affiliate disclosuremedical disclosure

Organic & Natural Mattresses

Home Canning: How to Preserve Your Own FoodGrowing up, I recall eating home canned foods — real food that my grandmother grew and that my mother helped harvest. Food that came from the ground I played in, the fields I ran in, and the land that I may have found a few unfortunate-for-them pets in.

When I became an adult, with my own children and my own garden, I decided that I wanted to learn to preserve my own foods as well. Some foods simply taste better canned and it requires a whole lot less energy than freezing, not to mention there is not risk of becoming freezer burnt.

While I don’t preserve as much as I once did, I do hope to again soon-ish… when our home renovations are over. When learning to can, the women in my family were a wealth of information. I hope that some of what I share here will be of help to you, too.

Types of Canning

Pressure Canning

This is the type of canning that often intimidates people. Pressure canning is easy (I promise) but it does take a bit of time. Pressure canning is great for a wide variety of foods.

Hot Water Bath Canning

This type of canning is typically used in canning jams and jellies. It’s very easy to do and a special canner is not required.

Please note that many older people (and those who learned from them) are accustomed to using a hot water bath tomatoes, but it is now known that pressure canning is ideal for tomatoes due to the lower acidity of many modern day tomatoes. If you want to water bath safely, you will need to raise the acidity by adding lemon juice or citric acid.

You can find more information about that at the National Center for Home Food Preservation.

What You’ll Need

If you plan to pressure cook you will need a pressure canner. I use a Presto and my grandmother loves her Mirro.
If you plan to water bath process your canned goods, you will need a large stockpot with lid – you’ll need a pot at least 2.5-3 inches taller than the jars that you plan to use inside of it.

You’ll also need:

Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving— If you want to preserve it, the Ball Blue Book can tell you how. It looks a bit like a thick magazine and costs around $10-15. It is worth every penny. Please note that this book comes in several editions with various covers. It does not matter which copy you get. They all cover the same basic information that you need.

Jars — Jars come in a variety of styles from half pint to half gallon, wide mouth and regular.

Be sure to only use jars that are specifically meant for canning. If you plan to reuse jars, be sure to inspect them for cracks, nicks and scratches — these can be hazardous if used for canning.

Lids — You will need a new lid every time you prepare a jar. Canning lids cannot be used again to seal food but they are great for other things so I do recommend keeping some around when you are done (assuming they are in good condition).

Rims — You will also need a rim for every jar. Rims can be reused, provided they are free from grime and rust, and are not misshapen.

Jar Lifter — These will be used to lift jars into and from the hot water

Tongs and/or Magnetic Lid Lifter — These will be used to pull lids from their hot water bath

Bubble Popper/Measurer — This simple device is usually plastic – never metal – and can also be the end of a wooden spoon 😉 It helps measure headspace and remove air bubbles from your jar.

Funnel — A wide mouth jar funnel will help you get your food where you want it to go.

You can generally pick up most, or all, of these canning supplies in a kit for $10-25 depending on the brand and what is included in the kit.

Washing & Sterilizing

Before anything else is done, you will want to wash all of your components. I like to use the dishwasher for my jars and rings. Lids can be washed and placed in a small pot of simmering (not boiling) water.

Canner Preparation

Depending on the method you are using (pressure or bath) you will want to get water boiling in preparation. Use the fill line on your canner. If you are using a pot – fill it about half way.

If you are using a pressure canner you will also want to check that your seals look good and that you can see through the pressure release hole in the top of your lid. If you cannot see light through the pressure hole in your lid, you will need to clean it before proceeding.

Food Preparation & Packing

Depending on the food to be canned, you will need to prep it. Chop, blanch, etc. and then fill your jars. Some items will need boiling water added. I find having a hot kettle ready to be very helpful. Be sure to check your Ball Blue Book for directions on the food you plan to preserve.

Fill your jars, leaving head space at the top of the ar (this will be in the directions for the food you are canning). Next you will removed any air bubbles from the jar by poking around with your bubble popper/measurer – anything non metallic will work. Use a damp, clean, non-linting cloth to wipe the rim and threads of the jar clean and place a clean lid on the jar and secure with a metal ring finger tight – do not over tighten.

Place the jars into your prepared hot water and process as directed in your Ball Blue Book. For a pressure canner, you will use a weight. Processing time begins when the canner is at the proper pressure (your weight will begin to rock vigorously).

Cooling & Storing

Once your jars have finished processing you will want to remove the pot or canner from the heat. Allow your canner to cool, and the weight to fully stop rocking and releasing pressure, before removing the lid. For a pressure canner, you will be able to test by gently touching the weight. It will let you know if there is still pressure inside! Never attempt to remove the lid before the pressure has been fully released.

Once you can open your canner, use your jar lifter to remove the jars from the hot water and place them on a towel on the counter. Your lids should be sealed and in a “down” position at the center of the lid. If they are not, don’t worry. You may hear them “POP” closed over the next hour or two as they cool. If any jars do not seal, you may reprocess with the next batch, or refrigerate and enjoy.

Give your sealed jars a wipe down and, once they are cool they are ready for the pantry!

Most guidelines say that food is good for approximately one year after canning. Most grandmothers will tell you that they are just fine for much, much longer — provided that the jar is still properly sealed. But you didn’t hear that from me!

Home Canning: How to Preserve Your Own Food

Save

Save

Save

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

affiliate disclosuremedical disclosure

Organic & Natural Mattresses

Money-Saving Products That Pay for Themselves { Over & Over Again! } Going green does not have to be pricey. In fact, it should help you save money overall. Here are a few items to help you get started with a healthier home and more wiggle room in your monthly budget.

LED Light Bulbs

The average house has 45 light sockets, ranging from fixtures to lamps. Replacing just 4 standard bulbs with LEDs could save you over $100 per year. While these are a bit of an investment up front, they do pay off big and most come with warranties to ensure that you will get the most life out of them. As a bonus, they don’t contain some of the toxins found in their curly counterparts. Additionally, you can even buy affordable kits to convert recessed lighting for around $10-15 per light (which is a great long-term savings considering the price of those bulbs!) If you’re doing new construction (like we are, currently), you can find flush mount options that can be installed into a small junction box.

Programmable Thermostat

Want more bang, go for a wifi model that you can control from your smartphone. While it may seem like it’s just extra fun, the app capabilities make it easy to adjust the temperature of your home if you forgot to change it before leaving, have to stay out longer than expected, or perhaps are returning home sooner and want to be sure that the house is at a comfortable temperature when you do.

According to Energy.gov, you can lower your heating bill substantially by setting your thermostat to 68°F during wakeful hours, and setting it back a few degrees while you’re asleep – or while you’re away at work. In the summer months, you can follow similar rules by setting the A/C to 78°F during the hours that you are home, and higher when you are away for any measurable time. You prefer different setting, but even a degree can make a noticeable difference in your bill.

Low Flow Shower Head

Reducing water flow is a great way to save water and save money. A quality low-flow shower head can help reduce water usage by as much as 40%. Look to quality brands with good reviews to find a model that will give you the low-flow you want without sacrificing water pressure!

Glass Food Storage

Not only are plastic baggies costly, but they are also incredibly wasteful and can leech toxins into the foods they hold. Investing in inexpensive glass storage (like Pyrex or Anchor) can save you a bundle in the long term — for your budget and your health. An assortment of containers from tiny to huge will cover all of your bases and you’ll wonder why you didn’t do this sooner!

Cloth Napkins, Rags, & “Un”Paper Towels

Paper towels are so freaking expensive, and why? They don’t even work all that well. They generally provide little to no ‘nap’ and without some generous hand cupping they tend to just push debris around. A stack of cheap washcloths from a big box store can run you about $5 and last for years – as a bonus – the cheaper, the better! Cheap washcloths that become pilly make for a better surface area for cleaning, so go cheap and score big for this tip.

Vinegar

Okay, so maybe this item isn’t like the others, but a single bottle of “natural” cleaner can cost as much as $5 — buy a gallon of vinegar and you can whip up cleaning supplies for months! If you’re not use to cleaning with vinegar the fragrance can be a bit overwhelming at first. Adding some citrus essential oil can help (pine and cinnamon are nice as well). Soon after cleaning the smell will disappear and you’ll be left with clean surfaces — not residues. Vinegar is also great to use as fabric softener, the rinse aid in dishwashers, drain cleaner, and more.

Reusable Hygiene Products

There are expensive organic and natural hygiene products aplenty, but you don’t have to choose the most spendy products on the market to have quality products that are safe. There are so many options but a few that come to my mind are using refillable products (like hand soaps, laundry detergent, dish soap, etc.) and reusable menstrual products (like menstrual cups and cloth pads). These options can help you live with less toxins and save a whole lot of money.

Money-Saving Products That Pay for Themselves { Over & Over Again! }

Photography by Keyte Terry

Save

Save

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

affiliate disclosuremedical disclosure

Organic & Natural Mattresses

Spring is here-ish and I am excited to get back on the composting bandwagon. Ever since we moved it’s been a struggle with so much going on (have you seen our home renovation in progress?). To help get me back into the swing of things I’m sharing the basics along with some tips to get started.

Why Bother Composting?

Composting is a wonderfully simple way to reduce household waste while adding valuable nutrients to your lawn, gardens, or even potted plants. Compost can come from a variety of sources and is often a mixture of organic materials from your lawn, garden, and your kitchen.

Best of all, it’s basically free. Sure you can splurge for a nice commercially available composter, but that’s not a requirement. Some people (with space to spare) choose to simply use a pile, and that works too.

Prep Work

First you’ll need to decide what method will work best for you. If you have the space for a pile, get to piling! However, if you’re like most of us you don’t have the space or desire for an open compost pile. You’ll need to purchase a composter.

Composters come in a few forms but most take up approximately 2-2.5 square feet. We had two Soilsaver bins at our last home and recently purchased one for our new home. They have a small footprint, are easy to put together, and sturdy. One compost bin is more than our family of 5 can fill in a year (and that includes adding a good bit of yard waste).

If Space is an Issue

Or if you simply want faster results, consider investing in an indoor composter. In general, composting appliances heat food scraps, mixes, and oxygenates them to help break down food quickly before odors have a chance to develop. Depending on the model, you can expect up to 1.5 gallons or ready-to-use compost every two weeks.

A less expensive indoor option is worm composting. It requires less time than outdoor bins, but there are a few extra rules as to what can be composted. You can learn more about his option from this great article on vermicomposting.

Getting Started

Thankfully, composting is pretty straightforward but these tips should cover the basics. Use your discretion and do as much, or as little, as you are comfortable with.

Have a Handy Quick-Reference List

This printable list is a great guide for what to put in your composter and what to avoid when you are just starting.

Avoid Meat & Dairy

It’s often a good idea to avoid meats and limit dairy, as they develop a strong odor and can attract pests. If you happen to have an electric indoor composter you can be much more flexible (see above).

Add Yard Waste

Adding yard waste is a great way to add both green and brown (dry) items to your compost. Be sure to keep your compost’s purpose in mind. If you plan to use your compost in a garden you’ll want to shy away from adding weeds – especially those that may have gone to seed.

Turn Your Compost

If you are using a traditional composter you will want to “turn” your compost from time to time. This can be optional, but your compost will decompose much faster. During warm months, we like to turn our compost about once a month with a shovel or pitch fork. Turning can also be accomplished by purchasing a ‘rotating composter’ or ‘compost tumbler’. Keep in mind that compost weight can add up, making such devices harder to turn.

Keep Your Bin Close, But Not Too Close

We like to keep our bin about 20-30 feet from our back door. It’s close enough to be convenient, but not so close that we have to worry about lingering odors or kids going out of sight for too long (this is a great chore for kids!). This is, of course, personal preference but something to consider.

Composting can make a big impact on the amount of waste that leaves your home. In addition to feeling better about reducing your carbon footprint, you can use the compost to grow healthier gardens, flowers, and lawns.

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

affiliate disclosuremedical disclosure

Organic & Natural Mattresses

The reviewer has been compensated in the form of a Best Buy Gift Card and/or received the product/service at a reduced price or for free.


 

family-fun-and-educational-opportunities-with-minecraftWhile screen time can be a challenge for parents in this day and age, there are ways to use it to your advantage and the advantage of your children. One of those opportunities comes in the still wildly popular game, Minecraft.

If you are unfamiliar, Minecraft is a fun game about placing blocks (sort of like traditonal building blocks, but interactive and digital) and going on adventures. Players can explore randomly generated worlds and amazing tutorial & sample themed worlds (seriously, have a look at them!). Best of all game play is easily tailored to any level of skill; build amazing things from the most modest of homes to the grandest of castles.

Run a quick search on Pinterest and you’ll find a slew of articles with tips on how to use Minecraft for educational purposes – both academically and for life in general (I even have a free birthday printable I made a while back!).

In my own experience, I’ve seen my children create imaginative and expansive communities with detailed storylines and fairly complex economies through systems of trade — both with themselves through “stores” and through trading the goods (that they’ve grown, mined, or hunted) with the game’s villagers. They learn that work is required to gain the items that they desire, and it’s no small task. It takes time, a great deal of patience, and even collaboration for them to mine the supplies they need to create the items they want to thrive in the game. I’ve even seen their math skills strengthened simply by playing.

Updates Provide New Opportunities

The game is always evolving with fairly regular updates, giving new items and experiences to look forward to and learn from. Minecraft has two main game modes: Creative,which allows for unlimited resources, and Survival, for more challenging play that depends on mining and crafting to build, create, and defend. My children love Creative, while I find myself drawn to the challenge of Survival mode. Oh yes, I play with the kids! I find that it’s a fun way to engage with them in their world and just ‘be’ with them for a bit. The game is extremely family-friendly, though I won’t deny that it might take a little time to get the hang of it for those of us who may be out of practice.

Creativity Beyond the Game

One of the best things about the game is how it engages my children positively beyond screens as well. The toys and collectibles make great gifts for anyone already into the game and allows kids to take the worlds and stories they’ve created out of the screen and to more tangible play, which meets other needs for them creatively and developmentally.

While I don’t always love plastic toys, I do make exceptions when they provide quality play – and it’s a major bonus when they can be handed down when they are done. We have several sets of the Lego Minecraft sets and have begun to collect the Minecraft mini figures, and thankfully you can get a storage case to keep them organized — which may just be under our tree this year.

Minecraft Minifigs with Case Best Buy 

Time is running down the wire for gifts this year, so if you’re looking for a last minute idea that will be sure to land you a hug or two, Best Buy offers a wide range of Minecraft products that you can go pick up right now. From the game itself (there is even an Xbox One S console bundle that is currently on sale!) to the companion toys and collectibles mentioned above. Several are even in the stocking stuffer range – which I still need to run out to get, because procrastination. If you’ve been on the fence (I was there once, too) you might just want to give this one a try. My once anti-device self is not sorry that she did!Minecraft Xbox One S Best Buy

{ Comments on this entry are closed }