It started out so innocently. A glut of tomatoes, so many that I was feeding them to the
Our Amish-made Water Bath Canner holds a whopping 15 quart jars or 27 pint jars! At Lehmans.com and our store in Kidron, Ohio.
neighbor’s pigs and giving them away to total strangers, led me to my first experience with canning. An elderly friend from church let me have dozens of jars she no longer needed and showed me the ropes. We used an old speckled canner I found at a tag sale. I will confess to a bit of trepidation the first time I opened a Mason jar of sauce and fed it to my family. I watched anxiously for signs of food poisoning. But…nothing happened. Well, nothing but a newfound sense of power. It occurred to me that with a small handful of seeds and a bit of land I could feed my family delicious tomato sauce all year long.
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After that I was unstoppable. I scavenged every yard sale and swap meet I could find for jars and canning equipment. I got a Squeezo and a second canner. I bought my first canning guide (The Ball Blue Book) and then a second and a third. The shelves in my pantry groaned under the weight of diced tomatoes, applesauce, raspberry jelly and pickled beets.
When my husband questioned my habit I assured him I had it under control. I didn’t buy anything I didn’t really need and nothing that wouldn’t end up paying for itself many times over.
2. You’re canning MORE than just sauce and jam.
Then we got chickens.
A neighbor was moving and offered us his flock laying birds provided we would also take his roosters. There were three of them, old and mean-tempered and good for nothing but freezer camp. The problem was that I had no room in my freezer as it was just past harvest. The same friend who taught me the finer points of water bath canning offered to show me how to can my roosters. She had the equipment and goodness knows I had enough jars. I’ll skip over the part where mama learned to butcher a chicken and get to the fun part.
I was lucky. My friend actually knew about canning safety. Not every old-timer does. Some people are still water bathing meat for three hours and thinking it’s enough. It isn’t. All low acid foods like meat and vegetables need to be pressure canned to prevent the deadly disease, botulism.
I was nervous, much more nervous than I was when I canned the tomatoes. It took hours
Pressure canning is the only method recommended safe by the U.S.D.A. for low-acid foods such as vegetables, meats and fish. At Lehmans.com and our store in Kidron.
to go through the whole process of canning using equipment that looked like it was about to launch to outer space, complete with dials and whistles and whooshing steam, but at the end of that long day I had jars and jars of gorgeous chicken bubbling away in golden stock. Two days later I opened a jar, thickened the broth with some cornstarch and added poultry seasoning and more pepper, then ladled the steaming chicken over a bed of buttery mashed potatoes. We finished that meal by sopping up the remains of the gravy with slices of bread. I don’t believe I have ever eaten a better meal. The chicken was moist and tender and best of all, it was a breeze to throw together after a long day of farm chores.
If I was crazy about canning before, now I was a canning addict. I canned stew beef and sausage patties, potato chunks and ham soup. I canned soup stocks and chili beans. I realized that my weekly shopping trips slowed to monthly and I was spending less and less on each trip. After Thanksgiving I bought turkeys at bargain basement prices and canned them all up.
3. You need an extra kitchen.
Eventually, I outgrew my kitchen and my husband, a huge canning fan himself now, built
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me a dedicated canning kitchen out by the garden, complete with running water, a propane stove and electricity. I spend many a happy hour out there, listening to music, reading one of my newest canning books and listening to the comforting sound of hissing steam as I prepare the food that will nourish my family for the next year.
I started out with dozens of jars. Now I have hundreds. I have switched from metal lids to reusable plastic ones (they really work!). I have a ½ dozen canners and books. Do I have books! Information is critical, and I want the latest and the best. Canning has grown from hobby to vocation as I now teach canning classes across the country. Am I an addict? I guess I am … but this is the best addiction ever. I am able to feed my family great food for far less than supermarket prices. I support my local food shed and I spread the word every chance I get. Canning is cool!
One-Skillet Farmstead Breakfast with Canned Potatoes
What would a canning piece be without a good recipe? Just plain boring. It’s all about the food.
Every year I can up several loads of potato chunks. I peel them, pressure can them and
Delicious bacon in a can is so convenient! At Lehmans.com and our store in Kidron, Ohio.
wait for a cold morning when my husband is clamoring for something hot and satisfying when he comes in from morning chores and the kids are extra hungry.
In a large cast iron skillet, fry up a pound of bacon. After the bacon has released some of its fat, add a diced onion. Just before the bacon gets crisp, pour off most of the fat and add a jar of drained potato chunks. Make sure they are drained well. You don’t want any liquid hitting the hot fat in the pan. Stir until the potatoes start to brown. Add in ½ dozen well beaten eggs and stir until the eggs set. Grate some sharp cheddar cheese over the top and let it melt. You will not have leftovers.