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Learn to preserve the produce you grow in your home kitchen garden. This home canning starter kit includes everything you need to can your first batch using the boiling water bath method for high-acid foods. Find it and other canning supplies at the Home Kitchen Garden Store.

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an Amish Home Kitchen Garden

Over the years, Your Home Kitchen Garden blog has presented some of the topics I wrote about in my book, Yes, You Can! And Freeze and Dry it, Too. Brenda Haas talked with me about it on a special live broadcast of #gardenchat from the Garden Writers Association Symposium. Here Brenda speaks with a representative of Corona Tools.

While my home kitchen garden deteriorated from neglect (and nasty elements), I spent a week at the Garden Writers Association annual symposium. There, I had the great pleasure to meet Brenda Haas whom I’d known for more than a year on Twitter, but had never met in person.

Brenda manages a weekly online conversation called #gardenchat. At 9 PM EST on Mondays, gardening enthusiasts log on to Twitter and post questions and comments, creating dozens of wild, intersecting conversations. I always enjoy #gardenchat, even when the subject is ornamental plants, and it’s a great privilege to know its curator.

The #gardenchat Special

Brenda had scheduled a special #gardenchat broadcast to take place at the Garden Writer’s conference. For this, she did a series of interviews using Ustream.tv, and they went out live while a tweetup of garden enthusiasts took place in the next room. I was one of the interviewees!

The Youtube video embedded in this post is a big chunk of the conversation I had with Brenda at the conference. There’s a lot of background noise because there was a party in the adjacent room, but you can hear our conversation if you like. We talk about several of the topics I wrote about in Yes, You Can!

 

 

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canned neck pumpkin from a Home Kitchen Garden

Having been processed in a pressure canner, this neck pumpkin could remain edible for two years, though experts recommend that you use canned vegetables in six to twelve months after processing.

Zone five denizens probably have rather barren home kitchen garden plots at this point; repeated frost and occasional deeper freezes have shut down all but the hardiest plants. This shouldn’t discourage a kitchen gardener. Fruits of winter squash still abound in local markets. If you can find them in good condition, they may last for months without special treatment; I’ve kept butternut squash on my dining room floor well into spring.

However, there are many easy ways to preserve winter squash so it lasts until next year’s harvest. Perhaps the most complicated of all preservation methods is canning… but canning really isn’t hard to do if you have the right equipment.

Pressure Canning not Optional

You can preserve high-acid and high-sugar foods such as fruits, pickles, jams, jellies, and preserves in a boiling water bath canner. To can low-acid foods such as vegetables and meats, you must use a pressure canner. Some microorganisms simply won’t die at the temperature of boiling water. However, when you increase the pressure in the cooking environment, you also increase the temperature. Generally, the increased heat is enough to kill every microorganism so low-acid foods can survive for a year or more without refrigeration.

Before you blanch the squash, wash your canning jars, fill them with very hot water, and keep them hot. I fill my jars with hot water and set them in my canner. Then I add the prescribed 3 quarts of water to the canner, and set it on the stove on medium heat so it warms slowly. If the water starts to boil, I turn off the burner… the heat will hold. I also rinse the lids and bands and set them in a pot of water on very low heat.

To do the blanching, first pare and cube the winter squash or pumpkin (the steps I followed are on Your Small Kitchen Garden blog). Blanching is simple. First, fill a very large pot with water and get it boiling. If you’re freezing the squash, you need a correspondingly large pot of very cold water. Because you’re canning, the cold water isn’t necessary.

Put all the squash in the boiling water and wait for the water to start boiling again. Let the squash boil for three minutes, and then ladle it out with a strainer, setting it in a bowl or pot to hold it until you pack it into jars. Keep the hot water in which you blanched the squash; you’ll use it in the canning jars. (If you’re freezing the squash, plunge it into cold water when you remove it from the boiling water… you need to cool it down quickly so it doesn’t get mushy.)

Squash is a low-acid food. Unless you want to pickle it before canning, you must use a pressure canner to make it safe for long-term storage (alternatively, you can freeze squash or dry it… but we’ll talk about those preservation methods in later posts).

Canned Neck Pumpkin

Neck pumpkin is a magnificent squash that’s common in central Pennsylvania. I wrote about neck pumpkin in Your Home Kitchen Garden at the end of October, and I wrote more about it in my other blog under the topic of Exploring Neck Pumpkin at Your Small Kitchen Garden. There, I explained one method of preparing winter squash for cooking—and, perhaps, the most reliable way to prepare it for blanching and canning.

To fill the canning jars, lift one at a time from the canning pot, pour the water out (save the water for other things such as watering plants or flushing toilets), and set the jar on a clean work surface. Use a measuring cup with a handle to scoop cubes of blanched squash from the holding bowl and dump them into the jar.

When the jar is nearly full, lift it and shake it up and down so the squash cubes settle in and fill spaces. Then add squash, shake the jar, and add squash until there is an inch of space between the top of the squash and the rim of the jar. At this point, fill the jar with boiling water left from blanching.

Use a chopstick or other non-metalic probe to release air bubbles trapped by the squash and top up the boiling water to cover the squash… still leave an inch between the water and the rim of the jar. Finally, wipe the rim and threads of the jar to remove any squash particles you might have gotten on them.

The photos in this post show the steps I took to can my neck pumpkin. I ended up canning all but a pint it. Of that pint, I cooked a small amount to taste, and used the rest to make pumpkin bread.

My neck pumpkin had the same consistency as butternut squash. The flesh was lighter in color and tasted sweeter than butternut. Also, my neck pumpkin’s flavor wasn’t as “squashy” as butternut… it was a little bland. Still, there’s room for slightly bland squash in my larder; most pumpkin breads and cakes have enough seasoning to make up for blandness in the pumpkin itself… I imagine my family will eat a lot of pumpkin bread and cake in the next year.

Place a heated lid on the jar, then screw a band onto it. Don’t pull a muscle tightening the band, but don’t be gentle either. When the band is tight, place the jar back into the canning pot. Repeat this procedure until all the jars are full or until you run out of squash.

Read the instructions for your pressure canner and follow them. For mine, I lock the lid on and bring the water to boil. When steam is coming out of the vent pipe (to the left of the pressure gauge), I let it cook for ten minutes. Then I set the pressure regulator on the vent pipe (right). I monitor the pressure gauge until it registers 11 pounds of pressure, then I adjust the heat of the stove to keep the pressure at 11 pounds. Once the pressure is up, I turn the heat down surprisingly low to maintain it… with a stove knob that runs from 0 (off) to 9 (hottest), a setting of about 2.5 is enough to maintain 11 pounds of pressure in the canner.

For squash, the pressure must remain at or above 11 pounds for 90 minutes. If, at any point in that 90 minutes the pressure drops below 11 pounds, you need to get it back to 11 pounds and start timing from zero.

After 90 minutes, remove the canner from the heat and leave it alone until the pressure drops to zero; this could take ten or more minutes. My canning pot has a “vent lock” to tell whether it’s under pressure. When there is pressure, a metal disk rises above the lid (right). Once that disk drops back in place (left), it’s time to open the canner’s lid. With any canner, do this cautiously. I wear oven mitts, stand back from the canner, and keep the lid between me and the steam.

Set the lid aside, and lift the jars from the canning pot. Set them on a cooling rack or on a towel on the counter. Let them sit for a day so they cool and seal. As they cool, the lids will pop with a “ping.” After the jars cool, examine the lids to confirm that they form concave surfaces—they should bulge down into the jars. If you remove the band, you should be able to lift the jar by the lid. If a lid hasn’t sealed, refrigerate the jar and use its contents within three days.

 

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Having trouble deciding what to get for a home kitchen gardener in your life? Here are a few ideas to help you along. I selected these items with people in mind who manage large-scale kitchen gardens, though some are appropriate also for people who buy produce in bulk and preserve it for later use.

If you know someone who has committed a big chunk of yard space to vegetable gardening, or whose ornamental trees are actually an orchard, or who shops at farmers’ markets and buys fruit by the bushel, you’ll find something here to please them. I’ve selected items from Amazon.com that have only the highest customer reviews.

Reduce a Home Kitchen Gardener’s Back Trouble

In a traditional farm-style home kitchen garden, a farmer uses a tractor or a horse to drag a plow through the garden plot and prepare it for planting. But some gardeners turn soil by hand. For a large garden patch, the prospect of hand-turning so much soil might end a project… and it might dissuade an avid gardener from expanding a garden; a sad outcome, indeed. Help protect your gardener’s health by giving a gas-driven auto tiller. These bad boys can cut new planting beds into a lawn, can turn over a bed’s soil—and mix in compost, and can rip out weeds during the growing season. This one is highly-rated by Amazon.com customers.

Click here to order.

A Home Kitchen Garden Garden Cart

When you tend a large home kitchen garden, you move a lot of stuff around: you move tools from storage to the garden and back, you move plant seedlings from your car or your sprouting room to your garden, you move weeds away from the garden, you move compost and fertilizer to the garden, and you move produce from the garden to your house. You might also move cold frames, fencing, row covers, and trellises about through the season. A good garden cart is essential, and this one fits the bill. My parents had a similar garden cart, and it handled every job we gave it—including hauling manure from the barn and firewood from the forest. Short of a lawn tractor with a pull-behind cart, there’s nothing better for hauling stuff around your yard and garden.

Click here to order.

A Canner for Fruits and Pickles from a Home Kitchen Garden

All kitchen gardeners are potential canners (unless they’re already canners). People who grow fruit trees are especially likely to take up canning; when a tree produces more fruit than you can eat in season, it’s very hard to watch it go to waste; canning preserves it for use till the next year’s harvest. Most people don’t can their own food because they haven’t tried. Once they see how easy it is, they’re usually hooked. Get the gardener in your life started with this highly-rated canning pot (and the starter kit below) for boiling water bath canning. (A boiling water bath can preserve fruits—including tomatoes—and pickles, but is not appropriate for canning vegetables.)

Click here to order.

Accessories for Home Canning

It’s possible to take up home canning with utensils most people already have in their kitchens. However, canning suppliers have developed several tools that make the whole canning process easier. This accessory kit includes a canning funnel, a magnetic lid lifter, a bottle lifter, and a small canning rack that might fit in a stock pot your gardening acquaintance already owns. It’s a very popular set and makes a great compliment to the canning pot described above—or to the pressure canner described below.

Click here to order.

A Pressure Canner for Vegetables from a Home Kitchen Garden

When a garden overproduces vegetables, you can freeze them, can them, dehydrate them, give them away, or toss them in the compost barrel. Canning is a very satisfying solution, but it requires equipment most kitchens lack: a pressure canner. A pressure canner heats canning jars to a very high temperature, killing any bacteria that might be in the food being canned. A pressure canner can preserve meats and prepared dishes such as soups and stews, and it can double as a pressure cooker: a stovetop cook pot that can cook foods more rapidly than a microwave oven and with better results.

Click here to order.

A Home Kitchen Garden Dehydrator

You don’t need to have a home kitchen garden to enjoy a food dehydrator. A gardener might use one to preserve home grown vegetables and fruit. But anyone can use a dehydrator to make fruit rollups and meat jerky. When you consider the cost of commercially-available dried apricots, dried apples, and dried tomatoes, a food dehydrator can pay for itself in one or two uses. The Nesco Gardenmaster is one of the highest-rated dehydrators available, and will preserve fruits, vegetables, and meats for many years.

Click here to order.

A Dehydrator for a Modest Budget

If you’re excited about giving your gardening acquaintance a dehydrator, but you have a limited budget, give the Nesco FD-75PR. This is one of the most popular items sold in Amazon.com’s Kitchen and Dining category… and in their Home & Garden category! A terrific product at a great price.

Click here to order.

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A platter of crackers and cream cheese topped with a half cup of red pepper relish makes an attractive presentation on an hors d’oeuvres table.

If you grow bell peppers in your home kitchen garden, please try this; it’s astonishingly simple, and crazy delicious: Make and preserve red pepper relish to serve as an hors d’oeuvre at dinners throughout the coming year.

My garden is long abed, but I scored some inexpensive red peppers at the local Mennonite grocery store, so I just made up a batch of red pepper relish. While it takes about six hours from start to finish, your actual involvement will be closer to one hour: 30 minutes to prepare the peppers and start them cooking, and 30 minutes to prepare canning jars and can the finished relish.

Red Peppers in a Home Kitchen Garden

From what you see in a grocery store, you’d think there are bell peppers, and red bell peppers: two varieties. Truth is, a bell pepper is a bell pepper, and red ones have simply remained on the plant longer than the green ones have. If your growing season doesn’t provide three and a half months of consecutive warm days, start plants indoors and transplant them when your garden’s soil warms up past 65 degrees… green bell peppers want to be red, but they need a lot of time to get there.

Ingredients for red pepper relish are few: 12 large red peppers (I used 14 cuz mine were small), a tablespoon of salt, 3 cups of sugar, and a pint of cider vinegar.

A Bit More About the Relish

Red pepper relish is a mash of ground-up, sweet, sticky, pickled red peppers. The uninitiated may wonder: how can that be tasty? If you’re skeptical, please take my word for it and make one batch. When you decide you don’t like it, send me your spare inventory and I’ll reimburse you for the shipping cost. Better still, serve it at a dinner party, watch who hangs around the relish tray, and give a jar to that person as a house gift the next time you visit them.

My mother-in-law introduced me to this delicacy, and the recipe I’m sharing here is the one she gave me; I don’t know where she got it, but I’m glad she did. Here’s how to use your red pepper relish:

You’ll need 4oz canning jars… 8-to-12 of them along with canning lids and the screw-on rings that hold the lids on. You can’t be certain how much relish your peppers will produce, so have extra jars on hand.

You’ll need an 8oz block of cream cheese or Neufchatel cheese and a box of savory crackers such as Ritz, Club Crackers, Triscuit, or something hoity-toity (involving crackers, I’m a simple man). An hour or so before you plan to serve hors d’oeuvres, set the block of cream cheese on a serving plate large enough that you can later surround the cheese with a ring or two of crackers. Open a four-ounce jar of red pepper relish, and scoop its contents onto the cream cheese, distributing it evenly on the top. Some relish may drip down the sides of the cheese onto the plate.

When your guests arrive, surround the cream cheese and relish with crackers, add a table knife or a butter knife, and set the plate out with your other hors d’oeuvres. A guest can cut off a chunk of cream cheese with its associated patch of relish, and scrape it off the knife onto a cracker.

Wash the peppers, remove their stems and seeds, and cut them into 2-inch pieces.

Chop the peppers up fine—each piece should be roughly the size of a thick piece of dry oatmeal. You can use a knife to do the chopping, but it goes a lot faster if you use a food processor. Mine held half the peppers. I used 2-second pulses totaling 20 seconds of run-time, scraped down the sides of the bowl, and then did 20 more seconds of 2-second pulses.

In a cooking pot, mix one tablespoon of salt through the ground peppers and let them sit for two hours. Then put a strainer over a pot or bowl, and dump the ground up peppers into the strainer. Let them sit for at least a half hour… more then three cups of liquid will drain out of them. (My mother-in-law tosses the liquid; I’m going to use it to make jelly… I’ll let you know how that works out.)

Return the ground up peppers to the cooking pot, add 2 cups of cider vinegar and 3 cups of sugar, and stir it together. Simmer the mixture uncovered for three hours, stirring periodically. For the first 2.5 hours, you don’t need to stir often, but in the last half hour, make sure the mixture doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot (also, heat your canning jars—see below). I start my relish on high heat for about seven minutes, and then set the temperature to low for the remainder of the cooking time.

The cooked relish is thick, sticky, dark, and delicious.

With a half hour of cooking to go, make sure the canning jars are clean and put them in a large pot (a canning pot, if you have one) to heat on the stove. I used a 4-gallon stock pot with enough water that the tops of the jars would be two inches beneath the surface. I put two cloth napkins in the pot, and placed the canning jars bottoms down on the napkins… the water is going to boil, and the napkins protect the jars from jostling against the metal (you can use a dish towel instead of napkins). Also, put the canning lids in a sauce pot of water and set it on low heat; the water should get very hot without boiling. When the relish is ready, fill jars as follows:

  • Remove one from the boiling water (I use tongs for this) and empty the water back into the canning pot.
  • Spoon relish into the jar, leaving a half inch of clearance from the top of the relish to the top of the jar.
  • If you’ve splashed relish on the threads or top of the jar, wipe with a damp cloth.
  • Fish a canning lid from the hot water and place it on the jar.

  • Screw a band snuggly onto the jar. Don’t bust your gut tightening it, but neither should you be gentle.
  • Lower the jar back into the canning pot, making sure it comes to rest lid-side-up on the cloth napkin or towel.

Boil the jars for fifteen minutes, take the jars out of the canning pot, and set them on a dry dish towel to cool. My batch produced exactly 10 jars of relish.

Red Pepper Relish Recipe:

12 large red peppers

1 TBS salt

1 pint cider vinegar

3 Cups sugar

Core, de-seed, and chop up peppers into meal-sized pieces

Stir in salt and let stand for 2 hours

Strain off liquid for about a half hour

Put peppers in sauce pot along with vinegar and sugar; simmer for 3 hours.

Spoon into hot canning jars leaving a half inch of head space. Process jars in boiling water bath for 15 minutes.

Yield: 5-6 Cups (10-12 half-cup jars)

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8oz jelly jars and standard canning lids and bands infiltrate every counter and cabinet in my kitchen. For me, jelly and jam canning season starts with strawberries in the spring and continues with sour cherries, raspberries, peaches, and pears. I use larger jars to can tomatoe sauce and appplesauce. I may try pressure canning next season though I’d more likely can stews and soups than I would plain vegetables.

Are you still looking at a pile of produce from your prolific home kitchen garden? Home canning may be the best way to deal with it. My past several posts have presented videos detailing home canning. We’ve introduced canning terms and equipment, and we’ve discussed both boiling-water-bath and pressure canning.

This post completes the series about how to can. There are two videos embedded at the end of the post that together make up the fifth lesson on canning: Pressure Canning Basics. Equipment for pressure canning tends to be more expensive than that for boiling water bath canning. In fact, you may already have a pot or two you can use for boiling water bath canning. However, if you want to preserve vegetables in canning jars, you must use a pressure canner.

These videos clearly explain the procedures and encourage you not to fear poisoning yourself. If you follow instructions, you’ll find it’s easy to preserve just about any produce through till the next harvest.

Quick Home Kitchen Garden Cooking

Also note: a pressure canner is a pressure cooker. Most of us have never experimented with cooking foods under pressure. Once you have a pressure canner, there’s no barrier to tray pressure cooking. Just about anything you cook in a pot on the stove will cook much more quickly under pressure; you can produce one-pot meals in fractions of the time it takes to cook them without a pressure cooker.

To get started, watch the videos below. Then hop over to the Home Kitchen Garden Store to find a pressure canner suited to your canning needs.

Please enjoy the videos:


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I have only a boiling water bath canner. Posing for this photo are apple sauce, black raspberry jelly and syrup, chili sauce, red pepper rellish, tomato sauce, sour cherry jam, peach jelly, and pickled vegetables. Many other jellies and jams, as well as chutneys and apple butter chose to remain in the pantry during the photo session.

If your home kitchen garden produces more than you can eat in a season, then home canning may be for you. My last two posts have been about preserving produce from your home kitchen garden, and have presented videos that clearly explain the two types of canning, and that introduce the terms, equipment, and methodology of home canning.

If you’re new to canning, please read those earlier posts and watch the videos embedded in them. Then come back here and watch this video specifically about the boiling water bath method of canning used for high-acid produce.

When you see how easy it is to can fruits and vegetables, you might want to do your own. Visit the Home Kitchen Garden Store to buy everything you need to get started. There, you can find pots for both boiling-water-bath- and pressure- canning. You’ll also find sets of accessories, lids, pectin (for making jellies and jams), and books with detailed instructions and recipes for home canning.

Please read the item descriptions and user reviews thoroughly before you buy! Boiling-water-bath canners may hold five, seven, nine, or more quart jars at a time. A 21-quart canning pot, for example, can usually hold seven quart-sized canning jars. Pressure canners, while considerably more expensive, hold far smaller loads for the money… but many of them can double as boiling-water-bath canners. I’ve tried to include only products with good customer reviews.

Please leave a comment to share your experiences with home canning, or to point out omissions from the canning pages of the Home Kitchen Garden Store. Also, if you have questions about canning that you’d like to see addressed on this site, feel free to ask in a comment—or use the Contact Us link.

Please enjoy the video:

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When it comes to preserving produce from my home kitchen garden, I choose canning for fruits (including tomatoes). I especially enjoy making jelly: it’s incredibly easy to do, it usually tastes better than commercial jelly, it costs less than commercial jelly, and for some reason people who receive a gift of homemade jelly act impressed that a human might actually have made it himself.

Does your home kitchen garden produce more fruits and vegetables than you eat in a season? My last post provided an overview of food-preservation strategies you can use to benefit from the excess. Embedded at the end of that post was a YouTube video introducing key concepts about home canning: storing foods in vacuum-sealed jars.

That video was one in a series about home canning. And, though those videos have some of the most stilted narration ever written, they are well-produced and terrifically informative.

So, please continue your exploration of food-preservation by reviewing the next videos in the series. These explain more about the differences in equipment necessary for boiling water bath and pressure-canning methods of canning. The videos define more terms that are helpful to know when you talk about canning, and they demonstrate the steps necessary to process foods—whether with the boiling water bath or the pressure-canning methods:

 

 

 

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When you grow fruit in a home kitchen garden, it’s a good idea to learn to make jams and jellies. I pack pint jars for my sandwiches and english muffins, and 8 oz jars as gifts for school teachers, music teaches, riding instructors, and friends.

If you planted a large home kitchen garden this year, then you probably already know how to preserve the fruits, vegetables, and nuts you grew in it. Or… maybe you planted the garden without thought about what you’d do if it produced more food than you could consume during the growing season? For those who are thinking of adding a home kitchen garden to defray food costs in the coming year, learning to preserve food could become of paramount importance.

Food Preservation Methods

There is no single method of preserving fresh garden produce so that it is as satisfying in two or three months as it is on the day you harvest it. Some fruits will keep for many months when stored in the right environment (cold-storage in oxygen-free containers), but their texture deteriorates and they’re never as satisfying as fruits picked fresh from a tree. Certain vegetables–especially root crops and squash–keep surprisingly well and can last through a long winter… but after lengthy storage, they almost beg you to cook them; textures change and they just aren’t as appealing as they were when you first harvested them.

Popular methods of preserving produce include:

  • Storing it in a cool, dry environment (typically, a root cellar)
  • Dehydration
  • Canning
  • Freezing
  • Pickling (and canning)

Root cellar—Storing potatoes, carrots, beets, turnips, squash, and similar vegetables in a root cellar holds the produce in a condition quite similar to fresh; the items you preserve this way are most like fresh produce when you later prepare them in your kitchen. Unfortunately, most types of produce won’t keep in a root cellar any better than they will on your dining room table. Root and squash crops may keep for three to nine months when managed properly in a root cellar.

Freezing—Freezing produce retains a considerable amount of a food’s characteristics, and stands as the preservation method of choice for most green vegetables and fruits. Interestingly, freezing dramatically changes the characteristics of most root crops, making the mushy and unpleasant. Leafy vegetables such as lettuce, spinach, and chard are also lousy candidates for freezing, unless you plan to eat them cooked; once frozen and thawed, leaves become very mushy and bear little resemblance to the original product. Frozen fruits and vegetables will keep well from six to twelve months.

This two-gallon pot of applesauce is ready to go into canning jars. My kids will eat a quart of applesauce each week which means I could can 13 gallons a year and it wouldn’t be too much… only 11 gallons to go!

Canning—You pretty much cook fruits and vegetables during the canning process. Consequently, they soften up. In the case of vegetables, canning makes them softer than you might intentionally do when cooking from fresh; there’s no cripiness in a canned green bean. Home-canned fruits have exactly the same characteristics of commercially-canned fruits except that their flavor is exponentially better… probably because you can use fully-ripe fruit at home, and commercial canneries tend to use firmer fruits that won’t bruise easily when running machine processes. So, if you’re used to eating canned pears, peaches, applesauce, and the like, it’ll taste much better if you prepare and can it yourself. Canned produce will last from one to two years.

Dehydration—Dehydration may be the least common method of preserving produce from a home kitchen garden. It offers certain advantages over other methods: Dehydrated foods don’t require freezing, refrigeration, or storage in a root cellar. Bags of dehydrated foods are light and easy to store. When cooked, many dryed vegetables and fruits rehydrate convincingly back into something resembling the original product. As well, semi-dehydration can produce new forms of a food that are just as scrumptious as the original. Consider, for example, raisins and prunes. As long as you keep fully-dehydrated foods dry, they will last a year or more.

Pickling—This method of preservation has the greatest impact on the flavor of the food you preserve. To pickle vegetables and fruit, you add acid—usually vinegar—and, in most cases, salt. Different pickling methods involve canning, or open-barrel storage, but the end result is a product soaked with vinegar, salt, and seasonings. Pickled foods have distinctive flavors and usually serve as side dishes or as ingredients in recipes. Canned pickled produce will last for one or two years.

Harvest Time in Your Home Kitchen Garden

At the end of the growing season in Pennsylvania, I’m in the throws of preserving garden produce. Because frost has killed off my vegetable patch, I’m through with tomatoes… and I’ve already done jellies and jams from various fruits when they were in season. A few weeks ago, I made my first pickled vegetables, and I just put up (meaning, “canned”) to gallons of applesauce. I’ll be canning another two gallons of applesauce this weekend, and, perhaps, two more gallons next weekend.

Even when I’m not using my own produce, canning pickles and apple sauce provides a modest financial boost: the cost of pickled vegetables at the local market is $4 per pint. Mine cost just $1.25 per pint. My applesauce, made with commercial apples, costs about a dollar per gallon less than commercially-canned applesauce, and it tastes about $4 a gallon better (if that makes sense). Had I spent $15 to protect my apples from insect damage this summer, my home-grown applesauce would cost about four dollars per gallon less than commercial applesauce.

Here’s a video that introduces home canning. The narration is a bit stilted, but the content is golden. Please enjoy:

Follow this link: for in-depth information about preserving produce with a food dryer.

 

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A late planting of lettuce and dill are all that remain viable in my home kitchen garden after two frosts. This bouqet of dill contributed to my first batch of pickled vegetables.

If you’re in hardiness zone 5, 6, or 7, your home kitchen garden is running out of time. Mine, in hardiness zone 5b (or 6a or b depending on whose map you consult), has seen two nights of frost nearly two weeks apart. It hasn’t been enough to kill of the cool weather plants, but their days are numbered.

The most dramatic crop left in my home kitchen garden is a two-foot row of dill weed that I planted from seed in August; it’s now more than knee high, and is as beautifully wispy green as anything I’ve ever grown.

My wife has always wanted fresh dill to make potato salad, but for five years my home kitchen garden hasn’t obliged (see box: Dill Weed Wonder). Finally, I have a gorgeous profusion of the stuff, and she’s no longer in charge of the kitchen; I’m the resident cook, and I don’t use dill in my potato salad.

So, given this awesome patch of fresh dill standing stalwart against the frost, what was I going to do? Make pickles!

Home Kitchen Garden Pickle Planning

I’ve never made pickles, but I’m pretty confident when it comes to cooking and food-preservation. I can a lot of jams, jellies, and tomato sauce, and have canned pears, peaches, and fruit salad. Oh, and I’ve made and canned ketchup and chili sauce (mom had a recipe for chili sauce that I **need** when I make meatloaf). So, while I’ve never made pickles, I figured I could handle the job if I tried.

I Googled pickle recipes. Not surprisingly, the words pickle and recipes appear together on more than 300,000 web pages. I must have speed-read three dozen of those pages, and it became clear: there’s no right way to make pickles.

Dill Weed Wonder

Dill has been the problem child of my home kitchen garden. I planted some years ago at my wife’s request, and only one or two plants grew–not enough to hold my attention. The next year, I planted dill from commercial seeds and got similar results. This time, I ignored the few plants and let them do their thing. Apparently, their thing was seeding because the next year I had a couple of volunteer dill weed plants in my garden.

Still, there wasn’t enough dill to be useful, so I ignored it again. This season, I had a few more volunteer plants in my garden–never enough for my wife’s potato salad, but always enough to make seeds for the next season’s volunteers. The dill plants matured by late spring and went to seed. In August, I harvested two large hands full of seeds, stored some in an envelope on my desk, and planted a two foot row in my garden with the others. Mother load!

It seems that every seed in the August planting sprouted and is maturing. I have a thick, low hedge of dill; enough to make many gallons of dill pickles and potato salad to last the winter.

I don’t know whether packaging and shipping dill seeds somehow weakens them, or I just got unlucky for a few years planting commercial seeds. But given my drothers, I’ll always start my dill planting from home-grown seeds.

The most bizarre page I read offered instructions for Pickling Cukes in a Jiffy. Step 1 of the procedure was to soak cucumbers in salt water for 12 hours. Had all other pickling recipes demanded 48 hours of soaking, 12 hours would have been a jiffy. But many recipes simply instructed me to put pickles in jars, cover them with brine, and can them in a boiling water bath.

Between seasonalchef.com, Strub Pickles, Cooking Cache, The Self Sufficient Urbanite, and others, I “made up” a recipe; a kind of average of what so many of them instructed.

How I Made Pickles

I had a giant head of cauliflower, a more modest head of broccoli, a pile of carrots, a few cucumbers, a quart of small hot peppers, and a very large onion that I wanted to pickle. I buy such a mix of pickled vegetables about once a month when I make sweet-and-sour meatballs; I get the sweet from canned pineapple, and the sour from the pickled vegetables. By pickling the vegetables myself, I figured to reduce the cost of making sweet-and-sour meatballs.

Here’s the basic procedure:

I peeled three very large carrots as well as one very large onion. I cut the stems off the peppers, cut the peppers into thirds (making two rings and a thimble), and scraped as many seeds as I could from each section. Then I cut the carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, cucumber, and onion into bite-sized pieces.

Broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, cucumbers, carrots, and onions cut into bite-sized pieces made up the mix of vegetables I pickled to use later when I make sweet-and-sour meatballs.

I heated five quart-sized canning jars and three pint-sized jars in a boiling-water-bath canning pot.

I mixed brine using the following proportions:

  • 1 unit of canning salt (salt without iodine apparently makes a clear brine)
  • 4 units of white vinegar
  • 8 units of water

Because I didn’t know how many jars I’d fill or how much brine each jar would require, I wanted a simple formula that would scale easily should I need to mix a second batch. The first pot of brine contained 1/2 cup of canning salt, 2 cups of white vinegar, and 4 cups of water. I heated the brine to boiling, then cut the heat but kept the cover on the pot.

I put a teaspoon of pickling spice in each jar, and then two sprigs of dill.

I filled each (hot) jar with mixed vegetables to about ¾ inch of the top… fitting chunks closely to fill as much of the space as I could.

A jar of freshly pickled vegetables catches the morning sun on my dining room table.

I poured enough (hot) brine into each jar to cover the vegetables—to about ½ inch of the top of the jar. I ran out of brine before I ran out of vegetables, so I mixed and heated a second batch; the same amount as the first batch.

I covered each jar with a canning lid and band, and boiled the jars—20 minutes for the quarts, and 15 minutes for the pints.

The Pickle Verdict

Some pickling instructions say to wait four or more weeks before opening a jar. Some say the pickles are ready when the jars are cool. I’m not always patient, so I opened a jar after it cooled.

I’m pleased. The pickles are a little saltier than I’d like, but that’ll work OK when I cook them in the sweet-and-sour sauce. Also, the pickling spice imparted a delightful flavor that I associate more with sweet pickles than with dills… but it’s a nice touch and if it holds up in the sweet-and-sour sauce it should complement the other flavors there.

Economy of my Home Kitchen Garden

I added up my costs of pickling vegetables using prices from my grocery store and the local farmers’ market:

  • Carrots $0.80
  • Broccoli $1.50
  • Cauliflower $2.00
  • Onion $0.33
  • Peppers $2.00
  • Vinegar $1.30
  • Salt $1.12 (but after I bought pickling salt, I found it at another store for half the cost)
  • Spice $1.18 (very low price at a local whole foods store)
  • Canning lids $1.79
  • Fresh dill (didn’t price it, sorry)

I already had canning jars, but if you have to buy them, you’ll pay about $10. They’ll come with lids, so for the cost analysis, we’ll say they cost $8.

The grand total, then, was just over $20. For that, I canned 16 pints of pickled vegetables. The same pickles would cost at least $76 at the farmers’ market (I’m pretty sure it’s more; I’m always taken aback when the pickle dude tells me how much he charges). So, making my own year’s supply of pickles has saved close to $56, and it has provided a fine adventure to share.

I’ll prepare a more detailed, illustrated, step-by-step guide to making pickled vegetables for an upcoming post. In the meantime, if you’d like to read more, please consider the following articles:

  • Pickle Recipes – Last week Meadowlark asked for some recipes in this post. I’m not feeling up to writing up a whole ton of recipes so I cut and pasted some pickle recipes I sent to Erikka in August. Fresh-Pack Dill Pickles 17ish pounds Cucumbers …

  • Spicy Pickle Recipe – Carrot Pickle Recipe – Carrot pickle recipe ingredients:. 2 kilograms carrots, shredded; 100 grams chili peppers, chopped; 1 big garlic bulb, cleaned and minced; 400 ml oil; 2 tablespoons salt; 1 tablespoon sugar; 2 tablespoons parsley leaves, chopped …

  • Pickle recipes :: Indian Pickle recipes – Amla Pickle Beetroot Pickle Cabbage Pickle Capsicum Pickle Carrot Pickle Cauliflower Pickle Garlic Pickle Lemon Pickle Lime Pickle Mango Pickle Tindora Pickle.

  • CSA Newsletter: Week 21- October 6, 2008 – Both of these pickle recipes are delicious with plain while rice. Dried Dill. Divide your bunch into 2 or 3 smaller bunches and hang inside of a small paper bag. Use a rubber band to cinch the dill stems at the opening of the paper bag. …

  • Pickling How-To – These days, almost all store bought pickles and contemporary pickle recipes are vinegar-based. Lacto-fermented pickles contain no vinegar at all. In lacto-fermentation, salt is added to vegetables, either by covering them in salty water …

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