We are facing the last vestiges of summer, which makes most gardeners busy saving the season by preserving their bountiful harvests. I know many of our community members already store their foods in jars using a hot bath method, but there are many ways to preserve food. Considering the national shortage on Ball Jars and all food preservation goods, the more ways we learn to preserve our food, the better. As I searched the internet to hopefully source a secret jar-hoarding-vendor, repetitions in history seem to pop up. This scarcity of mason jars last occurred in 1975. See any similarity with mason jars to the lack of TP in 2020 to the last great toilet paper scare of 1973?
IF you are fortunate to have stock of some canning jars, but need a little pep talk through the process, here goes! Get yourself a large pot. There are specialized canning pots with racks to hold each jar in position during the sealing process, but any pot large enough hold your jars and cover them with at least an inch of water will suffice to create a successful hot water bath. Place enough clean jars and 2 -part lids to hold the quantity of food you are storing into the pot, fill it with enough water to cover the jars, then heat the pot up to a simmer. Allow the jars and lid to sanitize in this simmering bath for at least 10 minutes as you prepare your batch of food.
Have no FOMO if you lack the jars or fresh fruit at this moment. I happened to have too many berries stored in my freezer, so fresh or frozen is optional. Therefore, when we hopefully see jars in stock again in December, you can still can for the holidays. 🙂 You may need to wait that long to find Sure-Jell pectin, too! I stocked up on pectin in the good-old days of 2019. Handy-dandy canning instructions reside inside each box. Follow this website for inspiration and recipes to exclude sugar. The boxed instructions call for equal amounts of berries to sugar and one packet of pectin. Once the food was prepared according to those instructions, the jars were removed from the hot bath to get filled. Wipe down the rim of each jar to remove any debris between the glass and the sealing compound of the lid. Cover and screw on the second part of the lid, then place jar back into the simmering pot of water. Fill all the jars and repeat until the batch is depleted. Process the jars at a rapid boil for 10 minutes, then allow to cool overnight. You will hear popping sounds– the delightful music of a successful canning bath. By the next day, each lid should be sealed down with no movement. Easy-Peasy. Just get to the dishes right away before the food remnants stick to the pot!
Pectin’s purpose is to create a thicker substance, so the jar can be overturned and the contents mostly stay in place. I have never used pectin before this year, but my family thinks there is something wrong with that viscous type of preserve I usually make, so pectin fit the needs this year.
Freezing, if you have the space, is a very quick and simple preservation method. Too much of most anything can be stored in the freezer for later usage. Properly removing air from the container is most important to reduce freezer burn. I lack the space, so freezing foods is not an option.
Dehydrating food is an optimal way to secure your food supply, while saving space and resources. Properly dehydrated foods can store for many months and weigh much less than their original form, since all the water is removed. Dehydrated foods require no jars or electric to keep on a shelf. No specialized equipment is really required to dehydrate food, although a quality food dehydrator can save a lot of time. Since I love to collect kitchen gadgets, I have a large dehydrator that transformed over 10 pounds of fresh zucchini into 4 ounces of dried food. I used a mandolin to slice the zucchini into thin rounds, and refused to use oil. I wanted a natural flavor with no seasoning and fat to add calories. The mistake was my lesson to share with you. Lightly oil your pan or dehydrator tray to avoid sticking food. I will store this bag of chips in my pantry to use as I wish. The food will reconstitute in stir-fries or soups. These chips are even delicious right from the bag. Your pup might even like them better than a store-bought treat!
If preserving food is not in your cards this season, you can secure some future food for next year by saving seeds. These seeds are from an uber-tiny cantaloupe I harvested from my garden. Seeds need to be dried and protected from pests. I spread them onto a towel and set them on my working dehydrator to dry, covered by a screen. I leave the goo on the seeds and have never had an issue with this process. Some seed savers swear that the seed needs to be washed, then dried. You choose your avenue to this venture. Either way is truly rewarding when you have control over the cycle of a seed’s life.
Seeds come from all plants. If vegetables are not your game, flowers might be your ticket. I enjoy saving herbs for tea. Lemon balm is the bomb in my opinion. I made sure to let the plant shoot out flowers, then dry on the plant before I harvested the leaves. As I crushed the leaves and dried flowers, the precious seeds fell into the towel. These seeds will get planted in that Sacred Herb Spiral we made this year. The excess seeds will be entered into the Southeast Steuben County Library‘s Seed Library for your enjoyment.
If you enjoyed this post, but crave further knowledge, put knowledge to work with Cornell Cooperative Extension. I encourage you to engage with this our your local cooperative extension to understand myriad ways to appreciate nature’s abundance. Nature is the best Maker, after all.
I’ll close this post with an image of my most prized flowers from the season. Their unique construction is intoxicating to view. When there was a frost last week, I rescued these flowers for one final bouquet. A friend told me they can be dried for the winter to provide pops of color to cheer up any room. Wow, another way to save the season! To my surprise, I thought those black specks were bugs emerging from the drying plant, but they are SEEDS! You can count on me to share these babies in the seed library, too.
That’s a wrap for this stationary moment. I’ll check you on the flip side!