Pressure Canning: The Most Wonderful Way to Prepare Garlic

No, I am not kidding with that title. I wasn’t complete until I discovered (and made) these roasted garlic cloves. If you find you don’t use garlic cloves fast enough, but hate that pre-minced stuff in a jar, this one is for you.

I have to thank Hank from Hunter Gardener Angler Cook for posting this recipe. His blog is also a must-read, especially if you or your husband hunt, but are at a loss as to what to do with your wild game. Even if you don’t hunt or forage (and you should) his blog is fantastic.

On to the garlic. The oven-free, life-changing roasted garlic.

Canned Garlic Cloves

Ingredients:

  • 2 Lb garlic cloves
  • 1/2 C. sugar
  • 1/2 C. olive oil
  • 1/4 C. vinegar (red wine or sherry vinegar)

Let me preface this recipe by saying: you will want to find a movie marathon or some extra hands for this. Peeling 2 Lb. worth of garlic cloves takes a long time. Specifically 3 1/2 hours. So unless you know the secret to garlic peeling, grab the kids or some friends, or drag the trash can to the living room, because this is going to take a while. I watched a Restaurant Impossible marathon.

Step 1: Peel the garlic cloves. You should have about 5 C. peeled cloves when you’re done. Put your jars (1/2 pt. or pt.) in the oven at 220 degrees.

Step 2: Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the garlic cloves. Toss them around in the oil until they just begin to brown.

Step 3: When they start to look like the above picture, your mouth will be watering. Add the sugar and stir it all together. Let the cloves caramelize for a few minutes.

Step 4: Add the vinegar. Sherry vinegar was what the recipe called for. I used red wine vinegar because I had it on hand, and it still maintains the sweet profile. Stir and allow the liquid to reduce and the cloves to darken. Prep your pressure canner according to the manufacturer’s directions. Heat the water in it so the water temperature matches the jar temperature. Prep your lids, also.

Step 5: Once the garlic cloves are caramelized, ladle them into the hot jars, leaving 1/2″ headspace. Tap the jars lightly on the counter to remove any air bubbles.

Step 5: Put the lids on the jars and tighten the screw bands to fingertip tight. Place them in the canner. Vent the canner for ten minutes, then place the weight on the steam valve. Process half pints for 10 minutes, pints for 20 at 10 pounds pressure.

Step 6: Allow  the canner to de-pressurize. Once the canner is cool, remove the jars and allow them to cool for 24 hours. I found that the jars siphoned some oil into the canner. This is okay, as long as the seals hold.

I had a bit less than 5 cups of garlic, so I ended up with 3 1/2 pints plus a little extra.

These garlic cloves have the best flavor. They are great in anything  that calls for garlic, as a garnish, or pureed and used as a sauce. If you have a pressure canner and use garlic often, these garlic cloves are definitely worth the work.

Plus, they make and ordinary pizza something to die for when used in place of tomato sauce.

The Wife

Not-From-a-Box Au Gratin Potatoes

My mom never made au gratin potatoes from scratch. Very rarely she bought the gummy, gluey boxed dish from the store, and it was always so-so. But au gratin potatoes is one of those things (even out of a box) that The Renaissance Man adores. So, of course, I made it my mission to learn to make them from scratch. And let’s just say that once you know how to make them from scratch, the boxed variety will become blasphemy in your house like it has in ours.

Au Gratin Potatoes

Ingredients:

  • 4-6 large russet potatoes
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste
  • 2 C. milk
  • 3 Tbsp. butter
  • 3 Tbsp. flour
  • 2 C. cheddar cheese

Step 1: Peel the potatoes. Then set up your handy-dandy mandoline. Or, if you don’t have one of these wonderful pieces of kitchen equipment, use a knife.

By the way, my wonderful husband got me this for our first Christmas as a married couple. He knows me so well!

Step 2: After you slice the potatoes at 1/4″ thick, spread 1/2 of them in the bottom of a greased baking dish. Chop the onion and sprinkle 1/2 of it over the potatoes. Season lightly with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.

Step 3: Prepare the sauce by melting the butter in a saucepan. Whisk in the flour, then the milk. Once the milk is hot, add the shredded cheddar cheese and stir until it just begins to thicken.

Step 4: Pour 1/2 the sauce over the potatoes in the dish. Then layer the rest of the potatoes, onion, seasonings and sauce (in that order) on top. Top with a little more pepper.

Step 5: Cover the dish with foil or a lid and put in a 400 degree oven for 1 hour. After the initial hour, uncover it and bake for an additional 1/2 hour.

Try not to stick your finger in it at this point. It is very hot.

Serve with pork chops, chicken, or anything, really. They are good enough to eat by themselves, but to avoid some serious food-guilt (trust me on this one) you probably shouldn’t.

The Wife

Pressure Canning: Whole, Raw-Packed Green Beans

The Renaissance Man loves green beans. Mostly he loves canned green beans. Most of all he loves the green beans his granny cans in the summer.

Well, I am not granny (who is an absolute treasure of a woman. She is fiesty and sweet, and definitely a woman to learn from), but I sure can put some green beans in a jar and pressure can them for my man.

I did several things different from granny’s time-tested recipe: I canned the beans whole, I raw-packed them, and I pressure canned them. Just because they used the boiling water method years ago doesn’t mean I’m going to risk giving my beloved husband botulism. And low-acid foods like green beans must be pressure canned. No exceptions.

I bought some green beans (about 3 Lb.s I estimate) from the farmer’s market (these beans came from Waller, TX), washed, and trimmed them.

I prepped my jars, lids, and screw bands, as well as got the pressure canner ready. I used pint jars (because TRM is the only one who eats them) but quart jars can be used as well.

I packed the raw beans into the jars, leaving 1″ headspace. I sprinkled about 1/2 tsp. of salt into each jar.

I poured boiling water over the beans up to the 1″ headspace. I placed my lids, tightened my screw bands to fingertip tight, and placed the jars into the pressure canner.

After venting the canner for 10 minutes, I processed the beans for 20 minutes (25 for quart jars).

I ended up with seven pints of green beans.

Ball vs. Kerr

I don’t know who out there cans, but I am new to the process. I have used 1/2 pint and pint Kerr jars until I bought some pint Ball jars to compare. I didn’t expect a difference, since they are both made by the same company. Imagine my surprise when I noticed a big difference! Ball jars have measurements marked on the side (Kerr does not) and the Ball lids and screw bands are much sturdier and less prone to denting. Has anyone else noticed this difference? What jars do you prefer to use?

The Wife

Top Ten Things That Make my Life Easier

I have a busy life. Full-time work combined with a house full of animals, a husband, and a lot of hobbies makes for a packed schedule. There are many items that make my life easier in many different aspects, but these are my favorite ten. The Renaissance Man is not on this list, since he is not a thing, but he does make my life easier.

10: My Washer and Dryer: I used to live in an apartment. The laundromat was a car ride away, and cost money, so I took my laundry to my parents’ to wash it (they may have been enabling me). I cannot possibly convey to you the difference between lugging a packed laundry bag to an off-site location and carrying a single load of laundry 50 feet. Having a washer and dryer in my house makes me happy, and probably a little lazy.

9: My Second Bathroom: I understand this is a weird entry, but it’s true. When TRM and I first got married, we lived in a teeny tiny house with one teeny  tiny bathroom. When we moved to the great state of Texas we got a bigger house with two, count ‘em, two bathrooms. We never fought over bathroom space, but now we don’t have to.

8: Baskets (of various shapes and sizes): I have recently discovered that baskets are a great, stylish way of storing a variety of things. Need somewhere to put your magazines? Basket. Gotta have a container for potatoes that allows air to circulate? Basket. Need somewhere to hide all that random nonsense that accumulates on various surfaces? Basket. You get my point…

7: Mason Jars: What can’t you put in a mason jar? Yogurt, cotton balls, jam, you name it, you can store it in a mason jar. Plus, cotton balls look really cute on the counter in a Mason jar.

6: Pressure Canner: This one really only applies to canners, but it certainly makes canning way easier. It doubles as a water bath canner and a pressure canner. I’ll never have to buy canned goods again.

5: Crock Pot: It doesn’t get any easier than: open the pot. Throw the ingredients in. Close the pot. Push the button. Ta Da! Dinner’s ready! If my crock pot didn’t do my work for me, I’d have run away from home by now.

4: Vacuum Sealer: No more freezer burned foods! Fruits, veggies, and meat all stay fresh for months at the push of a button.

3: Cast Iron Dutch Oven: my dutch oven specifically is the most versatile piece of kitchen equipment I use. From soup, to brisket, to popcorn, I can’t remember what I did before it came into my life. Probably wondered how I was going to make kettle popcorn without it.

 2: Kitchenaid Mixer: If you have one, you know. If you don’t, you probably want one. And if you haven’t given it much thought, you’re crazy.

1: My Bed: While my bed doesn’t actually perform a task, it is my favorite place to be, it’s really comfortable, and it makes even the worst week bearable.

Note: I did not include the obvious things like my car, cell phone, or TV. I won’t insult your intelligence.

What things make your life easier?

The Wife

I’m Not Monkeyin’ Around

Yes, “monkeyin’” is, in fact, a word. Despite what that squiggly red line in my editing software might suggest.

I have had good monkey bread and bad monkey bread over the years, but this particular version is better than them all. For those who don’t know, monkey bread is a breakfast (or dessert) bread that is made from sugar-coated pieces of biscuit dough mixed with pecans and placed in a tube pan, and usually baked with a glaze poured over the top. The result is an ooey, gooey, pull apart breakfast masterpiece. The pecan kind is what I bring to holiday get togethers.

The following recipe is a whole different (ahem) animal.

Blueberry Monkey Bread

Ingredients:

  • 2 tubes refrigerated biscuit dough
  • 3/4 C. sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 C. blueberries

For glaze:

  • 1 1.2 C. blueberries
  • 10 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 C. sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. cinnamon

I forgot to take pictures until I was halfway through the process. Please excuse the lack of photos.

Step 1: cut the biscuits into quarters. Pour sugar and cinnamon into a large plastic zipper bag. 1/3 at a time, put biscuit pieces into the bag, close, and shake to coat.

Step 2: Put the first 1/3 of the biscuit pieces in the bottom of a greased tube or bundt pan. Layer with 1/3 of the blueberries.

Step 3: Repeat the process with the remaining biscuits and blueberries, alternating layers.

If there is any leftover sugar, pour it over the top of the biscuits.

Step 4: Set the pan aside, and melt butter, sugar, cinnamon, and blueberries in a saucepan. Cook just until the butter and sugar melt.

Step 5: Pour the glaze over the biscuits. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 50 minutes, or until done.

Step 6: remove from the oven and turn onto a large plate.

Serve with coffee, or with whipped cream for dessert!

The Wife

“Shake it Up” Monday

I have been playing around with blueberries all week. They were ridiculously on sale at the grocery store, so after eating them out of the bowl for a few days, I started freezing and processing my hoard.

I have a preferred flavor profile when it comes to blueberries: blueberries, vanilla, and cinnamon go fantastically well together. If you add a little citrus in there (like lemon or lime) it is simply sublime.

In a effort to capture that taste in my breakfast, I came up with a shake that tastes more or less like blueberry pie. This is what I will be drinking until the frozen blueberries are gone.

Blueberry Pie Shake

Ingredients:

  • Three handfuls of frozen blueberries (about 1 C.)
  • 1 C. vanilla almond milk
  • 1 banana
  • 1 scoop vanilla protein powder
  • 2 tsp.-1 Tbsp. cinnamon (depending on your taste)

Step 1: Put everything in a blender. Put on the lid.

Step 2: Blitz like crazy.

Step 3: Pour it into a glass and enjoy the summer!

I love blueberries because they are full of antioxidants and vitamins. I also love blueberries because if The Renaissance Man hadn’t wanted to marry me, all I had to do was wave a bowl of blueberries in his face. They are his weakness (but don’t tell him I told you).

The Wife

Pressure Canning: Black beans

We eat a lot of black beans. Enough that when I started canning I thought “If I can can these at home, I wouldn’t have to buy a new can every week at the grocery store.”

As it turns out, my thought process was right on the money. Literally. Canning dried beans is easy, and I put up 7 pints for $2.70. One can of black beans at the grocery store costs $1.00. I already saved money.

Unseasoned Black Beans

Ingredients:

  • 2 Lb. black beans (or any dried beans you want to keep on hand)

You will also need pint jars, lids, and screw bands, plus a pressure canner and a few stockpots. Your stove will be busy.

Step 1: Pour dried beans into a stock pot. Cover with 3 inches of water.

Bring to a boil. Once at a boil, remove from the burner and let the beans soak for 1 hour. (I feel compelled to mention that, from start to finish, this process takes several hours. I did this on a cloudy, rainy evening I had to myself).

Step 2: After the beans have soaked, rinse them in a colander and drain them. Place the beans back into the stock pot and cover with more water (3 inches again).

Step 3: Bring the rinsed beans to a boil, and boil them for 30 minutes. After about 15 minutes, heat your cleaned lids in a simmering saucepan. Heat your cleaned jars in another stock pot. Fill your pressure canner with a few inches of water (consult the canner’s instructions) and the canning rack and heat on medium heat.

This is the point at which you will be running all four burners. Don’t worry; it’s not as crazy as it looks.

Step 4: Once the beans have boiled for 30 minutes, turn off the heat. Remove the hot jars from the water bath and place on a towel. Fill the jars with beans, leaving 1″ headspace. If you want, you can now add 1/2 tsp. of salt to each jar. I did not, because I’d rather season while cooking.

Step 5: Once all the jars are filled, ladel hot bean broth into the jars, maintaining the 1″ headspace. Run a non-metallic spatula around the inside of the jar to remove air bubbles. Wipe the rims of the jars and, using a lid lifter, place the lids on the jars. Screw on the bands just until fingertip-tight.

Step 6: Using a jar lifter, place filled, capped jars into the heated pressure canner. (at this point, the only burner on the stove that’s running should be under the canner. See, it didn’t last long.)

Step 7: Close and seal the canner, without the gauge on the valve. Vent the canner (let steam be emitted in a steady stream from the valve for 10 minutes).

Step 8: Once the canner has vented for 10 minutes, replace the gauge and wait for the canner to pressurize. Pressure has been reached when the gauge begins to rock steadily back and forth (consult your canner’s manual for specific gauge motion). Once the steady rocking begins, set the timer for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Adjust the heat under the canner if necessary to maintain pressure.

Step 9: Find something quiet to watch on TV and keep an ear open to the sound of the rocking gauge. If the speed changes, adjust the heat accordingly. If the rocking stops completely, adjust the temperature until it begins again, and start the processing time over again.

Step 10: Once the processing has continued uninterrupted for the allotted time, remove the canner from the heat. Let it de-pressurize naturally (mine has a lid lock that drops once the pressure has equalized). Once it has de-pressurized, remove the gauge and wait 10 minutes.

Step 11: After 10 minutes, remove the lid, tilting it away from you as you lift it (seriously, that steam is hot). Remove the jars using a jar lifter, and place on a towel in an out-of-the-way spot.

The liquid inside the jars will most likely continue to bubble for quite a while after they are removed. Often, the screw bands will be loose on the jars. The bubbling is fine and will eventually stop, and it is important not to re-tighten loose screw bands, as this will ruin the seal. Learn from my mistakes and trepidation, folks.

After cooling for 24 hours, check the seal. If they are properly sealed, label and place in your pantry. If they are not sealed, you can empty contents into a saucepan, reheat to boiling, and reprocess. Or make a batch of nachos with the unsealed jars immediately.

We use black beans for a lot of things; from stuffed peppers, to nachos, to salads. Now I know where my beans came from, how they were processed, and how long they have been shelved. I like this kind of security in my processed foods.

The Wife