Ideas, thoughts and observations on home canning

by BlueJeanedLady

We’ve only two adults in the household these days (not counting pets of any age) and here’s a few ideas I use for ‘down sizing’ & trying to manage the food rotation. All just a few basic ideas, humble opinions, etc., that I’m happy to share with any & all that may be interested.

1. When I home can foods, I use MORE PINT JARS than quart jars simply because we are two and not four or more, right now. Exceptions most noteworthy being food products the two of us use a lot of, like tomatoes, tomato based sauces, salsa mixes, & quick pickled veggies, simply because our two, singular yet like-minded taste palates can eagerly consume a quart of any within a week or so. So, nothing goes to waste and most things that are well processed and if not used within a year can also remain ‘shelf safe’ for a much longer time.

For another food example, my husband & I could both eat green beans or green garden peas eight days a week (so I have canned both green beans and green peas in quart jars) but canned carrots, not so much. Not that there’s anything wrong with canned carrots, ha, ha, ha, – – – just not a ‘go to’ canned veggie for us! I mostly only need a smaller amount of carrots for certain soup, stew and casserole recipes. Therefore, carrots are assigned pint jars only, for now. Saves on food waste.

I’m also hoping to teach myself how to (properly & consistently) can preserves, jams & jellies – which I hear ??? isn’t as scary as I imagine – this summer. Since a) this will be an ‘experiment’ of sorts and b) we love such but don’t need or crave such every week, I’ll be starting out with even smaller, 1/2 pint (one cup), jars. This way, even if it turns out like syrup for pancakes, ice cream, or for use with decadent smoothie type shakes, not much will go to waste or over indulgence as we take our time in consuming an open container of such. 🙂

This non-discriminating veggie / fruit buying example was a ” newbie food prepper” mistake I made early on . . . I started buying several (equal number of each) cans of every fruit & vegetable on sale in the grocery store until I had to slap myself ‘up-the-back-side-of-the-head’ (Gibb’s style, as on the TV show, ‘NCIS’). Took a year or so to realize I’d shunned the untouched cans of mixed “fruit cocktail” languishing in the corner of the pantry, long after eating many a can of preferred, sliced pineapples, peach or pears halves. Then (surprise, surprise) suddenly, those ignored cans of “fruit cocktail” were about to reach their “use by” dates. Poor containers of fruit cocktail really deserved a more appreciative audience!

In summarizing, to rotate all successfully, don’t buy as much of things further down on you &/or your house-mate(s) wish list as you do of things you each like, much better! 🙂

2. Be vigilant (“UGH,” said BlueJeanedLady) about menu planning and try to be vigilant (“UGH,” said she, again) about sticking to your menu plan for the upcoming week. Some people do menu planning monthly, but I just can’t go there at this point in time! If YOU can, GO FOR IT! This is a very tough one for me as I hate, hate, hate sticking to a menu plan when I don’t have to – – – mostly because I can be very impulsive about cooking “what I’m in the mood for” on any given day. I’m still on the learning curve with this one, so wish me continued occasions of willpower with a dash, or two, of good luck!

None-the-less, menu planning (which involves portion control that is healthy for all, by itself) does save so much money, i.e.; food, as well as a lot of meal prep time. I’ve learned that if I do take the time to browse through my pantry, check the fridge (especially the fresh produce & fresh dairy items needing to be used soon) and dive into the freezer for a ‘looksie’ for whatever else needs rotating before beginning my menu planning, I am forced to take appropriate note of anything that hasn’t been rotated recently and am better influenced to then incorporate the miscellaneous items into my upcoming menu plan. Still, she cries, “UGH!” as the struggle continues!

3. Contrary to popular belief, some things are not necessary cheaper / more convenient if bought in bulk. (HUH?) Beware – &/or – Be Aware! The only easy way to say this is with a real life (been there, made that mistake and could have bought the T-shirt had I saved my money from poorly planned purchases) example.

The example: We go through a lot of a) soy sauce and b) Worcestershire as we use both for last added condiments & early added ingredients in cooking. Even as we normally only use a few tablespoons, or less, per serving, it seemed I was always adding one or the other to my shopping list. Imagine my joy when our local wally world started selling each by the gallon! I got one of each!

BIG mistake! Although it was no big deal to keep funneling from the larger jug into a smaller bottle for kitchen convenience, we started noticing an ‘icky’ & later, an ‘ickier’ (but – thank goodness – not ill health inducing ‘sickly’) taste with each re-fill. YUCK-OLA!

NOTE: The moral of this oxygen infused story applies to many other condiments and dried herbs & spices as well: If you don’t use it often, even if you do use it regularly, you’ll save the flavor & more money in the long run with the smaller, individually well sealed, containers.

What we knew intellectually, but obviously failed to recall & apply practically, was that the flavor of both the soy sauce & the Worcestershire started deteriorating the moment we opened the sealed lid of the larger container. Even refrigerating the gallon container after opening didn’t help – – – the added oxygen slowly started diluting / destroying the original, great taste of the condiment concoctions! Ended up throwing out at least a half gallon of each! We then returned to the “regular sized” (12 to 16 or so ounces???) individually sealed bottles and now try to keep half a dozen of the sealed bottles on hand at all times – – – nothing goes to waste these days and I still have several months worth of much loved food condiments stored; ready, eager and able to please, as we choose to consume them.

ANOTHER NOTE: This oxygen contamination issue doesn’t seem to apply to white & cider vinegars and plain ‘ole yellow mustard (to mention a few items) that we also use frequently and now buy in the gallon sized containers. These particular items seem to stay perfectly fine sitting pretty on the pantry shelves. I continue to use the gallon jugs to re-fill the smaller jars of each for convenient kitchen use with no noticeable difference in flavor (nor any loss of effectiveness, as I also use the vinegars for medicinal and household cleaning purposes). Yippee!

4. Another way to keep some of the rotation moving with professional &/or home canned / jarred foods for just one or two people is to cook some recipes (lots of variables considering the recipes you choose to use for this scenario) in double, triple or quadruple batches – you’ll automatically use more product before its “use by” &/or labeled “expiration date” – and then you can vac-seal & freeze, &/or home can into pint or quart jar batches for future, quick & easy heat-up, portions.

I rarely make a homemade pot of soup or stew for just two and many times I also double entire (non-soup) meals so I can make up a couple of my own “TV / Frozen” meals for two, and reheat within the month. Just seems such a waste of time and stove-top / oven, heat / energy to make only one meal at a time as long as the natural gas or electric power is still flowing.

Yes, I understand that home canning is the preferred option for many whom can, & whom do can, routinely on a regular basis. And yes, I agree that freezer storage will be at risk if the power grid goes down or even a short term natural disaster (power lines temporarily down) occurs – – – but even if that happens tomorrow, one could probably get a day or two or three of use from deep freezer storage before things completely thaw and begin to spoil. JMHO, so continue eating at your own risk! 🙂

Are any of these “rotation control” ideas along the lines of what you were inquiring about, JenMar? Sure hope some of this might be helpful for you &/or someone else!

Ya’ll keep taking care and stay safe!

Comments

  1. You’re canning veggies – don’t be the least afraid of jellies and jams. They are so much easier! I have blueberry bushes, grape vines, apple trees and strawberry plants. I make jelly, jam and preserves every year. I promise you, if you’re a canner, being a jelly maker is the easy part! And like you said, even if you mess up, you can always have delicious syrup on your pancakes. 🙂

    • Oh, so true. Making jam is easy peasy, I’m still eyeing the automatic jam maker that DH bought me for Christmas with deep suspicion. Yeah, it stirs and cooks the jam or jelly, but you still have to jar it up and water bath..

      • Please jump right in and try that machine! I got one for a gift and love using it now. It is overwhelming with my schedule trying to fit in a jam session the traditional way because it’s a half day at least with prep, cooking, canning, cleaning up. I do big batches so have to plan a big chunk of time. But now I can can small batches in a very small amount of time. 3 small jars in a batch will get me over the hump when I crave jam but have run out. I can always do a traditional session later with the water bath, but that little machine takes care of the craving in the mean time. It is also an easy way to whip up a few small jars for gifts as needed. You will love it once you try it. 🙂

      • Shai, Please jump right in and try that machine! I got one for a gift and love using it now. It is overwhelming with my schedule trying to fit in a jam session the traditional way because it’s a half day at least with prep, cooking, canning, cleaning up. I do big batches so have to plan a big chunk of time. But now I can can small batches in a very small amount of time. 3 small jars in a batch will get me over the hump when I crave jam but have run out. I can always do a traditional session later with the water bath, but that little machine takes care of the craving in the mean time. It is also an easy way to whip up a few small jars for gifts as needed. You will love it once you try it. 🙂

      • Shai
        I have the automatic jam maker and it’s great, especially for small batch jams and pie filling. I found I prefer to make jelly the regular way as you can’t make a large batch in the jam maker because it will boil over when you turn your back! Just follow the recipes it comes with and you will be fine until you figure out how to work around its limits.

      • DW of JP in MT says:

        As others have said – the automatic jam maker is really easy to use! I got mine as a present, and making jam was my first canning project. I made peach jam batches with stevia, low sugar, and honey. The honey won out on the taste tests. 🙂 I have also made cherry and plum jam. Go for it!

        • dw of jp in mt
          has honey been the winner with the other fruits also?
          thanks.
          did you use same measure as sugar or did you use less? honey is so sweet.

          • DW of JP in MT says:

            The honey came out so good in the peach, I just used it in all the other jams I have made so far. I use the low sugar recipe for the jam maker off of the Ball website, and use 1 cup of honey for the sweetener. They have all tasted wonderful.

  2. mom of three says:

    Great article, even as a family of four I don’t buy in big bulk either it just seems like we waste more than what we eat. I won’t buy anymore 25 pound bag’s of flour after I use this last bag up I’m not baking in huge amounts anymore. I go through my refrigerator every 6 months and toss, or start using up the condiments. Even this year as canning starts to ramp up I won’t be canning, as much as I did even 5 year’s ago. I found some 1/2 pint jars to use for salsa instead of the pint jars, because we eat half the jar and usually the rest I toss out because it’s growing mold. I did go to a canning/pressure canning class, wo year’s ago and the instructor, told us that our canned food can last for 24 month’s, I usually start getting rid of food around the 16 month mark just because the food starts to loose color, and will get mushy.

    • Anonamo Also says:

      Mom of 3, Instead of throwing out the “extra flour’ .. oh and here I checked the price of the 25 lb flour, it was higher per lb than the 5 lb size… and I take all my flour freeze it for two weeks, unles it is immediate use, and then seal in container with oxygen container. Gallon Jugs work for this if you can seal them tightly,.you could also use mylar and gallon/2 gallon buckets. When I assesed our needs, I found if I needed to make all the bread we use and I needed to make gravy and maybe biscuit for breakfast to stretch other limited supplies, we would require 245 minimum of flour… about 3 cups a day. By purchasing at the higher need as we could I have built reserve. pack that food right and the oxygenation will not affect. I am currently eating flour that has been stored more than 4 years. We go easy on salsa and tomato /carrots/beets too, but do like them on a regular basis. Keeping the containers for an amount for only one or two meals does keep down the waste. Protect the food from light. Pack in Box! put lid on.
      good article with lots of areas covered…

  3. grandma bear says:

    Great insight! We are in this same boat. I also need to rein in myself at the canned food sales. I also make on regular freezer meal and split it in half. Do not have a problem with left overs they just become lunch and I do not have to cook the next day. I do find I need to buy fresh in smaller batches. Cannot wait for the garden then I will not have to purchase at the store at all.

  4. American pacrat says:

    BJL
    You said you do not like canned carrots, have you ever eaten the pickled slightly spicy hot carrots served in Mexican restaurants?
    By the way great article.
    It is nice to know I am not the only one who does not like mixed fruit.

  5. Blue Jeaned Lady, you have addressed something that is a pet peeve of mine. Use by date are a relative New thing they haven’t been around very long at all, in Great Britain some things have started using dates less than ten yrs ago. As long as people buy into the dating game then producers and canneries get to sell more products.
    It behooves a person to store all food products whether canned or dry in a cool dark room. We keep 600 lbs of flour in our store room, right now I am baking bread with flour from 2013 and its just fine, we made a stew Sunday with carrots from 2010. My parents were born in 1912, and didn’t have children for many yrs so I came along late, they knew how to store food and canned goods for the long term because when they were young food was a precious commodity and not to be wasted. A lot of the dating thing is a scam, example, chedder cheese, mild chedder has a date on it if you go buy Sharpe chedder you will pay double of mild, Sharpe chedder is just mild that’s been stored at about 45 degrees for six months or more longer than mild, in Europe some cheeses are stored for yrs in cellars with no refrigeration, eggs can keep for a yr in a cool place but you find a 30 day date on the carton in the grocery store and the average person will toss them at the date. Sorry about the ramble.

    • While I rotate my canned goods, I am only on 2012 canned goods now. Home canned meats and veggies, fruits and jams are edible for a long time. Apparently, we are getting good nutrition from them, since we are all healthy. Jams are easy, but need to be processed in a water bath or canner. Jellies don’t need to be treated that way. Last year I bought a Mehu-Liisa steam juicer…oh my gosh! It was so easy to get the juice from fruits, that I ended up just canning juice because I had too much jelly. That was the part I hated about making jelly, but this thing works like magic. At any rate; we ignore the use-by dates on most food items, but also agree on the bulk is not always better theme of your article, BlueJeannedLady.

      • Anonamo Also says:

        i am using flour from 2012…Just store it correctly , if self rising will need to add baking powder.

      • Jeanne
        I think my steamer juicer is the most awesome thing I have ever bought. Squeezing juice out of jelly bags was so time consuming and hard.

      • BlueJeanedLady
        Great article and good solutions for problems I struggle with.
        Right now, I am stressing because I have two freezers full and hurricane season is coming. I need to get into the pressure canning mode. I have canned in the past, just need to get started.

  6. I started canning due to the risk of the grid going down. A side effect benefit is to have meals ready to eat just heat and stop waste of food. Pretty good side effects I think. I haven’t tried jam or jelly yet but I will eventually.

  7. I can skinned chicken thighs with my DIL, mostly for her benefit and company (family of 7). She has lots of recipes to use the tasty, tender chicken, bought at 99¢/lb. I have found that quite a few herbs/spices added to traditional recipes, then canned, fade over time. Best to can simple and add flavors when combining recipes just before the meal. Rotation is a bugaboo of mine, too; I have soups and stews from 2012 I haven’t used. You are so right about unwise bulk purchases! Thanks for an insightful piece on rotating/using your canning/purchases.

  8. JP in MT says:

    Your plan sounds a lot like ours. Learning to put up more of what is available to us, including jams and jellies. My DW got a new “processor” for fruit this year and will put it to use this summer.

    Our garden experiment is starting again, but there is not going to be enough to preserve. So we will be dependent upon the grocery and farmer’s market(s).

    It is only the 2 of us at home, but that has a potential of become 10 very quickly.

  9. I have canned and frozen for years. I am shifting to lactose rent at ion and drying. For example, I dislike canned carrots. I have a cool storage for fresh. Tried lactofermentation carrots and like them a lot. I do like fried carrots in soup, I think they are richer flavor in the broth. As far as gardening goes, I use about the same space as when the kids were home, but I grow a larger variety. I can in pints instead of quarts. I am starting to make fruit wines. I have a lot more herbs, and tea plants. I can only eat so many zucchini, but cucumbers are primo when made into pickles.
    I have lots of NM chili plants because dried chilis store hanging on a ristra and are pretty to boot. Not to mention I love to eat them. I want to try barley and Spelt this year. I won’t grow a lot, but just to play.

  10. cgbascom says:

    BJL I find the hardest part of downsizing is the amount of food I still buy, especially on sale. Thankfully, my children will call and ask if I have something before they go to the market. I am slowly getting used to buying for two. Leftovers, however, are another thing. I love leftovers, since I don’t have to cook some days and anything left in the refrigerator at the end of the month goes to the chickens. Last year I decided that pint jars were my friends.

    • A lot of our qt jars are now vacuum sealed with beans etc., just can in pints, so much less wasted food.

  11. tomatogal says:

    We are two and I also find I do a lot more pints each canning session. We Love green beans, so they still go in quarts and pints. Canned meats, like ground beef or sweet Italian sausage go in pints–enough for us. I like chicken breasts in quarts–bigger batch of chicken and dumplings or pot pies. Found a box last Fall of 2008 salsa–we are using it up–still fine, but the lids are getting small rust spots (they were in a different spot, so missed getting rotated) Ughh, but still good, just don’t want to do that very often.

  12. One additional item I still use quart jars for is when I can pie filling.

  13. Hummingbird says:

    Great writeup and thanks for the advice on bulk condiments.
    I too bought more cans of some items that we don’t eat often. Recently had two cans of beets go bad, so I made beet/onion relish with the rest.
    We’ve changed our eating habits too.
    “fruit cocktail” made me think of a cake that my grandma used to make that we all loved. Had to look to see if I still had the recipe. Will post if anyone wants a great way to use up some of that fruit cocktail still sitting on the shelf.

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