How To Can And Preserve Fish Safely

Preserve Fish Safely

Fish spoils pretty easily after it is caught, so it is very important to have a plan in mind for how you want to preserve the meat. Proper preservation will greatly extend the life of the fish, and it will also make it much safer for you and your friends or family to consume.

In order to preserve your fish in the best and most efficient manner possible, you need to start the preservation process while the fish is a fresh as can be. Also, the better the quality of the fish, the easier it will be to preserve.

Of all the types of meat, fish is the one that decomposes most quickly. It also can easily become rancid or be ruined by microbes. You can help prevent all of this by keeping your fish alive for as long as possible after you have caught it. One easy way to keep the fish alive is a metal link bag. It will maximize the fish’s ability to stay alive. Bacteria and other things that lead to spoilage will always be present, particularly with fish, but they multiply much, much faster on a deceased fish than on a live specimen, particularly if the water is warm.

Once fish are taken out of the water, they begin to deteriorate almost immediately. For this reason, you should clean your fish as soon as you remove them from the water if possible. Thoroughly cleaning the fish and chilling in promptly will keep it as intact as possible. This is particularly important if the weather is warm, as head rapidly accelerates the decaying process.

Canning Fish

Fish does not contain a lot of acid, so the safest way to process it is at the temperatures reached by a pressure canner. Failure to heat-process fish at a minimum of 240 degrees Fahrenheit may allow bacteria to survive and grow within the food. This is an easy way to get food poisoning, and that is obviously something that everyone wants to avoid. Contrary to popular belief, adding a small amount of vinegar or packing the fish in tomato juice or tomato paste does not alleviate the need for heat processing fish.

When canning fish, use standard canning jars (they should be heat-tempered). The times listed below are for pint jars. Also, wide-mouthed jars are easier to fill. This is the general USDA method for canning fish without sauce (including blue, mackerel, salmon, steelhead, trout, and other fatty fish except tuna):

  1. Within two hours of catching the fish, clean and gut it. Keep cleaned fish on ice until you are ready to can it.
  2. Remove head, tail, fins and scales from the fish, and wash and remove all blood. Split the fish lengthwise (this is optional).
  3. Cut the cleaned fish into 3.5 inch sections. Fill the pintjars with the skin side of the fish against the glass, and be sure to leave an inch of headspace. Do not add liquids. Adjust lids and process.

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Easy Freezer Jam

Portion Of Peach Jam

For busy moms, people new to making jam, and others hoping to try something new, freezer jam is a great place to start. Homemade jam has a fresh flavor that can not be duplicated in store bought versions. Freezer jam is fairly simple and very quick to make. Once made, it can be stored in the refrigerator for a week, or in appropriate containers in the freezer for up to a year. There are a few points to ponder before beginning to produce your own.

Be sure to pick fruit that has ripened to perfection and is in season :

Freezer jam is akin to fresh fruit. To get that freshness of biting into ripe fruit into your creation, you need to pick only ripened, in season fruit. (Strawberry and raspberry are popular choices.) If you choose underripe fruit, your jam will most likely taste sour. It will also not jell enough. If you choose overripe fruit, it will produce a foul tasting concoction that may jell too much.

Pectin allows your jam to jell:

There are two types of pectin:  powdered and liquid. These pectins are not interchangeable. Be sure to follow the recipe you are using to ensure yours will come out correctly.

Using the appropriate containers:

Plastic, freezer proof containers can be used for recipes. You may also use freezer proof glass, wide mouthed jars. Be sure to use small containers.

GINGERED PEACH AND APRICOT JAM:
-3 cups crushed peaches (about 12 small peaches)
-1 cup apricots (about 3 small apricots)
-2 tsp. fresh grated ginger
-1 1/4 cups sugar
-2 Tbsp. lemon juice
-1 packet of powdered pectin (1 envelope)

Mix crushed peaches, apricots, grated ginger and lime juice. Using instant powdered pectin, mix together pectin and 1 1/2 cups sugar. Stir pectin into prepared mixture of mashed fruit for three minutes.

Put jam into appropriate, small, freezer proof containers. Allow jam to set in refrigerator. For extended storage, place containers in freezer, but only after jam has fully set.

Choosing other fruit for your jams:

Using the same basic gingered peach/apricot recipe, you can substitute strawberries or raspberries in place of the apricots for a delicious taste sensation . Be sure to add the same amount of crushed raspberries or strawberries, in place of the same amount of apricots that are called for.

Strawberry and raspberry flavors add a very distinct, fresh taste. As long as you don't double the recipe, as it alters how the finished product jells, you can interchange fruit in the same quantities. Experiment with unusual fruit combinations. And welcome to the tasty world of jam making!

 

Acorn Squash

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Acorn squash makes the perfect side dish for the holidays and family dinners. It can also be used as an ingredient in everything from soups to pies. Here are some squash recipes and tips for the busy mom.

Baked Squash

Step One

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Grease a baking sheet.

Step Two

Wash and dry the outside of your acorn squash. Cut it in half. Scoop out the strings and seeds. Level the pieces by slicing a little bit off the bottom of each half.

Step Three

Put the halves, skin side down, on your prepared baking sheet. Bake for about 25 minutes. Poke some holes with a fork or knife. Rub 1 tablespoon of butter on each of the halves. Sprinkle each half with about 1 tablespoon of brown sugar; add a little real maple syrup if you like it. Salt and pepper to taste. Continue baking until it's soft and can be pierced easily with a fork. This is perfect to serve a half acorn squash to each family member for dinner.

Steamed Squash

Step One

Wash and peel your acorn squash. Cut it into pieces.

Step Two

Fill a pot with about 3 cups of water. Bring it to a boil. Put the pieces in a steamer basket. Sprinkle salt on the pieces and toss. Put the steamer basket in the pot and cover. Steam the pieces for about 10 minutes or until soft. Eat them as is, adding a little butter or pepper if desired. Or you can freeze them at this point, to be used later.

Squash Puree

You can make and freeze this puree ahead of time to later be used for making a soup or pie of your choice. Do a few at once to make it more worth your effort.

Step One

Cut the squash in half. Scoop out the seeds and strings. Place the halves, skin side up, on a baking pan. Pour 1 cup of water into the pan.

Step Two

Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes or until soft.

Step Three

Put 4 tablespoons of butter in a bowl. Scrape out the filling from the skin, then spoon it on top of the butter. Mash it until it's smooth. Add salt to taste. Put the mashed mixture in a blender. Mix it until it's pureed. Note:  Plan ahead - if you will be freezing some to be used in a specific recipe, skip the salt and butter and freeze in the appropriate portions for your recipe.

Step Four

Spoon the puree into containers. Leave about a 1 inch space between the puree and the top of the container. You can also freeze the puree in tightly sealed freezer bags. This puree can be frozen for up to one year.

Tips

1. Acorn squash can be stored in a dark, cool area for about one to three months.

2. Make peeling the skin easier by cutting it into pieces first. After the pieces are cut, take the skin off with a vegetable peeler.

3. Select the perfect acorn squash by choosing one that's heavy for its size, firm and has a dull skin.

 

Winter Squash is Here!

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Fall is here, and that means that squash season is in full swing! Whether you get your winter squash from the grocery store or the farmer's market, you'll find that pumpkin, butternut squash, and others - such as acorn, kabocha and hubbard - are healthy make ahead options that your entire family will love. By cooking and freezing these delicious gourds, you will be able to plan out meals and dishes well into the winter. Squash will also keep a long time when stored in a cool place.

Squash will need to be cooked and mashed before you can freeze them. You can do this by washing them and removing the tough outer skin and any inner pulp or seeds. Cut the squash into even cubes, and boil or steam them until a fork easily goes though the flesh. You can use a potato masher if the chunks are soft enough, but you will get the best results from a food processor, a hand blender or food mill. Make sure that you have a large enough bowl in which to mash the squash, as they tend to become rather messy! When the squash is cooled, you can put it into freezer-safe Ziploc bags or tubs. This is a great way to evenly portion your puréed squash for future meals, as you can freeze the exact amount for specific recipes. Plastic containers will work well for ease of pouring in your squash and many even have measurements. All squash tends to freeze well, aside from spaghetti squash, which should usually be eaten fresh.

Frozen squash purée has a number of uses. You can use it as a base for soups and stews, or add it to delicious baked treats. For example, you can use frozen puréed pumpkin to make your Thanksgiving pies special with little extra effort. (Tip:  sugar pie pumpkins are a good choice.) Butternut squash can be mashed and used as a unique topping for shepherd's pie. You can also make delicious quick-breads with a variety of frozen squash purée, as well as homemade ravioli filling. The delicate flavor of squash pairs well with nutmeg, cinnamon and brown sugar. If you love risotto, you can set aside some cooked squash chunks to dice instead of mashing.

As a rule of thumb, properly sealed frozen squash will last up to a year in the freezer. (Don't forget to label with the date.) You can enjoy winter squash all year round if you try some make ahead ideas. These wonderful veggies are a great way to feed your kids filling and nutritious meals.

 

Garden Fresh Tomatoes All Year Round

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If you are lucky enough to have a garden overflowing with tomatoes, canning is a great way to preserve your harvest and eat garden-fresh tomatoes all year round. If you don’t have a garden, a trip to your local farmer’s market will do. At the farmer’s market, look for the farmer’s “seconds.” These are tomatoes that often discounted because they are overripe or slightly damaged, making them perfect for putting up. You’ll need about twenty pounds of tomatoes to yield seven quarts of tomatoes, which are ideal in recipes for tomato sauce, tomato paste or even salsa.
To get started, you’ll need some equipment:
  • Water bath canner:  This is used to sterilize the jars after they are filled, and can be found at most hardware stores or big box stores.
  • 3 pots, one large, one medium and one small:  These pots are used to scald the tomatoes, heat water or juice and to sanitize the lids.
  • Quart size canning jars:  These are often sold in pallets of a dozen at hardware stores or big box stores.
  • Tongs and a magnetic lid lifter:  These are used to pick up jars and lids out of the hot water. Tongs covered with silicone are great.
  • Canning Funnel:  These are designed to fit inside the rim of the jar, to make it easier and neater to pour the tomatoes into the jars.
  • You will also need lemon juice (2 Tbps. per jar) and tomato juice, or water.

Directions:

  • The first step is to sterilize the jars and lids. If you have a dishwasher, use it to sterilize the jars. Otherwise, you’ll need to sterilize them in boiling water in your water bath. Use the small pot to sterilize the lids in boiling water.
  • While your jars and lids are sterilizing, prepare the tomatoes. You’ll need to remove the skin. The easiest way to do this is to blanch them in hot water. Before blanching the tomatoes, cut a little x-shaped notch in the top of the tomato. This will help the skin peel away as soon as it hits the hot water. Blanch the tomatoes for a minute or two, then immediately plunge them into a ice bath. The skins will retract and practically peel themselves! After you’ve peeled the cooled tomatoes, core and quarter them. If you want some variety, you can process some into sauce before canning. (Just skip adding the hot water/tomato juice below.)
  • Fill your jars with tomatoes, along with two tablespoons of lemon juice, then cover with hot water or hot tomato juice, leaving a ½ inch of space at the top. Run a knife around the inside rim of the jars to release any air bubbles, then cover with the lids, making sure the edge of the jars are clean and dry first. Do not screw them on too tightly.
  • Place the jars in your water bath canner, making sure they are covered with at least an inch of water. Keep the water at a boil, and process the quart jars for 45 minutes.
  • Lift the jars out gently and let them cool overnight, in a place where they won’t be jostled or otherwise disturbed. Check the seal by pressing down on the lid. If it makes a popping sound, it is not sealed. If it is not sealed, either put it in the fridge and use them right away, or you can re-can it with a new lid.
  • A few hours of work one day a month will keep you in garden-fresh tomatoes for many months. Properly canned tomatoes that are kept in a cool, dry place will be good for at least a year.