Homesteading Where You Are Series - Preserve

Thank you for joining me in the Homesteading Where You Are Series!  This series came about because of the numerous wonderful emails I get from readers telling me they can't wait to have land so they can begin living a homemade life.  Don't wait! You can start wherever you are.  If you haven't read the other posts in this series, you can find them here.

As much as I love eating in-season, there is nothing more satisfying than opening a can of homemade jam, right in the middle of winter, and slathering it on your morning toast.  Or removing berries from the freezer, that 5 months ago were picked from the backyard, and cooking up a quick cobbler.  Or crunching on a dill pickle you canned at the peak of cucumber season.

That is the reason I love food preservation.

Sure, it's time consuming.  What isn't?  But for me, putting up fresh, in-season produce is quite simply the best way to spend an afternoon.  If you have a spouse, kids or friends that will join in and help, makes it all the more special. 

canned jam - cantaloupe jam {front} and blueberry-lime jam

 canned rhubarb syrup with carbonated water in the middle of winter....delicious!

canned goodies

If you've never canned before, let me assure you, it's easy.  Really easy.  I was scared to give it a go myself and now I'm a canning Queen.  {That's a self-appointed title.}  But seriously, opening my cupboards to reveal shelves full of our garden produce that I preserved is complete satisfaction.  Making my own canned goods has changed the way I look at food.  I know what went in to each and every can - all amount of work, what ingredients, etc., and I also remember the laughter, stories and such J and I told while peeling tomatoes, chopping onions, etc.

tomatoes galore during canning season

make-do jelly bag for straining rhubarb

prepping green beans for the freezer

cleaning, stemming and pitting fresh cherries

We also have a stand freezer making it easy to preserve fruits and veggies that taste better frozen rather than canned.  During the winter months it's bursting with fresh-packed pepper strips and halves, onion slices, cooked pumpkin and squash, grated zucchini, diced rhubarb, whole berries, homemade ketchup, whole and oven-roasted tomatoes, corn, green beans, cooked dried beans and fruit butters. 

There's nothing like shopping from your freezer and pantry.

I preserve for both nutritional and economic reasons.  The fruit/veggies I must buy because we either don't grow or don't grow enough of, it would probably be cheaper, depending on the item, to purchase the canned or frozen product at the grocery store.  In those cases, I choose to preserve in-season local products because 1.  I know exactly what's in the product, and 2.  it's local and preserved at the perfect point of ripeness.  It tastes better.  Have you ever opened a commercially canned item to find foreign matter or bugs in the food?  I have and it's disgusting.  This is why I can.  If you don't have a garden, many farm stands, u-pick fields or farmer's market stands offer bulk of the most popular fruit and veggies, reasonably, for preserving.

If you are interested in adding a bit of homemade living to your life, adding a garden {even a small one} and preserving your own food is, I think, the best place to start.

My short-term goals:

  • replace all canned and frozen items we would typically buy from the grocery store with fresh preserved products.  We're trying to grow it all on our little plot of land as well.  I've almost got it although I'm still not correct on the amount of tomato sauce, or tomato paste we need - I need to increase production, and I haven't yet found a salsa recipe I'm happy with.  They are typically too vinegary.  
  • I plan to add pressure canning to my repertoire this year which will provide me with the rest of my canned goods.  Next Fall, I hope to open my cupboards to reveal only Cobble Hill Farm products.
  • I want to work with our cellar a bit more to try and make a root cellar so I can store carrots, potatoes, squash and onions.  It's a fantastic cellar - dirt floor and stone foundation, the problem is that the heating oil tank is down there and they must have had an oil spill at some time because the smell of oil is overwhelming.  I can currently store cans but no fresh produce.
Some of my posts on food preservation that might be of interest are:

The Series
The rest of the topics in this series are:


Our Neck of the Woods said...

That drink with the rhubarb syrup looks so good and refreshing! Yum! It's a treat to see all these brightly colored veggies and fruits here in the dead of winter :)

born imaginative. said...

First of all, my eyes are drawn to your labels. I love love love them!

And rhubarb syrup. Genius! I am going to do that this year, I think!

Sue Frelick said...

Like Jackie, I love your canning labels. They are wonderful! The idea of shopping in your freezer and pantry is very attractive to me. I like antique photos I've seen of the old general stores and am striving to create one for my husband and I at home in a much smaller space. I do hope you achieve your goal of full production off your land.

daisy g said...

How fabulous to have your own home-grown produce preserved for your tasting anytime you want. You're a mighty ambitious woman!

Unknown said...

I'm with the ones above! Jealous of your canning labels! Beautiful pictures of all your preserving, and love your goals. I'm hoping to do the same with replacing more grown food and not buy from the grocery store. :-)

Meg said...

Finally getting caught up on this series... Loving it! Thanks for the encouragement to keep doing it while I'm here, even when I'm aching for more land. :)

Cr said...

I'm just starting to learn myself (a couple extension classes and jams and pickles are all I've tackled so far) and want to do tomatoes this year. Last year I didn't plant enough so we ate them all out of hand. Not a bad thing I guess...

David said...

Staci, starting small and expanding each year is a good way to go. Right now my storage room is mostly store bought sale items but I'm hoping as you are to increase the home grown and home preserved section and maybe some day be way more garden dependent. Very good series your group is doing.

Have a great day enjoying what you have preserved.