Author: craig

How to Make Irish Potato Bread

I’m a bit of a food experimenter—when I stumble across a recipe I’m curious about, I make sure I try it.

Irish potato bread was one of those things. I was perusing bread recipes, given my newfound love of making bread these past several months, and stumbled across a few references to this one.

It piqued my interest for a few reasons:

  • It’s an easy bread recipe that doesn’t rely on things like yeast and rising and proofing, so it’s easier for beginners like myself,
  • It uses up potatoes, and I’m always on the lookout for ways to utilize our massive garden harvest (we had 350 pounds of potatoes last year, and,
  • We have a friend with Irish heritage who we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with every year, so I’m always on the lookout for easy and delicious (and preferably healthy) Irish recipes.

I’ve made this twice now and it’s been fantastic both times and was an easy crowd-pleaser. I make this as an appetizer for an afternoon or evening meal, but I believe this is traditionally a breakfast food. I’ve always liked breakfast food better in the evening.

The consistency of Irish potato bread is sort of like a pancake, but it isn’t sweet like a pancake since there’s no sugar in it. Irish potato bread tastes fantastic on its own, but it also tastes great served with a dip (like Cheddar Guinness Dip) or if you’re not against mixing cuisines it tastes great with Italian cured meats.

Irish potato bread starts with, you guessed it, potatoes. Specifically, peeled, boiled, and mashed potatoes.

Even though this is an easy first step, you can make it easier on yourself if you want. You can use leftover mashed potatoes, so simply make too much for dinner the night before with the intention of using the leftovers for this. Or, like me, you can use home-canned potatoes, which are already fully cooked, and just need to be drained (and perhaps rinsed if the water was starchy) and mashed.

Since I used canned potatoes—one pint specifically—I didn’t have the full weight of potatoes required by the recipe below, so I did some math to figure out the new measurements of the rest of the ingredients. If you’re not comfortable with that kind of math, you might be best to stick to the measurements in the recipe, or, honestly, you can eyeball it. If you have approximately half the amount of potatoes, you could halve all the other ingredients. Since there’s no rising or proofing or more science-y aspects of baking, a ratio that’s a little off is likely all right.

From there you add in your melted butter, flour, and salt (if using unsalted butter). Mix it all together with a spoon and when it starts to come together and becomes too stiff to stir, switch to using your hands.

I’ve made this twice now. The first time the ingredients worked out great and the dough was perfect. The second time, it was far too wet and sticky and I had to add a considerable amount of extra flour. So, if needed, add some flour. (If you’re new to this kind of thing, add flour in small amounts at a time because it’s easy to add flour but impossible to remove it if you’ve added too much. It should be ever so slightly sticky to the touch, but should hold to itself more than to your hands—that’s the consistency you’re going for.)

From there you’ll want to transfer it to a floured surface. I’ve got a small spot on the counter that works well, but you can do it on a cutting board or something if that’s what you’ve got. Knead it just a little bit so it really comes together nicely in a ball.

Break the ball up into six smaller balls. That is, if you did the full recipe. Since my potatoes came out to about 2/3 of the required amount, I broke this into four smaller balls. Roll out each ball one at a time on the floured surface still it’s about half a centimetre thick. Since this isn’t a super fancy project, even just smashing it flat with the palm of your hand can work well too.

Once it’s flattened, slice up it up into squares or triangles or any other small bite-size shape that works.

Now it’s time to cook them up!

In a pan over medium heat, warm up some olive oil (or canola oil works too) and add a dollop of butter. When the butter has melted, add in as many pieces of dough fit comfortably on the bottom of the pan. Let it fry for a few minutes and then with tongs or a fork, flip them over and cook the other side. Like with pancakes, I find each successive batch goes a little quicker and a little smoother. You will likely need to add a little oil and butter between batches because it gets used up and absorbed by the bread.

Between batches, you’ll want to keep the cooked bread warm. Putting it in a bowl with a plate over top would work. I line my bowl with paper towel to absorb excess oil/butter.

Or, if you’re like me the other night, you can just put the bowl of cooked bread in front of your guests while you cook up the next batch—but be sure to grab some for yourself before it’s all gone!

We had a guest over and we were all hanging out in the kitchen while I was frying up the bread, so I put the bowl of cooked bread in front of my husband and our guest along with a bowl of cheddar Guinness dip, and we had a great time talking and eating while I cooked up more bread for all of us.

Irish Potato Bread

Simple and tasty, Irish Potato Bread is an excellent way to use up leftover mashed potatoes. It's great on its own, is perfect in a breakfast fry, and is a tasty appetizer with Cheddar Guinness Dip.
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Course Bread
Cuisine Irish


  • 750 g Potatoes
  • 30 g Butter, melted (2 Tbsp)
  • cups All-purpose flour (or any flour of your choice)
  • 1 pinch Salt (omit if using salted butter)
  • Olive oil and extra butter for frying


  • Peel, chop, boil, drain, and mash potatoes. Let sit until cool enough to handle. (If you have leftover mashed potatoes in your fridge, you can use that and skip this step. Alternatively, if you have home-canned potatoes, they're already fully cooked, so you can drain them and mash them.)
  • Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl. If you're adding extra ingredients (see notes), also add them to the bowl.
  • Mix with a spoon until it starts to come together and is difficult to mix. Continue mixing with your hands. The dough should be slightly sticky; if it's too sticky you can add extra flour until it feels like a good bread dough consistency. Knead for a few minutes on a floured surface.
  • Divide dough into several small balls. Working with one ball at a time, roll dough out on a floured surface (or smash down with your hands if you don't have a roller) and slice into squares or triangles. You want it somewhere between a quarter and half a centimetre in thickness.
  • Put a pan over medium heat on the stove and add in olive oil and extra butter. Working in batches, fry until one side is golden and then flip and fry until both sides are golden. This should take a few minutes per batch and will speed up as you go along. You might need to add extra oil or butter between batches.
  • When a batch is done, move to a bowl or dish with a lid to keep it warm until all the batches are done. I like to line the bowl with a paper towel to absorb some of the extra oil and butter.
  • Best served warm.


If you want to get creative with flavours, you can add in fine herbs, cheese, chopped bacon, or finely chopped vegetables. You can swap out the butter with flavoured/seasoned butter. If desired, you can dust the finished bread with cinnamon and sugar.
I’ve found this goes great with Cheddar Guinness Dip for an Irish appetizer.
Keyword Easy Bread, Irish Potato Bread

How to Make Jalapeño Cheddar Sourdough Bread (or with Other Hot Peppers)

A few months ago I got myself going with a sourdough starter. A sourdough starter is basically fermented flour, and once you create this starter, you have to constantly feed it to keep it alive. And since so much work goes into keeping it alive, I’m always looking to try new recipes that use the sourdough starter. A lot of those recipes will end up on here, including sourdough bread, English muffin bread, and sourdough chocolate chip cookies.

(If you don’t have a sourdough starter yet, I’ll post directions in an upcoming post. Once I do that, I’ll link to it here.)

My sourdough starter—bubbly, active, and ready to use

In addition to having this sourdough starter to utilize, I also have several jars of pickled hot peppers from last year’s garden that need to be eaten before the fall harvest and a fresh batch of peppers—so that got me thinking about a cheddar and hot pepper sourdough bread!

What I’ve done here is a bit of a mishmash of two recipes—my existing sourdough recipe and a cheddar jalapeño sourdough recipe I found online. I didn’t really like the steps of the new recipe, so I adapted my existing recipe to make a tasty hybrid.

Sourdough is remarkably simple in terms of ingredients. It’s literally sourdough starter (which is flour and water), more water, more flour, and salt.

With the sourdough recipe I use, I start the dough the night before and then let it rest and rise overnight at room temperature. You can leave it on the counter, but I have a cat that loves anything made with flour, so I have to stick it in the microwave or oven so it stays safe from him.

Sorry for the poor lighting, I took this photo at 11:30 at night.

Theoretically, when the dough rests overnight, it should double in size. However, this is highly dependent on ideal local climate conditions and Winnipeg in the middle of winter is not an ideal climate. I’ve been told that Winnipeg in the summer isn’t ideal either. While I get some rise in my dough, it’s nowhere near double. So don’t panic if you don’t get the kind of rise you see on other blogs.

After resting overnight, it’s time to work in the peppers and cheese.

While this recipe is for jalapeño and cheddar sourdough, what I have on hand are pickled banana peppers. I like the taste of banana peppers better, but they’re also a lower on the Scoville scale, meaning they’re not as hot as jalapeño peppers—so if you like the sound of this recipe but you’re not sure if you can handle jalapeños, banana peppers might be the way to go.

(You can usually find pickled banana peppers in the condiments aisle of your grocery store, next to things like ketchup and mustard. If the jars are labelled with “mild” or “hot”, you’ll want to go with the hot ones. The mild ones can have the same heat level as bell peppers, which would be kind of pointless for this recipe.)

This already smells so good

With the “pinch and fold” method, we start working the cheese and peppers into the dough. (Full directions on how to do this are in the recipe below.)

The original jalapeño cheddar sourdough recipe I looked up had the cheese and peppers mixed in with the dough at the very beginning. The end result would give cheese and peppers spotted throughout the loaf, whereas my method here results in a ribbon of cheese and peppers that runs through the whole loaf.

While I like the idea of cheese and peppers being spread throughout like little morsels of goodness, I didn’t like the idea of leaving the cheese (a dairy product) at room temperature overnight while the dough was resting. To be fair, that recipe had the dough in the fridge overnight, but if I’m having enough difficulty getting a rise out of my dough at room temperature, I’d have much poorer results in the fridge.

After resting for a bit we do another round of “pinch and folds” to work the cheese and peppers in a bit more. However, be a bit gentler at this stage. I found I’d ripped the dough in one spot and cheese started tumbling out; I hadn’t realized the cheese had migrated so close to the surface of the dough ball.

Now we let it rest one final time in a bowl lined with a towel and sprinkled with flour.

One final rest before we bake it.

Toward the end of the 30-60 minute rest, we crank the oven up to 450 F.

Transfer the dough to some parchment paper—pinch seam side down—and cut some slits in it, then transfer the whole thing to a dutch oven.

Lower the heat to 425 F, then put the dutch oven (with the lid on) on the centre rack. Bake for 20 minutes, then remove the lid and bake for an additional 40 minutes. If it looks like it needs a little longer, you could give it an additional ten minutes. (When I pulled it out and later sliced into it, it looked like it could have used just a little bit longer. The addition of the cheese likely altered the baking time just a little bit.)

Fresh from the oven and smelling so good!

Transfer to a wire rack and let it cool for at least an hour before slicing into it.

This was my first time making a cheddar and hot pepper bread and I would absolutely make it again!

Sourdough is usually chewy, but this was chewy and extra soft. The tang of the hot peppers had worked its way into the rest of the bread, so even when I wasn’t biting into a pepper, I could taste them. The cheddar cooked perfectly—not so cooked that it’s crunchy, but cooked enough that it’s solid.

This tastes wonderful at room temperature with some butter, but would likely taste amazing toasted, buttered, and served alongside a spicy pasta dish.

Jalapeño Cheddar Sourdough Bread

Chewy sourdough bread with the zing of hot peppers and sharp cheddar makes for an irresistible snack.
Prep Time 14 hrs
Cook Time 1 hr
Course Bread
Cuisine bread


  • 1 Dutch Oven


  • 50 g Bubbly, active sourdough starter
  • 330 g water (1⅓ cup + 1 Tbsp)
  • 9 g salt (1½ tsp)
  • 125 g Whole wheat flour (can round to 1 cup)
  • 375 g All-purpose flour (can round to 3¼ cups)
  • ¼ cup Jalapeño peppers, pickled or fresh, chopped (other hot peppers can be substituted; pickled banana peppers taste amazing here)
  • ½ cup Cheddar cheese, shredded (go for an old/sharp cheddar)


  • This recipe starts the night before and concludes the next day.
  • The night before, whisk starter and water together in a large bowl.
  • Mix in flour and salt with a fork until the dough becomes stiff and shaggy. Finish mixing with your hands.
  • Cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap and rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  • After resting, work the dough into a ball using the "pinch and fold" method. Grab a pinch of dough at the edge and fold it / press it into the middle of the ball. Rotate the bowl a bit and do it again, repeating until you've gone all the way around. The dough will feel tighter as you do this.
  • Cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap and let it rise overnight at room temperature, about 10-12 hours.
  • After 10-12 hours, the dough should double in size. Don't panic if it doesn't; while mine does get larger, it certainly doesn't double in size. A lot of this comes down to local climate factors and my local climate is not amenable to sourdough.
  • Sprinkle flour on your work surface, like a counter or table. Scoop the dough out of the bowl and onto the work surface. Spread the peppers and cheddar on top of the dough.
  • Use the pinch and fold method to start shaping the dough into a ball. Once you've gone around the whole ball, flip it over so the pinched seam is down. Cover with a towel and let rest for 30 minutes.
  • Flip it over again so the seam is up. Pinch and fold the dough one more time. If you pinch and fold too hard, you might rip the dough and cheese and peppers might tumble out, so be gentle.
  • Line a bowl with a dry towel and sprinkle the towel with flour. Let the dough ball rest in the towel, seam side up and with the towel edges covering it, for thirty minutes to an hour. The dough should rise some more, but again local climate may give you different results.
  • Preheat oven to 450℉.
  • Cut a sheet of parchment paper larger than your dough. Place the parchment over the dough and flip the bowl so the dough is now resting on the parchment in your hand. Set it down on the counter and with a sharp knife, make four shallow cuts at north, east, south, and west points (or 3, 6, 9, and 12 on the clock).
  • Grabbing the edges of the parchment paper, lift the dough and place it into the dutch oven and put the lid on.
  • Reduce oven heat to 425℉ and put the dutch oven in on the centre rack.
  • Bake for 20 minutes. Remove the lid. Bake for an additional 40 minutes. If the bread doesn't seem ready, bake for ten more minutes.
  • Transfer to a wire rack and let cool for at least an hour before slicing.
Keyword Bread, Sourdough

How to Ferment Blueberries Using Salt

I try to buy food in smaller quantities because we hate food waste and we also don’t like having to overeat something just to avoid throwing it out.

But a sale is a sale.

Blueberries were dirt cheap a few weeks ago and my husband eats them. I decided to buy more than double his normal amount and I intended to experiment with preserving them via fermentation.

Fermentation typically preserves fruits and vegetables by allowing good bacteria to thrive and destroying bad bacteria. The good bacteria is typically probiotic bacteria, so in addition to being good for food preservation, it’s also good for your gut.

There are apparently two ways to ferment blueberries—one is with 2% salt by weight and the other is with a sugar brine. For this, I decided to go with the salt process, and I’ll try the sugar brine next time blueberries are on sale (update: here it is).

Blueberries, salt, and a fermentation kit are all that’s needed.

A couple years ago I received this handy fermentation kit for Christmas. It comes with a large glass jar, a glass fermentation weight, and an airlock lid.

While this specific recipe doesn’t include submerging blueberries in liquid, most fermentation recipes do, so a fermentation weight helps keep the food below the liquid level. The fermentation process creates gas, so the airlock lid lets the gas escape without worrying about pressure building up.

If you don’t have a fermentation kit, you can easily construct a makeshift one.

You’ll want:

  • A large glass jar, preferably with a wide mouth.
  • Something to act as a weight; this could be a Ziploc bag with water in it, or a smaller jar that can fit inside the fermentation jar, or if you’re using a really large jar with a really large mouth, you might even be able to fit a small plate in there.
  • In the absence of an airlock lid, you can just use a normal lid, but you’ll want to “burp” it regularly, which means opening it to allow the gas to escape. In this recipe, you can have the lid slightly loose so gas can escape on its own, or you can burp it every twelve hours or so.

As far as fermentation projects go, and I haven’t done a whole lot but I’ve done some, fermenting blueberries is reasonably simple. You need a weight for the blueberries and then you calculate 2% of this weight to figure out how much salt to add.

Mix it all in a bowl, transfer to your fermentation jar, and you just let it sit for a few days.

It took us about four days until we felt they were fermented. You can see in the photos that the level of the weight sunk a bit, which I think was caused by blueberry juice being expressed.

The recipes I looked up all said something along the lines of tasting it daily until it’s ready…but never really defined how you determine if it’s ready. It takes three to seven days, so I would say that it’s reasonably safe to assume that anytime after three days, if it’s tasting reasonably good, it’s likely safe to call it ready. By that time, the beneficial bacteria will have already taken over and gotten a good start at doing their work of preserving the blueberries—in other words, if it’s not perfectly fermented, it’s likely fermented enough to get the preservation effect that we’re after. If you find you enjoy fermented blueberries, you’ll develop a skill over time of determining by taste if the blueberries are ready.

If you used a Ziploc bag with water as your weight, you may find some scuzzy growth on there. Before I got my fermentation kit and I was fermenting tomatoes, I found this to be the case. As long as the blueberries look and smell fine, simply clean off the bag and reuse it.

If at any point there is fuzzy mould growth on the berries or if it ever smells or tastes like something’s gone wrong, dispose the berries and start over. The old adage of “when in doubt, throw it out” holds true here.

When the berries are ready, simply remove the weight, seal the jar, and move the blueberries to the fridge. For me, that meant transferring the blueberries to a new jar so my fermenting kit isn’t taken up with storing blueberries.

Ready to go in the fridge

One of the byproducts of this form of fermentation is acetic acid, or vinegar. So the final result is a little bit sour. Understandably, the final result is also a little bit salty from, well, all the salt. It should also be a bit sweet. It’s an interesting mix of flavours. They’re probably best eaten on top of oatmeal or mixed in a smoothie where some of the “unique” aspects of the taste can be masked by the other ingredients.

My husband isn’t really a fan of blueberries preserved like this because he likes to eat the blueberries straight and that sour-salty tang isn’t his thing.

When I was researching this, I came across a second version of fermenting blueberries that uses a sugar brine as well as some kombucha, or water kefir, or whey. I brew both kombucha and water kefir, so I’m eager to try this alternative method. Of the two of them, I’m likely going to try the kefir version because kombucha can taste a bit vinegary, but with my extremely limited water kefir experience, there’s no vinegary taste there. Watch for that recipe to appear here in coming months. (Update: here it is.)

Lacto-Fermented Blueberries (2% Salt Method)

If you have an abundance of blueberries, fermenting them is a great option to preserve them and enjoy them for weeks, plus fermenting creates beneficial probiotic bacteria for a healthy gut.
Prep Time 10 mins
Fermentation Time (Estimate) 3 d
Course Snack


  • 1 Kitchen Scale
  • 1 Fermentation Vessel with Weight This can be a fermentation kit or simply a jar with something to weigh down the blueberries, such as a Ziploc bag with water in it, or a smaller jar that fits inside the fermentation jar.


  • Blueberries
  • Salt, non-iodized


  • Rinse and dry blueberries.
  • Place blueberries in a bowl and weigh them. (Be sure to hit the "tare" or "zero" button before adding the blueberries to the bowl so you are weighing only the blueberries.)
  • Calculate 2% of this weight and add that amount of salt. (For example, if you have 800g of blueberries, use a calculator to do 800 x 0.02, to get 16g of sat.)
  • Thoroughly mix the blueberries and salt. You can slightly crush the blueberries if you'd like.
  • Transfer the blueberry and salt mixture to the fermentation vessel. With a spatula, scrape out any remaining salt in the bowl so it's all in the fermentation vessel.
  • Cover with a fermentation weight. Close with a lid. Fermentation kits often have an airlock built into them; if you're using a regular lid, don't close it super tight so that built-up gas can escape.
  • Taste the blueberries daily until they've reached an appropriate level of fermentation for your taste (see note below); this should take three to seven days, depending on the temperature. When fermented, store the jar in the fridge. Blueberries should remain in good condition for several weeks.


I found it took four days before we felt it was fully fermented. The taste test assessment will be a bit of a trial and error because it’s difficult to know what tastes ready if you haven’t tasted it before. Even if you’re uncertain, having the blueberries ferment for a minimum of three days means there’s at least some fermentation that’s occurred, so if you put them in the fridge a little too early, you’ll still benefit from a partial fermentation.
We found that salt fermentation led to a bit of a salty-sour taste that isn’t super appealing when eating the blueberries straight (versus in yogurt or a smoothie), so our next attempt will be fermenting using a sugar brine. (Update: here it is.)
Keyword Blueberries, Fermented Fruit

How to Pressure Can Potatoes

Every year my husband grows far too many potatoes.

We give some away and we attempt to eat as many potatoes as possible before they grow too many eyes. Fortunately, once the eyes get too numerous and too large, the potatoes are still usable as seed potatoes for the following year’s garden, so there’s no real waste here.

Recently, I’ve started canning potatoes and I’ve found this to be a really handy staple to have in the kitchen.

Canning potatoes is only recommended for red-skinned potatoes because they hold their shape best once they’re boiled and cooked. Light-skinned potatoes unfortunately turn to mush and are thus potentially unsafe for canning.

The process outlined in the recipe is fairly straight forward.

Wash and peel and cube potatoes, storing them in water as you go to prevent unwanted colour changes.

Cubed potatoes patiently waiting for me to cube more potatoes.

Once this is done, rinse the potatoes once more and blanch them as per the instructions below. Pack into pint or quart jars with a bit of salt (or a salt alternative if you’re watching your sodium) and top off with boiling water, then process in the pressure canner.

Since potatoes in water are a low-acid food, this must be done in a pressure canner and cannot be done in a water bath canner. Doing so in a water bath canner runs the risk of botulism, which has the unfortunate side effect of death.

You might be looking at this like I initially looked at this—with a bit of disinterest because canned potatoes doesn’t sound all that appetizing.

What I’ve found, though, is that canned potatoes are perfect for various uses in the kitchen, including:

  • Quick mashed potatoes—since it’s already cooked, you just have to heat and mash
  • Shepherd’s pie—skip the extra step of making mashed potatoes and just pull a jar of canned potatoes out of the cupboard, mash, and top your pie
  • An alternative to gnocchi—we love having gnocchi but I’m not always organized enough to remember to buy it when I’m grocery shopping, so I’ve learned that if I drain a can of potatoes and toss them into a pan with some oil and butter, they fry up nice and crispy and go great with some pesto sauce
  • The first step in gnocchi—if you want to make your own gnocchi, the first step is cooking potatoes, but using canned potatoes means that first step is already done
  • Potato bread (recipe here!)—I recently discovered an Irish potato flatbread where the first step is to boil and mash potatoes, but using canned potatoes cuts down the time dramatically

Canning Potatoes (Pressure Canner)

If you have a bumper crop of red-skinner potatoes and no cold storage to keep them for the long term, pressure canning them is a great way to preserve them. They're fully cooked in the jar, saving time when you're preparing them for dinner or other uses.
Prep Time 1 hr
Cook Time 40 mins
Course Side Dish


  • 1 Pressure Canner
  • Pint or Quart Mason Jars The exact number needed will vary based on the amount of potatoes you have.


  • Red-skinned potatoes These must be red-skinned potatoes as they hold their shape best after boiling. Other potatoes are not recommended for canning.
  • Water
  • Salt A sodium-free salt alternative could work if you're watching your sodium.


  • Wash potatoes, then peel them and cut them into cubes no bigger than half an inch. Small potatoes (1-2 inches) can be left whole, but must be peeled.
  • As you peel and chop the potatoes, put the cubes into a big bowl or pot filled with water. This prevents them from changing colour and also drains a bit of the starch from the potatoes.
  • Boil water in a big pot. You'll be blanching the potatoes, so it should be big enough to accommodate all of the potatoes, or at least to accommodate batches of potatoes. Boil additional water, either in a pot or a kettle; this will be for adding to the jars with the potatoes.
  • While waiting for the pot of water to boil, rinse the potatoes once more to wash away more starch.
  • Boil potato cubes for two minutes. If using small whole potatoes, boil them for ten minutes.
  • Drain the potatoes.
  • Pack into pint or quart mason jars, leaving one inch of headspace. Add ½ teaspoon of salt to each jar. (Adding salt is optional, but potatoes can be very bland without added salt at this step and sometimes the blandness can't be remedied.)
  • Add boiled water, maintaining one inch of headspace. Debubble and top up water if needed. Wipe jar rims, put on lid and screw band to fingertip tightness.
  • Process in a pressure canner as per your pressure canner's directions. *See note below.
    Pressure gauge at 10 lbs, dial gauge at 11 lbs. Adjust as necessary based on your altitude.
    Process pints for 35 minutes, quarts for 40 minutes.
  • When finished, bring canner pressure down as per canner instructions. Remove jars from canner and set on a heavy towel overnight to cool and seal. The next day, check that jars sealed; if any didn't seal, put them in the refrigerator and use them within a couple days.


Most pressure canners require a minimum load for the canner to work properly. My pressure canner requires a minimum load of two quarts / two litres. Since this is a variable recipe based on the amount of potatoes you have, you could end up with a too-small load. In this case, figure out how many jars need to be added to achieve the minimum load and fill those jars with boiled water and put on lids and screw bands to fingertip tightness, then add them to the canner.
If you can some water to achieve this minimum load, the processing time here is more than enough to safely can water, so you can keep this canned water on a shelf for emergencies or camping.
Keyword Potatoes, Pressure Canner

How to Make Grapefruit Soju

When I hang out with my friend group, we like to try to pair food or drinks to what we’re watching, and with some of us really getting into Korean dramas (K-dramas) lately, that’s meant we’ve been getting into soju, a Korean spirit. Soju is similar to vodka in that it has little to no taste (and sometimes we use it in place of vodka in a cocktail), but comes in at about half the alcohol percentage of vodka, making it an easier drink.

Earlier today I posted my Orange Soju recipe. Typically I make two batches—one orange and one grapefruit.

Here’s how to make grapefruit soju.

The ingredients are pretty simple. Two bottles of soju, two grapefruit, and sugar. After taking this photo I decided to add a lemon to it as well.

Finding soju can be tricky. Some places don’t carry it and then places that do carry it will put it in odd places since it doesn’t really fit anywhere. Here in Manitoba, our government-owned Liquor Marts are inconsistent with where they place it. One store has it with the whiskey, another has it with the sake, and yet another has it with the liqueurs, so I always have to ask the staff where to find it.

Making grapefruit soju—which is basically an infused drink—is ridiculously easy.

Simply cut up the grapefruit and lemon. I usually cut in quarters and then slice. The thinner and smaller the pieces are, the easier it will be for the juice to come out. At the same time, though, you don’t want to spend a lot of time dicing this up into tiny pieces.

Throw the fruit in a bowl and weigh it with a kitchen scale (being sure to hit the “tare” or “zero” button after putting the bowl on it, but before putting the fruit in it. Once you’ve got a weight, you’ll want to add half that weight of sugar.

Give it all a good stir with a spatula or wooden spoon, and then transfer the sugary fruit to a large jar or pitcher. Scrape out all the sugar with a spatula so you get it all in the jar.

Pour the two bottles of soju in, then give it all a good stir, and cover it and let it sit.

You’ll get sugar settling on the bottom and that’s normal. You can just let it sit on the counter for about a week and all that sugar will dissolve. If you want, you can speed up the process a bit by stirring or shaking it daily. Once it’s all dissolved, strain it. While straining, give the fruit a gentle press with the back of a spoon to extract more juice and alcohol.

From there, you simply bottle and enjoy!

We often serve it at room temperature, but serving it chilled is nice too.

As I posted in my orange soju post, I recently came up with an easy cocktail for this:

  • 5 oz grapefruit soju
  • 2.5 oz club soda
  • Mix in a glass with ice

If you have both grapefruit and orange soju on hand (I usually make them both at once), you could also use half orange and half grapefruit.

Drinking it straight, while definitely enjoyable, is a little too sweet and syrupy for my tastes, so the cocktail thins it out a bit and makes it a lot more drinkable.

Grapefruit Soju

Delicious and easy to make, grapefruit soju is a crowd pleaser for drinking straight or for mixing. This does have a bit of the grapefruit bitterness, so folks who don't enjoy grapefruit may not like this as much.
Prep Time 10 mins
Infusing Time 7 d
Course Drinks
Cuisine Korean


  • 1 Large jar or pitcher
  • 1 Food scale


  • 720 ml Soju
  • 2 Grapefruit
  • 1 Lemon
  • Sugar


  • Slice the grapefruit and lemon into small pieces. I usually quarter them, then slice the quarters.
  • Place a bowl on the digital scale and press the "tare" or "zero" button. Add the grapefruit and lemon slices to get a weight for the fruit.
  • Press the "tare" or "zero" button again. Add in half the weight of sugar. (If the fruit weighed 800 grams, add 400 grams of sugar.)
  • Mix the fruit and sugar with a spatula or large spoon. Once well mixed, transfer the fruit and sugar to a very large jar or pitcher. I use a spatula to get as much sugar as possible from the bowl into the jar.
  • Pour the soju on top and stir until well mixed.
  • Cover and let sit at room temperature for approximately a week. For the first few days, a layer of sugar will likely settle on the bottom, but will slowly dissolve. You can speed up this process by stirring it daily (or shaking it if it's in a jar with a secure lid).
  • Once the sugar has dissolved. Strain the soju and lightly press the fruit to extract more juice and alcohol.
  • Bottle, chill, and serve. See notes below for serving suggestions.


Soju is a Korean spirit that doesn’t have much of a taste. Typically it comes in around 20% and with the volume change from added juice, the final product is somewhere around 15%.
You might have to ask for help finding soju at your local liquor store. At my local store it’s with the whiskey, and in another store (in the same chain) it’s with the sake in the wine section.
I usually discard the fruit after straining, but theoretically they’d be alcohol-infused pieces of fruit and fully edible.
Feel free to mix up the citrus fruits a bit. I’ve also posted an orange soju. However, you could mix orange and grapefruit, or even go for a lemon and lime if that’s your thing.
Serving suggestions:
  • Grapefruit soju can be enjoyed straight.
  • If the soju is a bit too thick and syrupy for your taste, an easy cocktail is to add 5 oz orange soju and 2.5 oz club soda to a glass filled with ice. This thins out the texture a little bit and the sparkling water makes it feel a little extra special.
  • If serving this with a meal, I’d suggest making this a dessert drink.
Keyword Alcohol, Soju

How to Make Orange Soju

Soju is a Korean spirit that I liken to a lighter vodka—it has little to no taste and usually comes in around 20%, whereas vodka is usually 40%.

This vodka comparison means it can be consumed a few ways. Sometimes we drink it straight, sipping from shot glasses, sometimes we have it over ice, sometimes we’ll use soju in place of vodka in a cocktail, and sometimes I infuse soju with fruit to make a refreshing, sweet, delicious alcohol.

As far as my infused alcohols go, this one is quite simple and affordable. All you need are two oranges, a lemon, some sugar, and two bottles of soju. Even at the very expensive alcohol prices here in the province of Manitoba, a bottle of soju comes in around $11.

While two lemons are pictured, in the end, I only put in one.

To start, slice up the oranges and lemon. I usually cut them in quarters and then slice it up from there. The more surface area you have, the better—so you ideally wants lots of little slices rather than big, fat chunks.

From there, you’ll want to weigh the fruit using a kitchen scale. With some quick math, you then want to add half the weight in sugar. I think the oranges and lemon came in around 900 grams, so I added about 450 grams of plain white sugar.

Mix up the fruit and sugar to get everything nice and evenly coated. The sugar will help draw the juices out of the fruit, so you really want it all over.

Then pour everything into a very large jar or a pitcher. I’ve got some nice big gallon fermentation jars where I’ve just put a piece of tape over the hole where the airlock goes. (There’s no fermentation here, so you don’t have to worry about gas buildup.)

Pretty soon, if it doesn’t happen immediately, you’ll see a thick layer of sugar settle on the bottom of the jar. This is normal!

Let this jar sit on the kitchen counter for about a week. Over that time the sugar will slowly dissolve. You can speed along the process if you’d like by stirring it daily. Or, if the lid is secure, you could shake it.

Once the sugar is fully dissolved, strain the soju. I usually take a two-litre / eight-cup Pyrex glass measurer and set my mesh strainer on top. I just dump the whole thing out. I’d recommend pressing the fruit lightly with a spatula or spoon to squeeze out some extra juice and alcohol, but you don’t want to squeeze too hard because you might force some pulp through the mesh.

From there, simply bottle it up. Theoretically it can sit on the shelf for months. The sugar and alcohol would preserve everything and prevent mould or other contaminants. However, we rarely have this around for more than a week.

Because of the juice that’s pulled from the fruit you will end up with more orange soju than the original soju you had put in. The two bottles I’d put in amounted to about three cups and I got five cups of final product. This also lowers the alcohol percentage of the final drink, likely putting it somewhere around 15%.

We tend to drink this straight in small glasses, but I sometimes find it just a little too syrupy, so a quick and simple cocktail I devised is:

  • 5 oz orange soju
  • 2.5 oz club soda
  • Mix in a glass with ice

Because I made orange soju and grapefruit soju at the same time, I varied up that cocktail a few times by making it half orange and half grapefruit. Either way, this makes the consistency thinner, the taste slightly less intense, and the whole thing becomes even more drinkable.

This soju recipe is adapted from a TikTok video by Johnny Kyung Hwo Sheldrick.

Orange Soju

Delicious and easy to make, orange soju is a crowd pleaser for drinking straight or for mixing.
Prep Time 10 mins
Infusing Time 7 d
Course Drinks
Cuisine Korean


  • Large jar or pitcher
  • Food scale


  • 720 ml Soju Soju is sold here in 360 ml bottles, so this is two bottles.
  • 2 Orange
  • 1 Lemon
  • Sugar


  • Slice the oranges and lemon into small pieces. I usually quarter them, then slice the quarters.
  • Place a bowl on the digital scale and press the "tare" or "zero" button. Add the orange and lemon slices to get a weight for the fruit.
  • Press the "tare" or "zero" button again. Add in half the weight of sugar. (If the fruit weighed 800 grams, add 400 grams of sugar.)
  • Mix the fruit and sugar with a spatula or large spoon. Once well mixed, transfer the fruit and sugar to a very large jar or pitcher. I use a spatula to get as much sugar as possible from the bowl into the jar.
  • Pour the soju on top and stir until well mixed.
  • Cover and let sit at room temperature for approximately a week. For the first few days, a layer of sugar will likely settle on the bottom, but will slowly dissolve. You can speed up this process by stirring it daily (or shaking it if it's in a jar with a secure lid).
  • Once the sugar has dissolved. Strain the soju and lightly press the fruit to extract more juice and alcohol.
  • Bottle, chill, and serve. See notes below for serving suggestions.


Soju is a Korean spirit that doesn’t have much of a taste. Typically it comes in around 20% and with the volume change from added juice, the final product is somewhere around 15%.
You might have to ask for help finding soju at your local liquor store. At my local store it’s with the whiskey, and in another store (in the same chain) it’s with the sake in the wine section.
I usually discard the fruit after straining, but theoretically they’d be alcohol-infused pieces of fruit and fully edible.
Feel free to mix up the citrus fruits a bit. I’ve also posted a grapefruit soju. However, you could mix orange and grapefruit, or even go for a lemon and lime if that’s your thing.
Serving suggestions:
  • Orange soju can be enjoyed straight.
  • If the soju is a bit too thick and syrupy for your taste, an easy cocktail is to add 5 oz orange soju and 2.5 oz club soda to a glass filled with ice. This thins out the texture a little bit and the sparkling water makes it feel a little extra special.
  • If serving this with a meal, I’d suggest making this a dessert drink.
Keyword Alcohol, Soju

How to Make Chili in the Pressure Canner

I’m the literal worst at packing a lunch for work. It’s not unusual for me to show up at work with little more than a dinner roll that I grabbed out of the freezer. So when I got a pressure canner for Christmas 2021, I immediately set out to can a bunch of lunch things that I can just grab on my way out the door.

First on my list of canned lunches was chili!

Here in Winnipeg, the east-west centre of Canada, it can get pretty darn cold in winter. As I’m writing the draft of this post in January, we just got through a week of -30C temperatures with a fierce wind that made the “feels like” temperature dip down to -45C. (That’s -22F and -49F.) On days like this, a warm bowl of chili always hits the spot.

When I pull one of these out for lunch, they’re perfectly fine and delicious as-is, but if I’ve got my act together and I’m not literally rushing out the door to get to work, I’ll usually pack a few little containers of toppings. What goes particularly nice on here is a dollop of sour cream, a heavy pinch of shredded cheese (and I usually buy a bag of pre-shredded cheese for the convenience factor), and some dehydrated green onions (which I’ll likely post about this fall).

Alternatively, canning these in pint jars, as the recipe calls for, means you have an easy weeknight dinner for two. Pop open a jar, dump it in a pot, and heat it till it’s simmering.

This recipe is adapted from Healthy Canning.

The recipe is pretty straight-forward and easy to follow. The unsweetened cocoa will sound like a very odd ingredient, but I encourage you to just go for it and add it in! It does not taste chocolatey at all. I’ve had a few dishes over the years with unsweetened cocoa; the one coming to mind were chicken skewers that were coated in cocoa and ground hot pepper and it was super tasty. Despite us in North America thinking of chocolate as only a sweet treat, cocoa powder is a part of savoury dishes in Central and South America.

Chili (Pressure Canner)

Pre-made shelf-stable chili in mason jars makes the perfect workweek lunch or easy dinner.
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 2 hrs 15 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Mexican
Servings 8 Pints


  • 1 Pressure Canner
  • 9 Pint Mason Jars OR 18 Half-Pint Mason Jars


  • 500 grams Dried kidney beans Beans need to be soaked in water overnight. I used 454g / 1lb since that's the size of the bag I bought.
  • 1.5 kilogram Extra-lean ground beef
  • 200 grams Onion, chopped
  • 150 grams Peppers, seeded and chopped I used two jalapeños and part of a bell pepper.
  • 2 litres Crushed tomatoes
  • 1 Tbsp Chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp Garlic powder
  • 1 Tbsp Ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp Ground cumin
  • 1 Tbsp Ground oregano
  • 2 Tbsp Salt
  • 2 Tbsp Unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 Tbsp Lime juice This can be bottled or freshly-squeezed, as it's here for flavour, not food safety purposes.


  • The night before: Wash beans. Place beans in a large pot or bowl and cover with several inches of water. Let stand overnight.
  • Drain beans and put in a large pot (I needed a very large pot; a lot gets added to it later on) and cover with water. Bring to a boil and then lower the temperature and simmer for 30 minutes.
  • While the beans are simmering, put the ground beef, onions, and peppers into a very large pan and brown the beef, breaking it up as it cooks. Drain the fat from the pan once it’s browned.
  • Drain the beans and then return them to the pot.
  • Add the beef mixture to the bean pot. Add the rest of the ingredients. Stir and heat until it boils, then lower the temperature and simmer for five minutes.
  • Pack the chili into canning jars, leaving a 1-inch headspace. Either pint (1/2 litre) or half-pint (1/4 litre) jars can be used. The half-pint jars are great for grab-and-go lunches.
  • Debubble and adjust headspace if needed. Wipe jar rims. Put the lids on and tighten to fingertip tightness.
  • Place in pressure canner and follow canner instructions. Process for 75 minutes. If using a weighted gauge, process at 10 lbs pressure; if using a dial gauge, process at 11 lbs pressure. If you are over 1000 feet / 300 meters, adjust the pressure accordingly.
  • When fully processed and canner has cooled as per canner instructions, remove jars from canner and let sit on a thick towel, undisturbed, for 24 hours. Check after 24 hours. If the lids have sealed, the jars can be stored. If any lids failed to seal, refrigerate and consume within a few days.


Unsweetened cocoa powder can seem like a very strange thing to add to chili, but do try it! Chocolate is a part of traditional Central American cuisine, including in savoury/spicy dishes like chili.
Keyword Chili, Pressure Canner

Canning 101

I’m relatively new to canning—the process of putting food into jars and making them shelf-stable so they can sit in your pantry for up to a year or longer—and at first it seemed super intimidating. While my mom had a water bath canner, she doesn’t know much about canning, which meant that my whole process of learning how to do this was done by reading as much as I could on the internet and then just giving it a try.

After a couple years of figuring out water bath canning, I got a pressure canner for Christmas. This greatly expanded my repertoire of canning recipes and has allowed me to also do things like meals in a jar.

If you’re brand new to canning, here’s what I’d consider the 101 to get you started:

Some Basic Terminology

  • Canning: The process of putting food in jars and making them shelf-stable for long-term storage.
  • Water Bath Canner: Some foods are processed by using a water bath canner, which processes and seals the jars by submerging them in boiling water.
  • Pressure Canner: Other foods are processed by using a pressure canner, which operates similarly to a pressure cooker to raise the pressure (and thus the temperature) to achieve even hotter temperatures to process and seal jars. A pressure cooker cannot double as a pressure canner, even if the pressure cooker tells you it can be used for pressure canning.
  • Headspace: When filling the jars, recipes say to leave a headspace of a certain amount. This is how “full” you make the jars; if the recipe calls for a headspace of an inch, you fill the jar to within an inch from the top.

Water Bath Canning

A water bath canner is essentially a large pot. It includes a rack that sits in the bottom of the pot so that the jars don’t touch the bottom. Once the filled jars are put in the pot, water is added to completely submerge the jars and cover with at least an inch of water. The stove is turned on and the once the water comes to a full boil, the processing time begins. If the water ever stops boiling, the water must come to a boil again and the processing time restarted. (So don’t turn down the temperature too much.)

As the water boils around the jars, the contents of the jars heat up and oxygen escapes. The wax rings on the lids soften. When processing is done, turn off the stove and let the water stop boiling. Let it sit for a few minutes, and then carefully remove the jars using a jar lifter and put them on a thick towel somewhere to sit overnight. Do not tilt the jars or lay them sideways; keep them upright until they’ve fully cooled overnight.

Foods processed using water bath canning are typically high-sugar or high-acid foods. Processing the jars in boiling water kills most pathogens, but there’s still a risk of botulism, which thrives in low-oxygen environments. Canning creates a low-oxygen environment in the jars, but the high-sugar or high-acid content inhibits the growth of botulism, making the foods safe to sit on a shelf and be eaten at a later date.

Pressure Canning

Like a water bath canner, a pressure canner is essentially a large pot. These ones have lockable lids, though, and equipment and attachments to raise the pressure within the pot and monitor that pressure.

I have a Presto 23-quart induction compatible pressure canner. This one comes with a screw gauge to regulate the pressure, but after reading several recommendations on the internet, I upgraded the screw gauge to a weighted gauge. So, rather than me having to constantly fiddle with the gauge through the processing time to ensure proper pressure is maintained, I instead just have to keep an eye on the weighted gauge to ensure it’s “rocking” properly, allowing me to do other things while my jars process. (If the pressure ever drops too low, then the pressure must be raised again and the processing time starts over.)

Pressure canners come with their own specific instructions on how to process jars, so always follow the instructions that come with your pressure canner.

Unlike water bath canning, jars in a pressure canner are not completely submerged. The pressure canner allows the water and steam to reach higher temperatures than can be achieved in a water bath canner, and it uses the steam to process the jars. Similar to water bath canning, most oxygen escapes from the jars and they sit on a thick towel overnight so that the lids properly seal.

Pressure canned foods do not have to be high-sugar or high-acid, because the higher processing temperature kills off any botulism that could be in the jars, making it safe to store in your pantry and eat at a later day.

General Safety Tips

  • Always use lab-tested recipes. Because there are potentially serious health considerations when canning (botulism can kill you), always use recipes that have been fully tested. Some good places to find these recipes include Bernardin, Ball, and Healthy Canning (which generally compiles recipes from elsewhere, though they sometimes customize the seasoning a bit).
  • Follow the recipe exactly. Part of what makes a recipe safe is the density of the food in the jars. If something is too dense, then heat cannot fully penetrate the jar and heat the food to the required level. So if a recipe calls for certain foods, do not swap them out for others or add something the recipe doesn’t call for. This also includes using bottled lemon juice rather than freshly-squeezed lemon juice, if the recipe calls for it, as bottled lemon juice is guaranteed to have a certain level of acidity that you can’t rely on fresh lemons providing.
  • Some variations are allowed. Typically, the only variations that are safe to experiment with come down to any dried seasonings that are added. Always thoroughly research or access help from Master Food Preservers before proceeding.
  • Use the recommended jar size or smaller. Always use the jar size the recipe calls for. You can go smaller if you wish. (I have a family of two, so sometimes I don’t want large jars of food that I open and then have to use up.) You cannot go larger. Going larger means that the contents of the jar might not heat to the necessary level, putting you at risk of food contaminated with bacteria or other microbes that could prove harmful.
  • Be careful when doubling a recipe. In general, it’s okay to double or triple a recipe. It’s usually a good idea to write out the new ingredient quantities before you start canning so that you don’t get caught up trying to do doubling or tripling math on the fly. This does not apply to jams and jellies. Anything with pectin cannot be doubled or tripled unless it is a special type of pectin meant for doubling/tripling. If you try doubling a jam recipe, the jam will not set properly.
    • Before I knew this rule, I had tried doubling a recipe for ginger marmalade (which goes great on a baked brie). It didn’t set properly, so I threw it in the freezer just in case and used it as a cooking sauce for chicken.
  • Always use new lids. You can reuse jars and the metal rims, but you must use a new lid each time. If you reuse a lid, the wax ring has already been used once and may not properly seal when used a second time.
  • Sterilizing the jars is optional. A lot of recipes have you sterilizing the jars as step one. However, research has found that if the filled jars are processed for at least ten minutes, then any bacterial contaminants in the jar are killed off. If the recipe calls for the food to be processed for five minutes, you can generally double that to ten minutes with no effect on the food. If sterilizing the jars is something you want to do for that extra feeling of safety, definitely feel free to do so.
  • Test the lids the next morning. After everything has fully cooled, test the lids in the morning to ensure a proper seal has formed. First is a visual inspection; the lids should be slightly curved inward due to a lack of air in the jars. Second is a manual inspection. Remove the rings and gently try to lift the lid off. If it’s stuck in place, it’s properly sealed. If the lid comes off easily, then the jar did not seal. Any unsealed jars should be put in the fridge and consumed promptly.
  • Remove the rings when storing the jars. It’s generally recommended to store the jars without the rings. They could rust and adhere to the lid, or they could be holding the lid down in a way that makes it look like it’s sealed when it’s not. To be honest, I’m not the best with following this rule. I have, however, once gone to open a jar and after taking the ring off, discovered that the jar had never properly sealed and the ring was holding it in place. I had to throw out the contents of that jar, just in case.

Equipment You Need to Can

  • Water bath canner, if wanting to do water bath canning
  • Pressure canner, if wanting to do pressure canning
  • Mason jars
    • You can order these on Amazon in the sizes you want, but I’ve found they’re usually cheaper at grocery stores, Canadian Tire, and Walmart
    • Jars can be reused as long as they are not cracked or chipped, so you can even sometimes find them at yard sales
    • You should not re-use pasta sauce jars or other similar jars, even if they say the word “mason” on them, since they may not be true mason jars and might crack during processing
  • Metal rings
    • New jars come with metal rings, but when you start re-using jars you might need additional rings in case some get lost or become damaged
    • Again, you could order these on Amazon, but they’re usually cheaper in grocery stores, Canadian Tire, and Walmart
  • Lids
    • New jars come with new lids, so you need these when you’re re-using jars and have discarded old lids
    • Again, you could order these on Amazon, but they’re usually cheaper in grocery stores, Canadian Tire, and Walmart
  • Jar-lifter
  • Digital Scale
    • Most recipes give measurements in weight, as that’s the most accurate
  • Optional equipment
    • Funnel: I really like this. It makes it easy to get stuff in jars without making a mess all over the place, and some of them even have measurements on them so you can accurately assess headspace. This is the one I have; there are cheaper ones on Amazon but they don’t appear to have the measurements to help with headspace.
    • Magnetic lid lifter: If you sterilize your jars, you’re supposed to put the lids in lightly-simmering water to sterilize and warm them. A magnetic lid-lifter lets you pick them up from the hot water and put them on the jar without risking contaminating the underside with your fingers. (I don’t use one of these.) Here’s one that comes with a jar lifter, or here’s one that comes with scrapers.
    • Scraper: You’re supposed to scrape the insides of jars with a non-metal utensil to remove air bubbles that are trapped in the food. You can buy this sort of thing, or you can use a chopstick, or plastic cutlery. I just use a chopstick, but if you’re looking for a fancy one, here’s a couple scrapers that come with lid lifters.
    • Something to open jars: I used to pry them open with my fingernails and that usually ended with chipped fingernails. My mom found a paint can opener at Home Depot that works perfectly for prying off lids. I’ve found some bottle openers similarly do the trick if you can hook it under the lip of the lid. I can sometimes use the handle of a spoon or the ring from the jar to wedge between the lid lip and the glass thread on the jar, giving it a little twist and popping the lid off.

What Urban Homesteading Means to Me

In my self-education quest of learning how to preserve our massive garden harvest, I latched on to the homesteading subculture. If you take a cruise through homesteading sites, most of them are folks who are living rurally and/or on farms and are looking to be self-sufficient. For some this could be because they’re in a spot where a good snowstorm could knock out power and close roads, and for others they might have religious or political reasons. (I won’t get into it, but some of those sites make this gay, urban, science-trusting, millennial guy a little uncomfortable.)

Homesteading looks a lot different for me in an urban setting. Do I really need to be entirely self-sufficient?

I don’t, and I don’t think it’s possible. Our little slice of urban property isn’t big enough to provide all of the food that we consume in a year and we have no room for any sort of power generation like solar panels.

What it look like, though, is making the best use of the little piece of land that we have.

Our backyard garden, and our neighbour’s garden (which we also do)

It saves money

My husband loves to garden and he always wants to do better than the year before, so that means we have a surprisingly massive fall harvest for such a tiny garden. That’s where I come in—I have to preserve it all.

Rising grocery costs are our primary driver for growing, harvesting, and preserving our own food. This was our motivation before the recent spike in prices, and the recent surges in prices make me thankful that we’ve put in all this work over the years. Our weekly grocery bill hasn’t risen by much since a lot of the staples we buy seem to be the things that have had reasonably-steady prices.

It’s impressive (while saving money)

We’re known for the fancy barbecues we put on. It’s almost lavish with the sheer amount of seemingly-gourmet foods we bring out and the near-endless supply of fancy drinks.

The secret—and this isn’t really a secret since we’re quite open about it—is that a big proportion of that lavishness is home-grown and home-preserved food and all I have to do is open a jar. I might do a simple salad, but if I then lay out the options of toppings, like dandelion capers, sundried cherry tomatoes (dehydrated tomatoes stored in olive oil), and pickled beets, with an infused vinegar and oil dressing… it feels expensive and gourmet. But it’s dirt cheap and took no prep time on barbecue day.

We also get to experience some of the gourmet-ness with our daily dinners—such as chicken pesto with homemade pesto sauce just the way we like it (made months ago and frozen in a serving-size jar) with homegrown frozen veggies thrown in and served with a side of crusty bread home-baked the day before.

Sure, it takes prep work, but that work is done in advance on a day when I’ve set aside some time to do it. When I come home from work exhausted and need to cook up dinner before we head out to a movie, it takes next to no effort to put together something that’s delicious, healthy, and feels fancy.

Chicken and mushrooms in garlic cream sauce

It’s healthy (while still saving money)

I’m not one of those folks that gets too concerned about what’s in store-bought food. I trust that the food industry is regulated well-enough that if what’s in my food isn’t healthy, it’s at least not harmful.

However, it does allow me to make tweaks to make things healthier. My husband’s favourite food is pesto and the jars of pesto from the grocery store or either very salty or very oily (which makes sense since oil is a main ingredient). When I make pesto at home, I replace some of the oil with lemon juice—not only does it mean there’s a little less oil in there (and thus I don’t feel guilty about having it frequently), but the lemon juice adds a brightness to the flavour.

If you’re someone that gets concerned about additives and preservatives in store-bought food, home food preservation helps you avoid some of those things.

It changes the local ecosystem

This I did not expect.

When we first moved in, the only birds in the area were grackles (which are sort of like smaller crows) and a pair of mourning doves. But as we basically converted our property from boring grass to a little piece of farmland with a front yard full of fruit bushes, the ecosystem of our property evolved.

I don’t know my birds very well, but while there are a few grackles still around, they’ve mostly moved away. Now we have dozens of different bird varieties that visit our property regularly, like blue jays, sparrows, woodpeckers, hummingbirds, and many more that I don’t know the names of. We even once had a peregrine falcon sit on our fence for a bit (after it unfortunately crashed into our window).

The cats certainly enjoyed this change. It gives them something to watch from the windows.

Wizard warning off the birds

It’s adaptable

While I do a huge laundry list of homesteader-type things, homesteading activities are adaptable to wherever you might be located. I know folks who live in apartments and can’t have a garden, but they have a few potted vegetable plants on their balcony and break out the canner to do some pickling at the end of the season.

These activities also don’t require homegrown food at all. I do a lot of pressure canning so we have heat-and-eat meals when we’re tight on time but don’t want take-out. When I do my weekly grocery shopping I keep an eye out for discounted chicken thighs and discounted stewing beef—not only am I looking for cheaper cuts, but I’m looking for the “here’s 50% off but you have to use it today because it expires today” meat. I just throw it in the freezer when I get home and when I have enough stored I thaw and can them.

It can also be a way to preserve food you get a good deal. I once scooped up several bags of parsnips that were on sale for less than half price and used them for some of the food preservation recipes I have on hand.

Whether you have an acreage, a small urban garden, a few potted plants on the balcony, or none of these but you like taking on the challenge of these projects, urban homesteading is a practice that can be adapted to circumstances, time, and interest.

My Food Preservation Journey

Several years ago, my husband decided he wanted to try gardening as a way to get him away from the computer and out of work mode. Since he works from home, it’s very easy to be in that mode 24/7—but if he goes outside and leaves all technology inside, he’s forced to take a break from it.

What started as “just a little strip of dirt for some potatoes” quickly evolved to our whole back yard. Then the strip alongside our house. Then the front yard. Then the neighbour’s back yard (which he had been using as a garden until recent years). And now we’re helping the neighbours on the other side develop a garden too.

My husband and I are a two-person family and we end up with hundreds of pounds of vegetables, fruits, and herbs. In other words, it was far too much food for us to eat as we were harvesting it. We needed to figure out how to preserve as much of it as we could. We have a tiny house, so that means no basement cold storage and no deep freezer. We have the freezer in the kitchen, but it can’t hold anywhere near enough.

An IKEA bag of beets

I started with finding storage

My mom doesn’t live too far from us and, thankfully, she lets us store some food in her place. She has a cold storage room in the basement that’s perfect for our potatoes and squash. And she has a deep freezer, which I fill up every year with bags and bags and bags and bags of washed, chopped, and frozen rhubarb.

There are some easy-to-store-in-a-tiny-house things, like popping corn. That usually fills a few jars that we can easily store in our snack cupboard, and some of the other items that come up in the following sections—like freezing, canning, and fermenting—have found storage spots in our house.

I then started freezing

There are a few things that freeze well. Brussels sprouts are one of them.

My husband loves pesto for dinner and over the years I’ve developed a handful of pesto recipes. There’s the traditional basil pesto and sundried tomato pesto, but I also make garden pesto (with spinach, kale, and Swiss chard), kale pesto, and green onion pesto. I’ve learned these freeze really well in single-serving glass jars that I purchased from the dollar store. Plus, they store much longer than they should—every recipe I’ve read said they can stay in the freezer three to six months, but right now (2023) we’re eating pesto that I made in the fall of 2021 (about 18 months ago) and it’s still great.

I discovered canning

I knew very little about canning other than the fact that you could pickle things and store it in the cupboard until opened. We got into this because my husband loves beets, but they don’t seem to store very well for us, so I needed to figure out a way to preserve them. I knew my mom had an old water bath canner kicking around, so I stole it from her and taught myself pickled beets. It took some time but it was easy to do and my husband loves them.

From there, we’ve experimented with pickling a huge number of things. Some have worked out great and some not so much. I love my pickled hot peppers, but neither of us cared for pickled carrots.

In 2022, given that we were starting to grow more produce than we could reasonably eat in a year, I signed up for a few farmers markets. I canned a bunch of pickled things and got into jams and jellies. It was a moderate success, but I figured out a bit about what people are looking for at a market, so I’m hoping future years will be more successful.

Rhubarb simple syrup (for cocktails) and caramelized onion jam with Balsamic vinegar

I took the leap into pressure canning

There were some pressure canning recipes I wanted to try, but couldn’t. Pressure canning gets the jars hotter than a water bath canner is able to do, so the recipes are not swappable between types of canners. In particular there was a cherry tomato pasta sauce and a seasoned tomato juice cocktail. I made both of them, but since I lacked a pressure canner, I stored them in the freezer.

I got a pressure canner for Christmas in 2021 and quickly dove head-first into that. I got a great cookbook for pressure canners—Pressure Canning for Beginners and Beyond by Angi Schneider—and worked my way through a lot of it. In addition to the older recipes of cherry tomato sauce and seasoned tomato juice cocktail, I was suddenly canning soups and stews for lunches and heat-and-eat meals for dinners. These easy dinners became a real life saver during busy times of year like harvest season or Christmas holidays—I could have a nutritious and delicious meal on the table in under twenty minutes with next to no effort.

Then came the dehydrator

I needed to preserve some foods that weren’t canned, mostly because we could only consume so many jars of the same thing within a year and we needed some variety. I started with dehydrating cherry tomatoes, which became a delicious after-work snack (just shake a few out of the jar and pop them in my mouth) and an impressive appetizer for when guests come over (rehydrate them in some olive oil and serve with crackers and fancy cheese).

I struggled with figuring out how to best use my dehydrator, though the sheer number of dehydrated tomatoes alone made it worth the purchase price. Recently, we started getting into planting herbs, so I’ve been using it to dry the herbs as a way to store them.

And then there was fermenting

I’d heard that fermenting was a way of preserving food but I really struggled to find recipes that were appealing to us. My first experiment were fermented cherry tomatoes—they have an interesting champagne texture on the tongue (they’re fizzy), but they didn’t really taste all that great to us.

Eventually I took a fermenting workshop. We did a fermented sauerkraut and kombucha. The sauerkraut was a hit at our barbecues and the kombucha was a hit with my husband. I now make kombucha weekly. I’ve grown to become comfortable with fermenting—my biggest lesson was that fermenting is more of an art than a science. There’s room for experimentation once you understand the basics.

Which eventually led to baking

It seemed like everyone’s COVID pandemic hobby was learning how to make bread. I never got into it. Well, we did get a second-hand bread machine from my husband’s uncle, but I was never really happy with the results.

In late 2022 I finally got bitten by the “I want to learn how to make bread” bug. But I didn’t want to do something easy and straight forward. No, I wanted to learn how to make sourdough. And learn how to make my own sourdough starter (which is fermented flour). Following some online tutorials, I created my own starter and made my first loaf. With some tips from some online friends, I tweaked the recipe to better fit my climate here in the depths of Winnipeg winter. I’ve expanded from there with focaccia and English muffin bread. I’ve got a list of recipes I want to work through in the coming months.

Along the way, things got a little tipsy

During this whole process, I started learning wine and beer making using kits from homebrew stores. Once I got the general process under my belt, that allowed me to experiment with garden wines and infused alcohols.

For garden wines, I’ve made rhubarb wine, dandelion wine, parsnip wine, lemon wine, and rosemary wine. For the most part, they’ve been great—some better than others.

For infusing (putting alcohol and fruit/veg/herbs together), my big one is rhubarb ginger gin. It’s hard to keep that one stocked in my home bar because everyone wants a taste and then a second glass. Beyond that I’ve done rhubarb schnapps, a Bing cherry liqueur, and citrus-infused soju.

Citrus soju

And next…?

I don’t know if there’s a new food preservation technique I’m looking to take on, but I definitely want to expand and solidify my experience and knowledge in all of these things.

All of this is what’s led to this blog.

I’ve accumulated so many recipes over the years and adapted or created some of my own, and I need a place to store them and share them. I get a lot of compliments on my kitchen skills because the food I make usually seems difficult or expensive to make, but really my motto of food has always been “How can I make this super delicious but also super affordable and super easy?”

I love food. I’ve learned I love to preserve food. And I love sharing that food with other people.