Sunday I spent some time canning, sort of. What sort of means, is I was creating batches of pickles that would only give me a pint or two and involved no time spent in the canner. Now before you food safety critics go flipping your lids, everything I am making has lots of vinegar, went in sterile jars and are going immediately into the refrigerator.
There are many of you out there who still can, freeze and dry. I grew up doing it and did it for years. Now there doesn’t seem to be as much free time, nor do I want to put as much by with just the two of us.
I thought about downsizing my heirloom recipes from my mom, but cutting down a recipe that calls for gallons of vinegar, pounds of sugar and half-bushels of vegetables seemed even to someone who likes the challenge of math too much work.
Off I was to the internet to find smaller recipes that I could either cut down or make in just a couple of pint jars. I found some and work on them. Tweaking them to make them more similar to mom’s or reflect my households evolving tastes.
I ended up with dill pickles, bread and butter pickles and beet pickles. I made two pints of each. One to keep and one to give away. Perfect. No hot water bath. No canner. No dozens of jars that you know you will not finish in the next five years. I love it.
Kudos to all of you still keeping the art alive on the larger scale. Those of you who have quit canning because it is a lot of hassle for a small family I hope you will give it a try on a small scale. The newbies and wanabes out there who are just starting or dreaming of canning, go forth, explore. There are many ways on a small scale to try you hand and the art of canning.
Today was Bountiful Basket day again and I still had half a case of tomatoes left. A case of tomatoes is a lot for a family of two. This morning found my husband and I preparing tomatoes for the freezer before we headed in to town to get our next batch of produce. All of this reminded me of my mom who was the preservation queen. What this means is she could figure out a way to put anything by for use to feed our family in the winter. We were like the Salvation Army of food; nothing was ever turned away or wasted. She made grape juice one year when some one gave her a couple of bushels of concord grapes. My family had a recipe for canned carp, that tasted very much like salmon. Carp were the fish, that the local fishermen did not want and our family could get them for the price of gas to the commercial fisherman’s dock. The year our freezer failed, my mom was pulling things out and reprocessing them in fruit jars to prevent a loss. We had a preference for our veggies frozen but that year they were all canned.
I used to can, dehydrate, and freeze quite a bit. I had learned from the best. I had gotten away from it since moving to Montana ten years ago. Produce here stinks to put it mildly. I must admit I was a little intimidated by the alterations that you need to make for the decreased of pressure at this altitude. I got rid of my old pressure canner. It was ages old from a rummage sale when I got it and I could not get weight adjustments that I would need for here. It seemed like the right thing to do.
I do have a “Food Saver”, though I call it a “Seal-a-Meal” (that dates me). We bought it to use when we butchered our chickens. Today we learned how to use it to save our tomatoes. I made two batches of a crock-pot marinara sauce, fire roasted salsa, and prepared cooked tomatoes. All of these I put by using my vacuum pack system. I must say when I am done, it doesn’t have the same impact of looking at all those pints of tomatoes all lined up in crystal clear Ball jars. I can say that it was much quicker. It also allowed me to put up small batches as needed without hauling all my canning stuff out and then processing for the extended length of time required. I am not sure that I save much if any money, as these Food Saver bags are not inexpensive or really reusable like fruit jars. I do know that we are going enjoy knowing our chili and spaghetti meals are made with tomatoes that are not full of salt, and extra’s that we don’t want or need.
This co-op system may have me rethinking about pulling out my dehydrater and if I need to replace my canner. Stay tuned.