Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Play Toys and Work

All good things must come to an end! And Fiona has almost finished with the freezing/dehydrating/canning. She has done a wonderful job. I am looking forward to reaping from the bounty God has provided! The freezer is almost full again. We need to sort it. I have been neglectful. There are forty some dozen boxes of jars awaiting my storing of them. That is over 500 jars! They are all over the floor. We need more storage space already. But what a problem to have. And we still have a couple of boxes of tomatoes ripening that will need canning or dehydrating. There are a few peppers that need working. She has dehydrated most of the ones we had. They take up a lot less room when dehydrated. We dehydrate them and then stick them in a jar. Most of the onions are still here. They are holding up well. The cabbage is losing outer leaves, but is still quite good. The pumpkins/squash and the chickens/turkeys are making acquaintances. We are finding the squash/pumpkins to be quite tasty. So things are changing. Fiona is cooking them and the rind and seeds are going out to the poultry. We're keeping the meat, and some of the seeds. We may grow our own next year. 

As you can see, things are going quite well. We are very happy with the outcomes. We just have a little more to do.

But “play toys” have made an appearance on more than one occasion. Fiona needed a new food processor. She had her heart set on a Cuisinart Power Prep Plus 11 cup unit. She ordered it through Overstock and got it in a timely manner. Parts missing. Overstock gave us Cuisinart's number. They said it was made by Conair and gave us their number. Then it was phone tag and aggravation. Cuisinart and Conair wanted nothing to do with us and definitely didn't want to help us. Overstock went the extra mile. Ashley was great. She gave us a credit for our troubles. She called Cuisinart to get us the parts. No go. Ashley said if we paid for the parts, Overstock would reimburse us. (I forgot. Overstock sent us another unit, but the missing parts were not part of that package. We had to send it back. At Overstock's expense.) Anyway, Ashley went the extra mile again and intervened with Cuisinart and got the parts sent to us, at no expense to us. Way to go Ashley! And Overstock! Boo on Cuisinart and Conair! And Fiona is extremely overjoyed with her new “play toy”. Therefore, I am quite happy. But not with Cuisinart!!!

This is a wonderful food processor, it has made making Ketchup and sauces a breeze. It is quiet and best of all really easy to clean up after pulsing quarts of tomatoes.

With all the tomatoes, Fiona needed a “food strainer”. She wanted a Victorio. The Amish store had them in the crank handle model. She says it is a life saver. Happy again!

This simple strainer is a great piece of kitchen equipment but it does require a solid and sturdy table or counter to screw it on to.

This girl is so easy to please. (Look at who she is stuck with – ME!) She just came in bragging about how easy the gas stove is to clean after tomatoes, etc. had bubbled and splashed all over it. Nothing like her old electric stove!

And I had gotten her a funnel at the Amish store that has a built in head space measure built into it. She says it is so much nicer to work with. Another “brownie point” for good old ME!

And something like 17 cases of jars later – that is over 200 jars – she is ready to admit I was right for a change. I ordered her a “Vacucanner”. This is a pressure canner that has been modified for vacuum. It comes with a vacuum pump to pull a vacuum on the canner. It has a gauge to monitor the vacuum. And a valve to break the vacuum. This is not for liquids. Only dry goods like beans, herbs, spices, flour, rice, seeds, dehydrated peppers and tomatoes and other goodies (like we are getting), and rolled oats and other cereals. Whatever you have on hand that needs preserving works. We got the larger model that does half gallons. Put the dry contents in the GLASS jar. It has to be glass from what I understand. Tighten the ring. Back the ring off a quarter turn so the air can get out. (Make sure the rim of the jar and the lid are clean.) Put them in the Vacucanner. Put the lid on. Close the valve. Turn the vacuum pump on. Watch the gauge. A little over a minute later, when it gets to 29 inches of mercury reading (just a gauge reading, not really mercury), turn the pump off. Open the valve QUICKLY so the air can rush in and seal the jars. Check the lids to ensure they are sealed. Tighten the rings. Store the jars. All done. The modified canner we received was a Presto.

This is the Vacuum motor for the Vacucanner. It is shipped without oil so you have to add it to the machine.

 We wipe down the O ring with a light coat of olive oil.

 It holds 10 pints at once or 7 quarts or 4 half gallons.

You lock the lid on just as you would with heat canning.

Once the canner is closed you turn the motor on and in about 3 minutes it has vacuum sealed the jars.

This is a lot like water bath or pressure canning, just quicker. In regular canning, the heat pushes air out of the jars due to the expansion caused by heat on the air. When you set the jars out on a dry towel or whatever, they will cool. This will pull a vacuum on the jar and seal it. We just did the same thing, just without the heat. We can do 4 half gallons, 7 quarts, or 10 pints at a time. After the jars are filled and the rings are tightened and then backed off, you are ready to go. In about 3 minutes, the lid is on, vacuum is pulled, pump is cut off, valve is opened, lid is removed, and you are ready to store your jars.

We went to the salvage store and got rolled oats, cereal, beans, soup mixes, etc. We had dried apples, dried peppers, dried tomatoes, dried parsley, spice mixes, herbs, etc. to try this on. We had fun working with our new “play toy” together. And we got a lot of work done while the tomatoes were simmering. New fangled gadgets can be a lot of fun, and useful. We tried to match the jar to the product. Cereal is used quickly, so it went into half gallons. Beans went into pints and quarts, depending on what kind of bean it was. Soup mixes went into pints, enough for one meal or two for two people. Dried fruit and vegetables went into pints. They reconstitute nicely, but you don't need a whole jar, so a jar lasts a while. And so it went. The 8 or 9 bushel of peppers went into less than 2 dozen pint jars. And they are almost as good as fresh when added into dishes when cooking.

On their web site, they have the six enemies of long term food storage. Number three is insects. This is a quote from their web site:

No-one likes to think about insects in our food, but the truth is they are always there. If you store food without heating it or without removing the oxygen, eggs already present will hatch and devour your food. If you pull a vacuum to 22 hg, any insects will die for lack of oxygen, and any new eggs that hatch will immediately die. If you pull the vacuum to 28 hg, insects at any stage will die, eliminating the possibility of contamination after opening. Every VacuCanner comes with a gauge so you can be sure the food you are storing will be good when you need it.

I have to admit, we did cheat some. We were going through a lot of jars quick. We had bought 24 dozen jars along with the soup mixes, beans, etc. All of these jars were almost gone. We had other jars or we could go buy more jars, but we just didn't need to use all of these jars. We discussed it and decided to use half gallons for some things, along with pints and quarts. We filled 4 half gallon jars with parsley. We filled 6 half gallon jars with Mexican spice mix – it is old, but still quite good. There are at least 6 half gallons of dried apples. There are 9 half gallons with cereals. And a couple of other things are in the large jars. We have a lot of “things” in jars. Just not much variety. That is next years project: to get some variety into the jars. A lot of these will be empty by then. Accessories to many a fantastic meal!

Oh!!! Did I mention that she has almost 30 other dozens of jars with “liquid” in them. That is another 350 (give or take) jars of food. And those Squash/pumpkins may be getting dehydrated and vacucanned. She can tell you about that recipe and procedure!

I don't think we here need to concern ourselves with this, but I thought some of you might be about to consider this for yourselves. From their web site:

Heat plays a major part in the success or failure of your long term food storage. Research shows that most dry foods stored at 60 degrees Fahrenheit (which is the average temperature of most basements or cellars) will last for 30 plus years in an oxygen and moisture free environment. As a rule of thumb, every 10 degree increase above 60 degrees will take ten years from the life of your food. Every ten degrees cooler than 60 degrees can add ten years to the shelf life. This holds true to about 38 degrees, at which point most dry foods can keep indefinitely.

This little bit of info from their site, we have had trouble ourselves with in the past. We provide this in the hopes of helping someone else.

To store dry foods long term, the foods you put in jars must have a moisture content of 10% or less. If the moisture content is higher than 10%, mold, fungus, or anaerobic bacteria such as botulism can grow in your food storage. VacuCanner will remove the moisture that is in the air as humidity.

Anyway, Fiona is winding down her work on all the auction produce I dumped onto her. She has been a fantastic help. I am lucky and thankful for her. She is a prize. And we have had a lot of fun in the midst of all of this work. And the antics of the recycling poultry is another joy for Fiona to tell you about. I will admit to us “wasting” an hour or two every day with our “children”. In six to ten weeks, their time will be coming. And more jars will be needed!

Life is too short to not enjoy it. So, the heck with it! Go have some fun and enjoy your lives!!!

From the insane asylum escapees up here on Mocking Bird (or Poultry) Hill to all of you, we hope God blesses you at least half as much as He has us.

How can you resist Buff Cuteness!


Ralph and Fiona

PS: Fiona says I need to mention something. When you open a vacuum sealed jar, it is almost as hard to open as a pressure canned jar. It is tight. A wide mouth is easier, the same as in a pressure canned jar. 

PPS: Happy Thanksgiving and may we all recognize what we have to be thankful for! 



  1. You folks don't let the grass grow under you.

    1. Harry, we got a late start and the way things are we don't have the luxury of time [or our mispent youth]. We have been researching and planning for a long time. This property and the community around us helps a great deal with this past gardenless summer. We have learned much from this amazing Blog community of aware souls who see the world around us. Thank you for stopping by and we always appreciate your comments.

  2. You're never too old to play with new toys, are you Fiona?? Looks like Christmas has come early to your house. Oh, the drudgery of having to find places to put all that food! (-:

    Everything looks great, thanks for the update.


    1. The sad thing is a lot of people think putting up food is drudgery. Even in this rural community people look at the jars we are buying and say things like, that's way too much work or what are you going to do with all that food. (I am pretty excited watching Ralph design the shelving!)

    2. We get the same kind of comments around here. Too much work.

      They're talking about you over at Mom's Scribbles, all that canning, new tools and funny chicken videos. (-:


  3. thanks for info on vacuum storage, will have that thing on the birthday list. never heard of it. many thanks.
    love the video of the chicken, et alia, stampede!

    1. I was skeptical about the Vacucanner....but Ralph did his research and it looks like it really is going to be a great investment. Our dehydrated vegetables will store much better now.

      And the chicken stampede is a hilarious way to start the day!

  4. i don't watch tv but i tune in to the chicken stampede to start the day off right!

    1. They are such fun, I am so glad your enjoying them!

  5. Wow, I'd never heard of a vacucanner, and just when I was wondering about dry canning! Dehydration is a food preservation technique that is difficult with all of our humidity, hence my thoughts turning elsewhere. I followed your link and was almost afraid to look at prices, but I definitely think this would be worth the investment.

    1. Ralph did a lot of research on this one as it is expensive. So we bit the bullet. Humidity is an issue here to. I have to watch my dehydrated foods closely. I read alot about people wanting to dehydrate so they don't need jars but you still have to store it safely and not lose it to mould or insects. The Vacucanner website made some good points about long term storage problems. We are betting on this canner and glass jars as a safe long term storage system. I am so glad this helped you, oh one aside, this is a mechanical system, there is a motor and switches, Ralph gets totally involved in canning with it. He is not so excited about hot sweaty liquid canning! It must be a guy thing!.

  6. Well, I never heard of a Vacucanner and that is cool. I wanted to be able to seal dry things in jars like that and what I did was buy a FoodSaver with the jar sealer attachments. Foodsavers are expensive but I joined their site so I'd get promotional stuff around Christmas and they had a really good sale about then.

    I use the top of a chopstick to pry open sealed jars without bending them up. Then, if they are otherwise in good condition, they get washed and can be used for vacu-sealing jars. They hold the seal as well as new ones do.

    I have a Cuisinart with an 11-cup workbowl and use it a lot. I don't use the dough hook to knead bread in it, however, as it has gotten torqued onto the post twice and I've had to send the whole thing in to the factory to get it taken off. I will never do that again. They keep it forever. Last time, the housing had a deep scratch across it, apparently from the removal process. I sent it back again and they replaced the housing with one that was permanently stained somehow. Otherwise I really love my Cuisinart and so I just buy extras at garage sales in case I have to throw one away. Sometimes people don't know how expensive they are, and if they are donated, they don't know it won't work if the lid isn't fastened down onto it, or maybe there's a part missing, so sometimes the price is ridiculously low. I bought one for only $5 once that worked perfectly. You can't even buy a PART for it through Cuisinart for that price.

    I have a dehydrator and I generally use it for apple slices and onion slices (but not at the same time). If you dehydrate onion or garlic, take the dehydrator outside to a covered porch or something as it is stinky. Since moving here, I've dehydrated stuff on trays in the walk-in attic. I've never dehydrated peppers but you've talked me into it for next time. Agree with you totally on the heat damage for vacuum sealed stuff. Also light can be an issue. Cool and dark storage is best, if you can do it. I vacu-seal beans, macaroni, wheat grains, rice as well. Powdery things like sugar, flour, cornmeal can be vacu-sealed if you put it in a closed ziplock bag inside the jar. Wide mouth is easier to manage for this, make sure the ziplock is completely accessible under the lid so you can get the contents out easier once the lid has been opened. Experiment with one first, that will teach you a lot.

    I have had a seal fail and then had insect eggs hatch so I freeze grain for 24 hours first and then vac-seal. It might be that the FoodSaver does not pull as much pressure as your VacuCanner does.

    Loved that great escape clip, by the way, LOL.