Canning and Preserving our Garden or Farmer’s Market Produce

Some Canning Background

When I was little, my mom and grandma did a lot of canning. I saw it as a messy chore that I didn’t like that made them both cranky at the end of the day.  Fast forward to my 30s (now 40s) and I started to think canning might be fun.  I had forgotten all the heat, steam, stress and crankiness apparently. But I did remember being able to open jars of yummy things and the feeling of accomplishment at the end of the day.

So, mom and I embarked on a little canning experiment at her place armed with some Pinterest recipes.  We went to the Qualicum Beach Farmer’s Market and to Springford Farm and armed ourselves with bulk produce of whatever they had.  We had a great time, we ended up tired, hot, cranky, sweaty and stressed.  All that was fixed with a little (a lot?) of wine at the end of the experiment.

Inspired and Canning Creativity!

The end of that weekend long experiment led to an increased desire to can even more. Off I went to the book store to find some good canning books. Pinterest was again my friend, and armed with some names I went to Mulberry Bush Books in Qualicum Beach to chat with Tom. I ordered one or two there, and I think another from Amazon, plus got one on a random trip down the book aisle at the grocery store one day.

Here are my thoughts on a few basic books:

For a good place to start, The Bernardin Complete Book of Home Preserving is a great place to get a basic book with a variety of recipes. It’s full of classics and as such, has more sugar than I like to use in a lot of the recipes. But, if you see it at a used book store, pick it up! 

Another good starter from a reliable source is this Ball Book of Canning and Preserving.  I don’t have this one as I have “The Best of Ball Home Canning and Preserving” which was a magazine rather than a book and probably the one I got at the grocery store.  My version has a great canning 101 section and some recipes we have tried that turned out great!  My cousin Molly made the Curried Tomato Preserves, which she shared with me and they’re delicious. I am excited to try the Balsamic Onion Jam when my onions grow up this year! 

Both of these are by canning jar producers so you can count on them for having tested the recipes and being pretty easy to replicate.

Onto some more creative canning and preserving books:

The next favourite – Put ’em up! –  I will have to re-order, as Mom took it to Saskatchewan one year and gave it to my uncle as Mom, cousin Molly, and Uncle John do the majority of the canning and preserving since I became a REALTOR® and it’s such a great book she wanted to share it.  So, I’ll get another!  I love how this book is organized – by food rather than by type of recipes.  

Come home with a giant box of strawberries? No problem, go to the strawberry section and see 5+ ways to deal with them – jam, sauce, drinks, freezing and more (I mean, I think… I haven’t seen the book in a while, so maybe it’s only 4 ways, or maybe it’s 8, who knows? You know who knows? The person with the book thats who!).

Anyway, the point is, you find what produce you are working with, go to that section, then decide which of the variety of ways or recipes she presents appeals to you and make that.  Here is an example in the first page about Rhubarb (who doesn’t need new ways to use up this weed?)

I love Well-Preserved because it has a canning recipe and then a cooking recipe you can make to use up that preserved item, something I sometimes struggle with. I have made the preserved meyer lemons from this book and they were delicious when used with some roasted chicken (not a recipe in the book though).  It also includes other methods or preservation besides canning – smoking, freezing, and more.  It’s divided into sections like fruits, nuts, meats, so you can flip to the section you want to do and go from there.  For instance, there’s a tomatoes section here. In it, she teaches you how to make canned tomatoes, then a recipe for tomato soup and stewed beef and tomatoes.

Homemade Living Canning & Preserving is divided into interesting sections as well – especially the seasonal divisions.  There is a section for Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall so you can use the produce of each season appropriately. It also has great chapters on tools, concepts, ingredients, and methods you can apply to all canning.  Then she goes through a recipe or two for each method (jams, butters, jellies, pickles, relish, etc.).

My favourite out of this book so far is the Rhubarb Amaretto chutney (spring section) – delicious on everything and a tasty different way to use up all that Rhubarb (back to that weed!).  

We have also tried the Blood Orange Port Sauce, the Lemon Curd (Winter and Spring) and I can’t wait to do the Squash Chutney and Clementine Countreau Curd (both in the Winter section).  There are too many great and unusual recipes to list here, so just buy the book!

Gardening 

This year I have finally embarked on having my own garden with veggies in it.  I’ve had an herb garden for several years, but finally took the leap this year and planted some veggies since Mom is home far longer than normal this year … we all know why …

This year aside from our usual basil, dill, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, cilantro, and chives, we have pots with 4 kinds of tomatoes, a pepper, 4 kinds of squash, and 3 kinds of cucumbers. Now, I have planted a little square-foot garden (I built myself with free scrap wood!) with lettuce, spinach, beans, onions, carrots, radishes, and beets. I’m hoping to get a little out of it and it may start a bigger project soon.

A local author I met at a library talking about her book wrote this gardening book:

Her talk was inspiring and prompted me to get started (only a few YEARS later) and also breaks it down manageably.  Gardening doesn’t seem as scary after reviewing this book.

(Please note that here as elsewhere I have linked to amazon.ca but I vastly prefer if you please check our local library or our local used or new bookstores!)

 

Small Homesteading

Another book that I really like that I took out of the library in Qualicum Beach some time ago is The Backyard Homestead.  This book explains how you can produce all the food you need on only a quart acre.  

We have more space than that, so I’m hoping one day to get enough deer fencing to get a min-homestead going here. The fencing seems daunting (not to mention expensive) at the moment, plus watering it all, and just the work involved seems a lot now. But I keep dreaming.  Once we are closer to that time, I’ll buy the book.

 

The same author of the one of the canning books (Ashley English) also does books on other homesteading type topics:

            

So, I have had chickens, but the rest is beyond me. I’ll leave it to you future farmers and homesteaders to tell me how these other books go. 

I hope you found some good recommendations here and find something to do with your own excess produce. OR that you will go to the local farms, markets and farm stands to get bulk produce to start canning.  Tell me about your favourite recipe.  Do you garden?  How did you get started?

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