Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Grilled Chicken Drumsticks

While we live in a rural area, we are only about sixty miles form the Dallas/Ft. Worth (DFW) metroplex which has a multitude of supermarkets including many ethnic markets. What this means for us is that our local Walmart actually price matches all the sale ads from the DFW area. Almost every week someone has chicken thighs and or drumsticks on sale. As I am writing this article 'Save-A-Lot' supermarkets has chicken drumsticks and thighs on sale for $0.69 per lb, while the Mexican market 'Rio Grande' has drumsticks regular or marinaded for $0.39 per lb. Chicken breasts on the other hand were $1.69 per lb on sale. The drumsticks I am cooking for this article we comp'd at our local Walmart for $0.49 per lb a few weeks ago. While not as nutritious as chicken breasts, legs and thighs can help you to put good quality food on your table for a quarter of the cost ($1.69 / $0.39 = 4.33). And I do not have to tell you if you are cooking on a budget or fixed income, every little bit of savings you can find helps to stretch your food dollars.

Cooking chicken on the grill is pretty easy, but my brother-in-law “bless his heart” just cannot seem to get the hang of it. His chicken either looks like it is cooked but ends being raw and bloody in the middle, or he cooks the bejesus out of it and it is so burned on the outside that it is not only unappealing to look at, it's not very tasty either. The sad thing is that he thinks he is a grill master, but everyone is just to polite to say anything. It is not all his fault, part of the problem is the equipment he uses. The recipe for this chicken is quite simple, season the chicken with salt and pepper and grill it for 36 minutes and then apply the sauce of my choice and cook for another 5 minutes. No rub, no marinade, simply put, this grilled chicken could not be easier.

The Grill Matters

Multi-burner gas grills are great for cooking foods, the old single burner type of gas grill (which is 20 years old) that my brother-in-law uses is terrible. It is simply to hard to regulate the heat effectively without either burning the food or having it be undercooked. The problem with single burner grills (as well as cooking directly over charcoal) is that you have to stand there and constantly monitor the cooking process and most often you have to grill with the lid open to be able to manage flareups and keep the food from burning. This not only causes you to lose heat, but it uses up more of your valuable gas and or charcoal costing you money. So why is this important? Well the key to cooking moist and delicious chicken on the grill is indirect heat, regardless of whether you are using a gas or charcoal grill.

Gas grills with multiple burners help you to maintain an even heating and cooking source, as well as allowing you to cook foods throughly while using less gas. Your gas grill does not have to be fancy. I cooked for years on a small two burner Char-Broil grill without a temperature gauge with amazing results. All you need is the ability to turn off the burner that is directly under the food during the cooking process. Have not fear, if all you have is a charcoal grill you can still cook fantastic chicken. While the process for cooking with indirect heat on a charcoal grill is slightly different, it is not difficult, and I will quickly cover how to do so later in this article.

Saving The Sauce For Last

Before we get into the actual instructions for grilling the drumsticks, there is one key thing that you must do to keep your chicken from burning, and that is saving the sauce for last. When it comes to grilled meats, the sauce that you apply will not absorb into the meat, rather the sauce is used as an additional flavor component to the poultry. Almost all sauces contain sugar which when heated will burn and increase the number of flareups during the cooking process.

Properly grilled chicken only needs to have the sauce applied during the last five minutes of cooking. Apply the sauce liberally to one side, then turn the chicken and apply the sauce to the other side and cook for 5 minutes. Adding multiple applications of sauce during the grilling process does nothing but waste sauce, increases the chance the chicken will burn and does not add any additional flavor to the chicken. It simply falls down into the bottom of the grill. If you want to add an additional layer of sauce, then when you remove the chicken from the grill and place it on your tray or plate add another light coat of sauce. Then allow the chicken to rest for 5 minutes before serving. This not only allows the additional layer of sauce to slightly thicken, but keeps you and your guests from burning your mouths when you bite into your hot and juicy grilled chicken.

Grilling The Drumsticks

A lot of people prefer the flavor of cooking meats on a charcoal grill, and I must admit I do like the flavor of charcoal, but to be honest it is down right inconvenient when you have a group of hungry guests or family members and you need to quickly throw something on the grill. The biggest disadvantage to using a charcoal grill is that it is more difficult to cook on consistently using indirect heat. It can be done, but you have less control of the temperature range of the grill so it requires a more experienced hand managing the grill.

If you want to cook your chicken over direct heat regardless of the type of grill you are using, you need to get yourself a cold beverage because you will need to stand outside and monitor the grill as there will be multiple flareups due to the fats released from the skin of the chicken during the cooking process. Now, depending on your house guests and your cold beverage of choice, standing outside by the grill cooking over direct heat just might be considered an advantage. Anyway, when cooking over direct heat, the outside of the chicken tends to cooks quickly and while the drumsticks may look cooked on the outside, the inside often remains raw and bloody. So keep in mind that if you are cooking your drumsticks over direct heat you may need to turn them every 5 to 7 minutes to keep them from burning. Cooked drumsticks are fantastic, burned and blackened drumsticks not so much; and no one I know likes to eat bloody chicken.

So the million dollar question is at what temperature do I grill my chicken? My basic answer is somewhere between 325 to 400 degrees. That may seem like quite a temperature range and it is, but to be honest when I used my old Char-Broil gas grill, it had no thermometer so I just cooked the chicken with one burner on high and the one under the chicken turned off. My new Char-Griller has a temperature gauge that reads a consistent 400 degrees (if this is accurate) when it comes up to heat and one burner is kept on low. The optimum temperature would be 350 degrees. For this recipe the gauge on my grill was always at 400 degrees. If cooking at a slightly lower temperature 325 to 350 you may need to increase the overall cook time by about 10 minutes.

Using A Gas Grill – When using a gas grill, heat with both burners on high for 5 minutes, then turn one burner off and place the meat on the side of the grill in which the burner is off and cook for 12 minutes. Then turn on both burners and turn the meat and place it on the other side of the grill and turn the burner under the meat off and cook for another 12 minutes. Repeat this process for three times or a total of 36 minutes. After 36 minutes, baste the chicken with the your sauce of your choice and then turn and move the chicken to the opposite side of the grill and baste the other side (at this point you should have sauce on both sides). Cook for an additional 5 minutes.

Using A Charcoal Grill – If you are using a charcoal grill heat the coals until they turn ash white. To cook the chicken indirectly on a charcoal grill you will need to move the coals either to the middle of the grill and cook the chicken on the outside of the grate away from the coals, or push the coals all to one side and cook on the side away from the coals. Follow the same cooking process as if you are using a gas grill.


Buying meat and poultry when it is on sale and freezing them for later use can be a valuable way to stretch your families food budget. At our house, we rarely any purchase meat or poultry unless it is on sale. Having purchased chicken when it was on sale is only half the equation, if you cannot grill it correctly, you are simply throwing your money away. The great thing is that grilling chicken thighs and drumsticks on the grill is easy and anyone can learn to grill juicy, delicious chicken, all it takes is a little practice. Just because I did not use a rub or a marinade for this recipe does not mean that you cannot. I have several recipes such as jerk chicken in which I use a marinade, and I have my own barbecue chicken rub that I also like to use. Rather my goal was to show you just how easy you could cook great grilled chicken with just a liberal amount of salt and pepper and a quick grilling sauce of your choice. Heck you do not even have to use a sauce. I grilled a couple of pieces for the wife without the sauce because she likes her grilled chicken with just salt and pepper. As always, if you have enjoyed this article, please share it with your friends and don't forget to send us on friend request on Facebook and Google+ so that you will not miss out on any of our new articles.

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Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Plastic Pantry Shelving: A Great Choice For Canners

I you have a garden of any size, raise livestock on the homestead, or just like to buy a lot of stuff on sale for your pantry, you are eventually going to need some proper shelving. I realize that this is not the typical type of article I write here on CulinaryYou, but this is part and parcel to the 'minimalist pantry' series. One of the first things we started doing when we wanted to cut down on our food bill, was raise our own livestock (rabbits and chickens) for meat. In addition, we plant a pretty good size garden for the two of us. This spring alone we have harvested over 100lbs of tomatoes, and about 40lbs of cucumbers so far, in addition to about 40lbs of blackberries, yellow squash, green beans, and peppers; you get the idea.

Well I have always been a canner and if you have been reading any of my articles on this blog, then you know that I can a lot of vegetables (tomatoes, green beans, pinto beans, black-eyed peas, squash etc...) as well and meats, jellies, and jams. The great thing about canning your harvest is that is is shelf stable, so if the power ever goes out as a result of a natural disaster or we ever have our power cut off, we will always have food to eat. Are we preppers? No, we are homesteader's or farmer's which in many ways are the original preppers. We strive to be as self-sufficient as possible, however I still hold a full time job as a registered nurse, because farming just doesn't pay the bills...[GRIN].

Anyway, if you can as much as we do, and/or buy a couple of extra food items to stock your pantry at your local grocery store when things go on sale, you will eventually need more shelf space. Most shelves that you can buy for your pantry, simply are not pantry friendly. What I mean by that is there is a lot of wasted space between the shelves. Yes you can stack some canned goods, but stacking your home canned meats and veggies is not a viable option. So in this article, I am going to show you how to purchase inexpensive shelving units and convert them into the optimum canning shelf.

Plastic Shelving

We purchase 'Plano' brand (model 950500) plastic shelving from our local Walmart for $29.49. This five shelf unit is stackable and interlocking which can be a blessing or a curse. A blessing when assembled correctly on a flat, stable surface; but they can be a curse if you do not set them up correctly. I learned the hard way, but I am going to share my experiences with you so that you do not make the same mistakes that I originally did. Please, I beg you, learn from me, or you will regret it, mark my words.

Because we can meats and vegetables in both quart and pint jars, it was important that the size and height of the shelving met these specific needs. In order to do this we cut the legs of the shelves down to 11 inches. Then when assembled the actual space between the shelves is 9 inches (you lose two inches in height as the legs sit in a recess on the shelves). This is the prefect height for both quart and pint canning jars. There are two big advantages to cutting down the legs to 11 inches. The first is that it actually makes the shelves more stable, and the second and maybe the biggest advantage is that is allows you to place twice the usable shelf space in the same area.

Cutting The Legs

Essentially the legs that come with these shelves are 1 ½-inch thin wall plastic tubing. The are actually the same size as thin wall PVC of the same diameter. Because they are thin wall, they are difficult to cut with some types of PVC cutters as the cutters tend to squash the legs rather than cut them evenly. Now you could try and use a hacksaw to cut the legs, but if you do not cut them straight your are going to have a lot of problems as you begin to stack the shelves. Any small off-set will begin to become exaggerated (get worse) as the shelving gets taller. Take it from me you, you want your shelves to be as stable as possible.

I personally cut the legs of the shelves on my miter saw (aka chop saw). I measure 11 inches from the blade and place a stop block on my fence and hold it in place with a couple clamps. It makes repeating the same cut over and over go fast and keeps the cuts accurate. If you do not have the ability to use a stop block with you mitre saw, then measuring each leg and marking it will have to do. Just remember, measure twice and cut once.

So what happens if you screw it all up? No problem, just go down to your local hardware supply store and buy a 10 or 20 foot piece of thin wall PVC and cut it to any size you wish. It will not be as pretty as it will have writing on it, but who cares, we are taking shelving. However if you do not like the writing you could sand it off.

Putting It All Together

So I am going to tell you upfront, we live out in the country and we live in a 'double wide palace', that's a manufactured or mobile home if you didn't get my drift. Although it is a very nice one, it is still a manufactured home. Having said that I am not keen on screwing my shelves to the wall. If you live in a conventional home then I would suggest that you attach every other shelf to the studs in your wall (they come with pre-drilled holes). I especially recommend this if you have to place your shelving in a room that has carpet. I was unable to do so and paid the price. So best recommendations is place your shelving on a flat, hard, level surface and attach them to the wall and her follows the reason.

Builders Note: We always leave the legs on the first level there original length so that we can place larger totes on the bottom shelf that contains dry goods such as flour, sugar and other bulky supplies.

These shelving units lock together, this in turn makes them very sturdy and gives them strength. It also means that if one shelving unit fails, then all the interlocking shelving units fail. It is an all or nothing proposition. My point, my shelves were interlocked together (which I recommend) and then placed on a carpeted floor in our spare room we call the pantry. Because we live in a manufactured home, I was leery of attaching them to the wall. Well one of the shelving units was beginning to lean, and before I could get the situation rectified, it fell over taking all of the shelves with it. To say it was a mess was an understatement. This was not a fault of the shelves, rather a the fault of the user. The solution to the problem was quite simple. Because I did not want to attach the shelves to the wall and I have to place them on carpet, I placed a 1x4 board under the front edge of each shelf. This in turn give the shelves an ever so slightly unnoticeable lean towards the wall, problem solved. So if you have to place your shelves on carpet, this simple solution could save you from a massive headache.

Built To Last

These particular shelves are quite heavy duty with ribbing that runs underneath the shelf to give it both strength and stability. The box states that the 5 unit shelf can hold a total of 375lbs (75lbs per shelf). Unlike other shelves they do not bend or buckle under weight. In the picture below you will see that I have 20 quart jars of pasta sauce on one shelf (49.7lbs total weight) and the shelf is nice and straight. Because they are made of plastic they will last for a very long time if taken care of properly. Even when my shelves fell over, none of them sustained any damage.


So this is the simply shelving solution that we use on our small homestead to store or canned and purchased goods. They have really worked out well for us now that I added the small spacer board (1x4) under to front lip to give the shelves a slight lean towards the wall. At less than $30, they are fare cheaper than trying to buy and or build shelves from wood. The fact that they snap together easily is also a bonus. Best of all if you decide later that you want the shelves area taller, you can purchase inexpensive 1 ½-inch thin wall PVC from your local building supply and cut them to the size you desire.

If hope that you have found this information helpful. It was my goal with this article to not only show you how to add simple inexpensive shelving to your pantry, but to help you to avoid the mistakes that I made when I first started out. As always, if you have enjoyed this article, please share it with your friends and do not forget to send us a friend request on Facebook or add us to your circle on Google+ to get notifications regarding our latest recipes and articles.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Pace Style Picante Sauce

There are a ton of 'picante' sauce or 'salsa' brands on your local supermarket shelves for you to choose from for snacking with a big ole bag of tortilla chips while watching your favorite movie, or sports program. Well maybe a ton is an over statement, and well a ton is actually a measurement of weight and not a measurement of quantity, but I digress. Of all the picante style sauces, my favorite is one of the originals 'Pace Picante Sauce' developed in 1947. I has what I believe is a well balanced flavor with just the right consistency and size of chopped veggies.

I grew up eating the original Pace brand “medium” picante sauce, and while the company has gone on to add a variety of additional flavors and styles such as “chunky”, “mild”, and “hot”, the original is still my favorite. Besides, Pace picante sauce is an Texas original, not some family sauce created by someone up in New York City. So if you like the original, then making your own with fresh ingredients from your garden is even better.

So I took about 30 to 35 pounds of assorted tomatoes along with some cucumbers from the garden to my friend Steve Coyne's house who writes the 'I Grow Vegetables' blog and we decided to do some power canning (we also canned kosher dills, and refrigerator pickles). We used about 25 pounds of the tomatoes for picante sauce, and Steve made ketchup with the leftover skins and the cherry tomatoes. Anyway, here is my Pace style picante sauce recipe. It is easy, quick, and delicious and one I make every year. We just cannot seem to keep enough in the pantry. BTW, you can find Steve's recipe for refrigerator pickles by clicking on his blog link 'I Grow Vegetables'.

The Base Recipe

Honestly, the ingredients listed on the Pace “medium” sauce label are quite straightforward. Crushed tomatoes, jalapenos, onions, distilled vinegar, salt, garlic, water, and natural flavoring (whatever that is). As you can tell, the original Pace recipe was pretty basic, and I happen to think that Mr. Pace got it right with his original sauce. This base recipe is pretty close to his original “medium” style sauce. With this base as your foundation you can develop your own particular variation of the sauce to suit you and your families particular tastes.

10lbs tomatoes
3 jalapeno's, diced
2 large onions, diced
¾ cup distilled vinegar (5% acidity)
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons granulated sugar (optional)
1 tablespoon pickling salt

Wash tomatoes, remove the core from the small blossom end and then cut an 'X' on the bottom of the tomato with your paring knife. Place the tomatoes in a large pot with boiling water for 90 seconds. Then remove them and place them in a large bowl with ice water. Then remove the skins and coarsely chop the tomatoes and add to your stockpot. 

Dice the onions and jalapenos and add them to the stockpot (wearing rubber gloves when you dice up the jalapenos will keep your hands from burning). Then add the remaining ingredients (except the sugar) and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally to keep the salsa from burning.

Chef's Note: Do not add any additional water to the recipe, the liquid you get from boiling, dipping and removing the skins along with the vinegar is enough moisture. Adding extra water just means you have to cook it longer.

Reduce the heat and simmer the salsa for 30 to 45 minutes or until the mixture thickens. Once your salsa has the desired thickness, check the seasoning and add additional salt to taste. At this point you may add 1 – 2 tablespoons of sugar if you like your salsa to have a slightly sweet taste. Once you have adjusted the seasoning to your satisfaction, ladle the hot salsa into hot jars leaving ½-inch of headspace. Adjust lids and rings and process pints in a water batch canner for 15 minutes.

Chef's Note: Unlike my pasta sauce, I do not add tomato paste to my salsa. Rather I cook the salsa until it is thickened. You could use tomato paste to thicken your salsa if you desire, but for this recipe, my personal preference is to cook it down as it only takes 30 to 45 minutes rather than add tomato paste.

Chef's Note: When trying to determine the number of jars you will need when processing salsa, on average most recipes in the Ball Blue Book (see below) indicate that you get about 1 pint of salsa for each pound of tomatoes used. Of course adding more onions or other veggies may increase this number. For this batch of salsa we used 20 to 25 pounds of salsa and canned 20 pints.

Variations On A Theme

For this particular batch, I added a couple of bell peppers that I had in the refrigerator, but this recipe is so basic and right on, that there are an endless number of variations that you can make. Unless specified, all the base ingredients are the same, some of the techniques may be different. Some of the more popular variations include:

Mild – For a milder sauce, remove the seeds and membranes from the jalapenos before dicing them.
Hot Increases the number of jalapenos to 6 to 8, and leave the seeds and membranes intact.
Chunky – For chunky variations either “mild”, “medium”, or “hot” simply cut the tomatoes and onions into larger chunks, pretty simple huh?

The possibilities are endless, for the batch in these photos I used only items from my garden so the pepper content was slightly different. I added a couple of green bell peppers, that we had in the fridge, two serranos, one jalapeno, and one poblano pepper (I didn't have enough jalapenos, and Steve did not have any). I could have bought some at the supermarket, but I was lazy. I just opened one of the jars that we made yesterday, the flavor as always is spot on, but it was a “mild” sauce as we doubled the recipe and we only had enough peppers for a single recipe. Anyway, I almost always add just a touch of sugar for a little sweetness. I know the original Pace ingredient label for "medium" picante sauce doesn't include sugar, and if your tomatoes are sweet enough you may not need it. However, we like our salsa with just a hint of sweetness.


If you like 'Pace' brand style original picante sauce, then you will definitely like this recipe. I make some every year and I cannot keep it in my pantry. The only complaint I get is from the grandkids, they want it to be hotter, but my wife likes it “medium”. So each year I have to tell the grandkids that I prefer to sleep in my bed and not the couch...[Grin]. Anyway I do always make a few jars with added jalapeno's for them, but I pretty much stick to the base recipe listed here. As always, if you have enjoyed this article, please share it with your friends and do not forget to send us a friend request on Facebook or add us to your circle on Google+ to get notifications regarding our latest recipes and articles.

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Ball Blue Book Guide To Preserving (2011)

USDA Complete Guide To Home Canning, Guide 06: Preparing and Canning Fermented Food and Pickles. Revised 2015.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Spaghetti Sauce For Canning: My Garden Variety Recipe

Usually when I make any kind of tomato based sauce my wife helps me core, blanch and peel the tomatoes to remove the skins. However, when we make this sauce we simply core the tomatoes and remove any blemishes and cut them in halves or quarters with the skins on. Then, I throw them in my 15 year old Oster shaft driven blender and puree the heck out of them. Now I have to say that this blender is a beast, it will crush ice with ease and will puree just about any vegetable out there with a little liquid. When we make this sauce it purees the tomatoes so well you cannot even tell that they are any skins in the sauce when it is cooked.

This sauce is our short on time, have to many vegetables from the garden sauce, hence the name 'Garden Variety'. It is packed full of vegetables because I puree them all and if I did not tell you, you would never even know there were in there. And that's great, because I am a big texture eater and just cannot eat cooked squash which my wife loves, so I have to hide my veggies from myself while increasing the nutrient value of the sauce. I know kinda sounds moronic and childish, that a 53 year old man has to hide his vegetables in order to eat them, but it is what it is. 

The recipe

There is nothing really fancy about this recipe, it is pretty much a basic spaghetti sauce recipe with a few of my own personal tweaks. This is our base recipe, if we have zucchini squash we add it, last year we used banana peppers instead of bell peppers because we had a bigger crop of them as opposed to our bell peppers. If you have them and you like mushrooms, add 1lb fresh mushrooms sliced, or 1 cup of chopped celery (when used, I have to puree it because my grandson does not like it, and he never knows it's there). Anyway, I digress here is the recipe we use a lot, it has served us well and it will do the same for you. It shares some ingredients from both the 'Spaghetti Sauce' recipe found in the USDA Complete Guide To Home Canning (section 3, page 14), and the 'Italian Tomato Sauce' found in The Ball Blue Book (in the 2011 version it is on page 74).

20 – 25lbs assorted tomatoes
6 yellow squash (8 to 10” in length), peeled and cubed
3 green bell peppers, seeded and diced
2 large onions, diced
¼ cup granulated sugar (optional)
4 tablespoons garlic, minced
2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon marjoram
4 teaspoons basil
4 teaspoons oregano
4 teaspoons parsley
2 teaspoons black pepper
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
2 bay leaves

Core and dice all of your tomatoes and puree them in your blender and add them to your stockpot. Any liquid that you have leftover from when you were dicing the tomatoes goes into the stock pot as well. Take the time to make sure you have a big enough stockpot before you get started, having to wash extra dishes is a pain in the backside. I use a 15 quart granite ware stockpot that I purchased at Wal-Mart which you can still purchase for less than $20, so if you do not have one, get one.

Chef's Note: You want to avoid using an aluminum stockpots because high acid foods such as tomatoes can cause a metallic taste to be leeched from the aluminum into the food you are preparing.

Peel and dice the yellow squash and in small batches, add it to the blender with a little of the pureed tomatoes (the liquid makes it easier to puree the squash) and process until all the squash is pureed. Then core, seed and dice the bell peppers and set them aside, dice the onions as well. Then process the onions and bell peppers in your blender until they are pureed as well.

Chef's Note: If you want, you can leave the onions and bell peppers as small dice, but you should definitely liquefy the squash. The USDA has concerns that some yellow squash may possibly contain harmful bacteria and does not recommend that it be canned in either the sliced or in cubed form. In this recipe, we are going to be removing the skin, pureeing the squash and cooking it in a tomato based sauce for about 2 hours. I bring the sauce a rolling boil then cook it for 10 to 15 minutes before reducing the heat to kill any bacteria that might be present (not likely since we grow our own, but hey safety first). Note that the Center For Disease Control CDC states that boiling a liquid for 1 to 3 minutes (depending on altitude) will kill all pathogens.

Add the remaining ingredients to your stockpot (except the sugar) and bring to a rolling boil and cook at this level for 10 minutes, make sure you stir the sauce frequently during this time to keep it from scorching, especially if you have a thin bottomed stockpot. After 10 minutes, reduce the heat to low, cover your stockpot and cook for 60 minutes. After you have cooked the sauce for 60 minutes begin adding the sugar to get the desired sweetness you and your family like. Usually, I just dump it all in, but individual preferences vary so go slow, you cannot remove the sugar if you the sauce too sweet for your tastes.

Thickening Your Sauce (The Crossroads)

At this point you have two options to thicken your spaghetti sauce. The first option takes the longest and is preferred by some canners and is recommended by the USDA as well. That option is to cook the sauce until it is reduced by about half and thick enough to be served directly over pasta. Cooking times may vary depending on the moisture content of the tomatoes and associated vegetables used in the sauce. The second option is to use canned tomato paste. I know, I know, I hear the gnashing of teeth and the howls of canners venting their rage against the idea of using a commercial product to thicken there prized home made spaghetti sauce. So call me a blasphemer, but after 60 minutes of cooking the sauce I add 2 (6-ounce) cans of tomato paste to my stockpot and get ready to process it into quart jars in my weighted gauge pressure canner. 

If you decide to use tomato paste, the easiest way to incorporate it into your sauce it to place half of can of tomato paste in a medium sized bowl, then ladle some of the hot spaghetti sauce into the bowl and mix with a wire whisk. Then add the contents of the bowl to your stockpot. Repeat as many times as necessary until you have added all the tomato paste. This keeps the tomato paste from sinking to the bottom of the stockpot an not getting thoroughly integrated into the spaghetti sauce. I have presented you two options to thicken your pasta sauce, the path you choose is up to you, they both work equally well, and unless you tell someone they will never be the wiser.

Chef's Note: Even after I add the tomato paste, my sauce is a little thin, I like to can it that way and then when I make spaghetti I simmer it uncovered to reduce any additional moisture. I would rather have my sauce a little thiner so that I can process it safely than get it to thick.

Processing The Sauce (10lbs PSI)

While tomatoes may be a considered a high acid food, the addition of other ingredients in the sauce has the potential to reduce the pH making it dangerously close to the low-acid food line. Therefore, in order to maintain safe canning practises, this sauce needs to processed in either a weighted gauge or dial gauge pressure canner. Once the sauce has reached the desired consistency, reduce the heat to simmer or 'keep warm' dial on your burner if you have one to keep it hot.

Ladle the hot sauce into hot jars leaving about 1-inch of headspace (do not forgot to remove the bay leaves). Remove any air bubbles and adjust headspace as necessary. Apply the two-piece lids and bands and place in your pressure canner and process pints for 20 minutes and quarts for 25 minutes at 10lbs of pressure (PSI).

Chef's Note: If you add meat to this sauce, then you must process it just as you would any meat product. Pints for 75 minutes, and quarts for 90 minutes at 10lbs of pressure (PSI).


This spaghetti sauce recipe is extremely flexible and easy to make, and just about everyone I know enjoys a good meal with spaghetti and garlic bread. The thing that we like most about this recipe is that it allows us to use whatever vegetables we have on hand from the garden to enhance not only the flavor, but the nutrient content of the sauce. In addition, adding additional veggies increases the yield of the sauce making it go further. If you find that you do not have the individual dried spices in your pantry, simply substitute 4 tablespoons of 'Italian Seasoning', if you like your sauce a little spicy, add 1 tablespoon of red pepper flakes, one of my favorite additions is 2 teaspoons of fennel seeds which I pulverize in my mortar and pestle.

Most additions you can make without any concerns that it will affect the processing time of the sauce in your pressure canner. The one exception to this rule is if you add any type of ground meat to your spaghetti sauce then you will have to process the sauce for an extended amount of time as recommended by the USDA. Therefore, the addition of meat to your sauce require that pints must be pressure canned for 75 minutes, and quarts for 90 minutes at 10lbs of pressure (PSI).

Other Canning Articles On Our Blog:

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Ball Blue Book Guide To Preserving (2011)

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Watermelon Rind Pickles

Well the 4th of July holiday has come and gone, and guess what watermelon was on sale. As we were unable to get together for the holiday weekend we bought a couple of seedless watermelon's and threw them in the fridge for a few days as some of our family was coming this weekend. I confess, we do not buy watermelon often, and I was out of watermelon pickles so I decided to kill two birds with one stone so to speak and make watermelon pickles.

I will say this, of all the pickle type recipes, this one probably has the most prep, but the sweet, candied fruit pickles that you get from the rind that most people simply throw away is quite delicious. Now I won't claim that this is an old southern recipe as my grandmother used to make them on the farm in Missouri and her's were simply heaven. Having said that, this is not her recipe, I wish it was, but to be honest my father's mother never taught me anything about canning. It's a shame really as they canned just about anything you could think of back on the old home place, and she was quite good at it.

Anyway, I was left to try and develop my own version of this old fashioned family favorite. After trying several different variations, I took components from several recipes and fine tuned it to meet my specific needs. I must say that I am quite happy this watermelon pickle recipe. I generally make two small batches some with the red hot candies (which both my wife and I like) and some without. If you have never made watermelon pickles before, I hope you will give this recipe a try, I am sure you will enjoy it.

The Recipe (Yield 14 pints)

Rind from two medium to large sized watermelons
9 cups of granulated sugar
4 quarts of water
4 quarts vinegar (5% acidity)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon whole cloves
1 3-inch piece of cinnamon
1 (5.5 ounce) bag of Red Hots cinnamon flavored candy (optional)

Make the brine and set in the refrigerator (see recipe below)

Remove the meat of the watermelon and place in plastic bowls for eating later. Make sure you remove as much of the meat as possible, however you do not have to scrape the rind down to the white part, some red is all right. Then slice the watermelon rind into 1-inch strips and peel the skin off with a potato peeler or small paring knife.

Once you have the watermelon rind peeled, cut into 1-inch cubes, or you could leave it as spears, but personally I think the cubes work best. Once you have all the rind cubed add it to the stockpot with the brine and then cover the top of the rind with ice (about 2 quarts) and place in the refrigerator for 4 hours.

After 4 hours or when you are ready (not longer than 12 hours). Combine the 4 quarts of vinegar and water along with the 9 cups of sugar and the lemon juice in a large stockpot and place it on high heat. While the syrup mixture is heating combine the cloves, and cinnamon in a small piece of cheesecloth to make a spice bag (sachet) and add it to the stockpot with the syrup solution. Bring the syrup to a boil and cook for ten minutes. Then reduce the heat just to simmer to keep the syrup warm. Remove the spice bag at this time, or if you like a stronger cinnamon clove flavor leave it in. At this time it is also a good idea to fill your water bath canner with water and get it heating. You do not what to waiting on a cold water bath canner once you rind is ready to be canned.

Remove the watermelon rind from the refrigerator and drain and rinse the thoroughly. Then after rinsing your stockpot, place the rinds back in the stockpot and cover with water and bring to a boil and cook for about 8 to 10 minutes. At this point the rind will be fork tender and just beginning to turn transparent. I personally like my rind to be just beginning to turn transparent when I remove it from the heat and start canning it as it will continue to cook from the residual heat of the water in the stockpot. Many recipes however tell you to cook the rind until it is totally transparent, but remember it will continue to cook some in the water bath canner so do not overcook the rind.

While the rind is cooking take your clean jars and add 3 cloves to each jar and 8 red hot cinnamon flavored candies (if your are using them) to each jar. Don't forget to heat your lids and bands and have them ready so that you can put the rind in the jars as soon as it is cooked. When the rind is ready fill your pint jars with the cooked rind and ladle the hot syrup into the jars leaving ½-inch of headspace. Remove any bubbles, adjust the two-piece lids and process in your 10 minutes in your boiling water bath canner.

The Brine

3 Quarts of water
¾ cup of salt

Combine 3 quarts of water and ¾ cup of salt in a large stockpot and stir until dissolved and place in the refrigerator to cool. You can make the brine overnight and allow to cool if you wish.


Of all the fruit pickle recipes, watermelon rind pickles are my favorite. It still amazes me that something like the rind of a watermelon when made into a fruit pickle using this recipe has the texture similar to that of canned apples or pears. In fact my first memory of eating these pickles in my grandmother's kitchen was that of eating canned apples. For just a little of your time and some basic ingredients that just about everyone has in their pantry you can make a delicious old fashioned fruit pickle recipe that is enjoyed by all generations. As always, if you have enjoyed this article, please share it with your friends and don't forget to send us a friend request on Facebook and Google+ so that you will not miss out on any of our new articles.

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Ball Blue Book Guide To Preserving (2011)

USDA Complete Guide To Home Canning, Guide 06: Preparing and Canning Fermented Food and Pickles. Revised 2015.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Quick Kosker Dill Pickles

Love them or hate them, Mrs. Wages canning mixes have been around for a while and many first time canners have used them and many continue to do so throughout their years of canning. For the most part, the Mrs. Wages pasta and salsa mixes tend to be stronger or bolder than I like. On the rare occasion in which my wife bought some on clearance at our local Walmart, I actually doubled the amount of tomatoes called for in the recipe and found that the taste was acceptable. While doubling the amount of tomatoes made the mix more economical, I still prefer to use my own pasta and salsa recipes.

The two products of Mrs. Wages that my wife purchased on clearance that I do like are the 'Kosher Dill Pickles' and 'Bread And Butter Pickles' mixes. The thing that kinda gets me with these mixes though is that they cost somewhere between $2.50 to $3.50 (depending on where you shop) for approximately ¾ cup (6.5 ounces) of mix that contains: salt, turmeric, dehydrated garlic, citric acid and maltodextrin. Personally I think this is ridiculous when you can make your own Mrs. Wages style Kosher Dill Pickles mix for less then $0.50. I call them 'Kosher' style, because the mix sold by Mrs. Wages is not kosher approved (the package does not have the kosher seal on it). To make kosher dill pickles you have to use kosher salt (See Chef's Note regarding kosher salt).

The Recipe

Although I liked the Mrs. Wages pickling mixes, I knew that I could make my own brine that had almost the exact same taste for a whole lot cheaper, and I think I have succeeded. My version of Quick kosher style pickles are easy and quick to make using my recipe which I based on the flavor and liquid amounts as used by the Mrs. Wages Kosher Dill Mix (actually I could not tell the difference when compared side-by-side). If you like this particular pre-made mix, then you will love making kosher dills with this recipe.

Mrs. Wages Kosher Dill Clone (Makes 7 Quarts)

7 ½ cups water
3 ½ cups vinegar (5% acidity)
½ cup pickling salt
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons pickling spice
1 teaspoon dried dill
1/8 teaspoon turmeric
1/8 dried mustard (See Chef's Note)

Add enough water to your boiling water canner to cover the jars by three inches that you will be canning the cucumbers in. And turn on high to bring to a boil. While the water is heating start by making your brine.

Combine water, vinegar, garlic, and turmeric in a large stockpot. Place the dried dill and pickling spice in a cheesecloth and tie tight making a sachet (spice bag) and throw it into the stockpot with the remaining ingredients. Bring the liquid to a boil and reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes to allow the spices to cook releasing their flavors into the liquid.

Wash cucumbers and drain, then cut off the blossom ends. If making hamburger dills, cut the cucumbers into ¼-inch slices. If making spears then cut lengthwise and quarter as necessary to fit into your jars of choice.

Chef's Note: I know Mrs. Wages uses 7 1/3 cups of water and 3 1/3 cups vinegar, but rounding the amount of liquids to ½ cup makes it easier. The ratio of water to vinegar is the same and there is no noticeable taste difference. If you do not wish to put mustard seed in your individual jars then add then add 1/8 teaspoon ground mustard to your brine. Personally I like the look of having the individual mustard seeds in each jar.

Pack cucumbers into hot jars leaving ½inch headspace. Add 1/4 teaspoon mustard seed per pint, 1/2 teaspoon per quart and pickle crisp if desired per the package instructions. Remove air bubbles and adjust two-piece caps. Process both pints and quarts in a water bath canner for 15 minutes.

Chef's Note: If you want true kosher pickles, then you need to use kosher salt instead of pickling salt. Kosher salt can be safely used in place of pickling salt, however you need to make sure that the kosher salt you use has no additives or anti-caking agents as they make cause the brine to darken and become cloudy.

Pickling Spice Recipe

Pickling spice comes in a wide variety of flavors and brands. If you do not have any pickling spice on hand and you have the necessary spices, you can make your own. I have included a basic pickling spice recipe for you just in case you do not have any or simply run out and what to make your own pickling spice mix.

2 tablespoons mustard seeds
2 tablespoons coriander seeds
1 tablespoon allspice berries
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
2 teaspoons dill seed
1-2 bay leaves, crumbled

Combine all the ingredients together in a small container and mix throughly. Use as directed by your individual recipe.


I hope you will enjoy making and using my simple kosher dill style pickle recipe. If you have used Mrs. Wages in the past, you can save 80% or more by making your own brine with the items you have in your pantry. After all isn't that part of the reason you grew a garden anyway to save money and supply your family with a ready supply of nutritious and delicious canned products? This recipe is quick, simple and easy to make and I hope that you and your family will enjoy making and eating these quick and easy kosher style pickles, I know mine does. As always, if you have enjoyed this article, please share it with your friends and don't forget to send us a friend request on Facebook and Google+ so that you will not miss out on any of our new articles.

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