Friday, 18 November 2016

08:08 – Barbara just left to drive over to West Jefferson, where she’ll spend the day with Frances, Al, and their friend Marcy. It’ll be wild women and parties for Colin and me today.

Barbara and I drove over to Blue Ridge Co-op around lunchtime yesterday and signed up to have a propane tank installed. Lowes is supposed to deliver our gas cooktop on, bizarrely enough, Thanksgiving Day, so we told Blue Ridge Co-op to schedule installation of the propane tank for the first week of December.

We opted for a 250-gallon tank rather than the 120-gallon tank. The 250-gallon is the largest they’re allowed to install above-ground, and we didn’t want to get involved with the cost and hassles of a buried tank. The 250-gallon tank holds about 230 gallons when full. That should last three or four years if we use it only for cooking, even if we’re cooking for more than just the two of us. They’ll also install a quick-disconnect fitting at the back door, which we can hook up to our generator if necessary. Propane costs about three times as much as electricity per BTU, but that’s not a major concern if we’re using the propane only for cooking or in an emergency for electric power.

The gas cooktop we ordered comes standard with a propane adapter kit. It has an electric igniter, but specifically says in the specs that it can be ignited manually if the power is down.

Email from Cassie, who’s been reading what I posted recently about canning. She’s never pressure-canned anything, but they have only the small freezer in their refrigerator and she’d like to can meats that she buys on sale, particularly dark-meat chicken and bacon, as well as game that her husband brings home from hunting. But the thought of botulism scares her to death, and rightly so. She has no canning equipment or supplies, and asked me what I thought about it.

I told her that I’m no expert on pressure canning. The few times I did it I was helping someone else who was an experienced canner, and the last time I even watched was 40 years ago. That said, I told her that credible authorities, including the USDA and Ball, say that canning meats is safe if one follows directions exactly, but that just to be extra safe one should always cook canned meats thoroughly before eating them.

I suggested that she carefully consider the costs of commercially-canned meats versus DIY pressure-canned meats. She’ll need a canner. All American canners are the top of the line, but they cost $225 to $300+ depending on capacity. The 23-quart Presto canner I bought costs under $80, and does the job just as well as the more expensive canner. I suggested she also pick up a set of canning tools and a copy of Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.

She’ll also need canning jars, lids, and bands. I suggested Walmart as a good source for those. She needs to decide between quart jars, which hold about two pounds of meat, versus pint jars, which hold about one pound. The trade-off is that the jars cost about the same for either size, but that with just the two of them she may not want to have her meat stored two pounds per jar with no easy way to preserve it after opening a jar other perhaps than maintaining a constantly-simmering pot of pottage. If she does opt for pint jars, I recommended that she buy a second canning rack so that she can process twice as many jars per run. It also wouldn’t be a bad idea to buy spares for the gasket, pressure gauge, and pressure valve.