An Overabundance of Sweet Potatoes

The other home canning blog lied to me.

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I’m sure it wasn’t deliberate. If my kids had cubed the sweet potato small enough and if I’d been using 1L jars instead of 500mL (quart instead of pint) the suggestion of one kilogram of orange tuber to 1 litre of canned yumminess might have been more accurate. But they didn’t, and I wasn’t, so I find myself with 17 perfect 500mL jars of sweet potato, a large mixing bowl full of peeled, chopped, raw sweet potato, and four more sweet potatoes that I realized in time should be left whole.

Today’s life lesson for my kids was that the job isn’t done until the mess is cleaned up. Other times, I’ve let them leave after the job I actually asked of them was done. Peels might be all over floor and table, a couple of cubes might be on the floor covered in pet hair of three colours, and all the cutting boards might still be orange and sticky with sharp knives still out on top of them, but if the sweet potato was peeled and chopped, they were done.

Well, not today. Today the cutting boards are washed, one bag of peel is in the freezer for the next time I make broth, the table has been wiped and the floor swept, all before the dulcet tones of Steven Universe filled my house again.

The basic recipe for pressure-canned sweet potato is super easy. You peel and chop – if you want to be fancy about it, you can steam the peels loose, but if you’re not up for the extra time investment of that, you can just peel them like regular potatoes. Ideal size is about a one-inch cube. My kids didn’t manage that, but they got them small enough to fill the jars pretty well so I was happy.

Then you fill hot jars with the cold sweet potato, fill up to the one-inch-head-space line with boiling water from the kettle, affix seals and rims, fill your canner, and process at 11 pounds pressure for 65 minutes for 500mL jars, 90 minutes for 1L jars.

That second number is the reason I used 500mL jars and not 1L.

It takes at least half an hour for the canner to build its head of steam and then build to 11 pounds of pressure. It takes a further thirty minutes or more to come back down to regular pressure once you take it off the heat. Until that process is complete, you can’t open the canner. So processing for 65 minutes actually means watching a pot boil for about two hours, only the last half-hour of which you can wander away. I finished all my dishes, corralled my kids into finishing their part of things, ate some leftovers for lunch, caught up on my Twitter mentions, perused recipes for using already-cooked sweet potato and butternut squash, and knit two inches of a sock in that time.

So, all that leftover uncooked sweet potato? I think I’m going to run my pressure canner again tomorrow, with the last four untouched taters and the chopped ones. I don’t have it in me to watch a pot boil for four whole hours in a single day. I suspect the canner will be about half full, leaving me with around 25 jars of sweet potato. For future reference, that’s about 50% more than I anticipated.

Edit: I ran the pressure canner again and got 13 more jars. That’s a total of 32 jars. I ran out of seals. I NEVER run out of seals. And I have enough sweet potato canned to eat it once a week until the middle of April.

Lessons learned:

  • One kilogram of sweet potato is about four 500mL jars. Not two. Four.
  • Teenagers absolutely can learn to clean up after themselves in the kitchen.

Jams, Jellies, Veggies, and Broth

I’m on a quest to make better use of the harvest in my own part of the world, to reduce fast-food consumption and increase veggie consumption, and to mess up my kitchen to good purpose several times a week all summer long.

Most of my current jams and jellies are low sugar using Pomona’s pectin. This year I bought three boxes; next year I’m buying in bulk. The picture above is low-sugar watermelon jam and it’s my favourite.

“To me, it’s sort of funny that wasting food is not taboo. It’s one of the last environmental ills that you can just get away with.”

– Jonathan Bloom (@WastedFood)

 

My own version of Mirepoix

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Mirepoix is the French word for a simple veggie broth, but this is not that.

Last summer, I had a bunch of butternut squash from my garden and I wanted to make soup with it. Canned veggies are perfect for soup because most of the cooking is already done, so it’s basically heat, blend, and serve. But there was a problem: all the recipes called for some onion, carrots, celery, and chicken broth, and I didn’t have any of that in a jar.

So I made some. I used the longest processing time for the veggies I added and then added five minutes to be safe, because you really can’t overcook something that’s going in a blended soup and botulism is to be avoided at all costs.

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs each carrots, onions, and celery; some of the carrots I used were heritage colours
  • Water, about six litres
  • Around 1 tbsp salt per six litres of water
  • Herbs to taste: I used thyme and sage

Put it all in a stock pot. Boil until just soft. DO NOT STRAIN. Ladle into sterilized, hot jars, leaving 1 inch head space, and process for 45 minutes at 11 pounds of pressure. See here (link forthcoming) for more on pressure canning.

Option 2: Instead of boiling it all in water, boil it in freshly-made chicken broth.

My standard winter weekday Random Orange Vegetable Soup includes one jar of mirepoix, one jar of straight chicken or veggie broth, and one or two jars of orange vegetables. My preference is one jar butternut squash and one jar sweet potato. I strain the liquid from the orange vegetables before adding them. Stick-blend and heat through, set out sandwich fixings for your teens to make their own, and dinner’s ready in ten minutes flat. It works even on Girl Guides night!

Start with the Basics: Chicken Broth

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Hello and welcome to the first post in this blog!

This is my go-to chicken broth recipe. It’s more of a formula than a recipe, and it tastes slightly different every time I make it. I’ve made it with turkey carcasses, and I’ve made a veggie version with a whole lot of odds and ends from the CSA that I didn’t know what to do with. It’s a household staple.

I don’t just make this in the summer. During the winter, if I find myself grabbing a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store on the way home from work, I may drag out the pressure canner that weekend and turn its carcass into broth. We go through this stuff pretty fast so it’s worthwhile always having some on hand.

The basic recipe:

  • 1 or more chicken carcasses, most of the meat picked off already, but leave on some of the skin and fat if you can
  • 6 litres of water per carcass if it’s meaty/fatty, less if it’s not
  • 1/2 – 1 cup per carcass of each of the following:
    • Carrot ends
    • Celery ends
    • Onion skins and ends
  • About 1 tbsp of salt per 6 litres of water
  • Herbs to taste: I use some combination of thyme, rosemary, and sage

A little word about the veggies: don’t use the nice ones. When you’re making carrots for the family, take the ends you cut off and throw them in a baggie in the freezer. Do the same with onion skins and celery ends, especially the leaves. Got a slightly-squishy carrot forgotten at the bottom of the crisper? Cut out the black parts and throw it in the pot. Onions starting to sprout? In they go. Nobody ate the celery sticks that came with the wings last week? Save them for broth. Thrift is your friend, here. Don’t feel limited to these ones. Parsnips, carrot greens, leeks, wrinkly sweet potatoes or freezer-burned turnip – throw it all in there. I usually cut everything in half and then into the pot it goes.

The plan is to throw all this stuff into a big stock pot, cover with water, and boil the f*ck out of it. Keep it on a low simmer for at least four hours. Eight or twelve does not go amiss.

When it’s done cooking, you need to strain out the liquid and throw away the solids. I use a plastic colander placed in a big mixing bowl. If you want a clearer broth, use a wire-mesh strainer. You don’t have to do all the straining at once; you can fill the bowl, then fill some jars, then come back and strain more broth.

Now you’re ready to preserve or use your broth! For pressure canning basics, see here (link forthcoming.) This recipe isn’t safe for water-bath canning. To freeze, ladle it into clean containers and freeze with the lid off until it’s solid, then put a lid on; you may want to add a layer of plastic wrap to keep freezer burn at bay. If you just put it in the fridge, it should be good for a week or more.

Use this broth in pretty much anything where you might otherwise use water and would like a little bit of chicken flavour instead: rice, stir-fry, gravies, and as a base for soups.