PRESERVING YOUR OWN FRUITS AND VEGETABLES
When canning or freezing your own vegetables there are many things that can seem daunting. Which crops can I freeze or do I have to can them all? What kind of set up do I need to ensure it's done safely? Am I even saving any money this way? Each of these questions are not difficult ones, so let's simplify your preserving experience today!
FREEZE OR CAN?
While it may seem unhelpful, the most common answer for this is that ANYTHING can be canned. The most common examples of this consist of jams/jellies, most pickled things, and salsa. For me the defining factor to decide which option will be most efficient comes down to how it is being eaten once complete. Jams, pickled veggies, and salsa all are a mixture of different things while bagged and frozen vegetables are primarily in their pure form. Most bagged items consist of beans, peas, and chopped veggies or fruits that are in their pure form. The exception to this would be tomatoes, which are canned even when preserving by simply crushing or juicing them. Overall, much of this comes into personal preference and is fairly easy to decipher.
DO I HAVE THE PROPER EQUIPTMENT?
"I don't have a pressure cooker" is the most common rebuttal to why people do not preserve their own foods, but it is truly not a need. To ensure that all jars seal, the only necessity is a large pot or wash pan that is stovetop safe for a hot water bath. Along with the main needs of jars, lids, rims, and a pot for a hot water bath, you will need spices or pectin depending on what you are preserving. Any jelly will require a pectin or gelatin to ensure that the liquid thickens properly. As far as pickles, you will need vinegar and multiple spices. For beginners, a premixed seasoning packet is a safe way to go that ensures you do not miss a step. Once finished with the hot water bath or pressure cooker, simply place the jars on top of a towel and wrap the excess on the top to keep the heat in. Wait for a popping sound and you'll know it was a success.
IS IT ECONOMIC?
In our world of convenience and savings, the question is bound to come up. In all honesty, it is not a cheaper option by any means. A jar of welch grape jelly costs anywhere from $3-$5. Just a case of jars alone will cost more than the jar and product in a grocery store. But almost anyone could've told you that. What I offer is a solution. A few ways to continue to make these memories without paying a ridiculous amount is just to remain thrifty. Ask neighbors who are also canning if they would like to do it as a group. This will split the cost among the group as well as tie the community together. If this is not an option, just make sure to save what you can. Jars other utensils will last forever and most needs such as pectin, pickling spices, and vinegar can either be used in other recipes or keep until next canning season. With items that can be frozen, it is fairly economic and bags of course can be used throughout the year.
Lastly and most importantly, have patience. Especially with beginners, patience will go a long way. Some of the jars won't seal, salt may be forgotten, but the memories will always be there.
A one of our simple crowd pleasing recipes will be listed below:
Tina's Peach Jelly
5 cups juice 2 T lemon juice 8 cups sugar 1 box sure-gel
Cook juice and lemon juice until it boils. Add sure-gel for a rolling boil. Add sugar until a rolling boil. Can