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Subject: Rec.Food.Preserving FAQ (v 7.08) Part4

This article was archived around: Sat, 24 Aug 2002 22:13:52 -0400

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Archive-name: food/preserving/part4 Posting-Frequency: monthly (on or about 20th) Last-modified: 2002/08/19 Version: 7.08 Copyright: (c) 1998-2002 Eric Decker ( and others as specified within ) Maintainer: Eric Decker <ericnospam@getcomputing.com>
Rec.Food.Preserving FAQ FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQ) in the newsgroup preserving This FAQ and all its constituent parts, as a collection of information, is Copyright 1998-2002 by Eric Decker, as a work of literature. Distribution by any electronic means is granted with the understanding that the article not be altered in any way. Permission to distribute in printed form must be obtained in writing. The removal of this copyright notice is forbidden. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------- Disclaimer: No author represented in this FAQ is qualified to establish scheduled processes nor is any author a competent processing authority in the sense of 21 CFR 113.83 et alia. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------- Part 4 of 6 11 [ specific equipment questions] 11.1 [ CANNERS--PRESSURE AND WATERBATH, CANNING EQUIPMENT ] 11.1.1 [I see different sized canners for sale. Why should I get a big one?] from Dirk W. Howard My wife and I have two All-American canners. One can do a double stack of pints and a single stack of quarts, and the other can do a triple stack of pints and a double stack of quarts. I like the large capacity. It means that in a 75 minute processing time I can do anywhere from 9 to 18 pints in the "smaller" canner and up to 27 pints in the "large" canner. Total would be 45 pints if running both canners. As opposed to 375 minutes (3 hours 15 minutes) to process 45 pints in a single 9 pint canner. OK, this isn't fair since I did gauge two canners on one. Let's say that your goal was to process 36 pints of green beans. In a single stack canner that is four different batches. Just the processing time alone is 5 hours. This doesn't count the vent time and the cool down. A canner that can have a double stack of pints cuts the processing time down to 2-1/2 hours. This can be worth the extra price of the canner and the trouble (minimal) to work with. 11.1.2 [What do I need to know about a waterbath canner?] Make sure you get one tall enough for your needs. _Putting Food By_ had a very good piece about actually measuring the height of the waterbath canner before you buy it. If you are going to be canning qts, you need to make sure that you bring a quart jar with a two-piece lid on. Get the waterbath canner out of the box (or look for one already out), put the jar in the rack, and make sure you have at least 3" of clearance between the top of the jar and the top of the canner. You want to be able to maintain a roiling boil (full tilt, manly-man, no-holds-barred boil, not a girly simmer) of water comfortably over the jars, with enough clearance to make sure that the boiling water isn't going to boil over onto your stove and into your burner. Also need to know your stove. If you have a gas stove, can use the waterbath canners with ridges; if you have an electric stove, you should use flat bottom canners. Also with electric stove, measure the size of your burner. You'll get best results with a canner that overhangs the burner by less than 4". Lesson for the newcomer to canning: a ruler is the most important tool you'll have. Use it liberally. [ Can I use a pressure canner as a waterbath canner? ] Toni <toni@servcom.com> wrote: >>I advise AGAINST using your Pressure Canner as a container to water bath >>in. >> After 30 years of experience with canning, using both methods, I did >>just this and spent 3 days in the hospital. I did not tighten the lid on >>the canner and did not close the petcock. I maintained the full rolling >>boil Eric responded: It is not a problem if one does not use the lid but your advice is basically sound. BWB is usually done in an open pot so your experience is somewhat rare - I hope. I am truly sorry to here of your misfortune. Yes, you have touched on a FACT. Installing the lid on ANY pressure device even without locking / closing off for pressure WILL induce a pressure proportional to the heat induced vs the escape rate of steam. The pressure will be quite variable but can reach up to around 3 lbs. PFB says "It has to be deep enough" That is a reference to a pot that is deep enough for 2" coverage of jars and an additional amount for the roll of a boil. That 2" depth of water above the jar is to assure the temperature at the top jar of the jar is the maximum and not slightly lower as one gets closer to the open suface. Proper BWB relies on convection and that process feeds off thermal mass to immerse and soak the jars with heat. Needless to say, not many pressure canners are deep enough to do quarts and leave a good margin for safety - covers ALWAYS off. >>which blew off at my first touch. A very painful experience. Water bath >>canners are not expensive and worth every dime they cost. Thank you for mentioning your experience as it is quite possible for a newbie to make that very mistake. [ Can I use a device sold as a steam canner in food processing? ] No. These devices which consist of a lidded pot used to be sold as a "atmospheric canner". Putting Food By is strictly opposed to such devices - they do not do the job. USDA and AgCanada are strong in thier denunciation of said devices. That being said, a great explanation in explaining why the device is useless comes from Robert Matern who wrote: "The physics is clear, and undeniable. The only way to make convection work faster for cooking of any form is to speed it up (forced airflow), a sort of reverse-windchill. This is why something like the Jetstream Oven and similar devices work so much faster than traditional ovens, toaster ovens, and regular convection ovens - high speed airflow, not higher temperature. This would speed up heat transfer with steam, also, but none of the non-pressurized steam canners I've seen use forced airflow. The time differential between regular convection and a Jet-Stream type oven is 3:1 to 4:1 or more. For a steam canner, you'd probably have to quadruple the processing time over boiling water canning in order to be safe; but without standardized testing, you still wouldn't be SURE. Why risk it?" Sandy from halcyon.com writes another great article" I wonder what catalog you're reading. I've seen this in the Territorial Seed catalog, from Oregon. I think they have great seeds for the Pacific NW, but this claim they make is idiotic. I've tried to get them to remove that text, but they've refused. I have not been able to make them understand that on this planet, under normal atomospheric conditions, steam is not hotter than boiling water. Here's what I've written in the past on this question: When you boil water, it gets hotter and hotter until it reaches 212 degrees Fahrenheit. At this point, no matter how long you continue to boil, it stays the same temperature. The water evaporates and becomes steam. This steam is also the same temperature, 212 degrees F. The only way to make the steam hotter (and/or to boil the water at a higher temperature) is to put the system under pressure. This is what a pressure canner does. (As an aside, steam heat in an apartment building is steam that is generated under pressure and is therefore hotter than steam generated by a pot of unpressurized boiling water.) You can put your hand in a 200-degree F oven and it will feel warm but tolerable. If you put your hand in 200-degree F water (close to boiling) you will get a severe burn. This is due to the different methods of heat transfer: air is a poor conductor; water is a good conductor. Think of being outside when it's 70 degrees F (quite pleasant) versus being in a pool of water at 70 degrees (feels very cold). This transfer difference is what makes steam canners poorly suited to canning: you need good heat transfer so that not only the outside of the jars, but the contents at the centers of the jars get thoroughly heated to 212 degrees F. (This is also why smaller, narrower jars are preferred over larger, wider ones -- the heat does not reliably reach and cook the food at the centers.) This will definitely happen in a boiling-water bath when jars are processed for the prescribed times. This will not reliably happen in a steam canner. IF you're canning a high-acid food, such as fruit jam, AND it's been made with a HIGH ratio of sugar, AND you've cooked everything properly AND sterilized the jars, a steam canner might POSSIBLY be safe to use. However, there are too many variables to be absolutely sure and I, for one, use the methods that result in the lowest risk. I'm not sure why everyone thinks steam canning is that much easier, either. There's a high risk of getting burned from the steam when removing the unusually large cover, and you're still boiling water (although a smaller amount) which will still heat up your kitchen. A steam canner is just a large pot with a high lid but inverted -- the lid goes on the bottom and gets filled with water, and the former-pot-but-now-a-lid sits on top to trap the steam. Why not just get a good, large pot that will be useful at other times of the year, too?" 11.1.3 [What do I need to know about gauges and weights ?] Dial gauges must be tested *every* year before canning season [Hey! Maybe near the time of daylight saving; you're changing your clock and checking your smoke alarm anyway.--LEB], and sometime throughout the canning season, depending on the amount of use. This gauge should also be tested/retested if the lid was dropped, because a sharp jolt can cause a dial gauge to lose its calibration. Even if you buy a brand-spanking-new dial gauge pressure canner, you *must still* test the gauge. I've found that nearly 50% of new dial gauges have gross errors on the minus scale (i.e. inside doesn't get as hot as the dial gauge would lead you to believe). [ Dial gauge are required at elevation in excess of 10,000 ft.as the weight of a deadweight canner is insufficient to generate the pressure needed to achieve 240F. Weights are considered foolproof. A few folks have reported seepage from jars when using dead-weight type canner. Jars lids must be clean and tightened properly before processing. REDUCE the heat to the minimun required to keep the weight rocking gently. Any more heat than this and the jars will be over-pressurized in relation to the pressure inside the pot - seepage will result. Opening a canner or inducing a sudden temperature drop will cause a pressure drop - seepage will result. Do not over-pressure ANY canner, NEVER douse a canner with cold water, and allow the canner to cool to 0 pressure before opening the canner. There should be no seepage - period. Seepage is a sign of an imperfect seal caused by improper procedure or faulty equipment. --ED] 11.1.4 [I got this pressure canner (not cooker!) for a gift. How do I take care of it?] From: phillips@colum.edu (Gary Phillips x397) The two largest US manufacturers of pressure canners for home use are Mirro and Presto. I imagine their products are available in Canada and if you can find a hardware or cooking supply store that handles either brand they will be able to special order these items for you even if they don't have them in stock. My present canner is a Mirro. It does 7 quart jars at once, operates at a choice of 5, 10, or 15 psi, and cost me about $50 in US currency six years ago. It was the least expensive model offered by a local hardware store from stock, and prices went up from there to as high as $100. It has been well worth the investment. Do NOT buy a pressure *cooker* for canning. Although most of them purport to be suitable for doing a few jars (3 or 4) at a time, in fact they can't hold the temperature and pressure evenly enough for really safe operation. [ lack of thermal mass -- ED] From: phillips@colum.edu (Gary Phillips x397) >Yes I bet...I would love to find one at a garage sale. BTW if I ever do, >do you know what to look for to make sure it is still operating safely? Sure. Check the rim of both pan and lid to make sure there are no nicks or damage to the interlocking tabs. Make sure the safety pressure release (usually a rivet-like rubber plug) is still present and soft and moving freely in its slightly oversized hole. Check the gasket that goes between pan and lid for cracks or hardening. Make sure the pressure vent is clean and open, and that the seat for the pressure release weight is smooth and fits well. If there is a pressure gauge, it MUST be recalibrated. Contact the manufacturer for information about that. It would probably be a good idea to order a new gasket and a safety release at the same time. (And an instruction manual if you didn't get one with the canner.) When you are satisfied that everything is present and working, run a test with just water in the pan. Raise pressure to 5 psi and hold it for 15 or 20 minutes, watching carefully for leaks or drips that might indicate problems. If there is a safety interlock to prevent opening while pressure is present examine it to determine whether it has activated. Allow pressure to drop and make sure the interlock doesn't release (not by trying toopen the pan under pressure, but by visual examination) until pressure is gone and you can remove the release weight without any steam escaping. [ For deadweight canners the checks and tests are similar with the sole exception of calibration which is never needed. Be sure you get the three weights which create the 5,10 and 15 lb pressures when used additively. --ED ] ---- Care Of Pressure Canning Equipment To preserve low-acid foods which are safe, good tasting and nutritious, you need to correctly use equipment which is well-maintained and in good operating condition. Safety Vents or Petcocks: - Be sure the vent is clear and unobstructed. Use Q-tip or cotton string to clean. - Be sure vent tubes are screwed tightly into lid. - If it is a model with vent under the handle, be sure the lever is moving freely. - If it is a model with a petcock, be sure it opens and closes freely, either by screwing or flipping the lever up and down. - If there is a film from hard water on the petcock, and it can be unscrewed from the lid, soak the parts in vinegar, then wash and dry. - A ball and socket type petcock can be cleaned with silver polish. Safety Overpressure Plugs: - If it is a metal alloy or composition metal plug that screws into the lid, do not try to remove it. - If it is a rubber plug, use the thumbnail test to see if the rubber is still pliable enough. If pressure with thumbnail leaves a permanent dent in the rubber it is too brittle for safe use and should be replaced. - If either type of plug has been blown out by overpressure in the canner, it must be replaced by a new plug. Do not try to reuse the plug that blew out. Gaskets: - Soak gasket in hot water for an hour to soften before the first use of the season. - Insert gasket into its groove in lid. If it is either too shrunken to fit to the edge, or too stretched to lie smoothly in the lid, it must be replaced. - Use thumbnail test - if pressure with thumbnail leaves a permanent dent in rubber, it is too brittle and should be replaced. Rubber safety plug should be replaced at the same time, since it will probably be too brittle also. Presto suggests coating the rubber gasket with vegetable oil before use. I concur and further suggest a rubber gasket be given a little smear of oil { use a brush to avoid injury to the finger} when putting it on the pot. Dry rubber can tear very easily due to friction against the metal. -ED] On or about 4/1/2000, Bob, ( Zxcvbob) sent me email sugesting: "Mineral oil or vaseline might be a better choice than vegetable oil for lubricating a pressure cooker or canner seal. Especially after exposure to heat, vegetable oils will start to "dry" and turn into a varnish. First they get sticky, then eventually they harden like shellac. This could cause the gasket to stick to the lid and the rim and tear when it is separated, or crack later in storage." Thank you Bob. I concur with this assesment. Testing shows vegetable oil does indeed bond the rubber seal to the canner lid. Henceforth the official position of this FAQ is that rubber gaskets on pressure canners shall be lubricated with petroleum jelly (aka vaseline). Pressure Gauge: - Have dial and pop-up gauges tested every year before canning season at your local Cooperative Extension Office. If it is inaccurate it must be replaced. - Check entrance port and carefully remove any debris that may have accumulated. - Be sure gauge is screwed firmly into lid. If it attaches with a nut on the underside of the lid, be sure the nut is tight. Weighted Pressure Regulators: - Have no moving parts so there is no need to have them tested for accuracy. - Be sure they are clean, with no debris or food residue encrusted especially in the sockets where the weight fits over its vent. - Be sure the entrance port and vent pipe are open and unobstructed. - Be sure there are no nicks or damage to the weight or to the tip of the vent pipe where the weight fits. [ especially the vent pipe which supports the weight. Damage here will affect the proper action of the weight. Improper results may result. Note: a test run which shows the 5lb weight rocks evenly when manually revolved around the vent pipe shows a vent that is in good condition -ED] Canner Lids: - Be sure handles are securely attached. - Be sure gasket fits smoothly into its groove in the lid. - Set lid on canner and turn to lock it into place. It should turn on smoothly and easily. - If it does not turn on easily, check to be sure gasket is properly seated in its groove. Adjust if necessary. - If the gasket is properly seated, check the lid. If the lid is warped or bent, it might be replaceable. Contact the manufacturer. If it is an old model or no longer manufactured, there may be no way to continue using it as a pressure canner. It may be used as a regular pot for cooking. If this is the case, remove the gasket, and if possible open or remove the gauge and overpressure plugs or petcocks, to avoid the possibility of pressure buildup. - If there is no visible problem but the lid continues to be tight, a small amount of petroleum jelly or cooking oil may be applied to the gasket to lubricate it. Canner: - Be sure there is a rack in the canner. - Check the bottom for flatness. Older model canners may warp if overheated. If the bottom is not flat or the canner will not sit flat on the heating element or burner of the stove, it should not be used for canning. Warped canners may be used for cooking. Once warped, the damage *can not* be reversed. - Put 1 inch of water in the canner, close the lid, heat the water and pressurize the canner. Check to see if steam is escaping at any point other than the petcock or safety vent. - If steam is escaping around the gasket and it seems to be properly in place, a *small* amount of petroleum jelly or cooking oil may be rubbed around the gasket. - With weighted gauge canners, if the weight only hisses continuously and does not rock or jiggle intermittently as the manufacturers' directions specify, check to see if the stove is level. This type of weight must hang in a centered position on a vertical vent. If the stove is not level the weight will not hang properly and steam will escape in a continuous stream from the side, so the pressure will not build up properly. [ This will also happen if the pot is not properly exhausted before placing the weights. The resulting condition is food that is not propely processed. A similar end result happens when using dail gauges if the pot is not exhausted. -- PFB via ED] - If steam is escaping around the base of any of the vents (dial gauge, weight vent, safety vent, petcock) where they screw into the lid, and if you can screw them out of the lid, the threads can be wrapped with plumber's tape to seal them. Plumber's tape is a stretchy, non-sticky silicon tape used to seal threads. It is available in small rolls from a hardware store. Be sure to wrap the tape in the right direction, so that when you screw the vent back into the lid, the direction of the turning does not unwrap the tape. Canner Use - Follow manufacturers' directions for use of your particular model. - Use canner on the appropriately sized burner. A canner should not hang over the edge of the burner by more than 2 inches on either side. - Be sure to center the canner on the burner. Some ranges do not allow enough space to center a large canner on rear burners. [N.B. Those newfangled smooth-top induction burners are a *poor* idea for either a waterbath or pressure canner, both appliances are too heavy, and the burner can't take it.--Diane Hamilton?] - Be sure lid is securely locked on (turned on, or screwed down). - If your canner has six or eight large screws and wing nuts to close it, screw them down in opposite pairs. If there are six, screw numbers 1 and 4 down part way, then 2 and 5, then 3 and 6, then return to the first pair to finish tightening continuing around the lid. VERY IMPORTANT for Pressure Canning: Exhaust the pot. - For all models, be sure to vent the canner for 10 minutes on high heat with a full stream of steam escaping. This is necessary to remove air from the canner. Air remaining inside will lower the maximum temperature achievable, and may cause underprocessing of the food. After the 10 min. venting, close the petcock, or place the safety weight or weighted pressure regulator on the vent. Allow the pressure to build to 10 psig, or to 5 or 15 psig if you are processing at those pressures. (psig means Pounds per Square Inch by Gauge, the measure of pressure.) Be sure that you use the proper time for the pressure level that you are using. Check the new USDA Home Canning Guide for safe recommendations. - When canner reaches the specified pressure, begin counting the processing time. - Reduce heat gradually to maintain the pressure without over-pressurizing. With a weighted pressure regulator, leaving the heat on too high will not increase the pressure, but will cause excess steam loss from the canner, since steam will be escaping continuously. Surpassing the specified pressure in a dial gauge canner will result in soft, mushy or darkened food, and excessive vitamin loss. - If the pressure drops below its proper level during processing, increase the heat to bring the pressure back up, then begin the timing over again from zero, for the full specified time. - Never run cold water over a canner to cool it. In addition, excessively rapid cooling may cause jars in the canner to crack or explode as the pressure in the canner drops more rapidly than the pressure in the jars. [ More commonly this produces a serious seepage problem as the jars with high intermnal pressure are no longer restrained by an equal or greater pressure in the pot. Seepage means a seal that is compromised - depending on what is canned it can be a quite serious problem. Seepage means food is present in the lid gum-to jar lips junction. Seal failure will occur eventually and you know what that means --ED] - When the pressure has dropped to zero, wait another 1 minute before opening the canner. On some models the pressure drop will be visible when the overpressure plug drops back into the lid, the rubber plug is no longer bulged, or the dial gauge will read zero. Smaller canners will take at least 30 minutes to cool, larger ones may take over an hour. - Open the petcock or remove the safety weight carefully and wait until any rush of steam has stopped. Then open the lid and tilt the back edge up first, so that it directs the steam away from your face. [and arms. Ouch!] - Remove the jars immediately. Do not leave jars sitting in a hot canner overnight, spoilage may result. Canner Storage: - Turn the lid upside down and rest it on the canner. The weight of the lid should not be resting on the gasket during storage as it could deform it. - For long-term storage at the end of the season, wash and dry the canner well. Be sure all the parts (safety weight, rack, etc.) are in the canner. A few crumpled newspapers in the canner will absorb moisture and odors. - If you unscrew the gauge or vents, coat the threads lightly with petroleum jelly to prevent rust and make them easier to replace. - Coat the gasket very lightly with petroleum jelly or oil. Burpee, Health, National Victory and Dixie canners are no longer manufactured, and no parts or service are available for these canners. Parts and service are available for Presto, Mirro and All American, and for some models of National Presto, Kwik Kook, Steamliner and Maid of Honor. If you need further assistance or have other problems, contact your local Cooperative Extension Office. If you are thinking of buying a canner at a garage sale, check to be sure you can open and close the petcocks. Look for stains or drips down the sides or on the lid near the vents, they may indicate that the lid does not seal or leaks steam all the time. Check that the lid twists on and off easily. Check the condition of the gasket. Check that the base is flat. A rounded base indicates that the canner is warped. Check that there is a rack. Buying any of the models listed above as having parts and service available is a much better bet than one of the older ones. [I.e. Presto, Mirro, and All-American.] Prepared by Mary A. Keith, Foods and Nutrition, August, 1991 Revised by M. Susan Brewer, Foods and Nutrition, June, 1992 EHE-704 ---- 11.1.5 [ Weight "jiggle" questions ] The instructions say the appropriate pressure is being maintained when the weight jiggles about 4 times a minute. When I have the weight set to 15 pounds, I cannot get this to happen. It is either jiggling almost all the time or only 1-2 times a minute. Two answers from two rec.food.preservers. >From John Taylor : Jiggling once or twice a minute is fine. It indicates that you have full pressure in the canner, which means it's at the desired temperature. If this is happening at a constant heat setting, it also indicates that the temperature is not falling and then rising again (which you wouldn't want). Sounds like you've got an appropriate setting for the flame. >From Richard Nielsen : I've had similar problems with a Mirro 12 qt. I finally decided to let jiggle most of the time. I add an extra cup or two of water and I've never had it even come close to boiling dry in a 90 min process time. 11.1.6 [cleaning my pressure canner..] Compiled by Tracy L. Carter : Here is a summary of the response I got for cleaning out my nasty looking pressure canner when I forgot to add vinegar. 1. Put in water and cream of tartar. Bring up to pressure for a certain number of minutes and let come back to room pressure naturally before re- moving lid. If you want the exact instructions, let me know, and I will go into my other account for them. 2. Scrub with a brillo pad. Thought about that, but didn't know if I should scratch the inside of it or not. 3. Cook a batch of tomatoes/tomato juice in the pressure cooker. 11.1.7 [Where can I find canning equipment parts?] ---- SOURCES OF CANNING EQUIPMENT PRESSURE CANNERS Liquid Jar Gauge Parts Repair capacity capacity type avail- service quarts quarts pints able Mirro 12, 22 4 10 weight yes no (4,6,8 cookers) 7 20 Presto 13,17,22 4 8 dial yes yes 7 16 weight Wisconsin Alumin. 7,10,15 4 4 dial yes yes "All-American" 21,25,30 yes no Dixie Canner (sells the All-American line) Canners previously made, with no available parts or service: National Victory Health Burpee Dixie Note: replacements and testing also available Presto for spring-type "pop-up" pressure regulator. Presto also services and carries parts for: Steamliner Maid of Honor, Model 620 Kook Kwik, Models "Best Made" and "Merit" BOILING WATER CANNERS Jar capacity Volume capacity quarts pints Mirro 21 7 9 General Housewares 12, 21 7 8 Glashaus - Weck 8 11 (electric self-contained heating unit) JARS AND LIDS jar sizes Ball jelly, 0.5, 1, 1.5 pint, quart, 0.5 gallon regular mouth 1, 1.5 pint, quart, 0.5 gallon wide mouth Golden Harvest 0.5 pint, pint, quart regular mouth 0.5 pint, pint, quart in wide mouth Kerr jelly, 0.5, 1, 1.5 pint, quart regular mouth 1, 1.5 pint, quart wide mouth Addresses for sources: Mirro Aluminum Corp./P.O. Box 409/Manitowoc, WI, 54220-0409/(414) 684-4421. ** also sells Foley, Earthgrown brands National Presto Industries Inc./3925 N. Hastings Way/Eau Claire, WI 54703/ (715) 839-2209. [correction thanks to Lois Grassl ]. Wisconsin Aluminum Foundry Co./P.O. Box 246/Manitowoc, WI 54221-0246/ (414) 682-8627 Dixie Canner Equipment Co./Box 1348/Athens, GA 30603/ (404) 549-1914 General Housewares/P.O. Box 4066/Terre Haute, IN 47804/ (812) 232-1000 Ball Corp./345 S. High St./Muncie, IN 47302/ (317) 284-8441 Kerr Glass Manufacturing Corp./2444 West 16th St./Chicago, IL 60608/ (312) 226-1700 or (800) 331-2609. [BTW, as of March 1996, Kerr was bought out by Ball.--phone research by the folks at r.f.p.] Anchor Glass Container Corp./ One Anchor Plaza/4343 Anchor Plaza Parkway/ Tampa, FL 33634/ (813) 884-0000. Golden Harvest jars. Glashaus Inc./Crystal Lake, IL / (815) 356-8440. Distributes Weck Products. Other Sources: Lemra Products/ 4331 North Dixie Highway/ Suite 4/ Boca Raton, FL 33431/ (407) 368-8781. Makes the Squeezo juicer/press. NASCO/ 901 Janesville Ave./ P.O.Box 901/ Fort Atkinson, WI 53538-0901/ (414) 563-2446 or (800) 558-9595. Home Ec. supplies. Robert Bosch Corp./Household Products Div./2800 S. 25th Ave./Broadview, IL 60153/ (708) 865-5256. Electric juicer/press. Prepared by Mary A. Keith, Foods and Nutrition, August, 1991 Revised by Susan Brewer, Foods and Nutrition Specialist EHE-703 11.1.8 [What about zinc rings, rubber sealed jars, and other antique (Out-dated or superceded are other terms) canning equipment?] Lots of things are legal for sale but are not conducive to good health. Do not confuse commercial availability and/or commercial use with suitability for home-canning. Selecting Canning Jars and Lids If you are going to invest the time, the produce, your own energy and your electrical energy in home canning, then it should be important to you to select the best containers for your food. Here are some pointers to guide you, or maybe to give you some answers about why the jars you have used in the past broke in the canner or did not seal. The best jars to use are standard canning jars. There are several brands on the market. They are all suitable. However, as in any mass-produced product, you may find a few mistakes. Be sure to check the rims, or sealing surfaces. Run your fingertip lightly around the circle to check for any chips or bumps. These will prevent the canning lid from sealing properly. Also look to see that the rim is circular. Occasionally a jar will stick momentarily in the mold and an oval jar is the result. These curiosities can not be used for canning. While the jars themselves will last for decades, until they are broken, their safe life for canning is much shorter. With the repeated heating and cooling of canning, the glass gradually becomes more brittle. Eventually, it becomes very sensitive to even light shocks. Older jars are often the ones that break in the canner for no obvious reason. Glass manufacturers generally say that a canning jar will have a reliable life of 12 to 13 years. After that their tendency to break increases, and they should be replaced. This includes most of the blue glass jars. [N.B: In addition to being beautiful, some of those colored glass canning jars are valuable collectors' items. Why bother canning with them?--LEB] [Food in blue jars? No thank you. Colour is a key indicator of food condition. No canner will deprive herself of that advantage. -ED] Many of the older jars were made for use with rubber rings and zinc lids. In this style of lid, the seal was not on the rim of the jar mouth but on the shoulder, below the threads. Therefore, the smoothness of the rim was not important. Many of these jars have rough rims, and rims of uneven thickness. These jars will not seal reliably with today's lids. They can be used to store grains and pasta, but are not a good choice for canning. [N.B: Zinc lids are an especially bad idea for processing pickles, since zinc is highly reactive in high salt and acid.--LEB] Mayonnaise jars or "one-trip" commercial jars are considered by some canners [ they make excellent feed stock in recycling for manufacture of REAL canning jars - ED ] to be an inexpensive alternative to buying canning jars. ( use only for DRY or highly acidic foods - pH proven to be lower than 4.0 ) they should *never* be used in a pressure canner. The glass sides are slightly thinner than in a standard canning jar. When there is a pressure difference between the inside of the jar and its environment they may explode. This occurs when the canner cools while the contents of the jar are often still boiling. In addition, the rims of mayonnaise jars are often thinner than those of canning jars. This means that there is less space for the jar lid to properly seal onto. It is very important that the lid be carefully adjusted onto the jar and be exactly centered. Otherwise, it may not seal. As noted, the glass geometry is different than the standard canning jar. Canning lids and rings will not fit well and most certainly will not attain the seal they are desinged for. The seals of mayo-type jars are single use ONLY. It is a false economy to use mayo-type jars for any form of preserving. Prepared by Mary Keith, June, 1991 Revised by M. Susan Brewer, June, 1992 Revised by Eric Decker, January 2001 11.1.9. [1/2 gallon canning jars. How to find, and what to do with them?] >From Emily Dashiell (antem@peak.org) I found my first collection of half-gallons at a garage sale. Priced at $3/doz, it was a steal!!! I bought several doz; then thought about it some more, and drove back the 8 miles and bought more. I did see new boxes of them, in a large chain store (like Home Depot or some-such), and the price was $15/doz and that was 5+ years ago! Made my bargains look even better :) You could make them into terrariums; you could build a model in one; you can make vinegar in bulk: raspberry, orange, assorted herb types, etc. Lotsa uses, just use your imagination. -- Generally we say: Do NOT use half-gallon jars for canning. However if you use 100% water-like liquids you may use them. Canning water? Juice? Freeze it. or: High acid foods may be stored in such jars - be SURE the aicd is full 5% - use ONLY pickling vinegar which is clearly labeled at 5% acid. If 3 cups 5% vinegar is used with 3 cups water - that is NOT a 5% acid solution. Home made vinegar and / or cider vinegar are not suitable. If the acid level is suspect - bump it up with glacial citric acid. If using non-standard vinegar you MUST test the acidity - preferably by acid titration. The issue with using half-gallon (1/2) jars for processing is that of heat convection. We know full well how the viscosity of a food affects processing in half-pints, pints and quarts. We know that fish is nearly always processed in half-pints. Pureed pumpkin / squash is no longer recommended for home canning as the viscosity is such that heat penetration to the core is rarely reached in even pint sizes. Commercial processes that use half-gallon jars are exacting ones which use high temperature steam in equipment which records the temperature and time. High temperature flash pasteurization is common also. Regardless of the origin of food in half-gallon jars, the issue of oxidation rears its ugly head. Once opened, the food degrades rapidly even when safely processd at source. Commercial processors then add anti-oxidants, gums, sulfites, modified corn starch, benzoate and other 'goodies' to stave off degrade. Here is an example: Commercail 4% red wine vinegar in 1 gallon glass jar from a reputable manufacturer. It is stored in a food cellar along with other canned goods. Usage is over 6 months unless in canning season. It is quite common for the remaining two inches of depth to oxidize ( goes brown) to the point it is useless and must be discarded. The wise kitchen master will procure the size that blends price effiency and quality. Throwing out 1/4 of a large container makes little economic sense. Container size, as all smart preserves know, is suited to serving size. The risks associated with jars larger than 1 quart or 1 liter are not trivial. Due to the mass of the large jars, food may be botulitic at the core with little visual evidence of it. Those who think the bulging lid is the tip off of content activity can be sadly mistaken. Seldom will the lid of a large jar show any sign. The reason for this is compressibility of gases. The internal size of the jar is such that gases produced by a live culture at the level of toxicity can be easily accomodated without pressure being induced. 11.2 DEHYDRATORS from ufl.edu: Dehydrator Features to Look For Double wall construction of metal or high grade plastic. Wood is not recommended, because it is a fire hazard and is difficult to clean. Enclosed heating elements. Counter top design. An enclosed thermostat from 85░F to 160░F. Fan or blower. Four to 10 open mesh trays made of sturdy lightweight plastic for easy washing. UL seal of approval. A one-year.guarantee. Convenient service. A dial for regulating temperature. A timer. Often the completed drying time may occur during the night and a timer could turn the dehydrator off and prevent scorching. 11.2.1 [Where can I find suppliers of premade dehydrators?] Dehydrator Companies: American Harvest/ 4064 Peavey Road/ PO Box 159/ Chaska, Minnesota 55318 1-800-288-4545 and (612) 448-4400 Thanks to Joshua H Moffi Dehydration Technology/ PO Box 864/ Coupeville WA 98239 ***** Excalibur/ 6083 Power Inn Rd/ Sacramento CA 95824 Available from: http://www.living-foods.com/marketplace/dehydrators.html Clearly a superior line of dehydrators. The 9 tray, ED-2900, model is selling for $US199.00 in October 1998. The Excalibur units are highly recommended in RFP by a lot of preservers. ***** Harvest Maid/ Alternative Pioneering Systems/ 7900 Computer Ave South/ Minneapolis, MN 55435. (800) 624-2945 >From ALG: I'm pretty sure this address is no longer any good Sun Pantry Enterprises/ 16182 Gothard St, Unit N/ Huntington Beach, CA 92647. (714) 848-1686 A timer is handy for dehydrating. Use one of the type for lamps and such which are readily available from your local hardware. 11.2.2 [Where can I find plans for homemade dehydrators?] These plans were painstakingly complied by Anne Louise Gockel . Prices are included, but are dated. The last several items are posts from people in rec.food.preserving and misc.consumers.frugal-living. --Tabletop Dehydrator: A Make it yourself dryer that is set on a table. Described in full in Circular #855 "How to Build a Portable Electric Food Dehydrator" by Dale E. Kirk, Agricultural Engineer, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon. Directions for building this dryer are also contained in USDA H&G Bulletin 217, "Drying Foods at Home", 1977. [From ALG: This dryer offers about 8.5 feet of tray surface and handles about 18 lbs, of fruit or vegetables. Basically it is a plywood box that holds 5 screen trays above the heat source, which is nine 75 watt light bulbs. The heat is dispersed by a shield and forced upward through the trays of food by an 8" household fan.] --Solar Dehydrator Plans: "Solar Energized Food Dehydrator" $15.00. Order from: Solar Survival/ Cherry Hill Rd/ Harrisville, NH 03450 "How to Build a Solar Food Dryer" $3.00. Order from: Benson Institute B-49/ Brigham Young University/ Provo UT 84602 "Drying Food", from Blair and Ketchum's Country Journal. Sept 1981 "Build PM's Solar Food Dryer", from Popular Mechanics, Jan 1979 "A Build-It Incubator/Dryer", from Organic Gardening, July 1979 "Solar Dehydrator", from Popular Science, Oct 1976 (From ALG: I have this article; it's just a quick one-page description and a single illustration) --Electric Dehydrator Plans: "How to Build a Portable Electric Food Dehydrator" (EC #855, $0.75) Agricultural Communications Publications Orders/ Administration Building #422/ Oregon State University/ Corvallis, Oregon 97331-2119. Reprinted in Hort- iculture, August 1980. (From ALG: I think this is the set of plans I have; they are fairly complete and look like a good set of plans. They could be made by someone with reasonable handyman skills. It think it requires the cook to manually inspect the temperature and adjust the openings to adjust the temp.) "Step By Step to a Food Dehydrator", by David Ashe. Better Homes and Gardens. July 1977 "Super Dehydrator Does Much More", by J Stephens. Organic Gardening and Farming, Aug 1977 "Build Your Own Fruit and Vegetable Dryer", by R. S. Hedin. Popular Mechanics, May 1976. (From ALG: I have this article; this is a serious dehydrator. Uses two 600-watt heaters to maintain a temperature of about 120 F and will dry a load in about 12 hours; twelve screens provide a drying area of 14.5 square feet. The drying cabinet is made of 3/8" particle board. There's a blower and an "air safety switch" and this is one *serious* project.) --Dryer Plans from University Extension Services: 1. Agricultural Engineering Extension/ 325 Riley-Robb Hall (ALG:/* hmmm, does Riley Robb still exist?)/ Cornell University/ Ithaca NY 14853. 607-256-2280 /* DEFINITELY a bad phone number!!!! Plan No 6252: $2.00: This "Cassette Fruit Drier" is a portable cabinet 18"x 24"x21" and with a heater and fan to dry four aluminum screen trays of fruit. Isometric drawing is shown with door and hasp removed. Notes specify 750 to 1500 watt heater with adjustable thermostat and independent operation of fan. 1 sheet. Plan No 6244. $2.00: Plan shows a "Solar Fruit Drier" which is tilted box 4'x4'x1' on legs with slots for natural ventilation. Four trays, 2" deep inside the black box, a vinyl or polyethylene box cover and joint details are shown. 2 sheets. Plan No 6202. $3.00: This "Fruit Drier" has two electrical core resistance heaters, an 80 cfm fan and five slide-out trays in a 2' cubicle plywood box. Shown are a general view, sections, back view with removable panel to plenum chamber and wiring diagrams. A bill of materials and suggested fruit drying procedure is included. 4 sheets. 2. I have this last one and it's "developed by the fruit substation, Clarksville, and the Agricultural Engineering Dept, University of Arkansas, Plan no 731001." This model has a thermostat that will turn the heaters on and off. It looks pretty sophisticated. However I don't think it has a temperature control, just an "on/off" control. It's 4 blueprint sheets of drawings and notes. 3. Two proud innovators in rec.food.preserving... Sorry, I have no plans, but my husband and I built a good dehydrator years ago. We solved the problem of relatively inexpensive trays by having them fabricated at a glass shop around the corner. They used (not sure what it is called by pros) screen frame stock and screen fabric. These were built in the size that we needed, and were stable enough to support the drying foods. As I recall, they were quite inexpensive, could have been even more so if we had bought the stock and done the work ourselves. Let me know if you use this suggestion and how it works for you. Betty Kohler (using my son's account) From: Paul Opitz After building a plywood dehydrator cabinet (2 x 2 x 4 feet!), I, too, had a problem finding suitable trays that didn't cost the big bucks. Found a good solution: fluorescent light box diffusers. You can find these at lighting supply stores or at large building supplies (I found 'em at Home Depot). These have a 1/2-inch grid, are plastic (but are ok for relatively high temperature), come 2 x 4 foot 'slats', and are easy to cut to size. Also, I've noticed absolutely no taste (like you can get from some metal screens) and you can just toss 'em in the dishwasher to clean. For smaller foods (peas, corn, ...) I place crochet 'cloth' (plastic sheets about 10 x 14 inches with tiny holes) I got at Cloth World over the main trays. For liquids I use a teflon-coated cookie sheet. I had one problem when I overloaded the tray and it broke (was spanning 2 feet with only end supports and put 4 lbs of beef for jerky on the tray). I added a center sup- port to the dehydrator, and have had no problems since. As to dehydrator design, I just made a cube out of plywood. The pieces are screwed into 2x2s (take the plywood away and it would look like a 2 x 2 x 4- foot cube wireframe made out of 2x2s). Added a hot plate I got for $10 at Incredible Universe and a surplus 6-inch computer fan I had already. Temperature control is achieved using a modified electronic aquarium thermostat (range of 90 - 160 F). Several holes drilled at top and bottom sides for some air exchange, and presto! The entire thing cost about $80 (mostly for the plywood) and can simultaneously dehydrate a LOT of food. I've made black bean soup, jerky, spaghetti sauce, vegetable soup, huevos rancheros casserole, fruit juice leather, fruit pemmican... All turned out much better than the freeze-dried stuff at the stores. And finally, an amazing idea from a couple on misc.consumers.frugal-living. From: John and/or Mari Morgan We had great fun with what we called "the rolling fruit dryer" - my 1981 Chevette hatchback. In the summer, the temp would get over 120F inside if it was sitting in the sun. So I put the back seat down, spread fruit on trays, and set it in the hatch section. I covered it with cheesecloth to keep flies off and left one window about 1/2" open to let some air circulate. Fruit dried in one day, parked in the sun. Made the car smell nice too! Try it next summer (or if you live in a sunny climate) if you have a hatchback car. 11.3 SMOKERS 11.3.1 [Where can I find plans for a homemade smoker?] THE IDEAL SMOKER: from Brian Bigler . I got introduced to smokers the same way most people do, but as a Fisheries Scientist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, I enjoy a nearly inexhaustible supply of salmon and other fish to experiment. The small smokers are okay, but the one I built is a lot more versatile. Soon after I got introduced to smokers, I built my own from plywood. My present smoker is about two feet on each side, and about five feet tall. I have three racks scrounged from where I could find them, and a single-burner hot plate I got from Sears as a heat source. I fill a 1-pound coffee can with smoker chips intended for charcoal barbeques. The height of my smoker allows for smoking cheeses on the top rack where it's coolest, and warmer smoking closer to the heat on the lower racks. The hot-plate has to be set carefully, to a point where there's just enough heat to smolder the chips within 5-8 minutes. I plug in the hotplate just long enough to see smoke wisping from the seams, then unplug the cord and allow the chips to smolder on their own. It takes two loads of chips for each load of fish. BE CERTAIN TO PUT YOUR SMOKER AWAY FROM YOUR HOME! Other smoker blueprint sources. These were all compiled by Anna Louise Gockel. "Smoking Fish at Home" #2669, $0.25 "Smoked Shark and Shark Jerky" #21121 $0.25 Sea Grant MAP Extension/ University of California/ Davis, CA 95616 "Fishery Facts 5, Sportsman's Guide to Handling, Smoking and Preserving Coho Salmon" US Dept of the Interior/ US Fish and Wildlife Service/ Bureau of Commercial Fisheries/ Washington, DC 20240 "Home Smoking of Fish" #B-78865-S $1.00 "Smoke Your Own Poultry" #A 2732 $1.00 Agricultural Bulletin Room #245/ 30 North Murray/ Madison, WI 53715 (zip code?) Smokehouse plans: North Dakota State University/ Extension Agricultural Engineering Dept./ North Dakota State University Station/ Fargo ND 58105 [found this address on the web--LEB] (from ALG: I've looked through a copy of the following. It includes making a smoker out of an old discarded fridge: TITLE: The easy art of smoking food / Chris Dubbs and Dave Heberle; ill. by Jay Marcinowski; photos. by Gary Thomas Sutto. Pub. New York : Winchester Press, 1977. SUBJECTS: Smoke meat. Smoked fish. DESCRIPTION: v, 180 p. : ill. ; 23 cm. NOTES: Includes index. 11.3.2 - [How do I use my Little Chief?] From Gerry Fowler Enjoy that little Chief, I had one and now use refridgerators for more volume... Just got done with 10 pounds of Peppeoni sticks for schools snacks for the kids. Here is the url for Jerry's site that may provide some more info: http://home.att.net/~g.m.fowler/frame/index.htm As of September 26, 1999 Jerry was saying: For those interested in meat smoking, sausage making and recipes requests that show up here frequently, like pickled eggs, pickled fish and herring, corned beef, pastrami, canadian bacon and gravlax. I have 490 recipes and will be adding more as time goes by. Jerry, keep up the good work - ED. 12. Tips 'N Tricks This section was created as a compendium of tips and tricks. In many cases, I have not seen any of these tricks in the books and pamphlets that I have. They can help you get around specific problems, or are easy ways to do what you have to do. YMMV. 12.1 [The Fruit Fly Trap From: Diana Hamilton ] Given that a lot of people here might be working with fresh fruit, here's an excellent way to keep the kitchen fruit fly population down. I learned this from my brother, who works in a research lab where escaped fruit flies are always a problem. Materials: 1 glass jar; 1 piece of paper and a piece of tape, or a plastic baggie and a rubber band; a little *cider* vinegar (not white vinegar), or wine or beer; a couple of drops liquid soap or detergent. Procedure: Tape the paper together to make a funnel shape that will rest inside the mouth of the jar, but have a fairly broad opening. Or, tear a hole in the corner of a baggie, put it in the jar as a funnel, and secure it around the rim using a rubber band. Put cider vinegar (or wine or beer) in the bottom of the jar (1/4 inch or 0.5 cm or so). Add a couple of drops of detergent to the vinegar. Place the paper funnel on the jar. Set on the kitchen counter near the fruit. How it works: Flies are attracted to the cider vinegar, which they interpret as decaying fruit. They go into the jar (the funnel makes entry easier than exit) and either fall onto or land on the surface of the liquid. The detergent decreases the normal surface tension, so they sink and drown. Easy and cheap! We tested this at our parents' house when the apple crop came in. A single trap caught >100 flies in 2 days. Acknowledgment: Thanks to lank-mrc@tigger.jvnc.net who suggested the baggie method last time I posted this, and to others who suggested beer/wine. [Little bits of overripe fruit and cheap sherry are also irresistible to fruit flies.--LEB]. 12.1.1 [ Wax paper weight From: Kate Gregory ] Crumple up a square of wax paper, add the wax paper ball to the top of jars of pickled peppers, canned cherries, etc. to keep the food down in the brine. Seal with two piece lids, can process with wax paper ball in waterbath. 12.2.1 [chop citrus peels for marmalade ] From: Matt Albright Faster way to chop citrus peels for marmalade I usually use a vegetable peeler to strip off the zest and then run it through the food processor. Just a few pulses are necessary. I do not use the white part in my marmalade because it makes it too bitter and it takes longer to set (my observation). 12.2.2 [ using ascorbic acid ] From Michael Stallcup Using Ascorbic Acid Citation from "Drying Fruit" pamphlet by Pat Kendall, Colorado State University Cooperative Extension foods and nutrition specialist and professor, food science and human nutrition; Lesta Allen, retired consumer and family education agent, Tri River Area Cooperative Extension. 8/94. ęColorado State University Cooperative Extension. 1994. "Ascorbic acid (vitamin C) is an antioxidant that keeps fruit from darkening. Pure crystals usually are available at drug stores. Prepare a solution of 1 to 2-1/2 teaspoons of pure ascorbic acid crystals to 1 cup cold water. Vitamin C tablets can be crushed and used (six 500 milligram tablets equal 1 tsp ascorbic acid). One cup treats about 5 quarts of cut fruit. Dip peeled and cut fruit directly in ascorbic acid solution. Soak for a few minutes, remove with a slotted spoon, drain well and dehydrate. Commercial antioxidant mixtures are not as effective as ascorbic acid but are more readily available in grocery stores. Follow directions on the container for "fresh cut fruit." [ ascorbic acid is a cheap and in stock item at beer and wine-making suppliers - ED] 12.3.2 [ a jelly bag for emergencies] ________ From: Alan Blacklock A jelly bag in a pinch... Both legs of a fresh pair of pantyhose. This will produce cloudy jelly, though. But if you are desperate for a clean jelly bag.. 12.3.3 [ How to reach the jelling stage/The Fork Test] From: Jean P. Nance How to reach the jelling stage/The Fork Test There are a couple of other tests for "jelling". One is "when it sheets from a spoon", but I have found this confusing and sometimes deceptive. My favourite is "when it closes the tines of a fork". I have found that it really should be a silver plate fork, not stainless steel. Dip the fork in, bring it out and observe. If the mixture stays in a sheet between some of the tines, the jam is pretty near done. I usually cook it a few more minutes just to be sure. At times my jam is a little stiffer than some people would like, but better that than runny. Experiment to see how much "closing" means jam is at the stage you like. 12.2.4 [Keeping powdered pectin from lumping up] From: Al Kudsi Keeping powdered pectin from lumping up I usually take a little cool water, mix my pectin in it, then add to the fruit. Think of it as corn starch...it reacts very similarly. [Remember that some pectins must be mixed in with the sugar for that very reason.--LEB]. 12.3.5 [ canner rack - rack for under jars ] From: Barb Schaller Canning Rack Fresh from County Ag Extension Pressure Canning Class last night (6/19/96): Make a rack by joining jar rings (regular size) together with twisties. Ta-Da!! 12.4.1 [Tips and Tricks for Drying Foods in Oven] From: David Schwoegler Tips and Tricks for Drying Foods in Oven Test the temperature with an instant-read thermometer lying on the middle oven rack with the thermostat at the lowest setting and watch the reading. You shouldn't damage the plastic cover on the thermometer at temperatures below 200F. Some oven thermostats can maintain 140F using the heating element or burner; many can't. But don't despair; there's another way. Years ago small metal "play" ovens were manufactured as toys. The heat source was an electric light bulb, which baked small cakes and too often burned the young owners. You can apply the same principal in your gas or electric oven by substituting an larger electric bulb for the 25W appliance bulb that's already in there. Fortunately for this purpose, bulbs are rated by their heat output in Watts, not by their light output in lumens. Take out the 25W. Turn on the oven light and begin with a 40W, using the thermometer to monitor the heat gain. Move to larger sizes until you reach the right sized bulb that gives the temperature you want when it is on continuously. BE SURE TO REPLACE THE ORIGINAL BULB BEFORE USING THE OVEN FOR BAKING. Leaving the door ajar increases the air flow, but also alters the heat loss characteristics. This is a slow process, but it can work if you are willing to experiment. [ the exhaust airflow should blow out a common birthday candle at a distance of 3-4inches from the exhaust outlet. Increase or decrease heat independently of air flow. -ED ] 12.4.2 [Mini-dehydrator] From: A. T. Hagen Mini-dehydrator Back when I had a very productive garden going and had more herbs than one man who works for a living should have to deal with I dried them all in the house. I have the same problem you do since I live in Florida. The humidity in the summer generally stays over 70%, frequently goes over 90% and I doubt there are three basements in all of Gainesville. I took a good sized cardboard box, made rack holders inside of it and put it in the corner of the living room. I took one of my shop clamp lights and put a hundred watt bulb in it and fixed it to the bottom of the box. I put a metal colander over it to block most of the light and made sure that it wouldn't overheat. I put the racks of herbs in, turned on the light, put the lid on so it would stay dark inside and made sure that I had plenty of vent holes. The house air conditioning kept the humidity down and in two to three days I had dried herbs with color and flavor that you can't buy. Made terrific Christmas gifts. I kept a careful eye and thermometer on the whole works for the first day to make sure that the herbs weren't overheating and that nothing was going to catch fire. I kept going like this for several weeks until a truly torrential downpour put my garden under two feet of water and put me out of business. 12.4.3 [Getting fruit leather off of the dehydrator tray] From: paulevi@psd.k12.co.us (Paul F. Levine) Getting fruit leather off of the dehydrator tray I was having a little trouble getting my fruit leathers off the American Harvester solid sheet trays even when they were really dry. The booklet that came with the dehydrator said to try to peel it off while it was still warm. Not so I find. This is what seems to work well: Once the leather is really dry (around 24 hours +or-) take the sheet right from the dehydrator an put it into the refrigerator for only about 5 minutes (too much more and the leather begins to rehydrate). Then the leather comes off of the sheet. 12.4.4 [ Sauerkraut fermenters ] >From Ross Reid: Sauerkraut not done in an "authentic", or, "old fashioned way" does not mean that it will be inferior. Ancient krautmeisters made kraut in stoneware crocks or barrels because that's what they had. For these past many years, I have made my large batches of kraut in a large (20 gallon?) container purchased at a wine making supply shop. In such a shop it is normally referred to as a 'primary fermenter' but, to anyone else it looks like a white garbage pail ;-). I have my kraut fermenter clearly marked so that it does not inadvertently get used as a wine primary. However, I have also made kraut in wide mouthed, 4 liter glass jars. Firmly press the cabbage/salt mixture into the jar, up to the shoulder, cover with a few thicknesses of cheesecloth, hold it in place with a few popsicle sticks wedged into the shoulder, keep in the proper temperature range and it has produced excellent results. By employing accurate measurements (by weight), for both cabbage and salt, it should not really matter in what container the kraut is fermented, as long as it is non-reactive. As a matter of fact, it is quite interesting to watch the fermentation progress in a glass jar. First the liquid rising, next, the bubbles of fermentation, finally, a few weeks later, all that liquid seems to have magically disappeared and you have your own homemade, excellent tasting sauerkraut, made in a non-chemically preservative laced brine. Everyone should try it at least once, especially if you grow your own cabbages. While I agree that making kraut in a 1 liter (or quart) canning jar will hardly produce a worthwhile quantity, when completed, it is still sauerkraut. Finally, the adventurous may want to try replacing the cabbage with shredded rutabaga, in the same proportions, to produce a tangy delight known as sauereruben. -- From Eric Decker Brined food done in a container where the scum has not been removed will have a reduced level of acid which will render it unsafe jar except in refrigeration. Depending on how much residual salt remains or if vinegar [ Arggh! ] is or was added, the saurkraut may be fine despite the issue of scum. 12.4.5 [the easy way to wash cukes] From: Schaller_Barb@htc.honeywell.com (Barb Schaller) Easy way to scrub cukes (don't show this to your kids!) I started scrubbing my pickles in the washer. Cold water, no soap, and a couple terry towels for friction. Regular cycle for a couple minutes. [ I wonder if Bogey would have felt different about leaches had they been put through the boiler of the "Queen" - ED ] 12.4.6 [ Skimming brine ] From: Eric Decker Muslim is excellent for brining processes. Cheesecloth works almost as well. Use an oversize piece and tuck it down between the product and the walls of the vessel. Skimming is dead easy now as you lift up the sides and tuck into the center forming a neat sac which contains the scum. Do make sure to purge the scum each day as the acid level will not be correct otherwise. Rinse the cloth and reuse right away if you wish. 12.4.7 [ keeping pickled peppers crish ] From: Scott Murman Keeping pickled peppers crisp If you're getting mushy peppers its likely that you're leaving them in the water bath too long. Peppers will get soggy quickly, try and stay in the 10-15 minute range. You can try adding alum, but I've never been able to find it, so I can't comment on how well it works. [ peppers will go mushy in time no matter what you do. The only remedy is eat, eat, eat and eat before momma-time says, "clear the table". Other solutions are 'make less or give more away' - ED] 12.5.1 [Food-Grade Plastics] >From Denis DeFigueiredo : Food-Grade Plastics I called Berlin and spoke to them, plus an outfit called Kirk Container (they manufactured some 5 gallon paint buckets I saw in the local hardware store). Both places said that buckets made from High Density Polyethylene are approved for food. It has to do with the possibility of interaction between any chemicals in the food and the plastic. As it turns out, Kirk manufactures only *one* kind of bucket, and then markets it for paint, hardware, food, etc. The price is right on the "paint buckets" - much cheaper than the local restaurant supply house. High density Polyethylene buckets will have HDPE stamped on them, or a recycle symbol with a "2" in the middle. DISCLAIMER: I'm only passing on information I received from the manufacturers. I am in no way professing these things to be absolute fact! 12.5.2 [ how can I make kimchee without compliants ..] from an unknown poster, the chile-heads mailing list... Keeping outside fermenting items a secret from the neighbors I learned to love and make kim chee while attending college in Hawaii. I encountered the same odor problem and was forced to come up with a solution or get into a shooting war with the neighbors. Obviously, tightly closing the fermentation container is a recipe for disaster. I actually just cover my crocks with an unbleached muslin stretched over the top. (Five gallon churns are the best "crocks" I have found.) However, I deal with the odor problem by putting six inches of charcoal in the bottom of a plastic trash can and setting the crocks on it. The charcoal I use is provided by a friend at the Jack Daniels distillery, but any "raw" or activated charcoal will work. Bagged charcoal briquettes, even when crushed, are not really a good option, though. I use a large trash can and can actually get three crocks in at once without crowding. I then put several layers of burlap on top of the covered crocks. (I used laundered peanut bags, but feed sacks would work as well.) Finally, I put the lid on the trash can. The lids for these cans fit fairly tight, but will allow for the equalization of pressure. You can still smell the kim chee working, but you must get very close to the trash can and sniff hard. 12.6.1 [ Sources of wood chips ] From Kathy Meade Salvaging Wood Chips for smoking foods I never buy wood chips. We have an apple tree in our backyard and use the prunings from that. In addition we use the prunings from a neighbor's grapevine. My mother has a crab apple that needs suckers cut out. If you look around there should be plenty of free smoking hard wood. It is just another way of recycling and my neighbors love that I am willing to haul their "trash" away. My sons cut the wood into pieces, we dry it in the sun, and then pack it in plastic buckets that we keep by the smoker until they are needed. Just don't use soft woods such as pine. Fruit woods are the best, but hickory and oak are good too. 12.6.2 [ beef stick tips] From Patricia Riddler? Tips on making beef sticks I use the Jerky gun from American Harvest. It is similar to a cookie press. It comes with three tips, a flat tip for making jerky strips similar to the jerky press, and two round tips, one small and one large. I always use the small one because it dries faster. It always makes perfect jerky. You do have to be careful not to over dry it, as it can get tough. I squeeze out one gun's worth in a spiral pattern, one load per tray. After it's dry, I cut it with scissors to the length I prefer. I love this gun and it is so fast! (end of part 4)