Heritage Preserving

Traditional preservation does not actually include canning, but we have included it here, because of the value for preserving seasonal harvests in a simple to use manner.

  • We DRY a lot of foods. This is probably the most common traditional preservation method, being used for fruits, vegetables, and meats, and naturally occurring with grains, nuts, and legumes. We don't freeze dry, it is neither economical, nor efficient, and we simply do not have the time or money to fuss with it.
  • We FREEZE a lot of foods. Also a traditional method, freezing was used by northern civilizations to store some foods through the winter.
  • We COOL STORE some foods. The traditional is a root cellar. We use a basement, or a refrigerator, and sometimes a front or back porch area. Appropriate for potatoes, apples, cabbages, squash, onions, and other similar crops, and for smoked or cured meats.
  • We CURE, PICKLE, or CULTURE some foods. Traditionally this is why we have pickles, kraut, cheese, ham, sausage, and other foods that are treated with salt or aged in a way that encourages beneficial microbial growth.
  • We SMOKE some foods, in combination with drying or curing. Another longstanding traditional preservation method.
  • We DO SOME oil or fat pack foods, but are careful about what we do, because some either do not store long enough to be worth the trouble, or they have too high a risk of deadly peripheral contamination to be worth it.
  • We CAN many foods, a lot of them pressure canned, for quick fix, grab and go meals, and to make some meats more digestible (production breed meats are hard for me to digest unless the proteins are changed by cooking processes, and high heat is one thing that works). We are careful about methods used, and pay attention to nutrient loss. We use MANY "not recommended" methods, because our experiences have taught us that the government is not the only, or even the best, arbiter of safety where food is concerned! We use recommendations from around the world, and we learn the science, and figure out WHY things are tricky, and then develop methods for compensating. Our food is good, it is safe, and it is a huge benefit to us every day.

People have been preserving and storing food for as long as they have been eating food. Healthy food preservation is part skill, and part art, but once you get going on it, it really ISN'T all that hard!

Why I Will Never Buy an Excalibur Dehydrator

I've been dehydrating foods for more than 40 years. I've experienced most kinds of dehydrators, from home-made, to no-heat, to no-fan, to temperature controlled.

I've dehydrated fruits, vegetables, mushrooms, meats, eggs, potatoes, herbs, leathers, various foraged weeds for animal feed, leaves for animal feed, fruit peels for animal feed, and a bunch of other things that the average person does not dry.

I can say with a strong degree of authority that ALMOST ANY dehydrator with a FAN and a HEATING ELEMENT is going to perform JUST AS WELL for 95% of users, as an Excalibur.

For those that need more, a heat control is ALL you need.

Excalibur is one of the most expensive dehydrators out there. And their customers RAVE about them.

But the fact is, if their customers had bought one of any number of less expensive dehydrators with comparable controls, they'd be JUST AS THRILLED.

I've noticed that the high price is one reason people tend to be OVER THE TOP TICKLED with a purchase. I mean, you spent THAT MUCH, you sort of have to justify it, right?

 

I began with a Ronco. That is, after I left home where my mother had us filling a homemade dryer every summer.

The Ronco is still out there - and it goes by several other names also. It was one of the first round stackables, and remains the lowest cost dehydrator out there.

It has NO FAN. Heat rises, and it has fairly large vents on top.

It isn't good for high moisture foods, and you do have to be careful not to overfill it.

I used it for about 6 years, and it did just great for apples, not so well for peaches, ok on pears.

When I upgraded I bought a $30 dehydrator from Wal-Mart.

It was almost the same as the Ronco, as it was a round stackable, but wider, with slightly shorter shelves, and IT HAD A FAN! After using the Ronco, I knew that was the ONE feature I just HAD to have.

That little dehydrator, along with its twin that I bought a few years later, kept us going for about 10 years. I loved them because they'd do apples overnight. So every night I'd cut a batch of apples to dry, and in the morning we'd bag them up. I raised 7 kids, all fairly close together, so dried fruit never stuck around long.

I was given a replacement after one of those two died.

It had a ROTATOR. If you set it up right, it rotated. If you did not, then it burned everything. I learned that the hard way. Once the rotator was functioning though, the thing was wonderful, and dried everything nicely. It had a fan and a single heat setting.

That one was stolen. Seriously.

My next food dryer was a cooling rack, set on a cookie sheet, and placed under a ceiling fan. Really.

I then set up a rack system for three cookie sheets, with a little fan blowing across.

PURE AIR drying. And it worked GREAT, for mushrooms, herbs, and other small or low moisture items. It was SLOW, and it just could not handle the volume of higher moisture foods I wanted to dry.

I started to get desperate for a faster dryer, so I bought a Della that looked bigger than it was, and the thing was $70.

Do not buy a Della. They have no warranty. And they need one.

The thing died SIX WEEKS after I bought it. SIX WEEKS of temperature decreasing, then going cold, then no life at all.

So next, I bought an $80 food dryer. EIGHTY BUCKS!!! But it had a temperature setting, and since I was doing some things with mushrooms, it seemed a good idea. I don't regret it.

About this same time, we were living with my mother. She has an Excalibur. The nine tray model. The $200 model.

So she's drying with that, and I'm drying with my $80 Open Country rectangular dehydrator.

They hold about the same amount.

They are both made of plastic.

They both have a fan.

They both have heat, and time, settings.

Hers has fan blown heat that blows across the trays.

Mine has a fan that blows UP through the trays.

Hers has a cabinet that holds nine trays.

Mine has a base with six large stackable trays and a lid, plus two height extenders (good for incubating things in bowls or pans).

Hers has a thin rigid black plastic tray framework with VERY wide holes (about 1 1/2" diagonal), that won't hold any food, with a plastic mesh sheet over it - think needlework plastic mesh, the kind we all make tacky crafts from. The tray flexes diagonally and does not feel strong.

Mine has a white plastic tray type shelf, with 1/4" wide holes in about 1/8" thick plastic. It is really strong. Mine has the SAME kind of plastic mesh as a liner for very small foods.

Neither one has a leather tray. We make do with teflon sheets, parchment paper, or small  1/8 size bun pans.

They dry equally fast, except when I overload mine. I do that. It works. It just takes a little longer.

Mine can do ONE THING hers cannot... A stackable adjusts to the amount you are processing. If she wants to do ONE TRAY, she has to heat the whole cabinet. If I want to do one tray, I heat ONE TRAY. Stackables are flexible like that.

The thing is, the materials are the SAME.... All plastic.

The controls are the same - time and temp.

They work equally well.

The flexibility is in favor of the Open Country.

The price is in favor of the Open Country... LESS than HALF the price.

Now, I've heard that Open Country dehydrators are now more costly. But the fact is, ALMOST ANY dehydrator with temp controls is going to work JUST AS WELL as an Excalibur.

Some may not LAST as long. This is why I say ALMOST any dehydrator with a fan and heating element!

So when you ask what brand dehydrator is good, you can be assured that dozens of people will pop up to tell you that you just HAVE to spend $200 on an Excalibur or you might as well not bother.

 

Please believe me when I tell you, buy a dehydrator that costs LESS than $50 for your first food dryer!

 

Just make sure it has a fan, and you WON'T be disappointed.

And don't bother saying, "Some day, I'll get an Excalibur!".

If you really want to move up, go for size, or stainless, or something that really matters.

You'll have all that savings to smile about!

Black Forest Loin Ham (Dry Cured)

  • 2-3 lb chunk of boneless pork loin (can sub beef, venison, mutton or other for "dried beef" style, as long as it is the loin so the size and thickness are right for this recipe)
  • 1 cup sea salt
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 3/4 cup sugar or maple sugar
  • 1 tbsp Morton tenderquick
  • 1 tbsp ground juniper berries
  • 1 tbsp crushed rosemary
  • 1 tsp ground marjoram
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp ground coriander or few shakes of nutmeg

Mix the salt, sugar and seasonings together.

Rub with mixture, make sure surface is heavily salted (as much as will stick to it), and get the salt into any cuts or pockets - actually all I do is sprinkle it on using a spoon.

Put into a zip bag.

Refridgerate for 5 days, flipping once a day, draining and resalting as needed (if you can no longer see a good coating of salt crystals on the surface, then re-salt - I resalted about every other day).

Scrape off salt (you can leave some herb bits on the surface, just no salt clumps), and refridgerate overnight OUT of the bag (I did it with a rack on a cookie sheet, and the hams set on the rack), and then either cold smoke, or apply liquid smoke wash and then let dry overnight again in fridge (omit this if you cold smoke it). (You may also use smoked salt in the initial curing process, at a rate of 1/4 cup of smoked salt per cup of regular salt.)

(Cold smoke if you have a smoker. Traditionally smoked with pine wood.)

Apply melted fat casing (brush on melted lard, or coconut oil). Let harden. Wrap in fabric to keep bugs off then hang. (Some people don't bother wrapping it, it depends on the risks in your home and region. I wrap in old t-shirt fabric, and then hang in a net bag which I crocheted out of white bedspread weight cotton, but pillowcases are also popular.)

Hang for 2 weeks (big hams hang far longer, this is a thin loin ham, so it is fast).

(Cure times lengthen with larger hams, and smoke and hang times are also longer.)

Don't Bother Buying a Waterbath Canner

The ONLY canner you need, is a pressure canner. It does it all.

Most people buy a waterbath canner, learn to can in that, and then buy a pressure canner. But you really don't NEED a waterbath canner if you have a pressure canner.

You can waterbath jars in a pressure canner, the same as you can in a waterbath canner, if you like. If you want to save time, you can use the pressure canner as a steam canner, and your life just got a whole lot simpler!

Ok, so a pressure canner costs a bit more, but it is worth paying the extra, to save money long term (if you are able).

When you choose a pressure canner, get one that allows you to stack jars, if you can afford it. Something as large as an All American 30 or 41 quart canner is HEAVY, and BIG, and presents problems of its own, so make sure you research well before you get something that big, make sure you can lift it, and the stove can handle it, etc.

I recommend a Presto 23 qt. It is a roomy canner, very easy to use (easier to use than an All American), and has a good manual (save you the price of the Ball canning book since it has reprints from it). There are many other canners of this size also, and it is a nice size to work with. You can stack pints and smaller, but not quarts.

You DON'T have to have the canner filled to run a cycle. You can run partial loads, and it is faster to do, because it takes less time to heat up and cool down, so it won't waste energy to do so. Ends up about the same running a partial load in a large canner, as it does to run a full load in a small canner.

You can STACK jars if you are using the canner as a steam canner, or pressure canner. You really CAN'T stack jars in most waterbath canners, the water just has to be too deep.

Skip the waterbath canner, just get a good Pressure Canner, and learn to can according to your comfort level. It is a great skill to learn!

I Do NOT Need an All American Canner

I would never buy an AA, nor would I recommend one. Funny, because three years ago, it was on my want list!

My mother had one, and I used it when I was younger, and I HATED pressure canning, it was so fussy and demanding. I thought it HAD to be that way. Imagine my surprise to learn that it doesn't.

I bought a Presto 23 qt. It has changed my opinion of pressure canners, irrevocably. It is so easy to use that it has opened a doorway for me, and I don't dread canning low acid foods. It is the only canner I own - I use it instead of a waterbath canner also (I steam can with it). I never put it away, it gets used so often.

Seven reasons I won't buy an AA:

1. I cannot justify the cost. I have a Presto, 23 qt. It does everything I need, and I do mean EVERYTHING. I use it for WB, and Pressure canning. I use it on average a couple of times a week for one or the other. The cost of it is so much lower (about 1/4 the cost), and the quality is excellent. If my Presto canner gets damaged, replacement isn't going to wipe me out either!

2. An AA is just too heavy. The only advantage an AA has is that some models can have a larger capacity, but the larger capacity AA is so heavy loaded I cannot move it, even to slide it across the stove. I can move the Presto, and it is about as heavy as I can move. The AA is also so large that I would feel guilty doing smaller batches, don't feel that way with the Presto. My mother's AA was so heavy loaded that it damaged the burner on the stove. The largest AA is also tall enough that it will not easily fit under all stove hoods.

3. I live in a rental with a glass stove. The Presto is made for glass stoves. It has a drop plate in the bottom so the contact surface of the bottom of the canner does not overlap the burner edges. The AA is flat bottomed, and traps the heat on the burner, which can cause overheating and cracking in the stove top (theoretically - there are warnings about it).

4. The Presto has a gasket. If the gasket wears, I can replace it. The AA has a metal to metal seal, and it needs to be handled carefully to avoid denting the edges. If the sealing edges on the AA are dented significantly the canner is ruined. You can't repair it, and you can't replace a part to salvage it. You can replace the lid, but it costs as much as a Presto canner to do so. If you are worried about a damaged gasket interrupting your canning, just keep a spare on hand.

5. The AA has a gauge, and no weights, so you have to watch the thing through the whole cycle. The Presto has a gauge and a weight, and you can get a three piece weight for it if you need pressures other than 15 lbs (comes with a 15 lb weight, I'm at high altitude, so I'm good). I can HEAR this canner from any room in the upstairs of the house. I can hear when it starts to steam, the safety latch pops up - time to put on the weight. I drop the weight on, and then go back to my other work. When it is up to pressure, the weight starts rocking and makes a different noise, and I know it is right. I turn the heat down (I've learned just where to turn it), and set the timer. I can HEAR whether the pressure is steady or not, and if it starts to drop, or goes too high, I hear it. I NEVER have to sit and babysit a canner. It just works SOOOO easy.

6. If I end up needing larger capacity, I'll simply buy a second Presto canner. It is far more flexible than one huge one, and even with two, I'm still at only half the price of a single AA canner. You don't gain as much time as you'd think with a larger canner, since it takes so much longer to heat up, come up to pressure, and then cool down. I've timed this. Light loads in a large canner work almost the same as it does with a smaller canner - with a single layer of jars, the canner heats up in about 10 minutes, comes to pressure in about 8 minutes, and cools enough to remove the weight in about 15 minutes. With a full double decker of pint jars the same canner takes 20 minutes to heat up, 15 minutes to come up to pressure, and about 35 minutes to cool enough to remove the weight. So bigger canner, longer times involved. Might as well use two canners, and keep them both going for a smoother work load.

7. I never spend time fussing with getting the lid to seal with the Presto. AA metal to metal seal is fussier to get seated right, and to get an airtight bond. A rubber gasket just does the job more easily. To seal an AA, you have to get the lid level (not always easy to see), and tighten down the toggle bolts on opposite sides, and then proceed around the canner, one side, then the other. If it is not level to start, you will get steam escaping the edges, and you have to cool the canner, release the lid, and start over. A small annoyance. But one that just NEVER happens with canners that have gaskets! You just put the lid on and twist, and you are done!

I use this canner for waterbath canning also, except I use it as a steam canner for that. How to use a pressure canner as a steam canner.

Funny thing is, the only pressure canners I'd ever used were my mother's old Maid of Honor (an old Presto that was branded for Sears), and my mother's new AA. Both had gauges you had to watch. I was leery of a canner with a weight, silly me. So I had the AA on my list of "someday I really want".

I had decided that even though it was a hassle and I hated it, I needed to can meats. Growing your own, you just need to be able to preserve it in many ways. I simply RESIGNED myself to what I thought was the inevitability of watching a canner to ensure that the pressure stayed level for two hours at a time! (Time including coming up to heat, and coming up to pressure, and the meat cycle for quarts.)

I bought the Presto simply because I could not AFFORD an AA, and the Presto was the biggest canner with a gauge that I could afford at the time, and the AA is now permanently OFF my want list.

Best purchase EVER.

That canner has been the most amazing blessing to us. Three deer this year (one Kevin shot, and two were given to us, one wrapped, one not yet skinned), and most of the meat is going into jars. I did bone broth from the bones of the first one (won't from this current one, it is too gamey), and made soup and chili.

Last year my sister gave us extra garden produce and a lot of apples. This year I have a lot of squash, and had quite a bit of garden produce from various sources. It is either dehydrated, or canned, depending on what it is. I now have a storage room with a healthy food storage, where 2 years ago we had no food storage at all (long story, this was NOT usual for us), and the vast majority is home canned.

And all of the canning done when I was not even in the room while the canner did its thing. I put it on the burner, leave the room, and listen for the latch to pop so I can put the weight on. Then I ditch out again and just listen for the weight to start rocking so I can set the timer. Adjust the heat, leave the room and wait for the timer to go off. Turn off the burner, and walk away until the latch drops. My ears can monitor the whole process from another room in the house. I never thought it could be that easy!

For many years I could not handle canned foods, but I've healed enough that I can now, and canning has helped me avoid many processed foods, replacing them with my own quick meals in jars. Some meats I can digest better when pressure cooked, and I handle beans best when they are well cooked under high heat.

The Presto 23qt canner has taken pressure canning from a dreaded task for me, to something simple enough to use on a regular basis, throughout most of the year.

NOTE: Mirro makes a 22 qt canner, that has only a weight, and no gauge. Many people love this canner, but it does not hold quite the same number of jars as a Presto 23 qt. The Presto holds one more pint jar, and may not hold even 7 quarts if your quart jars happen to be a bit wider than a Kerr (the Presto 16 qt is also roomier). It is considered to be an easy to use canner though, and is often cheaper in price.

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I was rather shocked to hear of lowering standards for AA canners. While I do not see the justification for the cost, according to the benefit for myself and the majority of home canners, I had no cause to believe that their quality was declining.

This article explains a situation I had not thought would occur: Buying and All American Canner - The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

Notice

The information on this site is presented for informational purposes only, and consists of the opinions and experiences of the site authors. It is not to be construed as medical advice or to be used to diagnose or treat any illness. Seek the assistance of a medical professional in implementing any nutritional changes with the goal of treating any medical condition. The historical and nutritional information presented here can be verified by a simple web search.

I do what I do because I understand the science behind it, and I've researched worldwide sources to verify the safety of my practices to my own satisfaction. Please do your own research, and proceed AT YOUR OWN RISK.

 

 

 


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