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

Six Simple Tips for an Allergy-Free Picnic


Party Trays

A durable and reusable helper for parties, picnics and barbeques.

A picnic should be a fun gathering of family and friends where everyone can relax and have a nice time together. However, for many people attending a picnic can cause stress and panic. No, I am not talking about the dreaded conversation with your awkward uncle or the pressure from grandma to find that special someone. I’m talking about coping with the spread of dishes put out for meals.

For many, the serving table full of its tasty fare, chock-full of traditional picnic dishes can cause stress. In a time when there are so many fad diets, intolerances and medical needs involving food, there are many people that can’t just eat what everyone else is eating. At our typical family gatherings there are folks with food allergies, diabetics and vegans all needing to eat. So here are six simple steps we always use to help everyone have a nicer mealtime. Continue reading

Our Favorite 100% Whole Wheat Bread (Glenda’s Secret Recipe!)

Glenda Lehman Ervin, our vice-president of marketing, swears by this ‘family secret” bread recipe.

“My mother baked bread for us each week. How many times I came home to bread still rising in the dough pan, lightly covered with a damp cloth. Better yet, the smell of freshly baked bread, wafting through the kitchen.”

“I don’t have time to bake bread each week,” she says, “but I want my daughter to have those memories.  So I use this recipe and we bake together, on lazy Sunday afternoons or cold winter evenings. Because if I don’t teach her how to bake bread, how will she teach her daughter? The last time we baked bread, the entire loaf was gone by bedtime!”

Our pure Clover Honey is processed just a few miles from our store in Ohio. At Lehmans.com and our store in Kidron.

Our pure Clover Honey is processed just a few miles from our store in Ohio. At Lehmans.com and our store in Kidron.

Favorite 100% Whole Wheat Bread

Makes 4 loaves.

2 cups boiling water
1/2 cup powdered milk
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup honey
2 tablespoons yeast
2 eggs, beaten
7 to 8 cups whole wheat flour, warmed in the oven

In a large mixing bowl, pour boiling water over powdered milk, butter, salt and honey. After cooled, add dry yeast and beaten eggs. Beat mixture with 3 cups flour. Stir in 2 1/2 cups additional flour. Turn onto a floured board and knead until smooth and elastic. Add flour sparingly as needed to keep dough from sticking. Cover and let rest 20 minutes. Punch down and shape into four loaves. Let rise until doubled. Place doubled loaves into greased bread pans. Bake at 350° for 30 to 35 minutes.

Editor’s Note: This recipe was originally published in October 2013.

Quick Cheater Chicken Broth

Stainless steel 8 qt stockpot

Find this 8 quart, sturdy, even-heating stockpot at Lehman’s in Kidron or at Lehmans.com. For conventional or wood ranges.

You want to make your own homemade soup, but you just feel like you don’t have the time to make your own chicken stock. Is that what’s troubling you, Bunky?

Fuss no more. This “cheater” chicken broth is simple, quick and is great for the busiest households. Next time you buy (or defrost) uncooked chicken for a meal, snag an extra 4 to 6 bone-in breast pieces, or 2 to 3 whole breast portions with the bones. Skin chicken if you want a lower-fat, clearer broth. I always skin my chicken and trim the fat off the meat when I make this broth.

Bones are what give great flavor to broths and stocks. This recipe is a broth–a hot liquid made with just the chicken pieces and few other ingredients. Stocks include bones, but also add veggies, usually root vegetables, for added flavor.

Cheater Chicken Broth
(makes about 8 cups)
4 to 6 bone-in chicken breast pieces
8 cups water -OR- 4 cups water and 2 cups white wine
Spices to taste: salt, garlic powder, poultry seasoning

Pour liquid into large stockpot, and add chicken pieces. Season with 1-2 teaspoons of salt, 1 teaspoon garlic powder and one teaspoon poultry seasonings.

Blunt-End Stainless Steel Slotted Spoons from Lehmans.com.

Long handles and perforated bowls make Blunt-End Slotted Stainless Steel Spoons perfect for soup-making sessions. At Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio or at Lehmans.com.

Simmer mixture at medium heat until chicken is done: 15 to 45 minutes, depending on the size of your chicken breasts and how long your stove takes to warm the liquids. Stir occasionally.

Use a slotted spoon to remove chicken to plate and cool. Adjust seasonings in broth to your taste. Take broth off the heat to cool.

When the chicken pieces cool enough to handle, remove meat from the bones, shred meat and return to broth.

At this point, you can serve the broth as is, add veggies to whip up a chicken soup, add dumplings, or pop the broth into the fridge for a day or two (no more, it won’t hold more than that), or freeze the broth for later use.

No matter what you do, you’ll have a tasty base for soup, stews, or dumplings.

• White wine will give you a big punch of flavor, and all the alcohol will steam off during the simmer. If you’ve not cooked with wine before, use 7 cups water and 1 of wine. You may want to increase the amount of wine you use as you get used to cooking with it.

• A squeeze of lemon juice will liven up a water-only broth. If you just use water, add the juice from 1/4 of a lemon as the simmering just starts. It’ll help tenderize the chicken too. If you think it needs more “oomph” add a bit more fresh lemon juice just before serving.

Best breads: With this simple broth, whole wheat saltines or regular saltines do well. My grandad used to float little bits of buttered bread in his chicken broth, and that’s pretty tasty too. Croutons can add texture if you have them handy.

Should you prefer your broth meat-free, use the poached chicken breast sliced in sandwiches, shredded and warmed with Old Carolina Barbeque Sauce, or mixed into this favorite dip.

Spicy Buffalo-Style Chicken Dip
1-12 oz bottle Frank’s Original Hot Sauce
2-8 oz packages cream cheese, cut into cubes
1-16 oz bottle Ranch Dressing
1-28 oz can Lehman’s Canned Chicken (or about 3 cups cooked chicken)
2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese

Mix all the ingredients together. Cook in a crock pot or slow cooker for an hour or two, stirring occasionally.

You can also bake it at 350°F for 30 minutes if you don’t want to wait! Serve with tortilla chips, crackers and celery.

Craft An Upcycled Christmas in 2015

I loved how the jar lid tags came out! Underneath, you can see my festive gift bag fabric.

I loved how the jar lid tags came out! Underneath, you can see my festive gift bag fabric.

It’s no secret that our landfills are overflowing. I take every opportunity to reduce the amount of waste I produce by reusing and repurposing whatever I can. Over the holidays I get to exercise my creative muscle to make beautiful wrappings and tags from what would otherwise be junk into decorative items that can be reused year after year.

Canning Jar Lids:

One thing I have an abundance of canning jar lids. They can only be used once, no matter how perfect they look. This year I also had a huge supply of jar labels.

Put the two together with some spray paint and you have lovely gift tags. These were so much fun to make; the process became a family affair akin to making gingerbread houses and Christmas cookies.

I gathered several dozen jar lids and gave them a good wash then let them dry completely. I had a lot of cans of spray paint left over from other projects. I found the color really didn’t matter. Although red and green are festive, the black chalkboard paint looked great too. It can be written on to which is a plus but I had trouble making the letters small enough with the large chalk I had on hand. I preferred the look of the labels. I considered poking holes in the tops so I could string ribbon or raffia through them but decided to go with some rolled tape I had that was losing its stickiness.

Make Gift Bags
I scored a bolt of red and white striped fabric at a tag sale so I now have a collection of cute gift bags that look sweet with my upcycled tags. They were easy to sew. (Editor’s Note: Pick up lots of great ideas on making your own gift bags via this Pinterest page!)

This week, I will pack up the leftover bags and the tags. Like Christmas snow, they’ll make an appearance at Christmas 2015, bringing some magic and happy memories to this special season.

Cowboy Chili Is Hearty, Homemade Fast Meal

Royal Blue Enamelware Bowls at Lehmans.com

Any soup is tastier in Royal Blue Enamelware bowls. At Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio, or at Lehmans.com.

Chili is a hot favorite at the Johnson household, but since we both work, time can be an issue. The crock pot doesn’t always get set up on a workday morning, or we’re out of our stash of browned hamburger in the freezer.

But Cowboy Chili doesn’t need cooked all day. In fact, you can whip it up in about an hour. It’s rich, chunky, and scoops up well on corn chips. (I favor the lime-flavored ones made by our neighbors at Shearer’s.) Continue reading

Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Is An Easy Cooking Choice

Lodge Dutch Oven

Dutch Ovens are the original slow cookers. Available at www.lehmans.com or Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio.

Did your holiday gifts include a cast-iron skillet or Dutch oven? Even if it’s pre-seasoned, it’s still good for you to know exactly what to do to take care of the finish, and how to renew it…just in case.

Here at Lehman’s we’re proud to sell USA-made Lodge Logic® cast-iron cookware. It’s hugely popular because it’s pre-seasoned. This means a vegetable oil coating is applied at the factory, and baked into the cookware. Cast iron, like any iron, has small pores, and the vegetable oil keeps the iron safe from rust. With a light rinse in the sink in hot water, a towel dry and an thin coat of oil rubbed in, this pre-seasoned cookware is ready to use right out of the box. Read more here.

Black resin tools for cleaning

The best tool for cleaning cast iron! At Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio, or at Lehmans.com

Cleaning Cast Iron Cookware
Always hand wash your cast iron cookware. Never put it in the dishwasher.

Usually, hot water and a clean dishcloth is all you need to clean a cast iron pan.

Use hot water and a tool like our Skrapr® to remove any cooked-on food. The Skrapr® is strong enough to get the gunk off, but is kind to the seasoned finish.

Dry your cast iron thoroughly, inside and out, with a fresh, dry towel if at all possible.

10 to a pack! Flour Sack Towels are available at Lehman's in Kidron or Lehmans.com.

10 to a pack! Flour Sack Towels are available at Lehman’s in Kidron or Lehmans.com.

Then, put a small amount of vegetable oil on a paper towel, and rub into the pan. You want enough oil to bring back the pan’s shine without being sticky.

On the inside of the pan, this will keep the seasoning in good shape, and on the outside of the pan, it’ll keep rust away.

If you need to stack your pans, do it carefully, so the layered pans don’t chip into each other’s seasoning. You can put a paper towel or paper basket-style coffee filter in between for protection. Dishtowels will soak up any oil that’s present, and that may damage the seasoning. The paper items can be reused.

Rings of stainless steel for cast iron pans.

Just rub the Chain Mail Scrubber over the pan, with hot water, and you’re done! At Lehmans.com or at Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio.

What happens if the seasoning breaks?
Sure, it can happen. And it’s easy to fix. First, wash the piece you want to re-season with hot, soapy water, and stiff brush so it’s completely clean. You may hit bare iron, so be prepared. Because you’re going to rework the piece, using soap is OK–even our friends at Lodge agree. Don’t have a stiff brush? Get medieval on that pan: try our new Chain Mail Scrubber and hot water to get the pan spanking clean.

Using a fresh, dry dishtowel, make sure that the pan is completely dry. Then, apply vegetable oil. You want the oil layer to be very thin and even, because you’re going to bake it in.

Line lowest rack of the oven: Lodge recommends using aluminum foil; you can use a non-stick mat like ours too, but you’ll need to clean any oily drips off it when you’re done.

Once the oven’s lined, Lodge recommends baking the cookware bottom side up (in other words, with the cooking surface facing the oven rack) in a 350° to 400° oven. Minimum recommended baking time is an hour, but leaving it in longer won’t hurt anything. Old-timers insist you should “cook” your cast iron up to four hours, or even overnight.

Once your baking time is finished, turn the oven off, and don’t open the oven door! Leave the cookware in the oven to cool naturally.

If the cookware isn’t quite as seasoned as you’d like, you can repeat the oiling and baking until you’re happy with the new finish.

Here, you can see our country living expert Karen Gieser use a Skrapr® on a cast-iron pan. See how easy it is to use.

From our friends at Lodge, a good way way to clean cast iron:

The Coming Storm

Metal and plastic lantern bird feeder, red

Made from real lanterns (the globe is hard plastic), these charmers light up the yard! At Lehman’s in Kidron and at Lehmans.com.

Even without the relentless warnings I would know a storm was coming. The air is damp and heavy. The sun peeks out from time-to-time but the light is weak and watery as though it isn’t willing to try too hard.

Birds are scuttling about, filling up on the seed from the feeders, while the squirrels haul off the last of the acorns.

I’m preparing too. Wood will be carried in from the outside pile and one final load of laundry washed. I will check the fuel levels in the hurricane lamps and make sure to have a box of matches at the ready. We run off grid as well as on grid, so a storm poses no hardship. I will confess however that, as a Nor’easter barrels up the coast, I am mighty glad not to live in Buffalo. Continue reading

Quick, Classic Treats for New Year’s Parties

Savory and sweet popcorn seasonings from Lehmans.com

Five different popcorn seasonings are available at Lehman’s in Kidron and Lehmans.com.

You’ve been invited to an impromptu New Year’s party/potluck. What do you take? Check out these three fast, easy and fun ideas.

Savory Popcorn
Consider spicing up your popcorn with some savory flavors! All you need are our true-tasting popcorn seasonings. Choose from Zesty Cheddar, Buttery Jalapeno, or White Cheddar (we have Caramel and Movie Theatre Butter too). Pop your corn, toss with the seasonings while hot, and serve. Be ready with our Stainless Steel Popcorn Popper to make more. You won’t believe how fast the popcorn will disappear! Freshly popped corn makes a great change from typical party snack of salty, greasy chips. Continue reading

Let’s Hear Those Sleigh Bells Jingling!

Authentic Solid Brass Sleigh Bells

Handmade, with a full, rich tone, these brass bells on a leather harness strap are available from Lehman’s in Kidron and at Lehmans.com.

I always wanted to have a horse and cart. The idea quietly thrilled me. Whenever I would catch a driver and his trusty mare in a movie or documentary part of me felt a tiny ache. It seemed like the perfect pace to take part in the world. Slower than a car, faster and gentler than a country stroll, and unlike seeing the world on horseback you could bring along a few friends and pack a picnic lunch as well. What could be a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon in pleasant (or even snowy) weather? Only two problems with this dream. First, I didn’t own a horse or cart. And secondly, I had no idea how to drive a horse and cart. This does not a teamster make… 

So I let this dream sit on the shelf in a tiny box I knew I couldn’t open. Horses and carts were for movie extras and county parades, not for everyday people. I had a station wagon that smelled like wet dogs and the idea of someday parking a horse cart next to it in the driveway seemed as realistic as a space shuttle. 

Continue reading