Canning and Freezing Garden Produce
by Jill Cooper
We get quite a few questions this time of year about canning and freezing garden produce. This can be a great way to stretch your garden leftovers so you can be enjoying then long beyond the regular growing season. Since it is “harvest season”, I thought I’d share a little of my experience and give you suggestions to make it easier if you decide to try.
Unless you have a garden or receive free produce, canning your own can be more expensive than buying it at the store. I tried canning for years and between the sugar and spices, it cost me quite a bit. If I had to buy the fruit that I was going to can, it was even more expensive.
If you have your own gardens, you will probably have to do some canning and freezing if you want to make the most of your garden produce. Freezing is the best route to take when possible. You don’t need as many ingredients and it takes less time. When you have things ripening like crazy, time is important. Later, during the winter when it is cooler or you’re not so busy, take the fruit out of the freezer and make your jams or jellies.
Of course, you may want to can your veggies. Canning them doesn’t require as many expensive ingredients. Don’t forget, though, that when you are exhausted from canning or when you’re running out of time you can freeze many vegetables, too.
If you are short on freezer or cabinet space, you might consider dehydrating your produce. I love to dehydrate everything. You can dehydrate veggies. They work great in stews and soups.
You can dehydrate fruits and later eat them as-is or use them in trail mix, rehydrate them and use in muffins or breads and even use dehydrated apples in pies. You can make fruit roll ups by pureeing fruit and pouring on a special tray for your dehydrator. I saw apple chips advertised on TV for $25 for 3 Pringles-sized cans. Those are so easy to make and much cheaper with your dehydrator.
I canned for years. It was one homemaking skill I was glad I knew, but was very willing to give up. It was a lot of hard work during the hottest time of the year and then, if the least little thing went wrong, all those expensive ingredients and hard work were wasted.
I’m not saying don’t can. Try it! I think everyone should at least have that skill and knowledge under her belt. If you are going to have a garden and want to make the most of it, you will need to know that preserving the fruits of your labor will have to be a part of that. At the same time, don’t brow beat yourself if you find canning exhausting work and get discouraged over it.
It may be too late this year to do this but, if you can (no pun intended), it will help reduce the cost if you buy your canning supplies at garage sales or thrift stores. You might even post online or ask in the want ads if anyone wants to get rid of her canning supplies.
Another thing to note is that I didn’t always do things by the book. (Of course, for canning, you need to be careful that you always do the canning correctly for health reasons.) One time, I received several bushels of apples at one time. I had a baby, a toddler and a kitchen that was being remodeled at the same time that we were starting a new business in our home. I had my hands full and couldn’t get the entire bunch of apples done. I didn’t want them to go to waste so, in a desperate move, I took them all, put them in bags and just threw them in the freezer. I didn’t blanch them, core them or anything.
Later, when I went to use them, they worked great! I discovered that when I washed them (under warm water) the skins just fell off of them. I then cored and sliced them and they made beautiful apple butter and applesauce.
I can’t cover all the details about how to can and freeze all the different types of fruits and vegetables in this newsletter, but here are some links you can use to pick and choose the exact information that you need. The first two are about canning and freezing and the last one is on dehydrating.
Here are some links to places with great information about canning:
- Dehydrate2Store.com is our favorite site on dehydrating.