Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Convenience Foods From Your Pantry

In my last post you heard about how much work convenience canning could be and how things sometimes don't turn out as planned.  Last night was a good example of how convenient it is to open the pantry and know dinner is only 15 minutes away.

I've been busy finishing up a large sewing project and didn't give a lot of thought to dinner last night.  It was way too late to thaw anything (usually everything is frozen solid) so I grabbed some jars out of the pantry to make a very quick dinner.  We had roast beef with onion gravy, mashed potatoes, green beans and salad. 

When beef chuck roast was on sale a while back I bought up a bunch of it and canned it.  I cut it into large chunks, browned it in a little oil with onions, filled jars with the broth left in the pan and water and canned it.  Browning it first really gives it a good flavor.  I'm not a big roast beef fan, but this is really good.

Some authorities now say if you carefully follow canning directions you no longer need to boil the food before eating, but I still like to do it.  So I simmered the meat and broth while I made everything else.  After 15 minues, I removed the meat to a bowl and used the broth to make a gravy. 

I will admit that I use instant mashed potatoes.  Even if we have home grown potatoes on hand I still use instant for mashed potatoes.  Why?  Cause they're easy and fast.  So about 15 minutes after opening the jar dinner was ready.

After dinner I cleaned up the kitchen and not long after that the power went out.  We'd had some wind and storms earlier but it  had calmed down to a gentle rain.  According to the light company lightning had struck a transformer.  They said that they should have our power back on by 6 p.m. the FOLLOWING night.  What ! Hello!!! It will be 95+ degrees tomorrow!! 

As we sat there in the candle light eating home made brownies I pondered the current state of affairs.  We immediately regretted not buying a generator, though we have certainly talked about it a lot.  In a situation like we were in we knew it would be a good investment, but as soon as the lights come back on we completely forget about it.  We commented that the electric fence around the chickens was now off and any predator could get in.  I had considered buying a solar charger, but who has hundreds of dollars to spend on that when the electric one works just fine.  Then we thought about the refrigerator and freezer.  By the following night everything in the refrigerator would have to be thrown out.  At 95 degrees even the freezer might be thawing.  What to do.  In the perfect world I would have a propane freezer, but of course they're expensive so that's why we don't have one. 

I have a lot of food in that freezer and if it thawed out, it would be a terrible waste.  This brought my thoughts back to canning.  Almost everything in the freezer could be canned in some form or another.  While it's convenient to throw a ham or packages of chicken breast in the freezer after a trip to the grocery store, it's not so convenient to thaw and prepare them.  Canning is a lot of work, there's no way around it, but once it's done, there's no concern about whether it will thaw and spoil and since the cooking is done, creating a meal is almost instant.

So while I may not try canning beans again anytime soon, I will definitely be canning more meat. 

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