Sunday, July 1, 2012

Canning - An Eco-Friendly Thing I Do

When I was growing up, my parents did a lot of canning, freezing, and preserving of summer vegetables and fruit. I remember early morning trips to the Minneapolis Farmers Market, and my parents buying bushels of produce. 

When they would come back home, the laundry room - with its large sinks and gas stove - would be transformed into a canning room. They would work all morning preserving the fresh produce so we could enjoy it during the winter and early-spring.

As an adult, I have continued canning for several reasons:
- It saves money.
- It is eco-friendly.
- It’s fresher and tastes better.
- There are no additives or BPA.

During the summer, some of our favorite traditions revolve around going to the berry patch and picking fresh, strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries.

Picking Strawberries
Sophia and Olivia at the berry patch in 2010.
We were picking strawberries to make jam as well as
to eat fresh and make into a pie.

Around the farm, we have an ever-increasing amount of black raspberries. It seems like each year there are more plants and more berries to pick. These berries are eaten fresh as well as made into jam.

Black Raspberries Ready for Jam
Some of the many berries that the girls picked.

During July, the Colorado peaches arrive at the local supermarket. We usually get two cases to can and to make into jam.

Canned Peaches

During the fall, we enjoy going to the apple orchard and picking out a variety of apples. We look at the seconds bins since they will be made into applesauce, pies, breads, and/or eaten fresh. A blemish here or there on an apple is not a concern. They can be removed from the apples before they are cooked or baked.

Sophia Making Applesauce
Sophia peeling and coring the apples. 
When she is done, the slices go into the pot 
to be made into applesauce.

There is no comparison to homemade applesauce that has the proper amount of sweetener and cinnamon; and is at a consistency that everyone likes.

Canned Applesauce

Each year I've tried something new for canning. Sometimes things work out very well and the recipe is one that I use again - like salsa.

Other times, there's a mixed reaction. For example, one year I made ketchup because all the ketchup in the grocery stores at that time was made with high fructose corn syrup. I wanted something healthier.

I thought the flavor of the homemade ketchup was fine. Everyone else didn't agree. The store-bought kind was preferred. However, in a pinch, when the ketchup would run out and the homemade version was the only kind available...then there were no complaints.

When I was growing up, my parents made pickles. They never purchased pickles from the grocery store. As an adult, I purchased pickles in the store and prefer them to homemade ones.

That being said, I thought it might be interesting for Sophia and Olivia to see how homemade pickles are made. It's an interesting process since the cucumbers undergo a transformation before they become pickles. It's also a lesson in patience because it is best to wait to taste the finished product - well after the jar has cooled and sat for awhile.

Olivia Putting Cucumbers in Jar
Olivia putting cucumber slices, fresh dill, onions, and 
garlic in jars to make pickles.

As the girls have gotten older, they are involved in more aspects of canning. Since jams need to be heated until boiling and remain boiling for a set period of time, this was one aspect of canning that I did not want the girls to do until they were older.

Now, they will stir the jam or sweetened water for fruit until they no longer feel comfortable. That's when they ask that I take over and finish the process. They know what their limits are, and aren't afraid to ask for help.

Girls Making Lemon Honey Jelly
Sophia and Olivia making lemon honey jam.

Once canning is done for the day and for the season, it is a sense of accomplishment when we look at what we have made.

Lemon Honey Jelly

Seeing all the jars are lined up in cupboards and on shelves, ready for us to enjoy during the upcoming colder seasons, is both good for the environment and good for us.


Sara-Jayne said...

I love this! I really want to try it now; I'm going to start with applesauce!

FrugalFoodieMama said...

This is on my Sand Pail List for this summer! :) I have been wanting to learn to can. I am growing tomatoes, poblanos, and jalapenos in my raised garden bed and am hoping to can some of my own salsa by the end of the summer. I was thinking of buying one of those Ball starter kits. Is that what you would recommend?

FrugalFoodieMama said...

P.S. I remember my grandmother canning pears and green beans when I was a kid. I am fortunate that she is still with us & healthy. I am going to ask her if she will teach me to can. I have no idea why I didn't think of that before! Thank you for posting this. It inspired me. :)

Patty A said...

I wish we had a farmers market over here, I feel like I miss out on such a good thing. lol

I've always been interested in canning, but really don't know the process. Would love instructions, or a video on how to. Thanks!

Rita said...

Canning is something my mother never did. I think because she grew up on a farm and didn't want to be reminded of that fact--LOL! She did freeze corn, though. I wish I knew how and your girls are lucky to be learning this. It will serve them well. :)

Fishcake_random said...

I love making preserves for the winter. Have you ever tried salting runner beans? That could be a good frugal experiment to try with your girls.
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