Friday, March 11, 2011

Putting Food By - Beef, Onions and Vanilla

A freezer door left open accidentally left me frantically trying to figure out what to do with the contents. I was especially concerned about the organic, free ranged, grass fed beef and chicken steadily thawing.

I have this marvelous All American 921 pressure canner, which I had only used to cook meals in. For whatever reason, the idea of actually using it to CAN scared the self sufficient right out of me. So I posted on the Facebook page, "Take Back Urban-Homestead(s)" for help and support - and the members there came through in a hurry. When I realized I couldn't find the rack that came with my pressure canner, it was recommended that I use quart size canning rings in the bottom to keep my glass jars off the metal. Who knew? Well, probably most of you, but I never would have thought of that trick.

I managed to get all the beef put up yesterday. It was surprisingly easy, and now I have stew meat ready to go whenever we might need it. A few things I wasn't expecting, being a first timer and all:
1. When I took the jars out of the canner the contents were bubbling like mad! Amazing to watch, but I was concerned at first that I had done something wrong. Turns out it's fine.
2. Canned meat in glass jars looks strange. This must be why they can meat in metal cans for the grocery stores. Regardless, I know what's in my jars; Organic beef, salt, pepper, and water.


I managed to put up 5 quarts of beef. I wanted to put them up in pint jars, but I didn't have any empty, so I made due with what I had.

And did you see that little bit of green hanging out in the picture above? Those are our scallions previously posted here. This is what they look like now:

You can see in the next picture how the roots grow and tangle in the cup of water. If you want to do this at home, it's simple. The next time you have green onions, don't throw away the white ends. Simply submerge them in a glass of water and place them in a sunny window. Your onions will begin to grow almost immediately and can be harvested almost indefinitely. We just use kitchen scissors to cut what we need for meals. I periodically empty out the water, rinse the roots off and give them fresh water.

Finally, I wanted to share our new adventures with vanilla. Growing up I was only familiar with one type of vanilla. Imitation. Can I get a resounding "Gross!?" Did you know imitation vanilla is often made with wood byproducts and chemicals? Yuck.

About 2 years ago I discovered real vanilla. In the pod. It was like the heavens opened up and a chorus of angels started singing. I'll forgive my parents. They were broke. They didn't use the internet much (to be fair, it wasn't really readily available like it is today.) And they probably didn't know any different. I get my vanilla from Vanilla Products USA. They have a site on Ebay that sells the same vanilla bean for even less and I've been very pleased with the quality and quantity.

This week I decided to make my own vanilla extract and vanilla sugar. The extract is simple. Buy the cheapest vodka you can find. Pour it into a mason jar. Add 6-8 vanilla beans, sliced open and chopped up. Put a lid on it. Store it in a cool, dark location for 8 weeks. Shake it every now and then. Strain into a new jar when you're ready to use and add more vodka to the beans in the old jar. Whenever you use a bean for another recipe, toss the remains into your extract jar. It will store indefinitely if kept properly.



Vanilla sugar is also simple to make. Take plain old white sugar and place it in a mason jar. Add a few chopped up beans. Put a lid on it and shake. Store in the pantry. The sugar takes on such a delicious, light vanilla flavor. Perfect for baking, adding to coffee, sweets, etc. Yummy!


Today I'm prepping the makings for chicken noodle soup. Now that I'm no longer terrified of my pressure canner, I'll be using it to save all the chicken that thawed in our freezer. The Boy loves chicken noodle soup, so this will actually be a wonderful thing for us to have on hand. I'm also going to buy a freezer alarm......


***update - 2/5/12.    Wow!   So much traffic to this post.   I had no idea that regrowing scallions in water would be such a popular topic.    Having grown our green onions like this now for several years,  I should clarify my earlier statements.   These onions most likely won't grow indefinitely, but you can get 7 - 15 new clippings from them if you're vigilant.   Please empty and replace your water regularly.  Every 1-2 days.   Rinse off your roots when replacing your water.  This keeps down on onion-y smell and possible rot.  And keep that water right around root level - don't fill the jar all the way up to the green portion of your onions.  That's a sure way to have green onion rot develop.  Happy micro-farming!
Learning new skills every day.

Simple Mama

75 comments:

  1. I love all of this. Wonderful information. We will try all of this. I to have been fearful of canning meat. Can you give more details? how much fat has to be removed? how long do you cook it before canning it? do you HAVE to cook it first? the questions could go on but I will digress. My email is kev_lev@msn.com please feel free to contact me so we can talk ;)

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    1. I was terrified of canning meat at first too. I learned from my grandmother that when they came over from Norway and settled the Dakota Territory, that was how they got through the winters is canned meats. :)
      I have not canned it personally but all that I have tried has been cooked. It's always incredibly tender and very delicious. Good luck!

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    2. Go to Presto.com. There are instructions there.

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  2. So glad you were able to save that meat!! I was thinking about you last night, wondering how it was going.

    Pressure cooked meat is actually delicious. I love venison pressure canned.

    Now I see that we need to introduce you to Tattler reusable canning jar lids! :)

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    1. Tattler reusable canning jar lids? Looks like I need to do some research, thanks for the comment. Just to note, I used a pressure cooker once, successful, but still a scaredy cat..lol

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  3. I would have needed a boost for canning meats too - and now maybe I've got one!

    Great post, wonderful blog!

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  4. Yay... so glad u were able to save it all... when i was young and lived in the boonies thats all people would eat since nobody had freezers or even fridges... there are some other tricks too that they used... cheers..

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  5. That things with the green onions is so brilliant. I can't wait to try that for myself! :D

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  6. Simpler Times Homestead - I'll try and send you an email this weekend. We're working on garden prep and taxes, so if I forget, shoot me another reminder please. :)

    Maria - Off to research Tattler. I'm so relieved I was able to save some of the things in our freezer.

    Liana - Thank you! Welcome to my little corner of the 'net. :)

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  7. Tattler lids never heard of them. Great idea! Just orderd some. Thank you!

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  8. Great post!!! I have never tried to can meat before, in general I've always had a hard time confronting canning! This summer I have loads of canning plans!

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  9. love the idea for vanilla sugar !! Thanks so much

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  10. you are so inspiring! i can't wait to go buy some green onions and give that a go. the vanilla looks simply divine. i always think i should do that. thanks for the source. maybe that's the prod i needed. ;)

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  11. You have shared different use of glass wares. Really very inspiring idea. Green onions are fantastic.
    -Plastic Glasses

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  12. Great info! And so glad you could reach out on Take Back. What a great resource we all are when we can cooperate and share like this.

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  13. I made homemade vanilla like this a few years ago, and it was incredible! I gave it as part of a homemade kitchen gift basket at the holidays, and everyone loved it. Such an easy way to make something fantastic!

    I had no idea about the green onions either...we're most definitely going to give that a try! Thanks for sharing :)

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  14. Hi, I found you on Pinterest and loved this idea of regrowing Green Onions. I just started a Repin-it Challenge for myself and whoever wants to join. This is my first project to recreate. <3 Can't wait to get started. Thank you!!! http://swbeautifullife.blogspot.com/2011/10/pin-it-challenge.html

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  15. Thanks for the green onion tip. They are very hard to find in rural France so I'm definitely going to try this the next time I find them!

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  16. http://singlemompreparedness.blogspot.com/2011/07/canning-chicken.html
    Here's some info on canning chicken, but it applies to all meat. I LOVE canning meat, & it's easy!
    I love the onions idea too! We love green onions & miss them when our garden is over. Thanks!

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  17. I love the green onion idea. I'm featuring it tomorrow on My Fabulous Finds week #4. You have a great blog and I am now following you. Looking forward to reading all your great ideas.

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  18. Thanks SO much for the info on the green onions! I can never use them fast enough when I buy a bunch, but since they are much better fresh as a garnish, I hate having to throw them in the freezer or (gasp!) throw them away.

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  19. I'm about to blog about this, try it, and I'll be sure to link back to your blog post!

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  20. Good for you! Looks like you're going to enjoy that meat already cooked for you huh? I'm impressed with all of your ideas.

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  21. This did not work for me. What a nightmare. The onions started to stink up my kitchen and when I got a whiff of the smell I gagged and almost threw up. I went to dump it out and when the onions hit the bag they splattered and turned into mush.

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  22. Not sure what happened with your onions. I've never had a problem, unless I've let my water sit too long - then the onions smell becomes over powering. I change my water out every other day or so.

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  23. Yeah, mine had a limited life too. :) Ewww! HOWEVER, I started keeping a flowerpot with moist potting mix on the windowsill and starting them in that, and they thrive.

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  24. Who doesn't eat the white part of the onion? I love that part! :)

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  25. Great idea! I want to try this here at home too!

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  26. Yeah, I'm wondering how much of the white part you need since I usually use it all except right at the roots, I cut it off and throw it away. But I'll try it with just that and see.

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    1. You need atleast an inch.. you need the heart of the onion to still be intact

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  27. I'm gonna start a little onion garden in a jar today !
    Thank you!

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  28. Juliaraven - let me know how it works out for you. I always leave about 1/2 - 1 inch so that I can continue to harvest my onions.

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  29. My sister freaked out to see a bouquet of green onions in my fridge once! When I buy green onions, I usually stick them in a glass of water in the fridge to keep them fresh until I use them all up. Well, I had more than I needed from a good sale once and they continued to stay fresh in the fridge this way and if memory serves I think they actually grew a little.

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  30. Loving the green onions! I am growing some right now! Thanks for the post. I found you on pinterest. I am featuring you on my blog.

    adaynasmile.wordpress.com

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  31. really!?!? the green onions will grow?!? i HAVE to try this.. we eat ALOT of green onions... Thank you for all the wonderful tips! Lucie

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    1. As a Chinese person I can tell you that this is something every Chinese mother knows. it's very easy and they grow insanely fast.

      Oh and also, if you chop them up, seal them in a ziploc bag and stuff them in the freezer, they will stay fresh indefinitely with no loss of flavor what so ever.

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    2. I've frozen onions whole and chopped, as well. Freezing them makes them watery and limp, just so you know.

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  32. I got so interested in your photos, ideas, recipes, canning advice etc that I completely forgot about the cookie and milk right next to me. And that never happens. :) Adding you to my favorites to check back again!

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  33. I had scallions in my fridge and I used them and tried what you said. And it WORKED! I was so happy, may never have to buy scallions again!

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  34. Hi there! Thank you for such a helpful tip about the green onions. It's a small miracle. :)

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  35. I had some problems with the green onions on my first attempt. Going to try again with mosit potting soil.

    Thanks so much!

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  36. I can't wait to try my hand with the onions!

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  37. I saw your onions on Pinterest. I am presently experimenting with onions that have sprouted in the bag, instead of throwing them away, suspending them over water and using the sprouted tops.

    I use the whole green onion including the white part. I cannot believe people throw that away.

    The meat you can cook thoroughly and refreeze. I usually do this with roasts, slice, and tray freeze, or use it in chili or stew and refreeze.

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  38. Thanks for the tip to have a ready supply of green onions in your hand's reach. Awesome:))

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  39. do you have to leave some of the green on the onion?

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  40. I decided to just pull the yucky parts off the green onion we had going bad in the fridge. I clipped the bad ends off the rest, gave it all a good rinse and put in a glass with some fresh water. After just a few days, the green onions have gotten so tall. Thanks for this great tip, I shouldn't have to buy green onions ever again!

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  41. the onion water you drain off when changing water can be used as a pesticide

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    1. Great idea! Insects are repelled by the smell of onions and garlic, but I never would have thought to use the water. Thanks!

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  42. WOW! I can't believe I've never considered the onions-in-the-glass thing - holy brilliant!!! And thank you for posting.

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  43. WOW! I can't believe I've never considered the onion-in-the-water thing - holy brilliant! And thank you for posting!!!

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  44. Someone posted your pic of onions on Pinterest, and I had to come and take a look. I love all your tips here, as well as your lively writing style. Going to root some onions! After that, I'll buy some vanilla beans and vodka. I make homemade ice cream once a week, so we go through the organic vanilla, at $6/pop mighty fast! I've been trying to figure out a way to avoid having to buy all those little jars.

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  45. what do you mean by Whenever you use a bean for another recipe, toss the remains into your extract jar. What kind of beans just vanilla? how long do the beans last re-adding the vodka to the jar?

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  46. Hi Alisa,

    Yes - vanilla beans. If a recipe calls for the insides of a vanilla bean - the seeds, scrape it out and toss the outside of the bean into your vodka. We've kept the same beans for up to a year - I don't know the actual shelf life.

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    1. actually they can last for years. i keep adding vodka to my jar and ina garten has a bottle she's kept going for 20 years. i'm sure you need to replenish the beans every few years but that's easy to do. i plan on just adding a bean or 2 every so often.

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  47. How short to you trim your green onions (spring onions to us in the UK) before placing them in the glass of water?

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  48. Regrowing works with celery as well!

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    1. I think it works for carrots and pineapple also.

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    2. How do regrow the celery? Which end in the water? Should it be in the fridge or on the counter?

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  49. Great tip for the spring onions. I usually save the white parts to throw in a veggie stock pot, but this sounds even better.

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  50. Regrowing celery??? Share please! Celery is one of the top most pesticided veggy ever. Apples are first...yuck....

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  51. Vanilla sugar is actually recommended for a vanilla extract replacement for recovering alcoholics. Obviously the first one is not :)

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  52. Have tried twice, to grow the green onions in a glass, as we use a lot of them. Both times, the onions went mushy-yucky-smelly! Do I need to leave enough of the white on and have the top sitting above the water, so it does not go mushy?
    I really want it to work!

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  53. I have tried this twice now, both times unsuccessful. Onions went mushy-yucky-smelly and I had to toss them. Should I be leaving more white on them and keeping that cut end sitting above the water level?
    I really want it to work, as we use a lot of white onions.

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  54. Ok - I've been paying more attention now to how I cut my green onions since this is a strangely popular post. I cut my green ends off until the dark green starts to turn into light green - before you get to the white part. I leave about 2 inches of onion - with about 1 inch above the water.

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  55. Thanks to you, I have green onions growing like crazy in a little glass on my window sill! Thanks for the info! :)

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  56. You should NOT find it strange that this post is so popular.. because there are so many people (like me) who didn't know that this was totally doable.
    THANKS!

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  57. I, like everyone else, just didn't know it was possible to do this. I got here via a link on Pinterest, and quickly found a recipe that called for green onions, and gave this a try. It's working great.

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  58. i tried the green onion idea but the green parts were oderless and tasteless. i left some of the green on before i rooted them so thinking maybe i needed to use only white parts totally. going to try this again and see if it comes out better. my husbands brother who lives in alaska brought to us some canned salmon. i made salmon patties today with it and it was amazing. no fishy taste like the stuff you buy in cans at the store. so can only assume the meat would be the same quality canned. thanks for your vanilla bean info. i made about 20 half pints of vanilla several months back and am giving the last one away tomorrow to a dear friend who's coming to help me move plants inside before the storm issac comes our way. i live on the mississippi gulf coast. thanks again for your sharing info.

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  59. For those who are having their green onions go mushy - be sure you thoroughly clean off any outer layers that are deteriorated (without removing roots), or only use very healthy onions that are thoroughly cleaned. Any that have started to rot or have any trace of slime will rot quickly. Change water and thoroughly rinse roots in cool water daily. Leave at least a bit of the green tops and only put water up to the lower third or so of the white part. Look at the picture on the blog for reference.

    I clean my lettuce leaves in a very watered down vinegar solution before putting in my salad spinner prior to making salads. I'm going to try using that method to clean my green onions gently before putting them in the glass to sprout. I usually use 1 cup of 5% vinegar to half a sink of water for washing veggies. Of course, I disinfect my sink with diluted bleach spray and rinse it out before filling it. Yes, I run a cleaner kitchen than most, but no one ever gets a stomach upset here.

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  60. In late winter or very early in spring I buy celery and cut all the stalks off about3 or 4 inches from the bottom, light scrape the bottom of cerery bulb to get off the old dryed skin and get new plant material, dip in rooting hormone and push down into garden dirt or put into pot of dirt about 2 inches deep. Most of them will root and grow new celery plants. Do this while weather is still cool because it is hard to keep them going during the hot part of summer. I freeze this celery for winter use.

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  61. Do you think using fresh onions vs. refrigerated onions makes a difference? I've tried 3 times and they always turn brown and die :(

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  62. I was very excited to find this post about the green onions on Pinterest. I currently live in India and it's hard to find nice, fresh (not wilted) produce. Being able to grow my own will help a lot.
    While checking out your blog I was also interested in the vanilla extract - I can't find it here so if I can find vanilla beans then that would also help me tremendously. I may have to stock up on both the beans and the vanilla extract when I go back to the US for my next visit.
    Thanks again for posting!

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  63. Thank you for the tip about green onion! I had no idea it was so easy to grow them and I'm going to give it a try (yes, even in Canada and even in winter...!). Most Chinese herbs are very easy to grow as well (just FYI).

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  64. Love the vanilla sugar tip but I am absolutely amazed about what you did with the green onions. This is genius!

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