It’s Time to Preserve Some of the Abundance, by Kathy Smith

Are you so tired of canning and freezing vegetables that you’re ready to scream?  Do you have nightmares about someone leaving a huge pile of peppers on your back porch or you’re seeing ears of corn in your dreams? Well, you’re not alone.

Here in northeastern Ohio we’ve had a pretty good year for nearly everything except tomatoes. Several people have said that there just was not enough sun to make the tomatoes ripen properly.  Most people I’ve talked to say that there was way too much rain. But whatever happened in your back yard, it’s time to preserve some of the abundance for the long winter months ahead.

My Mom remembers having to help her mother can quite a few things from their large garden in the 1930s. It was called the “open kettle” method of preserving food where you have hot vegetables or fruit, hot jars, and hot seals. She also remembers using cabbage and salt to make sauerkraut in a crock every fall as well as canning several  kinds of pickles.

Her home had a root cellar where potatoes, squash, apples,and other vegetables were kept nearly all winter.  When she married my father in 1941, they lived on a farm and had a large garden. She continued the “open kettle” method of canning taught by her mother but added a pressure cooker also. This made the canning safer as well as much faster.

The biggest change for my mom was when our family bought a freezer in about 1955. From then on nearly everything —especially green beans and corn were frozen.  It took a lot less time and the taste was practically fresh-picked. She continued to put up tomatoes  and  peaches.  Usually she worked late at night when we kids were in bed.

When I was old enough to can, I used the “Farm Journal Freezing and Canning” book as my guide. By then nearly everyone was recommending that you water-bath all fruits and vegetables.  I tried nearly every pickle and relish recipe in the book. This was also the time that my family got to try many different kinds of jelly.  I insisted that some of my mistakes were supposed to be runny and poured over ice cream as a fruit syrup. I’m not sure if they believed me or not but they usually ate it.

We bought a dehydrator and I dried everything from corn to apples to tomatoes. The kids really liked the fruit leathers I made.These days I can tomatoes, tomato sauce, salsa and peaches. I’m still water-bathing everything and my husband pressure cooks meat in jars just to have some food available in case of power outages . Otherwise I freeze everything else. It just is so much faster. And saving time is really important at our house.

There are several other ways of preserving food that I would like to try including smoking, making butters or sauces and creating our own “cool, dark space”  (a root cellar) to save our garden excess.

So if you can’t stand the thought of doing another batch of salsa, maybe we need to say thank you. Thank you for having too much of everything! Bring on those three buckets of grapes—jelly coming up!

Kathy Smith is a farm wife from Wayne Township. She writes for Ashtabula County Farm Bureau.