I Jam, Therefore, I Am

If you happen to live in a place that has one solid outdoor growing season like I do, then the harvest is fast approaching. Here and there you’ve probably begun to pick a few things out of your garden already. Soon, though, your garden will be overflowing with produce and it will be a good idea to have your food preservation methods ready to go.

What? Preservation methods? I can’t just eat it all fresh?

You’re going find out quick that you cannot eat everything fresh out of your garden, and your friends might get tired of you popping by with baskets of offerings. Whether you are an urban homesteader, or you have a garden of any size, preserving food is a must. You might just want some of your garden goodies during the winter months! There is the exception of those who can grow food year round, but even those gardeners preserve their crops in some manner. There are many, many ways of preserving food, so one is not limited to just canning, or freezing.

My food preservation bible is “Putting Food By” by Janet Greene, Ruth Hertzberg, and Beatrice Vaughn. I have read this book cover to cover and still use it everyday. My pages are stained and corners turned down. It’s a great book to have.

I will spare you commentary here but if you are just starting out, this is a good book to get. It’s easy to read, up to date as far as governmental regulations and suggestions, and it has lots of recipes!

Sometimes food preservation methods aren’t always “green”, but they are necessary. You cannot put food by without utilizing methods that consume energy or water. But happily, you don’t have to be wasteful. Sometimes plastic must be involved. I use a FoodSaver to vacuum seal food, like meats, before I freeze it. You need lots of water when canning. On the bright side of the canning water usage, you can use that water later to wash your dishes or water your garden, so it’s not a total loss. Freezing uses electricity, but if you get an Energy Star freezer, then you know you’re saving energy. People all over the world are building solar dehydrators. Having a root cellar cuts down on energy costs for storage and so on. The important thing here is, to choose the method you want to use, and then find ways to conserve keeping in mind that one must always follow food safety and sanitation guidelines to the letter.

Some of the ways you can preserve food are by canning (either boiling-water bath or pressure canner), jams/jellies/preserves and so forth, freezing, drying, pickling, juicing, root cellaring, and curing. I’ve read of many people making teas with dried herbs as well. As with any food preservation method, it’s a good idea to decide what you are going to preserve, how, and do you have a good space for storage. Having this already planned and in your mind before harvest begins is a must. You need to purchase the equipment and know how to use it beforehand. If a pantry for storage needs to be built, it’s a good idea to do so before you are ready to store your canned or dried goodies in it. Purchase your freezer ahead too, so you know how much freezer space you have. Gonna dig a root cellar? Anywhere you are going to store canned, dried, or cured food needs to be a cool, dry, dark place. Provided you’ve preserved your food properly to inhibit or kill bacterias or spores (and their toxins), the cool, dry, dark storage space will also help minimize spoilage or discoloration.

Proper sanitary methods are a must. Your kitchen must be clean. Your utensils, cans, jars and so forth must be sanitized. Practicing safe food handling is important when preserving food. I sometimes pretend my kitchen is a restaurant kitchen. Being a food/nutrition major in college, I worked in many large kitchens and I still use the cleanliness methods the state requires in those establishments, in my own kitchen.

So what are we doing with our food this harvest season? I am making jam. I am canning tomatoes, canning and freezing zucchini and squash, canning salsa, freezing corn on and off the cob, pickling most of our cucumbers (of course, we are eating them fresh too), and freezing apricots. We have purchased a subscription to a local CSA and we are vacuum sealing and freezing all the meats. Next year, when our garden is larger, we want to build a solar dehydrator. It will come in handy for drying fruits and veggies as well as jerky. I really feel the possibilities are endless as our homestead grows and we try new ways of preserving our produce.

The feeling of putting food by for later is satisfying. Walking into the pantry and seeing jars and jars of canned food is thrilling. Visiting the grocery store less is great! I encourage anyone to learn to preserve food, no matter what method is chosen. It’s very easy and shouldn’t intimidate you. Your mouth and your wallet will thank you later!

(Photo Courtesy of Library of Congress)

Come by Beth’s blog, Coming Up For Air , and follow her journey into urban homesteading and green living!

This is an original 5 Minutes for Going Green post!

8 Responses to I Jam, Therefore, I Am
  1. Mrs. Greenhands
    July 29, 2008 | 10:49 am

    I love canning food! Right now, I’m in the middle of making blackberry jam and apple sauce (the early apples are ready). The garden is also producing veggies faster than I can preserve them. At least the pantry will be full this winter!

    Nice post!

  2. Jennifer, Snapshot
    July 29, 2008 | 1:53 pm

    Oh, wow, that must be satisfying.

    We have a little garden, but it doesn’t produce enough to save. We just eat it (and enjoy it) in little bits throughout the summer.

    I do freeze blueberries that we pick at a local farm. I just freeze them in a freezer bag and we grab out as much as we need for smoothies or in cereal or yogurt throughout most of the year.

  3. Tammy and Parker
    July 29, 2008 | 10:44 pm

    We garden with a passion. And then can the surplus with an even greater passion. Salsa,tomatoes, green beans……


    Then there is all the stuff we freeze….

  4. Janice (5 Minutes for Mom)
    July 30, 2008 | 1:53 am

    That all sounds delicious.

    For us, the majority of my preserving this year is freezing blueberries (last year I did over 80 pounds and they were gone by Christmas) and peaches. I will do over 100 pounds of blueberries and I am not sure how many peaches. A lot. I would do others as well, but since those are our favorite, I use my freezer space for them. :)

  5. Donielle @ Raising Peanuts
    July 30, 2008 | 6:38 am

    This is my first year preserving our harvest. So far, I’m in love! My freezer is getting full, and I have lots of hopes for what is yet to come out of my garden. Not only will the food be healthier for my family (as it’s preserved the same day it’s picked, plus it doesn’t have all those chemical preservatives in it!) but it will also save us money throughout the year on groceries. My goal is to have enough salsa, pickles, tomato sauces (for spaghetti and pizza sauce) frozen and dried fruit, and jam to get us through next year harvest.
    Putting away food has become almost addicting and I’m already jotting down ideas for next year!

  6. Dianna K. Ball
    July 30, 2008 | 10:42 am

    What a great recommendation – can’t wait to read it (just requested it from my local library).


  7. Melissa
    July 30, 2008 | 1:31 pm

    Have you read Barbara Kingsolvers animal vegetable miracle? This is a great summer read and all about this topic. thanks for the book rec above, I will surely check it out.

  8. Monica (Healthy Green Moms)
    August 1, 2008 | 3:35 pm

    Thanks for the book recommendation. I have just a little experience with canning because it has actually intimidated me up to this point! Right now we are freezing about 50lbs of blueberries but I will grab this book and give it a go, because know the satisfaction of eating our own food year round is just priceless! Thank you :)