Preserving Summer's Bounty


Country MoonI love this time of year when smells from fresh-cut hay, vegetables ripening in the garden and flowers all mesh into one fabulous scent. I call it the summer smell.

I also love this time of year because it’s like a veggie and fruit smorgasbord with the combined bounty of our garden and farmers’ markets. The only trouble is, no matter how we stagger the planting, everything seems to ripen at the same time. You can only eat so much.

Thank goodness for home preserving because you can put the tastes of summer in a jar. Canning and freezing are basically the two options for saving summer’s bounty. Which method you choose is a matter of personal preference and convenience and also which type of range you own. Some models of glass-top electric ranges are not suited for canning. Be sure to check your owner’s manual. Either way you go, freezing or canning, come winter your fruits and vegetables will taste better than what you buy in a store.

Home canning is making a comeback. It is economical because canning jars can be used over and over, and you only have to purchase new lids each year. The recommended shelf life of home-canned food is two to three years whereas that of frozen fruits and vegetables is only one year. It doesn’t mean food is spoiled after that time limit, but there may be a decline in color, flavor and nutritional value.

There are three methods for home canning: using a pressure cooker, hot water bath or open kettle canning. The USDA only recommends using a pressure cooker because it will kill the organisms that cause the deadly botulism. Using this method, jars of food are processed under pressure at a certain temperature for a certain amount of time.

The hot water bath method consists of filling the jars with acidic foods such as tomatoes, cucumbers and berries and covering with lids. Then the jars are submerged in an open kettle of water and boiled until a seal forms under the lids and forces air out of the jars, creating a vacuum in an acidic environment where bacteria can’t survive. This method can only be used with acidic foods, and jars can’t be set on the bottom of the kettle. Rather, they must set on a towel or wooden cutting board to prevent breakage.

Jannette Gomez
7/17/2014 7:17:48 AM

Great blog post! I too am in the midst of preserving summer's bounty. I froze some veggies, made jam, and canned tomatoes. Preserving food involves both skill and artistry. It captures summer's goodness and allows us to relive it throughout the winter months through our cooking and feasting. Have a great day preserving summer's bounty and take time to enjoy this homesteading skill and artwork!

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