The Best Little Organic Farm
Baking Bread at Altitudes Over 3000 Feet
Baking breads at an elevated altitude can be very disheartening when you are in unfamiliar territory. Imagine putting all your effort into making a delicious bread, only to end up with a flat, dry, doughy, or inconsistent loaf. These were some of my experiences, until I learned how to correct my recipes.
Since we all live in different locations, you may have to experiment with different techniques until you discover what works for you. Be sure to keep track of your adjustments and record the final successful recipe.
And in the meantime, my laying hens never turned down my failed baking experiments.
Adjustments for Yeast Breads
Decrease the amount of white flour in the recipe. You may need to use up to 1/4 less flour than the recipe calls for because flour loses moisture at high altitude which creates a dry-tasting finished product. You'll know there is enough moisture your high altitude bread dough when the mass pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
Gradually add flour 1 tbsp. at a time if the batter is too wet or sticky. Your bread dough should be soft and easily handled after re-kneading.
Increase the amount of liquid in the recipe if using wheat or rye flour. Add 1 tbsp. or more than the recipe calls for. These coarse flours lose even more moisture than white flour does at altitude.
Add additional liquid, 1 tbsp. at a time, if the dough seems to dry. Your dough should be soft, moist and pull away from the sides of the bowl after re-kneading.
Add an additional rising cycle. Good tasting bread depends on a long, slow rising process but bread dough rises twice as fast in high altitude locations. Bread dough that rises rapidly will have a strong yeast-flavor and a dry texture. For the best flavor, allow enough time for 2 separate rising cycles and never let the dough to grow more than twice its size.
Reduce the amount of rising time the recipe calls for by about 15 minutes or until the bread has reached nearly twice its size.
Punch down your dough after the first rising cycle is over. Set into a bowl and allow it to rise again but for half the time of the first cycle.
Subtract 1 degree of baking temperature for every 500 feet (152 m) above sea level. At altitude, heat molecules don't have enough energy inside them which results in a lower boiling point but also makes food take longer to cook. Baking at a higher temperature will set the bread structure quickly and stop dough from rising more.
Use less yeast if all other altitude baking adjustments fail to provide firm bread dough that doesn't collapse after rising and baking.
Reduce the yeast by 1/8 tsp. to see if you get a firmer bread dough. If you are unhappy with your finished bread, decrease yeast by another 1/8 tsp. each time you attempt the recipe until you are happy with the finished product.
Adjustments for Quick Breads
Use more liquid by adding 1 tbsp. of liquid per every 1 cup (236 ml) of flour called for in the recipe.
Decrease the amount of sugar by as much as 1/4 of the total amount used in the recipe, since sugar causes flour to become dry.
Decrease the baking soda or baking powder if you notice a bitter flavor the first time you attempt a high-altitude quick bread recipe. Reduce leavening agents by about 1/8 tsp. each time you make the recipe until you end up with an ideal flavor.
Canning Guide for Beginners
This guide is intended for beginning canners using a water-bath method of canning. Suggested foods to can are tomatoes, apples, and any jams or jellies. These foods are relatively inexpensive and an affordable investment.
______ 1. Find a great canning cookbook. Consider basic canning techniques and simple recipes. Like any good cookbook, it should resonate with you.
______ 2. Decide what to can and how you will preserve it. For example, if you are canning apples will they be sliced, made into applesauce, apple butter, or used for pie filling? So many delicious choices!
______ 3. The way you intend to preserve your food will determine what kind of jars you will buy. Select wide-mouth jars. Buying by the case is usually cheaper per jar. Check garage sales and second-hand stores for great deals. Make sure you use the “finger test” and run your finger lightly along the rim of each jar to make sure you are not buying a jar with chipped glass. New jars will come with bands and lids. Lids and bands can be purchased separately for second-hand jars.
Jams, jellies, and preserves should go into eight to twelve-ounce jars
Sauces such as tomato, canned tomatoes, or applesauce, should go into pint size jars. This size is also good for any small fruit like apricots or grapes. Some stores may also sell jars with a2 ½ cup fill. These jars are processed for the same amount of time as quart size jars.
Pie filling will fit best in a quart size and is almost perfect for one small pie. Larger fruits such as peach and pear halves fit better in quart size jars.
______ 4. Decide what to can and how you will preserve it. For example, if you are canning apples will they be sliced, made into applesauce, apple butter, or used for pie filling? So many delicious choices!
______ 5. The way you intend to preserve your food will determine what kind of jars you will buy. Select wide-mouth jars. Buying by the case is usually cheaper per jar. Check garage sales and second-hand stores for great deals. Make sure you use the “finger test” and run your finger lightly along the rim of each jar to make sure you are not buying a jar with chipped glass. New jars will come with bands and lids. Lids and bands can be purchased separately for second-hand jars.
Jar lifter with rubberized grip
Magnetized lid lifter or canning lid rack
Long barbeque tongs
Long slotted spoon
______ 6. Calculate how much time you will need to complete your canning. Advise everyone that once the canning process starts, they are not to interrupt you unless their hair is on fire or they are bleeding to death! Time variables will be the food you are preparing and recipe instructions. Use the following guide:
5 minutes to set up your clean space
5 minutes to fill your kettle with water (remember the jars will displace some water)
10 minutes to inspect and wash jars, lids, and bands and place them in the kettle of water for sterilization.
____ minutes to prepare the food per recipe instructions
15-20 minutes to fill and seal jars
15 minutes for the water to come to a boil
____minutes processing time per recipe instructions
Total time to allow for canning _________.
______ 7. Prepare your food according to recipe directions. If this is a hot pack, understand you will have to have your jars heated, sterilized and waiting to be filled by the time the food has been prepared. Timing is important, so the food does not overcook.
If you are using a cold pack method, set your prepared food near the clean space for ease of fill. Hot food should remain hot during the fill process and should remain warming on the stove.
______ 8. Nearing the end of your food preparation, heat kettle water to sterilize jars, lids, and bands. When the water is close to boiling, reduce the heat to maintain the hot water.
NOTE: This is the time to remind your family, friends, dogs, etc. to leave you alone while you are canning!
______ 9. Using a jar lifter, remove one hot jar at a time and set it on the clean space. It may be necessary to use a pot holder to support the jar while you are moving it from the stove to the counter.
______ 10. Fill the jar, remove any air bubbles with a knife by sliding it around the jar. Add any seasonings or liquid to the fill line as indicated in the recipe (1 inch, ½ inch, ¼ inch).
______ 11.Use a CLEAN, wet cloth to wipe the rim of the jar and remove any debris. Failing to do this may result in a poor seal.
______ 12. Use the lid lifter or tongs to remove one lid from the hot water. Avoid touching the inner surface. Place it on top of the jar.
______ 13. Using the tongs or lid lifter, remove one band from the hot water and screw down the band to seal the jar.
______ 14. Set the filled jar aside. Fill remaining jars and put all jars in canner at one time- usually 6-7 jars at the most. Don’t forget the jar plate on the bottom of the kettle.
______ 15. Make sure 1-2 inches of water cover all the jars.
______ 16. Turn up the heat! Bring the water to a rolling boil. Using the kettle lid can facilitate this.
______ 17. Begin timing when the water is at a full boil. It is acceptable to reduce the heat to a gentle boil but do NOT let the water stop boiling. If this happens, start timing from the beginning.
______ 18. While the jars are processing, set up the cooling area. The hot, processed jars should not cool directly on a cold counter. Use a clean, dry dishtowel on the counter. Choose a spot that will not be in a draft.
______ 19. When the timer goes off, turn off the heat. Immediately remove the jars from the kettle and move to the cooling area.
______ 20. Listen for the “ping” as each jar seals individually. Do not move or touch the jars. Do not play with the button on the lid. This needs to happen without your assistance!
______ 21. When the jars are completely cold, gently press on top of each lid to check the seal. If it is a good seal, there should be no give to the metal lid. Remove all band. Turn the jars upside down. If there is any leaking, place the jar in the refrigerator to use immediately.
______ 22. Label and date your jars. Use a Sharpie marker to write directly on the metal lid or make customized labels for your new creations.
______ 23. Admire what you have accomplished! Send me photos, and I will publish them on www.facebook.com/BestLittleOrganicFarm. That’s right, you’ve earned braggin’ rights!
Reference information from Yes, You Can Can
This is how you set up your Clean Space: Clean, dry dish towel, jar lifter, measure cups and spoons, herbs and spices, canning funnel with sterilized jar, damp, clean cloth for wiping jar rims.
Cold Pack Method Versus Hot Pack Method
Your recipe will determine if you have the option to cold pack your foods.
Only optional for certain foods per recipe instructions
Food us usually packed in raw state and will shrink during processing
Sometimes used for fragile foods- think fruits and berries
Usually used for foods that are not acidic: corn, beans, greens, carrots, meats
Will cook foods longer during processing
Josephine DeFalco, The Best Little Organic Farm
Low Sodium Herbs to Grow & Enjoy
Sage, 1 Tablespoon, 0 mg sodium
Grows well in part shade; Many varieties
Cilantro, 1 Tablespoon, .5 mg sodium
Will not grow in summer in AZ; Needs sunlight in winter
Seeds are used as coriander
Oregano, 1 Tablespoon, 7 mg sodium
Grows year round in Arizona; Likes some shade; Beautiful ground cover
Garlic, 4 cloves, 11 mg sodium
Plant in October, harvest in May; Store in refrigerator;
Thyme, 1 Tablespoon, 17 mg sodium
Many varieties; Needs part shade; Easy to preserve
Basil, 1 Tablespoon, 18 mg sodium
Easy to grow in summer; Protect from frost
Perennial in AZ
Rosemary, 1 Tablespoon, 18 mg sodium
Used in landscaping, Not afraid of heat or frost, dry and grind in coffee grinder
Fennel, 1 Tablespoon seeds
Cool weather crop; Eat the whole plant
Seeds: 5.1 mg sodium
Bulb: 1/2 cup, 23 mg sodium
Ferns: Use in salads, dips and sauces
Parsley, 1 Tablespoon, 30 mg sodium
Likes roses; Freezes, dries nicely; High in Vitamins A and C
Dill weed, dried, 1 Tablespoon, 75 mg sodium
Cool weather herb, use ferns fresh in salads; Protect Heads from birds with old nylon stockings
Additional Low Sodium Treats:
Vinegar, 1 Tablespoon, 7 mg sodium
Tabasco sauce, 1 Tablespoon, 61 mg sodium
Horseradish, prepared, 1 Teaspoon, 50 mg; fresh grated, 0 mg
Fresh ginger, 5 pieces, 13 mg sodium
Lemon juice, 1 cup, 2 mg sodium (natural diuretic)
Pico De Gallo (Fresh Salsa): peppers, tomatoes, onion, cilantro, lime, garlic
Dried Celery Leaves
Papalo, Summer cilantro, seeds available from Native Seed Search
Moringa a.k.a. The Drumstick Tree
Many, many health claims. You be the judges as to what,
if anything works, for you.
Moringa Oleifera Tree
winged seed, best variety for Arizona
Planting: Choose a planting location that will allow the tree to grow 20 feet tall. Start from seed if possible. Trees do not like clay soil or too much water. Watch immediately after transplanting for signs of stress.
How to Eat a Tree
Leaves: Use 1-3 teaspoons daily in beverages, foods, smoothies and teas.
Seeds: Seeds, produced in pods, are an annual event. Seeds are steamed or boiled in the pods, like peas or green beans. They are roasted (like chick peas) as a snack.
Oil can also be extracted from the seeds and requires a special press.
Bark and Root: The tree’s bark and roots can be ground, combined with vinegar and salt and used as a condiment, similar to horseradish. Allow the tree to get big and strong enough before harvesting the bark and roots.
For more information on Moringa trees: