Sunday, February 20, 2011

Yet Another Attempt at Butter

Ok, I know my blogs on spreadable butter are endless but a friend gave me another recipe to try. If you can get past the "ick" factor it's actually pretty good! Here's the recipe:

1 lb shortening (I used butter flavor Crisco)
1/2 tsp salt
1 2/3 evap milk OR sweetened condensed milk

Whip the shortening and the salt until light. Add the evap milk a little at a time and blend.

I like it with the sweetened condensed milk better. It more closely resembled sweet cream butter, but my kids preferred the evap milk.

I know it's hard to get past the thought of eating Crisco, but if you can, the actual taste and consistency was pretty good. My biggest worry was that it would not melt. That's my hubby's biggest criteria. If it doesn't melt, he won't even try it. I put it on toast though and it melted right in just like butter.

Anyway, it's not the perfect solution yet, but it's one more idea. Plus, it's made of stuff I already store and it is shelf stable which is a plus.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Canning Hamburger

Ok I finally did it. I set some time aside and canned hamburger. I've been putting it off because I just couldn't imagine wanting to spend the time canning it when I can just throw it in the freezer. Well how WRONG I was! I'll tell you why later, but first let's get to the process.

First I fried up a bunch of ground beef from Costco. I'm not sure how much I started with but it was lean ground beef. You do not want to can high fat ground beef. I drained the meat well before putting it in the jars. You can cook this up with onions and other seasonings and can it like that. I did it plain just because then I can use it however I want later. Next time though I think I will fry it up with onions. I almost never use ground beef without onions.

Next I took sterile quart canning jars and I put one beef bouillon cube in the bottom. Some people use just water, some people use beef broth, but this is just the way I did it.

Next I added ground beef. I filled up the jars but did not pack them tightly. I think I might try packing in a little more next time because my jars didn't seem to hold as much meat as other people's. Once the meat was in, I filled the jars up with boiling water, leaving 1 inch of head room. Then I carefully wiped the rims and put the lids on.
Now I had read some people put raw hamburger in the jars since it cooks as it cans. I decided to try one jar like that. I packed it full of raw hamburger and then put a tsp or so or beef broth flavoring on top. There is no need to add liquid to these jars so I just put the lid on.

Next I placed them in my pressure cooker. I can fit 7 quart jars in my canner. This is the first time I have used a pressure cooker and I was a little nervous. I took my gauge into my local county extension office to get it calibrated but I have heard horror stories about pressure canners exploding so I made all my kids stay out of the kitchen. :)
When canning hamburger it needs to cook at 11 pounds of pressure for 90 minutes. If you are doing pints then it's 11lbs for 75 minutes. I had to pretty much stand next to the pressure cooker for 90 minutes as the pressure didn't stay completely steady the whole time and I had to make minor adjustments to the heat. This was the only really time consuming part.
After the 90 minutes are up you turn off the heat, however, it does take a while for the pressure in your canner to subside. You just have to wait, although you don't need to babysit it anymore. Once the pressure is gone, you can remove the lid and carefully remove your jars. They should sit on your counter for 24 hours to cool. You can see it the picture the difference between the precooked meat (on the right) and the raw meat (on the left). The precooked meat looked MUCH more appetizing and had a lot less fat in it. Still I was trying to reserve judgement until I tried it.

The next morning I checked on my jars and you can see that the grease had coagulated in a ring. The raw meat jar looked truly disgusting. I also wasn't sure it has sealed properly so I put it in the fridge to use right away. All of my other jars looked great!
Just FYI, I decided to do another batch of pint jars and to actually rinse the meat to see if I could get rid of that ring of fat. I suppose it doesn't really matter but it just didn't look very yummy. It worked since they had virtually no white ring but again, not sure it mattered other than aesthetically, and it might even have been a bad thing as some of the flavor no doubt washed away as well.

Ok, so, we did try to eat the jar that began as raw meat, and I say try because I never did manage to even get it out of the jar. It was a like a rock solid little meat loaf in there. After gouging at it with all sorts of implements with little success of dislodging the meat, I gave up and threw it in the trash, jar and all. Guess I won't do it that way again. It could have been extra hard because I had it in the fridge but it looked so revolting to begin with that I'm not even going to try it that way again.

I have also used some of the other meat. It's SO terrific! I couldn't tell the difference between that and meat cooked up fresh. Plus the convenience of just grabbing a jar, draining it, and fixing dinner was indescribable. I'm forever forgetting to take meat out of the freezer in the morning so this is a huge blessing to me. Plus if we ever lost power for very long, I would lose all of my meat in the freezer. Canned meat will last at least a year. Longer if stored correctly.

One other note. Most people say you can fit 1lb of hamburger into a pint jar, and 2lbs into a quart jar. I didn't get nearly that much into a jar. In fact I would say it was about half that. Maybe it's because I didn't pack it tight enough, or maybe they were talking about precooked weight, but just wanted to let you know that my experience was different.

I'm not going to can all my meat. After all, you can't use it to make hamburgers :) but I'm going to keep enough for my family for 3 months. I haven't canned any of my hubby's elk yet. I'm waiting for a month to go by, then I'm going to eat some more of this meat and make sure that the taste stands up over time. I'm hopeful though.

Give it a try if you are at all interested. It's just one more tool in your preparedness box!