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Putting up the Harvest

The end of summer is nearing and you have a garden full of cucumbers, tomatoes, onions and peppers! Congratulations! What are you going to do with your bountiful harvest?? After all, there is only so much you can eat. Neighbors, friends and family are starting to lock their vehicle doors so you won't leave anymore produce while they're not looking! They might even be getting wise that there really isn't a national holiday called, "Leave Zucchini on Neighbor's Front Porch Day"

Maybe you do not have your own garden but frequent the local Farmer's Market and would like to continue to eat fresh grown, local food

Or perhaps your gardening friend doesn't understand that she/he has been overly generous with their gardens ...

You can enjoy the fruits of your labor far into the winter by preserving it. Freezing, canning and drying are all age old traditions of putting up the harvest. Come on into the kitchen for advice on how to get started and recipes that will have your neighbors look forward to your visits again!

Canning Basics Freezing Basics Drying Basics
Canning Pictorial
National Center for Home Food Preservation
Canning Freezing Drying
Cure & Smoke Ferment Pickle

Canning Basics
There are two common methods of canning: hot water bath and steam-pressure canning. Each are used for specific types of food.

Water bath canning is used for foods that have a high acid content, such at tomato recipes or pickling. Steam-Pressure canning is needed for foods that are low acid such as meats, beans and corn.

The purpose of either canning method is to disrupt the normal spoilage of foods by destroying bacteria and creating an environment where bacteria cannot grow.

To accomplish this, you need to:

  • Start with fruit, meat and vegetables that are at their peak of freshness. Vegetables that are little past prime can result in questionable results since certain enzymes are present in vegetables as they decay. If you need to use vegetables that have seen better days, be sure to remove any decayed parts.
  • Make sure you have current recipes with the correct processing method and times. Great Grandma may have put up her meat in old mayonaise jars using a water bath method, but it isn't safe!!
  • Make sure you fill your canning jars to the recommended level.
  • Make sure there are no air bubbles present by sliding a rubber spatula around the sides of the jar and gently pressing in the center.
  • Wipe the rim of the canning jar with a clean, wet cloth to remove any juice on the rim.
  • Place heated lid on jar and screw the band on finger tight.
  • After processing, place jars on towel with at least 1" distance between jars to allow for cooling.
  • Do not retighten bands!
  • Resist the urge to check for a seal while the jars are still hot. Pressing on a lid before the jar is cooled may interupt the sealing process. Besides, listening for the 'pop' of the lid during cooling (meaning another jar just sealed) is most gratifying sound!
  • After 24 hours, check the seal by pressing the center of the lid. If it does not move up and down, you have been successful! If it does, refrigerate jar or remove band and lid, wipe the rim again and reprocess.
  • Remove the bands from the jars, wipe down the jars and store them in a dry, cool, dark place.
  • Wash the bands in hot soapy water, dry thoroughly and store for next year's harvest! Trust me, you don't want to leave the bands on the jars!
  • Try to use your canned foods within one year's time.

High Acid Foods include:
  • Fruits & Fruit Juices
  • Jams, Jellies and other Fruit Spreads
  • Tomatoes (with added acid)
  • Pickles
  • Relishes and chutneys
Low Acid Foods include:
  • Vegetables
  • Soups
  • Stews
  • Meats
  • Poultry
  • Seafood

Pickles Tomatoes
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Pickles

There are so many recipes for various pickles around. I will only list the 3 recipes I use on a regular basis and the steps to ensuring crunchy pickles everytime.

  1. I find the varieties of "Straight Eight" and "National Pickler" the best for 4-8" cucumbers.
  2. Select cucumbers that are firm and blemish free. For pickling whole, cucumbers that are 4 to 6 inches work best. You can use the larger cucumbers for sliced and speared pickles.
  3. Wash your cucumbers to remove any small spines that are on some varieties.
  4. To achieve crisp pickles:
    • Make a mixture of 1 cup canning lime to 2 gallons of water. The lime will settle to the bottom, this is okay.
    • Soak your cucumbers 8 hours or overnight for best results. Do not skip this process if you want crisp pickles.
    • Rinse cucumbers well twice.

    OR
    • Use Ball Pickle Crisp (calcium chloride) at 3/4 teaspoon per jar. I have not used this product so I can not comment on how crips the pickles are.
  5. Use wide mouth canning jars. They are not only only easier to fill, it is easier to get pickles out!
  6. Wash jars in hot water (or run through dishwasher) and keep warm. I heat my oven to 180F and keep jars in there until filling them.
  7. Place canning rack on the sides of the canner and fill with water to the top of the rack. Turn heat on under canner.
  8. Have small pan of simmering water to heat domed lids. (Use magnetic lid wand or use heat resistant strainer.)
  9. Fill jars to specified height.
  10. Start timing of water bath when water has started to boil.
  11. After processing, place jars on towel with at least 1" distance between jars to allow for cooling.
  12. Do not retighten bands!
  13. Resist the urge to press down on the center of the lid to check for a good seal. Listening for the 'pop' of the lid during cooling (meaning another jar just sealed) is most gratifying sound!
  14. After 24 hours, check the seal by pressing the center of the lid. If it does not move up and down, you have been successful! If it does, refrigerate jar or remove band and lid, wipe the rim again and reprocess.
  15. Remove the bands from the jars, wipe down the jars and store them in a dry, cool, dark place.
  16. Wash the bands in hot soapy water, dry thoroughly and store for next year's harvest! Trust me, you don't want to leave the bands on the jars!
  17. Try to use your canned foods within one year's time.
Dill Garlic Dill Bread & Butter
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Dill Pickles

  • About eight pounds 4"-6" cucumbers, limed and rinsed
  • 2 quarts Distilled White Vinegar 5% Acidity (Cider Vinegar can also be used, but brine will be yellowish).
  • 2 quarts Water
  • 1/2 cup pickling salt (do not use regular table salt, it will cloud the brine.)
  • Dill Heads (you could also use dry dill seed)
  • Alum

  1. Combine vinegar, water and salt and bring to boil.
  2. Reduce heat
  3. Fit cucumbers into wide mouth quart jar as tightly as you can. Add one head of dill and 1/4 teaspoon alum.
  4. Carefully pour in vinegar brine leaving 1/4" headspace.
  5. Wipe rim with damp, clean cloth.
  6. Place heated dome lid securely on center of jar.
  7. Tighten band finger tight.
  8. Place in canning rack.
  9. When canner is full, lower canning rack, put lid on canner and return to a boil.
  10. Start timing when water boils. Process quarts for 15 minutes.
  11. After processing, place jars on towel with at least 1" distance between jars to allow for cooling.
  12. Listen for the 'pop' of the lid that signifies a jar sealed.
  13. After 24 hours, check the seal by pressing the center of the lid.
  14. Remove the bands from the jars, wipe down the jars and store them in a dry, cool, dark place.

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Garlic Dill Pickles

  1. Combine vinegar, water and salt and bring to boil.
  2. Reduce heat
  3. Fit cucumbers into wide mouth quart jar as tightly as you can. Add one head of dill and 1/4 teaspoon alum, 1/2 teaspoon mustard seed, 1 garlic clove.
  4. Carefully pour in vinegar brine leaving 1/4" headspace.
  5. Wipe rim with damp, clean cloth.
  6. Place heated dome lid securely on center of jar.
  7. Tighten band finger tight.
  8. Place in canning rack.
  9. When canner is full, lower canning rack, put lid on canner and return to a boil.
  10. Start timing when water boils. Process quarts for 15 minutes.
  11. After processing, place jars on towel with at least 1" distance between jars to allow for cooling.
  12. Listen for the 'pop' of the lid that signifies a jar sealed.
  13. After 24 hours, check the seal by pressing the center of the lid.
  14. Remove the bands from the jars, wipe down the jars and store them in a dry, cool, dark place.

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Bread & Butter Pickles

  1. Layer cucumbers and onions and salt. Cover with crushed ice and let stand for 2 hours.
  2. Drain and rinse cucumber and onions.
  3. Place drained cucumber and onions in large kettle, add the remaining ingredients and bring to a simmer, stirring often.
  4. Pack into hot, wide mouth jars, remove air bubbles.
  5. Wipe rim with damp, clean cloth.
  6. Place heated dome lid securely on center of jar.
  7. Tighten band finger tight.
  8. Place in canning rack.
  9. When canner is full, lower canning rack, put lid on canner and return to a boil.
  10. Start timing when water boils. Process pints for 10 minutes; quarts for 15 minutes.
  11. After processing, place jars on towel with at least 1" distance between jars to allow for cooling.
  12. Listen for the 'pop' of the lid that signifies a jar sealed.
  13. After 24 hours, check the seal by pressing the center of the lid.
  14. Remove the bands from the jars, wipe down the jars and store them in a dry, cool, dark place.

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Tomatoes

It is recommended that tomatoes be processed in a steam-pressure canner since the acidity of tomatoes have lessoned in recent years. That being said, I process the recipes presented on this web page in a water bath. Please use your own discretion.

Many tomato recipes call for peeled tomatoes. An easy way to peel tomatoes is to place them into boiling water until the skin start to crack, then plunge them into ice cold water.

Basic Stewed Tomatoes Salsa Chow Chow
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Basic Canned Tomatoes

  • 4 quarts chopped, peeled, cored tomatoes (about 24 large)
  • 1 cup Chopped Celery
  • 1 cup Chopped Onion
  • 1 cup Chopped Green Pepper
  • 1/2 cup White Vinegar 5% Acidity (not needed if processing in steam-pressure canner)
  • 2 teaspoons salt

  1. Combine all ingredients, cover and cook 10 minutes, stir to prevent sticking.
  2. Ladel into hot jars, leaving 1 inch headspace. Really squish the vegetables in, removing liquid if needed.
  3. Remove bubbles with spatula.
  4. Wipe rim with damp, clean cloth.
  5. Place heated dome lid securely on center of jar.
  6. Tighten band finger tight.
  7. Place in canning rack.
  8. When canner is full, lower canning rack, put lid on canner and return to a boil.
  9. Start timing when water boils. Process pints for 15 minutes; quarts for 20 minutes.
  10. After processing, place jars on towel with at least 1" distance between jars to allow for cooling.
  11. Listen for the 'pop' of the lid that signifies a jar sealed.
  12. After 24 hours, check the seal by pressing the center of the lid.
  13. Remove the bands from the jars, wipe down the jars and store them in a dry, cool, dark place.

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Barkley's Salsa

This recipe comes from a co-worker of mine, Andy (& Janet) Barkley. It has wonderful flavor without being obnoxiously hot.

  1. Combine all ingredients in a large pot.
  2. Bring to boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 20 min.
  3. Pack in hot Mason jars.
  4. Remove bubbles with spatula.
  5. Wipe rim with damp, clean cloth.
  6. Place heated dome lid securely on center of jar.
  7. Tighten band finger tight.
  8. Place in canning rack.
  9. When canner is full, lower canning rack, put lid on canner and return to a boil.
  10. Start timing when water boils. Process pints for 35 minutes; quarts for 45 minutes.
  11. After processing, place jars on towel with at least 1" distance between jars to allow for cooling.
  12. Listen for the 'pop' of the lid that signifies a jar sealed.
  13. After 24 hours, check the seal by pressing the center of the lid.
  14. Remove the bands from the jars, wipe down the jars and store them in a dry, cool, dark place.

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Chow Chow

This relish is good in salads; tuna, potato, egg.

  1. Grind the vegetables.
  2. Mix vegetables together with 2 cups salt in a plastic container. Let stand overnight; drain liquid off vegetables.
  3. In a large pan, mix vinegar, sugar, celery seed and mustard seed.
  4. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar.
  5. Put drained vegetables into vinegar mixture and bring to a boil again.
  6. Cook until vegetables are transparent in color.
  7. Ladle into hot canning jars
  8. Remove bubbles with spatula.
  9. Wipe rim with damp, clean cloth.
  10. Place heated dome lid securely on center of jar.
  11. Tighten band finger tight.
  12. Place in canning rack.
  13. When canner is full, lower canning rack, put lid on canner and return to a boil.
  14. Start timing when water boils. Process pints for 35 minutes.
  15. After processing, place jars on towel with at least 1" distance between jars to allow for cooling.
  16. Listen for the 'pop' of the lid that signifies a jar sealed.
  17. After 24 hours, check the seal by pressing the center of the lid.
  18. Remove the bands from the jars, wipe down the jars and store them in a dry, cool, dark place.
  19. Yield: 15 to 18 pints

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Freezing Basics
Most all foods can be frozen. The faster the food is frozen, the better the results.

  • Start with fruit, meat and vegetables that are at their peak of freshness. Vegetables that are little past prime can result in questionable results since certain enzymes are present in vegetables as they decay. If you need to use vegetables that have seen better days, be sure to remove any decayed parts.
  • Wash, prepare (slice, remove seeds, etc) and pat dry before freezing.
  • Use heavy plastic bags made for freezing or use two bags if using normal plastic storage bags.
  • Label and date your bags with a permanent marker. It's easy to tell what is in the bag now, but it gets more difficult 6 months down the road!
Corn, on and off the cob Green Peppers & Onions
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Drying Basics
You can dry your foods in a number of manners.
  • The 'old way' is to lay your food in the sun, bringing it in at night so the morning dew wouldn't get on it. This method can still be used, but I have not so I won't comment about it.
  • You can use your oven on a low heat with the door slightly opened for moisture to escape.
  • You can use a dehydrator (available with and without a fan).

Again, common 'rules' about drying your food

  • Start with fruit, meat and vegetables that are at their peak of freshness. Vegetables that are little past prime can result in questionable results since certain enzymes are present in vegetables as they decay. If you need to use vegetables that have seen better days, be sure to remove any decayed parts.
  • Slice foods about 1/4" thick. At least keep your slices a consistant thickness.
  • Cool foods before storing them.
  • Label and date your packaged dried foods with a permanent marker.
Jerky Fruit Vegetables
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Rock Falls IL
(815) 625-2607
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