At A Glance: Pressure Canners, Water Bath Canners, Pressure Cookers

“I need a pressure cooker for canning season.” Here at Lehman’s, we hear that sentence often! And we know what you mean, we really do. You want a pressure canner to put up your produce. Here’s a quick comparison of pressure canners, water bath canners and a look at what a pressure cooker can do for you.

You should be able to click on the photo for a larger, linked image if necessary.

Click here to find out more about Lehman’s high-quality, reliable, gasket-free USA-made Pressure Canners.

New to canning? Check out this Enamelware Waterbath Canner and accessories in this Beginner’s Home Canning Kit!

Pressure cooker set Lehmans.com

Made in Germany, this Stainless Steel Pressure Cooker Set lets you braise, stew, steam, extract juice, thaw, deep-fry, even cook your whole meal at once. At Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio, or at Lehmans.com.

The pressure cooker (photo, right), is also handy to have around the house. You can make stews, soups, amazingly tender meat dishes in less than with standard baking or stovetop cooking methods.

You can use a pressure cooker on any stove, even an induction stove.  Modern pressure cooker pans and skillets are safe, easy to clean, and help preserve vitamins and minerals in your foods, because the cooking time is shortened.

They’re not made to can–just to cook great food fast!

Click here to learn more about pressure cookers!

Lactofermenting for the Time-Challenged

Alrighty then, it’s that time of year. The garden is starting to really gear up and I have more produce than we can eat before it goes bad. My plan for filling the pantry with wholesome and delicious foods that have less than 5 ingredients, none of which came out of a lab, is working.

Pickling for people disinclined to boil vinegar
So, what is a girl to do with all this bounty?

Stainless steel bowl available at Lehmans.com.

All the root veggies are washed well, not a speck of soil remains. Then they air-dry. Use a colander, or spread on your counter on a clean dishtowel. Stainless steel bowl for photo spiffiness only! (Lehmans.com has ‘em.)

I know, I’ll lacto-ferment it all. I like lacto-fermented veggies, so does the hubbin, and I really actually find cutting up veggies to be enjoyable. I’m weird that way!

And as a completely unrelated bonus, lacto-fermenting things is so incredibly easy that even *I* can’t mess it up. Though I thought I had and threw out the first batch I ever made: more on that later.

Lacto-fermenting is what creates sauerkraut, kimchi and cocktail onions, to name some of the more commonly known results of the process.

Sandor Katz The Art of Fermentation at Lehmans.com

Make your own healthy, pure lacto-fermented veggies, vinegars, pickles and more! Pick up The Art of Fermentation now at Lehmans.com to get started fast.

It is a bacterial process, utilizing critters that are present in any environment that has not been completely sterilized (it will not work in outer space, so those of you reading this from the Mir Space Station, sorry, try it when you get back home), so yes, when I first got into this process I had to get over my germophobia and embrace the little things (metaphorically speaking). It’s similar to the fermentation that creates alcohol, just with different microbes.

Which brings me to examine exactly how one goes about lacto-fermenting, rather than creating carrot booze accidentally.

We want to attract the right kind of microbe, so we have to create the right kind of environment. Think of it as very, very small game trapping, because the microbes are all there, hanging out together. We want to encourage the lactobacilli, while discouraging the yeasts (alcohol) and other things that would spoil our food.

A note on food safety: Botulism, which is a risk factor in any food storage method, is created by an anaerobic (non-oxygen using) soil-borne bacteria. We want to make sure to expose anything that has been in contact with soil into contact with air if we are not going to heat it to the point that kills the bacteria.  Safe canning practices do this, and properly followed, lacto-fermenting recipes take care of the bacteria too. Clean, dry root veggies that you’re planning to ferment do need a turn in the air. Yes, it really is that simple.

Back to the environment we want to create
In order to encourage lacto-fermentation we need a salty environment. There are several methods that create this. Here’s what I do:

I cut up the veggies I am about to preserve into relatively uniform sizes and stick them into a container, usually a half-gallon glass jar. I use canning jars if I have them, or repurpose other appropriate jars if I don’t have canning jars available.

Once I have the jar packed, I mix a minimum of 6 tablespoons of pickling salt* with two quarts of distilled water** (usually more salt, because the saltier the brine, the crunchier the veggies) and add that to the prepped jar, pouring it over the veggies.

Then I put a loose cover over the whole thing. Make sure that this cover lets air through, you do not want this sealed airtight. I tend to use (new) panty hose for this, but any permeable cover will do. Often, you’ll see folks use a fine cheesecloth.

Fresh veg ready to ferment in half gallon jar

Need a half-gallon canning jar for your lacto-fermenting experiments? They’re still in stock at Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio and at Lehmans.com.

In this case, I’m using a half-gallon canning jar, but when the garden is really kicking, the pickling crocks come out and it’s ON. Nothing is safe: cucumbers, carrots, onions, peppers (haven’t done tomatoes, yet, but now I want to). When it’s harvest season my counter is full of jars and crocks of all sizes.

A tip: The little bit of liquid you see at the bottom of that jar in the photo is from another, completed ferment. It’s what I use to get the ferment going faster, but it’s not necessary. This method works just fine without a starter.

Another tip: When I cut up the veggies, I keep back some of the larger, clean leaves (or I use cabbage or lettuce leaves if there are no big veggie leaves).

The leaves form that top layer you see and will be discarded when this is done. They act as a barrier for the layer of scum that forms after a while.

Mold in top of fermenting jar

This layer of ick happens. Don’t freak out. The leaf layer will keep it out of your pickle. Fermentor  assemblies like the Perfect Pickler from Lehman’s in Kidron or at Lehmans.com don’t do this.Completely harmless. This right there is why my first attempt wound up in the garbage and I could kick myself. If your ferment goes bad, you will know. The smell is simply awful. That layer of mold: normal, to be expected.

Guess what? That funky stuff is completely harmless. This stuff you see in the photo at right is why my first attempt wound up in the garbage and I could kick myself. If your ferment goes bad, you will know. The smell is simply awful. That layer of mold is normal, to be expected.

You can also use jars with airlocks in the lid. Or you can try something like the Perfect Pickler Fermentor for countertop fermenting.

My airlock jars are just all in use right now because lacto-fermented asparagus is out of this world. I ferment a LOT of asparagus.

I also cut a circle from flexible plastic to a shape and size appropriate for the glass jars. This helps the ‘leaf layer’ to keep the vegetables under the liquid and away from that layer of scum. The circle goes on top of the leaf, the scum forms on the plastic circle.

Weight Stones for Crocks at Lehmans.com

Crock Weight Stones are made in USA, available for 1 to 5 gallon crocks. At Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio, or at Lehmans.com

My big pickling crocks have wooden or ceramic boards that are used to submerge the fermenting foods. The ceramic boards provide their own weight, but sometimes, the wooden disks have to be weighted down on top of the ferment.

Again, because this is important: Find a way to keep the vegetables below the liquid level. Using the leftover leaves and a smaller jar filled with water to keep things compressed works. If the vegetables are exposed to the air they will become discoloured and squishy and if this happens, you should discard those pieces (the rest of your ferment is most likely still fine). You will get to know the smell of a good ferment. Trust me when I tell you that you can tell if it’s gone funky.

Put the prepared, filled, nylon-topped jar in a dark place and let her go for a few days. Take the cover off after about three days, remove the scum with a spoon or fork and taste some of the veggies.  When they are soured to your liking, they are good to go.

Stick your finished veg in the fridge to slow the fermenting. If you leave them out, they will continue to ferment, so if you want that, don’t seal them airtight.

You can do your basic ferments just with brine and vegetables and get amazing results. Where this method really takes off is in the flavorings you can add.

I don’t really do ferments of anything without adding in a few cloves of garlic (which, incidentally are soooo good, once fermented). Most of my batches include some onion, for flavor and because we love them fermented.  I usually add either allspice or pepper flakes, which give the whole thing a nice kick.

Experiment to see what happens. I do this in small batches and keep notes, because I learned the hard way that re-creating a recipe from memory a month later is unlikely to happen. But mostly, have fun, this is a great way to preserve vegetables and as long as you don’t cook the resulting batch of fermented veg, it adds natural probiotics to your diet.

Let’s recap–’cause it’s so easy!

  • Cut up vegetables of your choice
  • Put vegetables (and flavourings)  in a jar that holds liquid (quart size canning jars are a convenient size and you can see what is going on)
  • Make sure veggies stay under the liquid (leaves and a weight of some sort are the easiest)
  • Add salt brine made from a minimum of 3 tablespoons of pickling salt to a quart of filtered or distilled water
  • Cover your jar or crock
  • Let sit for a while in cool dark place and check it every now and then
  • When fermented adequately, store in refrigerator

This method preserves vegetables for several weeks, if not months, depending on the environment you keep them in (fridge lasts longer than shelves in the root cellar).

*Regular table salt will work, but because of the additives in it might make your fermenting liquid cloudy and less appealing.

** Tap water tends to have chlorine and other things added to it to prevent microbial growth, which is what we are trying to achieve here, so don’t use water straight from the tap. Filter it or boil it to get rid of at least the chlorine. I am lazy and just get jars of distilled water for my ferments.

Just one more thing…about the red carrots in my ferment!

I planted both Lehman’s provided carrot seeds and seeds from another store (local grocery store) in the same soil, same bed, same conditions on the same day. They are different varieties, and the grocery store ones promised to be much bigger (at least on the package, which indicated that I should be able to expect something about twice the size of what I actually harvested.)

The Lehman’s carrots are on the right.

Bs Carrots

I’m sold. I don’t know if it’s just the seed stock being better  or if conditions were better for that variety this year, but I think it’s the quality of the seed, since the grocery store package was a mix that was supposed to include red dragon seeds. So far I haven’t seen one yet, but then, I’m not done harvesting that plot.

I just know what I am planting for the fall harvest.

Have fun preserving your bounty!

Youthview: Touch-Activated Book Lights Go to Camp

Four Lehman’s Touch-Activated Book Lights spent the summer at YMCA Camp Tippecanoe in Harrison County Ohio. Kimmy Kettering, 15, the niece of a Lehman’s employee took them along, and put them to work.                          —Editor, Country Life

Kimmy's been a Tipp camper for 7 years. This pic is from last summer, when she'd stood still long enough for a photo.

Kimmy’s been a Tipp camper for 7 years. This pic is from last summer, when she’d stood still long enough for a photo.

I used Touch-Activated Book Lights for many different things this summer. They were fantastic. They were lightweight and easy to use. Each one only needs one AAA battery, and the LED lamp doesn’t get hot. I could keep one pair of them in my backpack and use them whenever they were needed. Campers even used them to take bathroom trips at two in the morning and could easily carry the lights with them. We kept a pair in the cabin for anyone to try out and use. I personally used them for reading in my bunk during siesta, a period after lunch where campers and counselors go back to the cabins to take a break from the busy day, when the counselor turned off the lights. At night, I laid in my hammock and read while using one of these lights too. The lights also worked as great mini-flashlights. A cool thing about these lights is that they have three different brightness settings. I used the brightest setting for when I was walking from the bathhouse back to the cabins at night. I often forgot to take my contacts case and solution up with me to the bathhouse so when I got back to the cabin I used the booklight to see what I was doing. I put it on the lowest setting, which gave me enough light to get my contacts out, but it wasn’t bright enough to disturb other campers. One night as we were walking back from an evening activity and it was getting dark, one of the younger campers started to get scared. I grabbed one of the lights from my backpack, and she used it as a flashlight until we got back to the village.

Touch-Activated Booklight from Lehmans.com

This close-up view shows the easy-to-use buttons and the light’s base, which I clipped on my scripts.

On nights that I helped with Raggers Ceremonies, a goal setting program for campers ages 12 and up, and had to read from a script packet, I used the lights because they would easily slide on to the packet and provide enough light that allowed me to read the script. I could move the light around because the neck is flexible, letting me see everything. The other campers, counselors, and CITs also used them during ceremonies and they loved them, too. Anyone can use these lights if they are ever in a situation where they are sleeping in the same room as other people. They would be great for late night studying in dorms when your roommate is trying to sleep. The lights work well with a touchscreen, so if you have to have additional light to check your phone, or your tablet, you can just clip them on. They aren’t awkward because they are so light. My sister is going to college soon, and I think Mom should pick her up a set of these too! One of the best things I would use the Touch-Activated Book Lights for is to read in a hotel room when everyone else wants to sleep. I read a lot, and I like to read before I go to sleep. I’ll be packing the Book Lights with me everywhere I go!

In a Pickle…and Those Darn Tomatoes!

Try pickled beets in the Perfect Pickler! It's available now at Lehmans.com.

Perfect Pickler: large size fits your 1 gal to 2-1/2 gal wide mouth jar; small size fits your 1/2 pt to 2 pt wide mouth jars.

Beyond Pickles I have always made a lot of pickles. We eat something pickled nearly every day. Pickled beans and beets are our favorites with carrots and cauliflower nearly as popular. We like bread and butter pickles too but by now, last year’s are are getting a bit soggy and nobody likes a soggy pickle. Lately, I have been making a lot more lacto-fermented pickled than traditional canned pickles in brine. We can make a ½ gallon of pickles and eat them over the course of a few weeks and then just make up another crispy batch. The process is really simple too. All you need is a sharp knife and a cutting board and some ½ gallon jars. Almost any vegetable can be fermented although a few things don’t appeal to me. I have tried pickled greens and found them, well…odd is all I can say about them.

Natural Sea Salt at Lehmans.com

Natural Sea Salt is the foundation for good pickles and fermented foods.

This week I harvested several small heads of cabbage, some carrots and the last of the beets. I wash everything really well, peeled the beets and took off the boggy outer leaves of the cabbage. You can use a food processor to shred the vegetables but I made short work of them with a really sharp knife. Once shredded, I weighed the vegetables on a kitchen scale. It took a bit of tweaking but I finally got the five pounds I needed. I added 3 tablespoons of sea salt and worked it through the vegetables until it felt evenly distributed. I covered the bowl and left it to sit for a couple of hours until the cabbage began to wilt and release some liquid. Now comes the fun part.

Maple food mill plungers

Solid maple food mill plungers are available at Lehmans.com or at Lehman’s Kidron, Ohio.

You need to pack the shredded mass into some sort of vessel. Around here, canning jars are abundant so that’s what we use. I push the vegetables into the jars, using the wooden tool that came with my cone sieve. It takes a while to get it all in. There was enough to fill one ½ gallon container and a quart as well. Several times over the rest of the day I would come back and give the vegetables another mushing. More and more liquid is released as the vegetables shrink. At some point I find I can add the left-over quart back into the larger jar. It’s important to make sure the vegetables always stay covered with brine. Anything above the brine level will spoil. I use a glass filled with water as a weight to hold the veggies under the brine. If you find that you don’t have enough brine after the first 24 hours, just add a tablespoon of salt to a cup of water and top off with that. Cover the jar loosely and wait a few days so the pickles have a chance to get nicely fermented then put them in a cold spot. It’s a good idea to set the jar on a plate as sometime enough fluid is released to spill over and it can make a terrible mess. This is a good thing to do with dribs and drabs of the garden in the fall.  A small head of cauliflower, some beans, cabbage and the last of the onions and garlic will combine to make a pickle that is way more than the sum of its parts. Homemade Vegetable Juice I am heartily sick of canning tomatoes. Unfortunately, nobody mentioned this to the tomatoes and they are still producing. In an effort to do something creative I came up with a juice that is nearly as good as the store-bought variety and has a whole lot less salt. I will confess that it took me a while to get used to the lack of salt but now I find the commercial stuff mouth-puckeringly salty. I think my blood pressure goes up every time I even think about drinking it. I wish I could be more certain of the amounts here. I would guess I begin with about 25 to 30 pounds of tomatoes. I chop them first into my huge stockpot taking out the core and cutting away any questionable parts. There are a fair number of those this time of the year.

Food mill

Strain your veggie juice and then sieve the pulp quickly and easily with this Stainless Steel Old-Style Food Mill from Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio, or on Lehmans.com.

Next, I add a pound of chopped and peeled carrots, a bunch of celery (I had to buy this but the juice didn’t taste good when I tried to omit it) 1 large, chopped onion, a bunch of parsley, a tablespoon of salt and a couple of shakes of pepper. I simmer this for about 40 minutes and then ladle it into a large, fine mesh strainer. I work the vegetable pulp through the strain until I get as much juice as I can. There will be some skins and seeds left behind but that’s just fine. I can this just like I do tomato juice with 2 tablespoons of lemon juice added to each quart jar. I know some people will can this in a water bath but I think it’s a bad idea, even with the added lemon juice. With all of the vegetables added in, I pressure can it for 20 minutes at 10 pounds of pressure. The lemon juice is not added to increase acidity but to add flavor. You can leave it out if you prefer. A dash of Worchester Sauce is a nice addition to this too.

Farmer Hannah Sees Low Impact, High Return With Olive Oil Lamp

Make Your Own Olive Oil Lamp Kit Large for Pint Jars

The 6-pack Large Make-Your-Own Olive Oil Lamp Kit fit pint mason jars, and are just like Hannah’s. Also in Small (half pints) and Votive sizes. At Lehmans.com.

I am constantly in a quest to see what I can produce to satisfy my own needs and wants, rather than relying on an outside source.  I try to use an ethic of intention rather than of convenience.

A lightbulb with a switch is certainly a convenient thing, and I use them a lot.  Of course, I try to only keep lights on in rooms that I am occupying, and then only enough to do what I need to do. If I’m cooking or cleaning and using a large space, I need more light than if I’m sitting in one spot and reading or writing, for instance.

When I saw Lehman’s olive oil lamps, though, I was intrigued.  Maybe it was the fact that all you have to do is put a wick in a mason jar with oil, which satisfies my “make-do-with-what-you-have” sensibility.  I was intrigued enough by the idea to obtain a kit. Continue reading

American Gardens: Buckeye Garden Nears Harvest

Tough Cherry Tomatoes survived well. They're in the front bucket.

Tough Cherry Tomatoes survived well. They’re in the front bucket.

American Gardener Tim sent us tons of new pictures–we’re saving the “how to build a raised bed” for the planning days of wintertime.

Right now, let’s take a look at how his gardens are growing. He’s managing two–one small one in the suburban home where his family now lives, and one on land he and his wife will retire to in a few years. There are photos in the gallery below.

“Things are growing so fast now, and I’m just trying to keep up,” Tim says. “Thanks, Lehman’s, for sending me seeds to grow. I had a fail on the cukes, with that late cold snap. And squirrels kept digging up the carrot starts in the suburban garden.”

“I’ll tell you what, though. Those Black Cherry tomatoes are seriously hardy. I wasn’t able to get water to all my tomatoes for about four days recently. But look at that picture! The front barrel are all the Black Cherries. The rest–well, they aren’t. I know for sure I’m coming back to Lehman’s for tomato seeds next year!” Continue reading

Youthview: What Does That Memory Taste Like?

Alli Ervin, Youthview blogger.

Alli Ervin, Youthview blogger.

This first Youthview blog is by Alli Ervin, granddaughter of Lehman’s founder, Jay Lehman, and daughter of Glenda Lehman Ervin, vice-president of marketing. At 15, Alli’s in a perfect position to share thoughts and opinions of younger folks.                                                                         –Editor, Country Life

What do you think of when you’re eating ripe, juicy watermelon or drinking a tall glass of cold, sugary lemonade?  Probably a hot summer day, sitting by the pool, basking in the sun…

What image comes to mind when there’s a mug of hot chocolate and a plate of fresh-baked cookies in front of you?  Perhaps a cold winter night, and you are cuddling by the fireplace with your family, watching traditional Christmas movie together. Continue reading

Amish Country Farm Grows Goats, Guinea Hogs and Great Family

Sarah Jo's children and her kids.

Sarah Jo’s children…and her kids.

Country Life first met Sara Jo and her family through her cousin, Diane, who’s a marketing team member at Lehman’s. She submitted a great recipe for goat’s milk custard (it’s below), but CL wanted to know more. What drove this young family to a homesteading lifestyle right here in Wayne County, Ohio? And although dairy’s a big business here, why choose goats? Sara Jo was patient with questions, and here’s her story.

I was born in Orrville and grew up on family dairy farm on North Kohler Road. My grandfather, Paul Maurer, owned the farm and worked it along with my father, Joe Maurer. My father sold the cows about 4 years ago, so the farm is a crop farm only now.

I tried all kinds of other jobs and even lived in Columbus for a while. It just wasn’t home. I loved the farm. In fact, as far back as you can find the U.S. census lists “farmer” as the occupation for my dad’s family. I guess the love of family and farming is just in my blood.

Jason, my husband, was also born in Orrville.  He was employed by Besancon’s in Smithville milking cows. He worked the first years of our marriage at Rohrer Farms (also in Smithville.)  He grew to love the work and the livestock as well. Continue reading

Simple Sorbets a Refreshing Alternative

Chris Funk, today’s guest contributor, has been experimenting with sorbets for a while. A great home cook, Chris is also known for his pretzel buns. Today, he’s sharing his simple sorbet recipe, which is perfect for seasonal berries, stone fruit, apples, and pears.
                                                                                                            –Country Life

I’ve mainly started making sorbets because it was a healthier alternative than a full heavy cream or  a half and half ice cream. So it started with a strawberry sorbet: a delicious base mix, but a pain to make due to the seeds!

Then I moved onto raspberry, then peach, and now pear. Pears are just coming in here in southwest Ohio, and we have some really great ones grown locally.  Any favorite fruit will work, you just sometimes have to take the juiciness of the fruit into consideration when you’re making the sorbet. This is especially important if you decide to use a frozen fruit for the sorbet. You’ll have to thaw and drain it before moving on with the recipe.

Continue reading

Low Fuel Cooking: Flowerpot Hoppin’ John and Solar Gluten-free Cornbread

On Monday, I told you all about the ways I cook without using my stove. Here are two of my favorite recipes, which I make with only minimal use of stove and fuel. I can put dishes together, and let them develop for hours. It’s been really warm and sunny here, so my main motivation is to keep the house cool. But I use these methods in the winter too! Today, let’s talk about Flower Pot Hoppin’John and solar cornbread.  Here’s how it’s done. Continue reading