Saturday, May 17, 2014

Easy Meat Pie--and a Reason to Learn to Can Foods

This post is in part an encouragement to all of you to try your hand at canning food. There are many foods that you can process using just a water bath canner. But if you really want to have full pantry shelves, a pressure canner (that's not the same as a pressure cooker!) is the way to go. With a pressure canner, you are able to process low-acid meats of all kinds, vegetables, and dried beans as well as soup, spaghetti sauce, chili, stew, and anything else your heart desires and your imagination can dream up.

Let me give you just one example from my kitchen: I eat a lot of organic dried beans. A can of organic pinto, kidney, navy, or black beans costs close to two dollars at my local grocery store. Spending that amount of money on a can of beans goes against my frugal nature. So instead, I buy my beans in bulk (usually around 25 pounds at a time because they store for years on my shelves), and always have a batch or two canned up and ready to eat. Those jars of home-canned beans--besides being ready to heat and eat, and healthy as all get out--cost me about 25 cents per jar.

So am I an advocate of home canning? Why yes, I am. And I'll also admit it up front: I have written a canning book. If you're interested I can assure you that I have made every effort to have the very latest safety recommendations in it, and the recipes are tried and true. You won't go wrong should you decide to get a copy:


I've been so busy lately because I'm finishing writing another book and the deadline is looming, and recently I needed desperately to eat dinner but didn't want to take the time to make anything elaborate. (Well actually, I didn't want to take any time at all, but to know me is to know I'm not much of a one for going out or buying premade food so I had to do something right at home if I was going to eat.) So to my pantry I went to "shop" for dinner. And in just a matter of a few minutes I had this: (Well, if you don't count the baking time.)
I had a pie crust ready to go already (see recipe below). I mixed together a pint jar of home-canned hamburger meat that I had canned with a bit of broth, and another jar of mixed veggies (peas, carrots, corn, and green beans). I cut a potato into small pieces so they'd cook while the meat pie baked.

I threw everything into a saucepan along with a bit of water and about 3 tablespoons cornstarch (maybe a wee bit less)and heated it to boiling so the cornstarch would thicken and turn the broth into gravy. Then into the prepared pie crust it went. I had preheated the oven to 400 degrees and as soon as I put the meat pie into the oven I turned it down to 350 degrees and baked it for about 25 minutes...until the crust looked done since the meat mixture was already cooked through and only needed a good heating.

Dinner was served. And it was good! Filling and comforting. Just what I needed on an extra busy day.

Okay, so now for the pie crust recipe. You can use any recipe you might prefer, but I think this particular recipe is a good one for meat pies or for handheld fruit or meat pies because it seems to hold together well. Plus, the recipe makes enough for about 3 crusts, so you can freeze two of them (pie plate and all) for use another day. And in fact, that's what I did with this crust. It was already in the freezer, so when I say this pie took me just a few minutes to make, I'm not exaggerating.

Pie Crust Pastry

4 cups flour
1 3/4 cups shortening or lard
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon vinegar (use regular white vinegar)
1 egg

With a fork, mix together the flour, shortening, sugar, and salt. You want the shortening to break apart and have the mixture look crumbly.

In another bowl, beat together the water, vinegar, and egg. Add this to the flour mixture and blend with a fork until moistened. Try to have a light touch when mixing. Using your hands, mold the dough into a ball, wrap it in plastic or a towel and chill the dough for at least 15 minutes.

Roll out into pie crusts and use one for dinner and freeze the rest.

That's it! Simple and satisfying. and completely homemade, which to me is the very best kind of meal.

I wish you and yours the very best day. Spring has sprung, and that means gardens will soon be taking much of our time. So go out and dig in the dirt and enjoy God's creation.



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