Adventures In Canning

The beauty of having a large garden, as you all know, is in the preservation of the bounty. I didn’t get that at first. But when I did, oh boy look out! I became a canning fool! It started with small batches because we moved by this time into the house my husband built – but it wasn’t finished. I had a temporary stove/oven that did its job well enough. Better than the electric, plug-in cooktop I used for almost a year. (I still have nightmares about it.) The stove was enough to help me make a few of the following:

Although I didn’t have a garden this particular year, I grabbed all that I could from the farmers’ market. I first tried stewed tomatoes because the recipes I found all looked really easy. And I didn’t have a pressure cooker yet so this was an obvious choice. I added onions and garlic and Italian herbs and they turned out FAB!

Easy stewed tomatoes

Per quart jar:

Enough peeled and chopped tomatoes to fill a quart jar to within 1 inch head space
Onions (optional) diced
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon canning salt
1 teaspoon each – dried/minced garlic, Italian herb seasoning
Boiling water

(See the main canning page for instruction on water bath canning.)

Method #1: Saute the tomatoes, onions, lemon juice and seasonings for about 5 minutes. Strain and fill the jar, and then add enough boiling water to within 1/2 head space. You can also use the left over tomato liquid if preferred. Process for 45 minutes.

Method #2: To cold-pack the tomatoes, leave out the onions (or add a teaspoon of dried/minced instead). Add the chopped tomatoes directly to the jars (raw, no cooking necessary) along with the other ingredients and fill with boiling water. Process for at least 30 minutes.

Several jars of boysenberry preserves and applesauce didn’t last long at all. As a matter of fact, my son ate all of this applesauce by himself in two days! (I should pay better attention to him.) And I didn’t realize that my husband would like the preserves so much. He never ate much of the store-bought kind and so I didn’t think I’d be making much for our family. Turns out they both love it. I adjusted the recipe a bit though… traditional preserves/jam/jelly recipes are very sweet. Though the amount of sugar helps it to set properly, we don’t really care about that. I take out some of the sugar and let it cook a bit longer and it turns out fine.

Easy preserves

Equal pounds of berries and sugar (the traditional measurment)
1-2 tablespoons lemon juice per pound of fruit

(Review the main canning page first.) Boil until mixture sets. Fill pint jars to within 1/4 head space and process for 20 minutes. Do this with any kind of berry. Tip: If using strawberries, use the full 2 tablespoons lemon juice, or combine with another berry. It’s the only berry that has a bit less pectin than the others.

Easy applesauce

(print recipe card)

Apples – peeled, cored and quartered (I like Fuji for this recipe best)
Water as needed
Lemon juice – about 1 tablespoon for every 3 lbs apples
Sugar to taste

Cook apples in just enough water to keep them from sticking to the saute pan. Cook until tender. Puree apples and return to pan and add the lemon juice, and (if necessary) add sugar to taste. Bring to a boil (stir frequently). Lower heat and keep the mixture hot while filling the jars. Leave 1/2 in head space in pint jars and process for 20 minutes. If you want to spice it up a bit with cinnamon or whatever, then process an additional 5-10 minutes.

Learning to pickle was so much fun. A little lengthy, but fun. On the left is sliced and whole cucumbers with fresh dill sprigs and garlic cloves, and on the right is mixed veggies with mustard seed and peppercorns. Here’s a closer look:

This picture was taken right after they were canned. Let pickled veggies sit for about 6 weeks before opening. There are recipes you can make that don’t call for canning – you just pop them into the refrigerator and you can have your pickles right away. And sometimes pickling involves using a brine (especially for cucumbers) and a vinegar/sugar/spice mixture. The recipes vary so much, it usually is just a matter of taste (and how much time you have).

Quick(er) pickles

(print recipe card)

about 3 1/2 pounds cucumbers (small pickling cukes that fit into quart-sized jars, slightly under ripe)
about two large sprigs of dill per jar
several cloves of garlic per jar (more if you really like garlic)
1/2 cup pickling or canning salt
1/4 cup sugar
2 1/2 cups white vinegar
7 cups water

(See the main canning page for instruction on water bath canning.) Clean the cukes well and trim off the ends. Set cucumbers, dill and garlic aside. Add the remaining ingredients to a pot and bring to a boil, stirring often. Once the salt and sugar dissolve, reduce heat to keep the liquid nice and hot. Pack hot jars with the cucumbers, dill and garlic (layer them for an even distribution of flavors). Pour the hot liquid over them until the jar is filled to a 1/2 inch headspace. Screw the lid and screw band on and start canning. Process quart jars for 15 minutes. For this recipe, use within 9 months.

More easy pickle and relish recipes

Finally, I asked my husband if I could look on Craig’s List for a better stove. We were still years away from getting the appliances we really wanted and I just couldn’t wait to start canning on a larger scale. Not to mention pressure canning. Our poor stove just didn’t put out enough BTU’s (I had to double up on burners just to get a rapid boil on the water bath) so my husband said that if I could find one, he’d pick it up. So take a look at this:

I call her Bertha. By this time I now have a pressure canner and I put it in this picture to help show the size of this thing. It’s a 10 burner, double oven, restaurant stove that cost around $1,300.00. We drove 2 hours away to get it. It’s huge, had to be converted to propane, and the wall behind it had to be protected from the heat. Was it worth it? OH YEAH! Bertha is a working girl that does everything she sets out to do. No questions asked. It’s the best decision we made for the house so far. I’ll never replace it with a fancy-schmancy brand name version… too wimpy. She is the real deal folks.