Friday, October 28, 2011

Filling the Pantry

Written by Heather

Well friends, it appears winter is just around the corner. As a little preview, we enjoyed our first snowfall last night! Can you spot the snow on the roof behind my squirrel friend? He was looking pretty stunned this morning. This weekend we have a possible seven inch snowstorm heading our way. Oh boy, here we go!

This is a time of preparation, for sure. The last couple of Sundays I have spent some time canning or freezing to build our food storage and preserve this season's bounty.

Each year I work harder and harder to stock our pantry and freezer for the cold, dark months ahead. I do believe I'm setting myself up for a banner year in the apple department, putting up nearly 200 pounds!

I do a mixture of canning and freezing. The freezer is convenient and sometimes offers a "fresher" method of storage, but Irene reminded me that canning is a wise and resourceful practice.

"We were given a freezer and find it very handy for storing overstocks or surpluses from our meals or from the garden... we could live happily without electricity for lighting, but we find the freezer of considerable assistance in keeping certain few foods."

Several years ago my husband received a substantial gift card through his work. It was one of those things where we could choose from a catalog offering items from all kinds of stores. All things imaginable were available, from expensive jewelry to fancy clothing to practical home offerings. We chose an upright freezer. What a good decision that was. 

I tend to freeze nearly all of our food in glass jars and often get  questions about how to do so, specifically with regards to avoiding breakage. 

Tips for Freezing In Glass Jars:
  • Use canning jars when possible, they are tempered and can withstand slight expansion.
  • Leave one inch headspace at the top of jar, liquid contents will expand 10% when freezing.
  • Once jars are filled, chill in the refrigerator until completely cool. I leave overnight.
  • Leave the lids unscrewed when freezing, tighten only after contents are completely frozen. This gives the jar room to expand with out breaking.

Since I've been following this method I've had zero breakage. I think leaving the jars unscrewed until completely frozen is the most critical factor for success. 

Resources for Canning:

I'm pretty casual about my canning methods and have never had a jar fail. That said, I don't want to encourage careless canning practices - I just try not to overly obsess about every detail. Taking care and following basic canning procedure will give you good results (and huge satisfaction).

When canning, I make sure to have:
  • Clean and hot jars.
  • Lids simmering in hot water,  not boiling (new lids each year, screw on bands can be reused).
  • Freshly cleaned hands, utensils, and work surface.
  • Followed proper processing time according to my recipe.

That's really all there is to it. A bit of mental and material organization, a window of time, and a bounty of fresh produce is all you need. A few simple things and you are on your way to a stocked pantry and freezer. 

I really enjoy the activity of preserving food on a quiet, unscheduled afternoon. 

Over the last few Sundays I have put up countless pints, 1/4 pints, and quarts of apple butter, apple sauce, apple pie filling, pear ginger jam, and canned pears. Later today I'll be making one more batch of pear ginger jam, and a bit more apple pie filling. 

A sampling of this year's pantry supply.

My quick method for apple pie filling? I loosely follow this filling recipe (substituting sucanat for sugar and cutting back a bit on the cinnamon and lemon). I make huge batches of this filling and pack it into quart size canning jars to freeze. Two jars (slightly thawed) per pie is a good amount. It is great to have apple pie at the ready!

If you have any tips or resources from your own canning experiences, please feel free to share!


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