It's been forever since I've posted for Kitchen Tip Tuesday, but this week I came up with TWO tips to share! (You'll have to come back next week for the second one.)
Though my garden seems to be calmed down a bit this year versus last year (or maybe I planted different stuff? Dunno...), I have been doing a fair amount of preserving. There are a few things that I've figured out from last year, my first year of canning, to this year.
1) Use rubber dishwashing gloves to protect your hands from scalding steam, blurping jam, hot jars, and anything else that can and will burn you. I figured this out the hard way when I was stirring strawberry preserves and it blurped up on my hand - and of course I had both sinks full of hot water warming my jars - a blast of cold water would have felt so much better!
2) Use plates instead of dishtowels to line your countertop. Last year, I used dish towels, and they ended up soaked from wet hot jars, and they soaked all the other stuff that cluttered my countertop (I get messy when I can, and cook, and bake...). By using plates, I keep the water contained, and they just go in the dishwasher when I'm done, rather than dishtowels that need to be washed and may end up stained. Plus, the good stuff that dripped off my funnel could be scraped into a jar and not lost.
3) I have also experimented some with using a propane cooker outdoors for canning. It gets the heat out of the kitchen, and since the pot is deeper, I stack jars on top of each other. (I'm not sure if that's a legitimate practice, but Laura does it, so I do, too.) I can't take credit for the idea of using the cooker outside, my friend Kim posted about it a while back. [And I can't remember if her blog is private now or not, so my apologies if you are not able to view it.] My canner rack doesn't fit in the pot, so I line it with a clean dish towel or a couple of dish cloths first. It is a bit more dificult to keep an eye on, but keeping that heat and humidity out of the house is quite worth it.
My tips from last year to help keep the heat out of the kitchen were:
* setting a fan in the doorway to blow cool air in (while Goose was in her room for quiet time) OR blowing the warm air out of the kitchen.
* dumping my hot water as soon as I was done with it (I would also recommend taking it outside to cool and then using it on your garden or reusing it the next time you can).
* taking my jars from the water bath into the bathroom to cool - I lined the tub with a towel and set them in there. I also put the pot in there until it cooled down.
Kim's post linked above also describes her experience with reusable canning lids, which I'm quite seriously thinking about giving a try next year. Especially since I always seem to run out of lids! Maybe if I took a count at the beginning of the year and planned ahead, I could avoid that... but I'm not sure I see that happening. :>)
So far, I have canned blueberry syrup, strawberry preserves, peach jam (from the Blue Ball book), some strawberry peach "jam" (it was kind of an accident), salsa (recipe at Kim's post above - make sure to wear gloves while cutting peppers!), and tomato sauce. I prefer to do enormous batches of tomato sauce, so I freeze the tomatoes until I have a lot. For smaller batches, I cook them down in the crock pot overnight with the lid off plus however long it takes to get down to the consistency I want; for larger batches, I cook them down in the biggest pot I have. This year, I have borrowed my dad's food strainer. You dump the sauce (or whatever) in the hopper, and turn the crank. The good stuff comes out one spout, the bad stuff another. I often send the "bad stuff' (seeds, skin, etc.) through one more time to get all the good stuff out that I can. And yes, this year I remembered to add lemon juice to my tomato sauce. I still need to make applesauce (no apples from my dad this year, sniff, so I bought some) and I want to re-do my spicy tomato juice from last year with the food strainer so poor hubs doesn't have to chew it as he drinks it.
What are you preserving? Any tips for me?
Head over to Tammy's Recipes for more Kitchen Tips.