Ah, July. The time on the wee homestead when every inch of flat space in the house is covered in produce and mason jars, and the bomb-like canner upon the stove frightens unsuspecting friends who pop by for a visit.
I love it.
As usual, summer’s bounty arrives all at once, and you just have to embrace the chaos. In the last couple of weeks, we’ve preserved 120 pounds of tomatoes, four batches of Christmas jam (not telling what flavor, you cheeky monkeys), gallons of berries and green beans, 30 pounds of carrots, and a couple jars of dill pickles.
A few thoughts from the experience:
While preparing tomatoes, I was reminded of one of the most important lessons in canning: If the temperature of the stuff inside the jars isn’t close to the temperature of the boiling water in the canner, guess what happens? Boom. Boom is what happens. And a lot of tomato shmoo all up in every crevice of the pot. This was the first year we raw-packed tomatoes — not cooked equals not hot enough, even with a topper of boiling water poured into the masons — so we quickly learned to place packed jars in a sink of hot water while they waited their turn for the canner.
- When our friends at Jenny Jack Sun Farm had a ton of juicy Sungold tomatoes, I gave this chutney recipe from Mrs. Wages a try. Looking forward to spicing up our sandwiches and roasted veggies this winter.
- The USDA has several salsa recipes available, and we opted for a new one this year, specifically for slicing tomatoes. Hubby and I both agree, the flavor is the best of all we’ve tried. (Note: Don’t die for salsa! Do NOT alter any amounts of fresh ingredients in a salsa recipe designed for canning. This can change the pH, putting you at risk for botulism. But, by all means, experiment with the dried spices as much as you like.)
For years, I pressure-canned green beans to keep them shelf-stable and avoid using plastic freezer bags. But the truth is, I can’t stand how mushy they get, and I had to force myself to eat them. At last, I relent, and into the freezer they go. On the bright side, the process is so much quicker that it freed up time for me to preserve more tomatoes and vegetables for which freezing isn’t an option.
- Pickled carrots are one of our favorite snacks, but those crisp and delicious green beans inspired us to put a few pounds of their orange brethren aside to freeze for winter meals. (Note: When pickling carrots, I skip the celery seed and, instead, use heaping teaspoons of mustard seed. Gives them a nice punch. Also, celery is a weed that should be eradicated from the earth.)