Friday, August 28, 2015

Running Through the Mill

Do you can food?  A friend of mine asked me to take a canning class with her years ago and I said no way.  I was really afraid of home canning back then, but I've gotten over it.  Sort of.

I started canning a couple of years ago and though it still scares the pants off of me, I do it as much as I can.

I mostly can applesauce when we go apple picking in the fall.

Last year, I had cucumbers growing by the bushel so I made pickles but they weren't great. 

I also gave jelly making a try and was thrilled with the results.  Grape jelly and blackberry jelly.  The blackberry wasn't the best but the grape was amazing.  It tasted exactly like the kind you would expect to buy in the store and it was the simplest of everything to make.

When I started making the blackberry jelly, I became interested in a food mill. I had read about them and some of the applesauce recipes suggest using one, but I don't mind chunky applesauce, so it wasn't an investment I wanted to make the first year I canned.

What I so dislike about blackberries is the seeds.  I knew if I wanted to make a smooth jelly that I would eat, I had to get those seeds out.

Voila the cheapo depot food mill I found on amazon.

It's not a name brand I recognized, in fact I could almost swear it doesn't have a name, but it's the best $20 I've spent.  Or maybe it was $14.  I know it was cheap, it's stainless and it's amazing.   It also cleans like a breeze in the dishwasher.

The purpose of the food mill is to get every last bit of juice out of whatever you're milling, but it keeps out the seeds, skins and some pulp.  You just pour your cooked food in and then whirl that crank around until nothing drips out the bottom anymore.

Today, I made tomato sauce and on my canning recipe, it says no seeds or skins.  After I cooked the tomatoes for the requisite number of minutes, I had to pour all of this through the mill and crank it.

It makes me so happy to see that this was all that was left after all that!  A giant pot, I can't remember how many quarts, all boiled down to juice and this little bit of pulp.

It takes a little pre-thought when cooking and using the mill.  First, you need the pot to cook the food.   Then you need another pot that will collect all of the juice that you are extracting through the mill.

Remember the episode of Mad About You when they made a chicken soup and he read the recipe to her, telling her to drain the broth and she drained it into the sink instead of a pan?  Don't do that.  You want to make sure you have a pan to get the juice so you can cook it down.

This was a big problem for me because I don't have a ton of pans.  And I hadn't thought I'd need the big one because I didn't realize how many tomatoes I had.  When I transferred everything to the big pot, I thought the small one would be plenty for the juice but alas, I needed the big one because there was that much juice!  That meant I had to pour it all into a big bowl first so I could then put the big pan back on the stove and use the mill.

Canning with me is a lot like canning with Lucille Ball.

Except that she was a lot taller which really could come in handy when trying to get the jars out of the pan.

So, after running all of the cooked tomatoes through the mill, I had a great amount of juice in the big pot.  This is the annoying part for me:  boiling down the liquid.  It's like watching paint dry.  My sister roasted a tomato soup in the oven all day recently so it was nice and thick and if I had put that much forethought into what I was doing, I could have put this sauce  in the crockpot to cook all day and then canned the next day.

But I'm an instant gratification kind of gal, so I need to cook, can and be done all in the same day.

You can see here that it has boiled off a lot, but it needed to go ever further.  What I always worry about is that it will stick to the bottom.  This worried me with the jelly too.  I don't dare leave the pot for too long because I worry that if it sticks it will all taste burned.

This means hanging around in the kitchen which is very hot.  I see why people had summer kitchens back in the old days and did this stuff outside.  When I do the water bath canning for the jellies, I do it outside on the propane burner but for the pressure cooker, I feel like it has to be done inside.

So, all of those tomatoes boiled down to 5 pints of sauce.  That's more than I expected and I'm really happy with that amount.

What I really need is a pressure canner because it's more precise and bigger, so I could can a lot at once and not have to wait for one round to be done before I can process the next.  But that's another expense that I have to weigh to decide if it's really worth it or if I should just muddle through with my pressure cooker for a while longer.

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1 comment:

  1. I keep forgetting about my food mill! I'll have to use it for the apples this year!


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