how to store
11 November 2012, by gj
In part 1 and 2 we looked at what the dates stamped on food really mean, and how to use food up before it goes bad.
This last post will help tie up the loose ends- namely the food you can, freeze, and dehydrate yourself.
we need to use these soon
Home canned foods: Keep them in a cool, dark and dry area. The shortest estimated shelf life is one year. We always try to make enough to last 2 years, and have safely used foods after 3 years.
Frozen foods: Almost forever. Really freezing recommendations refer to quality, not so much as to safety. When you are going to freeze anything, wrap it well. Freezer wrap helps protect meat and keep the freshness in longer. Likewise vacuuming sealing delays freezer burn or ice crystal build-up. It’s best to try to use meat within 6 months, and veggies within the year. It won’t hurt if you go longer, but it won’t taste as good.
date and label your food
Dehydrated foods: This is the best solution for long term storage of foods. Again, we’ve seen recommendations of 1 year, but also have heard people say they store for many years. Vacuum sealing helps here as well. Over time there will be a loss of freshness as with other storage methods, but it takes longer for dehydrated foods to deteriorate.
Store in a cool dark place and keep safe from bugs.
when the leftovers were made
It pays to think like the food service companies do:
-Date what you are storing so you’ll know which to use first.
-Rotate your stock.
-Keep an inventory so you know what you have.
Well, we hope you found these posts informative and they help you save some of that hard earned cash.
Here’s a great link that can add to that:
Still Tasty: Your Ultimate Shelf Life Guide lists 1000′s of foods and tells you how long you can store them.
Categories: how to store, saving money & time
10 November 2012, by gj
The local grocery store was selling cucumbers recently for 99 cents each. On the reduced price rack, they had packaged 5 cucumbers together and marked them $1.29.
Seems like a no-brainer to me. Even if you cut off the bad spots, you’ll end up with more for your money.
If the cucumbers are already turning, though, you will need to use them up fast.
So what can you do? Canning them isn’t a good option in this case, as you should always use the fresh produce for that. Did you know you can freeze cucumbers?
26 vs. 99 cents each
Far too much food gets tossed when it could still have been used.
Here’s a few things you can do to get more from your food:
1. Most produce can be frozen, here’s a list you may find helpful. You can even freeze lettuce. Really really.
2. You can also make homemade brandy and flavored vinegars. Not only have you saved the food, you now have a wonderful gift.
3. Is your cheese getting moldy? Just cut the mold off, and use the cheese as soon as possible or freeze. Did you know you can make scrambled eggs with cheese and veggies, portion it out and freeze? Now you have a quick breakfast and you saved food from the dump.
4. Learn the difference between frozen food that has ice crystals on it and actual freezer burn; even then, freezer burned food can still be eaten. Meat will be a little tougher, but still good for stew. Likewise fruits and veggies.
5. Cook it. This will give you a good 5 days to use it up. Almost anything can be added to a stir fry. Are you heating up a can of soup? Add a little cooked veggies. Add apple slices to pork or stuff a squash with them.
6. Look it up. Do you have an overabundance of a particular food? Check online for recipes and storage ideas, it’s amazing what you’ll find.
Read part 1 here,
and Part 3 here.
Categories: how to store, saving money & time
9 November 2012, by gj
Gather ’round youngins and let me tell you of a time not so very long ago, when the food we bought had no date stamped on it.
Yes it’s true, people were forced to use only common sense to decide if food was safe to eat.
To make it worse, very little food was ever thrown away!
Pretty much all of us waste food. Leftovers go bad before they are used, or something gets pushed to the back of the refrigerator and forgotten.
But when you learn that we are wasting 50% more food in the US than we were 30 years ago, it seems hard to believe.
If you look at it cynically, companies make money when we throw out food.
Think about it- you already paid for it, now you have to replace it.
However you see it, though, it is a simple thing to fix.
Let’s look first at what the dates on food really mean:
Best By and Best Before
This stamp probably causes more good food to go into the garbage than any other.
All it means is that the quality of the container’s contents is not guaranteed after that date.
I bet if you did complain to the company, they would still replace it; so this stamp is pretty much meaningless.
Although markets are not supposed to sell items after this date, that doesn’t mean you can’t eat it.
Even milk will last at least 5 days after the sell by date, longer if it hasn’t been opened and was stored correctly.
This one has more meaning, yet you should still use it as a guideline.
Just because the date is past does not mean you cannot eat the food.
Two things to consider with all of these:
1. Your eyes, nose and taste buds are nature’s way of telling you if a food is bad.
Is the canned good item ready to burst? Does the meat smell rancid or the milk sour? These are the indicators of bad food.
2. Because of this, never feed any suspect food to a baby or child, or to anyone else whose abilities may be compromised.
Okay GJ, that’s all well and good; but what about food that isn’t dated, or that we preserve ourselves?
Stay tuned this weekend y’all, we’re going to look at that too.
Don’t just take my word for it.
Categories: how to store, saving money & time
2 September 2012, by gj
Sofrito is a tomato-cilantro base that is a staple in many Hispanic dishes.
If you look for recipes online, you’ll find they call for quite a bit of cilantro.
Unfortunately we didn’t grow any this year, so instead we bought a jar of Recaito, a cilantro cooking base that also contains garlic, green peppers, onion and garlic- also ingredients in Sofrito.
It was only $1.49 for the jar, much cheaper than buying fresh cilantro.
gather your ingredients
You should use green or red sweet peppers, Aji peppers if you have them. We had some yellow bells in the freezer, left over from this post, so used those instead.
mix it up
We like romas or paste type tomatoes for making sauce, they have less seeds and are meatier.
We used what we had though, so that included a beefsteak and a few early girls as well.
cook it down
Puree in a food processor:
2.5 pounds of tomatoes
1/2 pound onions
4 large sweet peppers, or the equivalent of Aji peppers
1/2-1 whole garlic bulb (not clove), depending on your taste
Add 6 ounces of Recaito. Simmer until think.
ready to freeze
This recipe could probably be pressure canned, but I’m no expert there so not going to suggest you do that.
Instead we let cool, then placed into small freezer canning jars. Be sure to leave a little head-space.
vegan sofrito quesadilla
The flavor was much fresher than the store-bought sofrito, and of course we had to try some out. Mandolin made this quesadilla with fresh spinach and onions, and meat and cheese substitutions.
You could do the same with your favorite ingredients.
Here’s our recipe for Sofrito-Cheese Bread
Categories: freezing, how to store, recipes
28 August 2012, by gj
So, you put in a garden and are getting a wonderful harvest- that’s great news.
Or, you went to the market or farm market, and they had a deal on a bushel of whatever veggie is in season- a good way to save money.
Perhaps, though, you are wondering what to do with it all.
Previously we looked at what can easily be frozen, no blanching needed.
Of course most vegetables can be frozen, but maybe you don’t have enough space to freeze everything.
That’s when canning comes in handy.
Get your hands on a good canning book...
There are two ways to can food at home:
1. Pressure canning- uses, well, a pressure canner to bring food temperatures well above the boiling point.
2. Water bath or Steam canning preserves foods at the boiling temperature of water.
Foods preserved with the water bath method are either highly acidic, such as pickles and tomatoes, or sweet, such as jams.
Well do I remember my parents simply pouring melted wax over a jar of jam as a way to seal it. This method is no longer recommended, though I’m sure it’s still practiced.
The whole idea of canning is to prevent any nasty micro-organisms from having a party in your food.
Let’s look at green beans as an example:
If you want to water bath can them, you need to add something acidic, like vinegar, to prevent the growth of micro-organisms. So, pickle them- Dilly Green Beans are wonderful.
If you’re not into vinegar then you need to pressure can them. This will bring the water inside the canning jar to the hotter temperature it needs, much hotter than the temperature water boils at.
Let’s also look at tomatoes, because this is one that gets just a little more complicated.
Red tomatoes, and more so the heirloom tomatoes, are quite acidic (some of the new yellow hybrids are not acidic enough).
So you can water bath can whole or peeled tomatoes. If you want to make Salsa, Catchup, Juice, or Marinara (meatless) Sauce, you can also water bath can.
On the other hand, if you want to can Stewed Tomatoes or Tomato Soup, you need to pressure can it.
“Why?” you may be wondering, or “I was told I had to pressure can Marinara.”
The difference is acid. All of the recipes that get water bath canned have vinegar or lemon juice (citric acid) added to them, the others don’t.
And if you don’t want vinegar in your Marinara then you need to pressure can it.
...and and get inspired.
There’s also a really good reason to learn to can your own food- convenience.
Just today Mandolin took out a jar of homemade Bean Soup and heated it up.
“I made lunch” he called out to me.
“Thank you” I replied, “but technically, I made lunch; last October.”
National Center for Home Food Preservation has tons of info and free guides to help you can safely.
Categories: how to store, pressure canning, saving money & time, water bath/steam canning
19 August 2012, by gj
We were talking yesterday about produce that requires little prep before freezing. Read pt. 1 here.
One of the advantages I’ve found is that this allows you to set the pace as far as canning goes, and not be forced to be in the kitchen when you would rather be in the garden.
ready for the big chill
For us, freezing fruit in the summer saves time; come fall that fruit becomes jam, freeing up some freezer space.
Likewise tomatoes, onions and peppers frozen now become salsa later, when the snow is falling and the garden is in slow mode.
Freezing can also save you money, as you can buy produce that ‘must be used now’ and just freeze it to use at your convenience.
buy cheap, toss into freezer
You can read the first 6 on the list here, then we can continune.
7. Onions: peel, slice or chop, and use as needed.
8. Rhubarb: chop, IQF for use in pies and jam. Mmmm- rhubarb pie…
9. Grapes: a great way to have grapes all year, just wash then IQF
10. Squash: Many people I know, including me until I found out more info, puree their squash before freezing. My fellow blogger Byddi set me straight. Freezing squash turns it into mush anyway, so just portion out what you’ll use in recipes and freeze.
rhubarb, squash and lavender
11. Melons (honeydew, cantaloupe and watermelon): freeze these peeled of course, in chunks or balls. Serve before they are completely thawed.
12. Currants (the fruit, not the raisin): IQF
13. Kiwi: peel, freeze. Strawberry-Kiwi Jam. Now we’re talking.
14. Figs: likewise.
And last but not least- because we ‘bundled’-
15. Most herbs and edible flowers: including chives, nasturtiums, basil, lavender, lemon grass and oregano- to name a few. For chives and lemon grass, roll them into a log, wrap in plastic and freeze. Then, just slice off what you need.
Similarly other herbs can just be frozen, then break off pieces.
Edible flowers are nice to freeze in water in ice cube trays, to use for cold drinks or punch.
Did I miss anything?
Categories: freezing, how to store, saving money & time
18 August 2012, by gj
Freezing fresh produce in general is not difficult- with some veggies you need to blanch (immerse in boiling water for a short period of time) in order to stop the aging process, and also to retain color.
Likewise there are some, fruits in particular, that either need to be dipped in a food preservation substance such as sugar or dry ascorbic acid, or frozen in a syrup.
And then there are the ones that practically take care of themselves- you got to love it.
whole or sliced
For any food you are going to freeze, be sure to wash them off first and let them dry. Remove any stems and separate out produce that is bruised or otherwise compromised.
For many we spread them out whole on a tray so they freeze individually. In the food biz this is referred to as IQF- Individually Quick Frozen, and although we don’t have a flash freezer, we still use the term. I’ve also heard it called ‘tray pack’.
After they are frozen, place in freezer jars or bags. Vacuuming sealing is wonderful.
This method makes it easy to grab just a little of what you want- say, for Blueberry Pancakes. Num.
freezing fresh pineapple and lemon zest
1. Berries: Leave whole, IQF
2. Pineapple: Peel, cut into chunks or rings, IQF
3. Coconut: Grate, freeze in specific sizes (such as 1/2 cup) for recipes.
4. Peppers: Sweet or hot, you can freeze them whole. The sweet will get sweeter, and the hot- yea, you guessed it.
5. Bananas: Over-ripe bananas are not only healthier for you, you can get them cheap at the market. Wash (wash everything), peel, and freeze to use in smoothies or for baking.
6. Tomatoes: This is probably one of my favorites because when the tomatoes are coming in at an alarming rate, is also when I have the least amount of time to can. Even better, when you freeze a whole tomato, the skins will just slide off as it thaws. Really.
9 more in part 2 find it here.
Can you guess what they are?
Categories: freezing, harvesting, how to store
12 August 2012, by gj
may as well get the good stuff
Buying organic is not always more expensive, if you take the time to compare prices- and use a little creativity.
from lemon to freezer
There is a store about 35 miles from us that has a wonderful selection of organic produce; our local market doesn’t carry any. So when we happen to be in that area we try to stock up.
Recently they had organic lemons 2 pounds for $4.99. Nine lemons is a lot to buy all at once, but the price was about the same per pound as our local store’s non-organic.
We even looked in a Wal-mart to compare the price and their non-organic were 50 cents each, so again about the same.
like the yellow, not the white
Here’s where it gets better. Dried Lemon Zest in the spice aisle was about $6 per ounce.
So here’s how you can beat that-
Grate the lemon peel being careful not to get the white pith underneath, that stuff is nasty.
simple and shelf stable
You can freeze that for recipes that call for freshly grated peel, or dry for those that have lemon zest as an ingredient- that is all it is, dried lemon peel.
Drying is easy enough, spread out on a pan and either let stand out overnight, place in an oven on lowest temperature until dry (about 15-20 minutes), or set out in the sun until dry.
You can use a microwave too, but I’ve never tried that.
push down and twist
We weighed the end result and the organic lemon zest cost about $5 per ounce.
There is the side benefit of fresh squeezed lemon juice as well.
Each of our lemons produced about ¼ cup of juice, which we froze in ice cube trays to use as needed.
fresh squeezed lemon juice
Organic lemon zest, freshly grated peel, and juice for less than buying them already prepared- and even less than making it with non-organic lemons.
Now we just need to pick up another bag when we are near that store next, and try our hand at candied citron.
You got to love it.
2 tablespoon per cube
Categories: drying-roasting, freezing, organic, saving money & time
14 July 2012, by gj
What a wonderful idea for a way to teach others about canning!
Today is the second annual National Can-it-Forward Day when the Ball Canning Company encourages those that do can to share what they know and help others learn.
home canned goodness
Back in our restaurant days we were licensed Food Processors, meaning we could sell what foods we ‘put up’ – our most popular was the Pear-Raspberry Jam.
Now we can for our family and friends and still love trying new recipes and sharing the old ones.
In fact, the Ball Canning Company was gracious enough to let us share some of their recipes that we love so much- find them in the Recipes Page.
sunshine in a jar
So in celebration of the day, here are a few things I’d share with new, and seasoned, canners:
1. It’s easy, really; and once you get the hang of it, it’s a lot of fun.
2. Home-canned food, like homegrown, tastes way better.
3. There is a small initial investment- but you can also find used equipment for sale and save some cash. Eventually it will pay for itself.
4. Look at what you are buying to determine what you should can- we eat a lot of soup, for example, maybe you prefer pasta with marinara sauce.
freezing berries now for jam later
5. If you grow your own food and/or buy from the farm market, know that much of what is in season can be frozen until you have the time to can. As I harvest berries, peppers, onions, and tomatoes I freeze them. Then on a cool fall day when I’m no longer in the garden, I make jam, salsa, soup, etc.
Also to celebrate the day, and to help those new to canning, we made a How-To Video- check it out, let us know what you think!
Have you tried canning yet?
If no, I hope this post helps.
If yes, what do you like the most about it?
Free label templates and more on National Can-it-Forward Day
Categories: how to store, pressure canning, water bath/steam canning
22 June 2012, by gj
Did you ever wonder why the first department you walk into at the grocery store is usually produce?
It’s because that is where the store’s highest markup is- and they want you to load up your cart right away.
Really… they know what they’re doing.
Golden Nectar Juice
We’ve been talking the last few Fridays about ways to save time and money.
Here’s how to do it veggie style:
1. Grow your own. Since it is also great exercise, it can also save you money on a Gym membership.
berry juice, marinara, and spiced cabbage
2. Preserve it. Of course one of the best ways to save is to preserve the harvest. If the size of your garden is limited, consider buying what you can freeze, dehydrate and can from a farmer. Here’s our link on preserving foods.
3. Eat seasonally. We are lucky in this country that we can buy almost any food at any time of year, but we pay for it. Just as everyone knows the best time to get a good price on a pumpkin is right before Halloween, other veggies go on sale throughout the year. Plan your menu accordingly. For most veggies, you can buy extra to preserve.
blanching spinach for freezing
4. Buy “Distressed”. That is the term they would use in the restaurant to describe a perishable food that needed to be used right away, which was sold at a reasonable price. I’ll never forget the case of ripe cantaloupe I had to use creatively to sell in just 2 days, but that’s another story.
Likewise, every morning our local market has a rack of produce marked down to sell for just this reason. You can save money as long as you are ready to serve/preserve right away. Tomatoes and peppers, for example, can just be washed, chopped and frozen- thereby saving time and money.
5. Think ahead. When I first started canning tomatoes, I ‘put up’ quart upon quart. They looked lovely! But almost every jar was turned into something else- Marinara, Stewed Tomatoes, Salsa. I wasted time, but not any more. I know how we’re going to use it, so that’s how I preserve it.
homemade veggie and split pea soups
6. Make your own convenience foods. I know veggies is not the first thing that comes to mind when you think about convenience foods, but do you buy juice rather than juice your own? Do you purchase frozen chopped green peppers or mixed veggies? Heaven forbid are you buying canned soup or soup mixes? Whenever a company does the work for you, you pay for it. If you think like a restaurant and do things in large quantity you’ll save time as well as money. Don’t just chop one green pepper for a meal, chop 5 and freeze a few bags. Make some wonderful juice to enjoy all year. Dehydrate veggies and make your own soup mixes, or can soup.
Now you might be thinking “It takes time to do all this canning and freezing.” And you’re right.
What is surprising though is after you do, you spend very little time going to the grocery store.
How do you save money on veggies?
Next Friday we’ll look at some ways to save time and money throughout your life.
Here are the previous posts:
Saving money on meat entrees.
Make your own Baking Mixes
Get more from your veggies.
Categories: how to store, saving money & time