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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Pressure-Canned Beef Stew

Thank heavens for a blurry, tilted iPhone photo, because this has got to be the ugliest thing I've ever canned.  But it will get the job done!

Friday, I told you that I was contemplating putting up some beef stew for Mr. FC&G.  He works a lot of long hours, and this often means he's in a factory environment at all hours of the day and night.  Seeking a meal means vending machines or fast food if he doesn't take food along with him.  But he really needs options that are shelf-stable (desk-drawer-stable?), so that he doesn't have to worry if he takes a lunch and then winds up not eating it because he's busy or because the guys opted to go out to eat.

Enter beef stew.  This recipe could be fairly expensive, except the garden is in full production right now.  Therefore, the only thing I bought was the beef and the onion.  It also takes a while to make, but most of that time was pressure canning time, so I just needed to be near the canner and not actively supervising it.  (That is, I'm in the room, but I'm not watching it like I would a television show.  Never leave a pressure canner completely alone.)

Beef Stew
2 lbs. beef stew meat (I used organic beef from our farmer's market)
1 large onion, diced (organic)
1 qt. stock (home canned from my pantry)
8 oz. sliced carrots (garden)
8 oz. snapped green beans (garden)
1 t. dried thyme (garden)
1 t. dried marjoram (garden)
1 t. corn starch for thickening (never flour if you are going to pressure can)
salt and pepper to taste.

Brown stew meat and cook onions until translucent.  Add stock and vegetables and bring to a steady simmer, adding the corn starch for thickening if you wish right before canning.

Into sterile pint canning jars, ladle the stew, leaving about 1 inch headspace (about the thickness of the jar threads).  Seal and process in pressure canner, 75 minutes at 15 lbs pressure.  (Note:  We are right at 1,000 feet, and my canner instructions says to always can at 15 lbs pressure above 1,000.  If you are truly below 1,000 feet, 10 lbs. pressure should be fine.

The Analysis
Fast:  This recipe took me about two and a half hours, so not very fast.

Cheap:  Organic stew beef is $9.50 per pound at our farmer's market, so I was happy to pay $19 to finish this recipe and have the peace of mind of the quality of the meat.  The price was mitigated by how much produce and stock came from my own efforts.  Add in a bit for the onion and the starch, salt, and pepper, and this still comes in at $20 for four healthy-sized servings, or $5 per meal.

Good:  I've got to be honest:  beef stew is a bridge too far for my picky palate.  But Mr. FC&G nodded approvingly when I took him a sample before canning, so I guess it works!
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