I’ve been canning for several years now. I’ve had to teach myself how to do it since it is not a tradition that was passed down to me. (My mother did can for a few years while we were stationed in Alaska, but that was it, my grandmother used to do it, but I’m pretty sure she considers it a loathsome chore) I see canning as a way to preserve the season’s best produce and eat it all year round at a cost savings (cost, not labor!)
I used to do my canning on my weekends. I would go out and pick berries one day and can them all the next day, weekend after weekend, it was relaxing and I enjoyed it. Now that I have two kids it’s a little more involved. The first day I have to go out and pick up the produce, extra jars or other supplies I need. I buy it now, rather than u-pick if I have the option. I don’t have the time and the free hands to go out picking now. I’d prefer to grow it, but since baby two was born at the end of May there was no way I was even going to entertain the idea of having a big garden this year. As it is, I find the four cherry tomato plants, smattering of mixed herbs and new-to-us-this-year potted strawberry plants to be more than I can manage! (I am so thankful for the rain we’ve had this year – except for the one storm that overwhelmed our sump pump in the basement back in June!!!) After gathering everything, I have to find time to get the food ready to put into the jars in little bursts throughout the day as my hands become free. A certain amount of letting my toddler do as he pleases is involved. This usually means more messes to clean up later, but sometimes it’s worth it in the long-term if you can get something done in exchange. Tonight, it means cleaning up dog barf. I let the toddler “feed the dogs” (a favorite activity) while I got some jars organized. I’m not sure how much he fed the dogs, but the greedy one is clearly experiencing some reflux because he ate too much. I can during naptime, while a cartoon is playing and after they go to bed. Right now, I’m really hoping that the quality of my canned products isn’t going to suffer badly from my lack of concentration and multiple interruptions in the process.
I bought 3 cases of tomatoes, 1 cases of peppers and a bushel of peaches. Those now processed has resulted in 26 quarts of chopped tomatoes, 22 pints of peach halves, 7 pints of peach sauce, 9 pints and 12-12 ounce jars of salsa and 3 gallon Ziploc bags of chopped peppers (frozen).
We skipped strawberry and sour cherry canning this year, the timing just didn’t work out well with the whole “I just had a baby” thing. But my mother and I did get the urge to go blueberry picking and took both the 19 month old toddler and 1.5 month old baby with us. I lasted about 30 minutes amongst the very wet, overgrown blueberry bushes in 90+ degree weather with the baby strapped to my front in the ring sling and the toddler fussing in the bushes behind me because he didn’t like getting wet and was afraid to crawl under the low hanging branches. (It had just stormed before we got to the blueberry u-pick, the only way we wouldn’t have gotten wet was if we turned around and drove the hour home again.) My mom lasted about an hour picking in that outdoor sauna of a field. Twelve pounds of blueberries later, we decided to clean them and freeze them this year rather than make jam or canned pie filling. Picking and cleaning them was labor enough for this year!
We’re not done of course. I haven’t been able to get my hands on a case of pickling cucumbers yet and I will definitely be making apple sauce this year after having bought many, many jars of the stuff at the store since the toddler started eating solids a year ago. And if I can get my hands on a pressure cooker, well folks, there’s no telling what I might try: beans, soup, corn, green beans.