Don't have time? How Come.

Canning Before and After

Canning produce from one's garden is both a cost-saver and tongue-pleaser. In Richmond, Virginia, in 2012, a square foot of garden yielded about $1.75 in produce. Thus, a five hundred square foot garden would save almost $1000 in food costs ... tax free, de facto income that would otherwise require $1500 or more in pre-deduction. In addition, the emotional benefits of private time in resetting one's mental attitude is worth many times more dollars. With penny-wise grow-till-you-glow you avoid dollar-dead shop-till-you-drop.

Yum, yum, yum. Rare will be the time when you open a jar of your making that you don't utter this or similar sentiment. If you know the difference between a store-bought tomato and a homegrown tomato, you can expect the same difference between storebought canned goods and homegrown canning.

With modern means, canning is easy. Like so many new endeavors, one should start off simply before experimenting. The following guidelines are to help the venturous babystep before flying like grandma in a kitchen.
 

  1. DVD's: Like gardening, most of the time you do not have to concentrate on what you are doing. You can either do a lot of thinking or watch DVDs. Sitting and doing nothing is one of worse faults of males compared to women who are naturally multi-taskers. Thus, this male has watched a lot of great movies and documentaries while wearing an apron in the kitchen.
  2. Hot water bath before pressure cooking: For highly sweet or acidic vegetables, a hot water bath is the simplest and quickest. The sugar or acid slows bacteria growth so the canned produce does not require the higher temperature and longer times of pressure cooking. Depending on whether pint, quart of half-gallon, hot water baths require only five to thirty minutes while pressure cooking requires twice or more canning time. Start with hot baths.

    For hot water canning, one can buy a boiling pot with a metal frame to hold seven or nine quarts. Or, one can also use any pot that will keep at least two inches of water above the top of the jars along with a "jar grabber" which is grabs the jars under the lid rim. Pots should be on one's monthly thrift store visit.

    An alternative to pressure cooking is freezing which quicker than a hot water bath. In fact, one could use the little zip-lock plastic bags instead of either hot or pressure canning. Several times during the summer, this kitchen klutz cooks up a 25 quart pot of various soups with or without meat (chicken, beef, pork or fish). Ladled into
  3. Seasonings: In addition to heat to preserve produce, the addition of spices contribute the shelf-life of canned goods. One can and should buy a copy of  Balls' Canning Guide which has a lot of simple recipes. If you use one, be sure to magic marker the page number on the top of the jars before you store them: A real disappointment is when you open a jar which is really great and you don't know how you fixed it. One year, a gardenia was exquisite without a trace to reproduce it again.

    The simplest, first step and first season canning should consist of pre-packaged canning recipes, e.g., Mrs. Wagner or Ball. In terms of pickling, the acidic or sweet, either pre-package can be used with more than cucumbers. If one takes a blood thinner, one might shy away from pickle cucumbers because of high levels of Vitamin K. An alternative is to can squash (summer or winter). One of the items that must be rationed is bread and butter yellow summer squash--try it ... you will love it.
  4. Curse of canning: When 75% of your calories come from the garden, direct or indirect, you get a lot of empty jars that have to be reurned to the shelves in the cellar. It is amazing to have a kitchen table that seems to grow glass canning jars.

In summary, start slowly and simply.

Some Partners in Cooking Crimes

Each year as the garden grew, more canning occurred in quantity and variety as the garden grew. From 50 to 150 to 300 to 500 quarts in 2012.

With more jars to store, the old coal room was converted into root cellar with a small AC in the wall to keep the summer temperature down. Ideal storage is 40 to 50 degrees with a 80 to 90 percent humidity. Expansion of shelving was needed.

(The old half-wet shirt sets in a bucket of water to keep the humidity higher.
Sometime, I'm going to replace the concrete floor with wooden slats for ground based humidity.)

Because of cave gardening, the author's quota of pickled cucumbers was met by July 1st. The cucumber patch was given away to a neighbor. On July 7th, they went on a weeklong vacation cutshort by a medical emergency that eliminated their harvesting. By the end of July, two refrigerators were overflowing with cucumbers as well as buckets of recently picked cukes. It was a cukemania moment. Nothing to do but to can 'em. But, I wanted a before picture to convey the quantity. Where in your house would you put a bunch of cukes to convey the quantity?

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And, afterwards, where to put them? (The container on the right contains green tomatos removed from the vines of the larger tomatos, e.g., steak, big boy, jubilee, that only two or three tomatos instead of six or more are nurtured by the plant. The green tomatos can be used for many things like pickled relish. My favorite is pickled whole, halved or quartered for something that taste a lot like green olives!

I use a lot of half-gallon jars (quarts on top of half-gallon jars). What can one say? Yumm!

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