Resources For Buying Seasonal Produce

Summer produces some of the best fruits and veggies! The variety is abundant and when you buy seasonal, it’s less expensive.

Now is the perfect time to stock up for canning, preserving, dehydrating and freezing so you can enjoy the bounty of summer all year long. Check out this seasonal produce guide for the perfect time to purchase your favorites!

Summer is also a great time to check out your local farmers market, co-op or local farm. Make it a family fun day at a local farm that allows you to pick your own produce. They often times have attractions or games to make the day more eventful!

Another way to obtain fresh produce locally is by joining a CSA. Local Harvest is a great resource to locate a CSA, farm or farmers market in your area. Now, you may not have any of these in your area locally or that would be within reasonable driving distance, but some farms actually do ship items. Definitely worth checking it out!

I hope you find these resources valuable and that you are enjoying the summer!

~Blessings!~

How to Can Pineapple for Pantry Food Storage

Canning pineapple for your food storage is quite easy. It can be labor intensive and a bit messy, but it is so worth it!

When I started canning a few years ago, it had not occurred to me to can fruit for food storage. Vegetables, pickles and jams and jellies are obvious, but it wasn’t until this past year that I realized I could actually can fresh fruits. I’m so glad I did! Having canned fresh pineapple on hand is so handy for baking, pineapple sandwiches or for a pizza topping.

Pineapple is canned using the water bath method, so you don’t even need a canner if you don’t have one. It can be hot or raw packed.

Pineapples are just coming into season, and I was fortunate to find them on sale this past weekend. I went ahead and picked up 3 and will purchase more throughout the season.

There are a couple of options when it comes to what type of syrup to use, so you will need to decide this before you begin the process.

Simple Syrup

(Recipe is for about 6 pineapples. Just adjust according for the number of pineapples you have.)

In a large stainless steel pot, combine 1 cup sugar to 5 cups water. Bring to a boil and stir constantly until dissolved. Add your cut pineapple and stir to evenly combine and heat approximately 30 seconds, just long enough to heat through.

“Natural Juices”

Place skins and cores of pineapples (NOT the leaves) into a large stock pot. Add enough water to cover by 2″. Boil for 15 minutes. Strain through coffee filters or cheesecloth before adding to pineapple in jars.

Just Water

Heat a pot of water just to boiling. Place pineapple in jars and ladle enough water to proper headspace.

Next, gather the canning supplies – rings, lids, funnel, ladle, pot to heat water, de-bubbling tool, canning pot and of course, jars. I typically use pint jars, since that’s closest to the amount I would usually use per recipe.

To avoid dirt or debris getting into your jars, go ahead and wash your pineapples in a sink full of water, giving them a good scrub with a dishcloth. As an extra precaution, I wash everything that will be used in the canning process each and every time I begin a canning project. Even though it was washed before it was put away after the previous session, I do not want to take any chance with anything contaminating my end product.

Before you begin cutting and preparing the pineapple, get the water started heating in you canner pot. Place your washed jars into the water so they can heat gradually and sterilize as the water comes to a up to temp in the canner pot. Remember, hot food into hot jars to avoid thermal shock.

I like to place my cutting board in a old cookie sheet to catch the excess juice and to cut down on the mess. Peel and cut your pineapple into slices or chunks, or a combination of both.

No matter which syrup option you choose, the rest of the process is the same:

  1. Remove the hot jar from the canner water.
  2. Fill with pineapple and syrup to within 1/2″ headspace. De-bubble, wipe the rim of the jar, place ring and lid, tightening to fingertip tight.
  3. Place back in canner and proceed to filling the next jar.

Once your canner is full , cover it with the lid and turn your heat to medium high. Make sure your jars are covered by at least 1″ in water. Once the water begins to boil, set your timer for the correct processing time. 15 minutes for pints, 20 minutes for quarts.

When the processing time is done, turn off the heat and leave the canner covered for 5 minutes. Then remove the lid and move jars to a towel or mat in a draft free area to cool.

And that’s it! Aren’t they gorgeous?!

If you’d like to add pineapple to your food storage, now is the perfect time. The peak season is March – July, so it’s at it’s tastiest, and will be cheaper to purchase than when it’s not in season.

I hope this is helpful and I hope you’ll give it a try!

~Blessings~

The Game Changer for my Long Term Food Storage

I am so incredibly excited! I ordered a food dehydrator today!

Much like canning, I’ve been contemplating getting a dehydrator for more than 10 years. Why have I put it off for so long? Heck if I know!

Dehydrating is an economical, space saving way to store a LOT of food for long term. And it looks so pretty on the shelf!

Modern Survival Blog

I love to stock up on fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables when they are in season or on sale to freeze and have throughout the year. I also like to do bulk cooking to have “dump and go” meals ready to throw in the crockpot or put together quickly for busy night dinner. I currently have a small top freezer unit, so space is at a premium. I have to keep in mind what will actually fit rather than how much I necessarily want to have in storage.

But now I’ll be able to have a fuller freezer and pantry!

During the winter, we eat a lot of soups and stews. Mixed vegetables, carrots, celery, onions, tomatoes – these are all the base for so many dishes that I make. It’s going to be so great to have a half gallon mason jar full of my bases instead of having to unpack my freezer every time I need to find something for a recipe.

Another application I’m excited about is making meal packets for camping. What an amazing idea! This makes so much sense and I’m so mad I hadn’t thought of it before. A true “well, duh!” moment. While traveling down the youtube rabbit hole looking for reviews of dehydrators, I ran across so many videos of backpackers, hikers and campers showing how to do this. If we plan right, we could quite possibly eliminate the need for a cooler or ice! And the space it will save!

Scout Magazine

After much research, I decided to purchase the Nesco FD-75A. I bought mine online from Home Depot for around $66.00. This seems to be the common price across the internet, even Amazon.

Nesco FD-75A

Nesco is a “tried and true” brand that has been in business since 1931. Their products are made in USA of global and domestic components in Wisconsin. The trays and sheets are made of BPA free food grade plastic. Many of the youtubers I follow who use this exact same dehydrator have had them for 15-20 years. It’s a quality product that’s made to last. It comes with 5 trays, but can be expanded up to 12 trays. You just have to purchase additional trays separately.

This particular model has a top mounted fan, as opposed to a bottom or rear fan placement. Basically, the fan and heating element are located on the top of the dehydrator. As with virtually any appliance, there are pros and cons to their particular features.

With a top mounted fan, there is no chance of food spilling on the fan or the heating element, it’s easy to clean and maintain, it results in even drying of the food and they are easy to operate. Some of the “cons” are the trays have to rotated and the air is pushed to spread on the trays so some of the foods may be “less dry”. So, when I rotate the trays, I may need to move the foods around for the best drying. I don’t think it will be a big deal.

If you are interested in this particular model, let me save you a bit of research time. When I would search for the FD-75A, the search engines would sometimes take me to an FD-75PR. After a bit of confusion and side research, I found that these are the exact same machine. The only difference is the packaging.

Again, I’m so excited to add this appliance to my kitchen. I feel that it will pay for itself rather quickly and will be an invaluable tool for my food storage needs.

~Blessings~

Canning Okra

Okra is one of my favorite things to grow in the garden. It’s not difficult to germinate, grows quickly and produces like crazy. Not to mention the flower of the buds are absolutely gorgeous. The bees love them!

Quite honestly, over the years, I have ended up giving most of it away to friends and family. For as much as I love to grow it, there’s only so much of it we can eat. And when your freezer space is limited, well, you have to choose your battles.

Now…

When I first came across this tutorial from one of my favorite Youtube channels, I had my reservations.

I watched the next video with a turned up nose. One of the draw backs of okra is its tendency to become excessively slimy when not cooked properly. So, I was a bit surprised when at the end of the video, it seemed to have turned out crunchy and light.

I decided to make a small batch and give it a try.

You’ll start by washing and chopping your okra into 3/4″ – 1″ pieces. Then you make a simple brine on the stovetop, fill your jars with the okra and brine and put on the lid and ring. Easy peasy. Then, you just wait for the PING!

The texture held up beautifully when cooked. It was not mushy or slimy. And I just love how it looks in the jars. So pretty!

Even if you don’t have a garden, this is a great way to add more veggies to your storage pantry. You could purchase fresh okra from the farmers market or a pick-your-own farm. As with most foods, the fresher it is, the better it will preserve.

I love the simplicity of the process. Especially during the hottest days of summer when the garden is producing at full tilt and there’s always something that needs to be processed, preserved and put by. Even though it’s a complete labor of love, it can still be exhausting. But with this easy method, I’m excited to grow even more beautiful okra plants and add to the bounty of my pantry!

~Blessings ~

Keeping calm and canning on

Growing up, I heard countless horror stories about the dangers of pressure cooking and canning. That distant relative that had a canner explode, impaling the lid into the ceiling. Someone’s sister got third degree burns and horrible cuts from a jar that exploded. And that aunt whose kitchen was ab-so-lute-ly COVERED in beans that they never really were able to get clean. Oh, the drama!

Now, once I started gardening, I really got into water bath canning. Pickles, relish, salsa, apply butter and jams, and oh so many jars of stewed tomatoes. It was so thrilling “putting stuff by” and decorating my pantry shelves with my treasures. I just knew there had to be a way to conquer my fear of the pressure canner and really get into some serious food preservation. There’s only so much freezer space that can be dedicated for long term storage.  And it’s not necessarily the best option for long term to maintain the quality of many vegetables.

I liked the idea of being able to store various items that I didn’t grow myself. Buying them in season and preserving to have them year round. It also appealed to me to have items that take a long time to cook – like dried beans – ready to go simply by opening the jar and heating them up. Not to mention the huge savings of buying items in bulk and canning myself.

Over the years of watching countless Youtube videos and reading blogs and tutorials, I usually found myself left with more questions that I couldn’t find the answers to. I’m sure most of it was my over thinking and paranoia. But still. It paralyzed me and I couldn’t seem to get over it.

This past year I too became concerned about food shortages and the increase in food costs. Having a store run out of toilet paper is one thing, but the dried beans and rice shelves bare – that’s a whole ‘nother level of concern.

This Summer while at Walmart, I ended up on the canning supply aisle. I wasn’t there for canning supplies, but when I saw the shelves, I was gobsmacked. These shelves were just as ravaged as many of the grocery and cleaning supply shelves! I had heard about the stores – online too – selling out of canners and supplies. I had also witnessed that once those items were back in stock, the price was increased, sometimes ridiculously.  There was one remaining Presto weighted gauge canner and it was a decent price, so I went ahead and got it along with a flat of pint and quart jars and a pound of dried pinto beans.

I re-watched a few videos, re-read a few blogs and read my canner manual very carefully. I unboxed, inspected and washed my canner and supplies. I carefully and methodically followed the directions EXACTLY as written, took a deep breath and locked the lid down on my canner. I kept reminding myself that I had followed all the directions and I just needed to practice to gain confidence. It’s gonna be fine.

That first batch,  I was a nervous wreck! Was there supposed to be steam coming from the petcock, was I supposed to actually smell the beans, should I hear the water boiling, is the weight rocking too fast, is my temperature too high? Finally, the timer was done and I could relax.

Once it was time to remove the jars from the canner, I was so excited! They were beautiful! Ping! Ping! Ping! I’d done it. Not only had I stepped outside of my comfort zone and overcome a paralyzing fear,  I was on my way to mastering a new skill. Currently on my pantry shelves, I have a variety of beans, vegetable and chicken broth, and butternut squash. I’m hoping to add a greater variety of vegetables this coming spring and summer.

So, if you’re wanting to try pressure canning, go for it!

Do your research. Follow all the safety guidelines of your recipe. Read your canner manual and inspect the canner itself carefully. While it’s not hard, you do have to be mindful of the correct and safe way to do it.  Believe me, I wish I had started years ago!

~ Blessings~