I have really been digging into the canning. Since the burst of summer produce has faded, I'm focusing on canning meals. Since I work odd hours, I'm not always in the mood to cook dinner shortly after waking up. And it's an end to the chorus of “There's nothing to eat.”
I scored on Italian sausages marked down to $2/lb. The family was really loving this dish. It's just a short pasta (ie penne or the like) tossed with marinara and browned sausage. Top with buchemele and mozzarella. It is so good! But the honeymoon's over, so I decided to can the rest for when they will eat it again. Really, the whole meal isn't that difficult to make, but this way there's more room in the freezer and one less pan in the sink. It's versatile enough to use as a soup base as well.
Now, this recipe is just what I do. You can totally change the meat, add more herbs, less garlic, veggies, whatever your inner Italian likes. Just make sure you stick to the same processing time. For two quarts: Brown 1 lb sausage. Add 2-3 cloves of garlic and 1 tsp each of basil and oregano. Stir in 3 cups tomatoes. I use 1 large can of peeled crushed tomatoes and 1 regular can of diced, but go as chunky or smooth as you like. Simmer 20 minutes. Ladle into hot jars. Process quarts for 70 minutes; pints for 60 minutes. Again, do what suits you. This recipe is what my family will eat. If it was just me, I'd have peppers and onions and mushrooms and big ole chunks of tomatoes. But a mom's gotta do what a mom's gotta do.
Another fast meal is beef stew. I always snatch up cheap roast cuts when I am able. For stew, I cut the roast into chunks and heat with diced vegetables. Any vegetables will do really, but I generally stick with potatoes, onions, carrots, and tomatoes. Quarts are processed for 90 minutes; pints for 70 minutes. Rice, barley, and egg noodles are all good additions, or serve with cornbread. I like to thicken the broth a bit while reheating. Remember grains cannot be canned, which includes flour, so add these after canning.
I found this great recipe for sweet and sour chicken over on Creative Canning. I'm trying out several of her recipes and just really loving her blog.
This type of canning is super convenient. In many cases, all you have to do is heat and eat. It's so much cheaper than drive thru and exponentially better for you.