I had to reboot my chickens!

In the photo 2 Jersey Giants and 2 New Hampshire Reds. Lizzy my 7 month old German Shepard is in the background along with Kat. She’s hard to see. She’s on the wood pile preparing to pounce on an unsuspecting Lizzy Bit.

Lately my girls decided that they don’t want to lay eggs in the coop. I’ve found eggs in various spots around the yard. In the garden under the tomato plants, in flower pots, wood piles and I’m sure there’s a bunch in the woods.

Past few days I’ve postponed letting the girls out until they give me at least 2 eggs in the nesting box. Thus ensuring we get minimum of 2 eggs a day.

It generally takes them till noon before I grant them access to the outside. Since doing this at least one girl comes back to the nesting box and drops a third egg.

And yes that is a nesting box hanging outside the coop. We put it there to be out of the way since we need to put the coopette back this week. I have 14 baby chicks that are growing out of their brooder pen.

Since starting this reboot I’ve gotten an additional 1 or 2 eggs a day after releasing them. I think they got the point.

Happiness is green tomatoes turning red

It’s time to start canning tomatoes! I’ve waited 3 years to get this project started. The last 2 years our tomatoes did not produce, in part because our garden is new and is a wip when it comes to converting crappy red clay over to fertile soil. Our garden wip is starting to pay off in our third year of gardening.

This weekend I was able to pick enough to can. I wanted to document the procedure so I can review and refine next attempt.

First batch here we go!

I picked a large canning pot 2/3’rds full followed by a wash in the sink.

Next cored the tomatoes and put into boiling water until the skins cracked. This can happen immediately if the tomato is ripe or take a minute for under ripe ones.

Once peeled, I chopped into quarters, making sure to remove any blemishes missed when coring.

Next the tomatoes went into the instant pot and set on slow cook. I allowed the tomatoes cook overnight. The next morning I transferred tomatoes from instant pot to heavy pot and simmered for 3 or 4 hours to reduce some of the accumulated liquid.

While sauce was cooking down I prepared the jars by washing and putting into boiling water to sterilize. Gathered lids and rings – set these to soak. Gathered all my equipment for canning and set up the work area.

Supplies needed for canning:

  • small bowl of vinegar to wipe down rims of jars before setting lids.
  • citric acid need 1/2 tsp per quart or 1/4 tsp per pint
  • jar grabber
  • headspace measuring tool
  • large ladle
  • canning funnel
  • chop stick for removing air bubbles

I am putting up pints, so into each jar I put 1/4 tsp of citric acid to bump up the acid content – this helps prevents spoilage. I left 1/2 inch headspace. I wiped each rim with vinegar, place on lid and hand tightened rings.

Processed batch in a boiling water bath for 40 minutes.

I ended up with 7 pints.

Canning 101

I will be talking a lot about canning on this site. If you are interested in doing canning – then please read this post before starting.

FIrst and most important – if you want to can something please go to your local county extension agency – most are online now – and read their recommendations for your area. This is important because where you live impacts how you can. Knowing what sea level you are at is first and foremost an important bit of information you need to know before you move forward.

For people such as myself that live below 1,000 ft we have to abide by different processing pressures and processing times as compared to those that live above 1,000 ft. This is why I encourage you to go to your local county extension site first for their guidence.

Next understand what kind of food you plan to can. Food determines the canning method required. For instance food considered high acid foods, tomatoes or jellies, jam, etc are processed using boiling water method. The equipment for this would be a large metal canning pot.

Foods like beans. meats or corn are considered low acid foods. These foods must be processed in an approved pressure canner. NOTE YOUR INSTANT POT IS NOT AN APPROVED CANNER. You will see several bloggers that are posting videos etc where they used their instant pot for canning. The FDA has not approved these as safe canners. There is a lot of science behind the amount of pressure and duration of time and internal temperatures involved with pressure canning. Approved canners have been tested to ensure they meet established guidelines.

Do I have a canner I recommend? Yes the All American Canner. Why, because I feel they are the safest on market. Below I show how the canner seals – there are 6 of these screws that secure the top to the canner. The biggest danger with pressure canners are the pressure they must achieve to adequately process foods. If a canner explodes on you – and you are in the wrong place – at the wrong time – you are in a world of hurt. Ask me how I know. I had old presto canner exlode on me because the seal failed and ended up with 2nd and 3rd degree wounds. Pressure canners are no joke and safety should be your first consideration when buying one. There is no way the lid will blow off on the all american canner. Trust me you don’t want to know what it’s like to scrub burn with silvadine brush basically a sponge with green scratch pad against you open burn wound. Yes I’m being graphic so you learn from my experience. Pressure canners are NO joke they must be treated with respect and utmost caution – this includes INSTANT POTS.

Next when you’ve chosen a food to can – please go to site like Fresh Preserving read up on food you want to prepare. It might be necessary to add ingredient you wouldn’t considered – ie – canning tomatoes – you need to add acid to the jar. The acid could be in the form of lemon juice or citric acid. Bumping the acidity aka PH of the tomatoes is important to prevent Clostridium botulinum from forming. I often see this ingedient missing from home bloggers canning sites.

I’m not trying to discourage you from canning blog sites. I just want you to be aware that you need to understand the science behind canning before you experiment.

I’ve been canning on and off for over 40 years. My first stop is always to sites with approved methods to refresh my memory and I strongly encourage that you do this too.

Sorry, if you was expecting a step by step tutorial about how to can but got a lecture instead. But, if you’re looking to put food away for future use – you don’t want your hard work to be thrown out because the jar spoiled. Spoiling happens to all of us. But knowing these tips reduces the chance of things going wrong.

Put Up or Shut Up

Are you overrun with cucumbers and tomatoes? Do your neighbors pretend they aren’t home when you ring the doorbell with a arm full of zucchini? Pack the excess of the season into jars and avoid waste. If you’ve got a garden that is producing like mad, the most sensible step is to embrace home canning. You can start with the blackberries in the North West field.

I am no stranger when it comes to canning. Been around it all my life. My dad always planted a large garden with usual potatoes, corn, green beans, cukes, beets etc. We also had awesome apple and crab apple trees and a strawberry bed the size of a standard lot.

I love being able to grow a crop and convert the crop into food supplies that will sustain us during the winter months.

Here on the acreage we are in the midst of blackberry season. This year we have a bumper crop. Rains been steady and consistent this spring. For the most part the temps have been mild to moderate. Perfect environment for blackberries.

Over the 4th of July Holiday, Ken and I picked a 6 quart bowl of berries in under an hour. At times Ken would pull 5 – 7 berries in a single pull. I don’t need to tell you how lucious and sweet they are.

Problem 1 I don’t need blackberry preserves. I have plenty from last year. We’ve given a bunch away and I’m stuck with a big ass bowl full of berries.

Problem 2 we’ve just scratched the surface when it comes to picking berries.

Do I pick more, or leave them be?

We run into this same dilemma with garden produce. Last year we had bumper crops of zuchinni and peppers. This year we’ll have bumper crop of tomatoes, peppers, carrots and onions.

The onions and carrots I’ll store, the peppers I found the best way to preserve them is to cut in half and freeze. Trick with using frozen pepper is to not cook them too long when adding to recipes like scrambled eggs. Keeping a few fresh in the fridge and freezing excess allows us not have to buy green peppers in the winter unless I absolutely need a fresh pepper for a dish.

The tomatoes I’m going to can. Not going to do anything fancy, just make up quarts and pints of stewed tomatoes. I like to keep canning simple because it gives me more options down the road. For instance – I’ve made up quarts of beef stew with vegetables. It’s good, but limits my recipe choices. If I can quarts of just beef – that opens up more options for quick meals. Same with tomatoes. I use canned tomatoes in a variety of dishes so keeping it simple helps out in the future.

With excess tomatoes I might make some bar-b-que sauce

The one crop I won’t plant is corn. Corn requires a lot of space and lot of plants to get decent pollination for a decent yield. Fortunately, we have a source for fresh sweet corn. Ken and his buddy went out this week and picked a bunch. Thank the lord Ken didn’t go overboard this year. Last year we worked on corn for 3 days straight. This year he limited the picking to 4 – 5 gallon buckets. We removed the corn from the cob processed for freezing. Have enough to eat corn once a week for the next 6 months.

Ken’s been harvesting potatoes a few hills at a time. We both love new potatoes. Ken especially loves diced new potatoes fried with diced summer squash and onions.

Earlier this year the strawberries went nuts. Everyday for 3 weeks we picked 5 quart bowlful a day.

I put up 20 jars of strawberry preserves and still had enough berries to freeze 3 gallon sized ziplock freezer bags.

I use the strawberry preserves in my homemade your recipe found here on my recipe site Country Living Kitchen homemade yogurt. Very Yummy indeed!

So why do I put up? It is not personal preference, it is not self-delusion: commercially canned products don’t tastes as good as locally grown, harvested in season, homemade canned good! Let’s face it, it’s deeply rewarding to grow and harvest your own produce – ensuring top quality – and to can it at its peak of ripeness. You can bet your bottom dollar that the flavor of your home-canned product will mirror the quality and care that went into making it. It’s nirvana to open a jar of cherry jam in January when its cold and blustery. That first taste of cherry reminds you of warm spring days that are just around the corner!