuck with a bunch of leftovers if the power is out. It might be cold enough for things to keep outside, but storms are sometimes followed by warm spells. We don’t head to the store but I do bake bread and treats (who wants to face a blizzard without brownies?) and plan out my meals. If the power is down I don’t want to waste the precious ice in the freezer by opening it up. This is when all of those canned meals are handy. I can make chicken and dumplings, stew, chili and all kinds of soup just by opening a few jars of home-canned food. Add in pickles and applesauce and you have a meal that cooks on the back of the woodstove using energy we would be producing in any case.

Lehmans Canned Beef Meat 28 oz

Be prepared to cook hot, wholesome meals in an emergency, or simply stock your pantry for your family’s everyday dining.

This brings us to heat. With the right clothes and blankets we could stay pretty comfortable even without the woodstove. The bigger issue is keeping your pipes from freezing if the frigid weather goes on for too long. It will help to keep the doors to your pipes under the sinks open so whatever warmth is in the house is transferred there. It will also help to keep the taps in your sinks open and let the water trickle through. Frozen pipes are no joke. If the very worst should happen you should know how to drain your pipes so this household disaster doesn’t happen to you.

Whatever you do, don’t try to heat your home or prepare food inside using grills designed for outside use. People rarely freeze to death but carbon monoxide deaths are all too common.

Lighting is just as important as heat, maybe more so. If you can’t see, you can’t take care of issues as they arise. Children will be calmer and happier if they aren’t sitting in the dark. Before the storm I trimmed the wicks on my hurricane lamps and made sure they had plenty of oil. I keep the matches handy too. We don’t rely much on flashlights except for moving around the house, something I don’t want people doing while carrying lit lamps. A few years ago I picked up a bunch of snap lights. These are the glow-in-the-dark tubes that kids carry around at parades. They are wonderful things to have on hand. They give off a fair bit of light and my girls will happily go to bed with one in their hand. They are perfectly safe and a good choice for rooms where you don’t want an open flame.

Entertainment is never a problem. Board games and puzzles, cards and books will keep kids occupied, especially if the adults are playing too. It is a good plan to have something new to pull out if your children get bored.

Our solar AM/FM/weather radio/light gives you news, weather and light without needing batteries. At Lehmans.com and our store in Kidron.

Our solar AM/FM/weather radio/light gives you news, weather and light without needing batteries. At Lehmans.com and our store in Kidron.

Another thing to consider is communications. A hand-crank radio and well-chargedphones are critical. We still have a land-line that works even in the absence of electricity. It has been a blessing on several occasions.

One vital thing I want to add is the importance of staying home. If your presence at work isn’t critical to public safety, then please stay home. Emergency crews should not have to venture forth and risk their lives because you felt the need to sight-see or visit a friend. If you do have to work, it is better to go in early and go prepared to spend several days than it is to travel.

Finally, be a good neighbor. Check on the elderly and infirm. Before a storm, see if they need medication or extra food. Do they need help with wood or snow removal? Will they be alone? Strong communities are built by caring neighbors.

Happy New Year!

From all of us at Lehman’s, our very best wishes for a happy, healthy and prosperous 2015.

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Soup Cures All–Even the Winter Blues!

Kathy's Homegrown Chicken Soup

Homemade chicken soup, with homegrown chicken and veggies.

We’ve been sick around here, passing around viruses between family and friends like they were Christmas cards. Nobody feels like eating much and certainly, no one wants to cook either. It’s Soup Days, comfort food of the highest order, light or hearty, filling and full of the goodness of summer herbs and vegetables and home-grown meat. I was shocked to be discussing soup at a town gathering to hear a young woman confess that she would never bother making soup from scratch as it was so easy to pop open a can and heat it up in the microwave. Continue reading

Talking Turkey About Raising Turkeys At Barefoot Farm

Kathy Harrison, author; Lehman's guest blogger; and human being, just like the rest of us!

Kathy Harrison, author; Lehman’s guest blogger; and human being, just like the rest of us!

We’re Not All Martha Stewart
It’s tempting, when you read a blog post, to believe that the farming life is all fun and accomplishment. Who, after all, is inclined to write about their mistakes and disappointments? Well me, for one. If I only wrote about my successes, I would run out of material in the first week.

Here’s the truth of it. A whole lot of my life is just one disaster after the other. I may write about digging parsnips but I’m not going to waste a lot of ink on how many got eaten by voles. I will tell you about making cheese but not spend a lot of time on the many times my efforts fed the pigs rather than people. And don’t get me going on the fruit. My strawberry pictures were gorgeous but I’m not posting the pictures of the joys of trying to get the row covers on in the wind.

So when I tell you all about the pleasure of canning turkey and how good it tastes and how convenient it is to have all the lovely jars filling up the shelves in my pantry please know that there is more to the story than a lovely afternoon in the canning kitchen. Continue reading

How To Can Venison: Safely Preserving Your Wild Game

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You’ve had a successful hunt. You have carefully field dressed and cared for your meat. The choicest cuts are wrapped and frozen.  Tenderloins are just waiting for that perfect marinade. Jerky has been seasoned, dried and ready for snacking on the next outing.  So what else is missing? Home canning.

There are several reasons I have grown to love canning the venison and elk that my guys bring home:

1. Canning frees up freezer space for other things.
2. Pressure canning can make the less tender cuts versatile.
3. Home canning meat means jars of meat on the shelf ready to go at a moment’s notice. No defrosting time. Ever tried to defrost an elk roast quickly in the microwave because you forgot to take it out earlier? Doesn’t work so well. (Ask me how I know!) Continue reading

Meat Canning – Cheap, Easy and Convenient

It’s 5pm on a winter’s day, and you’re just now thinking of dinner. The kids are already hungry and your spouse will be home in half an hour. Do you take a frozen lump out of the freezer and thaw it in the microwave? Or perhaps order Chinese takeout or pizza? Well…you could do those things. OR… Continue reading