This is Day 222 of the Green in 365 series!
By Renee from Joyful Mom:
Last summer I had some grand ideas about canning! After all, I had a long history of canning within my Polish community growing up – I was the youngest girl and my hands were the perfect size for cleaning all of the small mouth jars! I loved my role as chief bottle washer and the accolades that I received from all the women.
So as an adult I thought that it would be a natural progression in my “being green” to start canning again. I wrote about small batch canning, canning raspberry jam where I show how to hold the pint container for quicker picking, and my final article about canning – included my garden fail of the pumpkins taking over my entire garden AND lawn. It seemed so easy when I was a kid… why is it so difficult now?
Well, as hard as it is to admit – I didn’t plan very well! I underestimated how many cucumbers I needed to make pickles and my garden did not have the yield I needed all at one time. I did can jam, tomato sauce, ketchup, pickles, and salsa! And to my disappointment I still have jars of everything still in the cupboards!
I decided to learn from my mistakes and I want to offer you what I have changed this year to make my canning more successful.
Become intentional about why you want to can and what. I wanted to can jam because I wanted a lower sugar alternative and I had dreams of fresh baked bread with jam… so it was part lifestyle and part dream. And yes we did eat lots of loaves of warm bread with jam. I also gave away the jam in teacher gifts at Christmas!
Chose a Food Source
Decide if you will grow the food or buy it at a farmers market? I had this problem with cucumbers! I ended up dragging 4 kids to 5 different farmers’ markets to find cucumbers – and they weren’t all “pickling cukes” – I just didn’t realize I needed a “special” cucumber. I recommend simple refrigerator cucumbers.
Also, is organice produce a deal breaker? If you must have organic and not just local, you may need to plan ahead with the farmer for availability.
Chose Family Favorites
What does your family eat? Why can okra if no one eats it?
Decide on Canning vs. Store-Bought
I wanted to can ketchup – because I had it growing up and I loved it! 40 years later… I do not like canned ketchup! I was disappointed in letting go of a childhood dream, sharing it with my own kids, but my canned ketchup made a great base for chili.
Applesauce = Success
My most successful canning venture was applesauce! I could have made it and just frozen it, but seeing it in the jar… I felt like Ma on Little House for just a minute. I was so proud that ONE of my crazy canning ideas turned out well. Within a month, all the apple sauce was gone!
This year I plan on making apple sauce again and I want to make more jam. My garden is still a work in progress and each year I will evaluate what I may want to grow for canning, freezing and eating fresh. This year we extended the garden by another 4×4 and added 30 strawberry plants!
My goals have changed from the idealized dream of recreating the canning process, (which was never about the food, but about being around a community of Polish women), to growing a garden as a family, eating tomatoes and strawberries off the vine and the joy of watching a garden grow from a patch of dirt to food on the table.
I would love to hear your canning success stories! Did you start small or big? How did you plan for canning?
Renee from Joyful Mom: Renee is a wife, mom of 4, writer, speaker, creative artist, joy-seeker, a student of life and a teacher of universal lessons. She writes about it all at Joyful Mom–in everything give thanks.
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