Yes You Can, Can!

Do you can? Can you can? Preserving foods is one of those skills that I love sharing with my children. It harkens back to the days of root cellars and forgaging for food. I always remember my grandma’s neat rows of pretty jellies or snapping beans with my mom.

I started out with a hot water bath canner and I’d recommend that as a starting point for anyone. Basically this is a huge pot and it doesn’t cost much for a starter kit. You can dip your toes into the world of canning without much of an investment and if it’s not for you well, you still have a big ole pot for making chili or gumbo!I was blessed to be gifted a pressure canner that was my grandmother’s. I took it to my local extension office and they tested it for free and told me what parts needed replaced. After ordering a new guage and sealing ring I was ready to go! Please, if you get a second hand canner have it checked out by your local office, they’ll let you know if it’s safe. Canners can usually be found inexpensively at garage sales and thrift stores too.

I know a lot of people are intimidated by pressure canning. Honestly, I was nervous too but as long as you follow the directions you’re going to be fine. Two huge tips: do not try to speed up the cooling down process and do not open the lid until the gauge reads zero! And for the love of all that’s holy buy the Ball Blue Book of Preserving. Just for clarification, Ball and its affiliates don’t know who I am or know that I’m writing this post. I haven’t received any free stuff, but I wouldn’t say no, nor have I been paid…. again, I couldn’t say no! But seriously, this is my holy grail of canning information, buy it!
Now on to the canning! My children and I have canned a lot of things and I’d like to talk about some of our favorites.
First, tomatoes… tomatoes are something we can year after year. We just crush them and can them without seasonings so we can later make them into soups, sauces, salsa and casseroles. This is what works for us but by all means look at canning something more specific. Anyway, each year we plant tomato plants and can the harvest. This is one way that we cut down on our grocery bill plus, I just love fresh tomatoes! If you’re lucky someone will have a bumper crop and give some away. Always take free tomatoes, always!
Second, each year we plant green beans and can them too. Green beans can be planted in bushes that will grow well in a container or as climbing vines. I haven’t tried the vines in a container. We usually only plant 1-2 seed packets of green beans. They are really easy to grow and the kids are a great help with the harvesting. We love, love having canned green beans all year long.
Third, when turkeys go on sale after Thanksgiving we always buy an extra one or two. These are roasted and then then the entire carcass goes into the stock pot with some celery, carrots, onions, salt, pepper and a potato and then is simmered all day. We drain the broth and pop it into the refrigerator. We seperate the meat from bones and throw out the vegetables. The next day the fat is skimmed off of the broth and it is heated. We put about 1-1 1/2 cups of shredded turkey in a quart jar and fill with broth then can. This is so great in the winter! Our favorite is to make turkey and rice soup with a little sliced baby carrots when we aren’t feeling well or we’re in a hurry.
Finally, we are lucky enough to live in an area where chokecherries and sandhill plums grow wild. We usually go foraging to make jellies and jams. These look so pretty in the little jelly jars and make nice gifts too!
So those are the things we consistently can every year. Are there things that you always can? Things you’d like to can? Things you like to know more about canning?In addition to canning we also pop jalepenos in the freezer for later. When we lived by an orchard fruits were also on our list. I’m sure we’ll cover more food preservation in future posts so please don’t be intimidated by canning there is something satisfying about all of pretty those jars lining the shelves in the basement!

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