Well it's December and we really are at the end of our farm stand season. Several of my summer favorite stands and weekend markets have closed but I see that a few will remain open another few weeks as they sell holiday trees and wreaths. How do I know this? This year, I realize, I'm holding on to the preserving season a bit too closely because I am still stopping at any open stand or farm market to see what local produce is being offered just as I did all summer long.
What do I hope to see? Honestly, I want to fall upon some final surprise of the season.. deep colored beautiful winter greens or a gorgeous red fruit that just wants to peak out one last time before the snow sticks.
Instead, what have I been seeing and buying? Winter squash of every kind of variety! I try to be excited and have high hopes that maybe that new Mashed Potato Squash will be a quiet delicious gem or those Honeynut will just win me over! Truth be told, I have bought so many different winter squashes that I'm now faced with how to hold them fresh for as long as I can.
Remember that there are 7 methods of home food preservation? One of them is root cellar storage.
I'd love a Root Cellar. You know, those old-fashioned storage areas that used to be under rural houses with a door that kind of rested on the ground. One would bend over to lift up this angled door in order to walk down a few stairs into an often very dark sub-room. It just won't work at my house though.
I do have a cold frame where I've planted beautiful garlic cloves and am already thinking about how I'll preserve this lovely crop next summer. But a cold frame is not ideal for storing winter squash.
I read about burying an old refrigerator and I really liked that idea. Until I realized air holes and vent pipes need to be drilled in it and I'd need to dig a pretty big hole to put this fridge laying flat on it's back into. Seemed like a lot.
So I've done some scouting around for us and find that our neighbor Cooperative Extension in Chemung County has really good information for storing fruits and these winter squash that require warm, dry storage conditions.
Here's a brief summary:
Once harvested, fruits and vegetables must be stored under proper conditions. These can be classified into four groups:
The goal of storage is to keep the produce in a dormant state. One other note, fruits and vegetables should ALWAYS be stored separately. Fruits release ethylene, which speeds the ripening process of vegetables. Fruits are also very susceptible to picking up the taste of nearby vegetables.
What's a modern versions of a Root Cellar?!
Any spot that is sufficiently and evenly cool (32 degrees to 60 degrees F.) can be used for storage. Basements are generally the most logical place to adapt. Older homes are often less well-insulated and have pantries, back halls, enclosed porches, sheds and bulkheads that are also adaptable to storage.
Packing materials used in storage perform several functions – insulation against fluctuating temperatures, moisture retention, and reduction of disease transmission. In outdoor storages, clean straw, dry leaves, corn stalks, hay, or sawdust are commonly used for insulation. These materials may be purchased relatively cheaply from local farms or garden centers. A slightly more expensive alternative is peat moss.
One of the best ways to store small quantities of vegetables requiring cold or cool moist conditions is to use an old or extra refrigerator. (Keep it standing, you don't need to bury it.)
Outdoor sheds, breezeways, enclosed porches, and garages can be used to store insulated containers. An insulated container stored in an unheated area should have 6-8” of insulation on the bottom, sides, and top with 2-3” between layers of produce. Additional blankets or other coverings may be necessary depending on how cold the outside temperature reaches.
Modern basements with furnaces are generally at least 50-60 degrees F. and dry. While this is appropriate for some types of food storage, in order to achieve the cool, moist conditions necessary for most fruit and vegetables it may be necessary to construct a separate room. This separate storage area should be located in the coldest part of the basement, away from the furnace. The north and the east sides of the house are preferred. Avoid heat ducts and hot water pipes that generate heat. The room should have an outside window for ventilation.
Other ideas: unfinished attic, basement window well, cool spare room or closet, under the basement stairs. Use a crate with open sides to allow air flow.
Winter Squash should be held at 50F - 55F with 50 - 60% humidity and should store 2 - 6 months. And that is just enough time until we're back into the canning season full swing!
This past preserving year with you has been a personal joy. Our firstname.lastname@example.org email received almost 50 inquiries from local canners and a few around the US who found us somehow. I answered a wide range of questions that went from canning persimmon jam and family tomato sauces to storing oatmeal and freezing pesto. We hosted food preserving Zooms and pressure gauge testing sessions, that I absolutely loved simply because of your enthusiasm and excitement to share your love of home preserving with me. I thank you sincerely. And I thank Andrea Lista, Monroe CCE Director and lovely individual, for all of her support to grow our Master Food Preservation program.
Looking into 2021... we're already planning new Zoom sessions that will get you thinking about the canning season, planning for it, ready for it and excited to jump back in with us! I can't wait.
Please stay in touch this winter at email@example.com. I'd love to hear your preserving ideas for Zooms, recipes or questions.
Stay well. Happy Holidays.
Yield: 3 half-pints
I hope that you, as I did, enjoyed the local produce and were able to preserve all the fruits and vegetables you wanted to this season. If you haven’t canned or froze the wonderful apples and pears available now, please try to!
We recently participated in the Central Library of Rochester & Monroe County’s Wednesday “Refresh Your Home Inside & Out!” learning sessions by featuring Apples & Pears food preservation tips and recipes. It was a lot of fun(!) thanks to the very enthusiastic Zoom participants.
During this session, there was a question which asked how to avoid pie filling from oozing out of the jars during the canning process. It’s something I’ve also experienced and had in mind this past weekend when I canned quarts of Apple Pie Filling. It got me thinking about “headspace”.
Headspace is that space in the jar between the inside lid and the top of the food or liquid. The amount of headspace needed depends on the type of food being processed. Headspace takes into consideration if the food is going to expand during processing, if the food already shrunk during the recipe steps, and the need for the jar to achieve a vacuum seal.
I’ll share a personal story about my sister’s summer canning, only because she lives out of state and fingers-crossed she won’t be reading this …. She made many batches of beautiful berry jams and tomato sauce and proudly sent me photos. The colors were gorgeous, but I had to ask if I was seeing sizeable headspace or were there shadows? Unfortunately, it was not shadows. She followed sanctioned recipes but by the time she got to filling the jars, she quit reading the directions and did her own thing which was to fill each jar with as much product as she wanted, not how much the recipe indicated.
It’s not always easy to mention headspace errors to someone who spent valuable time, energy and produce to make a beautiful jar of any canned good. However, headspace is so critical to ensuring a safe finished jar, it has to be discussed and paid attention to.
“If the jars are filled too full (leaving too little headspace) the contents may boil out during processing. Solids or seeds may be caught under the sealing compound and prevent the jar from sealing.
If too much headspace is left at the top of the jar, the processing time may not be long enough to drive out all the extra air from the top of the jar. This would mean that a tight vacuum seal may not be formed. Also, the air left inside the jar could cause the food to discolor.”
“Most foods require headspace between the packed food and closure to allow for expansion of the food as it freezes. Foods that are exceptions and do not need headspace include loose-packing vegetables such as asparagus and broccoli, bony pieces of meat, tray packed foods and breads.”
You can freeze in glass jars, simply look for Ball wide mouth jars that indicate Canning & Freezing. You know how canning jars indicate measurement levels? These specific jars will also provide a mark how high to fill for freezing.
General Freezing Information. Headspace to Allow Between Packed Food and Closure
|Container with wide top opening||Container with narrow top opening|
|Liquid Pack*||½ inch||1 inch||¾ inch||½ inch|
|Dry Pack**||½ inch||½ inch||½ inch||½ inch|
|Juices||½ inch||1 inch||1½ inch||1½ inch|
*Fruit packed in juice, sugar, syrup or water; crushed or pureéd fruit.
**Fruit or vegetable packed without added sugar or liquid.
If you have questions about your canned jars and headspace, please reach out. There are options we can review to ensure your product is safe for eating.
Garlic planting time is now!
If you miss the planting window, why not make roasted garlic in herb oil as a beautiful gift from the kitchen? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for the recipe.
Some info was adapted from "So Easy to Preserve", 6th ed. 2014. Bulletin 989, Cooperative Extension Service, The University of Georgia and the National Center for Home Food Preservation, The University of Georgia. https://nchfp.uga.edu
Usually this time each year my thoughts turn toward Thanksgiving. It’s the centerpiece of holidays in our house and has become a weekend celebration of food traditions with family and neighbors while enjoying the perfect meal showcasing all of those lovely foodstuffs I’ve been preserving the past months.
Maybe your Thanksgiving celebration will look different this year and with fewer people than previous years?
Our 2020 Harvest Thanksgiving was smaller and outside. Yes, past tense… We just couldn’t forego our usual Thanksgiving together so we celebrated this past weekend outside, physically distanced in a tent mostly decorated as seen in fall harvest movies on the Hallmark channel. It was wonderful! The menu? Our traditional Thanksgiving meal featuring many things I had preserved.
Which got me thinking .. the November holiday is still 8 weeks away and now is the perfect time to take advantage of the wonderful fruits and vegetables we’re still finding in the local farm markets. Here are some easy-to-make recipes and ideas that use freezer, refrigeration or drying as preservation methods. Any will WOW your Thanksgiving guests, no matter how many or how few are at your holiday table.
Boil water and blanch the ears 4 minutes. Cool promptly, drain and cut the whole kernels from the cob.
Place the loose kernels in storage bags specifically marked as Freezer. Seal and place in the freezer.
Sterilize canning jars. Wash horseradish roots thoroughly and peel off brown outer skin. The peeled roots may be grated in a food processor cut into small cubes and put through a food grinder. Combine ingredients and fill into hot jars, leaving ¼” headspace. Place lid on jar, seal tightly with the jar band and store in refrigerator. This makes 2 half-pint jars. Pungency fades within 1 to 2 months.
Select at least 3 varieties of full-flavored apples that are crisp and firm. (my preferences are Jonagold, 20 oz, Braeburn, Ida Red, Autumn Crisp). Wash, peel, core and slice. To prevent darkening apple slices can be steam blanched for 1 ½ to 2 minutes or sprinkled with lemon juice. Pack apple slices into freezer containers and press fruit down, leaving ½” headspace. Seal, mark item and date on container, and freeze. OR, line a cookie sheet with freezer paper with shiny side up, line the apple slices on the paper and placed in freezer. After frozen, pack into freezer containers and place back in freezer. When making your pie, thaw just enough to mix with your other ingredients and spread in pie crust.
Use herbs from your garden or purchase bunches of fresh herbs at the grocery store.
Rinse herbs in cool water and gently shake to remove excess moisture. Discard bruised or imperfect leaves and stems. Sturdy herbs such as sage, thyme and parsley are easiest to tie them into small bundles and hang them to air dry. For better color and flavor retention, hang the bundle inside in a cool spot out of direct sunlight.
When the leaves are crispy dry and crumble easily between your fingers, they are ready to be packaged in airtight containers and stored in a cool, dry, dark area. Leaves may be left whole and crumbled when used or before storage.
Go to your favorite grocery store, pick out a Pork Shoulder Butt and ask the butcher to remove the bone and grind it for you.
In a large bowl combine all of the ingredients. Mix well blending in the salt, sage, pepper, brown sugar, thyme, marjoram, cloves and red pepper into the ground pork evenly.
Cook it by saute in a skillet, breaking it up with a wooden spoon or back of a fork, and cook until the meat is no longer pink. Shake the pan frequently so the sausage moves around and is evenly browned.
Refrigerate if using it within 2 to 3 days.
To freeze, wrap in plastic wrap or freezer paper, then place in a plastic freezer bag and place in freezer.
Choose a favorite jam from your pantry shelf and serve over a mild Havarti cheese or with the dinner rolls.
Happy Early Thanksgiving!
Looking to can your fresh fruits and veggies but having trouble finding jars and lids for sale? That’s the challenge our Master Food Preservers around the state have been responding to the past few weeks.
Here’s another question: Do I have to use Mason jars for canning, or may I use mayonnaise or tomato sauce jars I’ve saved? (Short answer, you cannot use mayo or sauce jars). Diane Whitten, Certified Master Food Preserver, CCE Saratoga compiled a resource to help those hoping to can but having difficulty finding supplies. Thanks to Karen Mort - CCE Albany, Judy Price - MFP Instructor and our very own, Michele Conners - Certified MFP volunteer for their expert contribution.
May I introduce you to Judy Price? Many of you home food preservers already know Judy. She was the Nutrition and Food Safety educator for CCE Monroe County from 1989 – 2002. Prior to that, before having children, she taught Home Economics at Churchville Chili junior high after receiving her Cornell degree in Education with Home Economics specialty.
Currently, Judy is the lead educator in the CCE Master Food Preserver [MFP] classes held throughout NYS and honestly remains the celebrity idol of us home canners. If I had a canning authority to answer to… it would be Judy. She sets the bar high and I never want to disappoint. No one who has taken her classes wants to disappoint.
I had the good fortune of spending a few hours with Judy this past week at our pressure canning gauge testing session outside the CCE Monroe office near the Seneca Park Zoo. Thank you to all who brought your canners for gauge testing! Your canning activities sound awesome and your attention to safe canning is wonderful.
After the last test, Judy and I enjoyed the beautiful afternoon and just talked. Let me share what she had to say, including a few tips and her favorite item to can.
“NEVER! NOT in my workshops.” was her reply when asked, has anyone ever blown up a canner? She has the accurate confidence of someone considered to be the leading home food preservation expert.
I mentioned that it’s been hard to find pectin and it would seem more people are home canning, yet I worry are they doing it safely. Judy pragmatically said “You don’t know how far the information spreads out.” When we teach a class, or answer an email question [email@example.com], or conduct a Zoom session, or give a tip and trick we don’t know if the info recipient tells it to another who tells it to another. Teach 1 and maybe 2 will benefit.
Most memorable teaching sessions? The Liberty, NY workshop without power and participants had to take their MPF certification tests by the light of their cell phones. Or the time she taught pressure canning on a gas grill in a parking lot! Or the time the roads were flooded, the county went into a state of emergency and she taught Day 3 of the MFP certification workshop in the kitchen of the bed and breakfast she was staying at! None of this would phase her.. Judy is the ultimate cool-cucumber who knows her materials no matter the situation at hand.
Judy’s Pressure Canning Tip: When heating the water, set the lid askew on the top of the canner. This will heat the lid and canner simultaneously and avoid trying to put a cold lid on a hot canner at the designated time.
What’s changed over the years in home canning? She’s adjusted the MFP sessions to include Fermenting after seeing so many interested in canning for health. Which brings up the important consideration of which home preservation method should be used with Fermented items? Many don’t realize that taking the measures to make the item shelf stable will destroy probiotics. Judy teaches her students and us MFP teachers that it’s about a full understanding of home canning and why to use one method over another.
What’s her favorite items to can? Applesauce each year for her son’s birthday (Spoiler Alert if you’re Judy’s son), turkey broth made from the family's Thanksgiving bird leftovers and Crushed Tomatoes gleaned from her sister's garden.
My favorite quote of Judy’s from our conversation: “How many jars of sauce does a person need??” That just made me laugh. Indeed… why does it seem most people who can tomatoes make hundreds of quarts?
from the University of Georgia National Center for Home Food Preservation
Option 1 – Process in a BOILING WATER CANNER
Option 2 – Process in a Dial Gauge Pressure Canner at 11 pounds OR in a Weighted Gauge Pressure Canner at 10 lbs
I hope you’re into full swing preserving the wonderful fruits and vegetables available surrounding us now. Last night I had the most delicious local peach, which of course means I’ll be putting peaches up soon! I love the process of thinking through which method I’ll use .. freeze? canned with sugar? Ccnned without sweetener? jam?
There are many preservation methods to capture the very essence of what makes a freshly harvested fruit or vegetable so delicious! Thus, I try to use a variety of canning styles, not just make every fruit into a jam, for example. So that’s one of the reasons I especially love canning pie filling. Well.. that and with eyes to the future… picture January when it’s cold and snowing and you take your jar of pie filling off the shelf, pour it into a store-bought pie shell and bake it into a fresh summer pie!
Here’s a Peach Pie Filling recipe that adds the thickener at the time of canning. If you’d like Pie Filling recipes like this for other fruits or if you’d like Pie Filling recipes that do not use thickener at time of canning please email us at MONROEMFP@CORNELL.EDU
CANNING PIE FILLINGS using Clear Jel at time of canning.
From “So Easy to Preserve” published by the Cooperative Extension University of Georgia
This recipe use Clear Jel. This starch produces the correct thickening, even after the fillings are canned and baked. Clear Jel must be used, there is no substitution. (Do not use corn starch, flour or Instant Clear Jel). Clear Jel typically isn’t found in traditional grocery stores. It can be found online or often at stores that sell ingredients in bulk.
**TIP** Clear Jel does not dissolve in a heated liquid. Premix the Jel and cold liquid to dissolve the Jel, then proceed with recipe.
PEACH PIE FILLING
|Ingredients||1 Quart Jar||7 Quart Jars|
|Fresh sliced peaches||3 ½ cups||6 quarts|
|Sugar||1 cup||7 cups|
|Clear Jel (no substitute)||¼ cup + 1 tablespoon||2 cups + 2 tablespoons|
|Cold water||¾ cup||5 ¼ cups|
|Cinnamon (optional)||1/8 teaspoon||1 teaspoon|
|Almond extract (optional)||1/8 teaspoon||1 teaspoon|
|Bottled lemon juice||¼ cup||1 ¾ cups|
HOT PACK – Select ripe, but firm peaches. To loosen skins, submerge peaches in boiling water for approximately 30 to 60 seconds. Then place in cold water for 20 seconds. Slip off skins. Cut peaches into ½” wide slices. To blanch, place up to 4 cups of fruit at a time in one gallon boiling water. Boil each batch for one minute after the water returns in a boil. Remove fruit from the blanch water, but keep the hot fruit in a covered bowl or pot while the Clear Jel mixture is prepared. Combine sugar, Clear Jel and cinnamon in a large saucepot. Add cold water and almond extract. Stir to dissolve the Clear Jel then cook over medium high heat until mixture thickens and begins to bubble. Add lemon juice and boil sauce 1 minute more, stirring constantly. Fold drained peach slices into the thickening mixture and continue to heat mixture for 3 minutes. Fill jars without delay leaving 1” headspace. Remove air bubbles. Wipe jar rims. Adjust lids and process immediately in a Boiling Water Bath. Pints or Quarts ….................................. 30 minutes.
I hope you're
enjoying the first harvests of our growing season and home preserving often!
We've had such beautiful weather lately, it's just a pleasure going to the farm
stands and public markets to see what local produce is becoming
Last week I spent a very long day making 9 batches of strawberry jam to join the 1 batch of rhubarb agave spread already on my larder shelves. And recently I saw that the first of the local vegetable, peas have finally arrived, but I haven't canned any yet. I'm not sure I will, because to be honest, this year I'm really looking forward to our local zucchini!
It seems zucchini gets a bad reputation because it's always available in abundance and few people ever choose it as their favorite vegetable. So I've decided in keeping with this crazy year, why not welcome zucchini with open arms? I love this Zucchini Relish recipe from Ball. It's delicious and can be used on your favorite hots and hamburgers just like a typical store bought relish. Imagine it alongside those pickles we'll be making next month!
yields about 4 half-pints
Speaking of this crazy year, have you also had trouble finding pectin in local grocery stores? My go-to pectin is Sure-Jell Low Sugar and I was not able to find any for all those batches of strawberry jam. I found just 2 jars of Ball Low Sugar and thus switched some batches to Strawberry Agave Jam, because that recipe calls for Ball pectin (and you'll recall we can't switch pectin brands within a recipe).
The good news with the absence of pectin? It must mean a lot of you are canning this season and that is great!
The other good news? We can still make jam without pectin! Here's a recipe from the University of Georgia's Cooperative Extension.
(for using blackberry, blueberry, boysenberry, dewberry, gooseberry, loganberry, raspberry)
yields 7 or 8 half-pint jars
I'd love to hear what you're preserving this summer, please send an email and let me know!
Michele Conners, CCE Monroe Master Food Preserver, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our local farm stands and farmers markets are open and that can only mean one thing -- fresh, homegrown strawberry harvest is almost here! Here's my go-to strawberry jam recipe that has won blue ribbons in county fairs and scored a 96/100 Honorable Mention one year at the New York State Fair. It pops with flavor, holds beautiful color and smells like a true summer strawberry.
It's the "For Less or No Sugar Needed" recipe found in the pink Sure Jell Pectin box.
Yup. It's not my grandmother's recipe that I tried to recall. It's not created by a home blogger who tried to be creative. It is not the hippest looking recipe, but it is a sanctioned recipe tested and retested to ensure a safe and reliable home preserved jam or jelly.
My Blue Ribbon winning Jam recipes follow the Cooked Jam Directions in this PINK Sure Jell Pectin box.
The recipe sheet in this Less or No Sugar pink Sure Jell Pectin box also gives recipes for Cooked Jelly, Freezer Jam, Freezer Jelly and Cooked Jam directions using Splenda.
Sure Jell also has a yellow box of Pectin that provides directions for full sugar recipes. This also produces a great jam or jelly.
So why am I not simply providing the recipe here for you? Only for the fact that to ensure reliable finished jars of jam or jelly, you must use the pectin called for in the recipe. If you have pectin on your shelf (still within Use By Date) or if you need to purchase pectin, use the directions provided with that pectin.
Any of these are safe, reliable, tested pectin, recipes and directions:
If you're new to making jam or jelly, this wonderful labor of love, don't be nervous. Follow the directions and ingredient quantities provided with your pectin choice. You've got this!
We also have support for you -
Email me questions or let me know how you did at email@example.com.
Experienced canner and want to substitute another sweetener for white sugar? Let me know, I'll email you a chart from Ball.
I look forward to the canning season with you!
Last updated December 16, 2020