A week ago I asked myself, “What on earth are we going to do with all this stuff?”
I’d just pulled 55 lbs of produce in a mad dash to beat the freeze, and I stood in the sunroom looking at baskets, bins, and buckets crammed with chillies, potatoes, carrots, beets, green beans and tomatoes.
Then it hit me. Clearly I’d made a mistake.
I probably would have been fine leaving all but the chillies and tomatoes out in the garden, but in my zeal, nay, my blood-lust, of harvesting – I’d pulled the root vegetables as well as the frost-sensitive-heat-loving crops.
I thought for a brief moment, maybe I can put them back? No, that would be dumb and besides, the neighbors would know I’m crazy.
“Psst – don’t look now… but he’s putting them back in the ground!?”
“Lock the door!”
No… putting them back in the ground was not a choice.
So there I was again, what to do.
I figured I had five choices 1) eat them 2) freeze them, 3) can them, 4) dehydrate them and 5) give them away.
I love vegetables, and am especially happy to eat those I’ve grown, but the Accountant and I can only eat so much.
I don’t have a dedicated freezer, besides, when the power goes out (and it does), so does the freezer. It’s happened multiple times in the last couple years, and until I got a generator it had been a problem. Even so, I’d prefer not to depend on electricity to protect the fruits of hard labor. Many people love to freeze their produce and cite better flavor as a big reason. That’s great for them, just not my choice.
That leaves doors # 3-5 open. So that’s what I did.
I’m comfortable canning high acid foods and have gotten pretty efficient at it but I’m still a relative novice at running the pressure canner. If anything was going to get me motivated it was the thought of months of labor spoiling because I was too timid to teach myself.
Armed with the classic Ball Blue Book guide to preserving, Jackie Clay’s Growing and Canning Your Own Food, and after a perusal of this fine tutorial over at Pickyourown.org I felt confident enough to tackle carrots and beets. I won’t reinvent the wheel by painstakingly recreating pressure canning instructions. Read the tutorial above. It’s good. Still nervous? Read it again. You can do this!
On day one I put up all the carrots – I got 9 pints.
Day two saw 9 pints of beets, 12 half pints of jalapenos, and 9 half pints of garlic conserve (no, I didn’t grow this garlic but I did jar it, the folly of which is a separate post altogether)
Day three I did six and half pints of Indian chilli pickles and 5 pints of Swiss chard.
In between I dried a quart and a half of hot chillies and also froze a quart of hotties for chili con carne or stew or?
When I went back to work I brought the colleagues about a gallon of hot chillies. They always go fast.
A week later, I still have some tomatoes – some are ripening up nicely for fresh use, and I hope to make a green tomato mince meat with rest.
What did I learn?
I’m darn lucky to have the money and proximity to the grocery store. If I had to depend on my home-grown food stores, I’d starve in about two weeks. Canning and preserving while not technically difficult, is hard work. Standing on my feet for three days, tending the pressure canner, peeling and chopping beets, painstakingly cutting chillies into little pieces? Hard toil. I was happy to go back to the office and get some physical rest.
I’m telling you now true homesteading was / will be hard labor, and I hope I live long enough to give it a go while the flesh is still willing. Take a look at the old black and whites from the depression era. Not many fat people (oh and I could lose 20-30 lbs myself) in those pictures and they are, for the most part, a grim lot.
Take your blessings and be thankful!
Does this put me off growing my own or trying to take more control of my food source? Absolutely not! If anything, it tells me I have more to learn, and I’m investing in the greatest asset of all, knowledge. I expect it will pay dividends in the future. When I open a jar I know how it was grown, the care that was taken, and exactly what I am feeding my family.
Oh, and the pressure canner isn’t scary at all.
Until next time, Eat Well & Keep digging!
Did you count the jars? – The missing two are the dried peppers already in storage.