Canning Kitchen/Prepping

asparagas just picked small

Coming soon!! Fresh goodies from the garden!

We had snow on the ground two days ago, April 15, but this morning the sun is shining and the snow is gone. I tell myself that the sun will continue to shine, the days will grow warmer, and the soil in the garden will dry out. I know that the garden will be planted soon, and before I am ready, the kitchen will be filled with baskets of fresh vegies and fruits. The summer busyness of canning, dehydrating, and seed saving will begin again. If you plan to can, dehydrate, freeze, make jams/jellies, pickles, sauerkraut or whatever, now is the perfect to think through what you will need. Here is my “get your ducks in a row the harvest will be here sooner then you think” list.

Defrost, clean, and reorganize the freezer. YUK!! I hate this job and have to push myself down the basement stairs to get it done. I try to do this when the outside temperature is below freezing so I can load the freezer contents into boxes and  laundry baskets and stack them on our outside basement steps to stay frozen. I admit that I go down to the basement many times,  crack open the freezer door, look inside and mumble to myself “Maybe not today.” I panic when I realize that days that will be cold enough to keep the frozen stuff frozen long enough for me to clean the freezer are limited. To defrost: Turn the freezer off or simply unplug it.  Completely empty the freezer and make certain the contents are safely cold. Mine go to the outside steps but coolers  will also work well for keeping things frozen.  I bring a large pot of water to a boil, place a heavy, folded towel on the bottom of the freezer, place the pot on the towel, and close the lid for at about half an hour.  When you open the freezer the ice build-up will be easy to remove. I collect large pieces of ice  in a bucket and sop up water with a cloth. Let me say that I totally get that I should never allow “large pieces of ice” to develop but, as I told you, I HATE to clean the freezer so stuff happens! I wipe down the freezer with warm water and baking soda. Plug the freezer back in, let it run for about a half an hour, put  return your food to the clean freezer, organizing as you go. Yay!!

pantry april 2014 400

Inventory and reorganize your pantry shelves. An early spring inventory helps you make decisions about what to can this season. Do you need to can more tomatoes or beans?  I still have a shelf full of jams and jellies so I will not make many this year. I also like to cover shelving with fresh paper and make certain that things have been rotated – oldest things up front.

canning equip,emnt reglids 400

Check your canning rings for rust and throw out or clean any with rust build up. If you are short on rings then now is the time to buy a few boxes of new rings with lids. Count your canning lids and add a box or two to your grocery cart whenever you are in the grocery store – begin to buy lids now and you will have enough stored up for when the garden gives you a surprise bounty. If you use Tattler  reusable lids you should be good to go. I invested in Tattler lids and have eliminated the yearly cost of canning lids.

canning equipment storage 400

I found this inexpensive storage unit at a flea market several years ago. Because I home can food all year, this unit is a permanent part of the kitchen. The top drawer holds regular rings and lids, the middle drawer holds wide mouth rings and lids.

canning equipment tools 400

The bottom drawer holds jar lifters, ladles, bubble removers, labels and pens, and all the other misc. equipment I might need. So, for instance if I find a good deal on a turkey,  I don’t have to scramble for equipment. My canning equipment is an integral part of my kitchen. Even if you only can “in season” having a dedicated spot for your equipment will keep things orderly and less stressful.

canning diary 4 400

Start a canning diary/journal.  Get yourself a three ring notebook or  blank journal and be ready to keep track of your canning experience.  Above you can see an entry I made for canning Potato Soup. The information I have saved will make things easier next time I can this soup. I like to keep track of how things time out. How long did it take the canner to begin venting? How long did it take the canner to come up to 10 pounds pressure or cool down to 0 pounds pressure?  How much celery did I chop to make 2 cups, etc. I have kept my canning journal for a long time and refer to it every year. Keeping this information written down in one place will help you become more efficient and make canning less stressful.

garden recipes collected 400

Organize your vegetable recipes so when your garden is bearing you will have lots of new ideas. My notebook is organized vegetable by vegetable and I am never without creative ideas. For example, when spinach is abundant I can pull out my envelope of spinach recipes, compare them and use them as is or create my own. I know Google is a fabulous place to find recipes and I often use it often. I also get that my notebook seems old-fashioned to many – but my collection of clipped recipes is a treasure of ideas that I can spread out on the table and peruse without using any energy other than my own brain. Old fashioned – so be it!

food in jars 400

Add a new book or two to your canning library. I like to experiment with new canning recipes every year so I am constantly looking for interesting books. This year I have added  Food in Jars – Canning in Small Batches Year Round by Marisa McClellan. The recipes are well written and the secrets of home canning are explained in such a way as to get you excited about creative canning.

I hope your gardens are planned and that some of you have already begun to plant.  I hope you are thinking ahead and are getting your kitchens organized for the harvest. Just think how good it will feel to stand back and look at the shelves of your canned food. WooHoo!

Hey from the farm,
Fran       The Country Cousin

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