My Favorite “Hamburger Helper”

We had lots of company over the Labor Day weekend, which meant preparing lots of meals!  I enjoy cooking so that was not a problem, but never know how much  to prepare, with people popping in and out and never wanting to end up short on food.  I would much rather have more food than I need on hand than to run short. 

One of our planned lunches was burgers on the grill and we loaded up on fresh ground beef, conveniently on sale at the local supermarket.  I commented to my husband that my pantry supply of canned ground beef was running low and how I half wished I had time to process some at such a great price.  (Canned burger in the pantry?  You betcha!)  After the weekend I was left with about 8 pounds of extra meat which I processed on Tuesday.  It is so easy to produce this great convenience food if you own a pressure canner. 

 

Frying up the beef.  I love my black iron pans!

Frying up the beef. I love my black iron pans!

It isn’t a good idea to can raw ground beef because the product is too dense to heat properly, and you would end up with a sort of meatloaf-y lump. Fry it up till the pink just disappears; it will continue to cook during the canning process.

Loading the hot jars with yummy burger.

Loading the hot jars with yummy burger.

Strain the burger from the grease and spoon into hot jars to @ one inch from the top. I like to add 1/2 tsp of canning salt to each jar for taste. It isn’t necessary to add salt if you are on a sodium diet. The jars of burger will still process just fine.

Cooking up the "juice."

Cooking up the “juice.”

Drain the fat from the cooking pan,add water to the pan drippings, and bring this “juice” to a boil. Ladle this flavorful mixture into the jars of meat to @ 1 inch from the top of the jar. Release air bubbles, wipe the lip of the jars with a clean, wet paper towel to remove any grease, and seal with a new, simmered jar lid. Add hand-tightened rings to hold the lid in place and process in your canner. Process pints for 75 minutes at 10 pounds of pressure and quarts for 90 minutes. Remove from heat and allow the canner’s pressure to drop naturally before opening. This usually takes about 45 minutes.

Shelf stable burger ready for the pantry.

Shelf stable burger ready for the pantry.

Carefully remove the hot jars of meat from the canner and place on a folded towel away from drafts. In a short time you should hear the “pings” of sealing lids. Allow the jars to sit undisturbed overnight, remove the rings, wash in hot, soapy water, and label. Your jars of burger are now shelf-stable and are safe to use as long as the lid remains sealed.

To use, open and dump into a pan and heat to a boil for 15 minutes and use as a meat base for goulash, Spanish rice, chili, soups, or gravy. Canning burger allows you to take advantage of left-over meat, or cash in on grocery store sales without worrying about freezer space or power outages. It is an old-fashioned convenience food for fast and easy meal preparation!

A Saucy Treat!

God has blessed us once again, this time with an unexpected bonus of delicious apples from our backyard apple trees. We missed the ideal window of opportunity to treat the blossoms for insects this spring, but Michigan’s cold, wet spring seems to have played in our favor. The trees are loaded with fruit, and most of it is free of insects! What a surprise!

I try to limit my sugar intake in an attempt to ward off the potential of developing Type II Diabetes and have lost the taste for the heavily sugared products from the grocery store. Even the “sugar free” applesauce sold in stores tastes overly-sweet to me now.

I like to make and can my own applesauce but over the past several years our own apples have been too buggy for use and orchard apples have been very expensive. I haven’t made applesauce for a very long time and have rationed the few remaining jars in my pantry. What a wonderful surprise to discover bug-free apples on my own trees!

Although many recipes call for added sugar, you do not need to include it to make applesauce. I prefer to can it without additional spices and add them to taste when serving. I was introduced to this method years ago when living in Indiana by an elderly lady with numerous apple trees adorning her own back yard. A full, heaping bushel off apples will yield @ 22 quart jars of sauce. My little half bushel basket, filled as pictured, will yield one canner full, or 7 quart jars.

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Preparation is simple. Wash the fruit, cut into chunks and cook till soft. I trim out bruised spots and anything that looks suspiciously like a worm as well!

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Put a few inches of water in your pans with the apples and cook till the fruit is soft. Stir frequently so they don’t burn! Warning! The fragrance will be wonderful!

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The apples go into the pot with skin, core, stem, and seeds, so preparation is a breeze. My secret weapon in making great applesauce is a Victorio Strainer. They cost @ $60 but are worth every penny; it is a simple task to make applesauce using this great tool!

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This little machine assembles easily and clamps onto the counter or table. The hot, cooked apple mush is ladled into the bowl at the top, and you crank the handle on the side. The strained sauce comes down the chute and all of the other debris is deposited out of the side.

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Ladle the hot applesauce into sanitized hot canning jars, wipe the rim and top with a simmered lid. Process in a PRESSURE CANNER for 15 minutes at 5 pounds of pressure. When the pressure drops, move the jars to a folded towel to seal away from drafts; allow the jars sit undisturbed overnight.

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As the jars cool, you will hear a “ping” when they seal. The music of self reliance!

In the morning wash the jars in warm, soapy water, remove the rings, label and store in your cupboard. As long as the lids remain sealed, the product is shelf stable and will keep for years. Light exposure will cause the sauce to darken, so keep in a dark place; even store bought sauce will turn dark when exposed to light.

Home food preservation is becoming a lost art. I encourage you to make the investment in a pressure canner and begin the adventure of preserving your own harvest.

Summer Goodness “In the Can!”

This was supposed to be a food-production summer! Our intention was to intensely garden and preserve most of the harvest in glass canning jars to enjoy all winter long. Unfortunately, our heavy clay soil, colder than normal temperatures, and the heavy, frequent rains are a poor combination for growing much of anything. Our corn is only waist high and has tasseled out without any ears to pollinate and the green beans drowned out twice.

Fortunately we have a few raised beds with decent drainage and they are producing fairly well. I have a “Ratatouille Garden.” Meaning, most of what I planted in the raised beds will grow into the ingredients of one of my favorite foods, the humble eggplant stew made famous by the Disney movie about a cooking rat!

I don’t make mine in the stylized, stacked strata of the animated film. My version of Ratatouille is scooped, steaming out of the pot, and served with a chunk of crusty, homemade bread on the side.

Everyone who makes this has their own version of the dish, probably because we tend to “make it up as we go along” depending on whatever is ripening in the garden. I make a base of garlic, chopped onions and chopped green or red (or both if I have them) peppers, sautéed until tender in olive oil. Next I add peeled, chopped eggplant and cook that for a bit with the base. I add several cans of Italian Seasoned chopped tomatoes (if I don’t use my own spices and home canned tomatoes or have enough fresh from the garden). Then I throw in chopped zucchini and yellow summer squash. Add Italian seasonings to taste. I don’t measure, and just “eyeball” the quantities, depending on what I have on hand.

I bring it to a boil for @15 minutes to blend the flavors and then ladle into hot canning jars and process in my pressure canner. The veggies are still a little under-done at this stage but will finish cooking in the canner. I set the regulator at 10 pounds of pressure and let it rock for 50 minutes because I preserve this summer goodness in quart jars. Follow the directions for normal pressure canning of low-acid foods. Boil contents 20 minutes before serving.

This is an extremely yummy, low calorie, low weight-watcher point meal before you add the bread! I love Ratatouille and think I could live on this stuff. Thanks to pressure canning, I have captured summer goodness in the can to enjoy all year long!

Bon Appetite!