We’ll talk more about canning later in the year, but since we have a goal this month of Learning a New Skill, I thought I’d mention canning as a good skill to learn. Once you learn to can, you can be canning something almost every month, putting lots of ready-made dinners into your pantry. Which is exactly what I did last week.
Last fall we were able to get FREE potatoes. We just had to dig them up and an hour’s worth of digging yielded about 300 lbs. My husband thought that was way, waaaaaayyytoo much. I assured him it wasn’t. In the last six months we’ve eaten potatoes in every size, shape and manner possible. I’ve given about 20 lbs to my married son, but he doesn’t want any more (I guess the food storage gene is recessive or somehow didn’t get passed on to him. Or he really doesn’t like potatoes.) But we’ve still got a lot more and I don’t want my husband to say “I told you so.”
So here we are in early April and some of the potatoes are starting to sprout. That means it’s time to make stew. Fortunately, pork roast was on sale last week ($1.55/lb) and I got a good deal on some organic celery and carrots. So for about $16 I have 21 quarts of canned soup. (I actually got 23 quarts, but since I can in multiples of seven, we just ate the other two quarts for lunch today, along with hot homemade dinner rolls.)
(Yes, those are Tattler Lids on those jars. All those lids have been used at least twice, some of them three times. LOVE my Tattlers!)
Canning soup is easy. Just use your favorite soup recipe, multiplied by 100. (Kidding! Multiply your recipe by however much you want to can and/or have enough ingredients for.) In this case I used 7 lbs cubed pork, 5 large onions, 2 whole bunches of celery, 4 lbs of carrots, 6-7 lbs potatoes (not really sure how much, about 15 qts when cubed), six 14-oz cans of diced tomatoes, herbs (parsley, basil and oregano, dried from last year’s garden) and seasoning (chili powder, from last year’s garden, a couple tablespoons of Old Bay seasoning and four tablespoons beef bullion powder.)
I browned the meat and added the juices from that to the soup stock. The pork, veggies, tomatoes, herbs and seasoning went into a BIG stock pot with 10 Qts water. Bring to a boil, pour into prepared jars and process them in a pressure canner. The rule is to process the food to the ingredient that needs the most time. In this case, meat needs 90 minutes processing (for quart jars, 70 minutes for pints.) If I didn’t have any meat, then I would process them 20-55 minutes, depending on which vegetables were in the soup. For canning times and instructions, refer to your USDA canning booklets available for free from your county extension office. OR you can follow the recipes and instructions found online at the National Center for Home Food Preservation.
Rice and pasta don’t endure home canning very well. They just turn into a gloppy mess, so trust me, you don’t want to use them in your home-canned soups. If I want to, I can add leftover noodles or rice to the soup when I open the jars. I can add extra stock or veggies if I need a bigger pot of soup than one quart. One quart is the equivalent of two cans of Progresso Soup. But this is much tastier and healthier.
Home canning is not only a good way to take advantage of sales, free food and garden surplus, but it makes great ready-made meals. I have dozens–perhaps 75 or more–jars of home canned chili, beef and barley soup, turkey and chicken soups in my basement. So come on over. Dinner is always just 10 minutes from being served. (Unless you want dinner rolls with that soup. I need a couple hours notice for that.)