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Friday, November 30, 2007

Canning Pinto Beans

This week I was able to can some pinto beans. In one of the comment sections, I mentioned I would post the directions so here they are.
This method doesn't take much time that you will actually be working, but you do have to do a little bit of planning since it requires some prep the night before you want to can them.

Make sure all of your jars are washed and ready to go. You also might want to count your lids since I didn't have enough when I was canning my green beans earlier!
After you have all of your supplies ready, it's time to get the pinto beans ready. Measure out 3/4 cup of beans for each pint jar you want to can. Then wash and sort the beans. I have never found rocks in my beans before, but as you can see, this time around I actually found 2 - so don't skip this step!
When your beans are washed and sorted, measure out 3/4 cup of beans into each jar. Fill the jars with water and then cover them with a towel over night.

In the morning, empty the water from the jars and refill with hot water to leave 1 inch of head space. You may need to adjust some beans. If you want, you can save and heat the water that was in the jars to use. This leaves more nutrients, however, it also leaves more bean gas. I use new water. Another option is to add 1/2 tsp of salt to each jar, but I skip this step. After the jars are filled, put a lid and ring on each jar according to the manufactures instructions.

Place the jars in the pressure canner, bring them to a high heat to adjust head space, and process at 10 lbs pressure for 75 minutes. (Remember, this time is only for pint jars.) Be sure to follow all of the directions that come with your canner. (Also, do not can beans with a water bath - see comments.)

After they have cooked and the pressure is gone, remove the jars from the canner to cool. When they are cool, wipe down the jars, label them, and put them in your cupboard. You are done!!

For those of you who like to watch the dollar, here are the numbers. I spent $2.38 on my bag of pinto beans. There are enough beans in the bag to make around 17 pints of beans. I'll say that's 14¢ per pint jar in beans. Lids are $1.29 for 12. I'll also say that is 11¢ per lid.

If you really want to be technical, you can figure in the electricity to heat the stove for the canner, but then you can argue that the heat from the stove heats your house and makes your furnace not work as hard. (A good reason to leave beans for winter canning - doesn't fight against your air conditioner or make your house too hot.) Although if you heat with wood, that changes things too. I'm not about to think that hard, so I'm leaving the heating cost out.

So my beans cost me 25¢ per pint. Keep in mind, that a pint of home canned beans is equal to at least two cans of store bought beans. You end up with a jar full of beans with little to no liquid - the store beans are a can of liquid with some beans floating around in it. If you want to make your beans even more economical and you eat them in large quantities, can them as quarts. (Sorry, I don't have the canning time for this. DON'T use 75 minutes!) That would have given me twice the amount of beans per jar for 39¢. We don't eat that many at a time though so I do pints.

So there you go. Canning pinto beans. I would love to find some recipes for canning pinto beans that include some spices making them even more ready to go. Anyone have any?

** To learn how to pressure can beans, you can check out my series on Beginning Pressure Canning. **

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Tools of My Trade
Beans must be pressure canned due to their low acidity in order to kill all bacteria that would cause dangerous food born illnesses. They can be safely canned by using the recommended times and pressures given for your altitude. I have a couple older Mirro pressure canners given to me that work wonderfully, and my mom has a newer one that she loves as well. If you do some asking around, you might find someone who has given up canning and has one available, or you can look for one like the one pictured below. It should hold around 9 pint jars or 7 quart jars.

This book is a wonderful book for beginning pressure canning.  It includes the science behind safe canning, tools needed for canning, the method of canning, and is filled with tons of recipes that will help you can anything from produce from your garden to meats and broths.  I still enjoy flipping through my book to find new recipes to try!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Canning Inventory

Here is a picture of one of my kitchen cupboards. The bottom shelf is all things I have canned: applesauce, green beans, spaghetti sauce, tomatoes, turkey and turkey broth, ham broth, beef broth, and dried beans. The middle shelf is just store bought noodles and dried beans from the store. I put them in jars because I thought it would look cool, and it gave me a useful way to store extra jars. The top shelf holds grape juice that my mom canned, egg noodles that I made and dried (using our chicken eggs), boy scout popcorn, some of my extra spaghetti sauce, and grape jelly - also from my mom. This is just a sampling of each thing I have. The overflow is stored elsewhere.

My summer canning has now been done for awhile. I didn't get much compared to what other people get. I hope next year to get more of a variety of produce canned and to also can larger quantities of things, however, I am very happy with what I do have from this year since it was my first year canning.

Here's what I ended up with:

  • Whole tomatoes: 10 quarts and 7 pints
  • Spaghetti sauce: 15 pints (Still looking for a different recipe, although Ethan really likes it.)
  • Green Beans: 3 quarts and 5 pints (all from my experimental fall planting)
  • Applesauce: 20 pints

    Now that the summer canning season is over, I am starting into the winter canning season. I recently cooked down 2 turkeys after they were picked clean of meat. What I ended up canning from that was 5 quarts and 10 pints of turkey and turkey broth for soup. (We just used our last jar from the last time I canned turkey broth - good timing!) I also got 5 pints of just turkey broth to add when cooking rice or other recipes.
    Last spring I also canned some dried beans for chili, enchiladas, and other meals. I only have one can of those left, and I plan on doing more. It was very handy.

    I want to try some soups among other things, but I'm not sure what yet. I would love to hear some ideas and get some recipes from all of you seasoned canners!

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    Wednesday, November 21, 2007

    New Chicken Feed

    Today Ethan and I were excited to get some new chicken feed.

    Before you start thinking that we must not get out much if we get excited about buying chicken feed, it is because of the potential for savings that we are excited - not because of the actual feed.

    After we talked to Ethan's uncle, we learned that he does some of the mixing of his chicken feed himself. We thought we would give that a try. I called around to some of the feed supply stores, and we were able to get 100 lbs of chicken food today for $13.50 - about the same price we had previously been paying for 50 lbs of food.

    We will be mixing a laying mix with cracked corn. Hopefully this will end up similar to what Ethan's uncle gave us. They didn't go through it as fast, and they had the best egg production so far while on that feed. So with feed expense hopefully cut in half and hopefully better egg production too, we might be able to keep chickens producing in the black through the winter months.

    I'd love to hear any suggestions/favorite feed mixes from others who keep chickens.

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    Tuesday, November 20, 2007

    Chickens, You May Stay

    I have been keeping careful records to see which of the things we are doing are profitable and which aren't. This month, I am happy to report, our chickens made it into the black. They had a bit of catching up to do since we had to spend some money on making their pen, but they have now laid their way into our pocketbook.

    Here are some figures from our chicken endeavor up until the beginning of October.

    Chickens and Eggs
  • 6 old hens = free from Ethan's uncle. One died. Replaced it but new one didn't blend in. Gave it away. We now have 5 old hens.
  • Eggs laid = 798
  • Eggs given away to friends, family, and people who helped us in some way = 13 1/2 dozen
  • Eggs we kept and ate = 53 dozen

  • Given by friends, family and businesses = waterer, feeder, grit feeder, old boards and tin, old wire, nesting bedding, nesting buckets
  • bought = remaining wire, hardware and wood $42.25

  • bought 100 lbs chicken feed(2 different mixes) = $20.32 of feed
  • chicken feed given by Ethan's uncle = about 150 lbs
  • free = kitchen scraps and leftovers (no poultry products to avoid disease)
  • provided by God's creation while we moved the pen daily = fresh grass and bugs (about 30% of diet)

    So here is how I figured that the chickens have now made it into the black. We spent $62.57 on them by the end of October. We kept 53 dozen eggs for ourselves by the end of October. When we first started keeping chickens, eggs were selling for $1.25/doz at the grocery store. 53 dozen eggs would be worth $66.25, more than what we have in them. I feel that I am being conservative though, since I didn't count the 13 1/2 dozen eggs we gave away, nor did I adjust the price of eggs according to what they are selling at now. Last time I was in the grocery store, medium eggs were going for $1.87/doz and large eggs over $2.00/doz. (I think I need to keep a better eye on prices to help our records be more accurate - this time it was in our favor.)

    Keep in mind too, that this is comparing our chicken eggs to the price of store eggs. I don't believe that store eggs should be able to be considered as equal due to the vast nutritional differences in the eggs, but I did for the sake are argument. I also didn't add in the services the chickens provide of thatching the lawn, fertilizing the lawn (and garden), pest control, and being conversation starters.

    You might notice that we were given a lot of things and might argue that I should add those into expenses. Well, the way we view farming is to keep your inputs low to make your profits high. If you are able to do that by being innovative and by asking around for scrap materials and unused equipment from people you know (or don't know!), then it will have an effect on your profits. I believe that should be shown and not hidden.

    We are now trying to get them ready to winter over. It will be interesting to see if they are worth keeping over the winter when they don't have grass and bugs available to eat and when egg production slows down. We are also continuing to experiment with different feeds. We have noticed a difference in egg production and rate of feed consumed with the 3 different feeds we have tried. The feed Ethan's uncle gave us is by far the best. Another thing we might do is get a new batch of younger birds in the spring.

    So there you go. Now we are in the black with our chickens. We celebrated by eating omelets for supper and plan on having chickens again next year.

    Next to get in the black, the cows . . .
  • Tuesday, November 13, 2007

    Bringing in the Crew

    Tonight Ethan opened up the garden to let the clean up crew in. They found the fallen tomatoes right away and started scratching around looking for critters too. We'll let them work awhile, do some fertilizing, and see what happens . . .

    Wednesday, November 7, 2007

    Still Iowans

    If you have been following my husband's blog at all (The Beginning Farmer), you will notice that the type of farming that interests our family is quite unconventional when it comes to Iowa farming.

    There are a couple of reasons for this. I think the first reason we started down this path of farming is that it is really the only way that we see that our family could do any type of farming. We really don't have anyone that we can farm with to get started, and there is no way that we have the ability to invest in land, equipment, and everything else that comes with conventional Iowa farming. Since we were really interested in doing some type of farming though, we started looking at other ways to go about it.

    As we were looking at farming in a way that doesn't require a huge amount of inputs, we started to see how that kind of farming just made since in so many ways. One of the things that we are interested in is raising a variety of animals on pasture, without the need for grains to be brought in. This type of farming benefits the environment, the farm land, the animals, the consumers, and the farmer. (You can check out the many posts on my husbands blog to see various explanations for all of those.)

    When you talk to us about farming, you might get the feeling that small scale, unconventional farming is what we believe to be the only way to go.

    If you would have see us today, however, you would have seen that we are still Iowans. We took a trip out to a friend's farm from our church to let our kids have some combine rides. Ethan and I both have family members that farm the conventional way, and we are proud to have our friends and family farming and want to support them in what they do.

    So out we went for combine rides, although I guess we were still a little unconventional. Our farming friend suggested we all ride together in his cab with seating room for 2. How could we turn that down? So if you were driving by you would have seen 3 adults and 2 kids riding in the cab of a John Deere combine harvesting corn!

    Friday, November 2, 2007

    Goodnight Garden

    Wow! It's been awhile! Between a trip to the Twin Cities to visit friends (and to reaffirm that I am not a city girl, although I like to hang out with city friends) and everyone in our family having colds, I haven't gotten around to posting much. Sorry.

    I have had a hard time getting our house back into a routine since I was struck with poison ivy and blood poisoning. The poison ivy actually threw me off the worst though since I only had one hand to work with. We also have another fiasco that we are dealing with that I might post about later. So yesterday was the first day I have made bread in over a month. It was strange to have store bought bread again - which I noticed really doesn't have much substance to it, and it was nice to finally have home made again - although I wouldn't mind a lesson from an expert on it.

    Just as my bread making had gone by the wayside, so has my garden. I have managed to pick beans for our suppers, but that is about it. We have had frost now, so the tomatoes are done. I was sad to see that I missed a lot of red ones, but I was able to preserve a lot still. The bean leaves also took a hit from the frost, but the beans that are on them are still good. I think I can pull enough off for one more supper. We have some fall lettuce going strong yet too which I can add in to our menu. The only other plants, besides flowers, that looked like they still had some life left in them were my carrots and my fall planting of peas. The peas are beautiful and have blossoms on them, but they probably won't hang on long enough to give me any peas. I'm not disappointed though. As I mentioned in an earlier post,Fall Plantings, these fall peas were mainly an experiment, and I wasn't banking on getting anything from them.

    I could have let my carrots go a bit longer I think, but the kids and I needed some fresh air, and it was a beautiful day for digging carrots. We went out this afternoon before supper and worked together on the project - most of the time at least. The kids came back and forth between their outdoor toys. I would dig and pull up the carrots and then toss them over the fence. Caleb and Hannah would then gather them up and put them in the box. After they were all dug, we snapped off the stems, threw the greens in the garden, and put the carrots back in the box. It was fun seeing how much Caleb and Hannah enjoyed the whole process. They felt pretty important as they helped - just click on the picture and look at their faces. :) The carrot that Caleb is holding isn't really that good of an example of our carrots, but it was about all that was left at the time. I ended up with a nice box of carrots considering our garden gets a lot of shade and is hindered by "toxins" that our walnut tree roots give off.

    Also, tonight I dug up my yams. I wasn't really expecting to get anything from them - another experiment. I started yam vines off of a store bought yam this spring and transplanted them/it to the garden. I should have started my shoots earlier than I did, however I was excited to find enough yams tonight to give everyone a scoop at a meal. I think next year I will be able to get a good crop of them.

    So now my garden looks quite bare. There are my peas that I will just keep watching, some lettuce to make salads with, and my frost bit beans that still hold enough beans for one more meal. Besides those and the flowers, I have pulled everything else up. I have also given Ethan the go-ahead to move the chickens through. Hopefully they will find some yummy pests to eat up in between the scattered remains of our vegetables and do some fertilizing while they are at it.
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