Because We Can, Can, Can: Part II

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I don’t believe in easing into anything gently. I decided to can all the produce from our garden this year and in order to make it worth my time and effort, I had my hubs extend our planting. We had 34 tomato plants, 5 rows of green beans (a spring planting and a summer planting), 4 zucchini, 4 yellow squash, a few cucumbers, and a few other random things all in a 9 by 27 foot area.

I didn’t even wait for the garden to begin producing to can. I wanted farm fresh fruit as well. First up, strawberries and homemade strawberry jam. Again, no small canning here, I picked three times and brought home 2 gallons each time, for a grand total of 22 pints and 4 half pints (for gifts) of jam.

Strawberry jam was a good way to begin canning and because Rachel already blogged about jam in Part I, I’ll move on.

Next up were green beans. This is where I was initially intimidated because of the use of a pressure canner. You must pressure can less acidic foods that don’t reach a high enough temperature to kill any potential bacteria in the food when using a water canner. In a pressure canner, you put less water, lock the lid, vent excess air, and watch the pressure build in the canner. Processing beans is relatively easy. I won’t go into extreme detail here because you can read how to do it in the Ball Blue Book or on their website, I have to admit that it wasn’t as difficult as I anticipated. It just takes time. Don’t underestimate how long it takes the canner to reach the proper pressure and then after the processing time how long it takes to return to zero pressure and a point when you can remove the lid and jars. There were many nights when I didn’t get to bed until midnight. So now we have about 22 quarts of green beans and are hoping for another 20 or so if our second planting come in.

Oh tomatoes, how I love and hate you. Our 34 plants of tomatoes began producing. First off, we had to accumulate tomatoes over a week or so just to have enough to do a small recipe of Basil Garlic Tomato Sauce, found here. Let me tell you, 20 pounds of tomatoes is A LOT! You must have a huge pot to cook this sauce. Another useful tool is the Victorio Food Strainer. This is how you get the sauce smooth and remove all the seeds and skins. The hubs and I called it a night after this step and stored the strained sauce in the fridge. Night #2 was for reducing the sauce and canning it. So again, build in time for the entire process or plan on stopping points where you can begin another day. Canning, water bath and especially pressure, puts out quite a bit of heat so we chose to can in the evening, after the little prince went to bed. This produced 7 pints of sauce. Not as much as I would like for all the work involved, but I know EXACTLY what is in my food and we grew all of it except the garlic. Next year, I’ll know what to expect.

Tomatoes take 2 was Fiesta Salsa found here This only produced 4 pints but the work involved wasn’t nearly as much as the sauce and it is an amazing salsa. We love it!

Tomatoes take 3 (yes, we still had a ton of tomatoes) was Seasoned Tomato sauce from the Ball Complete Book. I started the cooking of the tomatoes before bath time and used too high of a temperature. The tomatoes scorched to the bottom of the pot! I was so upset! I thought I had just wasted another 20 pounds of tomatoes. Fortunately, my hubs convinced me to keep going and give the sauce a shot. What emerged was a “fire roasted” seasoned tomato sauce. I wouldn’t try to replicate it again on purpose but I’m happy with how we were able to save the scorched sauce we started with.

Enter the blueberries. My first blueberry picking didn’t bring home enough to do any canning recipes with so we just ate them. The second picking brought home about 3 pounds of berries which gave us enough to try a blueberry pie filling, recipe found in the Ball Complete Book. The gelling ingredient is Clear Jel. Let’s pause here and talk about Clear Jel. Clear Jel does not equal Sure Jel. Sure Jel is used for making jams and is readily available in your local stores. Clear Jel is a commercially developed product that is difficult to find and most often has to be purchased online. I didn’t know this when I decided to make my pie filling. I found a website that gave an equivalent of clear jel to tapioca so I used tapioca and followed the directions of the recipe. I probably should have bypassed the pre-cooking of the pie filling before canning. During canning, the filling seemed really thick so my pie filling may become a blueberry tapioca jellyfish concoction.  I guess I’ll see when I open one of the four jars we made.

Tomatoes take 4 (and yes, still more tomatoes) was simply whole canned tomatoes. I was tired of making recipes and didn’t have the time to do another one any way so it was time to just get them in the can. I can make them into sauce when I pull them out later.

And because I didn’t have enough to do already, I decided to pick a bushel of peaches. A bushel is actually more than you’d think. Try about 50 pounds of peaches. Those 50 pounds became sliced canned peaches (because I couldn’t fit my hand into a regular mouth quart jar), halved canned peached (because I went and bought wide mouth quart jars and could fit my hand into it), and 9 quarts of peach pie filling. I’ll admit, I’m most excited about the pie filling. We had a little extra that wouldn’t fit in a jar so we added it to our homemade vanilla ice cream we started in the maker after the peaches started processing. The ice cream is AMAZING!

A sampling of my canned goods

A sampling of my canned goods

That was my first year of canning and it was BUSY but now I know what to expect for next year. Have you tried canning? Did you have any great recipe finds? Any recipe fails?

Happy Frugal Homemaking,