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  • FoodSaver V3240 Vertical Vacuum Sealer, White
    FoodSaver V3240 Vertical Vacuum Sealer, White
    FoodSaver
    I just started using a FoodSaver vacuum sealer to seal foods and I can't believe I waited so long to get one. (Check out my first project: Sweet & Sour Green Bean Freezer Pickles!)
    For example: In the past I would take the time to pick beautiful berries, then would bring them home and stick them in a zippered baggie in the freezer. My berries would have ice crystals and taste freezer burnt after just a few short months. 
    Then I had a light-bulb moment: "Air is the enemy" of freshness. 
    When vacuum-sealed my berries last 3 to 4 times longer! I have similar results with other fruits, veggies and even meats & cheeses.
    The FoodSaver has been a fantastic discovery. ~ Brook
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    • Mehu-Liisa 10 Liter Stainless Steel Steam Juicer - Made in Finland
      Mehu-Liisa 10 Liter Stainless Steel Steam Juicer - Made in Finland
      Mehu-Liisa Products

      Some day I will replace my ancient graniteware Steam Juice Extractor with this gorgeous Mehu-Liisa brand Steam Juicer. My old Steam Juicer leaks steam, meaning I have to refill the water often, and it doesn't have anywhere close to the capacity of this one from Mehu-Liisa.
      If you want to experience the magic of a Steam Juicer, check out this 10 quart Mehu-Liisa. It will last you a lifetime and save you countless hours in the kitchen, whether your juicing fruit for  Plum Jelly or Apricot Nectar, not to mention it minimizes the mess of juicing large amounts of veggies!  ~ Brook

    • Ball Quilted Jelly Canning Jar 4 Oz (Pack of 12)
      Ball Quilted Jelly Canning Jar 4 Oz (Pack of 12)
      Ball
      What's the one jar size I always keep a couple extra cases of? 
      The Ball 4 ounce jar.
      It's basically 1/2 cup, and just the right size for gift-giving and for experimenting with small batches. Perfect for things like my famous Pear Honey.
      People can't help but say "That is so darn cute!" when they seem them. 
      ~ Brook

    • Presto 01781 23-Quart Pressure Canner and Cooker
      Presto 01781 23-Quart Pressure Canner and Cooker
      Presto
      Looking for an affordable, easy-to-use pressure canner, backed up by great customer service? Look no further than the Presto 23 quart Pressure Canner/Cooker. It's the one I recommend to all my students. ~ Brook

     

    Dilly Pickled Onion Slices on Punk Domestics

    • Splash-Proof Super-Fast Thermapen (Orange) Instant Read Thermometer, Perfect for Barbecue, Home and Professional Cooking
      Splash-Proof Super-Fast Thermapen (Orange) Instant Read Thermometer, Perfect for Barbecue, Home and Professional Cooking
      ThermoWorks
      Do you have a great instant-read thermometer, or are you still buying the 20 dollar ones that only last a year or two? This was one of my best kitchen purchases.
      Can't imagine cooking jam (or meat or candy) without it! 
      Take your jams to 220º and you'll have a perfect gel set every time. Also available in other colors, but why wouldn't you want orange? It's only the BEST COLOR EVER. ~ Brook

     

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    • The Home Preserving Bible (Living Free Guides)
      The Home Preserving Bible (Living Free Guides)
      by Carole Cancler
      If you're looking for a book that covers every preserving topic imaginable, this is the book for you. It doesn't have a flashy cover or glossy pictures, but it's full of great info. One of my very favorite resources. ~ Brook

    • OXO Good Grips Corn Stripper
      OXO Good Grips Corn Stripper
      OXO

      Last August my friend Kelli asked me if I wanted some fresh corn from her grandpa's garden. I said "Sure....I'd love to make a few jars of Sweet Corn Relish!"
      She showed up 6 hours later with 158 ears. Wasn't sure if I loved her or hated her for it.
      After a long hot day spent cutting kernels off all those cobs with a small paring knife, I decided I'd never be without a Corn Stripper again. ~ Brook

     

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    « Adorable Autumn DIY Project: Canning Jar Ring Pumpkin | Main | Fermenting Veggies »
    Wednesday
    Oct032012

    The North Mason Coalition Canning Corps is ready, willing and able, and now we're legal too!

    I live in Seattle but spend a fair amount of time in Mason County, a picturesque, heavily wooded part of Washington State about an hour northwest of Seattle. This mostly rural county is dotted with lakes, divided by rivers & streams, and has enough saltwater inlets to keep us happily eating a variety of shellfish & seafood all year 'round.

    This past March when my husband and I attended the annual NMCCC Crab Feed fundraiser I noticed a little blurb on the paper placemats on our table, looking for people interested in a project called the Coalition Canning Corps.
    I couldn't wait to get home and call the contact number, but I held off just in case the person on the placemat was recovering from working the fundraiser. Sure enough she had been, but when I got in touch with Linda Archambeau the next day she was tired but more than happy to talk. Linda is a seasoned food preserver and has been the main engine pulling this mighty little CCC train along, though she has some great support too. I knew I'd made the right call, and that we would be working together soon.

    Linda's dilemma: she knew there were far too many hungry people in Mason County in need of nutritious food, and that there were plenty of generous families and farmers, including herself, willing to donate produce. The NMCCC (our "parent" group) had collected over 1,000 canning jars and donations of canning equipment. People were willing to learn to help preserve the bounty, but it isn't that simple. Proper permitting is required to donate preserved food. It needs to be done safely, in a health department-approved kitchen, and their needs to be documentation to go with every jar that is preserved.

    Fast forward a few months to last week and a photo I took of Linda, in the just-the-right-size commercial kitchen offered to our group by the Hood Canal Masonic Lodge, located in Belfair. Here is Linda, signing the mandatory permit from the USDA that makes it legal for us to donate the CCC's preserved foods. Not sure I'd ever seen her smile this big. Clearly a happy day for all of us.


    It took months, actually a couple years, to get to this point, but now we are pretty much unstoppable. Thank goodness for Linda; she would not give up. She made telephone calls, sent emails, and filled out a mountain of forms, but she did it. A small group of regulars show up on the 2nd Friday* of every month where either I or Linda guide them along, teaching preserving as we go. We gather to wash jars, prep the donated produce, cook, process, check seals and label our goods.

    Everyone pitches in and we always have a very good time.

    Peaches & apricots plus lemon juice & sugar, going into the preserving pan.


    Peach halves in light syrup.

    Our USDA permit also requires us to verify pH levels, and log data, but these are fairly simple tasks and a common practice of many preservers anyway. Once the jars are labeled they can be used in community meals or distributed by the NMCCC, which provided 34,000 meals in Mason County in 2011 through their 4 different meal programs. (Before our permit came through, we gathered to learn how to preserve. Now that we are legal, we will continue to teach preserving, but we can also share the preserved goods from each session with the community.)

    I was just looking again at the brochure the CCC distributes to spread the word. These 4 lines of goals & objectives pretty much sum up what we do:

    1.) Train community members how to can safely.
    2.) Use and preserve foods that would otherwise be wasted.
    3.) Help to feed the hungry in our community.
    4.) Bring the home touch back to what we put on our tables.

    Is it possible for you to do this in your community? 

    Of course it is. It's not only possible, but I think it's necessary.  

    I feel blessed to be a part of this Coalition Canning Corps.

    Sauerkraut, fermented first, then canned for shelf-stability.
     
     

     *We hope to eventually have enough volunteers (and knowledgeable preservers to guide them) to have 4 teams. Then each team would can once per month, but theoretically we could have a team in the kitchen canning something every week of the year.

    As my dad said to me as I was growing up: "Think big, start small, and expand." I know he didn't invent the saying, but it sure has resonated with me a few times over the past 40+ years, especially with an opportunity like this.


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    Reader Comments (1)

    What a great project to be part of! Kudos to everyone involved. :)

    October 20, 2012 | Unregistered Commenteremmycooks
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