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Monday, August 9, 2010

Frugal canning - time & money

by Throwback at Trapper Creek

It's that time of year when the garden abundance is staring you in the face and the thought of filling your shelves with home canned food is now a reality.

But, if you're just starting out, canning is an expensive proposition. Canners, jars, lids, raw ingredients, and misc tools start to add up, not to mention your time and labor. Many times the items that make the most impact on our budgets are the little things, not the big dollar items that with a good deal represent a large one-time savings. Say that steal on the practically new pressure canner at an estate sale is hard to argue with, but where the money really adds up is the continual purchase of lids, etc., over the years. One new option now is to buy re-usuable lids, they are expensive but should be a one-time purchase. Another way to save money is to can some items in larger quantities.

For instance in my kitchen for our family of three, I can most of my tomato sauce in quarts and some pints, depending on what my sauce yield is. Let's say, my batch may yield 5 1/2 quarts of sauce, so in that instance I would can either 5 quarts and one pint, or maybe depending on my pint tally I might can 3 quarts and 5 pints. And even though we have pizza once a week and I only use one cup or 1/2 pint of tomato sauce for my marinara sauce, I never can my sauce in 1/2 pint jars, because I have to purchase many more lids and jars to do that. Besides saving money on jar and lid purchases, by being frugal this way, that many more lids won't be manufactured, and have to be recycled. To get around the large quantity problem of having an opened quart of tomato purée, I repackage the remainder in half pint jars, one will go in the fridge for the next week's pizza and the other two will go in the freezer for either pizza or when I need a cup of tomato sauce for another recipe. By then I have a little space in the freezer, so I can tuck a jar in here or there, and I am mindful that I have those jars in freezer needing to be used.

I also try to use regular mouth lids and jars where they are appropriate. Too many years of being judged at the county fair by strict judges who suffered through the Depression, in many cases the money just wasn't available, they had no choice. Wide mouth jars and lids were deemed fitting for hard to pack items such as peaches and pears or foods that contained fats that would be hard to clean. I priced lids yesterday while I was at the store, and the price difference between wide mouth and regular ranged from $.65 to $.99 per dozen lids. It doesn't sound like much, but these days aren't really so different for many, fifty cents here and there does add up. So those lessons have stuck with me, I appreciate all my jars sizes and their many uses, and I cringe when I see all wide-mouth jars. Sorry, old ingrained habits and ideals are hard to break.

The other intangible in canning and home food production is time. We are aware of it, but when we aren't receiving a paycheck for our work, but a jewel-toned jar instead - we tend to gloss over how much time it really takes to preserve food at home. When preserving season hits in earnest we are all stretched for time, whether you work at home or away - any time savings is a gift. If I can fill 7 jars instead of 28, in the case of quarts vs. 1/2 pints, I have just put some money in my time piggy bank, not to mention I just saved a dollar in lid purchases.

Ahh, a little of summer preserved for the dark days. What do you do to save time preserving the season's bounty?

19 comments:

Hathor's Bath said...

I wish canning was lucrative for me; if I had a bigger family I'd probably do more of it, but with it being my son and myself (and he's so picky) I couldn't can much even if I had all the gear for it. It's the freezer, drying, or that's it.

However, what I have discovered lately is if I'm making some of my sirips (I want to do some elderberry and sumac this year), I try to time them so they're roughly ready to go once some of the beer or wine I have going is ready to bottle - I always have more sterilised bottles than I actually needed when I'm done pouring out, and I use the remainder of the bottles to store the syrups in. I just have to be sure I label them properly! But they keep well this way.

Finding Pam said...

We flash froze some Okra. That is it for now. We ate all the rest of the garden.

Chile said...

I found a place online that sold canning lids by the case. It was a great way to save money. I keep them stored in a cool, dark place until needed. I frequently re-use canning lids for freezing items or dry-packing dehydrated stuff (sealed with my vacuum sealer lid attachment).

I picked up lots of jars from thrift stores, church rummage sales, and yard sales. This takes careful checking of rims, though, and in the case of the thrift stores, talking to the manager about realistic pricing.

angela jiniel said...

Have you seen any reviews of the reusable lids? I'd love to know if they're worth it. Thanks!

ladyhawthorne said...

Personally I like the wide mouth jars as they are easier to clean since I wash up by hand. I tried the reusable lids but was not impressed, way to fiddley to get the lid on for me. Of course I have a bad back so I may be a little opinionated on something that makes me stand there that much longer.
For me the reward is not just seeing the colorful jars of food, but hearing the 'pop' when the jar seals.
I also save money by buying veggies and chicken on sale to can. Boiled and canned chicken is so much better than the store bought tins of chicken and there are so many casseroles and stir frys you can do with for quick dinners.

Ron said...

Great post.

I don't suggest anyone do this... but we reuse regular canning lids all the time (I know - EVIL!). Provided one is careful at removing the lid, storing in a dark cool place, disinfecting them, and if they are not showing any signs of rust or damage, we find that they seal just fine several times. That has saved us a small fortune over the years.

We also remove the rings right away after canning, and store for reuse. They come off easy when removed right away, and are not necessary to leave on there thanks to the vacuum seal anyway. In fact, better to have them off to spot any jars that lose their seal, vs. having a ring that can make it deceiving. It helps to reduce rusting of the lids/rings as well.

Like I said, I'm not suggesting anyone do this, and a person needs to be aware of the risks. It works for us, though.

Another tip is that we cover the pot when water-bath canning. That conserves a ton of heat and reduces how much energy one has to put into the venture. It also keeps the house cooler, which is nice in August. If temps are really crazy, we set the pot outside to cool as well.

Ron

dina said...

Keep an eye out on Freecycle. A few years ago I answered a post made for free canning supplies. Little did I realize until I arrived at this lovely little old lady's home that she was giving away a GOLD MINE worth of canning jars and supplies. Several flats of jars, lids, and rings that had never even been opened after purchase. I literally have an embarrassment of riches due to her incredible generosity. I think that was a once in a lifetime kind of gift - but even little bits add up quickly, and free - hello?! - totally!

Coco, not as in Chanel :) said...

The Tattler reusable lids/gaskets work GREAT, and are well worth the initial investment. I was sent a sample, and am getting ready to purchase about 150.00 worth of them. That should take care of any canning needs that I will ever have!

Coco, not as in Chanel :) said...

Oh and like Ron, I have reused my metal lids too.

Lauren S said...

Will you post your recipe for tomato sauce?

Kristen Fry said...

I have found this to be better for us too. I do try to can several things in small jars for gifts, but other than that everything is normally canned in quart jars. I would love your recipe on your tomato sauce too :-)

Throwback at Trapper Creek said...

Gee, blogger and I have a terrible time - I had a glowing, although lengthy comment for all of you this am and when I hit publish it vanished! To add insult to injury my teenager reminded me not so gently to always copy the text just in case BEFORE hitting the publish button :( So here goes again...Funny that, Wordpress is so much kinder to me :)

HB, nothing wrong with the freezer of dryer that's for sure.

I am interested in your elderberry syrup, is it for medicinal use? We have poisonous red elder in abundance here, and some scattered blue elder, but at our elevation they are few and far between, but very prolific in the berry department. Good idea for the extra bottles at bottling time!

FP, well, I have to say eating fresh from the garden is great! Canning & freezing is great too, but you sure can't beat the meals fresh from the garden :)

Chile, I buy mine in bulk from our food co-op or when Bi-Mart has a sale. Oy, I am still working out of my Y2K stash but I have a good storage area for them so they are as good as new.

I have lucked out on jars, a friend who likes to frequent garage sales, etc., will not pay more than .10 a jar tops - so she keeps me in jars and fuels her retail therapy needs all at the same time. Thrift stores here are not thrifty the prices are so high, it is ridiculous, and sad too it didn't used to be so.

Angela, I've read mixed reviews (as with anything) but I think a couple of commenters have liked them.

LH, I am the same way about hearing the seal, the final "seal" of approval is a welcome sound!

I do use wide mouth jars for milk and butter, because the narrow mouth jars are hard to clean for sure. I discovered my accident that the soap I use for my milking utensils really gets the canning jars clean too.
http://www.lifetreeproducts.com/

I think home canned meats are safer too, at least you know what is in the jar and how it got there :)

Ron, ahh the evil canner, my evil government defying trick is to use my pressure canner for most things. It saves me lots of time and there is nothing I hate more than watching a water bath canner. However, I expect the USDA to show up any day and confiscate my older canning books ;)

I take the rings off too, lots of years of canning competition trained me well on the frugality of taking off the rings after 24 hours and washing and drying them to avoid rust. No ribbons at the fair if you showed up with jars with rings still on - it may seem harsh to some, but the critique sheets from the 4-H and open class judging were a big help.

You know since you guys are sweltering always in the summer, what do you think of my friends idea of using a double burner Camp Chef stove outside. He does lots of canning, and his wife doesn't like him heating up the house - so he cans outside or in their pole barn and he loves it, he says he can hardly keep up they burners heat up so fast.

No worries about heat here though this summer, I am wearing a sweatshirt to keep warm! I wish I had something to can to heat up the house a little :)

Dina, what a find! I fear someday I will be that little old lady, with all my canning paraphernalia! Luckily Jim the jar guy didn't get a hold of her first!!

Coco, that is good to know about the Tattler lids. I have only so far reused my lids for freezing, and dry storage. I freeze most of my vegetables in jars now, so I have a good use for them. But it is good to know that it works good.

Throwback at Trapper Creek said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Throwback at Trapper Creek said...

Disregard the above "comment deleted by author," Blogger is still giving me fits!

Part II of the comments:

Lauren, it is actually more a method than a recipe. I roast the tomatoes,(whatever needs harvesting)onions, garlic and herbs with a bit of olive oil & salt and pepper. Then I puree the roasted tomato mix, & cook that down to desired consistency in my crockpots. Then it is ready to can or freeze. Be forewarned though, that the flavor of the puree will be sweeter and more full bodied than stove top methods, due to the caramelization of the tomatoes and onions. What I like about this method is that I don't scorch any sauce anymore, and I can go away from the stove for a while and do farm chores/tasks.
Note: if canning, always add citric acid or lemon juice to make sure the acidity is high enough to make the product safe for consumption.

Kristen, I like the quarts, it sure is a lot less work. And even with a small family, the leftovers can be refrigerated for a while.

The "recipe" is above - I hope my tomatoes get ripe enough to can this year. If I do I will be sure to post about it. I think it reached 54F today - not exactly tomato weather :(

Throwback at Trapper Creek said...

Gee, blogger and I have a terrible time - I had a glowing, although lengthy comment for all of you this am and when I hit publish it vanished! To add insult to injury my teenager reminded me not so gently to always copy the text just in case BEFORE hitting the publish button :( So here goes again...Funny that, Wordpress is so much kinder to me :)

HB, nothing wrong with the freezer of dryer that's for sure.

I am interested in your elderberry syrup, is it for medicinal use? We have poisonous red elder in abundance here, and some scattered blue elder, but at our elevation they are few and far between, but very prolific in the berry department. Good idea for the extra bottles at bottling time!

FP, well, I have to say eating fresh from the garden is great! Canning & freezing is great too, but you sure can't beat the meals fresh from the garden :)

Chile, I buy mine in bulk from our food co-op or when Bi-Mart has a sale. Oy, I am still working out of my Y2K stash but I have a good storage area for them so they are as good as new.

I have lucked out on jars, a friend who likes to frequent garage sales, etc., will not pay more than .10 a jar tops - so she keeps me in jars and fuels her retail therapy needs all at the same time. Thrift stores here are not thrifty the prices are so high, it is ridiculous, and sad too it didn't used to be so.

Angela, I've read mixed reviews (as with anything) but I think a couple of commenters have liked them.

LH, I am the same way about hearing the seal, the final "seal" of approval is a welcome sound!

I do use wide mouth jars for milk and butter, because the narrow mouth jars are hard to clean for sure. I discovered my accident that the soap I use for my milking utensils really gets the canning jars clean too.
http://www.lifetreeproducts.com/

I think home canned meats are safer too, at least you know what is in the jar and how it got there :)

Throwback at Trapper Creek said...

Ron, this is the third time I have written an answer and I doubt this time it will be as good as the first two that finally posted but are no curiously absent- but anyway...since you guys are sweltering in the heat, I thought you might like to hear about my friend who cans outside on a Camp Chef two burner camp stove. He loves it, it is economical, fast and his wife likes the heat is outside and not in the house.

Thanks for the good tips, and I'll add one more - my evil government defying canning trick is to pressure can everything. No doubt the black helicopters are circling now trying to get my old canning books with the time tables for pressure or water bath canning :) It's faster, uses less water and works great.

Dina, what a great find! Good thing Jim the jar aficionado didn't find her!! I am worried with all my canning stuff that I will be one of those old ladies someday with too much canning stuff :)

Coco, that is good to hear that you have had good luck with the Tattler lids, it's always nice to hear from someone who uses a product instead of just reading the brochure full of superlatives.

Thistledog said...

I swear, I never thought of using my crockpots to cook down the sauce. What a great idea!

I have 42 wonderful heirloom plants waiting to move into a growing bed I haven't even filled with topsoil yet... San Diego is a gardener's dream what "can" I say?...and here's hoping I am overrun with luscious red, green and yellow fruits that will require many hours of crockpotting and canning to fill my shelves with sauce, salsa, crushed tomatoes, and ketchup (yes, ketchup!)

Throwback at Trapper Creek said...

Thistledog, ahem, yes I am a little jealous of your climate sometimes...tomatoes here are almost a tropical fruit without hoophouses. But the taste of the homemade products from homegrown tomatoes cannot even be compared to the best the supermarket has to offer:)

I have been building fence in a sweatshirt - unbelievable that is has been so cool.

Hathor's Bath said...

"I am interested in your elderberry syrup, is it for medicinal use? We have poisonous red elder in abundance here, and some scattered blue elder, but at our elevation they are few and far between, but very prolific in the berry department. Good idea for the extra bottles at bottling time!"


Yes, it is - there is a rumour/theory floating about that elderberry juice is one of the only things on the planet which may be able to combat viruses. It was used extensively in the UK during the flu epidemic during WWI and there was a 40% higher survival rate in people who took elderberry juice on a regular basis. It's very high in vitamin c, like rosehips, and so I do my best to get the stuff turned into sirip and bottled. I get it from the same tree I get my elderflowers for cordial from, break off all the green stalks. To try and keep as much nourishment as I can, I boil the sugar water down then add the crushed berries at a later stage, cover, let cool, strain, bottle. It tastes lovely but I treat it as a medicine.