Real Food

Savor the flavors of everyday real food, fresh from the garden or stored on your pantry shelves.

Add to My MSN


 4 half bushels

The Year of the Apple, and Why

This is undoubtedly the "year of the apple" in Connecticut, and I suspect in other states as well.  No matter how many bushels we pick and process, there are still more apples waiting in the trees and on the ground.  In the 24 years since planting our organic, mini-orchard we have never had an overly abundant season like this before!  I called the UCONN Extension office to ask why, and this is what was explained.  Warm, sunny spring weather encouraged the bees to actively pollinate the apple blossoms.  Then we had a dry summer with plenty of sunshiny days, which helped the fruit to grow well.  The dry weather also discouraged the growth of powdery mildew and other fungal infections.  In other words, perfect apple growing weather!

It was also explained that we should have culled 2/3 of the apples in early spring, leaving only the largest apple in each cluster.  Apparently, apples don't grow in the same spot on the branch two years in a row.  Practically every spot on every branch was laden with apples this summer, which unfortunately means there won't be many apples next season and the trees may be thrown into an every-other-year cycle of production.  More reason to put up as much as possible right now to carry us through a couple of years!Our Mini Orchard

Stocking Up

Here's the tally so far - Scroll down for the associated photos

23 quarts of dried apple rings, most flavored with ceylon cinnamon

30 pints of unsweetened applesauce: raspberry-apple, tart-apple, spiced-apple

15 half pints of apple butter

28 vacuum sealed packages in the freezer - 6-cup portions for making pies

6 deep dish pies (made with hardly any sugar or other sweetener)

3 gallons of hard cider; sweet cider in the works

We've given bushels away; the kids at my daycare center, Room To Grow have eaten a couple of bushels; there's a bushel of grade A apples chilling in a spare refrigerator; there are several bushels of grade B apples waiting to be processed; bushels still on the trees and ground.  Definitely a banner year!

Dried Apple Rings

View more photos of how I made these dried apple rings at A Life Well Planted.

Apple Sauce 2015

Unsweetened applesauce made with just apples and a bit of lemon.

Apple Butter

Apple butter - we use it like jam.

Frozen Apples

Frozen apple slices to be used later on for pie making.  We don't use citric acid and as you can see the apples are fine.  The packages are different colors due to the variance in apples (we have 7 varieties).  We use a FoodSaver to vacuum seal the packages, and thus the contents store better and longer.  You don't need an expensive one, ours is the entry level and it does the job.

Are you also experiencing a "bumper crop of a lifetime"? If so, comment below and tell us all about it!

You can also find Judy at A Life Well Planted and Biofield Healing.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Best Blogging Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.


It’s easy and very economical to make your own almond paste. You’ll use this to fill pastries, cakes and your special Christmas Stollen. This makes 2 pounds, 2 ounces — as much as six of those pricey little cans — and you control the quality.

For equipment, you’ll need the usual bowls, a food processor, a decent pot (I use my 3-quart Revere), a candy thermometer, a quart jar with lid (I prefer wide-mouth) for storing the paste in, a baking sheet, and a couple kitchen towels. Almond paste isn’t processed, so the plastic lids are good here.

I’m sure pastry chefs made almond paste and marzipan long before the Cuisinart was invented; they would have used a nut grinder and a whole lot of elbow grease.


• 1 pound of almonds
• 2 cups water
• 1 cup cane sugar (the organic is brownish, so I use conventional cane)
• 1/2 tsp almond extract – or more if you want it strongly flavored
• Optional: just a few drops of rose water


1. If your almonds have skins, you’ll want to blanch them. Easy: Bring 1-1/2 quarts of water to a boil, dump in the almonds, turn off the heat. Wait a minute or two, then pour the almonds through a strainer. Let them cool a bit while you set up and wash the pot to use for the next step.

2. I like to use a little folding table and chair. Lay out a kitchen towel – this is drippy. On it, put 2 bowls and your strainer of almonds with something underneath to catch the drip. Arm yourself with another towel on your lap.

3. Make yourself comfortable. Pick up the almonds one by one. Hold the almond over the bowl, pinch the big end and the blanched almond will pop out the pointy end. Skins go in the other bowl. Keep going until all the almonds are done. Skins can go in the compost.

4. Spread the almonds out on a baking sheet and let them dry. I usually pop them into a 250-degree Fahrenheit oven for a few minutes. Make sure they are absolutely dry.

5. When fully dry, put the almonds into the processor, pulse and grind until you have a nice meal. It won’t ever get like flour, but will be sort of like a coarse corn meal. Leave the almond meal right in the processor.

6. Next, make up a simple syrup. I use the same 3-quart Revere. Put the water and sugar in your pot, stir until the sugar dissolves and bring to a boil. Cook the syrup to almost the soft ball stage, 235 degrees on your thermometer. (If you cook the syrup all the way to full soft ball, your paste sets up too fast)

7. Mise en place: Have your clean jar and a spatula (either nylon or silicone) ready and the almond extract and the rose water if you have it.

8. Work quickly now: With the processor running, pour the hot syrup through the feed chute, then the almond extract and the optional rose water. Be careful with the rose water; you want just 5 or 6 drops, not to make the almond paste taste like roses. Keep the processor running another minute.

9. Open the processor and quickly spoon the almond paste into the jar. It does set up pretty quickly. Pack the jar down, trying to fill any spaces. If you wet your fingers, it won’t stick to them.

10. Whew! Ok, now get a spoon or bowl scraper and scrape out the very last bit and treat yourself to a few nibbles.

11. Cap the jar, let cool and store in the refrigerator. Best to let your almond paste “ripen” for a couple weeks before using. Watch this blog for my recipes for authentic Christmas Stollen and a flourless almond cookie.

Wendy Akin is a happy to share her years of traditional skills knowledge. Over the years, she’s earned many state fair ribbons for pickles, relishes, preserves and special condiments, and even a few for breads. Read all of Wendy’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Best Blogging Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page. 



Kefir’s effect on milk can truly be described as magic. In my previous post, I spoke of the traditional cultures’ history, and explained how to source, keep and care for kefir grains, the mother culture of Kefir.  Kefir grains can be used to make a delicious fermented milk known as kefir, and they can also be used as a starter culture to make a broad range of fresh and aged cheeses.  In this post, I’ll explain how the culture can be used to make Creme Fraiche. In the next post, I’ll show how this Creme Fraiche can be used to churn a delicious cultured butter!

Crème fraîche (pronounced krem fresh—French for “fresh cream”) is lightly fermented, thickened cream. By adding culture to full-fat cream, then allowing that cream to ferment at room temperature, the cream slowly becomes acidic. Once it passes a certain acidity, the cream suddenly thickens into crème fraîche. If left to ferment longer, the thickened cream continues to sour, and eventually becomes what North Americans know as sour cream.

Crème fraîche is used in a different way from sour cream. Because it is lightly fermented, and still has some sweetness, it’s used the way most North Americans would use whipped cream. Best paired with fruit or dessert, crème fraîche is considered the perfect partner for strawberries. With more flavor than whipped cream, and less work to make (the bacteria thicken it up without any whipping!), crème fraîche can easily become a household staple.

Cream skimmed from raw milk will ferment naturally and deliciously into crème fraîche due to the indigenous raw milk microorganisms that ferment its lactose into lactic acid.  If cream has been pasteurized, bacteria need to be added back to the cream for it to ferment well. Most recipes for crème fraîche call for the use of freeze-dried commercial DVI (direct-vat inoculant) cultures, or store-bought buttermilk, whose cultural origins are DVI as well. Kefir grains can be used in place of packaged or store bought cultures as a sustainable source of microorganisms for fermenting both pasteurized or raw cream into crème fraîche. Once the crème fraîche is thickened, the kefir grains float to the top, and can be strained out and used again.

Kefir grains fed fresh cream ferment it into crème fraîche.


• 1 tbsp (15 mL) kefir grains, or 1 tbsp buttermilk
• 1 pint (500 mL) fresh, full-fat cream


1 quart (1 Liter) jar with lid; strainer

Time Frame

24 to 48 hours

Yield 1 pint (500mL) crème fraîche


1. Add kefir grains to fresh cream: Put the kefir grains, buttermilk  in a jar and pour the cream over top. Cover the jar, and leave it out at room temperature.

2. Leave the cream to ferment, at room temperature, until thick - at least 24 hours. Check up on it every so often to see if it has thickened, and stir it occasionally with a spoon.                                                                                                            

3. Strain out the kefir grains: Once the whole batch of cream has thickened (raw or unhomogenized cream may separate into thicker cream at the top, and thinner at the bottom), pass the crème fraîche through a sieve to remove the kefir grains.

4. Be sure to put them in some fresh milk to feed them and care for them as described in the previous post

5. Crème fraîche will keep, refrigerated, for up to 1 week.

Photos by Kelly Brown

David Asher is an organic farmer and cheesemaker, cheese educator and cheese writer. He runs the Black Sheep School of Cheesemaking, and is the author of The Art of Natural Cheesemaking (available in the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store). Read all of David's blog posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Best Blogging Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



Fermented kale — superfood? Yes!

Healthy? Yes!

Delicious? It depends.

As a firm believer in fermenting for flavor and that good-for-you-food can and should be tasty, too I admit that I have discouraged the fermentation of kale. Mind you this is my go-to favorite fresh green, I am not a kale hater.

The thing with fermented kale is that it is not for the delicate palate—okay, fair enough, some might argue that sauerkraut isn’t for the faint of heart. Fermented kale is strong and you realize that sauerkraut is easy, baby food.

I also realize that fermented kale is not something to be ignored. Instead it has become a challenge to make a good kale ferment. I found the motivation a few weeks ago in Colorado. Christopher (my husband and co-author of Fermented Vegetables) and I spoke at six events as part of the first annual Culture Colorado, a week-long festival celebrating fermentation.

Apparently it was good kale harvest in the Denver area this year, as at least one person at every event asked, “I have so much kale this year. Can you ferment kale?” This was immediately followed by a few more who nodded their heads. I was reminded how here in So. Oregon if we have a lot of kale in the fall we will have good overwinter eating. In the high elevation of the foothills of the Rocky Mountains it will freeze, so capturing that abundance is important.

The Himalayans have solved this problem with Gundruk, a traditional sun fermented product. I have had only poor results with this ferment but I have recently read Himalayan Fermented Foods by Jyoti Prakash Tamang and learned that the ferment is then dried before using. I have always tried to use it raw. Stay tuned—I have a new batch going and will be writing about it later this fall on my own website.

I have been working with kale to help folks who want to ferment to preserve and have come up with some tips.

• Prepare the kale by removing the stems and working with just the leaves.  Chop these into small pieces. Kale tends to stay tough so no need to keep the already tough stems.
• The flavor is strong; hard to describe—not just simply more acidic but strong, and the texture is a little tough (see above) I also find that kale ferments accentuate the salty flavor, no matter how carefully I salt and I have no idea why.  Mirror this with bold flavors. Ferment kale with lots of garlic, chiles, smoked salts, chipotle, curry or other unflinching spices.
• One option to combat the tough texture is to blanch your kale leaves quickly (about a minute) in boiling water and then submerge them in ice-cold water. Drain. Chop and salt these leaves to make your ferment. Because you have killed the lacto-bacillus (LAB) it is important you add other fresh veggies or even a little bit of previously fermented brine to get the process going.
• Use kale as an ingredient in another ferment or sauerkraut. I like a ratio of 4:1 cabbage and kale. This universal recipe for foraged greens is actually perfect for kale.

I realize there is a problem with the above recipe—when you have bushels of kale to preserve, you may not want to end up with ten gallons of kraut. What to do? My favorite solution is to make a kimchi—inspired kale ferment. (Okay you’re on to me—everything is good as kimchi)


Kale Kimchi

Yield a little over one quart


• 2 bundles (or 1 pound) kale greens, stems removed and sliced very thinly
• 1 large onion, chopped
• 1 large rinsed, unpeeled carrot grated
• 1/2 cup shredded daikon, or other radish
• 6 cloves garlic, minced
• 2 jalapeños, or other hot pepper, minced
• 2 tbsp goji berries (optional)
• 2 to 3 tbsp finely grated fresh ginger
• 3 to 4 tbsp Gochugaru (Korean Kimchi chile flakes) or 1 tablespoon chile flakes
• 2 to 2-1/2 tsp salt


1. Rinse the kale leaves and remove the stems.

2. Place them in a pile and roll into a tight bundle; this makes it easier to slice thinly. For smaller pieces chop the slices. (Optional: prepare kale by blanching as described above before chopping. This recipe has plenty of other veggies containing the LAB so you don’t need to add fermented brine to culture. You may want to try it both ways and see what you prefer.) 

3. Massage in the salt and add the rest of the vegetables and spices. The raw kale doesn’t produce as much brine as its cousin the cabbage, but you will have enough to submerge your vegetables. If you choose to blanch the kale you will have plenty of moisture.

4. Press into your favorite fermenting vessel—crock or jar. Follow the instructions for you vessel. Be sure to weigh it down and manage for keeping everything anaerobic and under the brine. Here you will find instructions for fermenting in a jar.

5. Allow to ferment for 7 days at room temperature.  You will know it is ready when it taste acidic like a lemon or a pickle. If it isn't sour or  you would like it more sour. Press everything back down and let it ferment for a few more days.

6. When it is ready store in the refrigerator, it will keep for 6 to 8 months. 

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Best Blogging Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.


vermont compost company chickens

Above: More than 1,200 working chickens provide 365 days of turning and cleaning compost for the Vermont Compost Company, located on 5 hilly acres within the city limit of Vermont state capital, Montpelier. The expert composter chickens eat entirely off the composting food residues — no feed is purchased for the birds. They provide an average of 1,000 eggs per month for the local egg shed while merrily clucking and creating compost and top soil.

I first heard of the term “egg shed” while chatting with Karl Hammer, owner of the Vermont Compost Company (VCC). We were standing on a hillside overlooking mountains of compost. These compost piles were made from food residues collected from about 49 institutions including the schools, restaurants, company cafeterias, and any other organization that produced enough food scraps to merit collecting.

Vermont has a zero-waste policy, so instead of calling food leftovers “waste,” they call the biomass “residuals.”

What is unique about the Vermont Compost Company is that they employ about 1,200 free-range chickens to help create their organic compost and potting soils. The chickens turn and aerate the fermenting piles, while keeping the insect and rodent populations down. The chickens glean food scraps off the road and other places to keep the operations tidy. They also grace the piles with their manure and feathers adding valuable nitrogen.

The fermenting compost piles had no smells putrid of garbage — like landfills do. They smelled mostly of dark-chocolate-colored musky humus in the making.

Working Chickens Provide Free Labor

The VCC’s 1,200 chickens work every day — and not even for chicken feed! They get all their food completely off the compost piles. The chickens combined efforts are worth about 4 tons of fuel-free, heavy equipment that work 365 days a year, rain, snow or shine, without any other inputs.Karl was explaining to me that his “clucking composters” would lay, on average, about 1,000 eggs a month (12,000 organic eggs per year). Karl went on to explain that these eggs helped fulfill the Montpelier “egg shed.”

The Vermont Compost Company could not be better located for their urban egg shed. The VCC’s address is 1996 Main Street, in Montpelier, the State capital of Vermont. VCC is on very 5 hills acres within the city limits.

What is an ‘Egg Shed’?

How to define an egg shed? Let’s look at the definition of watershed to give the egg shed concept more shape. A watershed is defined by the Environmental Protection Agency as: “The area of land where all of the water that is under it, or drains off of it, goes into the same place.”

Based on the definition of a watershed, an egg shed could be defined as: the eggs produced within a certain distance that go to a specific place. That place could be your kitchen, schools, farmers’ markets, restaurants, etc.

The concept of egg sheds becomes real once we can calculate the average number of eggs humans eat within a specific area, and how many hens are needed to produce those eggs.

Let’s refine our definition of eggs shed as; “An egg shed is the number of eggs a person, household, group, or community, consumes that are produced within a specific distance, within a period of time — usually a year.”

Here’s How to Calculate Your Egg Shed

Now that we’ve defined what an egg shed is, we can establish a formula to make it practical. The U.S. Poultry and Egg Association estimates that the average per capita egg consumption in 2012 was 249 eggs per person. For our egg shed formula, let’s round that average up to 250 eggs consumed per person.

The American Egg Board estimates the average commercial laying hen produces about 265 eggs per year. Heritage laying hens lay fewer eggs, from about 200 to 270 eggs depending on the breed. For our egg shed formula, we’ll assume an average hen lays 250 eggs per year. That makes the math super simple. That works out nicely so that one laying hen (in full production) will produce enough eggs for one person each year: One hen for one person in the egg shed.

Now let’s calculate how many eggs an egg shed requires. Let’s use a population of 30,000. How many eggs would a population of 30,000 consume each year? Here is the formula:Egg shed requirement = (population)(250 eggs laid per hen per year) = total number of eggs needed per year.

Just plug in the numbers:

Egg shed = (30,000 population)(each person consuming an average of 250 eggs/year) = 7,500,000 eggs. Yolks! Seven and a half million eggs for 30,000 people! That seems like a lot to produce!

But let’s run the model again with different flock sizes.What if just 10% of the population kept 10 hens in family flocks?

For our population of 30,000, 10% would be 3,000 family flocks.

Egg shed = (3,000 family flocks)(10 hens each flock) (producing 250 eggs/year) = 7,500,000 eggs. Yolks galore! That meets the egg shed!

What if Chickens are Not Legal in Your Community?

Then you could support local farmers.

If 5% of the population — 1,500 poultry producers — kept 200 hens each laying 250 eggs/year = 7,500,000 eggs = the egg shed.If 2% of the population—600 poultry producers — kept 500 hens each laying 250 eggs/year = 7,500,000 eggs = the egg shed.

If 1% of the population — 300 poultry producers — kept 100 hens each laying 250 eggs/year = 7,500,000 eggs = the egg shed.

Of course, in chicken-friendly, local-food-supportive, green, low-carbon-footprint communities, there are backyard flocks and small family farms producing eggs. The takeaway message is that egg shed needs for a family, or a community, are relatively easy to meet. That means a household or a community can somewhat easily be protein self-sufficient. That’s a WOW!

In the next post, we’ll explore our expectations of laying hen production, and how egg production in family flocks compare with factory farm production.

May the flock be with you!


1. U.S. Poultry and Egg Association data

2. American Egg Board website:
Egg Production and Consumption Industry Fact Sheet

Egg Industry Fact Sheet

The rate of lay per day on May 1, 2012, averaged 73.6 eggs per 100 layers. Extrapolating this out to a year – (73.6 eggs/100 hens)(365 days per year) = 266.45 eggs/hen/year.

Photo copyright © Patricia Foreman 2015

Poultry pioneer Patricia Foreman has kept poultry for about 25 years, employing chickens to build topsoil for a community farm and co-owning and operating a small-scale farm with free-range, organic layers, broilers and turkeys. Her commercial operation experience includes managing breeder flocks, incubating eggs, pasturing poultry, finished processing and direct marketing. Find Patricia online at and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.


Butternut Squash Soup 

Cool, autumn weather always stirs up soup making in our kitchen! Tonight was one of those nights when we turned to warming flavors, and aromas.

This year's butternut squash crop was not very prolific compared to past seasons. We harvested only a dozen winter squash compared to last year's two bushels!  I used two of these curvy, orange beauties when making tonight’s dinner.

I gave it an anti-inflammatory “flavor” by adding ingredients commonly known to reduce inflammation; ingredients that also pair well with beta-carotene-rich butternut squash and carrots. It always needs to be delicious, too! (I asterisked and gave citations for all of the ingredients known to pack valuable, natural anti-inflammatory properties. Thank you, Mother Nature!)

Consider pairing this soup with an easy salad of romaine, arugula, and barely steamed green beans for crunch. Sprinkle with sea salt and garlic powder; drizzle with olive oil, spritz with lemon. Yield: 4 Servings

Squash Ginger and Turmeric


• 1 large or 2 small (approx. 4 lbs) of butternut squash*, peeled, seeded, chopped [1, 2]
• 3 medium carrots*, scrubbed, chopped [1]
• 1 medium apple, peeled, cored, chopped
• Water
• 2 tsp of refined coconut oil
• 1 large onion, peeled, chopped
• 2 thumb-sized pieces of fresh ginger, peeled, chopped (approximately 2 Tbsp)* [3,4]
• 2 thumb-sized pieces of fresh turmeric, peeled, chopped (approximately 2 Tbsp)* [5]
• 4 large cloves of garlic*, peeled, minced [6]
• 1/2 tsp ground ceylon cinnamon* (also called Sri Lankan cinnamon) [7]
• 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
• 1/4 tsp ground sweet or hot paprika (depending on your "heat" preference)* [8]
• 1/2 tsp sea salt
• 3/4 of block of creamed coconut, cut into chunks
• Juice of 1/2 lemon
• 1/4 cup toasted pumpkin seeds (optional)

Butternut Soup in Progress


1. Place butternut squash, carrots and apple in a large, stainless steel pot with lid; add enough water just to cover ingredients. Bring to a boil and simmer over low heat, covered, until fork tender.

2. Heat coconut oil in skillet over medium high heat. Add onion to skillet and sauté for a few minutes stirring occasionally (oil should be hot enough to make onions sizzle a bit but not so hot that it smokes). Add ginger and turmeric and sauté only a couple of more minutes.

3. Add sautéed onion/ginger/turmeric and the rest of the ingredients to the squash mixture.

4. Blend well using an emersion blender.

5. Heat through but don't boil.

6. Taste and add more cinnamon, nutmeg, paprika or sea salt if desired.

7. Ladle into bowls and lightly sprinkle with paprika.  You can also sprinkle with shelled, toasted pumpkin seeds for a tasty garnish.

NOTE:  If you don't have an emersion blender, you can use a full size regular blender. However, first cool the soup down a bit. Only fill the blender jar halfway and then cover with a heavy towel, not the lid. This video explains why.


[1] Exp Mol Med. 2005 Aug 31;37(4):323-34

[2] Squash, Winter: World’s Healthiest Foods, The George Mateljan Foundation

[3] J Med Food. 2005 Summer;8(2):125-32

[4]  Ginger: World’s Healthiest Foods, The George Mateljan Foundation

[5] Inflammation. 2011 Aug;34(4):291-301

[6]  Food Chem Toxicol. 2013 Aug;58:545-51

[7]  Food Funct. 2015 Mar;6(3):910-9

[8]  Surg Neurol Int. 2010; 1: 80; Published online 2010 Dec 13

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Best Blogging Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.


Preserve the Harvest!

In a time where everything you could possibly want comes pre-packaged, pre-canned, filled with preservatives and is processed to last, why should we learn to can? Why should we use our valuable time and resources to learn a skill that has almost become obsolete? I think I can answer these questions in three simple words: to be prepared.

We will all admit that there are many things we cannot control, but one thing we can control is how prepared we are for any type of emergency (think long term power outage or natural disaster), and preparation on any good farm or homestead always includes food preservation, I believe learning to can, or “put up,” should be at the top of every list.

Now, having taught a basic canning course I have found that the greatest obstacle to wanting to learn this valuable skill was the fear many people had of killing their family. Botulism is a frightening word and any loving parent/spouse does not want to be the reason for their loved ones demise.

But thankfully, this need not be a reason to avoid the canning adventure, and honestly, canning today looks very different than it did 50 or 60 years ago; the advancement in food safety guidelines, convenient tools, and the wide array of recipes available in books and online has allowed for easier and safer canning practices.

A word of warning, however: Canning may become addictive, and I bear no responsibility for the lack of cupboard space that could potentially follow a new canner, nor any missing items due to a canning obsession. Having said that, I am just going to highlight a few important items you will want to keep in mind when beginning to “put up” the harvest.

Canning for Food Preservation Basics

First, there are two types of canners out there: a pressure canner and a water bath canner. For those who don’t understand the difference, in a nutshell, a pressure canner is used for alkaline foods — meat, broth, and most vegetables; while a water bath canner is used to prepare acidic foods — jam, jelly, salsa, spaghetti sauce, etc.

These are two of the several absolute essentials tools required to can. Another necessary component is jars intended specifically for home canning (please do not use jars from things you bought at the grocery store: peanut butter, jams, jellies, etc. (You cannot guarantee the strength or durability of the glass.) You will also need lids that are free of rust, blemishes, and dents, and rings that are free of rust.

Lastly, you will need a jar lifter, some way to measure head space, and a tool to remove bubbles from the jars (usually non-metal). With all your tools in place, you are ready to find the recipe for your particular food and follow that tested recipe to ensure proper processing and storage.

I do want to emphasize a couple of things: Before you put the hot lid on the jar, be sure to thoroughly wipe the rim of the jar. If there is debris, syrup, or oil on the rim, it may potentially keep the lid from sealing correctly.

Additionally, when your jars are ready to be removed from the canner, remove them carefully with the jar lifter and place them on a towel or cooling rack, then leave them undisturbed until they are fully cooled. Don’t be tempted to shake them or mess with them while they are completing the sealing process this could compromise their seal. Lastly, store your jars without the rings. This will decrease the chance of rust and allow you to see if one of the jars came unsealed much easier.

Canning is actually a fairly easy way to preserve the harvest or store food long-term in case of emergency. This is something I’ve come to greatly appreciate as we’ve adjusted to homestead life here in Northern Idaho. As winter approaches, it is very comforting to know we will have plenty of meat packed in sealed jars ready for us to use in case of loss of electricity — or if I feel like making a quick and easy soup on those frigid, snowy evenings.

I encourage you to get a book on basic canning and listen to our podcast which will give a little more detail.

Sean and Monica Mitzel homestead with their family on 40 acres and are using permaculture techniques and strategies for the property. The property will eventually become a demonstration and education site where they raise dairy goats, pigs, rabbits, chickens, and ducks. The Mitzels have planted more then 50 productive trees and enjoy wildcrafting, propagating mushrooms, and raising and training livestock guardian dogs. Listen to The Courageous Life Podcast and read all their MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Best Blogging Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.

Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 66% Off the Cover Price

First Name: *
Last Name: *
Address: *
City: *
State/Province: *
Zip/Postal Code:*
(* indicates a required item)
Canadian subs: 1 year, (includes postage & GST). Foreign subs: 1 year, . U.S. funds.
Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
Non US and Canadian Subscribers - Click Here

Lighten the Strain on the Earth and Your Budget

MOTHER EARTH NEWS is the guide to living — as one reader stated — “with little money and abundant happiness.” Every issue is an invaluable guide to leading a more sustainable life, covering ideas from fighting rising energy costs and protecting the environment to avoiding unnecessary spending on processed food. You’ll find tips for slashing heating bills; growing fresh, natural produce at home; and more. MOTHER EARTH NEWS helps you cut costs without sacrificing modern luxuries.

At MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet’s natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. That’s why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.00 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.00 for 6 issues.