Monday, September 30, 2013

Canning pumpkins

It started with the PSL hoopla at Starbucks.  Next, the seasonal shelves at grocery stores were filled to overflowing with "fun size" candy.  Costco put out an impressive display of Hulk and Princess costumes.  A Some eCard meme popped into my Facebook feed, "If you say 'Pumpkin Spice Latte' in front of a mirror, a yuppie in yoga pants will appear and tell you how much she loves the fall".  Finally, the trees started to turn color, the weather crapped out, and my chickens exploded again.

It's official: fall has arrived and with it, pumpkin season.

Other people come home with unexpected purchases like shoes, candy, hot tubs (my parents got one at the fair on a whim when I was in 6th grade), or pets.  Not me.  Last weekend I succumbed to an impulse buy and picked up three sugar pie pumpkins from Sterino Farms for $1 each.  As I checked out, the teenaged cashier mumbled something about only charging me for two of them.  I recently paid somewhere in the neighborhood of $7 for 3 cans of pumpkins at Costco, so $1/pumpkin is a good deal. 

I've done this before, bringing home pumpkins with good intentions.  I always promise myself I'll can them.  Some years I have, and other years the chickens have been the willing recipients of a deliciously rotted pumpkin sometime in January.

This year I pledged to take care of the pumpkins asap.  I put them in the kitchen, where I proceeded to trip over them for a week.

Last Saturday was one of just four days Gene and I have had off together since July.  Once he and Kaelen were fed for the morning, I got to work.

Canned Pumpkin
Instructions from the National Center for Home Food Preservation

pressure canner
canning jars, lids, rings, lifter
very sharp, heavy duty knife
horizontal vegetable peeler

sugar pie pumpkins

1. Get your pressure canner and jars ready.

2. Prepare the pumpkins: wash, cut in half, seed, and peel.  Prep tips:
  • Cut off the end of the pumpkin to give yourself a flat, stable surface while peeling.
  • I found it was easiest to peel the pumpkins going parallel to the counter.  When I went perpendicular, my knuckles hit the cutting board whenever the peeler slipped.

3. Slice the pumpkin halves like you would a loaf of bread, not in wedges.  Not only will this give you more uniform pieces but it's also safer because you're not angling the knife.

4. Cut the pumpkin slices into 1" pieces.

5. Put pumpkin pieces into a large stockpot and cover with water.  Bring to a boil and cook for 2 minutes.

6. Ladle the pumpkin into the jars, leaving 1" headspace.  Don't mash, puree, or cram the pumpkin into the jars.  Remove air bubbles and process according to the NCHFP tables found here.

My 3 pumpkins gave me 11 quarts (1 didn't seal and became soup) and 1 pint.  After leaving them on the counter for 24 hours, I washed them and put them in my canning shelves.

Based on past experience, each quart yields just over 2 cups of pumpkin mush.  Some siphoning is normal and as long as the seal is strong, the pumpkin will keep just fine.

To use the pumpkin, simply pour it out of the jar into a sieve.  The drained pumpkin cubes will be soft and easy to use the same as you would a can of pumpkin from the grocery store.  Mine will become bread and pumpkin scones (damn that Starbucks for getting rid of them!).

Need ideas for what to do with pumpkin?  Try this site.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

A lot of pumpkin bread

Last night I made my favorite pumpkin bread, using the industrial loaf pan Gene found for me this summer.  The bigger of the set will find its way to my cousin in Massachusetts this winter when I head back east for her wedding.  And yes, they do fit into the oven.

I was nervous that the loaves wouldn't cook evenly, that the outer ones would cook faster and leave me no way to get them out without making a huge mess.  To combat this the best I could, I made sure to turn the pan around at the mid-way point of the cooking time.

It turns out that I had nothing to fear.  The loaves were perfect, even cooking about minutes faster than expected.

Three of the loaves are now nestled in my freezer, waiting to be nutritious and fast breakfasts over the coming months.

I can't wait to use this loaf pan again.

This made me chuckle.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Respect the blade

I don't have any feeling in the pad of my right thumb and there is just one thing to blame.


I've always been careful with knives.  I keep mine sharp, I only use them for cutting food on approved surfaces, they don't go into the dishwasher, and they're stored carefully in a horizontal knife block similar to this one.
I love my under-cabinet knife block!
I was a little more cavalier with my food processor blade, however.  Oh, not this one.  I am always careful with this blade.

This is the little devil that got me.  And it was entirely my fault because this is how I tried to lift it from the bowl.
Do not attempt at home.  This is a dumb ass move.
Never, ever, EVER lift out the slicing blade with one hand.  That is exactly how I slipped and pulled my thumb right into the blade four years ago when I was making sauerkraut.  I knew immediately that it was a bad cut, clean but deep.  We rushed to Urgent Care, where the doctor decided that the best course was to glue the wound closed.

Two days later I awoke to a throbbing thumb: infection.  The doctor removed the glue and started me on antibiotics.  

Four years later I've still got a deep, thick scar in my thumb.  As often as I think about it, I roll a pen between my thumb and fingers to keep the tissue supple.  The nerves have regenerated a little, but not fully.  It feels like I have a very thick callous on my thumb.
See that half moon?  Scar tissue runs straight under it, like a semi-circle.  It sucks.
I didn't make sauerkraut again until last month.

You can bet your butt that I was extraordinarily careful.  I now treat that blade with the same respect as my knives, and handle it gingerly.

I won't be that stupid again.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

What I know about trees

My house came with an apple tree in the backyard.  It was one of the things I liked about the house. 

During my housewarming party my grandma told me that my plum tree was nearly full of ripe fruit.  My plum tree?  I didn't even know I had a plum tree!  It was planted on the side of the house where I never went because the gate was on the other side.

Over time, the house became a home.  In doing so it collected more and more occupants.  In 2003 it was just me and my two cats.  In 2005, Gene joined the ranks.  Then in 2008 we got 4 chickens, and 8 more in 2009.  2010 saw the addition of a dog and 2011 closed with a new addition taking up residence in the former office.  In the fall of 2012 we welcome a German teenager into our home for a few months and our hearts forever.

The yard also changed quite a bit during those same years.  It had been a rental to 3 young men in their early 20s prior to becoming mine.  I sifted out the gravel from the former RV parking space, threw away countless shot-gunned beer cans and cigarette butts found in the garden, put up a new cedar fence, built a chicken coop, replaced it with a larger coop, pulled out an ill-conceived raised bed, installed other raised beds, took out grass, planted grass, tested vegetable gardens in different places around the property, planted 3 more fruit trees (crab apple, dwarf apple, and dwarf pear), and witnessed the complete desecration of my backyard by the voracious, digging chickens.

A couple of summers ago Gene and I put up a new chicken run in what we now know was a vain attempt at corralling the birds and still having an attractive yard.  Keeping the area inside of the run nice was a constant struggle.  I roto-tilled and leveled the ground, then replanted it with grass.  It was a Herculean effort.  Twelve months later there was not a blade of grass to be seen, the ground was riddled with chicken-sized holes, and Rosemary still didn't have enough space to stretch her stubby legs.

In our household hierarchy, Rosemary and Kaelen take priority over the hens, despite the girls' (ever-decreasing) production of lovely eggs for our dining pleasure.  Something had to go so that the baby and dog could enjoy our backyard with a lawn, not a mud pit.

First to go were the old apple and plum trees.  The apple tree didn't produce good apples and the plum tree's location was, well, stupid.  I now suspect that it was planted by a critter rather than a person.

In deciding to get rid of the trees - a difficult decision - I realized that I have a significant deficiency of knowledge when it comes to trees: I simply don't know how to prune them to maintain their health and productivity. 

The city had free pruning classes.  I signed up and learned... nothing.  What a waste of time.

The grass is now beautiful and lush, thanks to a couple of years of chicken poop.  We neither water nor fertilize the grass anywhere on our lot.

Am I happier?  Yes, oh yes, oh yes.

This fall I want to put in more grass in the front yard.  I just can't handle the neglected, overgrown flower beds any longer.  Since we hope to move in a couple of years, it's time to start projects like this so that we're not overwhelmed by them when it comes time to put the house on the market.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Efficiency tips

I just found this post, written in August 2012.  I never posted it.  Oops.  Life has a tendency to get away from us, doesn't it?

As of two nights ago, it suddenly feels like fall in Tacoma.  The nights aren't just cool, they're downright chilly.  My birthday is next week.  Marius gets here from Germany on Friday.  September begins.  Labor Day, our third anniversary, first day of public school, first day of classes at the university where I work, October 1, Halloween. Veteran's Day. Thanksgiving!  Kaelen's first birthday!  Christmas, New Year's... 2013!

Oh crap, does time ever go fast these days.

This weekend I've felt very much like the ant in Aesop's fable.  I've been busily toiling away, putting up local foods for the winter.

The freezer was already packed full to overflowing with blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, chicken, corn, and baby food.  This weekend I squirrelled away 50 pounds of tomatoes (24 quarts) and 15 pounds of green beans.  Sadly, three of the green bean jars didn't seal so they got whirred up in the food processor and turned into frozen baby food.

When I worked with MBA students, I realized that I'm what they'd call an "operations" person.  I really dig efficiency, and love finding the best, fastest way to do things.  This is great when canning large quantities because it means I've found or made up some shortcuts to make things go as quickly and easily as possible.  Here are some of those shortcuts, reserved solely for you, my dear readers.

1. Plan your work flow before you start, and set up your work space accordingly.
Though I'm right-handed, I work best right to left, and my kitchen is set up that way.  As I move through the steps of canning, I rearrange my counters so that I'm always starting items on the right and moving them through to the left.

Because I set up my kitchen to maximize my efficiency during canning, I am able to boil 5 tomatoes for 2 minutes while I peel and core the previous batch.

2. Minimum work, maximum outcome
Everyone who cans tomatoes will tell you to score an X on the bottom, to allow the skin to split when you blanch them.  I used to score through the blossom nub  - I think of it as the belly button - until recently.  Now I score the X so that the nub is only in a single section.  Why?  Because those little scars on a tomato skin effectively tack the skin to the flesh, making the skin's removal more difficult.  If the "belly button" is reserved to one section, you are less likely to have to use a knife to cut under it from each section.

3. Tools matter.
I can tomatoes with a dishwashing glove on my left hand.  It lets me:
a) deal with hot tomatoes and boiling water without getting scalded
b) gently squeeze the tomato as I drop it into the cold water, most of the time resulting in the skin coming off entirely
c) squish hot-pack tomatoes down into the jar and get a denser pack

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

We all screamed for ice cream

The end of summer brings with it my birthday.  I love having parties for my birthday, and have thrown gigantic Mexican food buffets and various BBQs.  This year, due to Gene's work schedule and Kaelen's 6:30 p.m. bedtime, I decided to do a late afternoon ice cream party on Sunday of Labor Day weekend.  Around 25 people came for the icy treats.

Two weeks ahead of the party I started making ice cream in my little Cuisinart.  It's nothing special but it gets the job done.

Sadly, I don't have any photographic evidence of my ice cream madness.  But I do have a list of the recipes I used.  All in all we had eight different kinds, including two non-dairy. 

Mango (this was a surprising hit)
Corn (awesome with the caramel sauce, even better using leftover corn-on-the-cob)
Chocolate Peanut Butter (I've made this several times now, and it's Gene's favorite)
Raspberry (loosely based on this recipe)
Lemon Cheesecake (Add zest of 1 lemon and let it sit overnight before freezing.)
Cherry Garcia
Coconut Milk (I made half vanilla and half chocolate)

Hot fudge
Chocolate sauce (no dairy... we used the leftovers to make mochas, so I didn't mind making 2 different sauces)
Salted caramel (given to me by a friend but I like the one from the corn ice cream recipe better)
Toasted almond slivers

Everyone had a different favorite, and there was just a little of each one left.  Overall I probably made 2 gallons of ice cream.  Most people had bowls rather than cones.  Now I have a ton of cones and no ice cream left.

Was I nuts?  Probably.  Did our friends and family exclaim many times over how much they enjoyed it?  Yup.  Would I do it again?  Maybe.  It was an interesting experiment and I had fun trying out all the types.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Roasted tomatillo salsa

Several years ago I made tomatillo salsa from the abundance of tomatillos my garden had produced.  The salsa was delicious: green, tart, tangy, salty, spicy.  I was nearing the end of my jar inventory and actually preserved some of it in quart jars. 

We went to a party that fall and I took a quart and some chips, figuring I'd make enchiladas with the leftovers.

Leftovers?  What leftovers?  That small BBQ of perhaps a dozen people hovered up every last bit of my salsa.  I swear that someone licked the jar

I haven't had a chance to make tomatillo salsa for several years.  Last September we had an infant who was very close to crawling and a German teenager at home.  The one before that I was pregnant, when handling a heavy canning kettle was overly masochistic.

But this September, Kaelen has a semi-reliable nap schedule and I have cheap sources of local produce.

Why roast the ingredients?

First, there's the Maillard reaction, basically a chemical change that occurs in the food and creates additional flavor.

Second, it's easier.  Sure, you're seeding the peppers and cutting open the tomatillos and onions, but that's about it.  You're going to let the oven and an immersion blender (or regular blender or food processor) do the heavy lifting for you.

As an aside, wear gloves or don't touch mucous membranes after handling peppers.  I washed my hands carefully then scratched my nose.  As I write this, my right nostril is burning

Let's do this!
Tomatillos are weirdly sticky after you remove the husk, even after being washed.

Roasted Tomatillo Salsa
adapted from NCHFP

12 cups (about 4.5 pounds) tomatillos, husks removed, cleaned, and cut in half
7 long green chili peppers, seeded and cut in half the long way
4 jalapenos, seeded and cut in half the long way
8 cups onions, cut in quarters
1 head garlic (I used 3 heads of turban garlic)
2 cups lemon or lime juice
2 tablespoons cumin
6 tablespoons oregano
2 tablespoons salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
1 bunch cilantro

Roast the tomatillos, peppers, and onion in the over at 425 for 15 minutes or until some of the things are starting to brown.  Place with the rest of the ingredients in a large stock pot.  Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes.

Blend the salsa until smooth. 

Process per the instructions for your altitude using this guide.

My weekend's work:
1 gallon of slivovitz
13 pints of strawberry BBQ sauce
9 pints of tomatillo salsa

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Build a better fruit fly trap

Three years ago I posted about fruit fly traps.  Not wanting to use a canning jar or drinking glass for mass murder, I've taken to using whatever glass container destined for the recycling bin happens to be at hand.

But lately we've been overrun - overflown? - with the little buggers.  We have no fruit sitting out, no appealing garbage, no houseplants, a clear garbage disposal. 

I think I finally figured out their breeding ground: the grape arbor next door is heavy with purple fruit right now.  When I let out the chickens this morning, I was besieged by fruit flies.  Ugh. 

They are truly everywhere.  Kamikaze dive-bombing into my wine, annoying Gene to the point that he keeps a fan on him when he's working at his computer, getting their sexy on in pairs on the walls of the kitchen.

We were desperate to get rid of them.  The weather is getting cooler but we still have a lot of these annoyances in the house.

I decided to try an experiment.  I made up a large batch of the fruit fly attractant - apple cider vinegar, water, and dish soap - and poured it into 3 different containers.  I put the containers in the windowsill and left them for 2 days.  The fruit flies were already starting to drown by the time I had put the containers down.

From left, the containers are:
  1. Mike's Hard Lemonade bottle
  2. Safeway preserves jar (To keep my canning cred,I must point out that I did not buy this!)
  3. Wide-mouth pint jar with holes poked in the lid
Two days later I estimate that the traps killed well over 200 flies.  The number of fruit flies in our kitchen has decreased dramatically.

With the lowest kill rate was the Safeway preserves jar.  I counted about 30 fruit flies in the jar after 2 days.  I'd had this jar out on the sill all summer, which probably explains why we have such a problem with fruit flies this year: the trap wasn't working well!

With a moderate success was the long-neck bottle.  I didn't count the flies but there were about 50-70 in there by day 2.  I suspect that the flies would enter the bottle and have a hard time getting out again.

The wide-mouth jar had the best results by far.  I watched countless flies enter the holes in the lid, touch the liquid's surface, and immediately sink.  I estimate there are well over 100 dead fruit flies.

It's always shocking how many fruit flies one of these traps will catch. 

My lesson here is that as much as the attractant in your fruit fly trap matters, so does the shape of the container.  If your trap isn't working like you think it should, try a different container.

Whole wheat banana bread

A week or so ago a girlfriend of mine posted on Facebook that she was going to attempt her first solo canning, peach chutney.  Being a huge enabler, I called her and offered my tools, company, and assistance.

Right before I left to head over to her house, she texted me: "I have this sinking feeling that my peaches aren't ripe yet."  She was right: her peaches were still rock hard.

We did what any reasonable home food preserver does: we went in search of ripe peaches!

We found the peaches at Sterino Farms in the Puyallup Valley.  As we were paying for our respective items (I picked up a few things, too, but nothing for canning), the cashier offered us some bananas.

Never one to refuse free produce, I immediately agreed, visions of banana bread dancing in my head.  We don't buy bananas in the summer anyway, because the local fruit options are so spectacular from June well into September.

A week later, the bananas were still languishing in my fridge.  Darn.  At least they were super soft and squishy!  I found a reliable recipe at and swapped out half of the AP white flour for whole wheat.  Since this bread will be breakfasts for some time, it needs to have more fiber and sticking power than regular AP white flour can provide.  I also added a handful of chocolate chips because, well, hello, it's chocolate.

Whole Wheat Banana Bread
Recipe doubled from original at  Makes 2 loaves.

  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 4 large eggs
  • 5-6 ripe bananas
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup chocolate chips (optional)
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Butter or spray 2 9 x 5 x 3 inch loaf pan.

Cream the sugar and butter in a large mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

In a small bowl, mash the bananas with a fork. Mix in the milk and cinnamon. In another bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

Add the banana mixture to the creamed mixture and stir until combined. Add dry ingredients, mixing just until flour disappears.  Make sure your mixer is on its lowest setting.  I sorta forgot (and keep my mixer on a tray for a reason).
Oops.  Forgot to turn the mixer to low.  There's a reason it's on a tray.
Pour batter into prepared pan and bake 1 hour to 1 hour 10 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Set aside to cool on a rack for 15 minutes. Remove bread from pan, invert onto rack and cool completely before slicing.
I put a sort of trough in the batter to help the bread rise into a more uniformly square shape during baking.
I like my banana bread with cream cheese and a cup of tea.  What about you?

Thursday, September 12, 2013


I live in the Pacific Northwest, home of the all mighty salmon.  We don't eat it as often as I'd like because it's still more expensive than other proteins.

We usually grill it very simply.  When I was a kid my mom used to wrap it in aluminum foil with a few slices of onion and lemon, salt, and pepper, then bake until flaky.  That's pretty hard to screw up.

Costco had whole Coho salmon for $6.99/lb.  The only problem was that I had to scale and filet it myself.  I've never fileted a fish.  Google to the rescue!  Here's a good guide.

Not bad for my first attempt.
One filet was destined for our 4th anniversary dinner.  Oh, how our lives have changed in those four years!  Gene barbequed it with some raspberry chipotle sauce I'd made about a week ago.

I've wanted to try making gravlax for a while.  About two years ago I participated in Charcapalooza... until I got pregnant.  The thought of preserving meat was a little too much for me at the time and I dropped out of the effort.  But recently I've been hearing the call of home-curing meats.  A blurb on NPR cinched it and I went in search of salmon.

Gravlax (cold-cured salmon)
6-8 ounces salmon filet
30 grams salt
15 grams sugar
Dill (I used dried)

Mix salt and sugar.

Pour about 1/3 of the salt/sugar mixture into the bottom of a container.  Place the salmon on top.  Pour another 1/3 of the mixture, sprinkle enough dill to cover, then add the rest of the mixture. 

Wrap and leave the salmon on the counter for an hour then refrigerate.  Flip the salmon ever 12 hours (up to 72 hours).

When the salmon is cured to your liking, rinse, pat dry, and slice very thinly on the bias.  It will get quite firm due to the salt drawing out quite a bit of liquid.  Here's my gravlax after 24 hours.  Notice all the liquid.

Serve on toasted baguette slices or crackers with your choice of toppings.

UPDATE & A CONFESSION: My husband, not knowing that this little Pyrex container held a fishy treasure, grilled it up for dinner last night.  I wrapped it up and froze it to make into a quiche or put on pizza when I'm feeling a little less disheartened about it.

So I have no idea what my gravlax actually tastes like.  Lesson learned: label stuff.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

$25 for free shipping

Ever wonder if the pickers scratch their heads about the weird combinations some orders contain?

A mortar and pestle.
A dog leash.
The new Adele CD.

Can you guess which items took me to in the first place, and which two items were the add-ons to hit the $25 free shipping threshold?

The Adele CD was my first item.  Then I figured I'd wanted a mortar & pestle for a long time, so why not get one?  Oh, and then I remember that I'd slammed the dog leash in the car door, breaking the latch that affixes to her collar. 

Of course, had I gone to the music store the CD was about $14.  Sure, it was "cheaper" online... if you ignore the extemporaneous items!  But what fun is that?

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Feeling boozy

My boss has a plum tree and, huge grin plastered across his face, gifted me with bag of its fruit.  After days of canning, his wife had all but banished them from her sight.

What the heck was I going to do with these?  My considerations:
  • I did not feel like peeling and pitting a metric butt ton of teeny tiny plums.
  • I doubted that the food mill could handle the pits.
  • I'm completely out of half-pint jars for jam or chutney, and don't want to buy more.
  • I doubt that we would eat plum jam.
  • The last time I canned plum sauce, we had more than we could ever eat and wound up throwing it away.
  • Free fruit is a perfect candidate for bartering.  BUT canned fruits and jams tend not to do well at our barters.  The most successful barter items are unique.
  • It would be nice to start putting things aside for Christmas gifts, especially since I only have 2 more paychecks until The Big Day.
My thoughts turned to preserving the plums with booze.  Or, rather, infusing alcohol with their lovely tart flavor.  I mentioned my idea to my boss, who replied, "oh yeah, slivovitz".

Slivowhowhatnow?  Slivovitz?  What the heck is that?  Turns out it's plum liquor, common in Central and Eastern Europe.  Sometimes it's made by fermenting plums and then distilling the juice.  Short of having a still, however, it seems more common that people simply infuse vodka with plums.

Pretty much all of the recipes went along the lines of "put plums and sugar into alcohol".  I used my antique half-gallon jar that probably belonged to my great-grandmother (or even her mother), and 2 quart jars.
"Atlas Mason's Patent Nov 30 1858"  I gave my grandma the Danish horse after I went there in 2006.  Her grandparents were Danes and it was something of which she was always very proud.


Into a half-gallon jar, place:
2 pounds plums, pierced with a knife 3-4 times
2 cups sugar
1 cinnamon stick
2 slivers of lemon peel (I didn't have any, so omitted this)
2 cups vodka
1/2 cup brandy

Shake to remove air bubbles.  Shake the jars every 2-3 weeks, or as you remember (do this near a sink where you can rinse off the jar - it will leak and be sticky).  The sugar will dissolve in about 2 weeks.  Store in a cool dark place for 3 months.  Filter out the solids after 2-3 months and enjoy straight from the freezer.

I'm going to pretend that slivovitz and tequila have a common ingredient.
My slivovitz is on the top shelf of my canning cupboard.  Our winter barter is scheduled for December 7, 3 months from now.  Perfect timing!
I have curtains on my canning cupboards.  Gotta protect the delicate complexions of all my goods!

Look at the color change from Friday... Sunday.

Wonder what it will look like in another 3 months?

p.s. Thanks for the mention, Marisa.  :)  You never know who's reading your posts.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Lazy canning makes more work

In August I went on a canning frenzy and pressure canned the black beans I'd been meaning to do for a while.

There was only one problem: five of my nine jars didn't seal.  Or maybe that counts as five problems?

This precisely sums up how I felt about it:

A quick google search - sans cussing - revealed that I've been getting sloppy with my canning.  My headspaces have been uneven and I haven't been removing air bubbles as carefully as I should be.

Lesson learned. 

I may purchase one of these canning funnels with the headspace measurements.  Or I could pony up a buck at the dollar store for a dedicated kitchen ruler.

Neither a new funnel nor a ruler was going to solve my problem of five cans of unsealed beans.  It wasn't an option to reprocess the beans unless I wanted five jars of flavorless mush.

I turned to my favorite black bean burger recipe.  Gene loves these, I love them, and they very economical.  I made three jars' worth of the burgers, and froze the rest for refried beans.

Three jars of beans makes about 12 burgers.  These burgers freeze great and even hold together better if you start them from frozen instead of thawing them first.  I make the entire thing in the food processor, working in batches, then mix by hand to ensure even distribution of ingredients.  I portion them out into half-cup patties and freeze them on a cookie sheet.  We've found that a bun squishes the burger and makes them very messy to eat.  Our favorite way to eat them is nestled in a grilled tortilla with sriracha mayo, a slice of tomato, and any regular burger toppings you'd like. 

Homemade Black Bean Veggie Burgers (from
Makes 4 patties
1 (16 ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 green bell pepper, cut into 2 inch pieces
1/2 onion, cut into wedges
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 egg
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon cumin
1 teaspoon Thai chili sauce or hot sauce
1/2 cup bread crumbs

  1. If grilling, preheat an outdoor grill for high heat, and lightly oil a sheet of aluminum foil. If baking, preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C), and lightly oil a baking sheet.
  2. In a medium bowl, mash black beans with a fork until thick and pasty.
  3. In a food processor, finely chop bell pepper, onion, and garlic. Then stir into mashed beans.
  4. In a small bowl, stir together egg, chili powder, cumin, and chili sauce.
  5. Stir the egg mixture into the mashed beans. Mix in bread crumbs until the mixture is sticky and holds together. Divide mixture into four patties.
  6. If grilling, place patties on foil, and grill about 8 minutes on each side. If baking, place patties on baking sheet, and bake about 10 minutes on each side.
What would you do with five jars of black beans?

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Cle Elum, WA

Kaelen and I drove to Cle Elum, WA the other day to spend birthdays with friends.  It was a glorious day, both in terms of weather and time with wonderful people.  Check out the view, looking west from the hills above Cle Elum.

 video 0824131238_zpscade4314.mp4

Direct link to the video:

For those who don't know where this is, it's right off I-90 in the middle of the state, and only about 20 minutes from where I got my undergrad.

View Larger Map

Lots of memories driving out there.  It's beautiful country.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Discolored pressure canner

Is the inside of your pressure canner getting discolored?

Add 1/2 tsp of cream of tartar the next time you do some canning.

You're welcome.