Canning and Preserving Time

Reader Contribution by Ginnie Baker
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It’s Labor Day weekend and, to me, that means the end of summer!

The days are getting shorter and the garden is not the greatest I’ve ever had, but the tomatoes are finally ripening enough to begin the canning process. I’m not sure what the problem is, but the tomatoes are beginning to develop brown spots, especially as soon as they’re picked. I have to be quick with the canning process or they spoil before I know it!

I’ve made several batches of fresh salsa, something I use a lot of, and several batches of Amish ketchup. The tomato plants are beginning to die off but even though some only had a couple of tomatoes, they were very large! This one is next to an old “Ball Perfect Mason Jar.” I’m glad I preserved a lot of tomato products last year when I had a bumper crop!

The beans are now in their second growth spurt. I’ve used them fresh in soup and as a side dish with dinner. I don’t have a pressure canner so I’ve also frozen a lot of them.

The cucumbers are finished, but I did make about 12 quarts of pickles. The squash is also done. I’ve used it fresh and have frozen quite a bit of it to use cooked during the winter.

I went to the garden yesterday and picked tomatoes, beans, squash and a few pumpkins. The pumpkins have ripened way too early. It makes me wonder if mine are the exception or if pumpkin farmers are experiencing the same thing. If so, it’s going to be hard on the Halloween decorations.

My miniature donkeys, Samson and Delilah are enjoying themselves even though it’s been extremely warm. The temperature earlier this week was 89 degrees and humid. Today it’s a little cooler with storms predicted.

I’ve been hearing predictions that this could be a very harsh winter again. I’m not a prognosticator, but I have observed things that make me think that prediction is correct: the squirrels are raiding the sunflower seeds from the feeders at a rapid pace, burying acorns and seeds; the early ripening of the pumpkins; the Bittersweet berries are already orange; and the hummingbirds are bulking up as if they’re ready to leave. My wild cherry trees are losing their leaves at a rapid pace and the maple trees are beginning to change color. I also heard that the Aspen trees in Colorado have already begun to change color … that began a couple of weeks ago.

Here’s a recipe to make Amish Ketchup; I’ve modified the original recipe. I use fresh tomatoes, put them in the food processor until they are completely crushed and liquid. I don’t peel or seed them, just take out the stem end and quarter them. I also use brown sugar in place of white, and I add one medium onion, peeled and quartered with the root end intact so it doesn’t fall apart when cooking.

Easy Ketchup
Yields 4 to 5 pints. 

3 quarts tomato juice
1 pint 5% cider vinegar
4 to 5 cups sugar (to taste)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
3 drops clove oil (or 4 teaspoons ground cloves)
5 drops cinnamon oil (or 3 sticks of cinnamon)
4 tablespoons dry mustard   

If using whole spices, place in a piece of cheesecloth and tie it shut.

In a large pot, mix together all ingredients and if using a spice bag, place that in the pot. Boil gently, stirring frequently to keep the mixture from scorching, for about 2 to 2 1/2 hours until very thick. Remove the spice bag and the onion pieces.

Fill pint jars with the hot ketchup, leaving 1/8-inch headspace. Process pints in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes at 0-1,000 feet; 20 minutes for 1,001-6,000 feet; 25 minutes for 6,001-8,000 feet.

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