Aug
30

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Tattler Reusable Canning Lids – Great But Tricky

Tattler Reusable Canning Lids

Tattler Reusable Canning Lids

I’ve been canning for years – small batches when I lived with my parents that then grew to be a bit larger when I got out on my own, and by a bit I mean I’d do things like I’d use my big outdoor gas burner and converted stainless steel keg to make 10 gallons of marmalade, jam, canned fruit or other preserves whenever some product became available for a great price.  Enough to share with friends and family and last a couple of years.

All of that processing was boiling water bath canning and quite often I would reuses the rubber gasketed steel lids for several batches – until it appeared that they were deteriorating or they failed to seal.  That worked very well for me and saw a minimum of new lids purchased every year.

Tattler lid and gasket on a jar of apple pectin

Tattler lid and gasket on a jar of apple pectin

But then I picked up an All-American pressure canner – the really big one.  It’s a great tool and has been great for making homemade low cost convenience foods.  The value derived from being able to can up turkey stock alone has been huge.

However, there is no way that you can reuse a metal lid from a pressure canned jar.  The vacuum is so great that inevitably they are bent enough that the risk of failure were they to be reused is great enough that it makes more sense to recycle them once the jar has been emptied.  Doing that saw me needing to buy quite a few boxes of lids.  That’s when I decided to try Tattler lids.

Tattler lids are basically a modern incarnation of the old glass lids with rubber gaskets – reusable time and again even after pressure canning.

So, what’s my verdict after about five years of using them?  Great but there is definitely a learning curve associated with their use.  They aren’t as easy to use as conventional metal lids – but once you get a feel for how to use them your failure to seal rate should be pretty close with either boiling water bath or pressure canning methods.

Check out the video for more on my preferred technique.  But until you get the process down I’d suggest you continue to do batches with the majority of the jars topped with metal lids to reduce your frustration.

There is no mistaking a jar properly sealed with a tattler lid

There is no mistaking a jar properly sealed with a tattler lid

Some folks have complained about the lack of ease in figuring out if the jar is sealed – sure you can’t push on the top of the lid and see if it has been sucked down but if you remove the ring you’ll see very quickly if the jar is sealed.  Really the danger is if the jar looks to be sealed but isn’t – that isn’t a problem with the Tattler lids – even with boiling water bath canned one litre jars the vacuum is great enough to allow you to hold the lid and suspend the jar – there is no guessing needed.  It is readily apparent if the jar is or isn’t sealed.

In terms of price – well I bought my first case of lids [and I have standardized with regular mouth masons jars] at regular price directly from Tattler and they do pay for themselves very quickly if pressure canning – less so if you are boiling water bath canning and can reuse the metal lids.  After getting hooked on them Tattler had a crazy special where they were offering their lids for around half price – and that’s when I purchased a couple of bulk bags of lids and gaskets – so I expect that I’ll be using Tattler lids for the the rest of my canning life.

Now I can principally with the Tattler lids – the steel tops are reserved for jars which will be given away with no expectation of return.

If you probably should give Tattler lids a try – play around with them a bit and I am pretty sure you’ll end up hooked on them.

 

 

 

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Goodell Bonanza – the best homestead apple peeler

In good years I tend to pick put up a lot of apples – several hundred pounds – and much of those need to be peeled and cut.

Goodell Bonanza about to start peeling an apple

Goodell Bonanza about to start peeling an apple

Over the years I’ve used a few different styles of apple peeler including the modern hand cranked unit that seems ubiquitous – and frankly for it’s low price is a pretty good deal.  What really sucks on it is the attachment – suction cup stink.

I’ve also used the Reading 78 peeler which is a design dating back to 1878.  It does and ok job but at the end of the day isn’t in my view significantly better than the much cheaper modern design.

Neither of these really are production units but they do get the job done.

But, let’s be honest,  when the opportunity presents to pick and process bushels of apples the processing side needs to be fast and easy and that is where the Goodell Bonanza apple peeler comes in.  I think this has to be the best homestead apple peeler by far.  It peels and cores an apple in about a second and then is ready to go for another.  That type of production rate makes taking advantage of the opportunity to pick and process loads of apples realistic.

One second later the apple is peeled and the coring is nearly complete

One second later the apple is peeled and the coring is nearly complete

Perhaps then it’s reasonable for these units to routinely sell for many hundreds of dollars – nothing comparable has been produced in many decades and these are awesome pieces of kit.

But,  here’s where having some skills can really come in handy.  I was able to pick my Bonanza up for a fraction of the price that they usually change hands for because of a couple of cracks in parts.  I know that these faults scared away most other bidders – but I was confident that I could braze any broken cast iron parts or machine new ones if the cracks grew.  As it turns out that hasn’t been necessary even with the heavy use the unit has seen.

Already this season three bushels of early apples have been passed through this unit and since this is a great apple year – compensating maybe for the complete blueberry crop failure and the near failure of the strawberry crop in our area – its only the start having the Bonanza makes the process not just reasonable but pleasurable.

 

 

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So Easy Homemade Spring Rolls

Spring rolls are awesome, and if you make them about half to a third of the regular size you get a super simple appetizer that will disappear off the plate.  It’s a bit funny – cut the size in half and folks won’t eat double but more like quadruple the number.

Filling for spring rolls

Filling for spring rolls

I made these for our family reunion and .they flew off the plate, kids and adults were snatching them with slightly less decorum than you might have expected – from the adults anyway – fortunately since these are so easy to make in number there was just enough – the last ones were taken off the plate as I cleared it in preparation for the dinner.

The homemade whole wheat wonton wrappers refrigerate or freeze wonderfully – so make a bunch of wrappers, stick them in the freezer and then pull these together whenever the occasion strikes and you need to wow quickly and easily.

Homemade spring rolls frying

Homemade spring rolls frying

Now, for the wrapping – here’s the trick, lay the wrapper on a dry surface and wet your fingertips in a little bowl of water.  Wet just inside the edge of the wrapper – try to keep the edge from getting wet – which will make it stick to the prep surface.  Put a reasonable amount of filling about 1/3rd of the way up, roll the bottom of the wrapper up over the filling and then lift the top part of the wrapper and fold it down over the part of the wrapper you’ve just rolled over the filling.  Tap it down so that the moistened surface sticks to the lower part of the wrapper.  Then fold the ends over into the center.

After you’ve done each spring roll dry the work surface and repeat.  When you’ve completed a  bunch of them gently lower them into wok of hot vegetable oil.  Allow them to cook until the bubbling subsides – but not so long that it stops, then drain them on the wok draining rack.

Serve these with plum sauce  or sweet and sour sauce and prepare to receive the accolades.

Click on the post title for the full recipe.


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Whole Wheat Flatbread Panini

Panini on Whole Wheat Flatbread

Panini on Whole Wheat Flatbread

Whereas in the fall and winter I tend to use extra pizza dough to make dinner buns, cinnamon buns or desert pizzas in the summer my favorite use by far is to simply make flatbread to use for making panini.

I think Panini has to be one of the great summer meals combining perfectly with the loads of fresh veggies from the garden, salty preserved meats, and great cheeses – washed down with a nice pint.

My flatbreads are full extraction whole wheat which is not only healthier but also heartier yet won’t leave you feeling like you’ve over indulged.

Toasting the panini on the BBQ side burner

Toasting the panini on the BBQ side burner

Now,  my favorite way to make these is to put my cast iron ridged skillet on the side burner of the BBQ – which ensures you don’t warm up the house – and weigh the panini down with another smaller frypan.

Favorite toppings include veggies like tomatoes, olives, sweet red peppers either preserved in oil or charred, hot pepper rings, eggplant and artichoke hearts, meats like black forest ham and spicy salami and cheeses – particularly Monterrey Jack.

On the side a panini begs for fresh salad with fresh cheeses and salty preserved veggies like sweet pickles and beets as well as pickled pepperocini peppers.

Definitely a meal with merits – and an easy one to produce when the flatbread is on-hand so consider adding it to your meal list this coming week.

Click on the post title for the whole wheat flatbread recipe.

 

 

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Essential Power Tools – The Jig Saw

The Jig Saw - an essential power tool

The Jig Saw – an essential power tool

If a scroll saw – or maybe a bandsaw – hooked up with a circular saw the resultant offspring would likely resemble a jig saw. This tool has some of the attraction of both tools – and some of the disadvantages of each.

Like the circular saw the jig saw as a handheld tool is able to go to the material rather than then other way around – this makes it infinitely easier to cut segments out of large sheets of plywood, or store the tool away in a small space if you don’t have a proper shop space.

Like a scroll saw or bandsaw it can handle free form cutting.  Got a curve to cut – it can do the job.  Of course as with any tool intended to cut curves you’ll have to select a blade of shallow enough depth to allow it to turn within the curf you are cutting.  At the same time you don’t want to select one too shallow since blade longevity and cutting speed is generally better with a deeper more solid blade.

You can also make acceptable cuts in light metals – either sheet metals or thicker light alloy materials such as aluminum.  It’s not the optimum tool to do much of this work – an angle grinder is faster at making straight cuts in ferrous metals and sheet material is better handled with a hand held powered shear – but the point is sometimes is more one of what is available – or what tools that are already paid for – that can be pressed into service to complete the task rather than which tools with complete it most efficient – and here the jigsaw is a can do piece of kit.

The Homebuilt Stainless Steel Wood Fired Pizza Oven

The Homebuilt Stainless Steel Wood Fired Pizza Oven

Showing just how much you can do with relatively little kit is part of what we’re interested in demonstrating here, which is one reason why instead of pulling out the metal shear to cut the stainless sheet for the wood fired pizza oven we stuck a metal blade in the jigsaw and forged right ahead after having used it to cut out our curved plywood patterns.

This isn’t a fast tool – which can be a downside – if you are cutting straight lines using the circular saw will be much faster.  BUT, as I said in the previous  piece on the scroll saw being a slower cutting tool can be a big advantage when you hand a tool over to less experience folks of any age.  Like the scroll saw the jig saw is on the friendly side of the power tool spectrum both in appearance and reality.

As we’ve proceeded through this list we started with some very reasonably priced [and sized] tools – ones anyone should be able to afford and store – but they we got into some more expensive and unwieldy pieces of kit.  Tools like the mill-drill, lathe and even the table saw add a lot of capacity to your shop – but they may exceed your monetary and space constraints.  The jigsaw fits firmly into the former category – low cost and small – making it an everyone tool.  So if you don’t have one in your shop consider adding one today.

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Whole Wheat Wonton Wrappers – simpler than you think

Stack of homemade whole wheat wonton wrappers

Stack of homemade whole wheat wonton wrappers

Often things that appear intimidating the the uninitiated are a breeze to pull off for those that know a few tricks.  It’s that way with  so many things including many in the kitchen.  Wonton wrappers are one of these.

I think most folks who’ve eaten spring rolls, pot stickers, egg rolls or wonton soup would dismiss the idea that they could produce so thin a dough at home.

Yet, it actually extremely easy to get great results – and do so quickly – using whole wheat flour to boot!

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Rolling out wonton wrappers – it’s easy to get them thin if you are patient.

There are a couple of tricks to making the process easy.  The first, as is the case with our whole wheat bread we want to add a bit of acid – in this case white vinegar – to make the gluten stretchier.  Whole extraction flours have a lower ratio of gluten to the rest of the flour since we’ve got all of the germ and bran mixed in.

Now like the song lyrics you “can’t rush love” or was that “can’t buy love” you actually might be able to do both but you can’t rush making wonton wrappers.  A good rest is required after the first kneed to allow the gluten to strengthen – I generally prefer to make the dough, bag it in a ziplock, place it in the fridge and come back to roll it out the next day.

Now you can do all the rolling out with only a stout rolling pin, but if you have a pasta machine – and you should – this will really speed up the process.

The final secret is corn starch and the liberal application of it when rolling out the dough.  Forget flour, corn starch is it.

Now this recipe forms quite a few wrappers;about three dozen give or take,  but the great news is that the wrappers refrigerate and freeze well, so you can make a big batch and freeze what you don’t need right away for another meal – and there will be many more meals featuring these as soon as folks try them.   If you want to keep folks thinking you’re some kind of genius for mastering these I promise I won’t whisper to them how easy it really was,  then again, maybe just being willing to try something new and seemingly daugnting qualifies you as a minor genius….

Click on the post title for the full recipe.


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Whole Grain Waffles – Barley Flour

Waffles are decidedly the high class alternative to the pedestrian pancakes.  Sure,  they are slower to produce but they are a great treat for a breakfast or brunch.

Breakfast fixings, barley flour waffles, strawberries, bacon and maple syrup

Breakfast fixings, barley flour waffles, strawberries, bacon and maple syrup

While a variety of whole grain flours can be used to pull these healthy waffles together my favorite is unquestionably barley.  There’s a sweetness to barley that plays perfectly in this recipe – and by that I mean you’ll be hard pressed to make enough to satisfy the crowd at your table.

You may be hard pressed to find barley flour in your local grocery store – it will probably take a trip to a specialty retailer if you don’t have your own grain mill.  If that’s the case why not consider building a grain mill  – it isn’t much more complex than the baking you are already doing,  just in a different domain.

That said,  like all whole grain products it will fill you up and keep you going – you won’t be getting hunger pangs mid-morning after a hearty breakfast where these are featured.

So oil up your waffle iron, get it heated up and get ready to wow with these whole barley flour waffles.

Click on the post title for the full recipe.


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Whole Wheat Potato Bread

I enjoy making this bread whenever I have leftover mashed potatoes that need to be used up.  BUT, I will make mashed potatoes specifically to be used in this bread when I’m going to be making toasted bacon and tomato sandwiches.

Toasted Bacon and Tomato Sandwich on Whole Wheat Potato Bread

Toasted Bacon and Tomato Sandwich on Whole Wheat Potato Bread

Fundamentally all we are doing is swapping a cup of whole wheat flour for a cup of mashed potatoes from our standard whole wheat bread recipe.

The mashed potatoes do a couple of things.  First off since they don’t contain gluten we get a somewhat denser bread.  I say somewhat because it is nowhere as dense as a rye, triticale, spelt or barley loaf.  The reduction in gluten is to some extent mitigated by the easily converted starches that give the yeast an extra boost.  At the same time we get a moister loaf.  The combination makes for a great toasting bread – and great toast is the foundation of a great bacon and tomato sandwich!

Originally potato bread was used to stretch more expensive wheat flour but today the bread merits being included in your baking rotation on its own merits alone.  That said,  it remains a great way to put that little bit of mashed potatoes remaining after some meals to good use in your daily bread!

Click on the post title for the full recipe.


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Whole Wheat Cracked Peppercorn and Olive Oil Crackers

Rolling whole wheat crackers directly on silicon baking sheet

Rolling whole wheat crackers directly on silicon baking sheet

The prices for a box of great crackers is pretty steep, but you don’t have to eat that cost to make a great foundation for cheese or smoked salmon – just make your own.

It is actually very easy and fast to produce your own crackers at home, in fact you’d probably be able to get them done and cooling before you’d have been able to fetch them in a trip to your local grocery store.  Like any baking and cooking you also gain the advantage of being able to tailor the recipe to your taste.

This process is extra easy if you roll the crackers right out onto silicon baking sheets – then after scoring them you can slip them onto baking sheets.

So easy and yet so good – you’ll really impress yourself with these so go ahead and make some.


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Homemade Penetrating Oil

I often work on rusty kit -so I always ensure my tetanus vaccination is always up to date, and I have penetrating oil on hand to help free rusted parts.

Homemade penetrating oil alongside commercial products and a can of white gas.

Homemade penetrating oil alongside commercial products and a can of white gas.

If the requirement is small or time sensitive I will generally use a commercial product.  The ones I make sure to keep on hand are lanolin (wool grease) based – because they are not only good penetrating oils, but because the lanolin is an excellent way to protect metal against rust without establishing a gummy surface that would require a lot of clean-up before the tool can be used.

But when I have bigger projects that require a lot of penetrating oil – such as the corn binder that I am rebuilding for sweet sorghum harvesting – I turn to homemade penetrating oil which costs a fraction of the commercial products, and while it may not work quite as quickly that price advantage is considerable.

Quite simply you want to use a light oil – that can be diesel – which I’ve used very successfully to free up stuck engines or a mix of a heavier oil – such as an engine or transmission oil – and a light solvent such as acetone, paint thinner or my favorite naphtha – also known as white gas or Coleman fuel.   All will work just fine but I keep naphtha on hand for my camping stoves and find that it doesn’t have the odor that acetone does.  Generally I add between 10 and 20 percent solvent to the oil depending upon the starting weight of the oil and how much I slop in (accuracy isn’t very important here in my experience).  Mix the two in a container and then use a regular oil can to dispense them.   Easy as can be and priced right.