Monday, August 18, 2008

Home Canning

Home canning is a great way to help your family be more self-sufficient. Through canning, you know exactly what ingredients are in the food that your family eats. Many home canning families agree, the flavor of the home canned beats the flavor of the store bought.

One of the questions that often comes up when planning your home canning is "how much do I need to can for my family?" The easiest way to figure this amount is to track your purchases. How often and in what quantity do you buy the vegetables at the store? Knowing this will help greatly in planning out your home canning.

Whether you have a home garden or you buy the fresh vegetables at a farmer's market or roadside produce stand, here is some information that may help you to know how much to expect from the produce.

Pick Your Own is a great resource for finding local farms where you can go and pick the vegetables & fruit yourself. This offers you a savings as you are not paying someone else to pick the produce for you and take it to market. On the website, they have a lot of great information on how to home can the produce and charts that list the approximate amount you can expect to home can from a bushel of the produce.

When planning your home canning, take into account that you will need very sturdy shelving. The glass canning jars are very heavy and you don't want the shelves to collapse under the weight of the jars. You also want to be sure to have the jars of food stored in an area where they will not be in direct sunlight and the room temperature can be kept at a temperate range year round, about 50-70 degrees Fahrenheit.

If you live in an area where home canning supplies are hard to find year round, online resources such as can give you the ability to buy the supplies any time of the year. This is great for those of us who home can meals, soups, stews and other things that we gain access to throughout the entire year.

The Extension Service at North Dakota State University is one of many websites that has online the USDA recommendations and instructions for home canning. It is a great idea for you to always consult that current recommendations. Using old canning books can be great for the recipes, but the canning instructions to insure food safety may have changed over the years.

Here is one of our family's favorite homemade soups that I home can.

Cream of Tomato Soup

1 cup butter
8 tsp. salt
2 2/3 Tbsp. finely minced onion
6 quarts of tomato juice (or 3 of the large cans of tomato juice from the store)
1.5 cups flour
1.5 cups sugar
1 tsp. black pepper

Melt butter and saute the onion. In a bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, salt & pepper. Slowly stir this into the butter. The mixture will be very thick. Continue stirring constantly to avoid lumps. Once you have enough flour in that it is becoming thick, start alternating adding the flour mixture and tomato juice to prevent lumps. After all the four mixture has been mixed into the butter, add the remaining juice and stir until smooth and well blended. Cook 1 minute.

Pour the soup into prepared canning jars. Wipe the rim to remove any drops of soup that may have spilled onto them. Add lids and seal. Process in a waterbath for 1 hour. This recipe will yield abotu 11 pints of soup.

***This soup is nice and thick. You can use it as is or add a bit of milk to thin and give it a creamy taste. Before processing, the soup has a light color, but once it has been fully processed the soup is a dark, rich red color.