Tag Archives: canning

A Day of Canning

Well, this post is only a week late, but I’m writing it! What can I say? It’s been a busy and distracting week.

Rain rain, go ahead and stay!

Rain rain, go ahead and stay!

Last Sunday, we woke up to a nice, rainy morning.  Now, there will come a time later in the year where I do tend to complain about rain quite a bit.  But August in Southeast Texas is not one of those times.  We decided to put the rainy day to use, and got busy in the kitchen!

Pretty Cans

Pretty Cans

We knew when we planted our garden this year that we intended to can as much as possible.  We’d hoped for more tomatoes, so that we could can those, too, but those darn stink bugs (actually leaf footed beetles, but po-tay-toe po-ta-toe) so we ended up with just enough for a jar or two of salsa.  Those are still in the freezer until I decide to splurge at the grocery store for the rest of the ingredients.  So, our canning was put on hold a little this year, but now our okra are coming in like crazy, and my grandmother’s friend brought us this:

Bag of Figs

Bag of Figs

Not only could we not even think of eating all of those figs, but they were also already frozen.  sigh.  The only option left was to make fig preserves, which are the best thing ever on a buttered muffin. If you haven’t tried them, go ahead.  It’s almost impossible to be disappointed.

We figured since we were at it, we may as well harvest our jalepeno plants as well, and make some jalepeno jelly.  Some will go out as Christmas gifts (oops, spoiler for family and friends), some will be brought to social gatherings, and others will be enjoyed at midnight with a cube of cream cheese and a sleeve of crackers while I watch re-runs of Scrubs.  Don’t judge.

Canning fig preserves

Canning fig preserves

So, we got to work.  8 hours, 3 big messes, 5 dirty pots, and 43 jars later, we were done.  And tired.  But our first day of canning for the season was a big success, and a lot of fun. We ended up with about 24 1-use sized jars of jalepeno jelly, 8 cans of okra, and 10 cans of figs.  Yes, I realize that adds up to 42 and not 43 jars, but believe it or not, one jar actually exploded in the canner!  That was definitely a first for us, but apparently it can happen if you’re re-using a jar, or the jar is too cold when you put it in the hot water.

All in all, it was a fun and productive day.  We’ll have to do it again really soon, too, since we’ve already got enough okra to go through it again! This time it will be on a much smaller scale.

Do you can produce from your garden? What are some of your favorite recipes? For those of you new to canning, stay tuned for a canning 1o1 post real soon!

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Filed under Canning and Preserving, Self Sufficience

Surprise Carrots

Yep, you read that title correctly!  If you have read my blog from the beginning, you’ll know that our first garden struggled.  We planted lots of carrots and we were really excited about them.  According to the seed packet, we expected to wait a little while for our crop, but still expected carrots by mid-summer.  Unfortunately, while the tops sprouted up really quickly, we only ever got tiny orange slivers underground.  Eventually, we gave up, and then moved.

This past weekend, we went back to our old garden site to pick up a few things (it’s in my grandmother’s back yard, so we still have access), and when we drove back there, we were surprised to see a garden bed nearly full of carrot tops!  Curiously, I went and pulled up a few to inspect them, and sure enough, I had a garden full of carrots.  They’d clearly reproduced and made a second crop, too, because some of the carrots were smaller and some were huge.  I didn’t expect much from all of them, since they were so huge and basically abandoned, but I went ahead and filled 2 5 gallon buckets with carrots to bring home and clean.  I couldn’t believe it!  We got to cleaning and ended up with a lot of carrots.

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I still can’t believe we found these a full year after planting, and that they still tasted good!  We discussed what to do with these, and decided to try a recipe we found in our canning book.  We’ve tried it before, when some friends made it, and it’s a really interesting, different dish that we really enjoy during the summer!

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So, Cage Free Dad and Pistache got to work in the kitchen Sunday night after dinner, and got to work on our dilled carrots.  Those two love canning together!  We ended up with 9 cans, which should be ready just in time for Easter dinner.  If you have the Ball canning book, I suggest you try the recipe yourself! It’s a great, different way to enjoy carrots, especially when you have too many to eat before they go bad.

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Filed under Canning and Preserving, In the Garden, Self Sufficience

Experiments with Canning

This year, when it came time to pick out a Christmas gift for Cage Free Dad, there was really no laboring over a decision.  For the last two years, he has made his wishes very clear.  The only problem was, we never had the room until we moved into this house, considering we were living with my grandmother. So, for Christmas this year, he finally got his wish and received a full canning set. The only thing missing is a pressure canner, but we’ll take that plunge in a year or so.

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Canning is something we’ve both wanted to experiment with for years, and other than helping a few friends and following their recipes and instructions, we haven’t had a chance to really explore the process.  So, this  weekend (after we all recovered from the cold of death), we spend several hours together in the kitchen preserving the 3 gallons of blackberries that had been hogging all of our freezer space for nearly a year.

We followed the basic strawberry jam recipe in the Ball canning book, and just subbed blackberries for strawberries (although I can’t wait to get a bunch of strawberries and do this over because that is my all-time favorite!)  I was a bit disappointed in the fact that more sugar goes into the pot than berries themselves, but considering it was our first time “jamming,” I didn’t really want to mess with the tried and true recipes too much.  At least not yet.

I thought in light of the fact that I’m writing a green, natural living blog, photos of the process would be a nice addition for my readers!  Pistache helped quite a bit. She is going to be such a gourmet when she grows up.

Making our first batch of jam

Making our first batch of jam

Yes, Pistache does have a rather large “cast” on her hand right now.  It’s due to an accident involving her cousins and a door, but we’re hoping it gets removed in a couple of days at her follow up! Oh…and you know those cooking blogs that show tons of pictures of their process while showing off their immaculate kitchens? Yeah…you obviously won’t find that here.  My kitchen is tiny and cluttered when I’m not using it, never mind when we’re making four batches of jam!

If you’ve never made jam for canning, you should consider it! It is the perfect way to practice this vital preparedness skill, and it comes out so good. Plus, it really only takes an hour from start to finish, including clean up.  All you need is 5 cups of mashed berries, sugar, a few mixing bowls, 2 (large) pots, and some canning jars and lids.  We are using a real canning set, since it came with so many tools that made the job a lot easier, such as a jar lifter, a magnetic lid catcher, a funnel, and a rack that holds the jars in the canner.  I got the set on Amazon a few weeks ago for about $80, and after one good use, I can say I’m pretty happy with the purchase.  We used all of the tools but one, and I can see it coming in handy on some other preserving projects.  If you don’t want to splurge on the whole set, a few large stock pots will probably get you through your first few attempts.

Jam ready for canning

Jam ready for canning

Here is our jam, after it cooked for maybe 15 minutes.  It’s all ready for canning, now! Cage Free Dad took over when it came to funneling the boiling hot jam into individual jars, and I cleaned the jars off and added the lids before they went back into the canner to process.  This part took about 15 minutes after the water started boiling again, so, like I said, if you’re only doing one batch of jam, your kitchen can be clean again in an hour!

Obviously, this cage free family does not just do 1 batch, though, and found ourselves with enough jam to give away in the end!

32 jars of homemade blackberry jam.  A beautiful sight!

32 jars of homemade blackberry jam. A beautiful sight!

We had a lot of fun canning together, and made a lot of gardening decisions based on our new hobby.  I can’t wait until the end of summer when we get to start canning tomatoes, salsa, strawberry jam, and pickles! Of course, now it just needs to warm up some, so that we can get some plants started!

 

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