I have never canned much. A bit of tomato sauce last year, some bread and butter pickles a few years back. The process is daunting to say the least, but a grocery budget for 6 is even more daunting.
I had decided this summer that in the fall I would try my hand at serious canning with the thought that next year the girls and I will grow certain produce with the specific purpose of canning. I still will put some back in the freezer, but we need to purchase beef soon and the freezer will quickly fill.
I’ve started with things that I do not like frozen. Green beans and tomatoes. We go through quite a bit of both and the freezer really alters the texture of both. The photo above is my first attempt at tomato juice. It turned out fairly well, though I have much to learn. Apparently there is a finer screen for my strainer to get a smoother juice, need to look into that. Also, my biggest kettle nearly full made just 5 quarts of juice. I figure we go through a quart a week easy. I would love to have a quart a week, plus a quart of whole or quartered tomatoes a week. That would be over 100 jars of tomato product. For some reason, I don’t see that happening this year.
Enlisted to help me in this venture are my grandmother, the queen of bread and butter pickles, the master of zucchini relish, and reigning champ of pickled beets. Oh how I love pickled beets! She has an entire walk in closet dedicated to canned goods that is kept dark and cool. For many years they had a garden specifically to fill this closet and to share with others. They would also stock a freezer. I need to learn and am so grateful to have her in my life to help me out!
Also, they don’t even know it, but the local Amish have been a huge help. Rumor has it, a guy came through last fall/early spring (depending on who you talk to) and asked the Amish to grow extra produce that he would in turn buy and sell at a market in a big city up north. According to the story, the guy never showed up and the Amish have more than they are able to consume and can. Not sure if it is true, but I have been getting huge candy onions for $.50 each, green beans at $.50 a lb, broccoli 2 huge heads for $1.25, and more beets than I could dream of. If I ruin a batch or bust a jar (happened) I don’t feel so bad knowing I didn’t pay top dollar for it, though I always hate to see good food go to waste. The goal next year will be to grow as much as I can, though, to cut the cost factor even more. These girls are growing and can really put back the food!
Anyhow, all this to say here is my initial attempts after going out to grandmas to do a couple jars of tomatoes:
- 4 quarts of green beans- we ate one jar already, there is no way I was going to put all that work into something if the family wasn’t going to eat them
- 5 quarts of tomato juice- yum, stirred in some thyme from my garden and a couple onions, it’s tasty to drink and will make very good soup…wish I had more
- 7 pints of pickled beets with onions- replaced half the sugar with honey
- 4 half-pints of pepper jelly- used Pomona’s Universal Pectin and it turned out great
That is it, wish I could put a zero behing the number of beans and tomato juice 🙂
Yesterday, my dear mother-in-law took pity on me and showed up at my door with a water-bath canner. She had seen the “set-up” I was using and probably thought I would poison her son and grand-daughters. Just kidding, my mother-in-law is an amazing woman that blesses us in big and small ways when we are least expecting it. I sent her home with many spoken thank you’s, some pepper jelly, beets, and the promise of more to come!
Today, I am going out to my grandma’s to do more tomatoes. She has a 5-gallon bucket of tomatoes that need to be processed and I have a bag full to add to it. The twins are spending time at my mom’s (so add her to the list of people helping out in this venture) and the older girls are bringing their school with us (what we do not get done this morning.)
I loved spending time at my Grandparent’s as a child. Their garden was always so exciting to me as a kid (okay, even last year I enjoyed picking beans and snapping them.) My grandparent’s always had a huge garden. Shoot, their garden this year seems huge to me, but it is pretty small compared to year’s past. Grandpa just can’t keep up with it like he used to and he isn’t very pleased about it. I really hope we get most of the schooling done with morning so the girls can be out exploring like I would have done on a late summer day when I was a kid. School started so early this year, but that is another post all of it’s own.
So, I will return home later with tomato all over me, I am sure, and tomorrow I do my green beans at home…by myself. I guess with all these little girls running around I am never on my own. Liz and Jane will help me with the cleaning and snapping of 12 lbs of beans. I wonder how many quarts I will end up with? My guess is 6. I will report back and let you know how it all goes. The new canner holds 7 jars, perhaps I should stop at the Amish and buy a couple more pounds on my way home from Grandma’s.