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Pressure Canned Ham Stock

ham hocks

This year, for my 30th birthday, my fiancé gave me a pressure canner. Some might look at this gift as decidedly unromantic, but it was actually exactly what I wanted. In fact, I started telling him it was what I wanted sometime back in February, more than three months ahead of time, just in case he got it into his head to get me jewelry or some other impractical bauble.

However, since my birthday back in May, the only thing the canner (a 16-quart aluminum Presto) has been doing is look pretty while sitting quietly under one of my dining room chairs. You see, while I understood the basics of pressure canning intellectually, the reality of it still scared me a bit. So I let the canner sit, satisfying my canning needs by making batch after batch of preserves and pickles, that needed nothing more than a good, hot water bath to set to shelf stable rights.

beginning of stock

But then, a couple of weeks ago, Joy Manning and Tara Matazara Desmond, co-authors of the cookbook Almost Meatless invited me to participate in their blog potluck (Joy is blogging about all the potluck dishes over at her blog What I Weigh Today if you want to check out some of the other recipes). As we talked back and forth about which recipe of theirs I’d tackle, it became clear that this blog and I were best suited to try out a stock recipe, as stock is cannable. In a pressure canner. It was finally time to conquer my pressure canner nerves once and for all.

I decided to make the recipe for Ham Stock that’s found on page 136 of the book. While it’s not a main event on its own, it’s an incredibly useful cooking cast member to have on hand, as it gives you the ability to boost the flavor of many a meal while still keeping them light on meat. Not having the remnants of a ham laying around, I got my hands on a couple of nice, meaty ham hocks with which to make the stock.

one jar in pressure canner

As soon as I fired up the stock pot, a wonderfully smoky/porky scent began to fill the apartment. Scott and I sat around, enjoying the aroma and becoming increasing hungry as the broth bubbled away. After it had cooked for two hours, I fished the hocks out of the pot with a pair of tongs, removed the meat to a plate and returned the bones to the pot for another hour+ of simmer for “maximum gelatin extraction” (a tip offered by Tara that isn’t included in the book).

By the time the stock was done, it was late Sunday evening (and I’d had a stomach ache all day, I’m a trouper I tells ya!). Had I had a spare bit of room in my fridge, I would have put the stock away for the night and returned to pressure can another day (this is actually the recommended technique, as it allows you to completely defat the stock prior to canning). However, being me, my fridge was full to bursting and so I needed to push on. I strained the stock through several layers of cheesecloth to get out the finest of particulate matter and returned it to the pot in order to bring to a boil.

filling jars

While all this stock processing was going on, my quart jars were in the pressure canner heating up. Once the stock had return to a boil, I began the process of removing a jar, filling it, wiping the rim, applying the lid/ring and returning it to the pot. Instead of creating an assembly line, I processed each jar one at a time, in order to keep the jars and stock as hot as possible (part of pressure canning best practices). I’d been told by Doris of Doris and Jilly Cook that it’s important to really get those rings on there tight when pressure canning stock, as otherwise your stock will “siphon” (the official canning word for when the liquid in your jars bubbles out from underneath the lid), so before I returned each filled jar to the pot, I used a dish towel to hold it in place as I muscled the ring into place.

Once all the jars were full, I locked the pressure canner lid into place and began the process of venting the air out of the canner. After ten minutes of venting, I popped the weight onto the vent stem and watched as the pressure began to rise. Quarts of stock need to process for 25 minutes at 11 pounds of pressure (that is, if you have a gauged canner like mine. If you have a weighted canner, you process at 10 pounds of pressure).

I only have six heat options on my stove (and that includes ‘off’) so I was never able to get the canner at exactly 11 pounds, it hovered around 13 pounds for most of the canning session. However, I knew from what I’ve read that it’s okay for the pressure to be a bit over (it can lead to overcooking, which isn’t a concern with stock, but could be a problem if you were working with fruits or veggies), as long as the pressure doesn’t drop below 11 pounds during the 25 minute processing time.

filled jars

I’ve never been so delighted as I was when the timer beeped to announce that the 25 minutes were up. I danced to the kitchen to turn off the stove and wait until the pressure had dropped enough for me to remove the lid. Nearly every jar pinged  the moment I lifted it out of the water, and I’ve never had lids that have so vigorously sealed. Those things are seriously concave.

canner at pressure

So now I have seven quarts of homemade, shelf stable stock (in my insanity, I also made a batch of chicken stock – from chicken feet! – the same day I made the ham stock. In for a penny…) in my pantry. I’m particularly in love with the ham stock though, and am already dreaming of making a big pot of rice with it that I will then turn into a vege-ful fried rice. Such flavor!

The Ham Stock recipe from Almost Meatless can be found after the jump and is reprinted with permission from Ten Speed Press and the authors. Make it!

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Winners + Linkage

blue book picture

Wow. There were a lot of you who wanted this book. Unfortunately, I have but two copies to pass along (I calculated it out, and it would have cost more than $500 to send each one of you a copy. Until I become independently wealthy, that’s just not in the budget). I turned to the very handy Randomizer to pick the winners and it spit out numbers 9 and 43. That means that the lucky recipients are Pat and Meghan. I’ll be in touch with the two of you posthaste.

In other news, have you heard about the Can-volution? A bunch of us jar-crazy folk are putting together a coast-to-coast canstravaganza for the weekend of August 29th and 30th. The goal is for people to get together in groups and do a whole bunch of puttin’ up. I’m actually going to be heading out to Seattle that weekend, to attend a canning party with a few of my favorite bloggers and hopefully teach a canning class. Leave a comment if you’re interested in participating and I’ll do my best to hook you up with other canners in your area.

Also, I did an interview with Jen A. Miller (aka Jersey Shore Jen) recently in which we talk about canning, preserving and fresh produce. She posted it to NJ Monthly earlier this week and you can find it here if you’re inclined. .

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The Ball Blue Book of Preserving

Books, mostly about canning

Last night, I found myself in a Twitter conversation with an acquaintance about canning books. She was looking for something to take her beyond the simple freezer preserving she did last summer into something more ambition and jar-based. I first told her to check out the cookbooks she already had. Any edition (even the most recent and modern volumes) of the Joy of Cooking, Fannie Farmer, Betty Crocker or Better Homes and Gardens cookbooks will detail the basic steps of canning. If you’re good at following written directions (admittedly, not everyone is), there’s enough there to get you started. You’ll find sensibly written instructions with a nice-sized collection of recipes.

After recommending that she check those all-purpose cookbooks out, I gave her list of some of my favorite canning, pickling and preserving books. However, I inadvertently left one of the best (and cheapest) canning resources around off the list. The Ball Blue Book of Preserving, which has been continually published in yearly editions since 1909, is a terrific book for someone who wants to expand into more exotic recipes and pickling techniques. It typically costs somewhere between $4.95 to $8.95, depending on where you buy it, which keeps it fairly affordable. It’s also often sold right in the grocery store next to the canning jars, lids and pectins (if you live in the city, I warn you that you’re going to have a harder time finding an in-store copy. I found mine at Giant in Lancaster).

One thing to keep in mind about any canning instructions you follow is that it’s always a good idea to cross-check the details with the latest safety recommendations, like those that you can find here.

And, if you’re curious, some of the other canning books I recommended last night were Putting Up: A Seasonal Guide to Canning in the Southern Tradition, Well-Preserved: Recipes and Techniques for Putting Up Small Batches of Seasonal Foods, The Joy of Pickling, Revised Edition: 250 Flavor-Packed Recipes for Vegetables and More from Garden or Market (although I have the older edition), Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It: And Other Cooking Projects and So Easy to Preserve, a plastic-bound book out of the University of Georgia’s extension service that has a bit of folksiness that hearkens back to the days of truly useful community cookbooks.

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Grape Catchup

clean grapes

I have something of a problem when it comes to vintage cookbooks. I can’t walk by a used bookstore or thrift store without stopping in to scan for some interesting new title. Some I buy just for their kitsch factor, but I find that many older cookbooks I pick up haven’t lost their utility to age and have quite a lot to offer, particularly for a girl who’s interesting in reviving the waning art of canning.

One of my favorite volumes is the New York Times Heritage Cookbook. It was originally published in 1972 and was written by long-time NYT food writer Jean Hewitt (she also wrote the New York Times Natural Foods Cookbook, which was a staple of my childhood). It’s an unembellished book, but it manages to capture the many distinct faces of regional food that were once present in this country (fast food, national grocery brands and TV have homogenized us in so many ways).

5~ cups grapes

I pulled it off the shelf a couple of nights ago, in my search for pickled lime recipes. While it didn’t yield any helpful recipes in that direction, I discovered a very intriguing recipe for something called Grape Catchup (yes, spelled just like that) in the Mountain/Northern Plains section (the book is organized by region of the country). It seemed both easy, calling for nothing more than grapes, apple cider vinegar, sugar and spices, and strangely appealing.

I made it last night, filling the apartment with the pungent smell of hot, fruity vinegar (sounds like the name of a band made up of pickle makers). What came out was a really tangy, sweet/sour condiment that would make a great dipping sauce (I also think it would be amazing on baked chicken or roasted pork – oh god, a pulled pork sandwich with this instead of bbq sauce would be amazing). It has sort of a runny consistency, as the recipe doesn’t call for any pectin or thickener beyond the grape skins (which do contain some natural pectins).

Grape Catchup

Being that I now have four pints of this grape catchup in seven separate jars, I’m giving away two half-pint jars to a couple of lucky readers. If you want to try this tasty condiment that you absolutely won’t be able to find on your grocery store shelves, leave a comment by Sunday at 5 pm. And, if you want to make a batch yourself, the recipe is after the jump.

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A Winner, a Book and Some Links

pasta in jars

Last Friday, I offered up a copy of Catherine Friend’s memoir A Compassionate Carnivore as a fun little giveaway until I have a fresh batch of jam ready to go. I’m a little behind posting the winner, but better late than not at all, right? The random number generator spat out the number five, which corresponds the comment left by Holly, the blogger over at The Unintended By-Products of Domestic Bliss. Hooray Holly!

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A couple of months back, I heard tell of a book that sounded very much like one I hoped to write someday. Called, Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It, it tries to make jams, pickles, basic salumi and other kitchen crafts accessible and available to the people out there who have never committed fruit to jar, or veg to brine. When I got my hands on a review copy, I was delighted by the book (and relieved to see that it wasn’t entirely the same volume I imagined myself writing on the topic). I have yet to cook or craft anything out of it yet (mostly because I’ve been happily making up my own recipes of late), but I’ve been keeping it on my coffee table for inspiration, as well as a reminder to write about it.

Another reminder that this book deserved a mention came today, when I noticed that Erin (of Erin Cooks!) had made the Toaster Tarts on page 98. Erin did a great job with the recipe, altering it slightly from the neat squares that author Karen Solomon recommends to charming heart cut-outs.

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I’ve had a couple of open pages in my browser for weeks now and it’s time to finally commit their links to this blog, so that I can close those tabs without forgetting their contents. Both are from Kevin of Closet Cooking and, if you’re like me, fond of both mangos and putting food in jars, they are most certainly for you as well. The first is a recipe for an aromatic and spicy Mango Chutney and the second is a Mango and Cardamom Jam. Don’t they sound good? Both have been added to my “Must Make” list (which grows longer by the day).

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A Giveaway and Lancaster County Extension Workshops

More Jars

One of the things I was totally unprepared for, when I first started blogging at Slashfood, was the fact that it would turn me into a desirable target for PR people trying to get their products noticed. Within my first month there, I was being contacted on an almost daily basis and by the time I left, I was getting upwards of 7-10 pitches a day. The flow has quieted a great deal since my departure, particularly since I’ve been diligent in pointing those eager PR folks in the direction of Kat, Sara and Alex.

However, occasionally a box or envelope still shows up and recently, a paperback copy of The Compassionate Carnivore landed on my doorstep. It’s a memoir by Catherine Friend, about finding a way back to a more humane and sustainable approach to animal farming and consumption of meat. It’s a good book. I know, since I read a reviewer’s copy of it last spring when it was first published. It has an ethos that goes hand in glove with the food in jars lifestyle I’m trying to live. So I thought I’d have a giveaway. I realize this book might not be quite as popular a giveaway as a jar of homemade jam, but isn’t it just as important to feed your mind as it is to feed your belly? Leave a comment by Sunday at 5 pm to enter. I’ll be in touch if you’re the lucky winner.

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Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about canning and food preservation, but I’ll be the first to admit that I still have much to learn. That’s why I’ve signed up for a couple of advanced food preservation classes this summer through the Lancaster County Extension Service (it’s the closest extension service to Philly). I’m going to be taking their pressure canning class on Thursday, July 16th at 6 pm (I’ll be leaving work a little early for that one) and their high acid canning class on Saturday, August 15th at 10 am. The classes both run two hours and cost $10. If any Philly folks are interested in riding out there with me for either of these classes, leave a comment and I’ll get back to you. More information about those classes is after the jump.

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