I’ve been on a mission the past couple of weeks to track down canning supplies.

This is the first year I’ve been involved in raising a garden. I say involved because I’ve helped with weeding and harvesting, but my black thumb and I weren’t part of the planting. That probably helped with our harvest, which has been bountiful.

We’ve been swimming in cucumbers. I like cucumbers. They’re great in a tomato and cucumber salad. But one can only eat so many, and the plants just keep on giving us more and more and more.

I’m not a fan of pickles. I just don’t like anything pickled, no matter what type of pickling is done. Bread and butter, sweet or dill — these are not on my menu.

The tomatoes seemed slow to come in, but then they made up for it with bags and bags and bags of more tomatoes.

The zucchini and squash have been my favorites. I love, love, love zucchini noodles. And, if you’re trying to cut carbs, they make a great substitute for pasta noodles. But again, these plants have been prolific and I can’t eat squash fritters for every meal. 

So we’ve been working on food preservation. Thanks to the generous loaning of a vacuum sealer, I’ve put up some zucchini and squash for later in the year when these vegetables are a little less easily found. But efforts to add a chest freezer to the home appliance list haven’t been successful thus far and my refrigerator-freezer combo has only so much space. So we’ve turned to the age-old art of canning.

The first round was interesting. You really do have to follow the instructions closely. That includes leaving space at the top of the jar. Failure to leave this space results in the lid popping off your vegetables while in the water bath.

I’m not ambitious enough to try pressure canning just yet. And the beans just didn’t produce this year, so we can get by with the water bath method. Remember, if you’re canning green beans and some other vegetables, you really need a pressure canner. Improperly canned vegetables can be dangerous to eat.

But you learn by doing, and subsequent efforts at canning have resulted in shelves of stewed tomatoes of various types. We’ve got Italian sauce starters, some salsa, some spice stewed tomatoes. 

We tried to plan ahead. Canning supplies were purchased back when the shelves were loaded with jars and lids.

But the garden keeps on giving, and we’ve run out of lids. A friend gifted me a bunch of jars ready to be canned. If I could only find the lids to seal them up. 

I made a few trips to the usual stores, only to find empty shelves. Rumors of stores with some jars and lids in stock sent me scurrying — only to find more empty shelves.

I did find some universal lids. And in situations such as these, you make do until the online order can arrive. 

Canning is time consuming. And, it has to be done in a timely manner. You can’t just put all the garden goods in the pantry and wait until the stars align. Sometimes, you have to stay up late peeling those stewed tomatoes before everything starts to go bad and you’re left with a bunch of spoiled vegetables and a lot of wasted effort. 

So I’ll give those a try and hope for the best. 

That seems to be the theme for 2020 — just do the best you can with the situation at hand, and hope for the best. 

 

 

 

Heather Mullinix is editor of the Crossville Chronicle. She covers schools and education in Cumberland County. She may be reached at hmullinix@crossville-chronicle.com.

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