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, www.freshpreserving.com. 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,

Robin


Frugal Homemaking: Because We CAN CAN CAN!

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Matt and I fell in love with canning last summer. For my birthday Matt got me a canning kit which included a canning pot, funnel, and tongs. I was in my second trimester at the time so we were only able to perfect a strawberry jam recipe before I had to give up canning to swollen ankles!

Now that the baby is no longer nursing every hour and sleeping every other hour, we thought it would be a great time to attempt to can again! As is tradition in our household we cannot start any canning project with out canning beer for Matt and canning stress eating cookies me ūüôā

nom nom nom canning beer and cookies!

nom nom nom canning beer and cookies!

Here is our recipe which was tweaked from about 4 different books and internet recipes.

We used Sure Jell because it was on sale!

We used Sure Jell because it was on sale!

A little over 4 cups of mashed strawberries

4 cups of sugar

1 packet of pectin

A little over 1/4 cup of lemon juice or roughly the juice of 1.25 – 1.5 lemons.

half a case of organic local farmer's market strawberries

half a case of organic local farmer’s market strawberries

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First you want to pick out any strawberries with bruises or mold. Then clean the strawberries. Cut the strawberries into quarters after chopping the head off, and rinse again in a strainer.

potato masher works great for this step!

potato masher works great for this step!

Next you want to mash the strawberries until they look like the above picture. This is a great step for older children that want to help!

cut lemons into smaller slices

cut lemons into smaller slices

I personally think fresh lemons taste better, but you can also use lemon juice. Helpful hint: cut the lemons into super thin slices. Seeds are easier to get out and you get more juice out of each squeeze! Please do not squeeze the lemons if you have any open wounds. It will burn like crazy!

use your lemon rinds to make fresh lemon flavored water!

use your lemon rinds to make fresh lemon flavored water!

 

We use a turkey deep fryer since our stove doesn't get hot enough.

We use a turkey deep fryer since our stove doesn’t get hot enough.

Once you have your strawberries mashed, or if you have an adult helper you can do this simultaneously, you want to sterilize your jars by putting then in your canning pot. You must have something on the bottom of your boiling pot so the glass won’t touch the bottom. Otherwise it has a high chance of shattering. Most canning pots come with a tray for the bottom! The glass jars need to be boiled for between 10-15 minutes. If you have hard water you are going to want to add some plain white vinegar so that you don’t get water marks on your jars. I personally like adding a liberal amount of water to help¬†sanitize¬†and clean the jars! If you are reusing jars make sure you run them through the dishwasher first!

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Once they have completed their boil please use some kind of tongs with a rubber end to remove the glasses.

If we were super safety conscious Matt would be wearing a pot holder.

If we were super safety conscious Matt would be wearing a pot holder.

Set the jars to dry on a kitchen towel or old bath towel.

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Back in the kitchen, you are going to want to mix your slightly over 4 cups of mashed strawberries, 4 cups of sugar, pectin, and lemon juice in your pot on the stove.

all ingredients added!

all ingredients added!

This next step is optional. If you like your jam with chunks of strawberries then crank up the heat on your stove to achieve a roiling boil. Matt and I prefer less chunks in our jam. To get out the chunks I use my hand mixer and break up the chunks while it is on the stove. Do not attempt this if you are using a non stick pan it will ruin the finish. For teflon and non stick pans remove the mixture from heat and place in a separate bowl and mix until you have reached the desired consistency.

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Bring the mixture to a roiling boil for about 30 minutes to activate the natural and added pectin.

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foam will begin to appear once you have achieved a roiling boil!

Make sure you are stirring the mixture often to prevent over boil and burning of your jam. Helpful hint: do not fill your pot more than half way. This stuff can grow and rise on a seconds notice and is very prone to over boiling!

sanitizing lids

sanitizing lids

While the jam is boiling put all of your lids in a small pot and let them boil for about 15 minutes.

Once your jam boil timer ring grab a spoon and grab some jam. Put the spoon of jam on a paper towel in the freezer for about 1-2 minutes. If it has the consistency of jam then you are good to go. If it is still too runny try increasing the temperature and adding some pectin until you reach the desired gooey-ness.

use a shallow spoon or ladle to remove the foam

use a shallow spoon or ladle to remove the foam

Then you need to scoop off the foam. We put it in a separate bowl, but you can just throw it down the sink if that is easier for you.

 

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Use your funnel and a deep ladle to fill your jam jars. You are going to want to fill them to between a quarter of an inch and a inch from the top of the jar.

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Grab your tongs and place your lids on the jars and screw the metal ring around the top. Do not screw the lid on too tightly or your end users will never be able to get the ring off!

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Now it is time to add your jars to the hot water bath in your canning pot. Make sure the temperature gets hot enough HERE is a temperature guide list. Once you reach that boiling temperature, they need to boil for between 10-15 minutes in order to seal the jars. Once you are done pull them out with tongs and your should hear a flurry of PINGS as the lids suck in and seal the jam. Once cool, press the center of the lid. If it does not move then you have successfully sealed the jar. If it still clicks up and down then you should eat the jam within the next few days or toss it because it is not sealed and will go bad if not refrigerated and consumed.

and we jam jam jammed!

and we jam jam jammed!

Jam usually has a shelf life of around 3 months, but I try and encourage people to use it sooner rather than later!

Also, please note if you still have a wee one you might want to enlist Grammie’s help in keeping your baby occupied while you jam!

This canning sessions would not have been possible without Grammie's assistance with nap time!

This canning sessions would not have been possible without Grammie’s assistance with nap time!

As always we love questions and comments!

-Rachel