Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Because I can

It's still hot and sticky here in Central Texas, but the truth is that high season is over. The tomatoes are long gone and now, even the peaches have disappeared. I missed the farmers market last week, but I'm sure it was similar to weeks past. Slowly the stalls and the customers have been fewer and farther between. But that's ok. I'm this for the long haul and I'll continue to buy veggies, eggs, nuts, honey, and herbs throughout the winter months (if you can call it winter here in Texas). 

I made a valiant effort this summer to can and freeze as many supplies as I could. That picture is of my pantry shelves - some peaches, tomatoes, pasta sauce, and soup. There's no way all the jam would fit in there. I have three cabinets of jam in the kitchen - yeah, Yikes! And of course, the freezer is half full of frozen peaches and berries. No slim pickings here!

Let's start with what I did and then move on to how I'll do things differently next year.

2008 Canning/Preserving Efforts
  • Strawberry Jam (9 half pints, 1 pint)
  • Peach Jam (7 half pints, 14 pints)
  • Blackberry Jam (11 half pints)
  • Grape Jelly (1 half pint, 5 pints)
  • Pasta Sauce (6 pints)
  • Tomatoes (8 pints)
  • Peaches (6 quarts, 2.5 gallons)
  • Blackberries and Dewberries (10 quarts)
  • Blueberries (5 quarts)
  • Strawberries (3 quarts)
As you can tell, we're super heavy on the jams and jellies (especially now that I'm trying to avoid sugar in my diet), but it was my first canning efforts and they were valuable lessons (not to mention that they'll make great holiday gifts).

So what would I do differently? We're in good shape with those jams and even the fruit, but I should have planned for more pasta sauce. It was the first time I had made my own, and of course, I had never canned tomatoes before. That's why I had only done one batch. But having already opened a couple jars... yeah, they're going to go fast! Next year will definitely mean several more batches of sauce.

The other thing I should have done was can corn. I would love to have had either frozen or canned corn on hand for all the soups I make (corn is great in my homemade cabbage and potato soup), but I only saw it for two weeks at the farmers market. I made the mistake of assuming I had more time. Next year, I'll buy it as soon as it hits the market. I don't need much, just one batch of canning.

Otherwise, we did great this year, our first year of canning. I enjoyed making every batch of jam, each jar of soup and sauce. I'm REALLY going to enjoy eating all those local goodies this winter when the taste of their local goodness would normally be out of reach. And we'll be doing it all, and more, again next year. Because I can.


Burbanmom said...

Mine was a learning year for canning. I ended up dumping an entire batch of pickles because I was nervous about whether I'd done it right. I put up 18 quarts of tomatoes, but found that's not going to be NEARLY enough for us. I *think* I made just the right amount of salsa, but... we'll see if I run out come March.

Freezing? I started the year just throwing veggies into baggies and now have several baggies of solidly clumped veggies. Halfway through the season we got a chest freezer and I discovered how much better it is to freeze things spread out on a cookie sheet and THEN bag them.

All in all, I think I have enough stores to get us through January/February. I do need to figure out some cool, dry storage for onions, potatoes, apples, squash and such. But all in all, I learned a lot this year and think I'll be much better prepared next year!

ttammylynn said...

You didn't make pickles. That is one of the things you probably should have done. I wish I could have found anyone with a good cucumber bounty locally this year, but everyone's cukes were not so great this year. I love dill pickles, my hubby loves bread and butter, but I usually make them every year.
Oh, and I love to freeze berries because you just wash them, hull them if needed, dry them and freeze them. Then, if you make a cheesecake at Christmastime, you can pull them out, put in a pot with a little water, cornstarch and sugar for an amazing compote.
The winter will mean lettuce and spinach. Oh, and I order oranges, lemons and grapefruit every year from a Texas organic farm. I love citrus. As a special treat I order apples from out of state in the wintertime, too. These apples are so much better than anything I have ever found in the grocery store, they are organic and amazing,I only wish I could find something half as good locally.
As for today, I'm gonna make some very veggie casserole(lasagna w/potatoes instead of noodles- my daughter's favorite meal) and then a batch of cheese to share with you, Miss Heather, on Friday.

Jennifer (of Veg*n Cooking) said...

Wow, you DID can a lot of jam! It'll be great to have over winter though.

We didn't get to preserve as much as we would have liked to, I didn't get a water bath canner until August. But next year, I am going to can far more tomatoes, sauce, salsas, jams, etc.

Our freezer is chock full of stuff, I wish I had a larger freezer.

Your corn season in Texas is that short? Oh no! We are getting towards the end of the corn here, but it's been in steady supply for a few months now. But this is corn (and soy and cow) country, so I suppose that is to be expected.

Green Bean said...

Great job canning! This is actually my second year and in a way I've done worse than last year. Fortunately, we have a long season so I'll try to play catch up this month.

I always seem to have enough jelly and jam. It is by far the pasta sauce that I need more of. Reminds me, I'd better go make some more pasta sauce.

Abbie said...

I canned 6 quarts of crushed tomatoes last weekend and I plan to can some more this coming weekend, depending on how my plants do! Last week was the first week that I had enough to even think about canning.

I, too, realized that it will take a lot of tomatoes to last us until next year! Especially when I don't have very many ripe tomatoes until late August!

Heather @ SGF said...

burbanmom - I feel the same way. It takes some time and a lot of experience to know how much is needed let alone learning how to actually can and freeze. But now we're pros! Next year will be a breeze!

ttammylynn - No, no pickles. I'm not a big pickle eater, although when I do eat them, I LOVE bread and butter pickles :) I was amazed that berries were so easy to freeze too. There was just nothing to it. I'll be doing some serious berry eating this winter for sure! Thanks for making the cheese. It sounds delicious and it's very sweet of you to make it! I'm looking forward to trying some!

jennifer - we had talked about getting a second freezer, but getting the pressure canner has pretty much taken care of that. It's great to be able to put everything on a shelf and if the power goes out, I don't have to worry about things defrosting. At least now you have some time to play with your water bath canner before you go all out canning next year. It's probably a blessing in disguise :)

green bean - yeah, but jam is just so darn easy! I'll definitely be prepared next year though. Good luck catching up.

abbie - you're canning them from your own garden? That's wonderful! Must be really exciting. I'm hoping I can do that next year!

Rapunzel said...

I just bought a canning kit and am ready to make my first foray into the canning world! I might be stopping by for some tips, ok?


Heather @ SGF said...

rapunzel - absolutely! Just let me know if you need any help. Have a blast and get ready to be addicted. It really is fun!

Wendy said...

Wow! You did great! The only thing I put up my first year was applesauce ;).

Heather @ SGF said...

Ooh! Applesauce sounds great! Did you have access to local apples? That's something I sure wish we had here. I LOVE apples!

ttammylynn said...

Apples are pretty hard to come by here, but, pears are pretty prevalent. I made pear pies when I was given so many pears that I didn't know what to do with them all. Later on in the year, I order organic apples from out of state. They are amazing. I will give you a few when the time comes and you will see what I mean.

Heather @ SGF said...

ttammylynn - thanks! I heard Dallas has apples but I don't know how good they are.