I woke this morning with a strong desire to have it still be Sunday.
Somehow I lost track of the days this weekend as a steady stream of glass jars moved from basement to sink, canner to counter. Jar after jar for two sold days. At last count there were nearly 100 quarts, pints, and half-pints setting up on the counters (What a wonderful feeling that is!)
But don't get me wrong. All this satisfying hard work began with some epic slacking.
Because – for the first time in recent memory - I threw in the towel on having a garden this season. The weeds won. I folded.
While I love gardening in theory (and I do appreciate the abundance of homegrown vegetables) the process of gardening wears me out to no end. Try as I might I don't love it. The weeds always win and it's tires me out sometimes always. So Pete and I decided to spend this summer building better garden beds instead (we're still getting to that) and doing other projects around the farm.
I'm certain I'll lose my Homesteading Membership Card when I confess that I've hardly missed it at all.
Truly. This summer has felt sane. Grounded. Full but not overwhelming. I'm thankful I had the courage to quit for a year. (We'll see what next year brings.)
But I do miss the veggies. And my pantry shelves were looking depressed. I needed supplies.
Since my friend Mary always has an abundance of organically grown produce for sale, last week I popped by her farm and told her what I was looking for. That night Sage and I returned and loaded box after box of vegetables into the trunk.
Over a bushel of tomatoes and 1/2 bushel of hot peppers; a small box of red peppers and a bushel of cabbage; some onions, kale, brussel sprouts, cucumbers, and radishes; and one stray watermelon that she gifted to Sage. All for $50.
And I wondered: why have I been doing this myself all these years?
Because: $50. Seriously.
And then the work began.
The work began, but also the fun. Because for every "meh" feeling I have about my garden there is a "squee!" for putting produce by. I love canning. Love it. So this weekend – despite the fact that my kitchen still looks like a vegetable bomb went off; despite standing by the stove for 10 hours a day – I was in my bliss.
And at long last the pantry shelves are happy again.
In all (with a bit of help from the kids) I made:
- tomato sauce and soup (the name determined only by the size of the jar – it's the same stuff in both batches!) from my Lazy Girl's Tomato Sauce Recipe
- roasted red peppers in lemon and olive oil from this book that I adore
- two salsas (one spicy and one mild)
- and – my favorite and our everyday must have – sriracha. (I shared my recipe here.)
Want to get started but you're not sure if you have it in you? Here are a few simple tips to get you off and running on your canning journey.
1. Fear Not
If you start with a tested, tried, and true recipe know that canning is safe! (If you're just shoving veggies willy-nilly into jars and hoping for the best by all means be afraid.) A clean jar, a good lid, and the right amount of acid and canning time and everything will turn out fine.
2. Start slow
You don't need to fill 100 jars on your first try. Seriously. In the book I recommended above her batch sizes are often 5 pint jars of 6 half-pints. You can handle that.
3. Can the foods you love
(Because the spicy cumin zucchini pickles that I made in 2013 are still in my basement.) What are the staples that you buy each year at the coop or grocery? Tomato sauce? Salsa? Peaches? Can those things. If you don't love peppers don't waste your time and energy canning them. Focus.
4. Size appropriately
Because we are only a family of four I tend to can in smaller jars than most. For us a 1/2 pint of salsa is just right to keep from losing a half-full jar in the back of the fridge until it's fuzzy. I'd much rather pop off two lids for a big meal than waste our canned goods. For most recipes simply reduce canning time by 5 minutes when you drop one jar size. (For example if it's a 40 minute process for quarts, it will be 35 for pints.)
5. Label your jars
I am notorious for not labeling. Anything. And looking at the unusual color of this last batch of sriracha my kids exclaimed, "That looks exactly like the peach butter! PLEASE label those jars!" So I did. Because even I don't want sriracha on my pancakes.
6. When in doubt toss it
When you open your canned goods during the next few seasons, listen for the satisfying "pop!" of a tight seal as the lid comes off. When my jars give a whimpy sigh when I pry off the lid, into the compost they go. Despite the hard work of canning, it's not worth the risk to eat potentially spoiled food.
P.S. Yesterday's givewaway will be open for two more days. Enter now if you haven't!