Shut your lid and can it

strawberries dew abides

I hereby declare Canning Season 2014 open.


Now is the time on the wee homestead when we begin to psych ourselves up for the summer haul. Yes, it can be a pain in the rump when you have to drop what you’re doing to store excess veg before it quickly goes bad (125 pounds of tomatoes, I’m talkin’ to you.)

But it’s so worth those few exhausting days, knowing farm-fresh produce will be available all through the dreary dark of winter. Never a week went by that we didn’t enjoy the likes of apple galettes, fennel and sausage marinara, or red flannel hash.

I’m happy to report that, for the first time, we needed almost no food from the grocery store this winter — unless we were out of beer, cheese, or bread. You know, the necessities.

And we’ve got just enough leftover to supplement the greens and salad fixins that are standard fare for the spring CSA.

Because I’m obsessive-compulsive thorough, I love data. I collect it like Rihanna collects fishnet. So all last year, I kept up with several facets of our food storage — how much we purchased, how much it cost, and what was the yield.  That list has proven helpful as we decide where to focus our energy and money this season.

Here are the numbers, in case you’re curious how much is required to feed two people for six months:

10 pints sauerkraut
7 pints pickled green beans
5 pints pickled beets
8 half-pints strawberry jam
1 gallon honey
30 pints green beans
16 pints cooked peaches
36 half-pints peach jam (most were Christmas gifts – we’re not that piggy)
18 half-pints peach jelly
93 pints tomatoes (OK, we’re that piggy)
7 pints salsa
18 half-pints fig preserves
29 pints cooked apples
2 gallons dried apples
24 quarter-pints pepper jelly
7 pints pickled okra
1 gallon syrup
9 pints lard
21 quarts frozen strawberries
1 gallon frozen blueberries
7 quarts frozen field peas
5 gallons frozen peanuts
20 elephant garlic bulbs
11 silverskin garlic bulbs
5 pounds sunchokes
5 pounds turnip roots
70 pounds sweet potatoes
5 pounds corn meal
5 pounds grits
10 pounds sausage
3 pounds stew beef
3 pounds lamb shoulder
847 pounds shrimp (approximately)

Total cost: $766

Lessons learned?

  • While it sucks paying so much up front, you can’t beat a $127 monthly grocery bill.
  • You can actually get sick of peaches. Shocking but true.
  • Perhaps not so much with the sweet potatoes next time. We’ve still got 20 pounds lurking in the pantry, with which we’ll hopefully get around to making a batch of sweet potato butter before they sprout.
  • Pickled green beans are fine, but they pale compared to their cousin, the pickled okra. Won’t bother with them anymore.

Other than that, 2014 won’t deviate much from last year. I know it sounds like a lot, but don’t be daunted if you’re new to food preservation. Freezing, pickling, drying, and root storage are a snap. As for canning, start with something simple like jam, then work your way up to the more challenging recipes. Remember, it took me four years to screw up the courage for pressure canning.

So let me know how it goes. Feel free to post photos of your canning triumphs and tragedies on The Dew’s Facebook page. And we’re always looking for guest bloggers, if you’ve got advice to share with our online community.

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