There are a lot of empty jars on the canning pantry shelves this time of year
There are a lot of empty jars on the canning pantry shelves this time of year – ready to be filled back up from the garden!
The tomato plants are filled with plenty of large green tomatoes - ready to turn red and be turned into salsa, sauce, juice, ketchup and more
The tomato plants, like our La Roma’s pictured here – are filled with large green tomatoes – ready to turn red and be turned into salsa, sauce, juice, ketchup and more

The canning pantry shelves are looking bare – and only a few containers of frozen veggies, garden chili and vegetable soup remain in the freezer from last year’s garden.

The good news…this year’s garden is bursting at the seams with fresh produce – and more than ready to replenish our food supplies for the coming fall and winter. From peppers, onions, green beans and potatoes and more – to an abundance of big green tomatoes just beginning to turn their outer skins to a ripe red – the garden is just about ready to go into full production mode.

This time of year is always a cross for us between enjoying fresh meals straight from the garden – and taking time out to can and freeze enough of the extras to use throughout the year.  Hardly a night goes by in late July and August without hearing the hiss of the pressure canner on the stove with a batch of something! (see: Our Canning Recipes)

Fresh from the garden salsa ingredients
Fresh from the garden salsa ingredients
The finished product - Picante Salsa!
The finished product – Picante Salsa!

Between what we consume fresh, preserve or make ourselves – we now supply almost 70% of our home food needs throughout the year.  For the most part – our grocery store visits now are concentrated on only the outer perimeter aisles…fresh fruit, milk, orange juice, meats, cheese and drinks.   What we grow fresh, can or freeze lets us stay clear of the “middle aisles” of a grocery store – where most everything is loaded with preservatives.

One thing that we have really worked on over the last few years is knowing what we use the most – and making sure to plan the garden and subsequent harvests so that we can meet our “food preserving” goals. (we included this years list at the bottom of the article)

With that in mind – it’s easier to create a food list to make sure we put back what we need. We keep it simple – taking a little time to write down what we think we use of any one item in a two-week period – and then multiply it by 26.   It’s an easy way to come up with what we will use in a 12 month period. Case in point – we usually will have at least one pasta dish every two weeks – so we know we need to make and stock a minimum of 26 quarts to see us through.

We usually will take the number and add a few to it to be safe.  It’s a method that has worked well for us with just about everything except Mary’s hot pepper mustard. We make about 24 pints for us – about 30 more to have for friends and family – and we still seem to run out every year!

Pasta Sauce is a big use item in our household!
Pasta Sauce is a big use item in our household!

The ultimate goal is to be responsible for as much of our own food as possible – not just to save money – but more importantly – to know where our food came from – and what wasn’t used in the process – like pesticides, herbicides, and more. It’s also a pretty good feeling at the end of the day to know you had a hand in what’s on the table!

Happy Gardening!  – Jim and Mary

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This years canning and freezing goal list:

Canning:

Tomato Juice :  70 quarts
Salsa : 24 Pints
Picante Salsa : 24 pints
Hot Pepper Mustard : 30 pints
Pasta Sauce : 26 Quarts
Green Beans : 24 pints
Pizza Sauce : 6 pints
Hot and Spicy Ketchup : 6 pints
Strawberry-Honey Jam – 10 pints
Blackberry-Honey Jam – 4 pints
Apple Butter – 6 pints
Pickles – 12 to 16 pints of assorted varieties
A few jars each of jalapeno rings, banana pepper rings, hot pepper flakes, strawberry-lemonade concentrate, cayenne pepper powder, chili powder and taco seasoning.

Freezer:

Chili – 12 to 24 quarts (we freeze them into quart bricks)
Vegetable soup – 12 to 24 quarts
Whole peppers for stuffing
Jalapeno, Cajun Belle and Mini Belle peppers for appetizers
Corn – 24 frozen quart bags
Stir Fry Packets – 24 packets of onions, peppers, and sugar snap peas for stir fry

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