Friday, September 4, 2015

storing the harvest: canning season!

This is the time of year that lots of great stuff becomes available for relatively low cost; tree fruits like peaches and nectarines, apricots.  Tomatoes and peppers, fresh wild salmon and seasonal beef (because grass-fed beef is best in the late summer when the cow has been out on lush pastures all summer... yum!)

 Every year I can about 50lbs of salmon, mostly sockeye, and it's the go-to ingredient for lunches; this year I may find some albacore tuna; they're caught off the coast of washington, and they can very well, too.  Check the link above for the basic info on how to can fish.

We had a couple of cases of nectarines that didn't get eaten fast enough, so I ended up making nectarine jam out of them.  It was delicious and popular, so I'm making 4 gallons of that this year.  I'll can it in half-pint jars, and it'll be gifts for friends and family this holiday season, along with...

I'm extracting and bottling the honey the hives have produced.  This year the bees worked extra hard; I'm getting between 70 and 80lbs of honey per hive, for a total honey harvest of 390lbs - wich works out to 7 five-gallon buckets of honey.   The gift-size honey is half-pint jars, but I think I'll bottle it in larger jars this year for storage.  Honey basically stores forever, and so it's not wasted if it sits for a few years, and there's nothing better than honeybaked or glazed ham, ribs or porkchops.

the tomatoes either get oven-dried or canned as whole tomatoes or tomato sauce.  I've thought about making something like pasta sauce, but it's pretty simple to make later, so I just can the ingredient.
I also put up 3 or 4 gallons of pico de gayo (coarse chopped salsa; peppers, tomatillos, peppers, garlic) and usually do 20 pints of tomato paste.

For quick meals, beef stew is a way to consume the tougher cuts - the canning process tenderizes it, and it's a great way to store things like potatoes, carrots, peas and onions.  The beef we put in a large cast-iron pan, and use a propane torch (a weed burner, actually) to brown and char the outside a little, which makes the stew taste much better.  Wth a weed burner we can brown 5lbs of beef in 3 or 4 minutes.  And then do an assembly line for the rest of  the ingredients; line up quart bottles and put in the veges, meat, salt and then fill with boiling beef broth before pressure canning.

the nice thing about canned food is that they're shelf-stable and easy to eat.  So while they're a bit of trouble to begin with, they're well worth it to me.

One thing though; the processing times for canning are often measured in hours.  So it's best to get the biggest pressure canner you can to allow you to process all of your items at once instead of several batches over many hours.


Kaspian said...

Have you considered smoked tomatoes? We used to dry ours in a Little Chief smoker with some alder wood. They add an amazing flavor to soups, chilis, casseroles, stir-fries, omelettes, etc. By splitting up the drying duties between the smoker and dehydrator, we were able to dry twice as many tomatoes per week, too.

We also smoked bell peppers, jalapeƱos, and other peppers/chiles. A bit at a time, we'd grind them up and use them as a spice. (Storing them in large pieces preserves the flavor better, as do air-tight containers.)

Bruce King said...

I have never tried that; but I do have a smoker, and I do have a bunch of tomatoes. I'll give that a try!

ellie k said...

I freeze tomatoes whole, peel and all just core them. When I have more time I can make sauces or whatever. The peel sides right off them when they start to thaw a little.