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Just shut up and can, can, can

August 2, 2008

I love that song, Just Shut Up and Drive.  I find that one in my head a lot.  But, sometimes it has to be the homestead version… .

It’s no secret I like to can.  Or put up food.  It is comforting to me and I like the process.  But, being a claustrophobic farmgirl tomboy, I hate being trapped in the house.  So my canning has evolved, from being a competitive canner in 4-H, through my working full time with a small child and a large child husband at home, to now, when the hat I’m wearing is full time farmer and I know a little more about nutrition.  I try not to be wasteful, with food, or time and resources.

This is the way I can, and why.  I can’t say this is a how-to, or a tip filled post.  It is what it is.  I’m an //" target="_blank">View Raw Image</a>independent person, I’m a loner and I like to see the results of my hard work.  AND I like to work hard.  Canning is one of those things that I will do until I can’t crawl out to the garden anymore.  Just like having cattle.  I will always have cattle, until I can’t crawl out and take care of them anymore.  Too many of my old friends and mentors wasted away, after their kids took away their gardens, canning jars and cattle.  So, you better believe everyone around here knows the basic rules:  “The canning jars and cows stay until I’m cold, and DO NOT park a broiler pen over my grave!  If the cows lay on my grave that’s OK but, no chickens!”   “And don’t forget I have to be facing west so I can see the sunset and the crick.”

Here are the rules I have made for myself and try to follow:

♥  Try not to can everything is sight.  Will my family eat this, after I put all this time into canning it? My Mom made chutney every year, after she won a blue ribbon on her entry at the fair.  We hated it.  After she died, I finally threw out countless jars of chutney.  It became compost, the pigs wouldn’t eat it either.  It was a cathartic moment for me to throw away that last jar of chutney.  My mom who could look at a crocheted piece, and recreate it, was a haphazard canner at best.  She canned open kettle, with any jar she could find.  Her glasses would fog up, and some of the jars wouldn’t seal right, and she would re-can them.  I never could figure out why she didn’t can the same way that she made her 4-H kids can.  With those mental pictures in mind, if I get a hare-brained idea, and if it doesn’t get eaten at all, the pigs get it, and I don’t use that recipe again.

♥  I try to follow the Nourishing Traditions way of eating.  Some things work, some don’t.  My husband has food issues, mental and healthwise, so I have to keep these things in mind.   I believe the less a food is cooked the better it is for you.  But, not everyone wants to eat lacto-fermented everything, so I can things that will not store.  I do not can potatoes, winter squash, or any kind of “convenience food” like soups, dried beans, or mixes like spaghetti sauce with meat, etc.  Scratch cooking takes more time, but it mostly is the planning, like soaking the beans, or thawing out the meat beforehand that takes the time.  I also don’t make up meals and freeze them either.  It costs me money, and it just becomes one more thing to manage. I want to be outside, not peering in the freezer, wondering what the heck is that glob of crap anyway.  This is a good place to interject that I also don’t grow things we won’t eat either.  Or overplant things like zucchini, that are prolific.  Instead of planting 6 zucchini plants, plant 2 in three successions.  Eat that summer squash when it is fresh, not in February, when you need to add flour and sugar to it to make it palatable.  Some recipes evolved to use up a glut.  I’m lazy, why have a glut in the first place.  We gorge on everything in its season and then don’t want to eat or even see that food again for awhile. 

I get bored with cooking real fast, and I cook like I can’t go to the store.  So I need my ingredients in their original form.  If I have tomato puree, I can make anything out of it.  Spices tend to get bitter in the freezer, and when cooked and then frozen.  So things just taste better to me, when the spices and other flavorings are added when I’m cooking.  I don’t want my freezer to look like the freezer at the store. I only want ingredients that can be mixed and matched to suit my mood or menu.  

♥  Read all you can about canning, and learn the terminology.  Once you know the basics, you can process food safely.  It’s OK to monkey with jam recipes, all that will happen is that you might have runny jam, but messing with a salsa recipe could kill you.  It all has to do with learning this skill, and the ins and outs.

♥  My canning equipment is not new, people have given me their pressure canners, and I used to haunt estate sales.  Look for canning racks or improvise racks that will allow you to utilize the complete capacity of your canner.  My water bath canner came with a rack that isn’t divided on the bottom for 7 qts, so I can put 10 pints in it if I am using a recipe that makes that much.  Or, I can use my two pressure canner racks and put in 18 to 20 pints for a canner load.  Doing things like this saves energy, which is now money.  And a note about used equipment, don’t use aluminum anything where it will come in contact with your food, because it is a reactive metal.  Alzheimer’s, anyone, with your tomato soup?  You get my drift.  An aluminum pressure cooker is OK if you don’t use it to cook your meals in.

My exception to used canning equipment, I bought a Martha Stewart 5.5 quart stainless steel Chili Pot last winter.  It was cheap, (there’s that 1 thing, again) and made in China.  But it is well made, and is perfect for cooking jams, etc!  (Martha, I’m glad you’re out of jail, but your edited show was much better, you say Ummm too much.  PS:  I love your Apricot Jam Chili Pot.)
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And I love my Microplane zester.

♥  We have a cabinet called the Christmas Cabinet, and I put home canned products in there, that I want to give as gifts.  This also includes salves, etc.

When I’m making a batch of jam or pickles, I usually do some half-pints too, in jars I’m not attached to.  (I’m beginning to wonder if there is such a thing.)  If the jars don’t find their way back, I’m OK with it, since I didn’t like them anyway.  These smaller jars get put in the Christmas Cabinet and everybody knows not to grab them when they are in hurry for jam or something.

On the gift thing, I don’t give any low acid gifts.  I don’t want to trust that a low acid canned product will be handled properly.  It’s not worth losing the farm over, and we warn people about the risks of drinking raw milk at our house too.  People are funny, and even if your best friend is the recipient, you don’t know who they might serve the food to.  So…

♥  Have enough supplies on hand to complete your project.  Keep things like citric acid, lemon juice, vinegar, fresh pickling spices, pectin, lids, rings, jars, and extra gaskets for your pressure canner in your pantry.  That way when you are surprised with a windfall, you can take advantage of the bounty.

♥  To save money, don’t use wide mouth jars for everything.  When I was in 4-H, you would be counted down for putting liquids or jams (things easy to pack) in a wide mouth jar.  The wide mouth jars were to be reserved for peach and pear halves, etc.  They were teaching home economics, not just canning.  The WM jars and lids are more expensive, this is a way to save money.  Invest in a good bottle brush.  Exceptions:  you only have wide mouth jars, or you’re canning something greasy that will be hard to clean completely.   I use  wide mouth jars of various sizes and shapes to freeze my butter, lard, milk and some vegetables.  Under the advice of my Naturopath, I was told to use less plastic in my food preservation efforts.  She believed that plastics may have something to do with my uterine fibroid problems.

♥  All the old time canners I knew only made butters from the peelings and cores.  They were trying to use everything, and you want butters to be thick, so this works well because the natural pectin is near the skin.  So less cooking time – more money and time saved.

I make chunky applesauce because that is what we like, and make apple butter out of the peelings like I learned as a child.

I use my slow cookers to cook down my apple butter, and my tomato sauce too.  I’m a pot stirrer, but I don’t like to stir a pot on the stove.  I’m sure to burn it, just like I do cookies – my attention span is that of a dog.   I can leave the house and get outside, and not have to worry that I have ruined all my hard work.  The clean up is easier too!

Speaking of planning, I grow two strains of my “EVERYTHING TOMATO”.  This pleated heirloom beauty is Costoluto Genovese, from Tomato Growers Supply.  The flavor is very good, we eat these out of hand, and I roast most of them for sauce.  The pleats don’t matter, because I won’t peel these, after roasting I run them through my food mill.  (DH gave the me Lehman’s BEST food mill for Christmas one year.) And then cook down the puree for catsup or sauce.
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This is also Costoluto Genovese, but this is the strain that Cook’s Garden sells.  Since these are smoother, I use these for whole canned tomatoes, they are much easier to peel.
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♥   All that being said, this is the hardest, don’t can when you’re tired.  Have someone help you, or plan the processing for the next day.  Sometimes, I mix all my jam ingredients together and put them in the refrigerator overnight.  It won’t hurt, and it will take some of the heat off the production part of canning. 

 Now for a little fun, sing these lyrics in the appropriate places in the video.  hehe

Got a canner smoother than a limousine
Can you handle the jars?
Can you can all night?

‘Cause it’s 0 to 10 psi in 3.5
Baby, you got the peas,
Just shut up and can, can, can

My canner’s ready to explode, explode, explode…

See why I have so much fun canning!!


20 Comments leave one →
  1. August 2, 2008 2:12 pm

    How did I miss out on “Shut up and Drive” until now? That’s great!

    As much as I love to can, living urban with no family meant that no matter how folks said they loved the food, it just didn’t get eaten. I don’t can much anymore, and rely on my freezer more. Seems more efficient for small batches.

    Maybe that will change when I move.

  2. tansy permalink
    August 2, 2008 7:38 pm

    you rock! this was such a great post.

    i have that same attention span. i have burnt so many things because i’m constantly bouncing from room to room and area to area, in and out, downstairs and outside…on and on. i try to set timers to beep and warn me but when i’m outside, i don’t hear them.

    i just made a mess of apricot preserves. i never thought to put lime in them. that sounds yummy. my kids love my applesauce and ketchup so much that when we run out, store boughten is a sin around here!

    i relate to the big kid=husband…he’s my pickiest eater around here!

    my dad just brought over a ton of cukes, zukes and beets. i’m in canning heaven! everyone was gobbling up my sweet pickles tonight at the table. i have to confess though, i LOVE frozen grated zucchini. we love to cook it down in butter or olive oil like hashed browns and sprinkle it with salt. delicious!

  3. August 2, 2008 9:23 pm

    Oh yes, the first time I ever planted zucchini, I planted 10 (yes, TEN!) and then I started giving them away to anyone who would take them off my hands. I had no idea! Suddenly all those jokes I heard over the years about zucchin became clear to me!

    I thought I was the only one that had an affinity for certain jars! There are some jars I get attached to and those are not the ones to be given away!! The husband has learned by now to ask me to get a jar for so-and-so and not go and grab a jar himself. I like your “christmas cabinet” idea and I will start doing that, too! That will make it easier on Hubby, so he doesn’t get chewed out for giving away the wrong jar!

    Making butters out of the peelings… do you strain the peelings out afterwards? I don’t have a food mill, so a wire mesh strainer is what I would use instead. I’m gearing up to make pear butter in a couple weeks, and if it’s easier to leave the peels on, I’m all for it!!

    Happy 8th birthday!!

  4. August 3, 2008 4:05 am

    I have never had enough zucchini. Isn’t that weird? We love it and I simply put it in everything and we eat every bit we can get. I think I have a dozen plants plus one vegetable marrow.
    BTW, I have never grown them before…do you know if you cook them just like regular zucchini?
    Great post. I don’t can any more except for jam, but I love reading about YOU canning. lol

  5. August 3, 2008 8:53 am

    That was positively the best canning post I have ever read!! I learned some new things like use my WM (which I have actually quit buying new due to price of both jars and lids) for the peaches and pears (oddly never gave much thought to which jar I am using) and the christmas cabinet idea is great!

    I have three boys myself (two I gave birth to and one I married). My oldest (DH) is also the pickiest eater of the trio. The youngest will eat anything!

    This post was timely: I have zucchini to preserve and apricot jam to make today (I couldn’t stand your posts on the jam anymore! 🙂

  6. Kristen permalink
    August 3, 2008 10:53 am

    For some reason I am in the mood for chutney…:-) I made that one year becuase I thought it looked so pretty in the canning book pictures…but I didn’t dream of eating it. Yes I do make a whole lot of sense 🙂

  7. August 3, 2008 1:55 pm

    Stop posting thoses HOT Videos, I had to go and take a Cold shower after watching. Great post. I will read more after I get over that video.


  8. August 3, 2008 8:41 pm

    I DON’T grow any squash anymore simply because I’m always given enough. It’s a joke at the mailbox that if you leave your windows down your outfit will be full of them:) I quite growing beets too because I was the only one that would eat them and I can always trade jelly for a jar of beet pickles. I must say thought that it took a good 20 years to learn that.
    I always can a tomato/pepper/onion mix and spice it up to make various things. I find that doing that simplifies it for me in the winter but I also like having just plain old tomato puree also.
    Great post but now I’m going to bed with a certain song in my head:(

  9. August 4, 2008 2:36 am

    Good post especially for this novice canner. About salsa, you need a pressure canner right, and the danger is botulism right? I’ve made salsa before but not to can but I am going to have thousands of tomatoes so I would like to but up spaghetti sauce & salsa.
    Love the made up song and the video!

  10. August 4, 2008 7:46 am

    This was truly a great post. I love to do small batch canning but don’t have raw materials the way that you do. So those half pints are great, especially for my chutney, which I do like but only eat a small bit at a time.
    I, too, am curious about making butter out of peelings. Someone is dropping off Gravenstein apples and pears, of some sort, to me today. Then the fun begins.

  11. August 4, 2008 9:47 am

    This is a great post! I do the Christmas Cabinet, too. Sure makes life easier for any gift giving need. I do the split work thing alot too. If I’m making pumpkin butter for instance, often I cook the pumpkins and freeze the puree until I’m ready to add the spices and sugars and cook down for the actual butter and canning process. We’ll snap beans the day before actually canning, etc.

  12. August 4, 2008 9:52 am

    Hayden, just what you need to get you going. We listen to all types of music. If we don’t like what we hear we move on.
    I too have quit canning things that don’t disappear. The effort is too great, and the food in just wasted. I can feed things to the pigs or chickens, but I’m still out the work. Some things I can in great quantities, others hardly at all.

    I hate to think of losing my freezers, berries, stone fruits, and mushrooms all taste better to me frozen. I can pick my berries, come in the house and measure and put in the freezer. That is the peak of perfection. You will probably be doing a little of both, after you move. I like having a choice.

    Tansy, I’m the same on timers, I don’t hear them, and I’m immune because when I work at the soil testing lab, they use them all the time, and I shut the noise, out. So at home, I just tune out noise like that. BTW, what is it about all these picky eating men – he eats anything I fix, but he will stand around bleating, “what can I eat?” when there is food everywhere you look. He opened up a jar of nectarines yesterday, while I was moving cows, and when I saw that, I thought to myself, why not go outside and eat blueberries or something like that. I just don’t get it.
    Sounds like you will be busy, what a great Dad, bringing you all those vegetables. I could eat zukes everyday in the summer and fall, but your hash brown idea sounds good. I do can some for spaghetti sauce, but most disappear fresh. Now I’m going to have to try freezing some again. You stinker.
    I’m the only ketchup eater around here so I don’t have to share, I could eat it on just about anything.

    Jenny, maybe we could start some support group for the jar thing. I’m the same way about my coffee cup, and fabric and… . Aacckkk I need help, or more jars!

    I made a special shelf of every canned thing DH might eat, and put it straight in the fruit room door, so he can set his laser right on it. I cringe when he goes in there, I can just hear jars breaking and stuff being moved. Now he can pick what he wants, and I can just keep it stocked, because I will notice when there is a space on the shelf.

    I used to use a Foley hand held food mill for the butters made out of peelings and cores, and it wasn’t too expensive and it was easy to use. DH took it upon himself to buy the other for me, and I resisted using it, so now that I love it, I’m still hearing about it.
    We have this thing where we have to go out on the porch and yell, “He/She was right!” everytime one of us “wins” a bet/argument. No wonder the neighbors think we’re weird! If you do find a hand held food mill like that, make sure it isn’t aluminum, since most of the food you would be using it with is acidic. I think your strainer would work, and you don’t have to make butter out of the peelings, I just threw that out there because it was a frugal tip. Just cook as you would for your sauce, and after running it through the food mill or screen, add spices and sweetener if you want. Pears are incredibly sweet, so sometimes I combine them and don’t use any sugar.

    Threecollie, I never have grown vegetable marrow, but I really think they are the same thing. We like to eat a lot of zucchini, but, our family is small, and I’m barely keeping up with two plants right now.
    LOL, does that mean you are living “vicaniously” by reading about me canning?

    Gina, thanks, and yet another fussy guy. Mine has food issues from his mother – big surprise. NOT! When we met, he wouldn’t eat meat that had been frozen, so he has come a long away, and our kid is an absolute dream to feed.

    I hope all this apricot jam being made doesn’t cause any more global warming. That will be next, too much steam from canning! We’ll be trading canning credits instead of carbon credits. Ooops, there’s that redneck again, peeking out from under the flannel collar. Just kidding. But it has been cold here. 😉

    Kristen, I thought you fell in ;), and I thought I was the only one that fell for those pictures. That red pepper spread in the Ball Blue book keeps beckoning to me… . That’s funny about the chutney, my poor Mom toiled over that, and we always teased her. She didn’t eat it either and it became such a joke, but she still kept making it. I made it a couple of times, but it still wasn’t something we would use very often. If I could, I would tell her, that now I am finally able to grow all the ingredients for her chutney, and if she was here, I would help her make some for the fair. 🙂 Thanks for stopping in, any foal yet?

    Chris, don’t you watch videos like that when you can?

    Linda, they always say youth is wasted on the young. Why does it take us so long. Our dogs are trained to bark at anyone with zucchini in their car, that way we know to watch ’em, in case they try to sneak some in.

    Sorry about the song, I’m still cussing Stacy and Kid Rock! >:O

    Kim, this is where canning gets tricky. Even with pressure canned food, it is recommended that you boil the food for ten minutes before tasting. So save the pressure canning for food that will be cooked again, like spaghetti sauces, vegetables etc. Most people want to eat salsa out of the jar without cooking it again. So only use a tested recipe that is safe for water bath canning, and don’t change the quantities of low acid ingredients like peppers and onions. Most people like frozen salsa better than the canned, so make what your family will eat. I’ve got a good recipe that is USDA approved that I will share if anyone is interested. It’s fairly recent, so it is safe. And the BALL BLUE BOOK of canning is a must read, lots of good info. in there and up-to-date recipes and time tables. Have a great week!

    TheVQ, thanks for stopping by, it’s isn’t necessary to use the peelings and cores, just frugal. If you do, just add a small amount of water and cook until soft. Put the cooked peelings and cores through a sieve or food mill, and cook with desired spices to the consistency you want. This really concentrates the sweetness, so taste before adding any sweetener, or usually I use pears to sweeten the apple butter, since they are so sweet. Happy canning.

    Kathie, you sound the same as me, I have to split up the work, or it would never get done. It takes too long to pick the beans, snap the beans, and then can them in the same day. Too much to do outside. Pumpkin butter sounds good, is it spiced like pie? We make pumpkin pickles that are sweet and spicy. Pretty good stuff in the winter. Sounds like you already have too cold of weather for me. My hubby used to make noises about moving back to Montana – and I would say, “Send me a postcard!” And I would remind him how more wood he would have to cut. He doesn’t mention it anymore… 😉

  13. August 4, 2008 11:07 am

    What a wonderful post about your canning life!

    (Yes, I’m still out here). 😉

    I’m about to head into my canning life as well so thanks MOH for the great tips. I too will be a pro some day!

    Cheers and I hope all is going swimmingly. 🙂


  14. August 4, 2008 5:38 pm

    Thanks for the advice, I’d love the recipe. I bought that book a couple weeks ago and it has been my nighttime bible.

  15. August 5, 2008 11:27 am

    Your tomatoes are beautiful! I enjoyed reading about why canning is a big part of your nutrition process, as well as how you go about canning. Lots of work, but wow! the end result is terrific! Every time is see a canning jar, I think about your apricots! Now I’ve got that song stuck in my head!

  16. August 5, 2008 10:56 pm

    Colleen, thanks, good to hear from you, ah yes canning season, it seems every where I turn something needs harvesting. Glad your posting a bit.

    Kim, I looked at my recipe and it is very similar to the ZESTY SALSA recipe in the Ball Blue Book. I make a different kind too, but I can’t get anyone (extension,/USDA) to tell me if if is safe or not. So I better not post that one, until I find out if my salsa has killed me yet. 😉

    Paula, thanks, it’s fun work though. I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t enjoy it. I get so many songs in my head, sometimes it’s OK, other times it drives me crazy. PS: I’m loving your photos of food on your blog.

  17. October 6, 2008 11:11 am

    Yes, well…don’t can when you’re tired. I should have heeded that warning this morning at 5am when I was busy burning the plum chutney, darn it.

  18. October 7, 2008 6:08 am

    Where does one get a microplane zester???

  19. October 7, 2008 9:14 am

    HDR, That’s too bad about the scorched plum chutney, it is so disappointing when that happens. Even with all my careful 😉 planning I still sometimes end up canning too late.

    I got my zester at a kitchen supply store, but I think the internet probably has some good deals with free shipping.

  20. October 9, 2012 6:01 am

    This is a great post full of the wisdom of experience. My latest greatest canning discovery is a 30 gallon stainless pool filter that I use as a canner and for boiling other large batches of things. it can fit over 20 quarts in the bottom alone. I use it only a couple times a year, but it saves doing batch after batch in the kitchen all day long. I have filled it when canning juice, but usually it’s larger than needed. Not that that is a problem. I think a large stainless beer keg with the top cut off would be a pretty good size and a huge boon to any serious home canner. My mega canner also allows me to use a fire outside instead of gas, though I also have a propane burner from an old smoker that I can stick under there in the dry no-burn season.

    I also do my tomatoes simple, but peeled whole instead of pureed. I think they taste better, or rather the stuff I make from them tastes better. I do add a small amount of roasted pepper and a few basil leaves, but have never found anything that I want to make which they don’t fit with, and they are also out of season when tomatoes are.

    Many other great points!

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