We love gardening. There’s almost no time during the year when we’re not involved in gardening somehow. Planning, planting, cultivating, harvesting, or processing food from our garden.
It’s a lot of work, but it’s totally worth it. I’ve had people ask me why we do it. It’s a lot of work, and it’s not any cheaper than buying produce from the store.
No, it’s not necessarily cheaper. Especially your startup cost with having to buy canners and bottles and flats and, and, and…But I know exactly what goes into my food. And let me tell you, yellow #5 isn’t in there! I know how to preserve my food in case there is ever an emergency. The food has better flavor (in most cases).
And my kids see me work. They help in the garden. They help harvest. They’re underfoot while I can and process and mark jars and organize the food in the food storage room. They know what hard work is, and they can appreciate the literal fruits of their labors.
There is way too much to get into with canning and processing food. I didn’t grow up canning, but I’ve learned a lot as I’ve gone along. Here are five tips to help you in your self-reliance journey.
1. Start with quality produce – if you bottle gross bruised peaches, they’re going to end up gross and bruised. Soaking them in syrup and boiling them and 9,000 degrees for half an hour isn’t going to magically make them better. In fact, the steaming process (that kills harmful bacteria and seals your jars), will actually make low quality produce even worse. Start out with the good stuff and you’ll end up with good stuff.
2. Use your resources – Reach out to your local agricultural extension office. They have valuable information on your altitude and correct processing times. We take our pressure gauge in every year and have them test it (usually for free). They’ll have amazing books and resources that you can purchase right there in office. You can also call them with ANY canning/processing question you may have. For instance, “I made this raspberry peach jam last year. The top has sort of darkened in color. Is this normal? Can I still eat it?” Or, “How long should I process my peaches?” Or, “I want to use a new recipe for salsa. Will you tell me if it’s ok to bottle and store on the shelf?” Seriously, Extension Officers have DEGREES in this business just so they can help out Joe Shmoe like you and me. Or would it be Jane Shmane…?
Don’t know where your extension office is? Never even heard of it? Open up a search engine and type in “Local extension office near __________” and insert your city. Sometimes they’re affiliated with a large university. Sometimes not. Look it up and see what you can find.
3. Have everything ready BEFORE you begin processing – you’ve already made whatever it is your canning, and you’ve got your processing water up to heat, you reach for a flat…and you’re out. Or, you have your huge pot of spaghetti sauce ready to simmer on the stove, and you realize, you don’t have bell peppers. So you have to run to the store in your tomato stained sweatpants.
Canning takes a long time, and there’s nothing worse than getting elbow deep into it, and then realize you’re not all the way prepared. Do you have jars washed? Flats? Rings? All the ingredients, including canning salt?
4. Don’t sweat it – As long as you process correctly, meaning at the correct temperature for the right amount of time, the rest of it will come. For years I canned with my mother-in-law, and then I realized I preferred to do things a little differently. Was her way wrong and my way right? Nope. They were just different. And that’s fine! Canning isn’t scary. But it can feel daunting when people we love and respect do it one way and we want to do it another way. Check with your extension office to be sure, but if you want to half your pears and I want to quarter mine, there’s nothing wrong with that.
5. Take care of your jars – Jars are an ESSENTIAL part of processing your food. You should never use a metal knife to poke out air bubbles (use plastic or a spoon). Never use cracked or chipped jars. You’re submitting them to a lot of pressure in a canner. Keep them clean!
Finish® Max in 1 takes care of my jars, preventing them from corroding and keeping them shiny.
And one of the best parts is I don’t have to try and open up the wrapper with my slippery hands. I just pull it out of the bag, drop it in the dishwasher, and voila! I am in love with how easy and effective the Max in 1 is!
When canning season comes around, we are washing a LOT of dishes. The dishwasher is running almost constantly. We clean the dishes we used to make the recipes as well as the jars to bottle them in – and that’s a LOT of jars!
Not to mention the every day dishes and glasses that we need to sustain normal life and health. 🙂 I hate pulling my jars out of the dishwasher and putting them straight into the sink to wash again. And with Finish, no more sideways glances from company because the glasses look filmy and dingy. Sparkling, clean, protected, ready. That’s what I want.
And did you know that washing your dishes by hand uses more water than if you put them in the dishwasher?!
To show how amazing their product is, Finish is offering a free bag of Max in 1 detergent to one lucky duck! Entries are easy, so don’t miss out!
Have you ever canned before? Any great tips or advice that I missed?