Our August 2016 issue features a guide to homesteading, including hydroponics, foraging, composting, bee keeping, alpaca herding, and a myriad of other ways to get your hands good and dirty.
A bumper crop of cucumbers is no laughing matter, nor is trying to cook with tasteless ‘sweet’ corn in February. But with some simple tools and home–ec chutzpah, you can resolve both on a summer afternoon.
1. Boiling Water Canning
What it is→ Processing (a.k.a. bathing in boiling water) and sealing fresh foods in airtight containers. Cooking food in sealed glass jars sterilizes any bacteria, allowing the food to be stored unrefrigerated for up to five years.
Choice candidates→ Peas, carrots, zucchini, and corn; fruits like apples, peaches, and apricots.
What it is→ Using a high-acid brine made with salt and vinegar, which inhibit the growth of bacteria. Shelf-stable pickles require the boiling water canning method, but refrigerator pickles will generally keep for up to two months.
Choice candidates→ Beets, cucumbers, okra, asparagus, cauliflower, carrots; fruits like cherries, strawberries, and watermelon rind.
3. Fruit Preserving
What it is→ Cooking large batches of fresh fruit, often multiple times, with pectin and sugar. (All fruit has pectin, but some fruits need an additional amount to fully set.)
Choice candidates→ All berries, grapes, and stone fruits make excellent jams and jellies, while citrus makes ideal marmalade.
Tell everyone you know–especially older family members–that you are canning. They will love it and will offer up their jars. Always say yes to someone who wants to give you jars. And know your canning etiquette: If someone gives you home-canned goods, return their jars, even if it takes you a while. You will get refills.