Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Harvest is on

Our fields full of soy beans were planted late so will be a few more month's before we harvest them but many area farmers have begun harvesting their fields.  I am still harvesting from the garden.  Cucumbers have finally slowed way down.  I have two more batches to do up and should be done with cucumbers for the year.  I will start harvesting basil and mint and getting it dried to use this winter also.  I have winter squash, pumpkins, and potatoes to deal with later on.  Now is the time to fill your pantry full of food that you can up yourself. 

It can feel expensive if you don't have jars and equipment but it is a once in  a life time expense.  You reuse it all over and over for years to come. It took me several years to get what I needed and I still have not bought a water bath canner.  Using my tall stock pot along with a round rack from my rice cooker has served me very well for almost 40 years.  My stock pot is 10" tall.  I saw them at Sam's Club a couple weeks ago for $35.  I have no clue what a water bath canner is running for but at least you can compare now.  As Fall rolls on in, it is a great time to check on canning supplies!  Many stores will mark stuff down to get it out about now to make room for the Holiday stuff coming in.  If you need canning supplies be on the look out for a true bargain!   Having a pressure canner is a must!  Most vegetables and all meats must be done in a pressure canner.  If you can only get one canner make sure it is a pressure canner!   I can pressure can all the stuff I water bath can if I needed to do so! 

Check your area for canning jars.  I found an Amish store off the beaten path in my area that gets canning jars without lids for much less than local stores can sell for.  I get pint jars (16 oz.) for $4.40 per case of 12.  I get Quart jars(32 oz.) for $5.50 per case 0f 12.  That's almost 1/2 price from Walmart or the local grocery stores in my area that sell the same cases from $8.87 to $12.47.  I'm swimming in screw bands and can get a case of 2000 lids for $54 at the same place I'm getting my jars. 

I thought I had all the jars I needed but then I started vacuum sealing food stuff into canning jars and also started canning all of our meats instead of putting it all into the freezer.  I counted my blessing of doing that today when I listened to a friend who had gone a week without electric on the East coast following the hurricane.  He explained how they had water, computers, ect by using their generator but just didn't have enough power to fuel the freezer so they tossed 95% of it after the storm was over.  They ate what they could but it was precious little in the way of what they had.  They both said they didn't want to think about cooking while this was all going on.  I have precious little in my freezer so would lose almost nothing.

So why have a freezer? Well, we already had it.  I do store some fruits, some meat, like a few steaks for special occasions, ect.  I store our garden seeds in the freezer.  I make sure they are clean and very, very dry.  I put them into canning jars clearly labeled with exactly what they are and the date they went in and remark each time I remove it from the freezer.  When I need seed, I remove the jar the night before and let it come up to room temperature.  Before opening the jar I make sure to wipe down the jar very well with a clean dry cloth to remove any moisture that may be on the jar.  I remove all the seed I might need for the year and then wipe the rim well and reseal.  It is critical to make sure no moisture of any kind gets into the seed.  Any moisture at all will kill the seed when it freezes. 

Now for the rest of the freezer I fill empty juice or water bottles and keep the freezer full all the time.  During the winter months I make up cookie dough, cinnamon rolls, ect.  and freeze and anyone who wants a treat can got get what they want and bake it and have just enough for the moment without leaving a whole pan sitting there for those who don't want to be tempted.  Anyway I remove as many water bottles as I need to and as we remove stuff we just add in enough bottles to fill the freezer again.  If the electric goes out my freezer will stay frozen much longer with it being filled with frozen water bottles.

I've been dreaming of a root cellar and my husband has promised to build a couple but so far it hasn't happened.  So I can most of the potatoes and only leave about 50 pounds out fresh.  They tend to start growing sprouts late January or early February so canning most of them gives me potatoes to add to soups or make mashed potatoes with. 

I hope you are thinking about possible disasters in your life and how to prepare for them and start collecting what you need.  If you need help with any of your preparations please let me know and I'll be happy to do a blog on it!


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