Sunday, November 16, 2014


I am loving the look of my pantry lately. Thanks to a gift from a friends aging dad, I currently have 104 empty jars just waiting to be filled, and I WILL fill them. After all, it’s tomato time! Plus, it’s fall and time to put up chilis and soups and winter squashes and beets.

Back in 2011 (?), I set a goal to triple the number of jars of things that I had personally canned. I’m so, so close! I made that goal before I actually counted what I had – which was 83 (?). I didn’t think that I could do it! That’s 249 jars of food! (Who does that, by the way?) So, to be so close is astounding.

There are commercially packaged foods on my shelves, and that’s fine. What I do is more like staples. I want/need to do more meats, but Bub isn’t keen on that (yet).

Here are my totals as of September 1, 2014:
Strawberry Jam: 1
Pear Jam: 1
Grape Jelly: 1
Apple Butter: 7
Plum Jam: 2
Apricot Jam: 22
Razzleberry Jam: 2
Blackberry Jam: 18
Cherry Jam: 5
Topical Sun Jam: 4
Nectarine Jam: 2
Peach Orange Jam: 1
Jalapeno Jelly: 4
Peppricot Jam: 4
Pickled Peaches: 1
Peaches: 12
Apples: 2
Spaghetti Sauce: 1
Turkey Broth: 8
Veggie Broth: 3
Apple Pie Filling: 6
Tomatillo Salsa: 3
Green Enchilada Sauce: 2
Black Beans: 6
Applesauce: 18
Cherries: 18
Apricots: 17
Turkey Chili with White Beans: 3
Split Pea Soup: 2
Carrots: 13
Sauerkraut: 2
Red Cabbage Relish: 2
Mustard Pickles: 2
Sweet Zucchini Relish: 5
Dill Pickles: 2
Basil Beans: 2
Bread and Butter Zucchini: 3
Pickled Beets: 1
Curry Zucchini: 3
Dilly Beans: 2
Chili Dilly Beans: 1
Candied Carrot Relish: 3

So, yes. I do have 66 jars of jam (and I haven’t even put up any grape jelly yet this year). It’s a ridiculous number, I realize, but along with a quick loaf of bread, these make awesome holiday gifts for the neighbors, teachers, bus driver, etc. A couple of years ago, I had 79 jars on the shelf right before the holidays. After the holidays, I only had about 15 left.

I’ve been canning since I was little. I always had a job in the kitchen to help my mom in the fall (usually adding the sugar to the jars and watching the needle on the pressure cooker gauge – by far the most stressful job of my entire life). However, I’ve been canning on my own since the summer that my mom died. The last birthday present that she ever gave to me was my water bath canner, and I’ve been going gangbusters since then. So, it’s been more than 15 years that I’ve had something on my shelves to compliment what we buy at the store. Usually, that was some jam and some fruit because that’s what you can do with a water bath canner. However, I’ve branched out in the past few years with the adoption of the pressure canner (which doesn’t freak me out nearly as much as it used to).

Does this save me any money on my grocery bill? Gawd, I hope so! I can’t imagine how much it would be otherwise. Honestly, I’ve never calculated the cost. This is very strange for me. I calculate the cost of just about everything.
With the exception of lids and sugar (for the 66 jars of jam), much of my canning is free. Free fifty free!

The cherries, apples, zucchini, and blackberries come from my own backyard. I wish the tomatoes did, too, but my plants have struggled the past few years. The apricots come from a tree on an abandoned lot about two blocks away. The pears usually come from the tree next door to the best friend of a coworker. The veggie broth comes from discarded pieces that we otherwise eat (peelings from carrots or potatoes, outer leaves of cabbage, the top leafy part of celery stalks, zucchini ends, etc.) The turkey/chicken broth comes from the carcass of the thanksgiving turkey after we’ve cleaned it off. The nectarines came from a friend’s father’s tree when he had an overabundance (he simply wanted a jar of jam in return). The grapes come from foraging from vines that hang over tall fences that people disregard. (Folks pick what is on their side of the fence and forget about what grows on the other side. It’s all on public sidewalks, and therefore public property according to state laws.)

I buy a lot of stuff when it is on sale (god bless Rancho Markets) and from the farmer who lives down the street (the guy with the three-legged dog). For example, in less than 3 hours, I made 13 pints of sliced carrots for $4. That’s $0.25 per 16 ounce jar compared to a current price of $0.50-$0.65 per 12 ounce can from the big box store.

Sauerkraut. $2.50 in the store, and I made mine for $0.33 per quart.

And, then there are the leftovers. When Bub makes a LOT of food (which is every single time she makes soup or chili or just about anything), I will bottle it whenever possible because our freezer chest is small, and canning avoids the possibility of freezer burn.
The beauty of the whole thing? In the time it takes to cook the noodles, the technically from scratch sauce is heated up and ready to go. With a cube of butter and two cups of flour, we can have a cherry pie in the middle of winter without eating that horrible canned goopy stuff from the store. With a little flour, cinnamon, and butter, we can have a loaf of apricot/applesauce/cherry/peach bread in no time.

The best part? It all tastes better than store bought, and I know exactly what is in my food – especially important for the salt content.

So, does it make a difference? I think so.

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