"The tragic reality is that very few sustainable systems are designed or applied by those who hold power, and the reason for this is obvious and simple: to let people arrange their own food, energy and shelter is to lose economic and political control over them. We should cease to look to power structures, hierarchical systems, or governments to help us, and devise ways to help ourselves." - Bill Mollison

Friday, November 20, 2009

Canning a Thank You

Normally we freeze, root cellar, ferment, and dry most of our food but this season we took the leap and dared to water bath can part of our produce. We mostly canned food stuffs that would have otherwise been frozen such as tomatoes and fruit in the form of sauces, salsas, and such. We were a little nervous at first but with encouraging articles and advice from fellow bloggers on topics ranging anywhere from small batch canning to the proper books to read we managed to struggle through. After canning literally hundreds of jars we are now feeling quite confident in our abilities and still very much alive after consuming some of our wares. We are also thrilled to finally be finished with this task having just last week put our supplies away after one last batch of tomato sauce...all done.


So, a big THANK YOU to everyone that helped us out with this latest undertaking. The first three pictures are a reflection of our version of the Ball canning book's recipe for zesty salsa...one of our favorites.

Fred and Dorothy (my in-laws), thank you for all the useful canning supplies found at various garage sales this past summer.


We cleared out a special place for all of our canned goods in a cool back room closet and are now ready to face the biggest challenge of all, that of not eating everything up too fast.:) Next year, pressure canning? We shall see.

I don't mean to be a crotchety old "stick-in-the-mud," but was wondering if anyone else is concerned about the Bisphenol A (BPA) in canning jar lids? I'm not sure what to think of it at this point. Is There Bisphenol A In Your Home Canning? Your really up against it if you want to be healthy and chemical free in this day and age.

12/11/2009 - http://www.jsonline.com/watchdog/watchdogreports/79111742.html

40 comments:

Vickie's Michigan Garden (my backyard) said...

Doesn't it feel good to sit back and admire all your garden vegetables all canned up.
I'm so impressed with your picture on your blog also. It is so neat looking.
vickie

Mr. H. said...

Vickie!

I should dedicate my new blog picture to you. It was the link that you were kind enough to provide me with the other day that allowed me to mix and match my pictures...thank you.:)

melissa said...

Gooorgeous!

I have to say, for most of my veggies I really prefer freezing. But pressure canning is so nice for stock (frees up my freezer for veggies and ice cream) and meat sauces. Yum.

Silke said...

I am sooooooo impressed!! I've done some canning, but mostly I like to freeze the few veggies we get and in some cases roast them first and then freeze them. Canning always scared me a little... The photos of all your jars lined up look like paintings - love the colors!! :) Silke

Diane@Peaceful Acres said...

I am so green right now! It looks so great. I love how canned jars look, all in a row. Beautiful!

el said...

Attaboy, attagirl.

I am not too concerned with bisphenol-a leaching into my canned goodies: you put headroom in the jars for a reason! And I never reuse lids.

and I *only* pressure can now as it saves so much time. That, and I can can all those dried beans for instameals!

Granola Girl said...

I have heard of people using bees' wax as a protective layer directly under the lid. They don't use the wax to seal, they use the wax to protect the food from the lid. We haven't gotten there yet. I don't know if we ever will. However, you can wash the bees' wax and reuse it. I don't know if it works, but it is an interesting idea.

Sylvie said...

Beautiful!

Without canning I would have to buy a second freezer. With canning, I am Ok even if the electricity goes off (and no need to rehydrate). Like you, I use a variety of method to preserve food (although fermenting vegetable is new to me this year - and I did not do it quite on your scale), and, of course I grow under cover in the winter. But it's hard to grow fruit in winter, so that's where the canning really comes handy to me.

Yes, the BPA issue is somewhat in the back of my mind, but not too much. I am more concerned with pesticides & fungicides on the peaches I buy, or acid rain or... you get the idea.

I am knew to your blog, and went back reading the archives - and I would never have guessed that you two were new to canning. Welcome to the club!

Anonymous said...

I just got this reply today from Jarden aka Ball

"Jarden Home Brands manufacturer of home canning lids: Ball, Kerr, Golden Harvest, and Bernardin brands follow the same rigorous FDA standards used by the commercial food packaging industry. Like the majority of commercial food packagers using glass jars with metal closures and metal sanitary cans, the coating on our home canning lids is designed to protect the metal from reacting with the food it contains. A small amount of Bisphenol A is present in the coating. The FDA does not limit Bisphenol A in commercially packaged foods, and is aligned with the international scientific community’s position that a small amount of Bisphenol A in contact with “canned foods” is not a health concern for the general public.

Jarden Home Brands"

Eva

It's me ...Mavis said...

Way to go Mr. H. The zesty salsa is our favorite too. And Yes, try pressure canning next year...I tried it this year (for the first time) and am still alive to tell about :) No botulism worries here. Now of course the hardest part... to try and eat it all.

karenandjeff said...

Nice work! Very impressive stock pile. I've only done jams and jellies myself. It looks like you've got a lot of diversity going on with everything that you and your wife canned. By the way, for interesting and creative jam recipes go to: http://www.kraftfoods.com/kf/search/SearchResults.aspx?searchType=cat&type_of_meal=13&idtext=Jams%2FJellies%2FPreserves

The recipes use commercial pectin though, not sure if you'd be interested in purchasing that.

Mr. H. said...

Melissa,

We have also always frozen many of our veggies, mostly our tomatoes, tomatillos, and berries. But as we grow more food freezer space has become an issue. Even with all the canning our feezers are beyond capacity once again.

Mr. H. said...

Silke,

Canning made us a bit nervous as well but we feel much better about it now.

I loved the apple crisp! It was so good we didn't have any left over for the grandson...oops, perhaps we should make some more.:)

Mr. H. said...

Diane,

Thanks, we had a lot of fun learning how to do it.

Mr. H. said...

El,

I must say that being able to can a few instameals would be very appealing to both of us.

Mr. H. said...

Granola Girl,

The bee's wax idea is very interesting, I have never heard of that before. I will have to look into that as a possible alternative. Thanks.

Mr. H. said...

Sylvie,

Yes, we have managed to get by for many years without having to can anything but we really want to get away from the whole freezer thing. One bad storm and we will be hard put to find a place for all of our frozen food.

I feel much better this year as most of what is frozen is berries and extra tomatillos that could all be canned if necessary. We do prefer our berries frozen though.

I am looking forward to taking a look at your blog.:)

Mike

Robbyn said...

eek, guess my comment didnt post! Your canned bounty is lovely and inspiring! I need to get over my angst at getting into canning. we have a glass top stove that can't take heavy things and I'm leary of trying a pressure canner on it. Because of our hopes to get off grid, we're batting around the idea of an outdoor stove or such, because I really need to get into canning. I grew up with my Grandma's canned garden goods, and while never the same as fresh, they are simply fantastic in their own right...nothing at all like storebought.

Thanks for the continued inspiration!

Mr. H. said...

Eva,

Thanks so much for for enquiring, I really do hope that their standards are indeed rigorous. The problem lies in the fact that everything seems to have a small amount of some chemical in it, and that adds up to a lot if you take them all as a whole.

"Weck" makes a jar with glass lid that comes with a natural rubber seal, unfortunately they are very expensive.

Mr. H. said...

Mavis,

I hope we are able to try pressure canning next year. We made our zesty salsa with a few less peppers and added tomatillos and chipotle peppers to the mix instead...it was so very good.

Mr. H. said...

Karenandjeff,

We made huckleberry jam this year for the first time....it was great. We used apples for pectin and also made a delicious huckleberry syrup using grapes as a source of pectin. I bet you have an abundance of huckleberries in your neck of the woods.:)

Thanks for the link, we are always looking for new recipes.

Naomi said...

Love the new pic!

We don't can much here, because our growing season is so long :) it would be mostly jams and preserves of summer fruits, with perhaps some tomato/pasta sauces and pestos etc. But I want to have more of a go at it, and see how it works for us ;)

I also want to try dehydrating - move away from too much freezing etc and look at low tech methods of food preservation. Food for thought!

Mr. H. said...

Robbyn,

We have thought about getting a outdoor propane stove to use for some of our summer canning as well.

I'm am so very glad to finally meet someone that has not canned before, I was begining to think that I was the only one.:) After the first 50 jars or so you will laugh at having been nervous about it.

Ayak said...

This is so inspiring Mr H. I made loads of fig jam this year with the abundent content of two fig trees..but as this is our first year in this village, I still have a lot to learn. I have to see what vegetables will grow in this soil, which is very red. Another tip picked up from one of your replies today..I knew apples could be used as a natural pectin but didn't know about grapes.
Your blog is wonderful...so much useful information.

LynnS said...

Good job, guys!! Ye canners unite!!

Mike, I love the mosaic photos and how they've both captured the essence of your joy-filled work. What a lovely way to portray your bounty. Newbie-canners you are not.

I too am worried about the BPA rings. One thing that irritated me is the lack of a disclaimer on the boxes of rings alerting folks to NOT sterilize those jar lids. Until I knew that these lids had been changed and BPA was added, I had been sterilizing my lids.

I am hoping that enough people express concern and the canning mfrs decide to eliminate the BPA from their lids. After all of the efforts to keep our foods organic, you'd think they'd have the sense to follow through on the lids.

We're still canning here, just not very often. I have more applesauce in the works. And then I want to make some marmalade for Christmas baskets.

Mr. H. said...

Naomi,

Thanks. We do a lot of dehydrating, with all that sun going on in your area I bet it would be a great solution to some of your preservation needs.

Our goal is to move farther away from reliance on the freezer as well.

Mr. H. said...

Ayak,

Grapes, especially concord, work good at helping to thicken other foods. The only issue is that you do end up with a grape flavor where as apples seem to be a little more neutral in that sense. We also use blackberries, cranberries, currants, plums, and even beets as thickening agents.

Fig jam sounds really good, I love figs but can only eat purchased ones as our weather is a bit chilly for most types of fig trees.

Mr. H. said...

Lynn,

The bad part is that I did not know anything about BPA until after the fact. The thing I don't understand is why is it bad to boil the lids but OK for the hot goo inside to splatter against them while processing. I don't know, I have a while to ponder it I suppose.

I hope they go back to the old lids also, but as they are now a monopoly I have my doubts about that happening.

Thanks for your comments on the picture.:)

Leigh said...

Very interesting about the BPA. We usually can a lot of tomatoes (that is, when they haven't gotten wiped out with Late Blight) and some chutney and apple butter, all in a steam bath canner. I used to pressure can corn and peas, but I like freezing them better. I have a stash of the old style canning jars with glass lids and rubber rings, but haven't canned with them in years - they're a bit fussier than the modern lids. Don't know if they can still be gotten at a reasonable price, but that would be one way to avoid BPA. Hopefully the manufacturer will clean up their act. I'm not that worried because our canned goods aren't a huge portion of our diet, and I suspect the risk is probably a lot lower than the risk of eating commercially packaged foods.

Vickie's Michigan Garden (my backyard) said...

Mr. H.,
I came back to let you know how you inspired me to change the look of my blog -you and Thea from holland who gave me that link.

But now as i read the comments I did not realize you were not suppossed to boil the lids-I have been doing this forever and now I will stop. Thanks to you and your comments I realize we need to watch every thing we do. vickie

Mr. H. said...

Leigh,

I agree, commercially packages foods are much more frightening. I'm going to keep an eye out for the older style of lids.

Mr. H. said...

Vickie,

I love it! Thank you Thea.

Heiko said...

Hi Mike,

Been busy with the olives, so only just getting around reading blogs. Canning is our main way of preserving, as our freezer is tiny and electricity often unreliable. Never heard of the Bisphenol A problem before. I almost exclusively use recycled jars that I beg off everyone I know, so our canning store is never going to look as neat as yours as all the jars are of different sizes and shapes. My other problem is that I don't have large enough preserving pots and pans, so always have to do them in small batches. I must get more into drying though.

Mr. H. said...

Heiko,

I am very curious about how you preserve your canned goods. Do you have special lids or just use the original ones that came with the jars you collect? Like the way you reuse the beer bottles for tomato sauce...how do you seal them, or do you only worry about heating the product and call it good at that point...everyone is so concerned with botulism in regards to canning and I wonder if we only can with such stringent guidlines in the U.S.?

I wish I could share some of our "collected" jars with you as we have a whole closet stuffed with them. We mostly use those jars for keeping seeds and other things in but would love to give them a second life via canning.

Heiko said...

For recycled jars, I simply use the lid that was on before. I must say I haven't given things that much thought. Tomato sauce I do really simply, by boiling the tomatoes with a tad of salt until they start to break down, then put them through my tomato mill. Like that the sauce is still quite runny and versatile. You can add any flavours as you cook it down later.

Then I bottle it in anything, including old beer bottles with a plastic stopper or any old screw top bottle (even better) and sterilise it by sticking it into a boiling water bath for half an hour or so. A couple of them had quite evidently gone off, but the majority seem fine, and we haven't had any ill effects.

Fruit I bottle under sugar syrup and sterilise simimlarly in a water bath and other veg, mostly green and broad beans, I bottle under a brine solution. The only thing about that method is that you have to use them sparingly in cooking and don't add any more salt.

Than of course I do the usual chutneys and jams which have an almost unlimited shelf life, especcially the chutneys. Apart from accidents, neither of us has been ill in any way since we've come to Italy 5 1/2 years ago (oh and one slight mushroom poisining...). I think sometimes one can worry too much.

Doc said...

Well done, Mr H.

That is a most impressive canning session there.

Scarecrow (partner/wife/lover) grows a lot of our food. I like to process via canning, drying or Fowlers Vacola (I think you know it as water bath preserving, I think).

No need to waste a thing in this day and age.

Regards

Doc ;-)

PS
Thanks for poppin' in on my blog site.

Doc said...

Meant to add that if you check out my blog and search for 'rocket stove' you may find that is a useful device for doing your outside preserves too.

Doc ;-)

Mr. H. said...

Heiko,

Thank you for sharing this information. I agree, perhaps we do indeed worry a little to much. I like the way you do things...a lot.

Mr. H. said...

Doc,

Fowlers Vacola would seem to be a little bit different system of canning than we use in the U.S., but I sure did enjoy looking into how you use this method in Australia.

I made myself a little wrench today just like you suggested and put it away in my tool kit, thanks for the great idea. I think you would be surprised at how many of your "inventions" I have used over the last year or so that I have followed your blog.:)

I will take another look at your rocket stove and really want to build a cob oven similar to the one you have made. Thanks for all the really great ideas.

Chiot's Runc said...

That's a good looking pantry! Great job!

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