Stocking up for Winter

Well, it’s officially autumn. It’s definitely time to start thinking about those cold winter days when nothing fresh is coming out of the garden or the farmer’s market. Granted, I should’ve been thinking about this long before now, but alas… I have to admit that city living distracts me sometimes from the bigger picture. And because of that, there’s no way I’m putting up as much as I should. And this leaves me, frankly, in a panic. I’m in the process of developing a healthy fear (a strong word, I know) of over-produced, non-local food. Summer is a time of bounty– farmer’s markets every weekend. Fortunately, our local markets don’t end until November, but the tomato season is definitely on it’s way out. And as any cook knows, tomatoes happen to form the cornerstone of good food. What to do!? Buy up and preserve! Because I am going to do my best to avoid buying little cans of corn-syruped and salted tomato products shipped in from god knows where. And not only tomato products– there are other things I think I still have time to make so I don’t have to buy them. With the limited time I have left in the preserving season, this is what The Apartment Farm plans to put up for winter:

– Freezer Tomato Paste

– Freezer Salsa

– Worchestershire Sauce

– Freezer Pumpkin Butter

– Freezer Pumpkin Puree (for bread and pie)

– Kosher Dill Pickles (if I can find suitable cucumbers at the market- it might be too late)

– Freezer Applesauce

You’ll notice that everything is for the freezer (except the pickles and Worchestershire sauce). I still haven’t spent the money to get my canning setup in place, as I just haven’t had the time and access to canning the amount of produce that would make the expenditure worthwhile (it’s expensive living in the city!). But, I have a firm goal of purchasing everything I need for canning by June of next year, so that I can start canning things as they come in during the next season. I’m hoping we’ll have a proper garden space of our own next season, but only time will tell. At any rate, I have every desire to purchase things to put up next season if that doesn’t come to fruition. I’ve done a fair amount of comparison shopping with this in mind, and I’ve decided to purchase my canning setup from Lehman’s. It’s affordable, and it’s from a company I’m willing to support. They’re about 365 miles from Chicago in Kidron, OH, which is a little further than the 300 mile radius I consider to be my “local” area, but I make an allowance for Lehman’s because they sell quality items that are impossible to get elsewhere. This is what I hope to have in place for next year:

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This is Lehman’s Beginner Home Canning Kit. It includes a 21 1/2 quart canner with rack (holds 7 quart jars), a metal funner, jar lifter, Ball Blue Book of Canning, and 12 Ball quart jars with lids and bands. It costs $58, which I think is reasonable for all that you’re getting. The nice thing about the stockpot is that it can, of course, be used to cooking when you’re done canning for the year. It’s large enough to do up stocks, stews, soups, etc. I also plan to get a lid sterilizing rack:

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This will make the process infinitely easier– no burnt fingers lifting lids out of hot water. I’d also like to get a food dehydrator to make jerkies, dried tomatoes, fruit leathers and such.

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4 thoughts on “Stocking up for Winter

  1. Delurking to encourage you in the canning endeavor. My girls won’t eat store-bought pickles, apple butter, applesauce, relish, tomatoes or grape jelly if they can help it now, thanks to my canner. We live about an hour from Lehman’s and I strongly encourage anyone who has the chance to actually go visit their store in person. I’ve shopped there several times as well as ordering from the catalog. If they do not carry it, it probably cannot be found. The salespeople are knowledgeable, friendly and aim to please. Having said that, I want to share that fall is the time when many older people realize they are past the preserving stage of things and decide to clear out the tools of the trade. You may be able to find a canner yet this fall on craigslist or in the paper. I always find more used jars in the fall, cheaper than new.

    I enjoy your blog. It is encouraging to see so many people returning to growing their own food, putting up what they can. Keep up the good work!

  2. The Ball Blue Book is a really good guide for both the canning newbie and the more experienced. The university extension service is also a good place to refer. I live in Minnesota but this is the best website I’ve found for information: http://learningstore.uwex.edu/Food-Preservation-and-Safety-C60.aspx

    I have considered buying a tomato strainer from Lehman’s, as well as a stoneware crock. They have great prices (better than what people are willing to pay for the stuff on ebay!) but for me there are pretty far away and shipping would be costly. Hearing your good words about them convinces me that they are worth it though…

    As for used canners, you can regularly find water-bath canners at garage sales and places like that (be careful, the enamel wears/chips on some kinds and you won’t want to use it for anything but canning at that point). I wouldn’t recommend buying a used pressure canner, however, unless you know what you are doing. They can be dangerous.

    If you plan to make a lot of things like tomato sauce, which requires extensive periods of time to cook down, I would recommend picking up a 18-22 qt. electric roaster. I’ve spent more than my share of nights working on tomato sauce until 2:30 am and the electric roaster can run all night, saving from the sleep loss!

    I’m glad to hear someone new is starting home canning. It seems to be a disappearing art/science around here. Good luck!

  3. It would be nice to get the freezer salsa recipe from you. I make a mean corn and tomato salsa from fresh all summer but would love to preserve some. We are urban farmers with a tiny plot in DC.

    My N2S eats few veggies (he’s a fruit hound) but will eat almost any kind of salsa I can concoct.

    Thanks in advance.

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