Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Steam Canner - Not Entirely Safe

So, after I created and went live with my canning page and products, I started hearing rumors that these steam canners are not recognized as safe in most states.

Utah used to recognize them as safe and I think they were the only ones, but now I understand they have restated their position.

These steam canners are supposed to replace water bath canners for processing acid foods.

Some of the benefits of steam canners are promoted to be:
less time to pre-heat
less water used
cannot boil over
saves energy
less time to return to a boil after jars are placed on the rack

I've been discussing the issue with the University of Idaho Cooperative Extension System. Here is their position:

"There are some major problems with the use of steam canners for canning acid foods:

* Cold Spots: may occur due to pockets of air trapped between jars or under the dome. The temperature in these cold spots can be below 212 degrees F.

* Release of steam may occur if heat is maintained under the canner at too high a temperature. The increased pressure may build to a level high enough to life the lid off, allowing much of the steam to escape and cool air to enter reducing the termperature.

* Increased jar breakage may occur since jars are not separated bya rack in the canner.

* Underprocessing may occur because home canners may not be able to differentiate between steam and an air-steam mixture. Water begins to give off a vapro, which can be mistaken for steam, at tempreratures as low as 170 degrees F.

* Uneven heating may occur since jars are not separated by a rack in teh canner. Jars may be jammed next to each other so the steam cannot equally penetrate the jars from each side.

* Steam burns may occur since it is difficult to remove the dome cover safely.

The USDA Center for Excellence in Food Preservation has conducted research on steam canners. They found the maximum temperature of the product being canned was significantly lower in products canned in steam canners than in the same food canned in a boiling water bath. The lower termperature resulted in less killing power of bacteria, underprocessing and considerable risk of ecomonic spoilage. The USDA and University of Idaho do not recommend the use of steam canners for hom canning of acid food."

(And low acid foods should be pressure cooked/canned.)

So, even though it is a great concept, it seem to have some flaws. If you are thinking of purchasing a steam canner, you might reconsider for the safety of your food and most importantly, your family.

I am pulling the steam canner page from my site. I'll start looking for someone who can wholesale me a quality water bath canner.

Until next time...

Information is power.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Passionate about farming

So, my husband came upon a new site the other day. He was really excited to read the articles it had and the information seemed accurate and informative. It is all about farmers and what really takes place with us.

If you are not a farmer, I still recommend you click on the link and check out this site - I especially love the farm policy fact of the day.

Here are a few for you that you may or may not know:
“Burn down your cities and leave our farms, and your cities will spring up again as if by magic; but destroy our farms and the grass will grow in the streets of every city in the country.” - William Jennings Bryan

"The farmer is the only man in our economy who buys everything at retail, sells everything at wholesale, and pays the freight both ways." - President John F. Kennedy

Did you know those facts? They are true.

Do you want to know why Wheaties prices (General Mills cereals in general) are going up?Check out the website and this article:
Did you know that farmers are in the same boat as many other people? Yeah, sure, you may have heard that wheat was up to $12 a bushel last year, but now we are somewhere between $4 and $6 - depending on what type of wheat we are selling. And we weren't making tons of money last year (if we sold our wheat) because all of the input costs (like fuel to drive tractors and trucks, fertilizers, and payroll expenses) are just skyrocketing along with all the other prices of everything. At best, we might break even and hope to stay in business.

Did you know that something like 70% (I couldn't find the article again) of the government farm bill went towards the food stamps program!?!? I know farming and food are connected, but seriously, how are food stamps helping agriculture and farmers? Money should go where it really helps - like to control the deficit.

Okay, I'm done ranting and raving for a moment. So, support farmers by learning more about them (us) on this site: and then tell your friends and educate them.

After you check out the website, let me know what you think about it. I would love your feedback.

One more time:

Talk to you soon...

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Pruning Photos, as promised

As promised, here are pictures of our pruning adventures. Only the "after" pictures though - sorry.

So, if you don't know much about pruning, allow me to tell you a little bit about it.

First, you want to prune trees annully, starting when they are pretty small, so they don't get out of control and the tree can focus on maybe 7-8 good, solid branches on which to really produce good fruit. (This advice works with lilac bushes, too.) Otherwise, the tree doesn't know where to focus and you may get hundreds of tiny little apples or fruit that are hard to do much with. Ever had that happen? (I have.)

Next, you want the branches to have room to move and grow with a couple of inches between each one.

This example looks cluttered in the picture, but in real life, it looks pretty good. Boy, you should have seen it before its makeover. This is a COMPLETELY different tree. It has what is called a "central leader" type of pruning where you allow a solid central branch to grow and produce.

This tree also had a serious makeover. You want to make your branches relatively low, so you can stand on the ground and pick your fruit. You don't really want to make ladder fruit trees. That is no fun at all. So, if the branches branch out (like below) you will have more success. Plus the sun can more easily reach and nurture the entire tree.

This is the "vase" method where you basically cut out the center of the tree so the sun can easily access all of the tree and its fruit.

Here is a close-up of an example branch. You look for opportunities to branch out from the tree and cut out the ones that go straight up or down. See where it kind of looks like a hook of some sort? That is what you want.
Confession: Our trees were a little out of control because I haven't lived here very long and I am just learning. I knew trees need pruning, but didn't know how to go about it. It is possible to get them back in control, but it may take us some time.

Thank goodness for good friends and willing teachers!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Pruning Party

I wish I had photos of before and after. I can do the after ones, just forgot the before. What was I thinking?!?!

Well, on Tuesday morning - a very rainy Tuesday, I might add - our good neighbor-friend came over and taught my husband and I a few pointers on pruning our trees. Now we will have wonderful apples (barring it doesn't freeze off all the blossoms).

Our trees were going a little wild. They had been pruned before, but were still out of control!

We learned about the vase method and the central leader methods of pruning. Each has advantages and it depends on the tree, I think, which method you choose.

When it quits raining (again today) I'll take some pictures and show you how our trees' branches are supposed to look. It is amazing - they are totally different trees!

This will hopefully get us ready for a wonderful apple harvest and lot of canning this fall. Happy Food Storage...


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