A blog about gardening, canning, quilting, family, saving money, and product reviews

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Canning Carrots - $10 on $10 at Kmart - and a free toothbrush!

First, let me apologize profusely for my absence, half of this blog post has been ready for more than a week, but I got caught up with working all last week out of town, and helping coach my children's soccer teams, I was SO tired and didn't get around to posting ANYTHING. I'm sorry. Forgive me? Ok, let's be all scary now and can some carrots!

I pulled the carrots out of my garden the week before last before the frost came, I didn't know for sure if I wanted to be pulling carrots out after the tops were all wilted from frost damage, so I pulled them up prior to that and cleaned the garden up. So yay me. But when canning carrots, you need to use the oh-so-scary pressure canner. You can relax though, it's really not as scary as your grandparents and parents led you to believe. You are not going to blow a hole in your roof. 

And please, do not get scared, and go use a water bath canner, this will spell worse disaster than a blown pressure plug on the canner. When working with non-acidic or low-acid foods, a pressure canner must be used. You can use a water bath canner like we have used before only when canning high acid foods (fruits, pickled foods, and jellies) because the acid prevents botulism from growing and creating toxins, but the heat of the canner breaks down any toxins and renders the food safe. Unfortunately with low-acid foods, potential botulinum spores would not be killed, and although the toxins would be destroyed, the botulism would flourish in the non-acidic and anaerobic environment, producing new toxins. This is scary, because you cannot see botulism, it won't blow the tops of the jars, it won't cause mold, it won't smell funny, it won't look funny. It's a totally invisible killer. So, the pressure canner allows the steam to build up under pressure and the contents of the jar are able to get to a higher temperature than boiling water not under pressure. Water boils at 212 degrees, perfect for breaking down toxins, but to kill the botulinum spores, you need to get to 240 degrees, and this is impossible without using a pressure canner. Please do not get all "but my grandmother did it and she is alive" on me. Because lightning may not have struck her, doesn't mean it won't happen to you. Be safe and do it right! Ok *steps off soap box*

So, let's get comfortable with this crazy pot first. First things first, I go with a weighted canner. I do so because I'm a person who likes to wander around and get things done while I'm canning. So I don't want to babysit a gauge. If you are using a dial gauge canner, you really do have to watch it like a hawk, if you don't, and it even slightly loses pressure, the integrity and safety of the food inside can be compromised, and nobody wants to lose their food or become ill. Also, if the pressure drops even for just a moment, you have to start your time all over again, but you would never know if it happened if you weren't watching it. Also, if you aren't watching a dial gauge canner, and it over-pressures, things are going to blow, it's going to be loud and scary, but it won't blow up, it'll just blow the safety button, and release a bunch of pressure, and quite possibly break your jars and ruin your food anyways. So, I choose a weighted gauge, the weight rocks and sounds like a loud salt shaker, you can hear it throughout the house, so you know that it's at the right pressure, and once you get it adjusted to rocking nice and consistently, you can start your time, as long as it's rocking, everything is working fine. 

I bought this presto canner at walmart 6 years ago, for about $60 bucks, it may look rough inside (haha, DO NOT knock the weight off to rapid depressure, you will turn yours black inside too), but it's a good canner and has never done me wrong. Of course I say this after it wouldn't pressure up while canning this batch of carrots, because the rubber seal was also 6 years old, and it was very worn out and wasn't making a great seal. No worries, I had extras standing by because I knew it was on it's last leg.

This is the lid of the canner. The stem in the middle holds the weight, which rocks back and forth releasing the extra pressure. The little silver circle on the left will raise as the canner pressures up and prevents you from removing the lid while it's under pressure, because doing so would cause injury. the black circle on the right is the overpressure plug. Once the canner reaches too high of pressure (if the stem for the weight is blocked, the black dot will blow out and release the extra pressure). I'll remind you later, I always keep the overpressure plug to the back of the stove, so that if it does blow and I'm checking the canner, it won't blow at me.

The biggest key to safety here, to make sure that the pressure plug below does not blow, is to make sure this stem in this picture is clear of any food or other blockages. Simply hold the lid up and look through the stem, if you can see clearly through it, all is good, and you can continue on. If you can't, please take a pipe cleaner and clean it out. This will allow steam to vent properly and prevent over-pressuring of the canner.

Again, this is the overpressure plug, you need to replace this every time you replace the seal, as it will get old and flimsy just like the old rubber ring does, so in order to maintain safety and to keep it working correctly, if the seal no longer works, replace this part too (they come together in a box, so it's super simple to remember).

The canners come with a rack to set the jars on, you need to use this, again, for good circulation, in order to make sure that the finished product is safe and heated correctly.

Your canner comes with a manual that tells you how much water you need to start off with to ensure the canner will not go dry. As you can see it's not much at all, and please follow your canner's instructions to find out how much to put in as it will differ by model/brand. Mine has a handy dandy little nub you can feel with your fingers, it tells you the water needs to start out that deep (in an empty canner with nothing but the rack in it. Of course, this canner is old and well-used, and I have a permanent black line showing me where the nub would say to fill the water to, so, I see it as a helpful tool! :)

Go ahead and put the water in the canner up to the recommended fill line. 

You will notice that it doesn't reach the top of the jars, that's ok, we aren't using boiling water to heat the jars and contents, we are using pressurized steam, so this is perfect. At this point I'm starting to heat up my jars and my canner so that when I put the hot food in, I will not incur breakage. But with this canner, and the low water level, the jars want to float around and fall over during this process. So I go ahead and fill the jars with some water, just to keep them in place, we will dump this water down the drain when we are ready to fill the jars.

I'm boiling water. Now, typically, I do NOT add my carrots to the boiling water. I raw pack the carrots into the jars and cover with boiling water. However, the carrot digging/cleaning/peeling process took so long that I had to refrigerate the carrots over night, they were so cold they even had a bit of ice forming on them. If I were to take a hot jar, add partially frozen carrots, and then add boiling water...my jars would break. So I'm putting the carrots into the water just long enough for them to get warmed up, I'm not cooking them in this step. They cook in the canner. If you have NOT put your carrots in the fridge, then skip this step, just boil the water.

 I add carrots to the jars to within one inch of the top of the jar, we need to have one inch of headspace (space from top of contents to top of jar) when we are pressure canning. This is easy to figure without a special device, one inch is that raised ring around the jar that the canning ring sits just above when it's screwed on, I'm pointing to it in this picture! :)

We get to skip heating up the lids when pressure canning, the heat is much higher when pressure canning, and the process takes much longer, you will have no problem with the sealing compound creating a seal, I promise. So, I fill the jars with carrots, to one inch from the top, then with water to one inch from the top of the jar, make sure the rims are clean, add a lid straight out of the box, and then add a ring.

Then set the jars back into the canner, the water level will rise to about mid-level or maybe even to the shoulders of the jars. Rarely will it go over that. Now we put the lid on the  canner. Remember, I put the black pressure-relief plug towards the back of the stove. This ensures if it blows, it doesn't blow directly at me. Leave the weights off right now though. We need to evacuate the cold air in the top of the canner. To do this, we leave the stove on, and leave the weight off. Once the canner starts to release a steady stream (not a puttering, but a steady stream) of steam from the valve stem (that's what I'm going to call it today) we can start a timer. My canner says to evacuate with a steady stream of steam for TEN minutes, but some canners call for more. You do NOT want to go overboard on this, because if you let it steam steam out for 20-30 minutes, you are losing water. If you lose all your water, you cannot have steam to heat the jars, and the canning will fail, the canner could warp, and the jars could be lost in the process as well. So, when the steam starts streaming out steadily, I start a timer. In ten minutes, I put on the weight.

Hmmmm...I added the weight, but the canner is steaming out the sides...since no pressure has built up, I removed the weight and the lid, replaced the seal (darnit, I knew this was going to happen), replaced the lid and restarted the evacuation process.

After fixing the seal, and re-evacuating the cool air from the canner, I added the weight, and my 
"button" popped up, YAY! That means the pressure is rising. Now, because of my altitude, everything must be canned at 15 pounds of pressure if I use a weighted gauge. This information can easily be found in your ball blue book, as you can see the book says 10 pounds, but that's for sea level. I forgot to take a picture, but at the front of the book, there is a chart that shows you what changes need to be made. This seems a little awkward because when using a water bath canner, we adjust the TIME, but with a pressure canner the time will remain the same and the pressure is what will change. 

So, I have the three-piece weight, with all three pieces, that's 15 pounds. I wait for it to start to rock steadily. It sounds like a really really really loud salt shaker...tch tch tch. You can look on youtube for recommendations on the speed of the "tch tch tch" you want it to be steady, as if you were rocking a salt shaker back and forth, but not really quick. But I will be honest, with a weight, it's really hard to mess up. Basically what it does is it allows anything over 15 pounds of pressure to evacuate (causing the rocking and the tch sound). Once the weight starts rocking, and it's steady, and I've adjusted everything to my liking, I can start my time. This says pints process for 25 minutes. So I start a timer for 25 minutes. I go about my day. I stay in hearing-range of the canner, if anything goes wrong, I will hear it.

Once the time is up, turn off the stove, and remove the canner from the heat. DO NOT remove the weight. DO NOT open the canner, or attempt to do so. You could burn yourself with the steam, and rapid de-pressuring could cause you to lose the food inside. After the silver "lock" drops back down level with the lid, the pressure is low enough, and you can safely remove the weight and open the canner. Take out your food, set it on a baking rack or a towel (again, to protect against temperature shock on a cold counter) and let the lids seal.

Do not leave the canner overnight with the jars in it. There is a bacteria that can survive the high heat of a pressure canner. It's called "flat sour" and it will cause the food to taste flat and sour, no fun. As far as I have learned, it won't make you sick, you won't be able to eat the food, it'll taste very bad. So, remove it when the canner pressures down.

The cool thing about a pressure canner is, you know right away after you remove the jars if they are going to seal or not. If the food inside is boiling rapidly (which will literally take hours sometimes to stop), the lid will seal! But if the food looks calm and isn't bubbling like crazy, it'll never seal. So odd, but fun to watch. After the jars cool, check the seals, label the contents, remove the rings. Congratulations! You survived your first pressure-canning session, and you lived to tell about it! And now everybody will think you are a super hero because you don't have a hole in your roof! LOL!

Let's get to some freebies now, the first one is for Kmart. If you are a shop your way rewards member, go here, click "claim." You will be given a barcode. I took a screenshot of mine, but they will also email it to you. Go shopping at kmart, spend $10, have them scan this barcode, and you will earn $10 in rewards to use for your next purchase (which you can literally do right after), this offer ends soon, so go do it NOW. I used mine to get some free laundry detergent, didn't pay a dime, and my original purchase was for something we needed anyways, so no extra money out of pocket was spent in this deal.

Then there's Target. Oh, how I have grown to love Target over the past few weeks. We are going to get a free toothbrush, yay, and I know it works because I have already done it, it was literally all I bought, and the register literally cashed out at $0.00. You need to text THANKS to 827438. A text will return to you with a link. Scroll down the link and you will see an offer for $1 off any Colgate purchase. Target sells a toothbrush with the Colgate brand that is $0.94. You will not get overages, but it will cancel out the full price of the toothbrush. Go grab a toothbrush, go to the register, ring up the toothbrush, pull the link back up and let them scan the barcode, and there you have it. You now got a toothbrush for free. Waltz on out of the store feeling all high and mighty that you didn't need to open your check book AT ALL for this one! :)

Until next time,


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