I know many of you have gardens just like me. Once you finally cleared away the weeds in that mid summer purge, there was a whole lot less going on in there than you thought, than I thought. There are bald patches that feel like a lost oppertunity.
I had ideas of producing pound upon pounds of produce to put away for the winter as well as enjoy all summer long. Well, I have enjoyed peas, broccoli, cherry tomatoes, and basil, but definitely not enough to “put up”. I kept waiting to get enough of one thing to can, freeze, or dry it. It just never happened.
This week I finally learned the most amazing thing about gardening as a grocery supplement:
You need a whole lot less of one thing to can than you might think.
It came to me in a flash of inspiration yesterday when I saw my friend Cat Rocketship’s google+ comment on putting up 15lbs of soy beans. I don’t have 15lbs of soy beans, but I wow did I want to put something up. I dug around in the fridge and I had:
- 1 jalapeno
- 2 cups of cherry tomatoes
- 3 ears of corn (local farmer) that I had grilled
- 2 pablano peppers
- 6 blood carrots
- 1 lone zucchini – I think a wasp finally came around and pollinated it
- onions and garlic from the farmer’s market
- Dill seed
- There wasn’t even enough to make a “batch” of salsa.
I didn’t really feel like eating any of this stuff straight up. I had already had my fill of veggies for the day. You know, you kind of look in the fridge and you just kind of feel “meh” about everything in there. I really wanted to can something. Anything. I already have a canning kit, loads of sugar, vinegar, and salt. I had anticipated the harvest and bought all the supplies last year when I made pickles from my surprise batch of cucumbers.
I decided to start with the zucchini, maybe I could slice it up and dehydrate it or puree and freeze it to use as a base to a soup or sauce? I grabbed my new book – that I had requested from Storey in anticipation of my summer bounty – called Put ‘em Up!
and flipped to the Squash section of the book. To my surprise, the recipe for Squash and Onion Relish required just 2lbs of squash and 2lbs of onions. Equal portions is what I saw there – I happened to have one zucchini weighing in at 13oz and 2 onions equaling 12.4oz. Close enough! I was able to fill 4 half pint jars.
Okay, well, zucchini and onions taken care of, what’s next? Hmm, what should I do with these carrots. I flipped over to the Carrots section – that’s one of the things I love about this book, it’s arranged according to the vegetable name, so in each veg section there’s a couple recipes, and then storage suggestions for fresh and if applicable, frozen and dried – and there was this enticing recipe for Spicy Carrots. Needing a handful of carrots and a jalapeno. Cutting the recipe down to 1/3 made exactly a pint of spicy carrots.
Corn, hmm, you are already roasted oh delicious corn, what shall I make with you? I was thinking maybe some kind of corn salsa. Well, wouldn’t you know it, there’s a whole section on corn and a recipe for something delightful called Picnic Relish. It calls for corn, green peppers, onions, and spices. Granted they want you to use 12 ears of corn and I had just 3, but that’s okay, I cut the recipe in fourths and was all set. It made 3 half pint jars in the end.
I just waited until I had put everything into it’s cans, then processed them all at the same time – a proper sized batch of 8 cans. I was surprised at the sense of discovery and feeling like I wasn’t wasting anything. There’s always that fear when trying a new canning recipe that it’s going to suck a whole lot and you’ve just wasted your summer harvest. I was able to make 3 small batches of three different recipes in just one afternoon of canning. And for the next clutch of carrots I’ll try something slightly different, maybe pickled carrots, or just slice them up and freeze them, or maybe even dice and dehydrate.
I was honestly shocked that at the end of it, the only thing left in my harvest basket was some dill seed I had collected this afternoon – which I promptly put in a jar and vacuum sealed until I collect enough to dehydrate.
Small Harvest Canning Lessons
- See the random selection of veggies as the chance to experiment with new recipes.
- Don’t be afraid to half, third, or even quarter a recipe. Just make sure you have enough vinegar and/or sugar in there to keep it from spoiling.
- Supplement with the farmer’s market, or even in season produce at the grocery store.
- If you are freezing something like tomatoes, flash freeze small batches as they rippen before freezing them together in a food saver bag.
- Make all you can from what you have and then process it all at once so you don’t waste the water and electricity/gas to heat up said water.
- Label everything – what recipe you used and where from, date you made it, date it will “expire”.
Preserving Books I Love
Essential Canning Tools
- Granite Ware 8 pc Canner Set – Black (21.5 qt)
- Small non-reactive sauce panto sterilize lids in
- mason jars
Preserving Tools I’ve acquired over the years and love
- hi-speed blender-Okay, so I don’t actually have this one yet, but someday…
- FoodSaver (awesome Christmas gift from Jason’s folks)
What’s your favorite preserving book, technique, or recipe? I’m curious.
Until Next Time!