Preserving the Harvest

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Clagett Farm Share for Week 10
The garden is in full swing this time of year. Vegetables are picked daily and the vacancies are replanted for another round of late summer or fall crops. The kitchen is abuzz with cleaning and chopping and blending and boiling.

This is the time that canning begins in earnest.

Our cooler than normal temperatures this summer have been a God send for summer canning. What would normally be a hot, sticky task has, so far, been a great pleasure. We’ve already canned blueberry, apricot and mixed berry jam; peach chutney, spiced peaches, zucchini relish and festive mild salsa. In a month there will be tomatoes – paste, stewed and sauce for pastas and pizzas.

I first learned to can with my mom. We had a neighbor on our street that made almost everything from scratch. From baking bread and making hamburger buns to canning jams, jellies, chutney’s and pie filling she made them all at home and in season. When our home garden overflowed we would take the extra produce to our neighbor and she would help us “put it up” for the winter. I loved the process of canning – getting produce ready for each recipe, stirring a bubbling pot over the stove, and then labeling colorful jars full of homegrown produce that would line our pantry shelves. Each bite throughout the winter would remind us of our summer garden and the days spent canning with friends. It was a country girls dream come true.

First time canning can be a daunting undertaking. With the fear of spoilage and the potential for botulism it’s a normal reaction. But, with proper handling and adherence to processing guidelines, the chances of causing harm are minimized. But, rest easy. Today’s methods of preserving are much easier and much more foolproof thanks to the two-piece lid closures from jar manufactures.

If you’ve decided that preserving food is on your homestead “TO-DO” list there are two important things you must do. The first is to destroy all micro-organisms such as bacteria, molds and yeasts that are naturally present in food to prevent them from spoiling the preserved food. The second important thing is to make sure your preserving containers are well sealed so that other organisms can’t enter, or they will also cause your carefully prepared food to spoil.

For the first-time canners simple recipes like jams are quick and easy. Or, try small batch canning (recipes that produce 2 to 4 pints or half-pints) until you feel more comfortable with the process. Anyway you approach it canning will bring summer’s colorful bounty to your family’s table all winter long.

To learn more about preserving the harvest check out these helpful links:

For canning books that would make great additions to your homestead library check these out.

Creative Commons License photo credit: krossbow

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