Freezer Cooking: Meatloaf & Precooked Chicken

I did a little freezer “cooking” a few weeks ago.  I made up a few meatloaves for the freezer, as well as one for dinner.  It really is easy to make extra (double, triple, etc.) of something that you’re already going to make anyway.  It takes very little extra time, and the bonus is that you have meals already prepped & ready to go in the freezer.  All that really needs to be done is to pull it out the evening/night before & let it thaw in the refrigerator overnight, and then it’s ready to go the next day.  This goes for any meal, whether you need to cook in the slow cooker, bake in the over, cook on the stove top, or grill.  This particular day, I was planning meatloaf, so I planned to make extra.  Here’s what I bought/used:

  • 5 lb ground beef
  • 5 cups old fashioned rolled oats
  • 5 eggs
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 2 bell peppers, chopped
  • 2 large carrots, shredded
  • 1 medium zucchini, shredded
  • 8 oz baby bella mushrooms, chopped
  • 10 slices bacon, cooked crisp
  • 2 packets onion soup mix
  • seasonings to taste ( this time, I used smoked paprika, roasted garlic powder, onion powder, salt, & pepper)
  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups BBQ sauce

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Mix everything together very well & divide into gallon freezer bags.

At this point, you can either shape it into a loaf or you can flatten it in the bag & freeze.  I like to flatten it out when I’m freezing it for a couple of reasons:  (1) It takes up less space in my freezer & (2) it takes a lot less time to thaw out because it’s not a large mass.   I use my rolling pill to lightly press it flat in the freezer bag, which also helps me to get out as much air as possible.

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The above ingredients netted me 4 meatloaves at 2.22 lbs each with 3 cups of extra veggies that I will use to make some more meatloaves.  The veggies were divided into 2 quart bags & placed in the freezer along with 3 of the meatloaves.

I also wrote the cooking instructions on the bag so that anyone in my family can prepare this meal.  To cook your meatloaf in the slow cooker:  Shape & place your meatloaf in a foil-lined slow cooker & cook on high for 4 hours, or on low for 6-8 hours, depending on your slow cooker.  Top with BBQ sauce in the last 30 minutes or so.

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This meatloaf is enough to feed my family of 5 for 1 meal.  There may or may not be leftovers.  It will depend on what sides we have & how hungry everyone is.

 

 

 

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I had also purchased a whole cut up chicken & 2 packages of split chicken breasts that were marked down, so I placed all of that in the slow cooker the night before with about 1 cup of water.  I deboned & shredded all of this meat & will divide it up into meal-size portions for the freezer to help make last minute meals go much quicker.  This really helps to cut down my cooking/baking time since the meat is already cooked & ready to go.  I leave out any seasonings so that I can season it up as I go, depending on what dishes I am making.

I also try to keep precooked ground beef on hand, but that’s a post for another day!

I hope you have enjoyed this post, & that it helps you make your meal planning, dinner preparations go a little more quickly & smoothly!

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What to do with 30 bunches of organic celery?

Last month, Azure Standard had a box of organic celery on sale for $11.25 ($12.21 w/tax).  Each box was guaranteed to contain at least 30 bunches of celery, which is what I received.  So, each bunch of Organic celery cost me $0.41/each.  So, what did I do with ALL. THAT. CELERY?

Well,  I started by chopping it up.  I had two bowls full.  Each bowl contained 15 bunches of chopped up celery.

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1 of 2 bowls full of organic chopped celery (15 bunches).

Then, I loaded them onto my Excalibur Dehyrator trays and dehydrated them! I filled my dehydrator twice and turned two huge bowl fulls into this:

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Two half gallon canning jars full of dehydrated celery!  I will end up grinding some of this up into a powder to go into my vegetable powder mix that I keep on hand, but I will leave most of it as is for now.  It will be used soups & stews in the coming months, especially in the winter.  While celery is easily accessible all year long and not overly expensive (usually running around $0.97 to $1.30/bunch), buying organic can cost even more.  But, at $0.41/bunch, I now have plenty on hand whenever I need some for a dish.

Canning Beef Stock

When I make beef stock, I make sure that I allow a full 48 hours for it to simmer away before I even think about canning it. Since beef bones are so thick, I want to give them plenty of time to give up all the nutrients that they have into my stock.  This is what makes stock so much better for you than broth.  Broth has tastes good, but it is not cooked for extended periods of time, allowing whatever bones you may be using to give up all of their nutrients for you.  Since it literally takes me 3 days from start to finish, I try to make a lot at one time.

As for how I make my beef stock, I roast the bones in a 400* oven for about 2 hours.  The roasting allows the bones to give your stock a wonderful flavor.

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Once they are done roasting, remove from the oven & place in your roaster.  Don’t forget to also use the wonderful drippings in the bottom of your pan!  They also help add to the flavor of your stock.

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Once it’s done simmering, remove the bones & cooked veggies.  This is what you should have.  All of the marrow has been cooked out of the bones, & they have given up all the nutrients that they are going to.

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At this point, you can save the cooled bones for your dog (place them in the freezer until you are ready to give them to your pet).  We don’t have a dog, but my sister-in-law does, so I’m saving them for her . The veggie scraps went to my chickens.  They loved them!

Turn the stock off & allow to cool.  Once, cool, remove as much fat as desired from the stock before canning.

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I, personally, do not remove all of the fat from the stock since this is a fat that is not bad for you, and a little in moderation is okay.

To can you stock:

Measure appropriate amount of water into your pressure canner (each canner is different – consult your manual).

Check all jars for any nicks/cracks before using.

Reheat your stock to a low boil.  Ladle hot stock into HOT jars, leaving 1-inch head space  Wipe rims with a towel dipped in a hot water/vinegar mix.  Place HOT seals & rims on jars, tighten according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Place jars into can.  Proceed with manufacturer’s instructions.  Mine says to put lid on, wait for valve to pop up & allow steam to vent for 10 minutes.  Place weight on & allow to come up to pressure.

Once you reach 10 lbs of pressure, process for 25 minutes for quarts, 20 minutes for pints.  Once you have processed your jars for the appropriate amount of time, turn canner off & allow to coast down naturally.  Once valve has dropped, remove weight, allow to vent for a few minutes.  Always open the lid AWAY from you.  There is still plenty of steam inside the canner that can burn you.  If jars are still boiling fairly rapidly, allow to sit in canner for another 5 minutes, or until the boiling stops.  Remove jars from canner & allow to cool completely – approximtely 12 – 24 hours – before moving.

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I always place my jars close together on a towel to protect the surface I’m setting them on, and then I also cover them with another towel.  This allows them to cool slowly & keeps any/all drafts off of them.  Once cool, remove metal rims & check to make sure that each jar has sealed.  If a jar has not resealed, you can either reprocess the jar or place in the refrigerator to be used in the next couple of days.

I had 2 roasters full & I ended up canning 28 quarts & 10 pints of beef stock, which will be added to my pantry.  This was even after I used some of the hot stock to make dinner that day!  It was delicious!

This post is linked to:

Heritage Homesteaders

The Chicken Chick

Homestead Barn Hop

April’s Homemaking

Canning Dry Beans

Let me start off by saying that I have canned dry beans this way off and on for several years, and this is my preferred way of doing it, but it does differ from the Ball Blue Book!  Please, use your own judgment!

Canning Dry Beans

Canning Dry Beans

To can dry beans, I wash my jars & check for any chips on the edges.

Place approximately 3/4 to 1 cup of dried beans in each quart jar. (If you’re canning larger beans, you may only need 3/4 cup per quart jar.)  Remember, the beans will EXPAND while soaking, so do not put any more beans in the jar than what will be able to fit once they are done expanding.  (If your jars are too full after soaking, you can always take some off and place in another jar.)

Fill jar with cool water & cover with a towel.  Let soak for 12-18 hours.

Drain soaking water from each jar.  If jars are more than 2/3 of the way full, you will need to remove some of the beans from the jar.  Add them to another jar.  You may end up with enough to have another jar to can, or save them to cook after you’re done canning.

Fill jar with boiling water.  You may add salt, but it is not necessary, and I do not since it can make beans tough.

Dry the lip of each jar.  Place seal & band on, according to manufacturer’s directions.

Can quarts of beans for 90 minutes at 10 pounds of pressure.

These are great to have on hand to help get a meal on the table quickly!  Enjoy!

This post is linked to:

Heritage Homesteaders

The Chicken Chick

Homestead Barn Hop

Update to My Canning Raw, Bone-In Chicken

Canning Chicken - after being pressure canned

Canning Chicken – after being pressure canned

As I promised, this post is going to update you on my thoughts on canning chicken raw.

Here’s a pic of the jars after they had cooled & been washed off.

Well, as it happened, I canned this on a Thursday and then had the perfect opportunity to give it a try when I found out that  a dear, sweet friend of mine came back from her camping trip sick.  Her sweet little girl came down with a stomach bug on the way home, & then she came down with it.  So, I fixed a big pot of homemade chicken noodle soup.  I had all the ingredients in my pantry, including some store-bought egg noodles, so it was super easy & quick to throw together.  I made enough for both her family and mine for supper that night.

Canned chicken after removing from jar.

Canned chicken after removing from jar.

Here’s what the chicken looked like after I pulled it out of the jar.  Remember my telling you that these roosters were a little over a year old?  Most birds at this age are starting to get chewy & tough.  When I pulled these four chicken breasts out of the jar, they literally fell off the bone!  It was so tender & juicy, you would’ve thought that these were very young, tender birds if I hadn’t told you any different.

Chicken noodle soup made with home canned chicken.

Chicken noodle soup made with home canned chicken.

In fact, look what happened when I put it in the soup pot.  It literally fell apart.  It looks like a put shredded chicken in the pot when, in fact, I just cut it into bite-sized chunks before placing it in the pot.

My verdict:

The taste was great!  It was very moist & tender.  I will definitely be doing this again in the near future.  In fact, I have a few bags of frozen chicken that were some of our older birds.  These will now be canned up first chance I get.  It definitely makes it quicker & easier to throw a meal together this way.

This post is linked to:

Heritage Homesteaders Blog Hop #4

Homestead Blog Hop #151

Farm Blog Hop

Clever Chick Blog Hop

Oak Hill Homestead

Path: p » a

My Next Adventure…..

It really does help to know your meat processor! Or, in our case, his son!  He has been such a blessing to us, and he’s a wealth of information!  When we began discussing having a cow processed last fall, we found out that most people do not save the soup bones, liver, heart, tongue, or suet from their cows.  If you ask, he will save the soup bones & suet for you – FREE!  How amazing is that?!  (He will also save the lard from pigs when they get them in!)

I recently put in a request for some lard/suet, and yesterday, I picked up 3 boxes full of suet (beef fat)!

Beef fat!

Beef fat – 2 of the 3 boxes I picked up!

Here, you can see what it looks like!  Isn’t it beautiful?!  I can’t wait to render it down into tallow very soon.

Frozen Beef Fat (Suet)

Frozen Beef Fat (Suet)

*A tip we received from his son (my sweet husband works with him) is to save some of the best suet & keep it in the freezer.  When we want to make hamburgers, pull it out and & grate some over the top of of the ground beef!  That is an awesome idea!  This keeps the lean hamburger meat from falling apart on the grill.

If you’ve ever had hamburgers fall apart while grilling them, it’s probably because they did not have enough fat in them to hold them together.  Some fat is okay for you.  There is no reason to cut it all out of your diet.  Your body needs some healthy fats and, believe it or not, lard & tallow are good fats – just like butter!  Yes, you can have too much of a good thing.  Moderation is the key!

Stay tuned for my new adventure into rendering tallow!  Blog post coming as soon as I get a chance to get this done.

This post has been linked to:

Heritage Homesteaders

Chicken Chick Blog Hop

Homestead Blog Hop

Oak Hill Homestead

My First Attempt at Canning Raw, Bone-In Chicken

4 cut up chickens waiting to be canned & turned into stock

4 cut up chickens waiting to be canned & turned into stock

This past week, a friend of mine was giving away 4 roosters, which I was happy to take off of her hands.  We picked them up on Tuesday and then processed them Wednesday morning before our weather turned cold (again).  Since we didn’t have anything invested in them but time, I figured these would be great to try my hand a canning raw chicken!

I followed the instructions in my Ball Blue Book & covered them with water, leaving 1 inch head space.  I canned the quarts of raw, bone-in chicken for 75 minutes at 10 pounds of pressure.

While the chicken was in the pressure canner. I put the backs, necks, wing tips, hearts & veggie scraps into my roaster & added a splash of vinegar, some salt, peppercorns, & bay leaves, covered with water & cooked all night.    I put the chicken livers in the freezer for my dad.  We don’t care for them, but he loves them!

The process was very easy to do.  I canned them in wide-mouth quart jars.  Each jar held 4 pieces, and I canned 2 quarts of chicken breasts, 2 quarts chicken thighs, 2 quarts chicken legs, & 1 quart chicken wings – cut apart.

Canning Chicken - before being processed

Canning Chicken – before being processed

I will say that if/when I do this again,  I will definitely not put as much water in the jars as is recommended because the raw meat makes its own broth while it is in the pressure canner cooking, and I lost a lot of valuable broth that way.  I was also afraid that the jars might now seal since there was so much broth in the water in the canner itself, but they all sealed!  I will probably add enough liquid to fill the jar no more than half way.  But, you should follow the instructions in the Ball Blue Book for your canning instructions, pressure, and time.

After the chicken had been in the pressure canner for the recommended amount of time, I turned the pressure off and let the canner slowly return to zero.  Once the pressure returned to zero, and I removed the lid, I removed my jars & tightened the lids down according to Tattler Resuable Canning Lid instructions, covered with a towel, & let cool.  All 7 quarts sealed and did wonderfully!  They have been washed, dried, & placed on a shelf in my pantry.

Canning Chicken - after being pressure canned

Canning Chicken – after being pressure canned

Since these birds were a little over a year old, they would be a little on the tough side, anyway, so pressure canning the meat should help to tenderize it.  The meat will probably be used in either soup or casserole dishes.  I will let you know what we think when I get around to opening one in the near future!

Here is the post with my update to canning raw chicken.

This post is linked to:

Heritage Homesteaders Blog Hop #4

Homestead Blog Hop #151

Farm Blog Hop

Clever Chick Blog Hop

Oak Hill Homestead