Monday, June 18, 2012

Cleaning out the freezer. . . again.

I love the way food keeps without developing freezer burn in our manual-defrost freezers.  But I'm not too fond of the day, and it always comes, when they must be defrosted.

This weekend it was the big chest freezer that had to be turned off, then quickly unloaded, blow-dried out and re-packed.  We're getting better, though, as I only found two fruit juice popsicles and a lone mini-muffin (where did its packaging get to I wonder?) which had to be discarded.  But there were a couple packages of chicken, a package of pork chops and one chuck roast which needed to be used soon so I cooked a pot roast with vegetables for Sunday's dinner and thawed the chicken and chops in the refrigerator in covered containers of buttermilk.

Buttermilk seems to refresh even the oldest frozen chicken.  (And it's not too bad as a marinade for frozen pork either.)  One package of chicken was boneless, skinless chicken breasts and those went straight on the grill when they'd thawed.  I'll use them sliced on a garden salad and in quesadillas for lunches later this week.  The other package was bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts which I turned into seven pints of spicy pineapple chicken.  (The recipe, found on the Canning2 list a couple of years ago, is supposed to be a PF Chang copycat but I've never tried the original so can't vouch for that -- just that it's easy to make and tastes good when we need a meal in a hurry.)  I cut the meat from the bone and used the bones and skin to make the quart of broth called for in the recipe.  (Because I thawed the meat in buttermilk, I rinsed it before throwing the scraps in the pot for the broth.)

The photo below shows the jars right before I added the liquid to fill.  Pints like this are perfect for two but don't quite stretch when we're all three home.  But since I had the canner out I did a fast soak of 5 pounds of pinto beans and put up 7 quarts of beans when I'd finished the chicken.  (Sort beans and add to enough boiling water to cover by several inches, boil for 2 minutes, cover and let soak for 2 hours.  Drain and reserve soaking liquid, fill jars half-full with soaked beans.  Top with reserved soaking liquid, brought back to a boil, and process for 75 minutes at 10-lbs pressure. Altitude adjustment, if necessary)

The last couple of years I've made more meal-in-a-jar batches than my old freezer-style oamc.  There are still things I make ahead and freeze, of course, but for space-savings and ease of use, a meal-in-a-jar can rarely be beat.


PF Chang Spicy Pineapple Chicken
  • Chicken breasts cut into bite sized pieces (I started with 3-lbs of bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts)
  • 2 (20-oz.) cans crushed pineapple
  • 1 (8-oz.) can pineapple tidbits, drained and juice reserved (optional)
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon chopped onion per jar
  • 1 teaspoon chili-garlic sauce per jar
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped garlic per jar
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce per jar
  • 1 teaspoon sugar per jar
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar per jar (I used apple cider vinegar)
Stir fry the chicken.  Meanwhile, divide the crushed pineapple and pineapple tidbits among the jars.  Add seasonings. 

Divide cooked chicken pieces among jars.  Combine chicken broth and reserved pineapple juice, use to fill jars.  Leave 1" headspace.  Process for 75 minutes at 10 lb pressure. Adjust pressure for altitude if necessary.  (Refer to NCHFP website for directions.)

To serve: Add thickener such as cornstarch or arrowroot to sauce while heating and serve over rice.

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