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In The Stock Pot

In the autumn we make broth. And I don’t mean we enjoy some brothy chicken soup. Nope. We have been saving bones for the past year and we make a lot of canned broth to compliment our soups in the coming year. We eat about one soup each week, so that means I need around 50 quarts of broth. That is 12 1/2 gallons of broth. And we are up to the challenge.

One of my favorite aspects of making broth is that it is almost free, made out of scrap and what would otherwise be trash or compost. This gives me an especially warm and thrifty feeling when I see the cans and boxes of broth in the store for dollars. I have to pay for jars…but less and less every year as I acquire more and more jars. I have to pay for the heat to can them and the water to make the broth, but these are negligible expenses. When we buy meat by the side, we often get soup bones or “dog bones not intended for consumption”. Those cost a little.

These instructions are based on filling a 5 gallons stock pot. You can make adjustments for your own family if 5 gallons seems like a lot. From a 5 gallons pot, you will end up with between 2-3 1/2 gallons of actual broth.

The boiling of the beef broth…thank goodness for 5 gallon brew pots.

Meat (Bone!) Broth:
Simple. Save all your bones. Beef in one bag, chicken in another, pork in a third (I usually add lamb or goat bones to the beef). Label your bags! If I have the slow cooker out I will cook my bones with a quart or two of water over night to pull out the really deep nutrition and make an almost jelly-like bone broth. Then I throw this broth and bones in a labeled bag for the next broth day. If the slow cooker is not easily available or I am in a rush, I just toss the bones in the current bag. I use about 3-4 bags of bones per 5 gallons stock pot.

Vegetable (Compost!) Broth:
This is so thrifty it almost hurts. Save your old veggie ends. Nothing moldy, manky, or rotten of course, but anything old (wilty carrots and celery, just past gone potatoes, etc…). Store them in a labeled gallon ziplock bag in the freezer. When you are cooking, throw your vegetable ends in the bag (mushroom stems, celery tops and bottoms, onion and garlic ends and peels, kale stems, whatever…). When you steam or boil veggies, cool the water and add that to the bag. To fill the 5 gallon stock pot, I use 3 bags of frozen veggie ends.

Broth Day!!
Make one batch in a day. It’s a low, slow process for most of the day. At the end of the day your house will smell warmly of your broth of choice, which I find very comforting.

Put the contents of your broth bags into the stock pot. Add water to about 3 inches from the top. For veggie broth, do a quick check of the fridge for anything that could go in the broth instead of being wasted. For meat broth, add 4-6 firm potatoes (I prefer smallish red ones and I will explain why) to increase the potassium content. Bring the stock to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Leave it simmering for 2 or more hours. It really can’t cook for too long; in the case of bone broth, the longer it cooks the more nutrients you get out of the bones.

I don’t add any herbs or salt. I can always add those at a future time. What I want is plain broth that I can fix up later, depending on what I am cooking.

Once it’s cooked, I pressure can my broth in quarts. My freezer is usually packed, and I don’t want to wait for broth to defrost anyway. I want to pour it into the soup pot and get it going right away. I use the reliable instructions from Ball Canning. You must use a pressure canner when canning meat or vegetable products. If you don’t have a pressure canner, freeze your broth in freezer bags.

With bone broth, I cool the bones and pick them over for meat scraps. I always fill at least a quart freezer bag with “pulled meat” for later. I also pull out the potatoes that have been cooked full of brothy-goodness for frying up with dinner or breakfast…or just eating right there as I pick the bones over. This is an entirely optional procedure, but I hate to waste any part of our meat. Sister-Bug’s favorite part is sorting the bones and she’s getting pretty good at it for a 2-year old.

This all takes time, but it’s mostly down time while I wait for the broth to cook down or the canner to vibrate at pressure, and having ready-to-pour broth of all kinds at hand is more than worth taking a couple of days to make our broth.

And it tastes SO much better than the broth from the store.


Preserve Us

Everything is ripe all at once. Peaches on Sunday, now tomatoes, Chantrelles, and applesauce in the next week. If I miss some of my regular posts it’s because of a canning onslaught taking over my kitchen.

Keep your eye of the Canning Count in the sidebar there if you want to know what I’m up to…

Blueberry Day

Today, on a cool, slightly damp day, we adventures out to Adkin’s Farm for blueberry picking. The picking was a little damp, but we didn’t get hot, dehydrated, or sunburned. And this is the Willamette Valley, so we are used to the damp. The bushes were laden and it was a fun and successful adventure. Rest assured that regardless of what else happens, there will be more pie at this house.

Many of the berries will be dehydrated and frozen. Leftover freezer berries from past years and some berries from today found their way into the jam pot.

After canning nine jars if plain ol’ blueberry jam, I decided that diversity is the spice of life. So I added some ground cloves, ground ginger, and chipotle peppers to the pot. This came out fabulous. I think I have a brother and fellow canner out there who wants s PB&J sandwich with this concoction.

All in all, 15 more jars of jam and all the freezing and drying, and we can call this a good canning day.

And if anyone is interested, here is the approximate recipe I created for the

Blueberry-Chipotle Jam

To one standard blueberry jam recipe


2 tablespoons ground ginger
1/2teaspoon ground cloves
1-3 tablespoons chipotles peppers in adobo sauce, ground smooth.

Start with a small amount of the Chipotle and adjust the spice to taste and heat desires. Remember that it is easier to put spice in than take it out!

Cherries in the Canning Pot

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Two weeks ago my dad and his sweetie picked pie cherries. Their season is so very short that it is important to get them at once, or else there will be no cherry pie in the winter. Or, more accuarately, we would have to buy pre-made cherry pie filling. Anyway, the cherries were picked and pitted, then frozen until there was time to deal with them. We got them right as we were getting home from Faire and dealing with head colds and laundry mountian. Not a good time for canning.

We also added a flat of bing cherries to the freezer – some frozen for eating and smoothies and whatnot, some dried, and some saved for cherry jam.

I looked at the calendar and realized that today was cherry canning day. So we defrosted the cherries and  got to work.

Pot o’ Cherries

There were too many cherries for the usual pot. We had to get out the five-gallon brewing kettle.

Brother-Bug stirring in the sugar.

I reduced the amount of sugar reccommended by 1/2 cup per quart of cherries. I figure that you can always add more sugar later, but it’s really hard to take sugar out.

Cherry pie filling going into jars.
We ended up with 7 quarts of pie filling. One I saved out to make into pie immediately. The rest went into the water bath canner. Then it was time to move onto the jam!
Jam in the jam pot.

The jam is approximately 1/2 pie cherries, 1/2 bing cherries, sugar to taste, a dash of lemon, and some pectin. I whizzed the cherries up in the food processor before I put them in the pot.

Sister-Bug eating the skimmed foam from the jam. She approves.

The jam went into jars and into the water bath as well. I saved some cherries out for making some fruit leather, but that is a project for another day.

The day’s bounty

At the end I have 7 quarts of pie cherries and 10 1/2-pints of cherry jam. And a dream of cherry pie on a dull day in mid-winter.

And one of my favorite things about a can of cherries? I think they look like I’ve been pickling the hearts of evil gnomes. Macabre, but true. And so tasty.

In the Pantry

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These are some of my jars.

I love to can. There’s an art to it, a rythem, and when I stack shelves of broth and jams I feel good. I know what is in those jars, I usually know who grew it.

I like knowing that the food I feed my family is made by me. I like knowing that we have food stored away. I like the alchemy of jellies and pickles, and the way jars of tomatoes and pears look on the shelf. I love the taste of home canned peaches.

Today I organized my shelves of canned goods – jams on one shelf, pickles on another, broths on another. Empty jars kept together, organized more or less by size and neck width.

I discovered that we are set for pickles, probably for several years. We need peaches, possibly some apple sauce, certainly more apple and grape juice. We are completely out of beef broth and fish broth, fine for chicken, and have lots of veggie broth.

So now we can strike into canning season, with its sticky jam pots, jewel colored jars, rich smells, and long days of hard work. Maybe some cherry jam and cherry pie filling this weekend. We will have to see. Maybe some strawberry jam. And I noticed I have only one jar of blueberry jam left…