Jar Love: Can-apalooza 2014

Last week, while I was standing at the sink peeling, pitting, and slicing peaches for the umpteenth hour of canning my son asked me, "Mom? Is it fun to can?"


Is it fun? To stand on your feet for hours on end. To have your fingers split from being constantly wet and gooey. To keep your stomach steady while carving out bugs, bruises, and bad spots from produce. To accidentally singe or slice your fingertips. To tremble with fear every single time you have to light the propane-run camp stove. To wash dozens and dozens of canning jars. To have to clean the sticky, wet kitchen afterwards. Fun???

Well...not exactly. But oh the sense of pride. My inner Little Red Hen is practically crowing at the sight of all those freshly sealed canning jars that will feed my family for the coming year. I know exactly what went into my food. No gluten, no dairy, no preservatives, no chemicals, no mystery ingredients. Feeling secure in these ways gives me such complete satisfaction that can be achieved in very few other activities.

This year, my sister Erin and I took on the mother load of canning. Everything kind of lined up two weekends ago. My husband was out of town. I had the truck. I had the time. I drove my truck down to my sister's place stopping at a local farm to purchase apples and peaches. The ladies that helped me load box after box just kept saying, "Are you sure you can do this? This is a project! Are you sure?"

Ye of little faith...

It took us all weekend working together and then a few days beyond that working on our own but we did it! Over 300 jars of peaches, pears, applesauce, apple pie filling and raspberry jam between us. Whew! (I only took home peaches and jam this year. Everything else was for Erin.)

Behold, the Riley Women at work!

Much thanks to my brother-in-law Kip for keeping eight kids fed and entertained all weekend. We couldn't have accomplished it without him.

Kip showing Dee and Cee his bees.

Some notes to self for next year. (Don't mind me; I just need a safe spot to put this stuff so I can find it next year):

*While the 2nd pick peaches ($10/half bushel box) may be the better financial deal, they aren't always the easiest to can. Lots of gross spots to cut out, lots of green produce. If you can afford it, go with the first pick ($20/half bushel box).

*I purchased 10 boxes of peaches but only canned about 8.5 of them for a little over 80 sealed jars. Several of the boxes were too green to can all at once. I did a few batches after Can-apalooza and then just left the rest for fresh eating.

*2014 was O'Henrys peaches. Not my favorite. Hope to get Angelos again next year.

*Each half bushel box makes about 9-12 jars of peaches.

*Wide mouth jars are best for peaches, but not necessary. Just cut up the peaches in smaller pieces for a regular mouth jar.

*You need more rings. Oh and get sealing lids (especially regular mouth) earlier in the year. Everywhere was sold out by mid September.

*Free raspberries are awesome, but don't load up the boxes too full because they turn into a juicy mushy mess. I tried low-sugar raspberry jam this year. We'll see how it compares to regular jam (which is definitely awesome but so full of sugar). Buy more Pectin.

*Maybe do peaches in a few smaller batches, especially if you have to do it by yourself.

*Try applesauce again next year, but use at least 3 kinds of apples if not more like 6. Honey Crisp, Gala, Wine Sap are some good choices. (Half-bushel boxes cost $20-$22 at Mitchell's Farm this year. How does this compare to lady in ward?)

*Buy a Victorio Strainer for applesauce.

*Purchase a bigger strainer spoon like Erin has. Also a bigger pot for cooking apples.

*Try spaghetti sauce like my cousin Elayne did. This looks amazing!

Oven Roasted Marinara! More than once I have tried to boil down juicy tomatoes to make sauce. After hours of boiling, the overcooked tomatoes just don't taste that great anymore. 
Today I discovered oven roasted marinara sauce and it's just too good not to share.

I filled as many pans as I could fit in the oven at once. A few red peppers and onions on top. (I think I would skip the red peppers and do garlic and fresh basil instead.)

Roasted @350 until soft and slightly caramelized. I think mine went about 1 1/2 hours.

Drain them before you process them into sauce. I put mine through a food mill so I didn't have to core the tomatoes or peel the onions before hand.

The end result was nice and thick, I just seasoned it and let it simmer a few minutes before I canned it. Best sauce so far.

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