How I Made 15 Meals For My Freezer; Saving Me Time, Money and, Effort
In a previous article, “Under Pressure — Why every Prepper Needs a Pressure Canner” we discussed that one of the benefits of having a pressure canner is that you can cook with it too. Today, we are going to talk about how I made about 15 meals worth of bean and ham soup in mine. I stored most of this soup in my freezer to eat later. While a frozen food may not always be there when food a disaster takes out power, using a freezer does add diversity to your food storage. It is also just a great way to save time and money for those times when there isn’t a disaster. Bean and ham soup is delicious and making it in large batches is just the best way to do it. It freezes very well. Below, are pictures of how I did it.
Note: clicking on images, then clicking a second time, will allow you to view them full size.
- 1 How I Made 15 Meals For My Freezer; Saving Me Time, Money and, Effort
- 1.1 Ingredients
- 1.2 Let’s Get Cooking
- 1.3 Results
- 1.4 Final Thoughts
- 1.5 Next Up
- 1.6 Subscribe
- 1.7 Read More about Pressure Canners Here
- 2 Related
I like to buy half hams to have for various purposes. I use them for cutting slices off of to saute or I cube them for omelets. Sometimes I roast the whole thing for dinner. Either way, I end up with ham bones. I tend to leave some meat on the bones for later, too. I vacuum seal those meaty ham bones for long term freezer storage.
The reason I save the bones is for bone broth. That’s what we will be making for our soup today. Bone broth adds flavor to the soup. That’s my primary motivation for making it. There is a lot of hype about bone broth but I think a lot of it is just something to give health magazines something to write about. It’s really a shame this happens over and over again in nutrition because so many people don’t know what to eat to be healthy.
Time magazine points out that “Science Can’t Explain Why Everyone is Drinking Bone Broth.” Well, I gave you a rational reason to include it in your soup, above. Bone broth tastes good. It’s can improve your health by allowing you not to put artificial flavors in your food. It can also improve your health by making your soup delicious so you will be less likely to eat fast food.
Vacuum sealing the bones is very important because air is the death of food in the freezer. This allows you to store them for a very long time, even a couple of years before using them. I use a FoodSaver like the one found here on Amazon. I like this one because it can also be used, with added accessories to seal canning jars. If you don’t have a FoodSaver, wrapping your ham bones in foil will get similar results. So will freezing them in a bag with water.
To get extra meat for the soup, I kept some slices of one of my ham bones. I cubed these ham slices. Then I added them, to the soup, later in the cooking process.
As soon as I put the ham in the pot, I got out my beans. I’m using a combination of 15 Bean Soup and Pinto Beans in this soup. You can see that I have about 6 pounds of beans here. I buy the beans at the grocery store. It’s the cheapest place to get them.
The 15 Bean Soup came with these ham flavor packets. These things are tasty but not necessary when using boiled ham bones. I saved these packets for SHTF or for later when I want to make a quick ham soup, using canned or frozen ham.
Let’s Get Cooking
Simmer the ham bones
I put a few ham bones in a stock pot and simmered them for about an hour. This is how you get the bone broth. They were not done in an hour but you’ll see what I did to finish them below.
Sort / Inspect the beans. Put the beans on a tray, one layer deep….
… Look for and remove any dirt balls or dirty beans. This one dirt ball was all I removed from
Soaking The Beans
I soaked the beans in water from my Berkey filter. I live in the suburbs and I get water from the city. It has Chlorine in it and I don’t care for the flavor. The Berkey removes the chlorine and makes the water taste good. I guess it would also taste better in my food. I used to always buy gallon bottles of water to drink but I never cooked with it because of expense. Berkey water is much cheaper than bottled water but tastes just as good.
There are so many sizes and options for Berkeys that they are an article onto themselves. Perhaps I’ll get to that at a later date. In the mean time, you can see a large variety of them on Amazon. I’m also using glass bottles to move the water to the pot. I have the bottles because I bought the smallest Berkey. I don’t have a lot of space. The bottles extend its capacity and let me store them in the fridge. One fo them I bought here. The other one is a Carlo Rossi bottle wine bottle, that I cleaned out.
It doesn’t look like there are a lot of beans in this 23 quart Pressure canner, but trust me, 6 pounds is about this canner’s limit, with the other ingredients. You’ll notice I’m soaking them in the canner too. This is because I am going to do a hot soak. This speeds up the soaking time from about 24 hours to 1 hour. To do a hot soak, you just bring the beans to a boil, with the lid not locked on and no weight on the vent. Then shut the stove off and wait.
Do not put salt in the soak water of any food you are rehydrating — ever. Salt is a way to dry things. We are trying to do the opposite of that here. It can impact that process.
See, I told you that was a lot of beans. They swell up quite a bit. That is the strainer for an 8 court stock pot and steamer. That’s approximately 7 quarts of beans. This, with the ham bones is about the maximum quantity my 23 quart pressure canner can cook. There are fill lines in it for beans and rice, due to foam. You don’t want foam in your vent pipe. It can clog it and cause dangerous over pressure. A canner comes with instructions talking about this. Be sure to read them before using it.
Always drain your beans. Many beans contain toxic chemicals, in small quantities, in their skins. Soaking draws them out and it’s healthier to drain the soak water off.
Here you can see the fill lines cut into the side of a Presto Pressure Canner. The lower fill line is for beans. You have to keep the beans and water below the fill line for safe cooking. You are also supposed to add some fat to the pot. Oil breaks down foam. Try this with anything foaming. Dish soap in the sing, your beer, or that pot of pasta that is overflowing the stove, for example. Ad the tiniest amount of oil to it and watch the foam be destroyed. If you have oily fingers, just touching the head of a beer will destroy it. That’s how powerful this is. The ham had fat in it, so that was my oil. It’s not perfect though and the beans will still foam, so you need to use the fill line.
Years ago, I demonstrated the foam killing ability of oil, in a completely different context. Here is a very short video of me doing just that. I have a protein skimmer for my salt water fish tank that is supposed to foam but it is just doing it too much. The skimmer is overflowing and I needed to slow the foam down. I used oil to regulate the foam. If you don’t know what any of that means, don’t worry. Just watch the video and watch foam get put down by oil, in seconds.
Pressure Cook the Beans and The Ham
I put the beans, ham bones and ham bone broth in the pressure cooker. I also added garlic, onions and a bit of Italian seasoning, but not much of that. You’ll see why below.
You might be wondering why I simmered the ham for an hour and now I’m pressure cooking it. The answer is that the ham takes longer to cook than the beans do. Simmering it for an hour, gave it a head start. It was not done at this stage but was on its way. Putting it in the cooker finished it up at the same time as the beans. Pressure cooking beans, is the best way to cook them. It speeds up the process and it just does a better job. The ham was completely done and the meat falling off the bone, when it came out. The flavor of the ham bones was throughout the soup.
You can add salt now, if you like, but taste it first because you are adding ham bone broth, which is salty.
Herb and Spice Tea
You’re probably wondering why on earth I have a picture of a teapot here. The answer here also answers the question above, of why I put so few seasonings in the soup, when I pressure cooked it. I didn’t want my soup to be a mess of wet plant leaf particles. So, I brewed my seasonings in this teapot. Then I poured some into the soup. ultimately, I sed about half the tea you see here.
What is in there: Italian seasoning, garlic powder, pepper corns, and extra basil.
I learned this from the book, Joy of Cooking. I bought the book about 19 years ago. It was an important part of how I learned to cook. It’s not just a recipe book. It’s like a text book for how to use a kitchen. It tells you how to buy things at the grocery store and how to prepare them into meals with more than just recipes but with general information about ingredients.
Joy of Cooking
From the Joy of Cooking and and nearly two decades of cooking, I just kind of know what to do with food. This how I knew to simmer the ham first. I didn’t follow a recipe here. I just knew what to do. The reason it seems like I’m belaboring this point about my experience is because I want you to have the same experience. The reason my Month With No Refrigeration went so well is because I know what to do with food, even if it is the first time I’ve ever worked with it. Having this skill is itself a major prep. The only way to get this skill, is to cook for yourself and to have good sources of information that can teach you about ingredients.
Oh, the Joy of Cooking does not say to use a teapot. It says to use a Bouquet Garni. A bouquet garni is is a way of putting herbal tea into soup without keeping the herbs in. There are two ways to do it. One is to make a bouquet out of fresh herbs. Tie them together and put the bouquet in your soup. Then remove the bouquet later. The other method is to take dried herbs and put them in a cheese cloth in a kind of home made teabag. You can pull the bag out later. I didn’t have fresh herbs or a cheese cloth but I did have a teapot with an infuser (the metal screen thing in the pot). So I brewed the herbs in the teapot and poured in the tea.
A page from the Joy of Cooking
Remember that clicking twice will allow you to see this image full size and clicking a 3rd time will zoom it in. Just look at what this book has to say about lamb. It’s a little hard to see on the left page but you can get an idea of what this book is doing here. In some ways, this book still beats the internet in its ability to provide you with complete knowledge on a topic. It is a consistent source of trusted knowledge. It’s been in print since 1931. It’s what people used before you could google stuff. It has an index in the back where you can look up just about anything you can bring into the kitchen. I would say that it has had a lasting impact on the quality of my life.
Add More Ham
Here is that slice of Ham again. This is when I put the ham cubes in. Basically, they were in just long enough to heat them up. It gives the soup more ham. The ham is more itself and less depleted like the ham that comes off of the bones. That ham is boiled for an hour and then pressure cooked. This ham just has more ham integrity. I put a few of these slices in the soup. This really isn’t a science though. Put however much ham makes you comfortable.
Freeze the Soup
The final product here, is in the cover photo. It’s those stacks of frozen soup. I made enough soup for me to eat about 15 meals. ( I ate some before freezing) Bean and ham soup freezes very well but you do need to do some things to get it right. I have a few tips for getting a good freeze. I purchased semi-disposable food containers. These are store brand ones in the pictures. The reason I use them, instead of bags, is that the soup can be heated in them later. It’s very convenient and they can be reused. These semi-disposable containers come in all different sizes, so you should be able to get whatever size suits you.
I filled the containers all the way to the top. I was starting to heat this container of soup when I realized I should get a picture of it, while it is still mostly frozen. You can see the impression from the lid in the top of the soup, indicating that I had it as full as I could get it. The reason you fill the containers like this, is the same reason you vacuum seal the ham bones. Air is the death of food in the freezer.
I see some of my larger containers are not full to the top. Now that they are frozen, I can add a thin layer of water to them, to seal them in. Then I can melt the ice of with the sink before heating the soup.
How The Reheated Soup Looks
About a week after freezing the soup, I pulled out one fo the containers and heated it up. These are the results. In this container, it does not look as fancy as my meals in my month with no refrigeration series but I can assure you it was quite good.
This bean and ham soup turned out great. I can store it in my freezer for at least a couple of years because of good packaging. It will provide me with a meal when I don’t have time to cook. It will be there for me when a non-power outage disaster keeps me from the store. This could even bee a job loss. It saves me money and health because I won’t be as tempted to eat fast food when I’m in a hurry. I’m quite happy with how the soup turned out. This is just one example of what you can do with a pressure canner, besides canning.
I touched on the topic of freezing food. Freezing food is an entire category that I plan to get into in the future. I plan to make a post dedicated to freezing basics, what are the best types of freezers, where to get them and more. Then I plan to review freezers, on the market. It will probably take several months for me to get to this topic though. As I write this, I’m finishing the series on pressure canners. Next up, I’m planning to cover the best parkas for winter survival. I’m also planning to cover rocket stoves. I will cover why everyone should have one and what are the best rocket stoves to get or make. As mentioned above, I will cover water filters. I love my Berkey filter and my only wish is that I had bought one sooner. There are others on the market though.
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