Canning is a full time job!

ellen_inmo(6)August 18, 2012

Just because you are a "gung ho" type person doesn't mean you can keep up when it comes to gardening and canning! I'm not just gung ho, I'm obsessed! Before me today is about 70 pounds of tomatoes, a gallon of banana peppers, 14 dozen ears of corn, 30 cucumbers, 25 pounds of green beans, 46 zuchhini, more gallons of grapes to be picked, and more to come tomorrow. The freezer is jammed pack. Its insanity to think I can do so much in a days time!!

Next year, I will freeze all my tomatoes blanched and cut up till October and later when I will process them. And also chop up all peppers and onions and freeze them in measured packages, labeled for whatever recipe they will be used in. How about other suggestions you all may have? What is your "M.O." for keeping up?

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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

How big is your garden anyway that you'd have 70 lbs. of tomatoes, 25 lbs. of green beans, 46 zucchini, and 14 dozen ears of corn all ready to be picked plus all the rest of that all at the same time??? That may be the problem right there - far too big a garden. And this has been a bad gardening year too weather-wise.

I honestly don't think it is humanly possible to salvage and can all that within a reasonable amount of time much less a day without 4 or 5 experienced helpers, a commercial canning kitchen, 20+ cases of jars, and 10 pressure canners.

Sounds like you are going to have to invest in a new freezer at least. Good luck!


    Bookmark   August 18, 2012 at 5:19PM
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readinglady(z8 OR)

Sad as it is, it would be better to waste produce than to get over-tired and end up doing something unsafe.

I would start by looking at what's most perishable and highest-risk and deal with that first. I would not process green beans tired.

Cucumbers and corn need to be dealt with quickly but zucchini can keep a day or so and generally the tomatoes will also, as long as you have a not-too-hot shaded spot.


    Bookmark   August 18, 2012 at 5:32PM
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Been there, done that. First year we put the "big garden" in, we bought 4 - 6 packs of lettuce plants so we could try different kinds. Who in their right mind needs 24 huge heads of lettuce all at one time? Oh, and the 36 zucchini plants and 12 cherry tomato plants, too ("But, hon, we have ALL this room - we have to plant SOMETHING").

Reflect on the canning season after it's over. Assuming you have your own garden, draw a map of what you planted (or make a list of what you bought or were given) and scribble on it. What did you plant too much of and what's a reasonable amount you can deal with? In January when you're making your seed order, what would like more of? For us, last year it was parsnips. Even though they didn't grow all that well, we use a lot and they are very expensive. So we took space away from the broccoli and planted much bigger bed of parsnips instead, because I still have 12 packages of broccoli left.

How much can you eat in a year? For us, we plan on 80 jars of salsa and 80 jars of canned tomatoes. 3 dozen ears of corn frozen on the cob (we buy corn from our neighbor and don't grow it). 10 linear feet of pole beans. 75 heads of garlic (including seed garlic for next year). 3 hills of summer squash and another planting 6 weeks later, so not so much all at one time.

What's left over that I canned last year that we didn't eat? Why didn't we use it? Forgot about it, it was buried in the freezer or we didn't care for it (for us, dilly beans come to mind :-)

It really will take a year or two to figure out what you can process without waste and what your requirements are.

Be sure to make notes about both successes and failures, and be realistic about how much time you have - yes, canning can be a full time job, but most of us have to squeeze it into daily life.

Hope that helps a little. It's so easy to overestimate when you're planting or buying stuff how much you can realistically eat!

    Bookmark   August 18, 2012 at 6:11PM
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My suggestion is to buy a good dehydrator (like Excalibur) and use it to "put up" a lot of what you grow, or trade for, or are given. The joke about looking for a car in the parking lot with the window down is apropos for zucchini. However, if you dry it and store in jars in the pantry, there is always something nourishing to stick into a nice tea bread in February.

I soak a third of my Roma tomatoes in wine overnight, fill the dehydrator trays in the morning and sprinkle on some Italian seasonings and Kosher salt when I start chopping more toms and onions for salsa or Bloody Mary Mix. The dried wine soaked toms are added to plain old spaghetti with a little olive oil and there is dinner in the winter, no sweat, or for a healthy snack at midnight! The extra onions, sliced or chopped, go directly into the freezer on trays then into big freezer bags to shake out later in the year, or they can be dried in the dehydrator for a good conservation of space. When I have enough flavored "sun" dried tomatoes, I just lay out more without any soak or seasoning and let them dehydrate for 8-10 hrs, depending on the thickness, at 135F. These are bagged in the vacuum sealer or whizzed up in the coffee grinder for later use as base for soup or beginnings or enhancements to paste or sauce.

Always put dehydrated stuff in the freezer for 48 hours to ensure any hitchhiking teensy eggs are zapped. Lots of veggies can be dehydrated so easily and stored on shelves in canning jars.

When corn is plentiful we don't bother freezing it on the cob. We cook it in the microwave (6-8 minutes, then chop off the stem end so we can pull off husk and silk in one motion). Then, while still hot, we take a large knife and run down the kernels close to the cob. Lay the kernels on a sheet and freeze, then put into freezer bags to shake out what you need. Takes up a whole lot less space and you get a really fresh taste compared to the taste of frozen cob. You can also take the cooked corn and put in the dehydrator for wonderful flavor when reconstituted.

As for how much to keep on hand: Figure out how many meals you make a year. If you are working it is a lot fewer than those that work at home or are retired. I was amazed at how little salsa we really ate in a year, given that we eat a lot of it but really only every other week or so - that's just only 26 jars, not 100 like I made last year. What I have from last year in the pantry is silly when season is upon us again. So extras went to neighbors, family, and others. A woman I barely know from church got two jars just because she doesn't cook very much and is alone. She even sent a hand written thank you note, it tickled her so much. She later got some dried veggies in a jar with simple instructions on how to make her own soup.

So, do you really NEED all that you are canning and freezing? I have been accused of "hoarding" food somewhat many times over my lifetime, but when I was in two earthquakes, a wild fire not terribly close but enough, several ice storms, ash storm from Mt St Helen's volcano, and a couple hurricanes, no one complained when they got canned and dried food, meat, turkey and fish jerky, and fruit leather (not to mention canned water) from me when the stores were closed and there wasn't any power. Money means nothing at that point and ATM's don't work even if there was a burger joint open.

We are not really obsessed, just observant that we do have to look out for ourselves, and when food is fresh and available it is the time to preserve it for when it isn't.


    Bookmark   August 18, 2012 at 7:20PM
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What fantastic responses here!

Where does the produce come from? When you are a greenhouse business owner and sell annuals, and your customers find out you are learning to do canning, suddenly you get the greatest "presents" left on your front door step, inside your vehicle, sent home from work with your spouse. I've met the kindest, most generous old timers who are just tickled with a young person learning to do preserving for the first time. And if it's a young person doing it, they are just as enthusiastic and they truly WANT you to learn and do well, because they understand the passion. I do have a garden, abs grow all this same produce, but I have a lot given to me in addition to my own. The tomatoes, however, are all mine. Vegetable gardens did not do well here in the Midwest UNLESS a person has irrigated. I use soaker hoses and my tomatoes were like nothing you've ever seen!! I had a total of 24 plants and, yes, we averaged 70 pounds per day. Enormous perfect fruits!! They have, however, finished producing for the year.

The zuchinis......people found out that my family prefers them to be the great big sized ones. You've seen them before. They get away from you and the next thing you know they have a 6 inch diameter on them. Most people don't mess with them that big but we love em that way. And being that large, and with a freezer packed full, I can only freeze a few at a time. I'm in the process of thawing out my frozen tomatoes in order to make more room.

The everyone else around here corn was terrible. Most people have ears that are half chewed up or half the ear never developed. Most people throw them out. Not me!! I took the time to Blanche and scrape off the good kernels and bag em up. People find out I want their "rejected" corn, and it starts showing up on my doorstep.

The green beans.....these I purchased. And it's a good thing I didn't grow them because beans only produced about 1% around here! I ordered these from a produce supplier. And they are fantastic.

Grapes....what a year for grapes! These came from my dads place and they've never been so prolific before, never in my lifetime!

You guys, I don't know how to say no! I don't want to say no! Trust me, I'm learning what I can and cannot do. There have been things here and there that I've had to toss. Clearly, I can't get to all this this weekend. I'm not foolish, just overly enthusiastic.

I am processing the responses from all of you. My gosh, so much for me to learn!!

    Bookmark   August 18, 2012 at 8:58PM
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Nancy, you are blanching your corn, in the husks, in the microwave?? That is definitely new to me. It's easier to remove the silks that way? Do you still dip them in cold water after they've blanched? What about worms? So they get cooked up in there also?! This is a very new and interesting process I hadn't heard of.

I also do plan out the year. For example, we eat a red sauce pasta every other week throughout the year and alternate that with a white sauce pasta. I make a homemade Alfredo (or clam sauce or other white sauce recipes) out of chicken broth. It is my desire to learn to can chicken broth so I don't need to purchase that ever again. 52 weeks in the year means I need 26 quarts of spaghetti sauce. And so on. I'm teaching my kids all of this stuff as well as they are very much a part of this canning adventure. Typically with red sauce pasta we have salad or green bean casserole. So I dissect the casserole and research what I can make homemade out of it. It costs an average of $9.50 to make one green bean casserole, shipping name brand. That is rediculous!! Fried onions in a plastic container costs $4.99. Really???!! Cream of Mushroom soup, $1.50. Even reduced sodium tastes terribly salty to me. I'm playing with homemade recipes and learning what I can can. I cannot can the soup, but I can do individual ingredients such as the mushrooms, broth, onions, dehydrated herbs, etc. And that is just for this one meal. Carrots, I purchased. Found 2 pound packages for $99 each at Aldi's. 2 pound packs of raw carrots sell here for $2.78! This was a heck of a sale. I pressure canned 27 quarts of them. Had a million potatoes given to me. I canned 26 quarts if them. Why let them go to waste? They are perfect for fried potatoes, and added to a stew or roast or soup. I don't want to go to the grocery store and give away all my money to the wealthy store owner.

Malna, 36 zuchhini plants?? Lol at that! But I can easily see that happening. 12 hills each with 3 seeds. I'm kinda feeling your pain tonight.

My garden is not large at all. But the generosity of Gardeners and my customers is extra large. :-)

    Bookmark   August 18, 2012 at 10:06PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Have you considered donating some of all this surplus to a local food pantry of kitchen or suggesting that to some of your donors?

And do be selective about the damaged corn you try to salvage. The corn crops here this year were heavy with smut and other molds and fungal diseases so preserving it isn't recommended. Not only is the quality poor but the bacterial count is quite high as well.


    Bookmark   August 18, 2012 at 10:16PM
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Dave, I have given away suplus but ONLY to people who I know will use it. Just as it was intended for me. I know some people really went out of their way to bring things to me. I intend to use it all but it's physically impossible!!

The field corn here was destroyed by drought. To my knowledge, most was bailed and used for feed. I'm not an agriculture person, but I am located right smack dab across the road from am Ag supply company. On
a normal year, trucks come up and down the road at all hours of the day and night delivering corn from now well into the winter. Kinda eerie to not hear those trucks jake breaking in the middle of the night...But sweet corn did okay IF it was irrigated. Kernels and cobs were smaller, and many hit and miss kernels, but seemingly edible otherwise. I've seen plenty of corn do the same thing in the past. How would a person find out if it's been deemed "indelible"? Thanks for the info.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2012 at 11:41PM
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readinglady(z8 OR)

Our food bank has put out a request for home gardeners to please donate any excess they have. Those patronizing food banks are desperate for fresh vegetables and fruits. There are also women's shelters and similar groups (i.e. church kitchen that serve meals) that can always use food to help stretch the monies they have. Somewhere in your community there may also be a gleaners organization eager to pick any fruit or veggies that would otherwise go to waste.

Regarding what Dave said, your local Extension service probably publishes a bulletin or newsletter (some are available as email) with canning tips, food safety info and gardening updates. Our Extension agent publishes a weekly column in the local paper. So if something's going on locally with the crops, they will know.


    Bookmark   August 19, 2012 at 2:00AM
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