Posted in Homestead

The Great Canning Jar (and all its many uses)

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Nancy sent me this picture.  How true!  Never have I loved a piece of homestead kitchen equipment more than a canning jar.  They are not just for canning, folks!  And for less than a dollar a piece new, free if you find the right person, dirt cheap at a garage sale, you have a heck of a worker.

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Yes, to start, the mighty canning jar is for, well, canning food.  There are over five hundred jars of delicious fruits and vegetables huddled together in my cool basement.  Which means that my grocery bill for vegetables and fruits for the remainder of the winter is about ten bucks a month.  Only because I love fresh cabbage sometimes, or I may run out of garlic.  These jars are truly amazing if you think about it.  They will hold their nutritious contents for me and not let anything happen to them for years if I needed them to.  Now, that’s an investment!

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I don’t have a pantry so I turned a circa 1950’s hardware shelf with cubbies into one.  It holds canning jars on their sides, their lids sticking out a bit with their contents labeled with a marker.  This sure beats my last method.  Pile all bulk bags, and boxes into a cupboard and hope I remember what is in there.  I can easily glance at the cubbies, see what is needed or what I have to make for supper.  The jars keep pests out like mill worms and mice….and the greyhound.  I store flour and larger quantities of pantry staples in larger canning jars.

I received my share of goat’s milk in them all summer.  Half a gallon Mason jars are great for storing milk, juice, or iced tea in.  We fill our half gallon jars up with water, honey, mint, and an iced tea bag, and take it with us to farmer’s markets and outings instead of tinny or plastic water bottles.

Pint or quart jars can be used for gift giving.  Fill with hot chocolate mix.  Or soup fixings.  Or on another note, how about sewing scissors, a cloth measuring tape, straight pins, a pattern, and some cute fabric for a beginning sewing kit.  Or paints and brushes.  Or dog treats.  How about bird seed?

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We use them to water plants, store leftovers instead of Tupperware, to hold our herbal medicines while they brew, our lotions are packaged in four ounce canning jars, and used to hold rubber bands, and odds and ends.  (The four ouncers are darling.)

So, next time you see canning jars, better grab them.  They are a great help to farmgirls everywhere.

Posted in Food/Wine (and preserving), Homestead

What the March Root Cellar Holds

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I suppose you might have thought me lazy when I first started canning for I really didn’t want to go through the whole trouble of water boiling the jars to seal the jars.  I just figured that if the top popped I was good to go, so any form of heat would probably be good.  Window sills seemed reasonable. Luckily, I was in the beginning stages of canning and really limited to pickles.  I filed them into their jar, filled half way with vinegar, half way with water (just like I do now), a sprig of dill, a teaspoon of salt, and some mustard seeds, celery seeds, and cayenne.  Then in the window they went!  We enjoyed them greatly.  I wasn’t making the amount I make now so they were gone in a matter of weeks.  Same with tomatoes in their tablespoon of lemon juice and teaspoon of salt.  We thankfully ate them quickly.  I got really brave one year and made salsa.  With corn.  I asked a friend at the farmer’s market, who I knew canned, about what I might have done wrong.  She looked a bit horrified at me as I revealed how I canned.  And the yummy tomatoes and corn and spices I have sitting in the window.  They were ticking….oddly enough.  Literally, ticking like a time bomb.  She said hoarsely, “Get rid of it!”  I did.  I ran with the ticking thing to the trash and threw it in and said a prayer for the trash man!  I hoped it wouldn’t blow up until it got far away.

I can immodestly say now that I have perfected canning, the real canning, with a little sheepish horror in reminiscence for how I started!  So, last year I decided to can over three hundred items.  It was a homesteading goal.  Just to see if I could do it.  And I did.  I am doing a root cellar tally.  I did not really think about all I was canning, just that I needed to can.  So whatever Miller Farms had extra was in my kitchen.  So here’s how it looks come Spring time.

Peas were the earliest to be canned and promptly eaten…sadly.  So delicious.  The frozen not quite satisfying my craving.  It seemed like I had tons of peas, but had only four jars by the end of shelling.

I have one can of corn left.  Not bad, but not enough.  Corn won’t be here until July so I should can more corn this year.

Apparently we ain’t big on beets.  We like them alright but somehow I still have at least twenty quarts left plus all the pickled beets.  It is very beautiful in the root cellar with all the ruby colored jars.  Perhaps less this year?

Ditto with zucchini.  Seemed like a brilliant idea.  Lot of zucchini and zucchini and tomatoes to put into soups and minestrone.  I guess we didn’t feel much like minestrone and soup this year.

The green beans are half gone.  I like them better canned than fresh I think.  How weird.  Perhaps because my memory growing up is of canned vegetables so they taste like when I was a kid.  Only organic and home-canned.  Still put butter and salt on top.

The fruit cocktail didn’t last too long.  The apples did.  Apparently I did not bake as many apple pies as previously expected (I baked one).  However, we do not get more apples until this fall so there is time for apple crisps and cabbage and apples.  The cherries are holding out alright.

Tomato sauce is gone.  It is a staple.  I have eight jars of spaghetti sauce but those won’t stick around.  I am swimming in ketchup, barbecue sauce, chutney.  These should last until fall though when it is time to do it again.

No matter how many jars of diced tomatoes I put up every year, it is not enough.  I am down to one.

We ate pickles like they were going out of style last year.  I ran clean out, so I doubled my numbers.  They haven’t been touched.  Oh, if we could only predict cravings!  Too bad Emily didn’t crave pickles!

The dried beans are holding out.  I am almost out of honey.  I have plenty of wheat.  I have an entire bucket of beets in sand.  Really?  More beets?!

The carrots that I packed in damp sand last fall?  Awesome.  Crisp, delicious, perfect.

The potatoes?  Well, you read that story.  If I hadn’t escorted them to the compost bin, they may have climbed straight out the window.

I have one less squash than when I started.  Huh.  I should have canned it.  During the winter, I don’t feel like canning.  It feels too out of season.  Too comfortable in the house or something.  It must be at the peak of temperatures and misery.  I will can in the fall.  More of this, a whole lot less of that!

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