Does anyone remember the story of the ant and the grasshopper from when you were a kid? That’s what I feel like this time of year. I’ve got a larder busting at the seams with all the summer and fall produce I’ve put up and stored over the past couple months.
Canning is a bit of extra effort, but I really enjoy it. Late summer is when produce here is at it’s absolute peak, so why not save a little of it for later in the winter months when the quality and selection isn’t as great. You can buy canned veggies and year-round, but there’s just something satisfying about opening a jar of tomatoes you canned yourself (and maybe grew yourself) to make a pot of soup or chili. While canned veggies from the grocery store are cheap, if you grow them yourself and can them, they’re basically free.
I’ve got several quarts of green beans canned by my in-laws, several quarts of both vegetable and chicken stock, both quarts and pints of tomatoes, pickles, jams and salsas that I canned. At the end of last month, I bought some pumpkins and winter squash for storing. The pumpkins will need to be cut up soon, but the winter squash will last a few months. I’m not even sure what varieties they are. I also store some extra dry goods here like rice, beans and pasta that I buy when I find a good price.
I never can anything without consulting a reputable recipe. Canning is surprisingly easy if you follow the directions. This is not the place to experiment with recipes. The recipes have all been tested and verified with food safety in mind. I generally use the Ball Blue Book, but Extension Services are also a great resource for canning instructions and recipes.
I’ve got some apples, sweet potatoes and regular potatoes stored in my garage, too. They will last several weeks in here because it’s cool and dry in the winter.
My freezer is stuffed to the gills with the half a beef we bought back in September. Did you know that meat has a season? Back in the day, beef and pork was slaughtered in the fall. This was because the animals had reached maturity and because it was difficult to keep them alive over the winter, as there isn’t much besides hay (or dried corn for pigs) for them to eat then. I’ve also got quite a supply of chicken and turkey stock that I’ve frozen, as well as batches of vegetable scraps to make more vegetable stock. I just save all my carrot peels, bits of onion, stems from herbs and anything else you might throw away when you are peeling or chopping vegetables, and make vegetable stock from that when I have the time.
It’s a challenge to fit anything else in this deep freezer at this point. And, I don’t have any more space for jars of canned goods. by mid-summer next year, It will be looking pretty thin, and I’ll be ready to restock.
So, I say, “Bring it on, old man winter. I’m ready.”