30 January 2014

Canning jar breakage: the checklist

Last week, Marisa at Food in Jars referenced an older post of hers discussing the sad, sad situation of a home canning jar breaking in the canner. I thought I'd add my two cents!

I've been home canning for over 15 years. I think that's a while, though of course my great-grandmother, whose cellar looked like that Library of Congress photo on Wikipedia that I use as a background image on my computer sometimes, would call me a mere novice. But whatever my great-grandmother would call my skill level, in those 15-plus years I've lost only a single jar in my home canners.

There are four things that can cause a canning jar to break: thermal shock, impact shock, internal overpressure, or a manufacturing flaw. The last is very rare! Anecdotally, I hear complaints that jars aren't made as well as they used to be. But I think the real problems are unintentional mis-use related to the first three problems. Keep reading!

28 January 2014

Checking in during yet another cold snap

It seems to me it's been a few years since we had a winter this persistently cold. I don't think my feet have felt warm since about Thanksgiving, sheesh.

Because my weekend was a little busy, I didn't make it to the supermarket for my usual haul of fresh produce. By today, I have a single apple in the fridge and a large sack of frozen peas in the freezer. Yikes! But rather than head to the store, I'm going to experiment and see how long I can last with my pantry options. I do have five quarts of home-canned mixed vegetables, as well as four pints of a home-canned green bean and carrot mix. (I had five pints, but we used one on Sunday for a quick soup with medium shell-shaped pasta.)

I also have about a pound of mung beans kicking around. Sprouts can be a good way to get Vitamin C when you're out of citrus, so into the sprouter they go!

I admit I'm being a little cavalier with the household's nutrition with this experiment, especially since it'll take a couple of days for the sprouts to be edible. Never fear, though: the teenager is at her dad's home this week, so it's only my diet that may suffer. But I have a feeling I'll do OK. Now, off to make some hot chocolate to tide me over until dinner.

11 January 2014

Surviving the polar vortex . . . and the flu

Well, that was a spate of cold weather, there.

And just before it hit, I came down with the flu, even though I got my shot before Thanksgiving.

On the one hand, I was going to have to cancel a slew of meetings earlier this week since I was on doctor's orders to stay at home in what I like to call my home-office work-cave. But on the other hand, most of my commitments canceled anyway due to the weather or facilities reasons. By Thursday, I was out of "quarantine" and could hobble my way to an event planning meeting. Then I took the bus to Penns Landing to take a gander at the ice-clogged Delaware River and had a healthy walk home.

I was happy, while I was sick, to have a good store of food and nibbles on hand. I'd fallen ill on a Thursday evening and was incapacitated, shuffling back and forth from sofa to kitchen, for about 36 hours. A friend came around on Friday evening with some comfort-food saltine crackers, but otherwise I had plenty on hand to keep myself going. We spent the weekend watching "Mystery Science Theater 3000," and my friend shopped for eggs and fresh fruit. Then on Monday I was on my own again, having arranged for my daughter to stay at her dad's an extra few days. Crockpot to the rescue! I now have a new, no-brainer recipe for sick days and other emergencies.


  • One can spicy/chili/ranchero beans
  • One can creamed corn
  • 1 - 2 cups cubed winter squash
  • Water to cover


    Combine all ingredients in a small slow cooker and heat on LOW or HIGH until warmed through. Serve with bread or crackers. No, seriously, that's it. It's so simple, someone with an axillary temperature of 101 degrees F can do it!

    Let's be clear. I'm not usually of the "open a bunch of cans and dump them in the slow cooker" school of cooking. I think you lose vitamins and can add a ton of sodium to the diet that way. Rather, I put this recipe together to get some nice, hot calories and fiber into myself while I was sick as a dog with flu and unable to do the dishes for a few days.

    Cost: You can get cans of beans and corn for under $1.00 apiece. A small quantity of leftover winter quash, or white potatoes, or sweet potatoes, or cooked rice (watch the liquid content if you use rice) will add about $0.50 - $1.00. The total cost, including cooking electricity, should run $3.00 at the most, and provide 3 or 4 large portions.