Friday, 5 August 2011

How to Can/Preserve In Less Time

Well, I am no expert, that's for sure.  This is what works for me and it may NOT help you that much given your own circumstances.

1)  Organize your kitchen into stations

This is my prep area.  I soak produce in the sink and cut or trim it here so that I can easily access the compost bins and water.  I also have my food processor set up so I can quickly mash/crush fruits, etc.  My island is divided into 2 stations (one side for filling jars and lining them up for processing, and the other side for the processed jars to cool).

2)  Stay set up.  My pots and supplies stay out for the season.

These are recently washed canning jars, upside down in cardboard flats lined with clean tea towels.  They are at the ready, stacked next to my island, so I can quickly pop them into the oven on a cookie sheet to sterilize them as I prep food to be canned.

3)  Stock up in a big way to save running out for things like sugar, vinegar or pectin.  I have lots of everything I need for canning so I don't run out (all bought on sale).  I keep this basket at the end of kitchen counter and it has all my rings, lids, pectin, the funnel and the jar lifter in it.  This basket will stay there till the canning season is over.

4)  Plan for easy meals and triple or quad cook what you do make to make life easier during canning season.  This is critical!  When I have been canning all day or canning AND in the garden or at the U-Pick, I'm bushed come supper time and have very little energy or desire to cook.  I made 2 HUGE quiches the other day which fed us for 2 suppers and a few lunches.  Even better is to plan ahead and put meals in the freezer BEFORE canning season.

5)  Plan ahead.  Start saving or sourcing free or second hand jars months ahead of time to save rushing and paying full price when you are desperate for jars in peak season.  I started looking months ago and found all my jars either free or VERY cheaply second hand. You can collect and re-use jars from store bought foods, but I don't buy/get nearly enough of those to meet our needs.

This is my back up stash of store bought jars.

I bought them cheaply (on sale recently) and I'm saving the receipts to return them if I have enough of my own jars (which I think I will have).  I was SO fortunate to have received over 200 FREE jars on the weekend in response to an ad I placed on Freecycle!  I am astounded at the generosity and kindness of total strangers...  Can you imagine how happy I was when I pulled up to her house and saw a HUGE stack of boxes of jars?   I took the couple some jam as a thank you and they were so pleased ~ not only to have the jam but also to get the space freed up that all the jars were taking up!  A win, win all around.

6)  Use the assembly line system, slightly modified.  I do not prepare ALL the fruit/veg at once.  I do just enough to get the first few batches going.  As soon as I have that first batch water bathing/processing, the next batch is being readied.  When one set of jars is done in the water bath, the next set is ready to go in, and so on.  I re-use the hot water in the water bath - no sense refilling and waiting for it to reheat.  The plan is to keep it moving with no pot or piece of equipment sitting idle, including me (wink).  All stations are going full tilt, all the time until it's all done :)

7)  Have a place cleared and ready to store the finished product so that you aren't tripping over jars of canned goods.  We worked last month to get the basement pantry set up with shelving so that I could store all of our canned goods safely in the coolest part of the house.  My husband and boys use those cardboard flats to carry down the cooled jars at the end of the day and they bring up more empty jars (if needed) on the flats on their way up.  No steps are wasted, lol.

So, that's the nuts and bolts of my method.  It's not pretty, but it's very functional.  It's a temporary inconvenience to have some of my kitchen taken over by canning supplies, but it makes it so much easier than gathering all my supplies each day and putting them away.  Everything is ready.  When I receive an invitation to pick fruit or produce somewhere for free, I can take advantage of it, knowing that I am ready to process it at a moment's notice.  Should the garden go into overdrive (like right now), I can easily process the food with little hassle.

If you don't have a garden, you can still preserve food cheaply.  Watch your fliers carefully and wait until a particular fruit or vegetable has come down in price at the peak/toward the end of the season.  Here, our strawberries are very inexpensive right now (but are almost finished) and blueberries are just coming on full force and are coming down in price a little. In another week they will be much cheaper and on the front page of the fliers.  That's when to buy lots for processing.  Alternatively (and even better), is to find a local farmer's market and support a local producer (if you live in a climate where any food is grown).

Hope this helps someone :)

1 comment:

  1. YOu are truly never cease to amaze me.....and oh so it...keep up the great work...
    Happy will be my turn soon enough.