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Friday, July 11, 2014

Preserving on the Run


Maybe it's work. Maybe it's the kids, or your parents.. spouse? House? Volunteer work?

Yeah, I don't know anyone out there who isn't beyond busy. I've read that we supposedly have more leisure time than any other time in history but I find that hard to believe. How many people do you know that have the time to leisurely sit around and eat bon-bons?

Me neither.

So on top of this we are also supposed to start preserving and canning all the summer produce? When? When I sleep? I can hear you saying already, "I don't have time for that!"

But you know it saves you so much money to can and preserve food when it's cheap. It's a long held tradition that stretches as far back in human history as long as there were people who were hungry. And, when you have a freezer full of frozen summer fruits and shelves full of canned goods you put up, tell me it doesn't make you feel a little smug at the grocery store when a pint of berries is $3.50. Tell the truth now, you know it does.

Our day at the pick-your-own farm

A day at the pick-your-own farm
is both fun and purposeful!

But I'm as busy as you are.. between work, trying to take care of my home,  the garden, my child, spouse and the various flotsam and jetsam of life, trying to preserve food sometimes feels like the straw that finally broke the camel's back. But... I have to say that it is also one of the most satisfying activities I do knowing that I have the food security that I need to get us through the winter and help save us a lot in one area of our family budget. It's a lot of work but it's both rewarding and, honestly, I find it fun.

Summer Goodness
in a jar!

There is nothing better then running upstairs to grab a jar of last summer's tomatoes for chili or a jar of homemade concord grape juice to have a refreshing drink. Knowing that you put that food in the jar and know exactly what's in there, provides a sense of self reliance that gives you a better high than any drug out there.

Take preserving in small bites. Sometimes
that means, doing one step at a time.

The key to preserving on the run is two fold. Remember the adage that the way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time? Well, it's the same with preserving. When I'm trying to can jelly or sauce for the winter, if I don't have the time, I certainly don't do canning marathons trying to get the produce from raw state to canned in one session. I think so many of us think we  have to in order to get everything done. The answer is do it in stages. And the second part is, bring out your appliances to help you accomplish this.

For example, this week my sour cherry tree went nuts and I would say we've already frozen about 60-70 lbs of cherries. Yeah, you read that right pounds! Needless to say at this point, I'm sick of picking cherries, pitting cherries and freezing cherries. (The birds are getting the remainder). The fact that I'm writing this at 1am in the morning still pitting the last 17lbs of cherries we picked Saturday tells you how sick I am of cherries. But, come February we'll be thrilled for the bounty that we have begun cursing. And of course the cherries didn't come to ripeness last Saturday when I had off but rather Monday when I went back to work and had no time to process them. The last of this bounty is going to be made into jelly. Tonight? Oh heck no. But tonight I can put them in the pan and in ten minutes I'll have cherry juice ready to strain and put in the fridge so tommorrow when I have the time I can finish making the jelly. If I do it in stages it isn't as exhausting as if I try to do it all at once.

Last year's cherries. We've already surpassed that in droves!

Canning tomatoes can save you a bundle alone!
When the tomatoes start coming in, I press the crockpot into duty.
I work outside of the house so I don't usually have the time to make the spaghetti sauce, prepare the jars, process the spaghetti sauce and then let it cool all in one session. But I do have the time to put the ingredients in a crockpot, the jars in the dishwasher and have two of the big steps done when I get home. I can then get the canner going, fill the sink with hot water, get the lids together and finish processing. In a good year, I can up to 60-70 jars of tomato products and much of the sauces are done this way.

Take your preserving one step at a time. It's tiring during the season but you'll be so glad come January or February to pop open the can of summer goodness that you'll forget all the juggling it takes to get it done. You food bill will also thank you.

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