Do any of you can/freeze your own fruits/veggies? I would love to get started now that the summer is starting and lots of fresh produce is available, but I have never done it before, and it seems like a daunting task. What do you like to preserve, and do you have any tips?
06-17-2008, 08:16 AM
I was thinking of getting one of those food savers (vacuum pack for freezer)...so much easier than canning...I'll be watching for replies too!
06-17-2008, 09:44 AM
I can, freeze, dehydrate all sorts of produce that I have grown in our gardens. I would highly recommend that you purchase the "Ball Blue Book of Canning and Preserving". It is an excellent resource for those who are new to canning and freezing and gives you step by step instructions as well as suggestion/recommendations of equipment that you will need. There are excellent recipes in the book too - you can follow them, or alter them to suit your diet needs. There is a section in the book for diabetics as well and will give substitutions for splenda instead of sugar. :)
I typically freeze a lot of veggies as I like them a little more crisp than what canning (water bath or pressure canning) leaves them. I clean the veggies and blanch them in boiling water for a couple of minutes and then dunk them into a ice water bath and then drain/dry the veggies before I put them in freezer bags or in my vacuum pack food saver. The blanching process allows for the veggies to keep their nice color as well as allows for freezing without a lot of freezer burn. There are a few veggies that if you want to can that you will need a pressure canner rather than a water bath canner. It is very important to portion control what you freeze too. Some items I put in gallon size freezer bags, but the majority of the veggies I put in quart size.
I freeze asparagus, broccoli, peppers, onions, carrots, green beans, peas, spinach, swiss chard, sweet corn, and cauliflower. I also freeze berries and other fruits that we grow.
I dehydrate all of my herbs, onions, peppers and make my own fruit leathers as well.
I can jams, pickles, beets, apples (apple sauce, apple butter, apple pie mix) as well as make my own fruit syrups for ice cream, cakes & pancakes. I also can a lot of tomatoes, tomato sauce, salsas, and make my own spaghetti sauce and chili sauce to can.
I do not can any meats.
This is A LOT of work, but so worth it in the middle of winter when you get out a bag of frozen veggies, or a jar of homemade jam. After the initial purchase of equipment, jars & bags that you need it is also very economical to preserve the foods that you grow. I know with all of the problems with the produce in the country I feel safer feeding my family items that I have grown as well.
The first time I canned pickles, I canned a lot and had too much still left by the next growing season. I typically only keep for a year, so I do plan on what we will eat as close as I can for 1 year. Items that would have multiple uses like tomato juice I can a lot of. It can be used for spaghetti sauce, chili, tomato soup, veggie soup base along with chicken stock, etc. I make a version of my own V-8 as well, but without all the salt.
I will also make my own stewed tomatoes - I will add that to chilis, spaghetti and soups. I have cooked the stewed tomatoes and put portions into ice cube trays and then popped them out once frozen and put them in freezer bags. Then I just grab one or two of those to add to soups or stews.
You will also need a place to keep all of your canned goods. It is best in a cool, dry place that won't get sun. We have a room in our basement that my husband built shelves in for me that we store our produce in.
As you can tell, I love to garden and preserve the foods that we grow. If any of you have any questions feel free to PM me and I will answer any questions that you may have. :)
06-17-2008, 10:35 AM
Oooo.....Don't PM Chey---ask here!!
I want to hear the answers, too!
06-17-2008, 11:02 AM
I also want to learn to can. Our apartment is so tiny that it isn't very practical right now, but eventually I would like to have a small house and a big garden, and a chest freezer (and a second dehydrator).
Instead I do refrigerator and freezer pickles and jams. I also have a dehydrator, but it's pretty much dedicated to jerky as I've used it to make jerky so much that it's absorbed the smoke aroma from the liquid smoke in the marinade.
winning the war
06-17-2008, 11:05 AM
I can my own apple butter and pumpkin butter, and am planning to can/freeze my home-grown fruits and veggies this year. It's not really difficult, but time consuming. I love doing it though! There's nothing like knowing exactly where your food comes from!!
06-17-2008, 09:41 PM
I'm going tomorrow to get the book that Chey recommended... I'll keep you posted. I'm excited to get started!!
06-18-2008, 07:06 AM
I dehydrate whatever I can and freeze some. Dehydrating uses very little storage space and we live in a 4 room apartment ;) Dehydrating is a great way to add nutrients to all kinds of food and to cut down on food waste. I dry things like asparagus ends and broccoli stems and then powder them to add to everything! Makes easy soups, veggie pancakes and nutritious thickeners for stews, loaves (meat or non), etc. Dried apples, pears with ginger, red pepper strips and zucchini all make really yummy, healthy snacks. Those never make it into cooking because we eat as much of those as I can dry as snacks.
I do freeze some foods that are just better that way or that take too long to dry well. Asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower and berries go in my freezer first though berries also go into leathers.
I don't can at all right now. I just don't have the space and don't really want to make the time commitment. I may do some tomatoes this year though.
We have made a commitment to eating as much local food as we can and this is one way to do it. It also is cheaper and healthier over a year, though more expensive when produce is in season. I shop around and use a CSA and several farm stands along my commute route. I also like to go to the farmer's market at the end of the day. Sometimes farmers will sell things cheaper if it's closing time and I want a large quantity (got lots of zucchini that way last season!).
I found the yahoo group preserving-food really, really helpful for getting started.
06-18-2008, 07:59 AM
Oooo.....Don't PM Chey---ask here!!
I want to hear the answers, too!
I agree. Keep it out in the open, even if you think it's stupid. Remember, the only stupid question is the one that isn't asked!!! I'm very interested in the questions I don't have the sense to ask. BTW I'll be subscribing to this thread.
I have a small freezer and plenty of space if I put my mind to it(and a food saver I've not used since I got it many years ago). Please help me learn what I need to know. And, I'm also getting the book tomorrow.
06-18-2008, 08:55 AM
Hi All! This is a great thread!!
Chey, I have a question about which book to buy. I found the Ball Blue Book, (kitchenkrafts.com) but I also found - "Ball® Complete Book of Home Preserving". Which one is the best for first timers?
Any suggestions on where to get the essentials for canning? I have a flat top stove and the starter kit I found online that comes with the Ball Blue book says it's not recommended for ceramic or glass top stoves as the bottom is not flat.
I'm giving tomato plants a try this year (wish me luck!) and still thinking about a few pepper plants as well as a few herbs.
Sorry for all the questions and thank you in advance for the info!!
06-18-2008, 09:08 AM
OOPS, Chey!!! Looks like you set youself up as a quasi-moderator here.:s: And, Yes, I'm subsribed now, so you're in trouble. I know canning is a major investment, but I'm ready to go with it. All advise will be greatly appreciated.:D
Love ya babe!!!:hug:
06-18-2008, 11:25 AM
As a long time canner/"preservationist"/etc, I can help with some of these inquiries. I would suggest starting with a hot-water bath canner, which allows you to can high-acid foods, such as tomatoes, most fruits, jams, jellies, pickles. It is basically a large pot, with a rack to rest the filled jars in while the canning process ensues (also makes it easier to remove the jars). Canning jars are available at most larger grocery stores, well stocked hardware stores and garden shops, and the WalMarts/Kmarts. You can often find a basic water bath pot and misc. tools there as well.
Angie, you asked about the Ball Blue Book, vs. the larger Ball Complete book of Home Preserving. If you are just starting out, go with the Ball Blue Book - the monetary outlay is less, but you get a terrific amount of valuable info, some great recipes and all the safety info for food preservation. I have had that book for more than 15 years, and it still comes out every summer at canning time! And then, once you get into this, and are comfortable with the processes, the Big Book is great for expanding your canning recipe repertoire, and the library has lots of books on food preservation as well.
**The pressure cooker is used for low acid foods:most vegetables, meats, and combination foods (stews, sauces w/meat, etc.), and has little room for error. I am a food safety nut, and am extremely cautious with canning meats and low acid foods. All canning rules should be followed exactly, in both high and low acid foods, to allow you to confidently open a jar 2 months, 6 months or even a year later, and know your results are fresh, tasty, and healthy.**
That said, I really enjoy the knowledge that the foods I am serving my family are pure foods, with no added chemicals or bizaare preservatives. It is just wonderful to send one of my sons downstairs to grab a jar of pasta sauce - and have a healthy supper as quick as cooking the pasta. Or having my own choice of jams and preserves to choose from - and know that they are made with only pure honey or only a small bit of cane sugar.
So, pick up the the Blue Book, read it through, and have fun in your future canning adventures! If anyone has more questions, just post it - I'll be popping in and if there's anything I can help with, let me know!:)
06-18-2008, 03:30 PM
I've canned and frozen food most of my life. One of my strongest memories of childhood is skinning tomatoes by plunging them briefly into boiling water before my Mom canned them.
Nowaways, I freeze most of the veggies we grow or get at the local farmer's market, but I do can beets and pickles, jellies/jams and relishes. I freeze our berries (or make jam/jelly) as well as rhubarb. My DH picks wild berries on his fishing/camping trips, and they go into jelly as well.
I have a pressure canner, but usually I only use it to can salmon. (You'll note I live in Alaska, and DH keeps us well-stocked) It is very time-consuming, but oh so nice to have. We also freeze a lot of the salmon (vacumm packed) but having the canned is a convenience.
I'd suggest a book called "Putting Food By" which you can probably find in your local library. My copy is falling apart, and has splatters on many pages. :lol: It has good recipes for pickles and relishes, in addition to basic information on canning, freezing and drying fruits and veggies.
06-18-2008, 03:43 PM
Putting Food By is a great book! :)
I also can and freeze and have all my life. My grandmother taught me to can on their farm in East Texas and I have fond memories of spending summers with her "chipping" peaches and pears from their trees to create jams and jellies and pie fillings.
I live in a townhouse now and have limited room to grow things - I do tomatoes and peppers and that's about it. I do, however, hit the farmer's market every summer and buy as much of the yummy fresh fruit and veg as I can to process and preserve.
I also freeze a ton of stuff each year using the foodsaver. It really helps keep frozen food from burning or icing.
One tip for you - if you freeze fruit: wash it, cut it up (if necessary - sometimes I cut strawberries in 1/2, but smaller berries I leave whole) and spread out on a cookie sheet on waxed paper. Put that into your freezer for a couple of hours so that each piece freezes individually. *Then* put them in a storage bag and put the bag in the freezer That will keep them from clumping together over time.
06-18-2008, 04:00 PM
Hey everyone! Looks like there are a lot of us into preserving our foods! YAY!
I didn't mean for any questions to be kept secret.. lol - I forgot that I can subscribe to a thread, and since I get PM notifications I could answer any questions without losing where this thread was at.. :)
judipurple has suggested what I would have! You can get the book at any Walmart, Target or even grocery store near the canning jars. That is the one I started out with and I look at the new one that comes out every year for any updated information. The most recent one has some new recipes. :) I have found a lot of information from our state's extension office - they have a lot of food safety information as well as tips on food preservation. And as judi indicated those stores will also carry what you need to get started.
I have a pressure canner, but as judi said you have to follow all instructions to the T when using that. That is one reason why I don't can meats.. I am too much of a scardy cat. I have done low acid foods like carrots, candied sweet potatoes and such in that without any issue.
As far as the flat-top stove.. I think one of the reasons in reference to that kit is you do have to make sure that your water will heat evenly when you are using a water bath. Sometimes any variance of temperature can cause the jars to break. You can purchase one of those canners (dark blue with speckles enamel pot) that has a rack most anywhere. Check to make sure that there are no dents in it and that the lid fits well.
Here is a link to the canning tools that I have so you guys can see what they are. kitchenkrafts.com/product.asp?pn=FP0174&c2p=hp These can be purchased at your local stores too - in fact they are a little cheaper there.
All are very useful - especially the one that looks like a large tongue depressor. It is vitally important that you get all the air bubbles out of your jar prior to placing it in the water bath. It reduces spoilage as well as lessens the chance of a jar cracking or breaking. I have never had a jar crack or break but a couple of my friends have.
I can say for sure that I rest easier knowing my family is eating safe, healthy foods without preservatives. LOL.. judi - I know what you mean about heading to the pantry and pulling out some spaghetti sauce or chili sauce. :)
06-18-2008, 04:26 PM
I have never had a jar crack or break but a couple of my friends have
And what a mess it is too! :lol: Basically means you have to dump out your whole boiling water pot and start again - never mind that you lost a whole jar of what you're canning! Using canning jars helps. You should never use old mayonnaise or other commercial jars for canning.
And Chey mentioned the extension service. I know the one here offers classes in canning, and will also test your pressure canner. They're a great resource if there's one near you. They used to give away a lot of information, now they charge, but it's reasonable.
06-19-2008, 09:14 AM
Thank you all for the fantastic tips & guidance!
I'm going to pick up the Ball Blue Book this weekend to read through it.
I bought some wide mouth canning jars last year when a friend of ours made homemade pickels, so I have two shy of a dozen Ball jars in the basement waiting to be filled!
Our local garden center is having a half off all plants to close the season, so I'm heading over this week to pick up the pepper plants I've been thinking about!
I'm excited to give canning a shot this year - even my mom wants in too!
Thank you again - I'm sure I'll be back with more questions!
06-19-2008, 11:36 AM
Just another note.... you can't reuse the seals, but you can reuse the rings. When you are done, and you are sure that the jar has sealed (you will hear a pop or can push your finger down in the center of the seal and there is no up & down action) you can store the jar without the ring!
Pat - I know of a lot of 'old timers' who have reused old mayo jars... you are 100% right - do not use them! I take it you had a jar break?
Angie - yum.. peppers! I freeze mine and then just thaw them in a small colander with room temp water when I want to use them in omelets, soups, chilies or spaghetti.
06-19-2008, 06:18 PM
Chey - I've had a couple of canning jars break over the years. I've never used non-canning jars, but I know a woman who does, and has given me stuff in them. She doesn't get them back..... :)
06-20-2008, 01:57 PM
I have had those given to me as well. I hate to say this, but I don't trust those at all and I end up dumping the stuff out and throwing the jar away. I just worry about how safe the food is. I do let the person know about food safety, etc - but then the response usually is - "I have eaten food for years preserved in those old mayo jars.. lol - never got sick from it!"
01-02-2009, 07:09 PM
I was wondering if theres any recipes for canning jam without all that sugar and no artificial sweetners
01-02-2009, 08:28 PM
Sure-jell makes a pectin that requires way less sugar than regular jam/jelly. And I've made it with even less than they call for. It works better with fruit that has more natural pectin. Occasionally you'll end up with syrup. :)
01-02-2009, 10:17 PM
I use a product called "Pomona's Pectin", which allows you to make jams & jellies w/o much, if any, sugar. This pectin uses the calcium naturally occurring in the fruit itself, for the jelling. It's a low methoxyl type pectin, and includes a separate packet of calcium (monocalcium phosphate), for the fruits lower in calcium. I have had very good luck using it to make jams and preserves (I don't often make jellies). I purchase it directly from the company, but have seen it sold at natural food stores.
01-03-2009, 07:03 AM
Thanks for the info.I never heard of pomona's pectin.I will have to look for it.
Chey how do you make syrup with fruit?
01-14-2009, 02:46 PM
This is awesome! Thanks for all the helpful info. I have wanted to get into canning/preserving my own foods for a long time. This has been a great help! I look forward to trying all these tips out.
01-26-2009, 08:31 PM
There is also a book out there named Will It Freeze? It has a ton of info. More Make Your Own Groceries helps, too.
Once you can or freeze your own tomatoes, you will have wonderful sauces all year round.
If you'd like, I'll tell you a bedtime story about our smoked trout sometime.