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There are two basic ways of composting; the first being cold, and the other one being hot. If you’ve been composting all along, it’s likely that you’ve been implementing the cold method, which is basically just layering your organic material and waiting for it to decompose over a year or so.

However, if your area is prone to warmer weather, it’s likely that you should use the hot method which is much faster. It allows you to get high-grade compost within a couple of months. If you want to help speed up the process on your own, you can fulfill the requirements for quick hot composting, which is air, nitrogen, water, and carbon. All these factors help feed microorganisms. As a result, your organic matter will decompose sooner.

Vermicompost

Aside from microorganisms that will already be present in the soil, you need the right worms as well to help in producing more nitrogen. This is a healthier way of adding nitrogen to your compost, compared to chemical-based additives.

Vermicompost is also the same thing, except the process of making this type of compost is sped up thanks to worms. These worms eat up organic matter like food scraps and then produce nitrogen-rich castings that are great for your compost.

Remember that you need adequate worms and not just any kind of garden worms. Redworms are what you should look for, and they can be found at pretty much any gardening store out there. Now that you’ve determined the types of compost and how you can make all of them, it’s time to learn as to what you should and shouldn’t be putting in your compost.

What You Should Compost

Here are some of the ingredients for a healthy compost that can make great hummus i.e. soil grower. Fruit scarps are the number one thing on any compost list because they’re rich in nutrients and sugar which can attract plenty of feeders.

Vegetable scraps don’t have as high of sugar content as fruits, but they do have plenty of nutrients that can boost soil health. Other organic materials like coffee grounds and eggshells will do just fine. It’s a no-brainer, but it’ll pay off to put in any plant clippings, pieces of wood from a tree, grass and dry leaves that collect during autumn.

What You Should Not Compost

A common misconception is that any kind of organic matter will do when it comes to compost. The truth is the exact opposite, and there are not just some, but many types of organic matter that you should avoid adding to your compost.

Refrain from adding sawdust or chips if they’re obtained from wood that has been pressure-treated. Foods that contain meat, grease, or oil; these can greatly disturb the ecosystem inside your compost. Clippings from diseased plants, pet feces and products made from dairy shouldn’t be added either because these can rot and ruin your compost rather than benefit it.

How To

Once you’ve gathered all your organic matter that you want to start composting wit, add it to a container and layer it with soil. Make sure to alternate between green and brown matter; green is wet while brown is dry. Too much of green matter will leave you with a smelly compost so make sure to have equal amounts.

Remember to add adequate amounts of water to keep your compost damp as this is the right environment for microorganisms to thrive. Every week, remember to fork through the pile so that there’s plenty of oxygen inside for your feeders and microorganisms. Happy Farming!

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Oh, we are all about…




Can Do

How to preserve food (canning) originally from the OHH Blog.

This page gives you step-by-step instructions on the basics of canning. Other ways to store food includes: freezingdehydrating and cold storage. Recipes for canning foods can be found here and some of our all-time favorites are linked below.

“…preserve, or perish. Can, or be canned. Put up, or shut up… Whether you’re a hobbyist dabbling in canning your farmers market finds or an expert gardener with a bountiful harvest,… food grown and lovingly tended just tastes better.” – Nicole Sipe, Canning and Preserving (Hobby Farms: A Popular Kitchen Series, Volume 1)

Canning Science

When food is sterilized in a jar it can be stored for very long periods of time without refrigeration. You can thank the French army for that one. The challenge was sent out to anyone who could figure out a way to easily feed troops during battle. A local brewer met that challenge and the rest is history. Folks have been canning and perfecting canning techniques since the 1800’s.

Modern-day methods are as easy as can be. All you need is time, a few supplies and a good recipe. There are two methods: water bath and pressure canning. Which one you do depends on the foods you choose to can.

Water bath: Cooked or raw foods that are high in acidity can be stored in sterilized jars and placed into boiling water to seal the jars tight and prevent spoilage. These include most fruits and anything that gets pickled.

Pressure canning: Most vegetables and cooked recipes that are low in acidity are pressurized in a cooker for thorough sterilization and sealed tight to prevent spoilage. This method takes a lot longer to do and can strip much of the nutritional value of the food, but is still leagues above store-bought canned food.

How To’s

Water Bath Method

Supplies for the water bath method include a canning pot and rack, a ladle, wide-mouth funnel, tongs for lifting jars, magnetic lid lifter and jars with lids and screw bands. Some of these are usually found in an all-in-one kit in hardware stores, department stores or online. Additional helpful items include a timer, a large stainless mixing bowl, a scale, labels or a marking pen, kitchen towels and a stirring stick.

The water bath method is simple and you should not feel intimidated at all. Start by washing your jars, lids, screw bands, funnel, stir stick and anything that will come in contact with food. The USDA says to sterilize jars, lids and funnels (and anything that will come in contact with the inside of the jar) prior to canning, while other experts point out that the jar will be sterilized if processed for longer than 10 minutes anyway. I avoid the controversy and stick my jars in the sterilization cycle of the dishwasher or boil them for at least 10 minutes. Done.

Prepare your recipe. For jellies, jams, preserves, chutneys, salsas, pickled foods and anything that has enough acidity and pectin*, prepare it and keep it hot until you’re ready to fill the hot, sterilized jars. You can also cold-pack foods by adding the raw food to the jar and filling it with boiling water and seasonings. Bring a pot of water to a (barely) gentle boil. (You want enough water to cover the jars by an inch.) The closer the food is in temperature to that of the pot of water the better, because a drastic temperature change in the glass can shatter it, and what a shame that would be!

 

Tip: An easy way to make sure you add enough water to the pot is to 1) fill your jars with water for weight, 2) add them to the pot and fill with water to cover by 1 1/2 inches, and 3) take the jars out and you have exactly enough water to bring to a gentle boil.

 

 

Tip: A good way to set jelly, jam or preserves is to keep a saucer in the fridge (to stay cold) and use it for “testing”. Pour a teeny bit onto the cold plate and let it sit for a minute or two, then take a spoon (or your finger) and push into the mixture to see if it “crinkles” to your liking. If not, then repeat this test every 5 minutes until it’s just right. If you have a thermometer and know your altitude, then you can also go by the following chart:

Sea Level

1,000 ft

2,000 ft

3,000 ft

4,000 ft

5,000 ft

6,000 ft

7,000 ft

8,000 ft

220° F

218° F

216° F

214° F

212° F

211° F

209° F

207° F

205° F

(Source: National Center For Home Food Preservation.)

 

Leave a 1/2 inch space headroom in the jar and wipe the rim with a clean towel. Screw on the lid and screw band until it’s finger-tight. Fill one or two at a time and set on the rack, quickly filling more jars to finish filling the pot. The jars should not touch the sides of the pot or each other, so do not over-fill the pot.

Once they’re all in and fully submerged, cover and bring the water up to a rapid boil. Process the jars for 15 minutes or according to the recipe instructions.

After processing, turn off the heat and wait a few minutes. Using the tongs, remove each jar carefully and set on a kitchen towel. (Using a towel prevents a drastic temperature change.) You will start to hear them “pop” which means the lids have sealed.

But don’t be tempted to shelve them just yet… they should sit still and completely cool down before you move them to prevent any problems. After they’ve cooled, tap the lid to make sure the seal is good and then label them with the contents and date.

Tip: If any jars do not seal, don’t you fret. This usually means there is an imperfection in the rim of the jar and you can reprocess the contents within 24 hours. Or, just refrigerate it and eat it right away.

Pressure Canning Method

Supplies include a pressure canner and rack, a ladle, wide-mouth funnel, tongs for lifting jars and jars with lids and screw bands. Some of these are usually found in an all-in-one kit in hardware stores, department stores or online. Additional helpful items include a timer, a large stainless mixing bowl, a scale, labels or a marking pen, kitchen towels and a stirring stick.

Stews and soups**, sauces, vegetables, meats and seafood, are pressure canned. Make sure you find recipes that are specific to canning since the process will alter the taste of the food. As above, wash everything that comes in contact with the food. Sterilizing the jars and lids is unnecessary since the length of time to process sterilizes the food and jars anyway, so just make sure they’re clean and rinsed well. Fill the jars and leave a 1/2 inch space headroom in the jar and wipe the rim with a clean towel. Screw on the lid and screw band until it’s finger-tight. Add all jars to the pot, but again, do not over-fill and do not let them touch the sides.

The canner will only need about 3 quarts water in the bottom (or whatever the operating instructions say). For extra safety, I heat up the water to try and match the temperature of the jars. When operating the pressure canner, you should always do so according to the instructions. They are all similar yet different, if that makes any sense..?

For instance: My pressure canner has a vent to allow pressure to be released.

I add the weight after 10 minutes. And then watch the gauge carefully as it begins to rise.

pressure's on

I use the weight only to level off the pressure when needed. Other canners may have a slightly different procedure, so it is important to read the instructions and follow them exactly. Do this with caution though… the pressure should change ever so gradually or it could result in loss of liquid in some of your jars.

One major difference between the water bath method and pressure canning is time. Extra time is needed for the pressure canner to build up to the right pressure, to process the jars to reach sterilization, and to return to normal pressure when finished. You must not rush this process. It can take hours longer than water bath canning so set aside enough time by planning and preparing for it. The good news is that most pressure canners are very tall, which means you can stack the jars vertically and do large batches all at once.

Like riding a bike: once you get it down, it’ll just come naturally.

Start With Easy

For your first batch of canned goodies, do a fruit and use the water bath method. Find a local farm and pick some blackberries or apples. Blackberries can be cooked down and turned into jam or preserves, and you can cook and blend apples into applesauce. You’ll be amazed at how easy it really is! Whole fruits like peaches and pears can be packed with syrup, and tomatoes can be peeled, diced and packed with a touch of lemon juice (or vinegar) and salt. Get these down and you’ll want to try more.

Why not try:

Plum Jammy
Tomato Salsa
Applesauce, Stewed Tomatoes and more quickies
Easy Canned Peppers
Even Easier Pickles and Relish

*Don’t be fooled. Store-bought pectin is the biggest scam of all time! Okay, maybe I exaggerated a bit, but did you know that all fruit contains its own natural form of pectin? Yes, you can set/preserve anything without adding the powdered stuff. In my recipes, sugar and/or homemade apple or lemon pectin is added to cooked fruit for the purpose of gelling. Lemon juice and/or vinegar adds the acid used for preserving. And that’s all you need. So don’t short-cut it; keep it natural and homemade, and save your pennies!

**FYI: Though just about anything can be canned, you have to know the rules. Soups and stews will do well as long as they don’t contain flour or any other thickener. Dishes that are naturally thick (like pea soup) need to combined with extra water (about 1:1) so the center of the food is safely sterilized. All meats need to be pressure canned for the recommended time – no exceptions – usually 70 minutes or longer. Follow a good recipe and when in doubt, freeze it.

Tip: What spoils food is the various bacterium out there. Process the food for the recommended time to sterilize it and end that threat.

Tip: Don’t leave too much head space in your jar because air causes food to darken in color.


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