Monday, July 14, 2014

Canned Green Beans

As my previous post mentioned, I've been canning and freezing several fresh vegetables this summer.  The last post was instructions for canning diced tomatoes.  This one is for canning green beans.  My picky family will almost always eat green beans.  There are so many ways you can season green beans to make them work with your meal flavors.  We like to experiment with them.

Just a note:  You will need a pressure canner for green beans.  I have a pressure canner which doubles and does water bath as well.  If you are truly interested in canning and preserving at home, then it is worth buying one.  They aren't very expensive anymore but they are big so you have to have a decent place to store them.  Now, on to the good stuff.

Green beans

Break the ends off of the green beans and snap the beans into 1-2 inch pieces.  Rinse the beans.  I have a wonderful large, wire strainer that sits on the sink top.  I set it on the counter and snapped the bean pieces directly into it so it would be easier to rinse them after.
Now it is time to sanitize the jars and lids.  Boil water in a pot to sanitize the bottles and boil water in the canner to sanitize the lids.  Just pour the boiling water into the jars to sanitize and pour it back out when you are ready to put green beans in the jars.  Toss the lids into the canner when the water is boiling to sanitize them.  Remove them after they are in for a few minutes.
In the large pot, boil water to add to the jars after the green beans have been added.
Use the directions for your pressure canner to add the correct amount of water to the canner.  Mine calls for 3 quarts and has a fill line inside the pot.  Bring the water to a boil.
Add green beans to the sanitized jars.  Be sure to leave at least a 1/2 inch of head space.  I usually just fill them up to the threaded part at the top of the jar.  Add 1 tsp. of salt to each jar.  Add boiling water to each jar.  Again, only filling up to the threads.
Use a small rubber spatula to remove the air bubbles from the jars.
Wipe the jar rim of any water and salt.  Any of this left on the rim could prevent a proper seal.  Place a lid on each jar and tighten.  Do not tighten too much at this point but tighten enough so that no water can seep through.
Place the jars into the pressure canner.  Place the lid on the pressure canner and lock down.  Use the 10 pound pressure weight for canning green beans unless you live in a high altitude.  Once the weight starts to jiggle, cook for 25 minutes.
I won't give you complete directions on what to do for pressure canning because it is easier and safer to use the directions from your canner.  The time and pressure weight is the information you need for green beans.  For pressure canning, use the instructions from your canner.

When the timer goes off, your green beans are done.  Let the pressure vent and take your jars out of the canner.  I let them cool for at least 12 hours hours without moving them anywhere and tighten the lids down every few hours until they are cool and won't tighten any further.

My green beans turned out really well.  My mom and I worked together to can diced tomatoes and green beans.  It is much more fun and much easier with a buddy.

Canned Diced Tomatoes

The farmer's markets are swinging around here.  With all of the unseasonable rain we have had this spring and summer, the crops are huge this year.  It is pretty crazy.  We have never had so much rain here all the way into July.  Usually by this time in July, we are seeing 100* weather and our grass is so dry it has turned brown.  We haven't even been under burn bans this year.  Usually, we are under burn bans through most of June and July.  One day, I will be able to have my own, very large vegetable garden.  Until that day, I will be satisfied with locally grown farmer's market and organic produce.  Last weekend we went to the farmer's market and bought fresh tomatoes, green beans, yellow squash and zucchini.  I will write posts about how I processed/preserved each of them.  For this post, I will give directions for canning diced tomatoes.  This was my first time canning tomatoes.  I am slowly learning to can different things.  The tomatoes turned out really yummy.  I plan on canning many more and making some other flavors of diced tomatoes.

Fresh ripe tomatoes
Fresh lemons

Core the tomatoes and gently score a small X, cutting just through the skin, on the bottom of each tomato.  In a large pot, bring some water to boil.  When the water is boiling, put the tomatoes in until the peel starts to peel up at the edges.  Put the tomatoes in an ice bath to stop the cooking.  
In your canner, start water boiling to sanitize the lids and jars.  I sometimes use a tea kettle to boil water to sanitize the jars.  In order to can, you must plan and multi-task or it will take you FOREVER.  
While water is boiling and pieces are sanitizing, you can peel and dice the tomatoes.  Put the cutting board inside a baking sheet with walls so you don't lose any of the juice while dicing tomatoes.  You need the juice for your cans.  This also makes clean up much easier.  Discard the peels.  I used a hand chopper to help with dicing the tomatoes.  But you have to be careful with a hand chopper.  If you chop too many times, you'll end up with mashed tomatoes or tomato sauce instead of diced tomatoes.  Put your diced tomatoes with their juice in a large pot and bring to a low simmer.  The directions I had said to boil for 30 minutes but I didn't cook it for quite so long.  You can tell when to stop the boiling.  The tomatoes start to foam and get very mushy.  They will cook more during canning so you don't want to overcook them now.  
While the tomatoes are simmering, juice the lemons.  All of the instructions I have said to use citric acid or bottled lemon juice.  But, citric acid that you just buy from the store, is usually made with corn ingredients.  And I don't trust bottled lemon juice anymore either unless I know the source for sure.  So I juiced the lemons myself.  Juice several.  It is better to have too much than not enough.  You can always freeze the leftover lemon juice in ice cube trays to use later for marinades and juices.  
Now, ladle the diced tomatoes into the sanitized jars leaving plenty of head space at the top of the jar.  Add 1 Tbsp. of the fresh squeezed lemon juice to every jar of dice tomatoes.  Use a small rubber spatula or chopstick to clear out the air bubbles and mix in the lemon juice.  Tighten the lids and follow the directions for water bath canning in your canner.  They should be in the canner for around 35 minutes.  
After they are out of the canner, I usually tighten the lids every couple of hours for the rest of the day.  

And here is a picture of my lovely canned diced tomatoes:

Chicken and Broccoli Penne

Grapeseed or Olive Oil
1 bunch fresh broccoli or a few cups frozen broccoli
1 (12-16 oz.) bag penne
1 medium onion, minced
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp. dried thyme
1/2-1 cup all-purpose flour
3-4 cups coconut milk (This made this dairy free until I added the mozzarella.  This recipe is flavorful enough without the cheese added if you need dairy free.  We added the cheese to ours but left one bowl without for our daughter who needs dairy free.  I tried it both ways and loved it both ways.)
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into bite sized pieces
Mozzarella cheese, shredded (I used a small block but you can add or omit cheese according to taste and need.)
Tomatoes (I used a couple of handfuls of grape tomatoes and chopped them up but you can use any tomato chopped up.)

Use some of the oil to grease a 9x13 inch baking dish and set aside.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  In a large pot, bring the water for the pasta and broccoli to a boil.  Stir in some salt and the broccoli.  This part is going to be up to personal taste but we like our broccoli very soft so I cooked until the broccoli was tender.  If you want a little bite in your broccoli, you will want to pull it back out of the water pretty quickly.  Remove the broccoli with a slotted spoon, tossing it into the greased baking dish and add the pasta and a little more salt to the boiling water.  Drain the pasta and toss it with the broccoli in the baking dish.

While the pasta is cooking, in a skillet, add some oil and start browning the chicken.  Season the chicken with salt and pepper or any other seasoning you prefer.  We like the herb and garlic Mrs. Dash.  When the chicken is done, toss it in with the penne and broccoli.  During this time is also when you should chop the tomatoes.

Rinse and wipe out the large pot to make the sauce.  Add some more oil to the pot and add the onion and garlic until it starts to brown.  Add a few tablespoons of the flour and whisk.  Add the coconut milk (or other milk if you prefer) stirring constantly.  Add in the thyme and salt and pepper.  Add the flour a little at a time until the sauce is thick and creamy.  Taste regularly to add more salt and pepper.  
Toss all ingredients together in the baking dish. Put the dish in the preheated oven for about 10 minutes. If you don't need dairy free, feel free to add the cheese before putting the dish in the oven. I divided the cheese into bowls so I could store it all in separate bowls for leftovers so we had some dairy free and some cheesy. This dish and it's leftovers went fast so I didn't get a picture. But we will definitely be making this again so I will add a picture later.

Roasted Coconut Sweet Potatoes

This is a yummy veggie side dish and it warms up well when left over.  If you like sweet potato, you will love this.  I am always looking for some healthy vegetable side dishes.  My family is very picky when it comes to vegetables, although they are getting better.  I have also improved in my tastes for vegetables in the recent few years.  This is a dish I could eat regularly.  I hope it is one that my daughter will eventually like to eat as well.  L still doesn't eat a variety of foods since she got so sick two years ago but she seems to be interested again.  She actually touches the food and asks what it is rather than screaming and running away.  We are making progress in very small baby steps.

2 Tbsp. coconut oil
2 lbs. (approximately) sweet potatoes, cut into 1 inch chunks
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp.  fresh squeezed lime juice or grated lime zest (optional but adds a nice zing)

Preheat oven to 400*F.  After the sweet potatoes are cut into chunks, put them in a large bowl.  Melt the coconut oil in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Pour the melted coconut oil over the sweet potatoes in the bowl.  Sprinkle the salt and pepper.  Toss the contents of the bowl to evenly coat potatoes in coconut oil.  Spread the potatoes in a single layer on a large rimmed baking sheet.  Roast, stirring every 10-15 minutes for a total of 40 minutes or until tender all the way through the sweet potato chunks.  Toss with lime juice or zest, then serve.

I will come back and add pictures later.  I have many pictures but I am gradually catching up for now.

This recipe came from HERE.  I didn't alter it at all but I have cooked it different ways in different pans without any problems.  Sometimes you don't have enough pans to cook everything at the same time.