Tuesday, 8 November 2016

09:03 – With zero days left until the election, we’ll just make popcorn tonight and watch the game. If the vote is counted honestly, Trump should win in a landslide. Of course, the chance of an honest count is near zero, so the supposed outcome will depend on how successful Clinton supporters are at stealing votes.

I just realized yesterday that I no longer had the means to prepare sterile culture media or agar. In Winston, we were at about 800 feet (244 meters) elevation. In Sparta, we’re at about 3,000 feet (914 meters) elevation. That’s a huge difference for sterilizing things in a pressure canner.

The pressure canner I used down in Winston is a cheap Walmart unit that tops out at 10.7 PSI. That was fine for working at 800 feet elevation, but it’s totally inadequate at our current elevation. So I just ordered a pressure canner on Amazon that will do 15+ PSI. In addition to sterilizing culture media, the 15 PSI unit can be used safely to home can meats and other low-acid foods, which the older unit cannot. We’ll just re-purpose the older unit as a large cooking pot and pressure cooker (versus canner).

I thought about ordering an All American pressure canner. They’re US-made, built like tanks, and if we were going to do a lot of canning I’d have bitten the bullet and paid the price for one of them. They cost more than three times as much as the Presto 23-quart unit I ended up ordering. This unit can process 7 quart jars or 18 pint jars at a time, and is more than sufficient for our needs. I will need to order some spare parts, like a gasket, pressure regulator, and pressure gauge. Even with all of those, the Presto unit comes in at just over $100 total.

As regular readers may remember, I’m not a big fan of home canning for general food preservation. It’s very expensive in terms of equipment, supplies, fuel, time, and effort. For veggies and other low-cost foods, it makes more sense to dry them or just to buy them in cans to start with. I mean, what’s the point to using a $0.75 canning jar and lid, along with all the work it takes, to preserve a can of vegetables that you could buy for $0.60?

One place home canning may make sense for some people is in preserving high-value foods like meats, particularly if you buy them in bulk when they’re on sale. Versus commercial canned meats like those from Keystone (via Walmart), it’s about break even cost-wise, but the real advantage to home canning meats is that you can can stuff that’s not readily available commercially. For example, white-meat chicken is readily available commercially canned, and indeed we keep a fair amount of it on-hand. But Barbara and I also like dark-meat chicken, which is very difficult to find in commercial cans. And then there’s bacon. A pint canning jar holds about a pound of meat, and a quart about two pounds. That means that with six or eight dozen wide-mouth quart jars, we can keep 150 to 200 pounds of home-canned meats on hand.

The danger with home-canning meats is botulism. The bacteria itself is destroyed by boiling, as is the toxin that bacteria produces. But the spores of that bacteria are destroyed only by extended heating at temperatures well above boiling, which is why proper canning is essential for meats. The spores themselves are not dangerous to consume, except for infants (which is why infants should never be fed honey). The danger is that in an improperly canned container of meat, those spores may germinate, producing deadly botulinus toxin. That’s why all responsible authorities always note that home-canned meats should always be cooked very thoroughly before consumption. If they are tainted by botulism toxin, cooking them thoroughly renders them safe to eat.

Our 400W off-grid solar power starter kit showed up from Amazon yesterday. Now all I need to do is get batteries to charge and an inverter large enough to drive the well pump. Before I finalize plans, I need to get a well guy out here to look at our well. I have no idea how deep the well is, how deep the pump is, or how deep the water table is. I’d like to know all of that, and perhaps get him to install a new pump. I’m assuming the one in there is quite old and probably over-sized. This well was here long before the house was built, and no one seems to know anything about it. There’s not even a plaque inside the well casing, which is a pretty good indication by itself that this well is very old.