Canning Berries

After Pickin’

strawberry 46After a strawberry picking morning in the garden, comes a lot of prep work. Cleaning, sorting, coring the harvest. I am lucky to have a sweet husband who stands at the kitchen counter coring and sorting with me. This batch, after prep work, measured 36 cups ready to be process.

Syrup

canning Strawberry 00724 cups are split into 2 pans on the stove. Pete’s Mom gave me the recipe and I remember Dorothy every time I make it. 12 cups fruit to 8 cups sugar, brought to a boil then immediately add 1 tsp of butter & turn down to simmer for 10 minutes. Turn the heat off, add 3 Tbls lemon juice. This image shows it ready to foam over the top on the stove.

canning Strawberry 008Beware, boiling it is where it gets a little tricky. Only fill the pans about half-way full, Be careful to turn the temp down quickly when they boil, it can very easily and quickly boil right over the top. Have a teaspoon of butter ready and drop it into the foamy rising syrup. You’ll see the level recede back down into the pan rather quickly.

canning colander 05I place a colander cone in the sink with a bowl below it. In the sink is lower and easier to reach, and spills are no problem. Pour through the colander to strain the fruit pulp out and put aside to make fruit roll-up’s later. Then, pour syrup into the jars and proceed with seal steps.

I know syrup makes a sticky mess on everything including all your utensils and pans. Clean up is a challenge, but remember, you don’t have to fight with it. Soak everything in warm soapy water, and it will soften, allowing a really easy cleanup.

Fruit Roll-ups

canning Strawberry RU 003Making fruit roll-ups with the already sweetened pulp is easy cause you have already done all the work. I line a cookie sheet with plastic wrap that can be microwaved. Then, spread the pulp 1/8″ – 1/4″ thick on the sheets.

canning Strawberry RU 004Place them in a 150º oven overnight to dehydrate. In the morning, it is done if it is not sticky to touch. If it is still sticky, put it back in and let it go longer.canning Strawberry RU 006

Juice

Okay I got too tired to process the remaining 12 cups of fresh strawberries. Instead of staying up late into the night, I freeze the remaining 12 cups in a zip lock bag. I’ll make strawberry juice later.

Tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes…

large tomatoes
large tomatoes
big tomatoes
tomatoes bigger than your hand

Big Guys

Our largest tomatoes are bigger than two hands held up to them.

tables of tomatoes
three tables of tomatoes

Tomatoes ripen quickly laid out on three tables downstairs. Every 2-3 days I am sorting through them all, looking for the ripe ones and canning them.

Looks like only 1-2 more batches and I will be done with making tomato sauce for this year. This is what a typical batch looks like this year.

tomato
tomato

Some people think we are kind of crazy to go to all this work when we can just buy tomato sauce, salsa and tomato paste at the store.

But…. what can I say.

Our garden produce tastes so much better than store bought. Hmmmm. It is worth the work. Besides what would we do all summer long if we didn’t have a massive garden to tend? Absolute chaos would ensue I am sure.

Our days are getting chilly outside and there is even a hint of white powder falling from the sky. Ski season in on it’s way. Lou, Lou Skip to My Lou….

Tomatoes are in Out of the Cold

tomatoes in kitchen
tomatoes kitchen guarded by gnome

We had to go ahead and harvest all the tomatoes as the temperature dove down to freezing here in northern part of the Inland Northwest. Here are the last of the veggies and tomatoes ripening in our kitchen.

tomato tabletop
tabletop covered with tomatoes
tomato tabletop downstairs
tomato tabletop downstairs
tomato tabel top
tomato tabletop in guest bedroom

The tomatoes are the bulk of what was left in the garden. At this point there are three 8′ long tables of them in the guest bedroom downstairs. So, if you were to rename that room it would have to be the tomato room now. I go through them daily and sort out the ripe to make tomato sauce to restock our pantry with.

Canning Tomatoes

Garden Canning

tomato canning fooling aroundI was fortunate to have a 12-year-old fabulous helper today named Nathanael, who is doing this canning tomatoes thing for his first time. He did not volunteer for the position, but instead was coerced into it by his Grandma. We were down in the garden today and have some tomatoes harvested. You can see some of them on the table being sorted through to find the ripe ones to put in the canning pile.

 

Wait a minute. Is that worker fooling around there instead of sorting?

variety of tomatoes on counterHours later, we are finally ready to can our tomatoes with a good selection on the counter. We had quite a wide variety this year due to many volunteers popping up all over our garden. Beef steaks, Burgundy Reds, Glaciers, Early Girls, Romas and Large Cherry tomatoes. Really, really large cherry tomatoes.

 

Complicated, canning tomatoes

Nathanael learned the whole canning process this year. How to blanch the tomatoes in boiling water for 10-12 seconds and then quickly set in cold water in the sink. It is fun to see how easy it is to peel and core them this way. We work to get our jar funnel with hot lid seals and rings ready and waiting for us on the counter next to the stove.Nathanael getting jarstomato canning jar bath

After a simmer in the saucepan with us stirring constantly, we are ready for the next step. Pouring the hot tomato sauce into hot jars lined-up on the counter, cleaning the jar lids and carefully placing the seal and tightening the ring. During this simmering process for the tomatoes we are also heating up our big canning pot “water bath” so we can seal the jars in it after we put the sauce into the jars.

Putting the jars into the boiling water bath is kind of tricky. Hot and a little dangerous. Canning has one of the strangest tools ever invented. Here is Nathanael getting used to the thing-a-ma-jig plier thingy used to pick up the steaming hot jars out of the boiling water.got tomatoes canned

Every year we put a supply of products; tomato sauce, catsup and salsa in the pantry covering our needs for the next 9-12 months. We also end up giving canned foods to family and friends but only if they return the empty jars. It is kind of an unspoken rule. We enjoy eating fresher, sweeter vegetables without additives.

Thrift Store Score

pot on the shelf with price tag
innocuous pot on shelf

It Pays to Keep Your Eyes Open

I was on the lookout for a thrift store score  while shopping at Value Village in downtown Spokane. I was casually walking through the kitchen utensils, pots and pans even though I had no need for more stuff like that. Suddenly, I noticed this item on the top shelf, I could see what looked like a large aluminum canning boiler for $14.99. Hmmmm, why would the price for this aluminum pot be $14.99 when the one next to it was an enamel coated canner at $8.99? Strange.

Curiosity getting the best of me, I turned the pot a little and caught site of the tube that was hiding on the back side. Oh My Gosh!

You’d have to know me better to understand why I grabbed this as fast as I could. After placing it in my cart I was doing a little jig and dancing down the isle. GIG! People started making large arcs around me in their travel patterns like there was really something wrong with me.

A Note of Explanation

This is a great canning tool I have been wanting for a long time. I’ve been saving change in the little coffee can to purchase us one.  Even though I always kept an eye out for one, I had not been successful in finding a thrift store score, or even any at garage sales for at least two canning seasons. I was no where near saving enough to buy a new one yet, even the $80 one was way out of sight for us. Here are some Google’d available purchase options from the internet to show you about these steamer juicers.

Back to Basics Aluminum Steam Juicer – A12 (Discontinued by Manufacturer) selling for $182

or this one

Victorio Steam Juicer with Glass Lid (Aluminum) selling for $80

steam juicer aluminum
aluminun steam juicer & canner

Borrowing

I have a sister-in-law whom I borrowed this exact same unit from, on a regular basis to make juices, jams, syrups etc etc etc. I honestly believe that Dan and Ann got so tired of Pete and I using her juicer every canning season, that they simply decided to move away. Not just a little move either, it was far enough away so I could not drive over and borrow the steamer again. It was all the way to Alabama from Washington state… is that far enough? Actually, I think they would have to start doing the South America thing if they wanted to get any further away. It really had nothing to do with their grandkids living there, I’m sure. LOL!

Ann! look at what I found :)! Could you send up some peaches and pears so we can make some juices? LOL!

I get a real kick out of going to garage sales, thrift stores and online at Craigslist or other places. Sometimes, people make fun of me because of the scores I find, and how I absolutely jump up and down in joy when I get a find like this.  I feel safer hoping and finding in estate sales, garage sales and thrift stores because I won’t be spending our hard earned cash on overpriced items? I don’t know. It is truly fun for me to find useful things out of someone else’s throw aways. I may be just fulfilling a deep desire or fixation to shop combined with fears of bankruptcy. This cheaper avenue to shop is probably so I don’t bankrupt our budget? What do you think?