Thanksgiving Onion Dip

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You know those Facebook recipes, right?  The ones that people share and share and probably don’t ever make?  Well, they’re usually loaded with highly processed fake food.

Last year, I ran across one such recipe, a recipe for Turkey-shaped onion dip.  I decided to use the facebook recipe for inspiration, but make a real food, or real food-ish, onion dip.  So here we go:

Ingredients:
1 large onion, chopped
1 half stick butter
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp basil
1 tsp paprika
2 ounces cream cheese
2.5 cups sour cream

Directions:
1. Melt butter in a pot or crockpot.
2. Add your onion and caramelize.  You can do that in the pot and watch it for about an hour. You can do it in the crockpot for about 8 hours and only check on it and stir it periodically. (I go with option two since I have little ones that need my attention.)
3. Add the cream cheese so it softens.
4. Add your spices. (Feel free to tweak these to your own preferences.)  Stir it all.
5. Add the sour cream and stir it all in.
6. Remove it from your pot or crockpot and put it in a bowl that you can use for serving.  Cover it.  Refrigerate it overnight.
7. The morning of serving, cut up your veggies and arrange them around your dip bowl to look like a turkey.  There is no wrong or right way to do this.  In the above picture, I have cauliflower, green pepper, celery, rainbow carrots and cucumber.  I used a yellow bell pepper to make the turkey wings and beak, a cucumber slice for the head and carrot sticks for the feet.

Would it be better real-food-wise if I made my own sour cream and cream cheese from raw organic milk?  Sure it would, but this isn’t bad.  It’s cute, it avoids the processed “soup mix” type dip and it’s really not hard.

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Posted in Crockpot!, Laura's Little Kitchen On the Prairie, Recipes by with no comments yet.

How to Clean the Dishwasher and Dishwasher Filters

Today I am going to tell you how to clean the dishwasher and dishwasher filters.

dishwasher

Let me start with some disclaimers.  I’m a housewife and not a dishwasher scientist. I don’t know about your specific model.  I don’t work for Whirlpool.  I really don’t know anything, other than what’s worked for me.  Know that if you follow my dishwasher cleaning advice, it’s possible that your dishwasher could break or even flood your house. As a general rule, it’s not a good idea to listen to a housewife with an internet connection.  Take my cleaning advice into consideration, but try to talk to someone who knows what they’re doing.

 

I’ll go over the overview process and then I’ll explain with pictures.

 

1. Remove the dishwasher filters.  Put them in the washing machine on the “low” level.  Throw in a little bleach. Don’t run the cycle through, just until it gets through the first agitation.
2. Remove all dishes.  Move anything that you want to clean around, like cutlery trays.
3. Start the dishwasher on a one hour or short cycle.
4. Put bleach into the dishwasher.  In my dishwasher, I have to wait until it does the initial draining.  I open the door and add it once it has filled up with water.  This can be different on yours.
5. When the cycle completes, open the door.  If there is still any gunk (totally scientific word) wipe the gunk with a paper towel.
6. Run the cycle through again, just as before.
7. Remove the dishwasher filters from the washing machine a wipe any remaining gunk with a paper towel.  You may have to wipe out the washing machine tub with a paper towel.
8. Clean the spinning arms with a paper clip and try to remove as much gunk as you can.
9. Put it all back together.

 

I don’t have a stainless steel inside tub.  I have read that you’re not supposed to clean those with bleach.  I have tried vinegar, baking soda, Dishwasher Magic and LemiShine and I have found that nothing works like bleach.  I have the hardest water ever and I run my dishwasher twice per day.  We are hard on our dishwasher.  I have little ones and inevitablely a lot of gunk ends up loaded into the dishwasher with our dishes. Using bleach and utilizing my washing machine to clean the filters is the easiest and most effective way to get the dishwasher clean and prevent any icky smells.

 

Now I’ll repeat my steps with illustrations.

 

how to clean dishwasher inside

This is the before… ewe!

dishwasher filter

Step One… Remove the dishwasher filters and put them in the washing machine. In case you’re wondering, I purposely let my dishwasher get ickier than I normally do because I planned to write this post.

how to clean dishwasher

Step Two: Remove cutlery trays. Step Three: Start dishwasher on short cycle.

 

how to clean dishwasher

Step Four: Add bleach (after initial draining).

dishwasher inside cleaner

Step Five: Wipe down the gunk. (Here in the picture, you can see there’s still some gunk in the back bottom corner.) Step Six: Run the dishwasher through again.

 

how to clean dishwasher filters

Step Seven: Remove dishwasher filters from the washing machine.  Step Eight: Clean spring arms with a paper clip. Step Nine: Put it all back together again.

 


Posted in Also Known As Logistics and Management in a Large Family, How to Clean, Knowing What to Do to Feel a Little Bit Less Like the Woman in the Shoe, Laura's Little Kitchen On the Prairie by with no comments yet.

The Ugly Linoleum of the Year Award

We’re in the middle of doing some home improvements.  Every time we have done some work in this house, we discover “new” linoleum.

My house is old- built in 1906- a mere 20 years or less since Little House on the Prairie times. I’m not sure what the styles were back in the day. I’m assuming that linoleum- battleship indestructible linoleum- was all the rage at some point.  If that’s the case, than this house was oh-so-trendy.  There was ugly linoleum in all the rooms- even the bedrooms.  (Of course there wasn’t linoleum in the mud room, where I think it would make most sense to have it.)

Today, we ripped out a kitchen cabinet and found a “new” type of linoleum.  I am humbly submitting this linoleum into the Ugly Linoleum of the YearAward Contest.

So here you go!  What do you think?  I think I should also get extra bonus points for that fantabulous tile-look wallpaper.

We found some "new" linoleum today.

We found some “new” linoleum today.

You may remember last year when we cleaned out our basement and fixed our foundation with shotcrete that we found some linoleum on the basement floor, too.  Although this linoleum is now gone, you can remember it here now with me, in all of its splendor.

We are stylin'!

This layered linoleum is gone but not forgotten.

And don’t forget that almost three years ago now, we put new carpet in almost the entire house. When we tore up those old carpets, we got a glimpse at a lot of linoleum. It’s all gone or covered now, but it’s worth remembering.

I’m not sure if they offer The Ugly Linoleum of the Year Award or even who “they” are.  But, if they do, then I’m sure this house will win hands down.  (Of course, if it was back in the day, it would win The Really Trendy Linoleum of the Year Award instead.)

So without further ado, brace yourself for some more really ugly linoleum…

This is not berber-type carpet- this is actually linoleum in a design to look like berber. Notice the glitter specs in it too, and the oh-so-lovely pink and green design.

This is a zoom out of all that, um, trendy berber design linoleum. This was in the living room/ dining room.

I really don’t have words to describe this one. This was on the floor of the room we call the library.

This is the kids’ room, view one…

The kids’ room, view two…

My room…

My room, a closeup view. Notice the glittery spots…

I am thirty-something year old Jersey girl living in a little house the prairie.  I’d like to know if I’m missing something.  Is this linoleum all the rage?  There are pretty hardwood floors underneath all these… sigh…

I’d like you to let me know -if you had to pick just one- which one would be the winner of The Ugly Linoleum of the Year Award?  Or again, am I just missing something, and do you actually like these patterns?


Posted in Laura's Little House on the Prairie, Laura's Little Kitchen On the Prairie by with 1 comment.

Using the Whole Cow: Spleen Vastedda Recipe

Today I made vestedda. I’m going to share to recipe here as well as three reasons vastedda is important.

If you’re new here on this blog, let me tell you that my name is really Laura and I really do live in a little house on the prairie.  I am a Jersey girl to the core and I live here because of the enticement of cheap land and the opportunity for my children to farm land that their ancestors (on my husband’s side) have farmed for generations.  I struggle all the time.  Although New Jersey, Brooklyn and the Colorado Prairie are all part of the United States of America, I sometimes doubt this.  I am also 100% Italian.  To say that there is a lack of Italian culture on the prairie is an understatement.  Most people here don’t even know how to say “Italian”. I’ll chalk it up to the dialect or the accent or something, but many people here say “Eye-talian” and it drives me nuts.  Where I grew up, it seems most families were Italian, Irish or Jewish.  We had a strong Italian culture.  I miss it.

Both of my parents are from Brooklyn.  I grew up visiting both my grandmothers in Brooklyn frequently.  Although I was born in Staten Island and that perhaps means I loose street credit, I’m a Brooklyn girl, too. I grew up with Brooklyn pizza and Joe’s. Joe’s of Avenue U is in the Gravesend section of Brooklyn. They have been in business since forever in the same location.  They sell Sicilian Italian food.  I am half Sicilian.  I miss Joe’s.  My favorite dish at Joe’s is vastedda.  Vastedda is basically a spleen sandwich.  I miss vastedda. Making vastedda, copycatting Joe’s, is a small way to alleviate my homesickness.  It’s an ethnic dish, right on the prairie.

Joe's of Avenue U is a good 1700 miles from the short grass prairie.

Joe’s of Avenue U is a good 1700 miles from the short grass prairie.

Vastedda is spleen, which means it’s offal.  We try to follow the Weston A. Price diet. A big pillar of the Weston A. Price diet is the consumption of offal. The experts can explain the whys and wherefores of the benefits of offal.  Logically it makes sense that since people have eaten offal for millennia, and we should, too.  Our bodies and biology haven’t changed.  If offal was good enough for my great-great grandmother, it should be good enough for me.

I am a cattle rancher.  I raise grass-fed, grass-finished organic beef on the beautiful prairie of Colorado.  Shouldn’t I use it all?  We eat our own meat of course.  Isn’t it most efficient to use all of the meat?  The steer, after living a happy life eating grass with constant access to pasture and sunshine, looses his life to provide us with food.  Isn’t it being a good steward to eat all the offal?  Didn’t Jesus Himself tell everyone to gather up the scraps after He fed 5000 men?  Is spleen a scrap?  A scrap that can feed my family four more meals out of a steer than we would have otherwise.  It makes economic and environmental sense to eat vastedda. Or maybe I’m just cheap.

So let me recap why everyone should eat vastedda:
1. It is a way to bring Sicilian Italian culture to your own kitchen, even if you don’t live in Gravesend in Brooklyn.
2. Vastedda is spleen which is offal.  Mankind has eaten offal through the millennia.  Weston A. Price people say this is a good thing.  It just makes good logical sense.
3.  Vastedda is a great way to make an animal stretch, especially if you buy your meat by the whole animal.  Why not turn the otherwise unused spleen into a few more meals?  It makes economic and environmental sense and doesn’t cost extra.

So now that you have a hankering for Sicilian cuisine, yummy offal and a desire to be a good environmental steward, here is the recipe for Vastedda (which I have adapted from here)…

Ingredients…
cow spleen
tallow (which can be doubly cool if it’s from the same animal as the spleen)
yummy rolls of your choice
parmesan or other cheese, shredded
ricotta (of course homemade is best)
milk

Procedure…
1. Soak thawed spleen in milk to remove the organ-y taste.  Change out the milk twice.
2. Boil the spleen for about 30 minutes.
3. Slice it thin.
4. Fry the spleen in tallow.
5. Prepare rolls by slicing in half.
6.  Place spleen ricotta and parmesan cheese on rolls and bake them in the oven until just hot.

You have copycatted Joe’s of Avenue U.  You have eaten good-for-you offal.  You have stretched your beef into a few more meals.  This is a win-win-win.

 


Posted in Culture Clashes of a Jersey Girl on the Colorado Prairie, Laura's Little Kitchen On the Prairie, Recipes, The Irony of a Food Desert Surrounded by Farms and tagged , , , , by with no comments yet.

Knowing What is GMO by the Ingredient Label

Voters in the state of Colorado are voting on a ballot initiative this November.  Called Proposition 105, the proposed measure will require GMOs and GMO containing products sold in the state of Colorado to be more or less labeled.

I have been thinking much about Proposition 105 lately.  I’m thinking out loud, here with you dear blog readers.  I decided I’m going to organize my own thoughts and share them with you.

Called “Right to Know- GMO”, I feel this initiative is a bit of a misnomer.  The proponents of Proposition 105 claim that it is the public’s right to know what is in their food.

In this blogpost, I am arguing that the public already does have the right to know what’s in their food, Proposition 105 or not.

Let’s first review what GMOs are.  GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organism.  That means that scientists have removed the genetic code of one organism and inserted it into the genetic code of a totally different organism.  The resulting organism has a new genetic code that is man-made.  That code would never exist in nature.  The resulting organism, that GMO, now has a trait that is more desirable by many.  For example, Bt Corn is corn that has a bacteria genetic code inserted in it.  The corn borer, a caterpillar larvae that used to kill thousands of acres of corn, will eat the Bt GMO corn and its stomach will explode.

I also wanted to clarify the difference between hybrids and GMOs.  I have come across many many people who are unclear on this distinction.  A hybrid is a cross-breed.  Mankind has been hybridizing crops for millennia.  They cross certain varieties of crops together and the resulting offspring has the good traits of both sides.  Man might help this along by sprinkling pollen or something, however, he is hybridizing through natural means.  If you planted varietyx of a crop next to varietyz they’d probably cross breed anyway.  GMOs have their actual genetic code changed by scientists.  Hybrids and GMOs are whole different ballgames.

There are a lot of differing opinions about GMOs.  Proponents of GMOs say GMOs are super-safe, as safe as hybrids, and better for the environment.  Anti-GMO folks say GMOs are the reason for all the epidemic chronic diseases (like cancer and autism) in the world. Anti-GMO folks also say that letting these, um, unnatural genetic codes loose into the environment will wreak havoc.  Look at one study and it says one thing. Look at another study and it says something else.  I follow GMO news very closely and I haven’t seen a 100% convincing  argument either way.

Personally, I am opposed to GMOs.  GMOs seem like franken-science. “They” say GMOs are safe, however, GMOs have only been in production for about twenty years.  20 years is hardly enough time to study long term health or environmental effects.  GMOs, at the very least, are unproven for human and animal health and the environment.  I am a mother of five children.  It is my job to feed my children good wholesome food and to keep them healthy.  I am not going to take a risk on my family with GMOs.  Non-GMOs are proven.  GMOs aren’t. I am also a farmer.  It is my job to grow food for others and to be a good steward of the land that these crops are grown on.  I will not grow a GMO since I will not grow something I wouldn’t eat.  I will not grow a GMO since I hope that my children will farm the same land that their great-great grandparents farmed and I am unsure that GMOs are safe for future generations of the environment.

I take my job as a mother very seriously.  As I said above, I am responsible for the health of my children and I truly believe that there are health connections to diet.  I feed my children the best that our budget and time allows.  I avoid GMOs.

Getting back to Proposition 105, many have argued that if passed, we will now have a “right to know” what is in our food.  I will spend the rest of this blogpost telling you that we already have the right to know what’s in our food and I will review how to tell if GMOs are in your food by truly reading the ingredient label.

The background of this little meme above is actually a Round-Up Ready GMO corn field here in Eastern Colorado.  The Round-Up killed everything but the GMO Round-Up Ready volunteer corn.

The background of this little meme above is actually a Round-Up Ready GMO corn field here in Eastern Colorado. The Round-Up killed everything but the GMO Round-Up Ready volunteer corn.

The first principle to remember is that there are only a few GMO crops currently in commercial production.  These crops are corn, soy, cotton, sugar beets, canola, alfalfa, papaya, summer squash and zucchini. This is as of October 2014, as I write this blogpost.  There are experiments all over the place for various additional GMO crops and various additional kinds of GMO of the already GMO crops. But right now, we only have GMO corn, soy, cotton, sugar beets, canola, alfalfa, papaya, summer squash and zucchini.

Secondly, we must remember that the word “organic” is a copyrighted word.  If a food item does not comply with the 2002 Organic Standards Act, it is illegal to be called “organic”. (Although I would venture to say that there are some loopholes where some foreign grown crops are allowed to be called organic where they may or may not be following the same standards as us.)  Organic standards exclude GMOs.  If a product says it’s “organic”, than it cannot be both GMO and legally organic, too.  It’s a pretty safe bet that organics are not GMO.  I should caution you, however, not to fall for the “made with” trick.  If you bought, for example, spaghetti sauce, that said “made with organic tomatoes” on the label, than that only means the tomatoes are organic.   That does not mean that the other components of the sauce are organic.  We should assume they’re not organic and they might even be GMO.

Moreover, we must also assume that any crop which has GMO production and is not sold as organic or specifically non-GMO is in fact GMO.  For example, 94% of the soy grown in the USA in 2011 was GMO (source).  We can assume any soy that’s not organic and not labeled non-GMO is in fact GMO.  94% is a whole lot.

Our fourth principle to remember is that certain crops are sold as crops and certain ones are made into everything.  Summer squash, zucchini and papaya are pretty much just sold as “themselves”.  One can just avoid commercially produced non-organic summer squash, zucchini and papaya and thus avoid these GMOs, easy peasy, done.  Cotton of course is used to make fabric.  We don’t eat fabric, but we may eat cottonseed oil.  Avoid cottonseed oil, food products made with cottonseed oil and eating t-shirts and you will avoid eating GMO cotton. Canola, or rapeseed, is a “new” oil, once touted as the healthy choice, primarily in the 1980’s. If you avoid canola oil and food products made with canola oil, you will avoid GMO canola.

We must also remember to assume that unless meat, eggs and dairy are specifically marketed as “organic”, “non-GMO” or “grass-fed”, we must assume that the animals have eaten GMOs.  GMO corn and GMO soy are the heart of most every animal food, from chicken, pig and cow feedlots to even fish food.  Additionally, some may give animals alfalfa, which is now GMO, too.  Also, there is a lot of “byproduct” fed to commercial animals.  These byproducts are assumed to be from GMOs.  It’s a safe assumption that commercially marketed meats, eggs and dairy have come from animals who ate GMOs unless specified. If you’re the-farmers-market-type who purchases things directly from the farmer, ask him. Chickens may free range and have access to pasture, but they may also be given a GMO-laden feed as a supplement. Ask.

Remember, also, that “sugar” as an ingredient or product probably comes from sugar beets, which are GMO.  Cane sugar is not GMO (yet).

Our sixth and final principle to remember is that about everything comes from corn and soy.  Vinegar, vegetable oil, high fructose corn syrup, corn meal (and therefore corn chips and tortillas), cosmetics, cellulose, and I-don’t-even-know funky foods are all from corn.  There are way more qualified people who can tell you all the ‘stuff’ they make from corn and soy.  Look it up. Find out what these products are.  Avoid them to avoid GMOs.

We should also remember that everything changes so rapidly.  They are experimenting all over the place and it seems more GMOs are approved every year.  What I write is current as I write it, but give it a few months and it won’t be. Also remember that you should really do your own research on all of this and not just go by what some blogger said.

For example, I occasionally buy Boulder Canyon Olive Oil Potato Chips at Sam’s Club. They contain just three ingredients- potatoes, olive oil and salt.  Since I know that potatoes, olive oil and salt are not currently GMO, I know that Boulder Canyon Olive Oil Potato Chips are not GMO.  I do not need the proposed labeling from Proposition 105 to tell me that.  I can also look at the label and see that these chips are Non-GMO Project Verified. The good people over at the Non-GMO Project certify certain foods as non-GMO.  The food manufacturers choose to have their products verified.  The Non-GMO Project will allow the food manufacturer to put their label on the product if the product complies with the Non-GMO Project’s standards.  This is a choice that Boulder Canyon made, to have their potato chips verified and to put this label on.  Honestly, since I’m such an ingredient label reader, I already knew that Boulder Canyon Olive Oil Potato Chips are non-GMO.  If a hypothetical shopper was in the chip aisle, he or she can read the labels, just as I do and see that PotatoChipBrandX contains “soy oil” as an ingredient.  The shopper will know that since 94% of the soy grown in America is GMO and the label does not say “organic soy” or “non-GMO soy” it is safe to assume that PotatoChipBrandX contains GMO.

My husband Kevin made this point to me.  “Most people don’t care about GMOs. The people who do care, people like you, already know how to tell what is GMO by looking at the ingredients, just like you do. Proposition 105 isn’t going to do anything for them.”

Kevin is right.

You already have the right to know what’s in your food.  It’s called the ingredient label.  You should learn what those ingredients really mean, whether Proposition 105 passes or not. Use my GMO principle ingredient guide as a basis, but also do your own research. You don’t really need Proposition 105.
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Posted in GMOs, Laura's Little Kitchen On the Prairie by with 2 comments.

Recipe: Sacred Heart Walking Tacos

Yesterday was the Feast of the Sacred Heart!

I’ve personally had a crazy week, but all I say is thank God for Octaves.  They are the disorganized housewife’s way to still make the living the Liturgical Year possible.
For you non-Catholics out there, you may be asking a few questions.  I’ll try to answer…
What is an Octave? An Octave is an Eight Day celebration, a complete week.  So, for example, the Octave Day of Christmas is New Year’s Day. Christmas, the days in between and New Year’s Day are all considered part of the Christmas Octave.  It’s kind of like the movie Eight Crazy Nights, but the Catholic version.  The major feast days have Octaves.  Even if a certain holiday does not have an Octave, we make one because of my husband’s crazy work schedule, because of my inability to plan, because life gets in the way.
What is the Liturgical Year? The Liturgical Year is pretty much the calendar of the Catholic Church.  We celebrate Christmas on Christmas and Easter on Easter but then extend a lot around those.  For example, St. John the Baptist was born six months before Jesus, so we celebrate his birthday June 24th, six months before Christmas.  (And I have no idea why we celebrate St. John the Baptist’s birthday on June 24th and not 25th.)
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So, since yesterday was the Feast of the Sacred Heart, I will share my recipe for Sacred Heart Walking Tacos.  We ate them today as a picnic in the park.

Ingredients:
cooked ground beef
grated cheddar cheese
Rotel or salsa, or a homemade version
pretzel sticks
corn chips

Instructions:
Cook ground beef to liking.  (Add taco seasoning if that’s your thing.  We put in onions and a bit of cheese we grated.)  Shape the ground beef like a heart, or cheat like I did and put it in a heart shaped cake pan.
Make the cheddar cheese a flame.  (I totally would have grated it myself, but as I said it’s been a crazy week.)
Arrange pretzel sticks to make Crown of Thorns across Heart.
Add Rotel or Salsa to make heart look red.
Arrange corn chips around Heart.  I use blue corn chips because blue corn is not GMO (yet).  (The oil that they’re fried in is GMO.)
Take a picture of your work and then let everyone dig in.

Oh, let me make sure to give credit where credit is due.  I was inspired by this recipe, but made it beef since my husband does not like cream cheese.


Posted in Eating Catholic Calendar Appropriate Meals Will Not Help Get Us to Heaven But We'll Try Anyway, Laura's Little Kitchen On the Prairie by with no comments yet.

Toothpaste Removes Dishwasher Hard Water Soap Scum

We have hard water. Like the hardest water ever.

We’ve had a new well since the fall and new well water is a bit less hard.  When we had the old well, I was always amazed at how dirty looking the dishes are coming out of the dishwasher. They say that they changed the law and the dishwasher-soap-making companies had to change their formulas to comply with some new regulations. These new formulas combined with my hard water equals the grossest dishes, especially when it comes to glass and Pyrex.   I decided to take on my de-soap-scumming project before I put my still-gross-looking “clean” dishes away. I used toothpaste and a sponge. I’ll describe the process in pictures.

I even had scummy yuck on the pot.

 

These are some scummy pans. I even had that scum on the outside of the crockpot crock.

My daughter insisted that I take her picture, too.
Toothpaste is the key. This is Vanilla Mint toothpaste that I bought cheap a while back. I didn’t like the taste, so I earmarked it for this project.
After cleaning, my pot actually reflects.
Pyrex loaf pan before…
Here are my now actually clean dishes drip drying on some dishtowels.

Also, you may notice that all these pictures are closeups. Yes, my kitchen is that ugly.

Update, 8/9/14: I disabled comments for this post. There are too many spammers out there!


Posted in How to Clean, Laura's Little Kitchen On the Prairie by with 2 comments.

Let’s Talk About Canning Jars…

 

So let’s talk about jars.  A canning jar is a glass jar that is designed to be used over and over.  It is designed to be boiled and pressured.  A canning jar has a universal screw top.  You can switch up brands of canning jars or canning jar tops and the jars, lids and bands will all fit each other.

Canning jars are wonderful!  Even for dry good storage, it is such a convenience that they all have the same lids!  (I hate searching and searching for lids that fit.)  Of course they are glass, but they are among the most durable glass made for consumers.  They can also be dropped and almost always survive.
“They” say to only use actual canning jars.  “They” say that other jars aren’t designed for the high temperatures of canning or for being reused.  “They” say that when you use other jars, they might not seal.  Well, they’re right, technically.   They have to say that for liability reasons.

Now it’s my turn to say that for liability reasons.  Here it goes:  don’t use jars for canning that aren’t canning jars.  It could be dangerous.  The jars could shatter in the process since they are not designed for home canning.  They might not seal.  If they don’t seal properly, you could die from the bacteria.  Now that you have read my warning, you can read what I am about to say…

You can reuse non-canning-jar jars.  It may be risky (see above) but it can be done.

Classico Tomato Sauce comes in jars that have the universal canning jar size top.  Their website says not to reuse them.  (See the dangers above.)  All I am saying here is that they have the same universal top.  I have one.  I have used it for water bath canning.  Make your own decision.

Miscellaneous glass jars that have matching metal tops will usually reseal if subject to the same conditions as canning-jar jars.  They are not manufactured for reusing.  (See dangers above.) Know that pressure canning is a lot harder on jars than water bath canning.  Make your own decision.  This e-how post (see #5)  actually says that you can reuse these jars for water bath canning.  As of yet, this has been the only place that I have ever found something official saying that it’s OK to reuse non-canning-jar jars.

Actual canning jars come in two varieties: wide-mouth and regular mouth.  The wide-mouth jars are wider at the top.  The theory is that they are easier to clean than the regular mouth canning jars.  They are also more expensive, both initially and for the replacement lids or replacement lids and bands.  I own a few wide mouth canning jars.  They were in the house when we moved here.  I have not used them yet since it is so much more money for the lids and bands.  Make sure that if you undergo a canning project that you have enough lids and bands of the correct size to go with the correct jars.

Actual canning jars come in many different sizes.  Jelly jars are usually eight ounces.  There is also pints and quarts.  There are also half gallon jars, but I personally have not read anything about these with the exception of for dry good storage.  If you know of using these half gallon ones for canning, please do let me know.

The main companies that make actual canning jars (that I know about) are Ball, Kerr and Golden Harvest.  The majority of canning jars are made by these companies.

Canning jars are usually sold by the case of twelve.  They are sold initially with the bands and lids.  I am still looking for where they have the best deal on them.

Dollar Tree sometimes sells pint canning jars.  Although you can most likely find a dozen pint canning jars for less than $12.00 for a case, it may be worth the investment there if you only wanted to can a few jars to try.

I have personally yet to find them at a garage sale.  My little house on the prairie did come with about four dozen actual canning jars in the basement.  Canning jars wash up easily and well.  I am grateful for these.  (Or I guess I could say that I bought some really expensive jars and they came with a free house.)

Do you have a stash of jars?  Where did you get them?


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Shouldn’t It Be Called Jarring?

According to my husband, canning should be called jarring, since the food is preserved in jars and not cans.

In this post, I am going to give a little overview of canning.  I am aiming this post (and this whole canning series) to someone like the me of five years ago, the me who has no clue about canning at all.  You may be yawning right now since everybody else in the world has known all of this since they could crawl.

So what exactly is canning?  Canning is storing food in jars.  The food is food that wouldn’t ordinarily keep at room temperature.  When properly processed, you can store your jars just fine at room temperature.

Canning basically involves two steps:
1. Preparing the stuff to go into the jars, preparing the jars and putting the stuff in the jars.
2.  Processing the jars so that they both seal and do not allow bacteria to grow in them.

The reason that canning so hard for someone like me is that I had never prepared food in such a way that it could be jar-worthy.  I had to learn two new things: preparing the food for the jar and processing the jar.  Both of those above steps were new to me.

 


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Dreaming of Canning

I have dreams of canning. I have dreams of having a beautiful garden and preserving tons of vegetables and fruits. I have dreams of my children eating our own abundant harvest year round. Of course it’s all organic and produced locally, right here. I guess right now it’s just a dream… I’ve had that dream for years. It was before I knew that I would even have kids, before I knew how to grow a vegetable, before I knew exactly what canning was. Yeah, I know compared to Martin Luther King, Jr., my dream is nothing. But, it’s my dream…

In 2009, I had enough tomatoes in my garden to can some tomato sauce. My darling mother-in-law, who has been canning since she’s two, most patiently guided me though it. I only had one child at the time. We went to her house one afternoon. I brought the crockpots right there. I brought my few jars. She painstakingly and patiently showed me the basic process. I have to brag on my mother-in-law here: she is a saint. She has been canning her whole life. She gave up her time, used her own equipment and step-by-step explained things to her obnoxious slow-to-catch-on-to-stuff-like-that Jersey girl daughter-in-law. So that was my introduction to canning.

2009, My very first canning experience…

I understand the process a little better now. I’ve read and studied. I’ve canned quite a few times by now. Did you know that I’m a cheapskate? My first on-my-own canning experience was born out of my cheapness. My husband Kevin likes to take peanut butter and jelly to work. He’s pretty picky and only likes grape jelly. I’m pretty picky and only buy the “fruit only” jelly. Most jelly has sugar and/or high fructose corn syrup in it. The “fruit only” jelly is close to $3.00 for a very small jar. It only lasts for a few sandwiches. We were spending a fortune on grape jelly. Inspired by this blog, I decided to attempt my own grape jelly. It worked! Can I tell you how much I was bragging on myself for making those two jars of grape jelly? Yeah, I did it all by myself! Well, it wasn’t the perfect grape jelly. I had used honey as a sweetener. Honey is delicious. It was raw and local to where I used to live in South Jersey, too. Honey has it’s own taste. Honey made the jelly taste less grapey, and well, honey-y. But, it was my first try.

And I succeeded. I have since canned a bunch more times, and I think at least I got the basics enough to share…
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