Thursday, July 22, 2010

My experience with Tattler Reusable Canning Lids

At the recommendation of my friend Mrs. Mac, I looked into Tattler reusable canning lids. They are food-grade white plastic lids combined with red (silicone, I think)* gaskets. You use standard bands to hold them on, and I have tons of those. Now these things are an initial investment. Including shipping, they are roughly 70 cents per set. BUT the payoff comes in that they are supposed to be reusable indefinitely, like many, many times. Years and years. (I saw some comments on a blog saying that the gaskets have to be replaced each time and that's not true, as long as you don't lose them down the garbage disposal.)

I'll say right now that I am very happy with the lids. I used them to make quite a bit of jelly this summer and had a 100% seal rate. My initial experience was not so happy, though, as I pressure-canned a lot of beans (refried and baked), and had a failure rate of about 50% on the seals. I was so mad I wanted to return the bunch of them. But Tattler's customer service is excellent; they encouraged me to try again and to make sure I was leaving adequate head space. I am guessing that's part of what I did wrong, I fudged on the head space. Also the instructions tell you to hand-tighten the bands and then back off about 1/4 of an inch. I think I backed off too much. Being more careful about these things, I did great. I still need to pressure-can something and make sure that's not really a variable in the equation.

One final caveat is that if you share your canned goods, you may want to use partly the old lids and partly the reusable ones, so that you have some to give away without losing your expensive lids.

* Correction: Rubber. I just checked the site again and the gaskets are rubber. Now that's a concern, as rubber will break down with repeated heatings. I guess that's why they sell spares.

Red Currant Jelly recipe

Red currants, 2-3 quarts, rinsed if they have been sprayed (otherwise no need to rinse) - a 5-quart ice cream bucket full made 2 batches of this jelly *
1 c. water
7 c. white sugar
1 box powdered Sure-Jell fruit pectin

Sterilize about 10 half-pint canning jars and lids. Keep them in simmering water while you prepare the jelly. When the jelly is nearly done, up-end the hot jars on a clean towel to drain before filling.

Place the currants and water into a heavy bottomed saucepan with plenty of room for expansion. Use a potato masher to break up the fruit while you bring the pot to a boil, then reduce the heat to a strong simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat.

Strain the fruit and liquid through a fine strainer, then strain the juice through cheesecloth. Measure out 5 cups of the juice. If you don't have quite enough, make up the difference with water.

In a large heavy saucepan, stir the sugar and pectin together, then pour in the juice while stirring till the sugar is mostly dissolved. Place the pan on high heat, bring the juice to a boil, and boil hard for 2 minutes. Immediately turn off the heat. Skim off the foam and discard it.

Pour the hot liquid (carefully) into the prepared jelly jars, leaving 1/2 inch of space at the top. Wipe the rims of the jars with a clean, damp washcloth to remove any spilled jelly, then place the lids and caps.

Process the filled jars in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Remove and cool. Label jars. Jelly will set up over the next few days and should be fully set within about 2 weeks.

Yield is about 9 half-pints (I always boil up a 10th jar just in case).

* Never double a jelly recipe. Make two batches instead. It ends not to set up right if you double it. Don't ask me why. It just does. You CAN make your currant juice all at once and then do the actual jelly-making in batches; that's what I did.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

In the crock pot...

supper is simmering happily away. It's French dip courtesy of Nicole Reed's blog here. I'm also going to make onion rolls to serve as the bread portion of the sandwiches.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

New recipe posted on the Keepers page: Crock Pot Tapioca

My sister in law Roseann served a delicious tapioca pudding that cooked while we were all away at church - in the crock pot. She got the recipe from our husbands' grandmother Emma Jean originally. It's now posted on the Keepers Page.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Check the Resources page: I added...

Gene's Sewing Machine Repair of La Crescent, Minnesota.

WTG Netflix

Thanks for spoiling the whole thing before we even get the disk out of the sleeve.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Hey Dave! Yeah, I'm talkin to you!

At Famous Dave's.

On 98% accuracy

The owner of Digital Sermon Transcription recently realized that her promise of "98% accuracy" means that, since the average sermon is 6000 words, one can make a LOT of mistakes and still make the standard. She is changing her standard to 99.9%.

It occurs to me that one way to look at this would be that 98% accuracy means that one could easily make six errors in the Ten Commandments (the list in Exodus is 313 words long) and still be 98% accurate. One could even just leave out the 6 words one liked the least. As an example, one could take the "nots" out of the last 5 commandments and still be well within the 98% accuracy standard. Ack!

Webmedx has a 98% minimum accuracy standard, but I always hate when I fall below 99%. It's very embarrassing. One can do a lot of damage even with just one error in 100 correctly transcribed words.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Vintage dress patterns from my mother in law

My mother-in-law gave me three dress patterns while I was visiting. These two she made for herself when she was younger. Aren't they great? I especially love that tent dress/housecoat pattern.

And then look at this one. She got it for me at a flea market. Awesome necklines and wasp waists. I so want one of these dresses.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Barry Made the Dean's List (again)

And some books that are great for listening to on CD

We have also listened to a few audio books on CD while driving long distance. Any time you can get your hands on an audio book of Tony Hillerman's series on the Navajo Tribal Police read by George Guidall, do it. We listened to The Wailing Wind one trip and now all I hear when I read Tony Hillerman is the voice of Guidall. Luckily, it's a beautiful voice, so that's a good thing.

And then there's Max Brooks' World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie Wars. It's a fun book to start with, but then when you add the voices of people like !!MARK HAMILL!! reading characters, it rises to the level of awesome. It's abridged, and there were a couple of my favorite chapters that got left out, but over all, I highly recommend it.

I'll also put in a plug for any of Judy Kaye's readings of the Sue Grafton alphabet mysteries. She gets Kinsey Milhone beautifully.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Two great books for reading aloud

On long car trips, we like to read aloud to one another. Sometimes we just get an audio book, but more often we just bring a book along, and whoever is not driving, reads. We pick some really strange books sometimes. Once I remember we read one of the Halo novels, and enjoyed it.

On this recent trip, we read most of The Small Woman, by Alan Burgess, on the way east. It's the story of a middle-class Englishwoman who sets out pretty much on her own to be a missionary in China between the wars.

And then, on our way home, we read Louis Sachar's Holes out loud. It's a great story! I had never seen the movie and now I'm glad I waited to read the book first. I'd really highly recommend it. If I say much about it, it will give away a lot of good stuff that you will really want to read on your own. Yes, it's for "young readers," but it's really worth reading.

Eight loads of laundry later...

... I can talk about our summer trip.

We put over 2500 miles on the car, visited 3 sets of family members and at least drove through, if not visited, 11 states. And maybe the District of Columbia, except that I don't think the Beltway counts. Anyway, we visited Barry's parents in Western Pennsylvania first. That's where we took all our pictures. I forgot all about pictures after we left there. So it doesn't even look like we made the other stops.

Here are my parents-in-law, Jane and Ron Stahl, relaxing on their front porch swing.

And here they are with their son.

These are some lovely red currants that were ripe at their house. They let me pick them. ALL of them. I froze them and brought them home. I plan to make jelly this weekend.

Now I want to put in red currant bushes at our place. They are just so gorgeous on the bush! And delicious little critters, too.

My parents in law nicely invited all the local relatives over to spend an evening with us. Here are Britta and her great grandmother Emma Jean. Barry's aunts and uncles on his mom's side came too. We had smoked brisket and it was awesome. Really a lovely evening with lovely people.

Then, on Friday afternoon, Barry got to help the neighbor bale hay, using the same tractor, the same baler, that Barry helped out with when he was a kid - and indeed, the same one that the neighbor's grandfather used. It's been in the family a long while.

This was still the first cutting of hay. It's been so wet there they could not make hay till July! That is not a good thing. This should be the second cutting already.

This photo was taken at night and it's not very good, but I'm including it anyway. This is the neighbor's grown son who took my son on a ride in his hot rod. It is loud and fast. I know nothing of hot rods but I liked the paint job: Matte black. He says it's just primer, but I liked the effect.

Lastly, I took way too many pictures of the hummingbirds at their feeder. These little guys are so quick, it's very hard to capture them even digitally.


Great, huh? Tons of pictures of a bunch of hummingbirds and none of my nieces and nephews. Ugh.

Anyway, from there, we drove east to Staten Island, New York, for a couple of days with Barry's younger brother Wayne and his wife Roseann and their daughter. They have a lovely 1920s home made much lovelier by their beautiful landscaping, which has progressed phenomenally since our last visit. We got to worship with them Sunday at Bethel EFC and then they had a lot of friends, family and neighbors (who also count as friends, of course) over for an Independence Day barbecue. Little kids leaped in and out of the wading pool all afternoon, we all moved from shady spot to shady spot and talked and ate and ate and ate, and Wayne presided over the grill. It was a great day.

The next day we headed down to Northern Virginia, Woodbridge to be more precise, to visit my brother Aaron, sister-in-law Vania and their three kids. Another great, though short, visit. The kids played, we talked, Vania and I took in a used book sale and hit the Salvation Army store, I wheedled the kids and their father into putting on an impromptu instrumental music contest (M on violin, C on trumpet, D on recorder, and Dad on classical guitar) for us. And Barry worked on the back patio for awhile, cleaning things up and trimming plants. He doesn't like sitting around, hence the hay-baling and vine-trimming.

Then we headed back home, with a night spent back at Ron and Jane's and then a long push from Western PA to home. Over 2500 miles in 9 days. A real blessing.