Comfort food evokes a sense of well-being, and brings back memories of happy times, places and people. Thinking of the fare you associate with these two words brings satisfaction and contentment. But just what makes a particular food comfort food? What may constitute a comfort food in New Mexico is totally different from a comfort food in Maine. I grew up in Texas, and my husband in Nebraska. We have totally separate definitions of comfort food.
What is a comfort food to me? Something I can provide for my family that I made myself. Food that is totally organic with no concerns of harmful residues or ingredients — local food, fresh food, wholesome food. Food picked at the peak of ripeness. Varieties selected for taste, not beauty and ship-ability. Real food. That’s comfort food to me.
It is also immensely comforting to me to walk into my pantry during winter and see shelves filled with jars that I labored over in the summer and fall, knowing that in minutes I can prepare a meal, and realizing that I produced and processed everything on the table. That’s comfort food.
As you may have gathered, I have a great desire to be food self-sufficient. I am not completely there yet, but I am getting closer every year.
Currently, I am spending less than $150 per month on groceries for a family of three, and that includes paper goods and items I cannot produce myself. I love to find local sources to replace foods I enjoy that come from far away. Therefore, the recipes included here celebrate local food. Some of the food I grew, some I gathered wild, and some my husband processed after hunting.
All of it was processed with care, and I’m confident in its flavor. Some of the recipes may seem “normal,” and others totally unexpected, but I invite you to give them a try and see if they don’t become comfort foods for you, too.
General pressure canning instructions
A pressure canner is a wonderful tool that enables us to safely preserve low-acid foods at home. While there is nothing to fear when care is taken, you must respect botulism and the risks involved with canning. I have successfully canned with a pressure canner for more than 15 years, and I consider it an indispensable piece of equipment. It eliminates the need to pre-sterilize jars, and it reduces processing times of low-acid foods.
I have included the general instructions for using your pressure canner, and specific processing times and pressures are included with each recipe.
A note on pressure canning: The pressures noted in these recipes are appropriate for elevations up to 4,000 feet for a dial-gauge canner. If your elevation is more than 4,000 feet, add 1 pound of pressure for every 2,000 feet in elevation. So if you live at 7,000 feet elevation, you would add 2 pounds of pressure to these recommendations. If you are unsure, refer to your pressure canner manual.
I prefer to pressure can my jams, jellies and butters because it is faster, simpler, and I don’t have to sterilize the jars.
Before using your pressure canner each time, look through the vent hole from the bottom and make sure you can see light. Check that the vent is not plugged; if it is, insert a toothpick in the vent hole to clear.
In a small saucepan, bring the jar lids to a boil, and boil for 5 minutes to sterilize. Turn off heat and cover until ready to use.
Pre-sterilizing the actual jars is unnecessary when pressure canning; simply clean them and fill the hot jars as instructed.
After filling your jars, wipe the rims with a clean, sterile, damp paper towel. Add 2 to 3 inches of water to the bottom of your pressure canner, add jars and close the canner, turning until it locks into place.
Heat the canner until steam escapes the vent in a continuous stream for 10 minutes, then place the petcock over the vent. Increase the pressure until the gauge reaches the desired pounds of pressure. Reduce heat to maintain pressure and process for the recommended time.
If you process at a pressure higher than the recipe states, don’t worry about it, as it will not hurt anything. Turn off the heat and allow the pressure to reduce naturally until it reads less than 2 pounds. Remove petcock and open cover.
Remove jars and place on a towel until cool. If any jars do not seal, refrigerate and use, or reprocess.
Jars must be pre-sterilized prior to canning with a water-bath canner as the water temperatures are not high enough to kill any bacteria on the jars. To sterilize the jars, fill the canner with water and jars. Bring the canner to a boil and boil the jars for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and cover. Leave the jars in the hot water until ready to use.
In a small saucepan, bring the lids to a boil and boil for 5 minutes to sterilize. Turn off heat and cover until ready to use.
After processing, remove jars from water and place on a towel until cool. If any jars do not seal, refrigerate and use, or reprocess.
Linda Heitman, her husband, Lance, and daughter, Ruth Ann, own and operate a small organic farm in southwest Nebraska.
Jack’s Country Store
Mayflower Trading Co.
Pantry in a Box
Tattler Reusable Canning Lids